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ISSN: 0974-892X

VOL. XIII
ISSUE II

July, 2019

 

 

Of Histories, Borderlands, and Nations: Reading Barbara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna as Historical Metafiction Transcending Borders

P. Rajitha Venugopal, Ph.D. candidate, Department of English, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.

 

Abstract

The objective of this paper is to read contemporary American author Barbara Kingsolver’s novel The Lacuna (2009) as a historiographic metafiction1 that engages with history at multiple levels. It can be read as a historical allegory containing within itself another historical allegory, and as making a commentary on the politics of the present. The novel constitutes a fragmented narrative of various forms, in-between spaces, and liminal identities that transcend various boundaries - literal and metaphorical. The paper locates the novel within discourses of history, nation, borderlands, and cosmopolitanism. Following Gloria Anzaldua’s term the Aztlan (referring to the vast cultural space of the US-Mexico borderlands/ la frontera), the novel incorporates entanglements of the cultures of indigenous peoples, Spanish conquerors, the modern Mexican nation which is a continuum of the dynamic mestiza culture, and the US (the government, and the region of the Southwest which thrives with the mestiza culture). The border space emerges as an alternative space where foods, cultures, people, and their hopes and aspirations intermingle, and humanity plays out despite the rigid regularities, conventions and formalities demanded by border security issues, and international affairs.

Kingsolver attempts to look at these in-between spaces to make sense of history and therefore to make sense of the present geopolitics and issues of cultural imperialism. The novel makes possible an enquiry into the role of art, politics, and cosmopolitan camaraderie to understand the world and deal with contemporary conundrums emerging from issues of identity and political jingoism. Like the title of the novel suggests, ‘The Lacuna’ is symbolic of the many gaps in written history and in contemporary society - of the stories that get buried under the swarm of one metanarrative of History. It is in these gaps and many instances of transcending borders, that Kingsolver seeks to probe into questions of nationalism/patriotism, art and revolution, food and culture, and issues of justice. The engagement with the natural border as well along with the national border is pertinent in times of climate change and the anthropocene2, as Kingsolver offers glimpses into possibilities that a cosmopolitan approach to history and the present can contribute in the wake of threatening ecological disasters that have repercussions across national borders. The paper would analyse Kingsolver’s depiction of the relentless role of art, living cultures, and the idea of revolution, in envisaging a society of conversations and exchanges, of reviewing history for multiple voices that deconstruct the metanarrative of national history, and the potential of such spaces for working towards the possibility of progressive societies.

Keywords: nationalism, freedom of expression, cosmopolitanism, history

 

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attack on World Trade Center, Kingsolver wrote a series of articles in newspapers, commenting on America’s foreign policy and the idea of the “enemy.” These views were perceived to be seditious by some sections of the readers and Kingsolver faced severe criticism from the public3 for voicing her liberal opinions at a time that was generally thought as “national mourning” on the one side, and dangerous with the perpetration of a rhetoric of fear, anger, hatred, and violence that seemed to be justified in the name of love of the nation. In these articles Kingsolver discusses the difference between nationalism and patriotism. Kingsolver has interrogated this uneasy relationship with the nation, where on the one side, there is patriotism, while on the other, there is careful watchfulness and criticism from a liberal point of view. In her writings, the shadow of the nation looms large in the background, while it is integrated with a discourse that foregrounds interactions and encounters with “others.” In the FAQ in Kingsolver’s official website, the author responds to some poignant questions and concerns that led her to conceive the idea of writing The Lacuna. She says,

“Why is the relationship between art and politics such an uneasy one in the U.S.? Most people in other places tend to view them as inseparable. Mexico, for example, has historically celebrated its political artists as national heroes, but here, that combination can make people nervous to put it mildly. We seem to have an aversion for national self-criticism in general. We began as a nation of rabble-rousers, bent on change. But now, patriotism is often severely defined as accepting our country to be a perfect finished product. As in, “Love it or leave it!”

