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Reclaiming the past, building the future. The Caribbean writer and the crisis of history

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The identity quest, an abiding motif of francophone literature, is one that takes on a particular urgency in writing from the French Caribbean, both because of the status of the constituent islands as politically dependent Dpartements d'Outre-Mer, and more particularly because of the cultural dependence resulting from their particular history. The slave trade and the colonial history of the region have endowed it with a population that is severed from its origins and has been defined in relation to a dominant, alien regime or, more recently, a lost homeland. The identity question the islands face is intimately bound up with the question of historical perspective. In effect, the choice of cultural allegiance dictates the historical narrative into which the island identity is inscribed and the role of the islands in that narrative. The temptation for the islands to define themselves as liminal, the lost children of the African continent, or taking a walk-on part in the drama of the French republic, has been all the stronger in the absence of a coherent indigenous historical discourse. While the islands are now becoming increasingly aware of the inadequacy of such definitions, for many thinkers and writers from the area the difficulty of finding a viable way forward to political independence springs in no small part from this lack of a unifying historical identity. The role of the creative artist in revealing and establishing an indigenous culture is thus one of vital political importance.
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Keywords: Caribbean history; Caribbean narrative; Cond; Glissant; civilization; community

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2002-11-01

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  • The International Journal of Francophone Studies offers a critical preview for a new development in the understanding of 'France outside France', with a thorough insight into the network of disciplinary issues affiliated with this study. The journal complements the thriving area of scholarly interest in the French-speaking regions of the world, bringing a location of linguistic, cultural, historical and social dynamics within a single academic arena.
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