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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 5 - Walking Roots. Reading Labor, Vegetal, and Massala Metaphors of Identity 169


CHAPTER 5 Walking Roots Reading Labor, Vegetal, and Massala Metaphors of Identity Shipwrecked in the in-between spaces created by migration, authors and narrators make use of language to naturalize, i.e. become part and parcel of a new landscape and culture. lnterestingly, their act of becom- ing part of new places often operates with the help of natural imagery. Narrators anchor themselves in a landscape heavily charged with history but which also becomes the mirror of how their identities are dynami- cally and constantly under construction. In this section, 1 first examine how writers appropriate the landscape, underscoring how their ancestors have contributed to the region, most often via the physical and py- schological pain linked with canecutting. I then scrutinize the ways in which writers metaphorically and in manifold creative ways signify cultural identity formation with the help of vegetal imagery. After Usaire's use of the tree or soil, Glissant's rhizomic mangrove, Tora- bully's coral imagery, 1 examine lndo-Caribbean women's articulation of the mangrove, Devi's Banyan tree as well as women's creative food imagery. 1 underscore how natural images linked with the earth and fixity have made space for more dynamic and complex ones to meta- phorically capture the expression of the continual coming-into-being of identities. A Sea of Cane: (W)ri(gh)ting a History of Labor Dans nos pays en proie ä l'Histoire, oü les his- toires des peuples se joignent enfin, les ouvrages de la nature sont les vrais monuments historiques.' Agnes Sam's short story "And they Christened...

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