In order to understand how Kingsolver develops her subtle and carefully articulated criticism of the nation in The Lacuna, it is important to understand Kingsovler’s enmeshed and disconnected use of space and time - land, landscape, people, and history. Having started her career in the late 1980s, almost all of Kingsolver’s works have resonated with contemporary politics or some historical moment, or history that offers a commentary or perspective to contemporary times. Often, even while focusing on a locale, she successfully has managed to address questions whose significance travel beyond the locale. The Lacuna refers to such moments in different phases of history - in that, it is a historical allegory at two levels: a) set during the decades of 1930s-50s covering the rise of fascism in Europe, the response of America during the war years and post-war years, the Cold War, and McCarthy Trials, and commenting on artists, revolution, individual lives, freedom of expression, and authoritarian surveillance b) The pre-Columbian historical fictions that the protagonist of the novel, Harrison Shepherd, writes about the conquest of the Aztecs, the people’s rebellion, their search for home, the region of the Aztlan when the concept of modern nations of US and Mexico did not exist. In either case, the historical allegory suggests the political potential of art in the face of authority and suppression.

Kingsolver’s use of space constitutes frequent movement across the US-Mexico border space, as the protagonist Mexican-American Harrison Shepherd spends different phases of his life across these spaces. Through this layered treatment of history, Kingsolver tries to raise nuanced criticism of the questions of power, identity, and the role of art which cannot be contained if it chooses to be political, and critical of the nation. Through the characters of Trotsky, and Shepherd himself, Kingsolver raises visions of a liberal, cosmopolitan, and just society, and through their experiences, she shows that such visionaries, and their ideas are always hunted down and persecuted, and against which they continue to fight till death.

At this juncture, it is also important to understand Kingsolver’s notion of “another America” that she invokes quite often in some of her essays, particularly referring to the U.S. Southwest, and the novels “the westerns” where she discusses multi-ethnic communities involving Hispanics and refugees, and makes reference to the Sanctuary movement. All these point towards a particular kind of understanding about the nation, where she perceives in these spaces a) a different face of America as opposed to the one projected in mainstream media - and therefore by referring to “another America” she makes a commentary on the nation as well as the media b) a kind of transnational region as opposed to stringent physical borders in the general American imagination c) an understanding of the nation in the light of the lived realities of people who are implicated by its foreign policy and xenophobic attitudes d) a cosmopolitan imaginary that goes beyond the loyalties to the nation.

In the essay “Stealing Apples”, Kingsolver recounts her first exposure to the American Southwest and her realization of a reality that was thriving in her own country. This was the first experience of living in the proximity of the national border (with Mexico), of witnessing the duality of cultures at the borderlands, where people move across the border everyday at the risk of their lives, to seek a better life in the United States. The reason that Kingsolver’s poetry collection Another America/Otra America (1992) is bilingual is testimony to the acknowledgement of this duality of cultures, or this ‘another America’ which is not given much space in the mainstream media. She writes,

“I had come to the Southwest expecting cactus, wide-open spaces, and adventure. I found, instead, another whole America. This other America didn’t appear on picture post-cards, nor did it resemble anything I had previously supposed to be American culture. Arizona was cactus, all right, and purple mountain majesties, but this desert that burned with raw beauty had a great fence built across it, attempting to divide north from south. I’d stumbled upon a borderland where people perished of heat by day and of cold hostility by night.” (232)  (emphasis added)

