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Schizophrenic Island, fifty years after Fanon: Martinique, the pent-up 'paradise'

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Although Frantz Fanon did not employ the term as such, the contemporary paradigm of 'social suffering' captures much of the angst that Fanon diagnosed in his treatments of fellow Martinicans as individuals and of Martinique as a society. Ambivalent relationships based on race (French whites vis-à-vis islanders 'of colour') and law (assimilationist statehood versus regional autonomy) continue to problematize Martinican society and polity. This is despite significant material gains (now in question as a result of looming austerity in the French economy) made in the half-century since Fanon's original diagnoses in Black Skin, White Masks (1952). Pierre Bourdieu's 'everyday life' methodology is joined to psychological analyses of Martinican behaviour to reveal schizophrenic tendencies in the mind and body politic. An overarching frame is the contrast between an externally sold image of island 'paradise' with a political and psychological reality fraught with frustration, anxiety, stress and contradiction. Understanding of French West Indian politics, culture and society is heightened by reference to the specialized literature of medical anthropology, psychiatric health and public health in postcolonial societies.
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Keywords: Frantz Fanon; Josephine Bonaparte; Martinique; departmentalization; identity; overseas France; race; social suffering; tourism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Northeastern University

Publication date: 2012-08-13

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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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