Infiltrating the colonial city through the imaginaries of Metissage: Saint-Louis (Senegal), Saint-Pierre (Martinique) and Jeremie (Haiti)

Posted in Africa, Caribbean/Latin America, Dissertations, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2016-02-06 00:46Z by Steven

Infiltrating the colonial city through the imaginaries of Metissage: Saint-Louis (Senegal), Saint-Pierre (Martinique) and Jeremie (Haiti)

University of Iowa
August 2015
281 pages

Avonelle Pauline Remy, Assistant Professor of French
Hope College, Holland, Michigan

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy degree in French and Francophone World Studies in the Graduate College of The University of Iowa

In this dissertation, I investigate the ways in which the phenomenon of racial and cultural hybridity inform and alter the social, political and cultural fabric of three creole cities of significant colonial influence, namely Saint-Louis of Senegal, Saint-Pierre of Martinique and Jérémie of Haiti during and after the colonial era. In particular, I examine the relevance of the French colonial city not only as a nexus of relational complexity but also as an ambiguous center of attraction and exclusion where multiple identities are created and recreated according to the agendas that influence these constructions. In order to articulate the main hypotheses of my thesis, I explore the key historical and social catalysts that have led to the emergence of Saint-Louis, Saint-Pierre and Jérémie as original creole cities.

Through the critical analyses of contemporary literatures from Senegal, Martinique and Haiti by Fanon, Sadji, Boilat, Mandeleau, Confiant, Chamoiseau, Salavina, Bonneville, Moreau de Saint-Méry, Desquiron, and Chauvet and films by Deslauriers and Palcy, I illustrate the dynamics of creolization within the context of the French colonial city. I argue that the city engenders new narratives and interpretations of métissage that scholars have often associated with the enclosed space of the plantation.

My dissertation intends to prove that the three French colonial cities of Saint-Louis, Saint-Pierre and Jérémie offer distinct interpretations and practices of processes of cultural and ethnic métissage. I propose that a correlation albeit a dialectical one, exists between the development of the French colonial city and the emergence of the mulattoes as a distinct class, conscious of its economic, sexual and political agency. I suggest that the French colonial city, represents both a starting point and a space of continuity that permits new forms of ethnic and cultural admixture. The articulation of such mixtures is made evident by the strategic positioning and creative agency of the mulatto class within the colonial city.

The phenomenon of métissage is certainly not a novel subject as evidenced by the plethora of theories and studies advanced by scholars and intellectuals. My research is thus part of an existing critical literary corpus in Postcolonial and Francophone Studies and is inscribed within the theoretical framework of Creolization. My research observes from a historical, comparative and literary perspective, metis presence and consciousness in three specific spaces where colonial authority has been imposed, challenged, resisted and even overpowered (in the case of Haiti). My study therefore analyses the creative agency articulated by the metis ethnoclass in the colonial city and counters the claim of a passive assimilated group.

As an in-between group, mulatto’s access to social, economic and political upward mobility are impeded by their ambiguous positioning within the larger community. Consequently, they resort to unconventional means that I refer to rather as creative ingeniousness in order to survive. Scholars usually focus on these “unconventional” practices as immoral rather than as strategies of self-reinvention and revalorization. As a result, representations of cultural and ethnic interconnections and hybridity are often projected in fragmentary ways. The figure of the metis women for example is overly represented in studies on métissage while metis men receive very little attention. My thesis thus intends to decenter narratives on métissage from the women and implicate equally the creative agency of metis males.

My thesis expands on the complexities that inform processes of métissage during pre-colonial Saint-Louis in the early seventeenth century, Saint-Pierre from the period 1870-1902 and Jérémie during the dictatorship of Francois Duvalier. It examines further the city as a space that engenders new narratives and interpretations of the processes of creolization. Processes of métissage or creolization have often been described as the results of violent encounters that were colonial and imperial. Moreover, these clashes were inscribed within the enclosed space of the plantation.

The city, representation of European pride and greed is an ambiguous space that attracts even as it excludes. Projected as an active commercial, economic and cultural hub, the city is soon engulfed by mass emigration. That site where the European image and culture is imposed, quickly evolves into a complex and chaotic web of human and material interaction giving rise to a complex creolized atmosphere. I propose that practices of métissage in the city are distinct from those generated in the belly of the slave ships, in the trading houses of Sub-Saharan Africa and on the sugar plantations of the French Antilles.

I conclude with a look at the present context of métissage, I rethink the significance of racial and cultural hybridity in relation to contemporary cultural and social theories such as creolization, creoleness, and transculturation in articulating, interpreting and decoding a world in constant transformation.

Read the entire dissertation here.