Here, Kingsolver conflates the images of the natural with the images of “high politics” or the reality of national borders, international politics and human rights. The “raw beauty” of the natural landscape is marred by the “fence” that is so unnatural, according to Kingsolver, and the prerogatives of “national security” treats these people with “cold hostility”, as threat, alien, undocumented immigrant, who if found would be arrested, killed or deported. The borderland is an important space for Kingsolver in understanding the nation. In her most overt criticism of the nation, the borderland rhetoric is invoked. It is also interesting to note that she refers to the border as “attempting to divide north from south” - invoking a sense of a country divided within itself. The title of her poetry collection Another America/Otra America reminds of Gloria Anzaldua’s seminal work The Borderlands/La Frontera, because of its bilingual title, frequent code-switching and the references to peoples and cultures that permeate the Southwestern borders. Anzaldua calls the people of mixed ancestry as los Mestizos who have Native American, Mexican and Anglo blood, and experience an “in-between” / “neplanta”4  situation, like the very place, the borderland/la frontera, that they inhabit. Anzaldua titles her book bilingually to suggest that the mestizos are neither fully American nor fully Mexican alone but both, and an equally significant mix of both, asserting the non-hierarchical presence and validity of both cultures in their history and identity formation. They are also the offsprings of a time in history and culture where the border did not exist. Anzaldua observes,

“The U.S. - Mexican border es una herida abierta (an open wound) where the Third World grates against the first and bleeds. And before a scab forms it hemorrhages again, the life blood of two worlds merging to form a third country - a border culture. Borders are set up to define the places that are safe and unsafe, to distinguish us from them. A border is a dividing line, a narrow strip along a steep edge. A borderland is a vague and undetermined place created by the emotional residue on an unnatural boundary. It is in a constant state of transition. The prohibited and forbidden are its inhabitants. Los atravesados live here:… those who cross over, pass over, or go through the confines of the “normal”(3)

Thus, Anzaldua points out the existence of those sections of society, that are considered “others” or “transgressors” or those who do not belong or fit in the categorization of “the normal” or the “safe” when it comes to a national imagination of demography. Kingsolver’s exposure to “another America” also awakened her to the conflictual relationship the nation has with not only the physical border but the lived experiences of people across the border, or of the inhabitants of the border culture. Kingsolver’s choice of the title for the poetry collection, Another America/ Otra America and the use of bilingualism underscore the importance of acknowledging the presence of these communities within the overarching idea of the nation. In fact these communities (of Hispanics / Latinos / Chicanos and of Native Americans) can be considered as sub-national identities existing within the nation5.

In “The Many Faces of Cosmo-polis: Border Thinking and Critical Cosmopolitanism” Walter Mignolo critiques western cosmopolitan projects as eurocentrism and exclusionary. Instead he proposes a “critical and dialogic cosmopolitanism” from, and including the perspectives of the subaltern and the margins. He conceptualizes “border-thinking” as a critical approach to any universalizing abstract project based on mono-logical interpretation. In his border-thinking project, he proposes “diversality” as opposed to universality, and dialogic interpretation as opposed to a mono-logic one. Kingsolver’s view of the “abstract and universalizing” ideas of the nation, from the spaces of the borderlands and from certain subject positions, could be thought of embodying Mignolo’s border-thinking. Kingsolver looks at the larger, overarching idea of the nation from the perspective of the margin, and from the lens of some of those who do not belong, or who are othered by the conventional institutional frameworks of society.

Harrison Shepherd’s life and perspective embodies one such subject position. Shepherd is a character that transcends several boundaries and embodies several “transgressions.” Son of a separated Mexican-indio mother and an American father, having lived his childhood travelling between nations, living in different households of his mother’s husbands, working as a plaster-mixer to revolutionary and artist Diego Rivera, as a cook in the Rivera household, as journal writer for Frida Kahlo, as a secretary to Lev Trotsky (living in exile at the Riveras), and as a cook, Spanish teacher, and a widely read, but obscure, and haunted novelist in America, Harrison Shepherd’s sense of self develops in the many in-between spaces. Shepherd is witness to this playing out of history in Mexico, and on arriving in the US - in Ashville, North Carolina - in the wake of World War II, he carves a new identity as a cook and a Spanish language teacher - all the while being a “closeted homosexual” (Hicks). In the 1950s, after he attains much fame as a novelist of “Pre-Columbian Mexican history” (Hicks) he is hunted down by the House Un-American Activities Committee for his ‘communist’ associations. Here Kingsolver invokes the Red Scare and the Lavender Scare (of persecuting homosexuals as potential threats to the nation) and the McCarthy Trials to hunt down writers and artists who upheld liberal views, and were suspected of Communist associations, thereby leading to a culture of political censorship of art, and suppression of freedom of expression.

