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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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CHAPTER 2 - Plurigeneses. Coolitude and Marine Chronotopes 59


CHAPTER 2 Plurigeneses Coolitude and Marine Chronotopes Hindu mythology has provided coolies with strong spiritual land- marks. But the voyage of indentured workers to the colonies, while evoking discontinuity, loss and uprootedness, turned out to constitute the actual genesis of a collectivity, creating what Glissant has termed a "di-gense." The transoceanic crossing of the kala pani, which some have intensely tried to forget, is being reimagined by a number of coolie women writers. It constitutes a bitter odyssey intrinsically linked with the conditions of a servile bondage. Its rewriting is here envisaged as a myth of origins where the maternal bond becomes an amniotic sea, a symbol of reconnection with the ancestral heritage as well as the emer- gent fluidity of creolization. In this chapter, I focus an how the crossing comes to epitomize the first mo(ve)ment of a series of abusive and culturally stifling situations that are intrinsic parts of the authors' strug- gle for a coolie epistemology and identity to which they must go back before they can move forward. The sea as well as the ship, which are repeatedly equated with a force of cultural separation and the metaphor for historical erasure, are here read as chronotopes, which evoke the history of diaspora conveyed in the indivisible unity of the oceanic landscape. The literary inscription of these tales of origins turns out to constitute the basis of an imaginary community of the Indo-Black Atlantic. Geneses: Syncretic Visions of Origins in Manoo-Rahming's Poetry Hindu mythology, which...

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