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Locating the Destitute

Locating the Destitute: Space and Identity in Caribbean Fiction

Stanka Radović
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Locating the Destitute
    Book Description:

    While postcolonial discourse in the Caribbean has drawn attention to colonialism's impact on space and spatial hierarchy, Stanka Radović asks both how ordinary people as "users" of space have been excluded from active and autonomous participation in shaping their daily spatial reality and how they challenge this exclusion. In a comparative interdisciplinary reading of anglophone and francophone Caribbean literature and contemporary spatial theory, she focuses on the house as a literary figure and the ways that fiction and acts of storytelling resist the oppressive hierarchies of colonial and neocolonial domination. The author engages with the theories of Henri Lefebvre, Michel Foucault, and contemporary critical geographers, in addition to selected fiction by V. S. Naipaul, Patrick Chamoiseau, Beryl Gilroy, and Rafaël Confiant, to examine the novelists' construction of narrative "houses" to reclaim not only actual or imaginary places but also the very conditions of self-representation.

    Radović ultimately argues for the power of literary imagination to contest the limitations of geopolitical boundaries by emphasizing space and place as fundamental to our understanding of social and political identity. The physical places described in these texts crystallize the protagonists' ambiguous and complex relationship to the New World. Space is, then, as the author shows, both a political fact and a powerful metaphor whose imaginary potential continually challenges its material limitations.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3630-7
    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-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-26)

    This book engages questions of space and spatial imagination in Caribbean fiction. Through the lens of contemporary spatial theory, I offer a comparative and interdisciplinary view of Caribbean postcolonial discourse. This discourse, in its inherently spatial orientation, contributes to and even anticipates the growing interest in space and place as critical categories fundamental for our understanding of social and political identity. Many Caribbean writers emphasize not only the cultural and linguistic legacy of colonialism but also its impact on space and spatial hierarchy. This question of spatial hierarchy has an even broader relevance: How are ordinary people, whom the Marxist...

  6. 1 Caribbean Spatial Metaphors
    (pp. 27-47)

    Caribbean discourse and literature open a unique possibility for an innovative rereading of spatial and postcolonial theories in conjunction. The Caribbean has always been contested space, historically fought over and swapped among various colonial powers while conceptually cast as either the abyss of the slave plantation or the garden of worldly paradise. Engaging with various discursive representations of this ambiguity of Caribbean space, I address in this chapter the polarized visions of Caribbean postcoloniality between brutal colonial facts and powerful images of their contestation. These gestures of creative resistance, often formulated through spatial metaphors, offer deliberately provisional “third” solutions against...

  7. 2 A House of One’s Own: Individual and Communal Spaces in the Caribbean “Yard Novel”
    (pp. 48-76)

    Many accounts of spatiality seek to distinguishspacefromplace. For instance, Edward Casey’s comprehensive study of the philosophical history of place,The Fate of Place, gives precedence to place over space, suggesting that “to be at all—to exist in any way—is to be somewhere, and to be somewhere is to be in some kind of place” (ix). Because it is so central to our existence, place is often taken for granted and subsumed by the more dominant categories of space and time. The notion of space, Casey argues, is traditionally described as universal, infinite, and ubiquitous. Place,...

  8. 3 “No Admittance”: V. S. Naipaul’s A House for Mr. Biswas
    (pp. 77-104)

    The approach to identity as an outcome of spatial practice constitutes one of the most important aspects of V. S. Naipaul’s semi-autobiographical novelA House for Mr. Biswas(1961). This novel is a prime example of the correlation between spatial theory and Caribbean postcolonial discourse and draws into sharper focus a number of questions that I have been raising. The novel consists of a central triad—space, self, and writing—that, in its triple orientation, allows me to examine the material significance of the house, its impact on identity, and its symbolic relevance in the protagonist’s quest for autonomy and...

  9. 4 Squatters in the Cathedral of the Written Word: Patrick Chamoiseau’s Texaco
    (pp. 105-127)

    Patrick Chamoiseau’sTexaco(1992) chronicles the squatter community of Texaco, a slum located at the edge of Martinique’s capital, Fort-de-France. As an underprivileged and illegitimate space, the slum reflects and shapes the lives of its inhabitants. The abandoned lot of the Texaco petroleum company is gradually settled by former slaves who, fleeing the plantation, arrive in the city in search of employment. The squatters’ occupation of the abandoned site signals the spontaneous cultural potential of “an open community grounded not on identity but on strategic alliance” (Lincoln, 3), while also reflecting, in spatial terms, the historical deprivation of the Martinican...

  10. 5 Heterotopia of Old Age in Beryl Gilroy’s Frangipani House
    (pp. 128-153)

    In this chapter I explore the figure of the house as an exclusionary space where the allegedly burdensome and deviant aspects of social life are supposed to be safely contained. One such dimension of social reality is old age, which we—uncertain how to treat its gradual loss of productivity and social function—increasingly isolate. Homes for the elderly provide the space where visible traces of old age are conveniently kept out of sight. Through Beryl Gilroy’sFrangipani House(1986), I explore this marginalization of old age by means of heterotopia, a concept that allows us a critical view of...

  11. 6 Upper and Lower Stories: Raphaël Confiant’s L’Hôtel du Bon Plaisir
    (pp. 154-180)

    In Raphaël Confiant’sL’Hôtel du Bon Plaisir(2009), the spatial approach to multiple (post) colonial histories, both personal and cultural, shapes the way we interpret the intersecting destinies of his protagonists. As a matter of fact the titular hotel turns out to be the most important protagonist of all, showing that shared space creates community and shelters its evolving history. Although Confiant’s novel shares with Chamoiseau’sTexacoa profound thematic and methodological kinship centered on exploring through the category of space the nonhierarchical multiplicity of Créolité, the intertwined narratives inL’Hôtel du Bon Plaisiremerge as part of a vertical...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 181-192)

    Reflections on space, whether explicit or implied, permeate any study of colonialism and its postcolonial contestations. All major figures of postcolonial theory have in one way or another raised the question of postcolonial spatiality in terms of colonial domination, postcolonial independence, and nation building, or the place of the “Third World” in contemporary global politics. In a recent attempt to reinvigorate the termpostcolonial, burdened, in my view, by the unproductive repetition of its binary problematics as well as its “interstitial” solutions, Ato Quayson proposes, for example, that “closer scrutiny of thepostcolonialsuggests that it contains mutually reinforcing periodizing...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 193-202)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 203-216)
  15. Index
    (pp. 217-222)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 223-224)