This in-betweenness and the liminalities of Shepherd’s life is also reflected in the structure and the form of The Lacuna which in turn further serve Kingsolver’s political function of criticism of the nation. The Lacuna’s fragmented narrative form includes diary entries of the young Shepherd, the notebooks that he keeps while living in the Rivera household, the drafts of his novels, the journal that he maintains for Kahlo during the days of Trotsky’s visit, the letters he receives at different points of time (from his mother, from Kahlo, his friend, Tom, government officials, his attorney); government documents such as proceedings of Congressional hearings, newspaper articles, book reviews, archival notes by his secretary Violet Brown, obituaries, and a plethora of gaps that fail to connect the fragments into a whole narrative. This discontinuous narration of history gives Kingsolver ample space to suggest both the criticism of power, and the fear of persecution. The historical allegory of the layered plot of a novel about a novelist writing a novel that questions power, threatening with subversion, set against the McCarthy Trials, is a political choice made by Kingsolver to voice her disagreements with jingoistic nationalist pride and bigotry.

A fear of persecution perpetually haunts Shepherd, who is presented as a subtle voice of criticism of the nation. The Lacuna is a massive project that spans across two nations, over three decades, historical events, government policies, and several identities in question. As a fresh departure from protagonists in Kingsolver’s other novels, Shepherd is different in that, he is by far, the first male protagonist in a Kingsolver novel. Also unlike others, who are the centre of action, Shepherd is a silent and profound observer of history, culture, and people. Like Adah Price in The Poisonwood Bible6, Shepherd also develops his critical thinking in the space outside the nation, as a silent observer, and in a subject position of the “othered” - as a closet homosexual, a Mexican-American, and an alleged associate of Communists.

The choice of historical characters is also telling. Kingsolver includes the revolutionaries and artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo to embody art that is political, and artists that have clear, defiant, political stance against fascism and imperialism. Having set the story in the decades straddling the Second World War (when US and USSR were allies) and the Cold War (when both the nations became antagonistic power centers), Kingsolver cleverly portrays Trotsky as a cosmopolitan and humanitarian communist, as opposed to the authoritarian Stalin. By doing so, Kingsolver draws a clear criticism of both the power-centers of the Cold War, to make it clear that, although she is critical of capitalist, imperialist, fascist America, she is not in favour of communist Soviet Union either; but has great reverence for Trotsky who did not occupy any authoritative position like Stalin. Few male characters in Kingsovler’s fictional universe have received the privileged treatment that Trotsky has received - as a person, despite Stalin’s relentless persecution, and the loss of his dear ones, is the embodiment of humanity, who treats his secretaries like his sons; who has a beautiful romantic relationship with Kahlo, and yet is devoted to his wife; who feeds the chickens with his own hands; who despite the threat to life, loves to take all the staff in the house to the desert for a picnic; who loves gardening, and collects cactus saplings to make a cactus garden of his own whenever/if ever he settles down from the exiles, and above all, upholding the cosmopolitan vision of a just society where everybody is treated as equal without any exploitation and oppression by authority. Jane Hicks in her review of The Lacuna observes that, “Trotsky becomes another of Harrison’s father figures. Lev, as he is called, is portrayed far more sympathetically than history might bear. To Shepherd, the cook, Trotsky was a simple peasant, just as happy feeding chickens as rallying the workers” (76).

