Toxic Bodies that Matter: Trans-Corporeal Materialities in Dionne Brand's Ossuaries

  • Libe García Zarranz University of Alberta/ Trudeau Foundation


Dionne Brand, Material Feminist Theory, Trans-corporeality


Drawing on recent developments in material feminist theory (Alaimo and Hekman 2008; Barad 2008; Tuana 2008), this article examines the representation of the female body as a site of trans-corporeal toxicity in Dionne Brand's latest poetry collection Ossuaries (2010). Yasmine, the central figure in the text, embodies a trans-corporeal toxicity inscribed by the violence of multiple histories and discourses across different temporal and spatial frameworks. Significantly, as Brand's collection illustrates, trans-corporeality is not only a site of violence and death, but also a place of desire and resistance. "Thinking through toxic bodies," Alaimo claims, "allows us to reimagine human corporeality, and materiality itself, not as a utopian or romantic substance existing prior to social inscription, but as something that always bears the trace of history, social position, region, and the uneven distribution of risk" ("Trans-Corporeal" 261). Brand's Ossuaries brings the paradoxical nature of trans-corporeality into the forefront by providing a material feminist account of the intimate, and sometimes lethal, outcomes of the crossing of material borders, particularly for the female body. By dealing with the permeability of boundaries between the human body, technology, and the natural world as a site of interconnectedness, agency, and dependency, Ossuaries provides a feminist critique of the material, ethical, and political impact of hegemonic structures and practices of power in an unevenly globalized 21st century.

Author Biography

Libe García Zarranz, University of Alberta/ Trudeau Foundation
Libe García Zarranz is a PhD Candidate in the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta, Canada. A 2010 Trudeau Scholar, she has published on the representation of gender and sexuality in contemporary writing and film, particularly in the work of Emma Donoghue, Merlinda Bobis, Raymond Carver, William Trevor, and Walt Disney. García Zarranz co-edited the second issue of The Raymond Carver Review on “Carver and Feminism” (2009), and is currently co-editing a collection of critical essays on Emma Donoghue. Areas of interest include material feminist theory, contemporary women’s writing, and globalization studies.