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Locating the Destitute

Space and Identity in Caribbean Fiction

Stanka Radović

Publication Year: 2014

While postcolonial discourse in the Caribbean has drawn attention to colonialism’s impact on space and spatial hierarchy, Stanka Radović asks both how ordinary people as "users" of space have been excluded from active and autonomous participation in shaping their daily spatial reality and how they challenge this exclusion. In a comparative interdisciplinary reading of anglophone and francophone Caribbean literature and contemporary spatial theory, she focuses on the house as a literary figure and the ways that fiction and acts of storytelling resist the oppressive hierarchies of colonial and neocolonial domination. The author engages with the theories of Henri Lefebvre, Michel Foucault, and contemporary critical geographers, in addition to selected fiction by V. S. Naipaul, Patrick Chamoiseau, Beryl Gilroy, and Rafaël Confiant, to examine the novelists’ construction of narrative "houses" to reclaim not only actual or imaginary places but also the very conditions of self-representation.

Radović ultimately argues for the power of literary imagination to contest the limitations of geopolitical boundaries by emphasizing space and place as fundamental to our understanding of social and political identity. The physical places described in these texts crystallize the protagonists’ ambiguous and complex relationship to the New World. Space is, then, as the author shows, both a political fact and a powerful metaphor whose imaginary potential continually challenges its material limitations.

Published by: University of Virginia Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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I wish to thank my Cornell graduate advisors—Natalie Melas, Satya Mohanty, Biodun Jeyifo, and Timothy Murray—for their continuous support and invaluable guidance in shaping my work.
During my year as Mellon Fellow at Cornell’s Society for the Humanities...

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As a convenience to the reader, some of my most often used sources are referenced in the text using parenthetical abbreviations. The list of these abbreviations is given below. When the source of the reference cannot be deduced from the text itself, it is clearly indicated in the...

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pp. 1-26

This book engages questions of space and spatial imagination in Caribbean fiction. Through the lens of contemporary spatial theory, I offer a comparative and interdisciplinary view of Caribbean postcolonial discourse. This discourse, in its inherently spatial orientation...

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1. Caribbean Spatial Metaphors

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pp. 27-47

Caribbean discourse and literature open a unique possibility for an innovative rereading of spatial and postcolonial theories in conjunction. The Caribbean has always been contested space, historically fought over and swapped among various colonial powers while...

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2. A House of One’s Own: Individual and Communal Spaces in the Caribbean “Yard Novel”

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pp. 48-76

Many accounts of spatiality seek to distinguish space from place. For instance, Edward Casey’s comprehensive study of the philosophical history of place, The Fate of Place, gives precedence to place over space, suggesting that “to be at all—to exist in any way—is to be...

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3. “No Admittance”: V. S. Naipaul’s A House for Mr. Biswas

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pp. 77-104

The approach to identity as an outcome of spatial practice constitutes one of the most important aspects of V. S. Naipaul’s semi-autobiographical novel A House for Mr. Biswas (1961). This novel is a prime example of the correlation between spatial theory and Caribbean...

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4. Squatters in the Cathedral of the Written Word: Patrick Chamoiseau’s Texaco

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pp. 105-127

Patrick Chamoiseau’s Texaco (1992) chronicles the squatter community of Texaco, a slum located at the edge of Martinique’s capital, Fort-de-France. As an underprivileged and illegitimate space, the slum reflects and shapes the lives of its inhabitants. The abandoned...

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5. Heterotopia of Old Age in Beryl Gilroy’s Frangipani House

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pp. 128-153

In this chapter I explore the figure of the house as an exclusionary space where the allegedly burdensome and deviant aspects of social life are supposed to be safely contained. One such dimension of social reality is old age, which we—uncertain how to treat its gradual...

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6. Upper and Lower Stories: Raphaël Confiant’s L’Hôtel du Bon Plaisir

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pp. 154-180

In Raphaël Confiant’s L’Hôtel du Bon Plaisir (2009), the spatial approach to multiple (post)colonial histories, both personal and cultural, shapes the way we interpret the intersecting destinies of his protagonists. As a matter of fact the titular hotel turns out to be...

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pp. 181-192

Reflections on space, whether explicit or implied, permeate any study of colonialism and its postcolonial contestations. All major figures of postcolonial theory have in one way or another raised the question of postcolonial spatiality in terms of colonial domination, postcolonial...


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pp. 193-202


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pp. 203-216


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pp. 217-224

E-ISBN-13: 9780813936307
E-ISBN-10: 0813936306
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813936284
Print-ISBN-10: 0813936284

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 881830383
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Locating the Destitute

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Caribbean fiction (English) -- History and criticism.
  • Caribbean fiction (French) -- History and criticism.
  • Space and time in literature.
  • Personal space in literature.
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