Throughout the novel, Kingsolver also raises criticism against the media. The novel begins with the reference to the “howler monkeys of Isla Pixol”. The very first sentence of the novel is - “In the beginning there were the howler monkeys” (1) - this is an appropriation of the biblical verse, in the beginning there was Word and the word was god. Here Kingsolver appropriates it to disapprove of the trend that “news creation” is the prerogative of the media persons, a clear indication of construction of post truth to drive a society in the direction that the media persons or the vested interests behind them choose to do. Shepherd refers to the howler monkeys in many instances later in life whenever he wants to criticize the media for distorting facts, spreading rumours and fake news, and for their inauthentic, irresponsible, and insensible handling of issues. News articles figure across the novel at various instances, reporting about Rivera’s ambitious project for the National museum, Kahlo’s painting exhibitions abroad, assassination attempts at Trotsky, and many rumours about Harrison Shepherd’s private life after he publishes his historical fictions. These are instances where Kingsolver reproaches the media’s role in producing false news and fomenting anxiety, fear, hatred and other unpleasant images feeding on popular emotional appeal, especially taking advantage of fragile socio-political situations, thereby generously contributing to the climate of jingoist nationalism. Shepherd refers to the howler monkeys of Isla Pixol as “flesh eaters”, and in another instance he says, “the howler monkeys shrieks again”. Kingsolver criticizes the media for taking it upon themselves to carry out a trial and persecution of people, celebrities, writers, and artists, to serve their own hidden political agendas.

Jane Hicks notes that Kingsolver uses the image of howler monkeys from both Frida Kahlo’s writings, as well as from Mayan history. Kahlo associates the howler monkeys as a symbol of lust; and in the Mayan culture, the howler monkeys are the gods of the scribes7 (Hicks 76). There is a rich portrayal of indigenous and Mexican, or a mix of both - the mestiza/o culture throughout the novel. Kahlo is seen as an embodiment of this mestiza culture, in her personality, her attire, and the jewelry. The indios are excessively portrayed in the mural Diego Rivera makes for the government commissioned project for the National Museum of Mexico. Rivera’s work includes an abundant depiction of Aztec culture and the history of Mexico, with juxtaposed portrayal of the indigenous and the Spanish cultures - thereby showing a cultural attitude that does not deny, disown, or disrespect the indigenous traditions. This can be seen as a marked contrast to the American situation where both art and indigeneity are in jeopardy. This is further explicit when Kahlo laments that both herself and her art were seen as spectacle in the American media. Other instances of the indigenous culture include Kingsolver’s remarkable use of the presence of the ruins in Mexico, its history, and its immense influence on Harrison Shepherd.

In The Lacuna, Kingsolver indulges in a much more nuanced engagement with colonialism (compared to her earlier work on colonialism, The Poisonwood Bible), acknowledging both the richness of the colonized culture and also their subversive political potential. The ruins, the history of Hernan Cortes’s8 conquests of Aztecs, the hidden Aztec city underneath the new city built by the colonizers - all point towards both the indelible presence of the colonizer, and also the un-effaced and thriving presence of the colonized. It is in identifying with the colonized, that Harrison Shepherd (owing to his liminal identities as a Mexican-American, working-class, homosexual; being persecuted by media, government, and a homophobic society; being witness to history; and through writing the historical fiction as a historical allegory for his times) gathers the strength for resistance against authoritarian government forces. Through this portrayal of history, the plot, and setting, Kingsolver attempts to critique the nation by upholding the presence of histories as witnesses, by reiterating the critical and political potential of art and language, and the futility in trying to contain them or divest them of politics. 

Further, Kingsolver use three more symbols as political tools to critique the nation: Two of them are from indigenous culture (the codex, and the little sculpture of the Aztec man) and one is from nature (the secret cave in the ocean that appears during low tide) The codex about Aztec history informs Shepherd about the long journey (called peregrination) of the Aztec people in search of a home. It is also said they moved to the South western United States which was part of Mexican territory before the 1848 US-Mexico War. This region called the Aztlan, as explained by Gloria Anzaldua in her Borderlands/ La frontera is a land with the highly-entangled mestiza cultures and histories of Native Americans, Spanish, Anglos, and the Chicanos. By invoking this history of this present-day transnational territory as a shared space by mixed cultures, Kingsolver tries to contest a certain idea of the nation that is arrogant, militaristic, and considers itself a closed project. It is also a reminder a) of the porousness and arbitrariness of national borders b) of the fact that in history people have always travelled and migrated across places, and that a nation has always been in the making, and that is not something that emerged/existed/ will exist/last as a finished project.