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The Martinican concept of “creoleness”: A multiracial redefinition of culture.

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2013-11-24 03:44Z by Steven

The Martinican concept of “creoleness”: A multiracial redefinition of culture.

Mots Pluriels
Number 7, (July 1998): Third Space and Cross-Cultural Identities—Mestissage – Tiers Espace – Identite

Beverley Ormerod, Associate Professor of French
University of Western Australia

In the 1930s, black and coloured intellectuals from the French Caribbean colonies of Martinique, Guadeloupe and Guyane sought for the first time to define their cultural identity in terms of their historical and racial affiliations with Africa, rather than their political and educational ties with France. During centuries of colonial rule, class barriers had effectively separated darker-skinned from lighter-skinned West Indians; the school system had reinforced European aesthetic norms, and had demanded the repudiation of Creole, the language associated with black slaves, in favour of French. The Négritude movement, inaugurated with L.-G. Damas’ Pigments (1937) and Aimé Césaire’s Cahier d’un retour au pays natal (Return to my Native Land, 1939), rejected this cultural predominance of France and emphasized the writers’ membership of the African diaspora. To the Martinican Césaire is attributed the neologistic term, Négritude, which stressed the vital importance to the poet’s ideology of his adherence to the black race. He and Damas brandished the terms “Negro”, “Africa”, “instinct” and even “savage” in their verse, delineating a new Caribbean cultural profile in truculent defiance of the prejudices of their likely public. For their message was addressed not only to French readers, but (and perhaps primarily) to the Francophile coloured and black bourgeoisie in the West Indies which had acquiesced in Europe’s dismissal of Africa as a site of racial and cultural inferiority.

For the Caribbean inventors of Negritude, Africa was more than simply an emblem of ethnic authenticity. Their invocation of this distant, unknown continent was intended to heal psychological wounds passed down from the first black West Indians, those generations of Africans exiled from their native lands and forced into captivity in a white-dominated society on the far side of an uncrossable ocean. In praising Africanness, early twentieth-century Caribbean writers were rejecting European stereotypes of race, colour, mental and physical attributes. Their belief in a cosmic connection with Africa expressed the hope of future acceptance in a spiritual homeland. Their blackness of skin, traditionally devalued by the white race, became the passport to kinship with a newly valorized African world of cultural difference.

Where did this leave the substantial part of the Caribbean population that, after centuries of African-European sexual relations and the 19th-century importation of Indian and Chinese labour, was neither white nor black? Césaire, whose demands for social justice were as eloquent in his literary as in his later political career, claims in his Cahier an affinity with all victims of racial oppression, asserting his solidarity with “the Jew-man, the Kaffir-man, the Hindu-man in Calcutta, the Harlem-man who doesn’t vote” – the worldwide victims of prejudice, verbal abuse, famine, torture and pogroms. But, speaking from the viewpoint of a black West Indian, Césaire holds up African culture as the single great alternative to European culture, the sovereign remedy for the alienation provoked by European colonialism. The founders of Negritude make an unspoken assumption that the Caribbean non-white individual will opt to be assimilated into the African cultural sphere. While invoking the Hindu in Calcutta, for example, Césaire does not consider the different cultural position of the large number of West Indians descended from coulis or “East Indian” indented labourers, whose syncretic life-style may combine Eastern religious practices with West Indian social elements. It is noticeable that French Creole, the linguistic link between the diverse elements of the French Caribbean population, is given no role in Negritude. Even standard French, for that matter, has an ambiguous status in the Cahier: linguistically it is a showcase for Césaire’s verbal subtlety and erudition, but thematically it is rejected as Césaire ostentatiously turns away from the French rationalist tradition towards the kinetic energy of African sorcery. African culture is equally embraced by Damas: it is symbolized by the banjo that his Guyanese mother vainly attempts to make him replace by the more socially acceptable violin (“mulattos don’t do that/leave that to blacks“); this imposition is angrily refused by the poet, just as he refuses identification with the white side of his ancestry: “How can they possibly dare/to call me “whitened”/when everything in me/aspires only to be Negro/as black as my Africa/that they stole from me”. Only a rare voice, like that of the mulatto poet Gilbert Gratiant, expresses a divergent view at this time—choosing to celebrate the double fusion (cultural and biological) of Africa and France in his veins, and at the same time making Creole his literary language of choice…

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Sweet Liberty: The Final Days of Slavery in Martinique (Review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Slavery on 2013-03-10 02:28Z by Steven

Sweet Liberty: The Final Days of Slavery in Martinique (Review)

French History
Volume 27, Issue 1 (2013)
pages 135-137
DOI: 10.1093/fh/crs158

Emily Musil Church, Assistant Professor of History
Lafayette College, Easton, Pennsylvania

Sweet Liberty: The Final Days of Slavery in Martinique. By Rebecca Hartkopf Schloss. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. 2009. 312 pp. ISBN: 978 0 8122 4172 3.

