Monique Allewaert – ‘Ariel’s Ecology’

I just want to signal this very interesting publication, recently reviewed by Valérie Loichot (Emory University) on Southern Spaces. It is an ecocritical perspective on the ‘parahuman’, liminal and transversal forms of subjectivity, personhood and agency historically developed in the slave plantation environment. It promises to be a very interesting piece of scholarship for my research on Caribbean biopolitics.

Monique Allewaert, Ariel’s Ecology: Plantations, Personhood, and Colonialism in the American Tropics (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013).
Cover of Ariel's Ecology

Cover of Ariel’s Ecology

Full fathom five thy father lies,
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
The Tempest
I take this opportunity to signal another absolutely ravishing project: the underwater sculptures of the English-Guyanese artist Jason deCaires Taylor (see the book’s cover image). In 2006, he created the first underwater sculpture park, situated off the coast of Grenada.
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Visiting scholar at Emory University, Atlanta US

Emory Campus - the main quad

Emory Campus – the main quad

I have been spending more than a month as a visiting scholar at Emory, invited by Professor Valérie Loichot and thanks to my Marie Curie fellowship. It has been an amazing experience! Emory is one of the best universities in the United States and it is such an exciting environment where to do research, meet other scholars and discuss with them about literature and philosophy. During this period, I have been attending many different conferences, museum guided tours, readings, theatre shows, talks and presentations (in French studies, Italian studies, gender studies, African cinema studies etc.) and I had the opportunity to meet other scholars and discuss about my work with such important academic personalities as Valérie Loichot, Geoffrey Bennington and Elissa Marder in the Department of French and Italian and in the Comparative Literature one. Emory University has really huge resources and equipment for research, and a very good library, too. I could work on my monograph, especially on a chapter that I am currently developing on Glissant, Nancy and Derrida on the subjects of community, hospitality, relation and the stranger. I have also made a public presentation (or ‘guest lecture’) of the first chapter of my book, that I have submitted as an article, too. The text I have presented and discussed at Emory is entitled ‘Le lieu tremblant du poème-monde chez Glissant et Heidegger’. It is about the complex relation between poetry and the place (glissantian ‘le lieu’, heidegger’s ‘ort’) and the conflictual-agonistic aesthetic that derives from it in both the German philosopher and the Martinican poet and philosopher. In particular, I have focused on the late Heidegger’s essays on language and poetry and on Glissant’s Soleil de la conscience (1956). The article has been well received by the audience and gave birth to very interesting discussions that are certainly going to influence my future work on this topic. During my stay, I have also applyed for many academic positions in the States and both Valérie and Michael Wiedorn helped me a lot in the application procedures (it’s a very hard job!). Well, fingers crossed! I have also assisted to a couple of Valérie’s courses in both English and French (to understand better how is teaching in the States) and I have also participated in some activities of the Italian ‘side’ of the department, especially with Simona Muratore (who also works on Italian migrant literature I am very interested in).

Emory is an exciting place to do research, but I have also received a great human welcome and met people that have deeply marked my intellectual journey. I would like to thank them all, even if I cannot quote all their names here. Everyone gave me great inputs that will deeply influence my future work and maybe push it in new directions that I hadn’t considered before (and this is what makes research a great thing and gives it its most authentic and creative sense, isn’t it?). The contacts I have established and developed here will be very useful for my career, but above all I hope that I could give my personal contribution to the development of this exciting intellectual community.

The Emory Library reading room

The Emory Library reading room

A trip at Sweetwater Creek, enjoying the fall colours.

A trip at Sweetwater Creek, enjoying the fall colours.

 

Callaloo 36.4 – A Special Issue on Édouard Glissant

IMG_4892A special issue of Callaloo. A Journal of African Diaspora, Arts and Letters on Édouard Glissant has come out, edited by Celia Britton. I have just received it, and after reading Celia’s introduction it seems to me that this is first of all a great achievement worthy of Glissant’s memory. It includes essays by the most important scholars working on Glissant and it especially adresses the relation between poetics, philosophy and politics in Glissant’s work. The main contributors are Celia Britton, Maryse Condé, Heidi Bojsen, Charles Forsdick, Christina Kullberg, Alexandre Leupin, Valérie Loichot, Carine Mardorossian, Adlai Murdoch, Nick Nesbitt, François Noudelmann and Michael Wiedorn. I quote Britton from the introduction: “The relations between poetics and both philosophy and politics are never straightforward and not always harmonious; but it is precisely the tensions between them that constitute the central dynamic and the continuing relevance of Glissant’s thought”. You can find the issue on MUSE.

