Scholarship without Reserve: The Affect Effect of Fieldwork

Literary scholars are expected to write about the stories other authors write but are not supposed to tell the story of their writing (or not being able to write) about them. This is the law of the profession: academic writing denying or concealing its structural interdependence with the writing to which it responds; depersonalized writing about an author other than the author who composes it. No excess baggage—just interpret, be original, perform mastery. This paper veers away from the academic law of my literary field. It is about affect, but not about how affect is manifested in literature or other cultural texts. Instead, it registers the agency of my own writing act: what happened when I was trying to do research on and write about the affect of refugees, eliding, in the process, my own affect. It performs an instance of what I call scholarship without reserve, namely, following the course of my research imagination, professing the profession not mimetically but performatively. Not a paper, then, about representations of refugees, but field notes on my journey to the occupied territories of Palestine.


Smaro Kamboureli joined the Department of English at the University of Toronto as a Professor and as the inaugural Avie Bennett Chair in Canadian Literature in 2013. A specialist in contemporary Canadian literature and diaspora studies, she was a Canada Research Chair Tier 1 in Critical Studies in Canadian Literature at the University of Guelph (2004-2013). Her CRC research project included founding and directing the TransCanada Institute and initiating collaborative research on the methodologies and institutional structures and contexts that inform and shape the production, dissemination, teaching, and study of Canadian literature. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, she has published and edited many books, including Scandalous Bodies: Diasporic Literature in English Canada, which won the Gabrielle Roy Prize for Canadian Criticism, and On the Edge of Genre: The Contemporary Canadian Long poem. Her most recent publications include the co-edited volumes Shifting the Ground of Canadian Literature; Critical Collaborations: Indigeneity, Diaspora, Ecology; Editing as Cultural Practice in Canada; Producing Canadian Literature: Authors Speak on the Literary Marketplace; and Retooling the Humanities: The Culture of Research in Canadian Universities. Her first book, in the second person, a long poem about her immigrant experience originally published in 1985, will appear in a bilingual English and Italian translation this coming fall.