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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 4 - Coolie Women's Transgressive Crossings 133


CHAPTER 4 Coolie Women's Transgressive Crossings If male writings have confined coolie women to certain roles, this chapter underscores how contemporary coolie women's writings are refuting stereotypical representations organized around the paradigms of exoticism and victimization by portraying female characters transgress- ing social, ethnic, sexual, cultural and gender boundaries. The present chapter first scrutinizes how places of confinement are used as spaces of resistance, eventually providing women with the strength to engage in transgression. It then explores women's transgressive strategies that feature crucially in their writings: mutedness, metamorphosis, emotional numbness, anorexia, and focuses on "madness" and theriomorphism. Elaborating on the defiance and deviance that characterize "madness" as a strategy to circumvent the instruments of oppression, this chapter equally highlights how madness is a label mostly imposed by a casteist and ossified community. Theriomorphism, which encodes a certain ambivalence between reduction and regeneration, is also examined in its relationship to resistance. Animal transformations are read in their metaphorical and functional meanings, emphasizing and interrogating women's ostracized position as others. Corporeal metamorphosis as well as flight suggest tropes that contrast with the fatal endings of most narratives at the same time as they underscore the power of creativity to engage in imagining other possible orders. The Metonymie Meanings of Enclosing Spaces In rauch postcolonial writing, silence, not speech itself, plays the crucial role in the process offinding a voice. Ils m'ont dejä cadenasse l'eime. Je suis 1 'emmuree vivante. Je suis entombee, embourbee, incarceree en moi-meme. Nee violee mariee voilee aimee enfermee....

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