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Martinique is (not) a Polynesian island: detours of French West Indian identity

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Sixty years after departmentalization Martinique is faced with the consequences of French-mandated modernization. In the face of such assimilationist pressures the tendency among cultural activists like the members of the Crolit movement is to invest in the ideal of a Martiniquan specificity. As opposed to an imaginary that privileges the redemptive heartland and salvaged folklore, Edouard Glissant points to an alternative way of constructing identity that is relational and not rooted. Through his references to Easter Island he has taken the exotic elsewhere of the Surrealists, Oceania, and imagined an exemplary space of errancy which opens Martinique out to a global relational identity beyond its tensions with metropolitan France. Utopian in its thrust, his imaginary focuses on what is missing in the current anti-assimilationist posturing and rethinks the idea of the totemic sacred in terms of a relational sacred.
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Keywords: errancy; primitivism; relational identity; the sacred; the south

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: New York University.

Publication date: 2008-06-16

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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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