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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 6. The Heart of Lightness


Chapter 6

The Heart of Lightness

6.1 ¿Dónde? Locating the Caribbean subject in the Postmodern Non-place

Colonialism and invisibility

Critics of Caribbean culture, myself included, generally focus (specifically so far as literature is concerned) on the well-disseminated ideas of a rather fixed and limited number of intellectuals: Edouard Glissant, Antonio Benitez Rojo, Fernando Ortiz, Stuart Hall, Frantz Fanon or Aimé Césaire. Meanwhile it is never said that there is a kind of “canon” for Caribbean writing as well. However, other, less-known intellectuals, hidden to the point of invisibility on their own island, offer alternative views on the Caribbean that give the necessary oxygen to keep Caribbean studies safe from calcification. The risk for many comparatists is to rush to celebrate a “happy hybridity” under pressure from a politics of consensus. A closer look to today’s literary and broader intellectual and cultural production, I argue, can invalidate approaches that put an emphasis on place as a discursive construction and pay exclusive attention to the mentioned canon of intellectuals in the Caribbean, which, I believe, if not handled with care, will further pave the way for the kind of “happy hybridity” that contrasts with less celebratory forms of multiple identity.

While definitions of what the Caribbean is – or should be – have multiplied over the years, place is still a key criteria, as well as language, nationality or history, for the determination of the field of Caribbean studies. Caribbean studies, as...

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