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The Poetics of Ethnography in Martinican Narratives

Exploring the Self and the Environment

Christina Kullberg

Publication Year: 2013

Drawing on narratives from Martinique by Aimé Césaire, Édouard Glissant, Ina Césaire, and Patrick Chamoiseau, among others, Christina Kullberg shows how these writers turn to ethnography—even as they critique it—as an exploration and expression of the self. They acknowledge its tradition as a colonial discourse and a study of others, but they also argue for ethnography’s advantage in connecting subjectivity to the outside world. Further, they find that ethnography offers the possibility of capturing within the hybrid culture of the Caribbean an emergent self that nonetheless remains attached to its collective history and environment. Rather than claiming to be able to represent the culture they also feel alienated from, these writers explore the relationships between themselves, the community, and the environment.

Although Kullberg’s focus is on Martinique, her work opens up possibilities for intertextual readings and comparative studies of writers from every linguistic region in the Caribbean—not only francophone but also Hispanic and anglophone. In addition, her interdisciplinary approach extends the reach of her work beyond postcolonial and literary studies to anthropology and ecocriticism.

Published by: University of Virginia Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, About the Series, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xii

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pp. 1-20

On the lower floor of the Musée Départemental d’Archéologie Précolombienne et de Préhistoire in Fort-de-France, Martinique, there is a large genealogic tree. The tree is part of an exhibition called “Our Amerindian Heritage” (Nos héritages amérindiens), and it traces the roots of a woman by the name of Magdeleine Luraine back to 1654, when the French colonized the island. She is assigned this consecrated...

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1. Anchorings and New Departures

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pp. 21-53

At the dawn of the Second World War, Aimé Césaire and René Ménil returned to Martinique after having studied in Paris. They became colleagues at Lycée Schoelcher where Ménil taught philosophy and Aimé Césaire, literature. Together with Césaire’s wife Suzanne and Aristide Maugée, who were their colleagues at the school...

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2. Self and the City

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pp. 54-99

Tropiques shows this paradoxical pattern: Martinican literature seems to start in Paris, but it is only in Martinique that it blossoms. The urban space of the capital becomes a ground for exploration, which both brings the writers back to their own land and changes the ways they experience the colonial capital. But it is not until the 1950s that the Martinican writer’s situation in France features as a distinct...

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3. Creole Storytelling and the Art of the Novel

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pp. 100-139

In a passage from Soleil de la conscience, the narrator speaks from a crowded Parisian café, the ultimate environment for talking and discussing, and one of the places in the modern city dominated by the spoken word, la parole. The narrator expresses a sense of belonging because here, in the café, he is among friends, voices: “Everybody...

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4. A Field of Islands

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pp. 140-180

During a visit to Nigeria, Glissant is struck by the immensity of African landscape. The vastness of the savannah overwhelms the viewer and sweeps him away. He then compares this geographical infinitude with the harmonious but closed landscapes of mainland Greece and Italy, concluding that both the European and the African extremes are...

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pp. 181-188

The Guyanese writer Wilson Harris observes in “A Talk on the Subjective Imagination” that the relationship between self and the surrounding world can be localized in the blind spots of perception when reality does not appear to us as transparent (Explorations 58). Eclipsed perspectives allow us to connect with others because when we cannot grasp...


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pp. 189-198


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pp. 199-210


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pp. 211-217

Other Books in the Series

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pp. 231-231

E-ISBN-13: 9780813935140
E-ISBN-10: 0813935148
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813935126
Print-ISBN-10: 0813935121

Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 858654081
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Poetics of Ethnography in Martinican Narratives

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Martinican literature (French) -- History and criticism.
  • Ethnology in literature.
  • Identity (Psychology) in literature.
  • Ethnicity in literature.
  • Culture in literature.
  • Place (Philosophy) in literature.
  • Postcolonialism in literature.
  • Literature and anthropology.
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