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Vulnerable States

Bodies of Memory in Contemporary Caribbean Fiction

Guillermina De Ferrari

Publication Year: 2012

According to Martinican theorist Édouard Glissant, the twentieth century has been dominated in the Caribbean by a passion for the remembrance of colonial history. But while Glissant identifies this passion for memory in the thematizing of nature in Caribbean modernist life, scholar Guillermina De Ferrari claims it is the vulnerability of the human body that has become the trope to which Caribbean postmodernist authors largely appeal in their efforts to revise the discourse that has shaped postcolonial societies. In Vulnerable States: Bodies of Memory in Contemporary Caribbean Fiction, De Ferrari offers a comparative study of novels from across the Caribbean, arguing that vulnerability (symbolic and therefore political) should be seen as the true foundation of Caribbeanness.

While most theories of the region have traditionally emphasized corporeality as a constitutive aspect of Caribbean societies, they assume its uniqueness is founded on race, itself understood either as a "fact" of the body or as the "ethnic" fusion of distinctive cultures of origin. In reconceptualizing corporeality as vulnerability, De Ferrari proposes an alternative view of Caribbeanness based on affect—that is, on an emotional disposition that results from the alienating role historical, medical, and anthropological notions of the body have traditionally played in determining how the region understands itself. While vulnerability thus addresses the role historically played by race in determining systems of social and political powerlessness, it also prefigures other ways in which Caribbeanness is currently negotiated at local and international levels, ranging from the stigmatization of the ill to the global fetishization of the region’s physical beauty, material degradation, and political stagnation.Positioned at the intersection of literary and anthropological study, Vulnerable States will appeal to Caribbeanists of the three major language areas of the region as well as to postcolonial scholars interested in issues of race, gender, and nation formation

Published by: University of Virginia Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Table of Contents

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pp. ix-x

Writing and revising this manuscript was approximately an eight-year enterprise, which spanned various important phases of my life. I have accumulated many debts of gratitude in this time. From my New York City life, I would like to thank Jean Franco for her brilliant and generous guidance...

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Introduction: The Myth of the Vulnerable Body

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pp. 1-28

In his portrait of a black man returning to the Caribbean from exile in France, Frantz Fanon describes the psychological transformation of the now Europeanized Antillean man as a physical change: “The black man who has lived in France for a length of time returns radically changed. To express...

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1. Lurking Shadows: Ethnography, Colonialism, and Crime in Patrick Chamoiseau’s Solibo Magnifique

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pp. 29-62

With his bushy mustache, straw-broom goatee at the tip of his chin, a white nylon shirt with gold cuff links and silver sleeve tighteners, worn-out pants falling neatly on his well-polished boots, Solibo looks indeed Magnificent. One carnival night, the dazzling and gifted storyteller Solibo Magnifique...

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2. Illness and Utopia in Severo Sarduy’s Pájaros de la Playa

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pp. 63-103

If the literary imagination in fin-de-siècle Caribbean culture uses the symbolic malleability of the body to stage a theoretical intervention in and against the absence of history, the work of Severo Sarduy can be said to be postcolonial avant la lettre insofar as the metaphorical vulnerability of the body...

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3. Coming of Age in the Tropics: Girlhood and the Making of the Colonial Body

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pp. 104-143

It is something of a critical commonplace to view childhood and the stories that return to it as occasions for introspection and psychological investment. As Jacqueline Rose puts it, “Childhood is something in which we continue to be implicated and which is never simply left behind.” From...

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4. Erotic Interventions: The Political and the Intimate in Jamaica Kincaid’s The Autobiography of My Mother

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pp. 144-180

Sex has consistently been used as a metaphor for the colonial encounter. In the case of the New World, Europeans framed their endeavors in terms of sexualized fantasies according to which Otherness was embedded in a code of eroticism. Eroticism, which had long been used to shape European visions...

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5. Abjection and Aesthetic Violence in Pedro Juan Gutiérrez’s Trilogía sucia de La Habana

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pp. 181-210

Following the fall of the Berlin Wall, Cuba sank into the worst economic crisis of its modern history. During this period, which came to be officially known as the Período Especial, Cubans were indeed very hungry. In 1993, during the XV Havana International Film Festival, the Spanish film...


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pp. 211-237


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pp. 239-248


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pp. 249-255

Further Reading

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E-ISBN-13: 9780813926728
E-ISBN-10: 0813926726
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813926469
Print-ISBN-10: 0813926475

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2012