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Postcolonial Archipelagos

Essays on Hispanic Caribbean and Lusophone African Fiction


Kristian Van Haesendonck

Writers from different postcolonial regions are usually classified according to their different nationalities or linguistic areas, and have rarely been brought together in one volume. Moving in a new direction, Postcolonial Archipelagos crosses not only geographical but also linguistic boundaries, by focusing on two contexts which seemingly have little or nothing in common with one another: the Hispanic Caribbean, and Lusophone Africa. Kristian Van Haesendonck thus opens new ground, in two ways: first, by making connections between contemporary Caribbean and African writers, moving beyond the topos of slavery and negritude in order to analyse the (im)possibility of conviviality in postcolonial cultures; and secondly, by exploring new ways of approaching these literatures as postcolonial archipelagic configurations with historical links to their respective metropoles, yet also as elements of what Glissant and Hannerz have respectively called "Tout-Monde" and a "world in creolization". Although the focus is on writers from Lusophone Africa (Mia Couto, José Luis Mendonça and Guilherme Mendes da Silva) and the Hispanic Caribbean (Junot Díaz, Eduardo Lalo, Marta Aponte, James Stevens-Arce and Edgardo Rodríguez Juliá), connections are made with and within the broader global context of intensified globalization.

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Chapter 1. The Archipelagic: A Brief Assembly Manual


Chapter 1

The Archipelagic: A Brief Assembly Manual

New ideas go through a trinity of stages. First they are ridiculed, next they are fought, and lastly they are institutionalized, taken for granted and trivialized. (Joan Ramón Resina)

Caribbean cultures are often seen as by definition creolized, that is, the result of an intense process of cultural mixing known as creolization. While the term has much less been used in the African context, creolization has been happening on the continent as well, yet to a much more limited extent. Groups of islands, as we can find in the Caribbean archipelago, an important part of the Caribbean basin often referred to as the “Antilles”, have historically been hot-spots of creolization, both linguistically and culturally. As a result, they have been naturally more open to cultural influences than other regions worldwide. However, with globalization becoming increasingly intense over the past decades, cultural mixing is arguably taking place within other places and regions around the world, which resemble geographical “archipelagos” in their specific status of being in between islands and continents. The anthropologist James Clifford once stated that “we are all Caribbean now in our urban archipelagos […] Perhaps there’s no return to a native land – only field notes for its reinvention” (Clifford 1988: 173), pointing towards the present global interdependency of Western life, as well as to the impossibility of making essentialist claims on cultural purity. Whether one disagrees or not with the label “urban” in Clifford’s...

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