Rebecca Hartkopf Scholss’ investigation of the end of slavery in the French Caribbean island of Martinique is a welcome addition to the growing scholarship on the history of the Francophone Black Atlantic world. Schloss’ book builds on existing works by exploring the complex dynamics that existed amidst and between the various racial and economic groups in Martinique, as well as between the metropole and colony. The author’s writing style makes a long, complicated colonial history with a complex cast of characters both engaging and accessible. She uses a wide variety of sources—ranging from court proceedings to diaries to demographic statistics—to reconstruct how Martinique, and the French empire more broadly, defined and redefined racial categories and their meanings. Although she uses class and racial categories to describe the social framework, Schloss is careful to reinforce that the categories she describes—such elite Creoles, poor whites, free mixed-race persons, enslaved Africans, and so on—were fluid designations and not united, cohesive groups. The…

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Creole Identity in the French Caribbean Novel

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs on 2011-09-23 21:26Z by Steven

Creole Identity in the French Caribbean Novel

University Press of Florida
320 pages
6 x 9
ISBN 13: 978-0-8130-1835-5; ISBN 10: 0-8130-1835-8

H. Adlai Murdoch, Associate Professor of French and Francophone Literature
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Adlai Murdoch offers a detailed rereading of five major contemporary French Caribbean writers–Glissant, Condé, Maximin, Dracius-Pinalie, and Chamoiseau. Emphasizing the role of narrative in fashioning the cultural and political doubleness of Caribbean Creole identity, Murdoch shows how these authors actively rewrite their own colonially driven history.

Murdoch maintains that the culture of the French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique is less homogeneous and more creatively fragmented than is commonly supposed. Promoting a new vision of this multifaceted region, he challenges preconceived notions of what it means to be both French and West Indian. The author’s own West Indian origin provides him with intimate, firsthand knowledge of the nuances of day-to-day Caribbean life.

While invaluable to students of Caribbean literature, this work will also appeal to those interested in the African diaspora, French and postcolonial studies, and literary theory.

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White Skin, White Masks: The Creole Woman and the Narrative of Racial Passing in Martinique and Louisiana

Posted in Caribbean/Latin America, Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United Kingdom, Women on 2011-07-07 21:33Z by Steven

White Skin, White Masks: The Creole Woman and the Narrative of Racial Passing in Martinique and Louisiana

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
83 pages

Michael James Rulon

A thesis submitted to the faculty of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in the Curriculum of Comparative Literature

Through an examination of two Creole passing subjects from literary passing narratives of the twentieth century, this thesis simultaneously treats two problems that have been largely overlooked by contemporary scholarship: the role of the Creole racial identity in the genre of the passing narrative, as well as the possibility of racial passing within the context of a Creole society. In Walter White’s 1926 novel, Flight, and Mayotte Capécia’s 1950 novel, La négresse blanche, the protagonists’ difficulties in negotiating a stable racial identity reveal the inherent weakness of the racial binary that is essential to the very notion of racial passing, and they also show that Creoleness has failed to establish itself as a stable racial identity in the societies represented in both novels.

Table of Contents

  • 1. Pawòl Douvan/Some Opening Words
  • 2. Nwè, Blan èk Kréyòl/Black, White, and Creole
  • 3. Mimi èk Isaure/Mimi and Isaur
  • 4. Pasé pou Blan, Pasé pou Nwè/Passing for White, Passing for Black
  • 5. Ovwè tè kréyòl/Goodbye, Creole Land
  • 6. Conclusion: Èk alòs… /And so

Read the entire dissertation here.

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Study of HLA antigens of the Martinican population

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2011-04-03 04:39Z by Steven

Study of HLA antigens of the Martinican population

Tissue Antigens
Volume 26, Issue 1 (July 1985)
pages 1–11
DOI: 10.1111/j.1399-0039.1985.tb00928.x

Nicole Monplaisir
Blood Transfusion Center of Martinique

Ignez Valette
Blood Transfusion Center of Martinique

Virginia Lepage
Groupe de Recherches d’Immunogenetique de la Transplatation Humaine, INSERM – U 93, Paris, France

Veronique Dijon
Blood Transfusion Center of Martinique

Elizabeth Lavocat
Blood Transfusion Center of Martinique

Colette Ribal
Blood Transfusion Center of Martinique

Colette Raffoux
Groupe de Recherches d’Immunogenetique de la Transplatation Humaine, INSERM – U 93, Paris, France

This is the first time a study has been undertaken on the HLA profile of the Martinican population, a population which is essentially the product of intermixture between African-Negroes and French Caucasians. Two hundred and thirty-eight non-related subjects were typed for the A and B loci, 158 subjects for C locus and 128 for DR locus.

