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Vulnerable States

Vulnerable States: Bodies of Memory in Contemporary Caribbean Fiction

Guillermina De Ferrari
A. James Arnold Editor
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Vulnerable States
    Book Description:

    According to Martinican theorist Édouard Glissant, the twentieth century has been dominated in the Caribbean by a passion for the remembrance of colonial history. But while Glissant identifies this passion for memory in the thematizing of nature in Caribbean modernist life, scholar Guillermina De Ferrari claims it is the vulnerability of the human body that has become the trope to which Caribbean postmodernist authors largely appeal in their efforts to revise the discourse that has shaped postcolonial societies. InVulnerable States: Bodies of Memory in Contemporary Caribbean Fiction, De Ferrari offers a comparative study of novels from across the Caribbean, arguing that vulnerability (symbolic and therefore political) should be seen as the true foundation of Caribbeanness.

    While most theories of the region have traditionally emphasized corporeality as a constitutive aspect of Caribbean societies, they assume its uniqueness is founded on race, itself understood either as a "fact" of the body or as the "ethnic" fusion of distinctive cultures of origin. In reconceptualizing corporeality as vulnerability, De Ferrari proposes an alternative view of Caribbeanness based on affect-that is, on an emotional disposition that results from the alienating role historical, medical, and anthropological notions of the body have traditionally played in determining how the region understands itself. While vulnerability thus addresses the role historically played by race in determining systems of social and political powerlessness, it also prefigures other ways in which Caribbeanness is currently negotiated at local and international levels, ranging from the stigmatization of the ill to the global fetishization of the region's physical beauty, material degradation, and political stagnation.Positioned at the intersection of literary and anthropological study,Vulnerable Stateswill appeal to Caribbeanists of the three major language areas of the region as well as to postcolonial scholars interested in issues of race, gender, and nation formation

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-2672-8
    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 The Myth of the Vulnerable Body
    (pp. 1-28)

    In his portrait of a black man returning to the Caribbean from exile in France, Frantz Fanon describes the psychological transformation of the now Europeanized Antillean man as a physical change: “The black man who has lived in France for a length of time returns radically changed. To express it in genetic terms, his phenotype undergoes a definitive, an absolute mutation. Even before he had gone away, one could tell from the almost aerial manner of his carriage that new forces had been set in motion. When he met a friend or an acquaintance, his greeting was no longer the...

  5. 1 Lurking Shadows Ethnography, Colonialism, and Crime in Patrick Chamoiseau’s Solibo Magnifique
    (pp. 29-62)

    With his bushy mustache, straw-broom goatee at the tip of his chin, a white nylon shirt with gold cuff links and silver sleeve tighteners, worn-out pants falling neatly on his well-polished boots, Solibo looks indeed Magnificent. One carnival night, the dazzling and gifted storyteller Solibo Magnifique improvises a performance under a tamarind tree in Fort-de-France’s Savanna Park. In the middle of his narration, Solibo emits a peculiarPatat’saand falls dead right in front of the eyes of his closest admirers. Eagerly following the convention of crick-crack stories, his audience, entranced by Solibo’s words and the rhythmic sound of the...

  6. 2 Illness and Utopia in Severo Sarduy’s Pájaros de la playa
    (pp. 63-103)

    If the literary imagination in fin-de-siècle Caribbean culture uses the symbolic malleability of the body to stage a theoretical intervention in and against the absence of history, the work of Severo Sarduy can be said to be postcolonialavant la lettreinsofar as the metaphorical vulnerability of the body to social and cultural semantic processes has always been at the very center of his aesthetic project. InPájaros de la playa,Sarduy’s last and posthumously published novel, physical fragility is taken to the extreme as it confronts the metaphorical administration of cultural identities—metaphors that, as anthropologist Jean Benoist suggests,...

  7. 3 Coming of Age in the Tropics: Girlhood and the Making of the Colonial Body
    (pp. 104-143)

    It is something of a critical commonplace to view childhood and the stories that return to it as occasions for introspection and psychological investment. As Jacqueline Rose puts it, “Childhood is something in which we continue to be implicated and which is never simply left behind.” From the point of view of psychoanalysis, “childhood persists as something which we endlessly rework in our attempt to build an image of our own history” (1984, 12). If what Western literary projects revisiting childhood most urgently seek is to reconstruct the formation of a personal story, postcolonial childhood stories seem to address the...

  8. 4 Erotic Interventions: The Political and the Intimate in Jamaica Kincaid’s The Autobiography of My Mother
    (pp. 144-180)

    Sex has consistently been used as a metaphor for the colonial encounter. In the case of the New World, Europeans framed their endeavors in terms of sexualized fantasies according to which Otherness was embedded in a code of eroticism. Eroticism, which had long been used to shape European visions of the Orient, offered “natural” imagery through which to perceive the Caribbean at the time of the conquest of the Americas.¹ An example that is often adduced to show how even the landscape was eroticized relates how Christopher Columbus, on beholding the mouth of Orinoco River during his third voyage, concluded...

  9. 5 Abjection and Aesthetic Violence in Pedro Juan Gutiérrez’s Trilogía sucia de La Habana
    (pp. 181-210)

    Following the fall of the Berlin Wall, Cuba sank into the worst economic crisis of its modern history. During this period, which came to be officially known as the Período Especial, Cubans were indeed very hungry. In 1993, during the XV Havana International Film Festival, the Spanish filmBelle Epoquewas screened. In Fernando Trueba’s film, meals punctuate the progress of the plot, as Fernando, the young protagonist who has deserted the army after a failed Republican coup, successively falls in love with each of the four daughters in the house where he has taken refuge. Indeed, the food prepared...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 211-238)
  11. References
    (pp. 239-248)
  12. Index
    (pp. 249-256)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 257-258)