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The Poetics of Ethnography in Martinican Narratives

The Poetics of Ethnography in Martinican Narratives: Exploring the Self and the Environment

Christina Kullberg
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    The Poetics of Ethnography in Martinican Narratives
    Book Description:

    Drawing on narratives from Martinique by Aimé Césaire, Édouard Glissant, Ina Césaire, and Patrick Chamoiseau, among others, Christina Kullberg shows how these writers turn to ethnography-even as they critique it-as an exploration and expression of the self. They acknowledge its tradition as a colonial discourse and a study of others, but they also argue for ethnography's advantage in connecting subjectivity to the outside world. Further, they find that ethnography offers the possibility of capturing within the hybrid culture of the Caribbean an emergent self that nonetheless remains attached to its collective history and environment. Rather than claiming to be able to represent the culture they also feel alienated from, these writers explore the relationships between themselves, the community, and the environment.

    Although Kullberg's focus is on Martinique, her work opens up possibilities for intertextual readings and comparative studies of writers from every linguistic region in the Caribbean-not only francophone but also Hispanic and anglophone. In addition, her interdisciplinary approach extends the reach of her work beyond postcolonial and literary studies to anthropology and ecocriticism.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3514-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    On the lower floor of the Musée Départemental d’Archéologie Précolombienne et de Préhistoire in Fort-de-France, Martinique, there is a large genealogic tree. The tree is part of an exhibition called “Our Amerindian Heritage” (Nos héritages amérindiens), and it traces the roots of a woman by the name of Magdeleine Luraine back to 1654, when the French colonized the island. She is assigned this consecrated space not because she herself is famous but, rather, because she is one of the few Martinicans whose ancestry is Amerindian. Through the intricate pattern of the branches representing her heritage, a part of the Martinican...

  5. 1 Anchorings and New Departures: Tropiques between Local Culture and Radical Poetics
    (pp. 21-53)

    At the dawn of the Second World War, Aimé Césaire and René Ménil returned to Martinique after having studied in Paris. They became colleagues at Lycée Schoelcher where Ménil taught philosophy and Aimé Césaire, literature. Together with Césaire’s wife Suzanne and Aristide Maugée, who were their colleagues at the school, they foundedTropiques(1941–1945), a journal for Martinican art, literature, and philosophy. In the fourteen issues published, the journal shows impressive thematic homogeneity despite its vast scope and eclectic texts. Celia Britton accurately describes the journal as a bricolage of art, literature, philosophy, psychology, history, biology, Marxism, and ethnography...

  6. 2 Self and the City: Glissant and Chamoiseau as Martinican Self-Ethnographers in Paris
    (pp. 54-99)

    Tropiquesshows this paradoxical pattern: Martinican literature seems to start in Paris, but it is only in Martinique that it blossoms. The urban space of the capital becomes a ground for exploration, which both brings the writers back to their own land and changes the ways they experience the colonial capital. But it is not until the 1950s that the Martinican writer’s situation in France features as a distinct literary theme relevant in the Caribbean.

    In the 1930s Aimé Césaire’s encounter with Paris leads to a second, imaginary journey from Paris to Africa and then back to Martinique. The experiences...

  7. 3 Creole Storytelling and the Art of the Novel: Chamoiseau and Ina Césaire
    (pp. 100-139)

    In a passage fromSoleil de la conscience, the narrator speaks from a crowded Parisian café, the ultimate environment for talking and discussing, and one of the places in the modern city dominated by the spoken word,la parole. The narrator expresses a sense of belonging because here, in the café, he is among friends, voices: "Everybody engages in the exchange, but it is true that everyone reserves an oasis for himself, behind the words. One lives in secret in the arena of a discussion. There are no more individuals, but one single body stretched towards its destiny. On this...

  8. 4 A Field of Islands: Ethnographic Poetics and Landscape in Glissant, Strobel, and Price
    (pp. 140-180)

    During a visit to Nigeria, Glissant is struck by the immensity of African landscape. The vastness of the savannah overwhelms the viewer and sweeps him away. He then compares this geographical infinitude with the harmonious but closed landscapes of mainland Greece and Italy, concluding that both the European and the African extremes are completely foreign to him.

    We islanders aren’t familiar with that vertigo of the earth. We bind vertigo to its greatest tension, we must contract our space in order to live there. Our field is of the sea that limits and opens. The island presumes other islands. Antilles....

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 181-188)

    The Guyanese writer Wilson Harris observes in “A Talk on the Subjective Imagination” that the relationship between self and the surrounding world can be localized in the blind spots of perception when reality does not appear to us as transparent (Explorations58). Eclipsed perspectives allow us to connect with others because when we cannot grasp the whole, we turn to other people’s perspectives in order to seize the bigger picture and, ultimately perhaps, form collectivity. Heterogeneity is here a postulate for creating a common ground, allowing continuous processes of subjectivation to occur in relation to others. According to Harris, the...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 189-198)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 199-210)
  12. Index
    (pp. 211-217)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 218-218)