After analysis of our parameters (antigen and gene frequencies, linkage disequili-bria, etc.) and their comparison to those found in the Black and Caucasian control populations, we came to the conclusion that our racially-mixed population is closer to the African-Negro population than to the French Caucasian. A study of the average gene flow enabled us to evaluate the Caucasian contribution as being about 30%. This figure is subject to change inasmuch as racial intermixture continues. Socio-cultural variables are assumed to play a minimal role, given the high rate of illegitimacy.

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The Masters and the Slaves: Plantation Relations and Mestizaje in American Imaginaries

Posted in Anthologies, Arts, Books, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2010-03-27 03:44Z by Steven

The Masters and the Slaves: Plantation Relations and Mestizaje in American Imaginaries

Palgrave Macmillan
January 2005
176 pages
Size 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
Paperback ISBN: 1-4039-6708-3
Hardcover ISBN: 1-4039-6563-3

Edited by:

Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond, Assistant Professor of Luso-Brazilian Literature
University of California, San Diego

The Masters and the Slaves theorizes the interface of plantation relations with nationalist projects throughout the Americas. In readings that cover a wide range of genres–from essays and scientific writing to poetry, memoirs and the visual arts–this work investigates the post-slavery discourses of Brazil, the United States, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Haiti and Martinique. Indebted to Orlando Patterson‘s Slavery and Social Death (1982) and Paul Gilroy‘s The Black Atlantic (1993), these essays fill a void in studies of plantation power relations for their comparative, interdisciplinary approach and their investment in reading slavery through the gaze of contemporary theory, with particularly strong ties to psychoanalytic and gender studies interrogations of desire and performativity.

Table of contents

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Sweet Liberty: The Final Days of Slavery in Martinique

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery on 2009-09-01 03:30Z by Steven

Sweet Liberty: The Final Days of Slavery in Martinique

University of Pennsylvania Press
July 2009
312 pages
6 x 9; 7 illustrations
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8122-4172-3
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8122-2227-2
Ebook ISBN: 978-0-8122-0356-1

Rebecca Hartkopf Schloss, Associate Professor of History
Texas A & M University

From its founding, Martinique played an integral role in France’s Atlantic empire. Established in the mid-seventeenth century as a colonial outpost against Spanish and English dominance in the Caribbean, the island was transformed by the increase in European demand for sugar, coffee, and indigo. Like other colonial subjects, Martinicans met the labor needs of cash-crop cultivation by establishing plantations worked by enslaved Africans and by adopting the rigidly hierarchical social structure that accompanied chattel slavery.  After Haiti gained its independence in 1804, Martinique’s economic importance to the French empire increased.  At the same time, there arose questions, both in France and on the island, about the long-term viability of the plantation system, including debates about the ways colonists—especially enslaved Africans and free mixed-race individuals—fit into the French nation.

Sweet Liberty chronicles the history of Martinique from France’s reacquisition of the island from the British in 1802 to the abolition of slavery in 1848. Focusing on the relationship between the island’s widely diverse society and the various waves of French and British colonial administrations, Rebecca Hartkopf Schloss provides a compelling account of Martinique’s social, political, and cultural dynamics during the final years of slavery in the French empire. Schloss explores how various groups—Creole and metropolitan elites, petits blancs, gens de couleur, and enslaved Africans—interacted with one another in a constantly shifting political environment and traces how these interactions influenced the colony’s debates around identity, citizenship, and the boundaries of the French nation.

Based on extensive archival research in Europe and the Americas, Sweet Liberty is a groundbreaking study of a neglected region that traces how race, slavery, class, and gender shaped what it meant to be French on both sides of the Atlantic.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction: Sweet Liberty: The Final Days of Slavery in Martinique
  • 1. “That Your Hearts Will Blossom and Again Become French”: The Early Napoleonic Period
  • 2. “Happy to Consider Itself an Ancient British Possession”: The British Occupation of Martinique
  • 3. “Your French and Loyal Hearts”: The First Decade of the Restoration
  • 4. “In the Colonies, It Is Impossible That a White Would Align Himself With Slaves”: Shifts in Colonial Policy
  • 5. “To Ensure Equality Before Those Laws to Free Men, Whatever Their Color”: Changing Ideas of French Citizenship
  • 6. “Amelioration of the White Race” and “The Sacred Rights of Property”: The End of Slavery in the French Atlantic
  • Conclusion
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Notes
  • Index
  • Acknowledgments
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