The cosmopolitanism of the space is also evident in the frequent code switching that Kingsolver uses between Spanish and English throughout the novel. Most often, Spanish is used when she wants to convey something related to the culture, as well as the emotions of the characters. Shepherd is called by Kahlo as Insolito - meaning the unusual, the irregular, that which does not fit. In all their correspondences, the shortened form of this name is used - Soli. The identity of the “insolito” is also reminiscent of the identities that Anzaldua observes, as the ones existing in the borders. Kingsolver uses these border spaces and liminal spaces as critical spaces; spaces with subversive potential -where one could reflect, question, ponder, raise questions. Art and the idea of revolution exist and thrive is such spaces, and that explains why the state and its mechanisms are skeptical of it. The Lacuna consists of many such liminalities where the state-defined borders are transcended, and borders become meaningless. For instance, the domains of art, the idea of revolution and an ideal society, food, belongingness, nature, love - these cannot be confined to any state or national borders, but these are larger issues that remain closer to humanity. That which Kingsolver presents as a lacuna can also be perceived as a liminality from where new meanings can be critically read from the text. The historical novel within the novel, the historical time period of the 1920s to 1950s that Kingsolver uses to construct her plot is a carefully crafted structure of allegory that calls into question issues of fascism or state authoritarianism, suppression of freedom of expression, surveillance, threat to democracy, and the tendency of the uncritical state-of-mind that has not only become the norm in society but also parades as patriotism. In these liminal spaces Kingsolver plays both the patriot, and the cosmopolitan world citizen that Kwame Appiah Anthony calls as the “cosmopolitan patriot9.” Appiah notes that, “the cosmopolitan patriot can entertain the possibility of a world in which everyone is a rooted cosmopolitan attached to a home of one’s own, with its own cultural particularities, but taking pleasure from the presence of other, different places that are home to other, different people” (618).

The revival of indigenous history, culture and art in the face of rhetoric of nationalism serves as a reminder of how the construct of the nation came into existence. The little indigenous sculpture that Shepherd begets at the site of the Aztec ruins is a symbol and the hole in its mouth symbolizes the abysmal lacuna in history where the excluded identities are rendered invisible. Shepherd’s mysterious death can be read as the climax of a relentless struggle of being hunted, excluded, and haunted by their memories. Such identities emerge as the gaps of history from which the progress of history and the nation are, and should be constantly questioned and challenged. The place where shepherd finds shelter are a) nature as represented by the ocean that does not follow any lines of boundaries as drawn by the nations on maps b) art and the vision of an enlightened humanity which cannot be bound by the borders of a nation c) food cultures of the land and the place d) in unearthing the skeletons that have been lost in the recesses of history - i.e., in questioning the accepted versions of history, in re-thinking notions of natural, geographical borders as opposed to physical, political borders; in reasserting the fluidity of cultures and the process of hegemonic conquests that makes the political entity of the nation; at the same time she does envision a post-national10 identity, for the nation exists as a realistic entity in the way it functions through its governmental policies on trade, immigration, foreign policy, as well as in terms of its economy.

 

Conclusion

Thus through this novel, Kingsolver indulges in a critical view of nation, nationalism, and identity from a historical, cosmopolitan, border-thinking perspective to understand and comment on some of the challenges faced in contemporary political scenario. The issue of the U.S. Mexican border, the immigrants’ crisis, and xenophobia still continue to be pressing issues in the U.S. and need deliberations with a border-thinking perspective. Further, in regional studies in America, there are studies on rethinking the regional space, irrespective of national borders, as evident in the case of Post South, Post West, New Southern Studies, and Hemispehrical studies. Such understandings and engagements with the regions and transnational spaces beyond national borders are important particularly in dealing with global and planetary issues such as climate change, where in cases of eco-disasters such as hurricanes, the southern US and the Central American regions can be said to share an bioregion11 that also share similar threats of climate change.