The title of my contribution is: “The Living and the Poetic Intention. Glissant’s Biopolitics of Literature”.

Well, I must say that I am quite proud and honored to be among such great scholars!

In my next posts I am going to say something more about this volume and other journals that have recently dedicated a special issue to Glissant, such as the Revue des Sciences Humaines (special issue edited by Valérie Loichot) and Francofonia (special issue edited by Carminella Biondi and Elena Pessini). They are all so interesting and so rich in analysis and interpretations, opening new paths for the study of this great writer, that they need the right time and space to be reviewed. Coming soon …

The atelier of Victor Anicet: a Martinican artist, painter and ceramist

During our research trip to Martinique, we had the great opportunity to meet Victor Anicet, a very important painter and ceramist, living in Shoelcher. He was a great friend and fellow of Édouard Glissant. They met in the sixties, sharing for over 40 years their political and cultural struggles for the independence and against the cultural and historical alienation of Martinique and the Caribbean. Glissant himself asked him to realise his grave, as a symbol of their friendship and “complicity in creation” (as Anicet himself told during the eulogy pronounced at his friend’s funerals in “Le Diamant” in 2010). Victor Anicet kindly and passionately showed us his atelier and his work, telling us the story of his development as an artist and explaining the origins and the aesthetic implications of his vision and art: the way in which he tries to elaborate the traces of the multiple and forgotten cultural pasts, artefacts and arts, of the creolizing Caribbean (starting from the Amerindians, and then the African slaves and the Indian labourers etc.), not only to recover a lost past, but to offer these troubling traces, this “field of turbulent ruins”, to the present day humanities of his island (this is what he calls a “poetics of Restitution”): “Ces ruines nous décalent par rapport à notre présent. Chaque adorno que nous voyons est une manière de cri. C’est une fenêtre, un passage dans d’autres mondes”. His task as an artist is to be a passeur (“quêteur d’ombres, quêteur de sens”), working in and producing the threshold between the past and the future of his community.

Victor Anicet in his atelier in Shoelcher

Victor Anicet in his atelier in Shoelcher

We also visited Glissant’s grave, realized by Anicet inside the impressive white cemetery in “Le Diamant”, just near the beach facing the stunning “Rocher du Diamant”, that has been inspiring Glissant’s writing for so many years. This is how the important scholar Valérie Loichot describes it in a recent and still unpublished article: “Glissant’s grave, in his flat and shallow horizontality, embraces the soil. When I first saw the grave, the lowliness – not in a submissive but in a welcoming sense – the integration in the environment through the easy erosion and fusion with stones and moss, and the mimetism in black and white with the surrounding graves struck me. It is in this humility, in a sense of closeness to the humus, that the grave invites the visitor to get closer to the earth, squatting or kneeling, and to pick up a handful of tiny seashells to arrange on the grave as a new sign” (“Édouard Glissant’s graves”, forthcoming in Callaloo. A Journal of African Diaspora Arts and Letters; see also, Naïma Hachad et Valérie Loichot, “Victor Anicet: le pays-Martinique; ou, Le bleau de la Restitution” in Small Axe 39, November 2012).

La tombe d’Édouard Glissant, réalisée par Victor Anicet au Diamant

La tombe d’Édouard Glissant, réalisée par Victor Anicet au Diamant

"Rien n'est vrai, tout est vivant" is the epitaph on Glissant's grave

“Rien n’est vrai, tout est vivant” is the epitaph on Glissant’s grave

I put here a very beautiful text, written by Victor Anicet for the International Conference on “Les arts amérindiens et l’art contemporain” in 1997. The text (that the author has very kindly sent to me) is entitled “Restitution” and is a wonderful introduction to his work and artistic vision.

Victor Anicet

RESTITUTION

“J’ai donné un nom à chacune d’elles” écrit Christophe COLOMB dans son journal de bord, parlant des Antilles.

Peut-on à l’instar de COLOMB, renommer les choses, les classer selon notre propre vision du monde ? Peut-on parler d’Art Amérindien, de création artistique amérindienne ?

Quelle est la part de l’artiste contemporain vivant dans nos sociétés où volontairement des pans de notre histoire ont été occultés, tronqués ?

