Maria Campbell
b. 1940

In the following commentary, I will draw from the article “Border-crossings: Connecting with the Colonized Mother in Maria Campbell's life-writings” by Maureen Slattery. The article was published in Canadian Woman Studies, in the Summer-Fall 1998 issue.

Slattery discusses “Borderland thinking”; this concept emerges within ethnic studies, as a way to discuss and describe “hybridized identities” (Slattery, par 1). Can you recall our discussions of “hybridized identities” concerning other authors this term? I've also used the term “syncretized.” Envision the overlay of one culture on top of another, or the intertwining of two cultures. How does “power” figure into these combinations?

Slattery takes on the question of power relationships across or between “borders.” Slattery writes, “The space of border crossings is never level. It is almost always a space of unequal power” (par 2). How does a person cross borders, of culture, of identity, of self-identification? Why are borders zones of unequal power? Can you think of literal and figurative examples?

Cambpell spends plenty of time describing distinctions between her grandmother and mother. Describe each. Based on the descriptions you've constructed, what do you see as Campbell's commentary on the challenges of Metis identity?

Slattery states, citing Sherry B. Ortner, “whatever else borderlands politics are, they are always also about 'culture.' Culture in the borderlands is both the grounds of negotiation and its object: it sets the terms of the encounters, but it is also what is at stake” (par 6). What do you make of this? What is culture? This is a HUGE question, but from your experience, what is it? Is it fluid or flexible? Is it negotiable?

What do you learn of Native/Metis strife from the Campbell passages you read? What attitudes did each group hold towards the other? How does Campbell feel --- or how did she feel as a young person – about these divisions? How do you compare the Native/Metis cultural challenges to those that emerge in the United States, between “mixed-blood” and full-blood Native people?

Slattery argues, “For Campbell, self-hatred is the inner source of colonization (par 15). What do you gather Slattery means by “colonization”? We haven't considered colonization and its literary shadow explicitly this semester, at length. How does the specter of colonization itself “occupy” Campell's work? Can you think of any other texts from this terms “marked” by the discourse of colonization”

I mentioned in class Gloria Anzaldua’s foundational text Borderlands: La Frontera. This book was writer as a hybrid text, seeking to overtly interrogate false divisions based on language, gender, culture, race. The book was written simultaneously in English and Spanish, with words of both languages often on the same page. How does the idea of “simultanaeity” occupy Campbell’s writing, in any sense?