Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Doctor of Philosophy




Wakeham, Pauline

2nd Supervisor

Jones, Manina



My dissertation examines writing that responds to and reimagines the genre of travel poetry by Indigenous, diasporic, and settler women writers who reside in Canada to illuminate the differential stakes of mobility within and beyond the nation. These works variously reveal and challenge the ways that different forms of travel are foundational to the projects of settler colonialism and decolonization. My focus on “poetics in transit” opens up a new archive through which to consider travel. Poetics, I contend, can offer unique ways of perceiving the Indigenous land on which Indigenous people, people of colour, and settlers live and travel and imagining futurities that enable solidarities between different groups. I put into dialogue Double Negative (1988) by lesbian white settler poets Daphne Marlatt and Betsy Warland, Looking for Livingstone: An Odyssey of Silence (1991) and A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes to Belonging (2001) by Black diasporic writers Marlene NourbeSe Philip and Dionne Brand, respectively, and Indigenous writers Louise Bernice Halfe’s/Sky Dancer’s (Cree) Blue Marrow (2004) and Lee Maracle’s (Stó:lō) Talking to the Diaspora (2015), along with poems by Indigenous writers Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm (Anishinaabe), Marilyn Dumont (Cree and Métis), and Leanne Simpson (Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg). In doing so, I consider how mixed-genre poetics can challenge colonial heteropatriarchal constraints on intersectional women’s movement and be used to chart solidarities with Indigenous peoples on whose lands the poets move. I analyze the ways writers of different positionalities emphasize or undermine Indigenous relationships to their lands and exemplify the multiplicity of ways travel can damage or respect Indigenous sovereignty. By putting into conversation Indigenous and diasporic women’s poetic accounts of travel within Canada and to other settler colonial nations, I participate in scholarly debates about Indigenous–Black allyships and consider how travel poetry may resist settler colonial goals of Indigenous erasure, even while registering histories of violent displacement.

Summary for Lay Audience

This dissertation examines an unconventional form of travel writing. The travel writing genre has historically been dominated by white male authors who craft their realist, autobiographical narratives in prose. In contrast, I study poetry and mixed genre creative texts published between 1988 and 2020 authored by Indigenous, Black, and white settler women who write about literal and imagined travel. Poetry can offer alternative ways of perceiving the land on which different groups live and travel, and therefore help to foster potential solidarities between peoples. This project interrogates the privileges of mobility in the settler colonial state of Canada and abroad and considers how poets may present ethical movement on Indigenous lands. Settler colonial states are formed and maintained through certain forms of exploratory travel and settler mobility, which continue to displace BIPOC subjects. However, travel and movement also offer ways for Indigenous peoples and people of colour to resist settler colonialism and honour Indigenous sovereignty. Because settler colonial states continue to infringe on Indigenous lands, such as Turtle Island, I foreground Indigenous land-based knowledges, teachings, and practices. Through examining the work of Indigenous writers including Louise Bernice Halfe/Sky Dancer (Cree), Lee Maracle (Stó:lō), Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm (Anishinaabe), Marilyn Dumont (Cree and Métis), and Leanne Simpson (Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg), Black diasporic writers Marlene NourbeSe Philip and Dionne Brand, and lesbian white settler poets Daphne Marlatt and Betsy Warland, I show how, in different ways, writers perceive types of displacements and imagine paths towards better futurities among communities.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Available for download on Friday, March 28, 2025