Rappelons nous cette citation d’Eduardo GALEANO “Pour que quelque chose n’existe pas, il suffit de décréter sa non-existence”

The atelier of Victor Anicet (1)

The atelier of Victor Anicet (1)

Il me semble que l’on ne saurait parler, abordant la culture amérindienne, d’art de la Caraïbe plurielle ; mais que de talent, d’habilité manuelle, si nous considérons comme KANT, que le beau doit être distingué de l’utile, que l’œuvre d’art est une beauté libre, celle qui n’est astreinte à aucune fonction qu’au beau lui même.

En effet, ce que nous reconnaissons comme œuvres d’art de la culture amérindienne, n’ont pas été produites en tant que telles. Elles sont la coïncidence du beau et de l’utile, ce que l’auteur précité appelle la beauté adhérente ; c’est à dire la beauté d’un objet soumis à d’autres critères que le jugement esthétique.

Les intentions qui étaient à l’origine des objets furent très diverses : fonctions utilitaires, religieuse ou mythique, intention didactique, support de la mémoire collective, besoin de conjurer les forces extérieures ; car ces peuples en modelant, façonnant des objets utilitaires étaient-ils à la recherche d’une esthétique ? Ne disaient-ils pas plutôt leur manière d’être au monde ?

Ils ont laissé derrière eux un champ de ruines turbulentes – turbulentes parce qu’elles ne cessent de nous troubler, nous interpeller, nous dé-caler, je parle ici, bien sûr, de la notion de temps.

The atelier of Victor Anicet (2)

The atelier of Victor Anicet (2)

Ces ruines nous décalent par rapport à notre présent. Chaque adorno que nous voyons est une manière de cri. C’est une fenêtre, un passage dans d’autres mondes.

Et c’est au profane, à l’artiste de se métamorphoser, non pas en chaman, mais de se faire quêteur d’ombres, quêteur de sens.

C’est à l’artiste contemporain de pratiquer les rites de passages .La chaîne tragique a été rompue, la fonction de l’artiste est le dévoilement de cet inaperçu ; car l’île est un réservoir de secrets.

Sur nos terres traquées, nous sommes des déportés – le peuple d’AVANT (Amérindien, Caraïbe, Taïnos, Caribe … comme il vous plaira de le nommer) – est lui aussi, sans aucun doute, un peuple de déportés.

Depuis la forêt amazonienne, verticale d’ombres, ils ont déplacé leur horizon au niveau de l’eau, à l’horizontale donc, et ont franchi à bord de gommiers, l’océan pour essaimer nos îles.

Un ouvrage de la série des trays

Un ouvrage de la série des trays

Il n’y eut plus alors les grands bois, les oiseaux et le vent. La terre ne bougeait plus de la même façon. Leurs poteries portent les traces de cette nouvelle dimension. Nos îles ont sans doute constitué de nouveaux espaces-temps pour ce peuple de l’AVANT.

Quelles odeurs, quelles épices ont-ils emportés dans leurs gommiers qui butaient sur le fracas des montagnes d’eau, Quelles images ont-ils gardé du silence de leurs grands bois, de leur paysage ?

Et moi un adorno à la main , je voudrais reconnaître – connaître et appréhender. Avoir la clé ; mais ma quête est vaine et dérisoire. Moi, l’artiste, le producteur d’images, je suis au seuil des mondes et je voudrais être le témoin du passage : un passeur. Restituer, non pas reconstituer. Restituer au plus grand nombre de Martiniquais les traces que j’ai cru avoir décelées.

Il y a des lignes à relier, des points à marquer, il y a tant de mondes à explorer dans nos îles. L’artiste doit redistribuer, en de nouvelles donnes, cet héritage d’ombres et de fracas que beaucoup ne connaissent, sauf ceux qui fréquentent les musées. Amener une prise de conscience des jeunes, les inciter à retourner aux sources, rechercher ce qu’il y a de valorisant dans les civilisations des peuples de l’AVANT.

Des dessins réalisés dans la forêt

Des dessins réalisés dans la forêt

Connaître tous les éléments ( ou composants ) du métissage de ce peuple créole : caraïbe, africain, indien, chinois, européen et leur interpénétration dans notre vécu actuel.

Il faut reconstituer la voile brisée. Tâche gigantesque mais empreinte d’humilité.

Leurs dieux ne sont pas morts, les signes peuvent être rechargés de nos propres espérances, de notre propre tragique.

“Nos barques sont ouvertes pour tous nous les naviguons”. Edouard. GLISSANT

Empruntons à notre tour les gommiers, hissons la voile mosaïque et allons à la découverte de nos mondes.