 

(The paper is part of my ongoing Ph.d research project at the Department of English, Jamia Millia Islamia)


 

 

Works Cited

Anthony, Kwame Appiah. “Cosmopolitan Patriots.” Critical Enquiry, vol.23, no.3, Spring 1997. pp. 617- 629. JSTOR.

Anzaldua, Gloria. Borderlands/ La Frontera : The New Mestiza. Aunt Lute Books, 1987.

Appadurai, Arjun. “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy.” Theory, Culture, and Society, vol.7, 1990. p. 295-310.

Boyles, Christina. “And the Gulf Did Not Devour Them: The Gulf as a Site of Transformation in Anzaldua’s Borderlands and Kingsolver’s The Lacuna. The Southern Literary Journal, vol.46, no.2. Spring 2014. pp. 193-207. Project Muse.

Hicks, Jane. “The Lacuna: Review.” Appalachian Heritage, vol. 38, no.2, Spring 2010. pp.75-77. Project Muse.

Kingsolver, Barbara. The Lacuna. Faber and Faber, 2009.

---------”Stealing Apples.” Small Wonder. Faber and Faber, 2002.

---------- The Poisonwood Bible. Faber and Faber, 1999.

-------- Another America/Otra America. Seal Press, 1992.

Mignolo, Walter. “Geopolitics of Sensing and Knowing: On (de)Coloniality, Border Thinking and Epistemic Disobedience”. Confero. Vol.1, no.1, 2013. pp.129-150.

 

Linda Hutcheon coined the term historiographic metafiction to refer to works that are at once historical novel and metafiction. The Lacuna is a historical novel, but a different kind of metafiction that from the postmodernist sense that Hutcheon uses. It is a metafiction in that, the protagonist of The Lacuna is a novelist, writing a novel. The Lacuna can be considered as a historiographic metafiction as it explores, contests and challenges the writing of history at two allegorical levels.

Anthropocene refers to the age of the earth where “humans have become a geological agent”, according to Dipesh Chakrabarthy in the “Climate and Four Thesis of History”.

http://articles.latimes.com/2001/oct/20/local/me-59443 Response from readers for the article “No Glory in Unjust War on the Weak.” Los Angeles Times.

The Nahautl word for “in-betweenness” frequently used in Anzaldua and in other Chicano/a literature

Arjun Appadurai makes a distinction of nation and state and the complicated and “cannibalistic” relationship between the two. While nation is, as Anderson pointed out, “an imagined community”, the state is the system of governance and administrative mechanism with its own apparatuses of controlling and disciplining. Appadurai refers to the cannibalistic relationship where the state tries to monopolize what should be the idea of the nation, and the nations are striving to become states, with their struggle for self-determination.

Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible (1998) is set in the Congo of the 1960s and after, against the backdrop of the American involvement in the Congo Crisis.

Hicks, Jane. Review of Barbara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna. Appalachian Review, vol. 38, no.2, Spring 2010, pp. 75-77.

Hernan Cortes, the Spanish conquistador of Mexico. Harrison Shepherd is shown to be obsessed with history books regarding the conquest of the Aztecs

Kwame Appiah Anthony, “Cosmopolitan Patriots.” Critical Enquiry, vol.23, no.3. Front Lines/Border Posts,Spring 1997. pp.617-639.

Postnationalism is a term generally associated with globalization and transnational political-economy whereby the economy of a nation is largely controlled by the terms and regulations of transnational corporations and conglomerates. The state does not have any control over the economy. Though this is the general conception, Encyclopedia lists postnationalism as both a critique of nationalism, or a demise of the nation-state. In my argument, I use Kingsolver’s approach as post-national in the former sense, but not in the latter. 

Bioregions refer to areas that have common ecological, geographic, climatic features, and may spread across administrative borders of state or nations. Places in a bioregion experience similar weather conditions though they may a part of different nations, sharing a border. See Bioregionalism. Edited by Michael Vincent McGinnis; and Dwellers in the Land: The Bioregional Vision by Kirkpatrick Sale