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Transoceanic Dialogues

Coolitude in Caribbean and Indian Ocean Literatures


Veronique Bragard

At the point in time when the abolition of slavery was being celebrated, another system of servitude was underway: indentureship. Indenture labor resulted in the transportation of one million Indians – called coolies – into British and French colonies. Unable or unwilling to return, a great majority of them stayed in the countries they had been shipped to and participated in the creation of new, creole cultures.
This book offers a close reading of literary works in French and in English by women writers whose ancestors originally came to the Caribbean or across the Indian Ocean as indentured laborers. Positing a dynamic and open approach, the author adopts the concept of coolitude to examine how their works capture, on the one hand, the Indian element of the creolization process and, on the other hand, the creolization of the Indian diasporic inheritance.
Organized around the paradigm of the crossing – historical, geographical, gender-based, corporeal, identitary – this study offers insightful transoceanic, transregional and transcolonial dialogues between Caribbean and Indian Ocean literatures. Focusing on themes of displacement, entrapment, metamorphosis and marginalization, the author explores the entanglements and tensions that characterize creole pluricultural landscapes while she underscores Caribbean and Mauritian literature’s engagement with alterity.


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Preface 11


Preface When critics are asked to introduce themselves, they mostly list the works produced and projects they are working on. They highlight how they have actively contributed to their field of specialization or some- times how their background interferes with their research topic. As critics, we often claim agency is in our hands but, as I am writing these words, 1 am living in Los Angeles because of my own research project. The very fact that my research has brought me here is proof of how it has physically relocated me. While 1 know my self and memory will be marked by this experience, 1 can only think of all the American scholars who have moved and readapted to new locations. More than perceiving myself as different because of this relocation, my research has interro- gated my cultural and national sense of identity, something I had rarely been conscious of in the past. 1 would like here, by way of a preface, to ponder how my research has reshaped me and how coolitude enters in dialogue in several ways with the interrogation of the heart of my belgi- tude and more largely, with cross-culturality. In this context, one needs to point out that the term belgitude, like coolitude was coined following Senhor's Mgritude, but in many cases does not refer to an essentialist Belgian identity but its very interrogation. These voyages into my belgitude, enhanced by my dislocation, began when 1 became familiar with postcolonial literatures and critical ap- proaches...

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