The atelier of Victor Anicet (4)

The atelier of Victor Anicet (4)

An essay for Glissan's grave symbol

An essay for Glissan’s grave symbol

The atelier of Victor Anicet (5)

The atelier of Victor Anicet (5)

The atelier of Victor Anicet (6)

The atelier of Victor Anicet (6)

Accouplement (by V. Anicet)

J’ai voulu recréer l’ambiance qui existait au moment des rapports sexuels dans la période esclavagiste.

On sait que les esclaves refusaient d’avoir des enfants pour qu’ils ne connaissent pas le même sort qu’eux et souvent préféraient tuer leurs bébés.

Aussi les maîtres, désireux d’accroître le nombre d’esclaves, surveillaient l’accouplement, ce qui explique la présence d’un troisième personnage.

La série des Trays

La série des Trays

Le Tray (by V. Anicet)

Je découvre le tray sur l’habitation Dehaumont au Marigot, cet objet m’a fasciné car il servait à la fois, de support pour le jeu de serbi des ouvriers agricoles qui s’adonnaient à leur passe-temps favori dès que la paie de la semaine avait été servie, de berceau pour les bébés, de récipient pour transporter le linge des lavandières ou des pierres nécessaires à l’édification de la maison du maître.

On le retrouve devant le cinéma débordant de bonbons et de pistaches.

Le tray voyage dans le temps et l’espace de notre Caraïbe

Quand on sait que le tray est un objet sacré pour les Indiens et qu’il est utilisé au moment des cérémonies rituelles pour présenter les offrandes aux déesses telle que Siva ou Kali et qu’il a été détourné de sa fonction initiale par les anciens esclaves.

Aussi, je peuple le tray d’adornos , petites poteries qui ressemblent à des masques. Ces masques sont posés sur des tissus africains afin de rappeler le métissage de notre peuple.

The atelier of Victor Anicet (6)

The atelier of Victor Anicet (7)

The atelier of Victor Anicet (8)

The atelier of Victor Anicet (8)

Le cimetière du Diamant

Le cimetière du Diamant

La maison de Glissant au Diamant

La maison de Glissant au Diamant

Conference trip to Atlanta – Georgia Institute of Technology

Back from my first conference trip in the USA! It has been amazing! As I wrote in the previous post, Dr Louise Hardwick and me have attended an important annual conference, co-organized by 20th and 21st Century French and Francophone Studies International Colloquium and the Georgia Institute of Technology, on the theme of ‘Traces, Fragments, Remains’. We both presented a paper, in a panel chaired by Louise and entitled ‘(T)Races, Memories, Identities’. This was the program of our panel:

CHONG WOJTKOWSKI BRETILLON, City University of New York, Some Kind of Other: Invisibility and Whiteness in French Hip Hop Music

ALESSANDRO CORIO, University of Birmingham, L’errance violente du poème: the ambivalence of the Trace in Édouard Glissant

LOUISE HARDWICK, University of Birmingham, «Comment répondre à ces pourquoi d’enfants» Tracing Childhood, tracing slavery in Francophone Caribbean Literature

I have also attended many other interesting panels, among which two panels on Glissant, with Valérie Loichot, Michael Wiedorn, Hugo Azérad, Ania Kowalik and Lovia M. Mondésir.

Louise, Michael and me at the Georgia Tech

Louise, Michael and me at the Georgia Tech

We were invited and hosted (in his beautiful house) by Dr Michael Wiedorn, a specialist in Francophone Caribbean Literature at Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts – Georgia Institute of Technology. Michael helped us to know the city, the Georgia Tech and Emory campus, Martin Luter King birthplace and museum (and some very nice coffee shops and restaurants, to taste the gorgeous tasty food of the south!)

This visit was conceived in order to develop future projects with a view to nurturing links between the University of Birmingham, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Emory University in order to explore future funding opportunities, research conferences and joint publications. We developed plans with Michael Wiedorn for a one-day International Research Colloquium, Postcolonialism, Race and Biopolitics, to be held at the University of Birmingham on 26th June 2013. Michael has accepted to be a keynote speaker at this event.

I have also met Prof. Valérie Loichot (specialist on Glissant and Caribbean Literature) and Prof. Geoffrey Bennington (specialist on Derrida and French Theory), from Emory University, and they suggested me to spend one month at Emory next year as Visiting Scholar, to work on Glissant and literary theory.