Maria João Dodman, associate professor of Portuguese & Luso-Brazilian Studies in York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, travelled to the Azores to take part in the celebrations of the Day of the Azores, where she received the Insignia do Governo Regional dos Açores – Medal for Professional Merit.
The recognition is one of the most distinguished honours given by the government of the autonomous region of Azores.
Presenting the medal to Dodman on June 10 was Vasco Cordeiro, president of the Azores.
“I’m particularly honoured to receive such recognition from the Government of the Azores,” said Dodman. “Considering that I came to Canada to search for a better life like many of those immigrant women who came before and after me, this was a surreal moment.
“There is much work to be done and I remain more committed than ever to continue to tell the stories of a people who suffered greatly from centuries of isolation and neglect, who were victimized by corruption, by extreme poverty and violence.”
Dodman immigrated to Canada from the Azores in 1989. Originally a Renaissance scholar, Dodman turned her interests in 2006 to the literature produced in the Azores, and to bringing more awareness to the archipelago’s unique identity. She developed an undergraduate discipline that focuses solely on the Azores, the only of its kind in a Canadian university.
Her research interests include Renaissance literature, colonial encounters and representations of beauty, ugliness and otherness in early modern Iberian literature.
She is also co-founder and co-director of the Canadian Centre for Azorean Research & Studies. In 2016, Dodman published AndarIlha. Viagens de um Hifen (Wanderer. Voyages of a Hyphen), a book of short narratives that focuses on Azorean identity, immigrant issues and hyphenated culture. The book received high praise from literary critics in Portugal and an expanded English translation is slotted for publication in spring 2019 in the United States.
It is mostly in Dodman’s creative work where the Azores appears frequently as a site of inspiration and magic steeped in açorianidade, a concept in which nature, isolation, insularity, sea and volcanic rock triumph over history. Dodman is particularly interested in rescuing marginal voices and their stories of injustice and exclusion.
A video of the ceremony can be viewed online.