Empathetic Engagement in Danticat's 'Brother, I'm Dying'.

  • Veronica J. Austen St. Jerome's University
Keywords: Affective Citizenship, Grievability, Empathetic Engagement, Narrative Focalization, Haitian-American Literature


In 2004 while fleeing upheaval in Haiti, 81 year-old Joseph Dantica died while being detained by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. In seeking temporary asylum, Joseph Dantica became subject to regulations that can be assumed to have precipitated his death. This article discusses Edwidge Danticat's Brother, I'm Dying, a memoir in which Danticat negotiates how to best establish her uncle's grievability as a subject. Using Judith Butler's Precarious Life and Frames of War as theoretical touchpoints, this article explores Danticat's manipulation of narrative form as an interrogation of the efficacy of emotional appeals. In viewing Danticat's narrative choices as her way to manage sites for empathetic engagement, this article questions the complexities and limits of affective citizenship.

Author Biography

Veronica J. Austen, St. Jerome's University

Veronica Austen is an Assistant Professor, specializing in Canadian and Postcolonial literatures, at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. Her interests include visually experimental poetry of Caribbean and Canadian writers and the portrayal of the visual arts in contemporary Canadian literature

Caribbean Literature Cluster