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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 3 - Transgenerational and Geographical Passages. The Ambivalence of (Un)belonging 99


CHAPTER 3 Transgenerational and Geographical Passages The Ambivalence of (Un)belonging Fictionalizations of the crossing of the kala pani Signal a passage of generations whereby traditions are transmitted or erased, forcefully or creatively. In emphasizing their characters' distinct relations towards past and present, coolie women writers articulate diverse generational attitudes to culture and colonization which, until some decades ago, were strongly associated with the "either/or" dichotomy. Whilst their writings articulate distinct forms of mimicry, the trope of affiliation reveals a search for female inspirational models of affirmation. The imaginary reconnection with ancestral figures and symbolic geographi- cal sites affords a sense of continuation that counterbalances the invisi- bility and instability forced upon the exilic narrator lost in the western devoring urban landscape. In simultaneoussly foregrounding belonging in their rewriting of home and unbelonging in their escape from the Indian petrified patriarchal world, coolie women writers are opening the floodgates to a third space: the space of ambivalence. Transgenerational Passages: from Mimicry to Pluriculturality The Figure of the Displaced Grandparent The grandparent character emerges in the writings under considera- tion as the ancestral figure par excellence: displaced and disoriented, he/she is turned into a mythical figure whose timeless strength of mind is powerfully cemented by way of mythical characteristics. Grandpar- ents are recurrently portrayed as very hard-working, endowed with a strong mind and will, some qualities the authors celebrate via visionary perspectives. Despite these traits, many of them are depicted as ambiva- lent diasporic heroes who were able to survive and...

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