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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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Introduction 17


Introduction The globalization of our planet most probably started with the voy- aging canoes of ancestral peoples and later accelerated with the Great Discoveries. Ever since, and increasingly so with such revolutionary inventions as the airplane and the Internet, populations but also identi- ties have been shifting, changing places and forms, moving around numerous locations producing new configurations of self ldentities are ever more perceived as in flux, open to new elements and unpredictable changes. However, despite new thinking around the concepts of hybrid- ity and cross-culturality, constructions of "pure" identities which follow the Manichean colonial agenda of us vs. them, authentic vs. inauthentic, seem on the rise in the face of increasing "epidemic[s] of separatism"1. Unstable identities scare as they destabilize secure ideas and disrupt the reveling in one defined dominant version of things. What is more, the fear of this `chaos-monde' to use Glissant's term that emphasizes its unpredictability, has led to fanaticism or what Maalouf has called "identities meutri&es."2 Although many displacements nowadays are voluntary, yet increas- ingly coerced by economic or political conditions, other migrational movements were forced by colonial circumstances. Indeed, from 1838 onwards, as the English needed more labor to continue trade on colonial plantations and reassert their authority after the official abolition of slavery, hundreds of thousands of Indian men and women were per- suaded to leave their mother country to become slaves of another name: indentured laborers, later called coolies. This historical "Coolie odys- sey"3 further complicated...

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