Infiltrating the colonial city through the imaginaries of Metissage: Saint-Louis (Senegal), Saint-Pierre (Martinique) and Jeremie (Haiti)

Posted in Africa, Caribbean/Latin America, Dissertations, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2016-02-06 00:46Z by Steven

Infiltrating the colonial city through the imaginaries of Metissage: Saint-Louis (Senegal), Saint-Pierre (Martinique) and Jeremie (Haiti)

University of Iowa
August 2015
281 pages

Avonelle Pauline Remy, Assistant Professor of French
Hope College, Holland, Michigan

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy degree in French and Francophone World Studies in the Graduate College of The University of Iowa

In this dissertation, I investigate the ways in which the phenomenon of racial and cultural hybridity inform and alter the social, political and cultural fabric of three creole cities of significant colonial influence, namely Saint-Louis of Senegal, Saint-Pierre of Martinique and Jérémie of Haiti during and after the colonial era. In particular, I examine the relevance of the French colonial city not only as a nexus of relational complexity but also as an ambiguous center of attraction and exclusion where multiple identities are created and recreated according to the agendas that influence these constructions. In order to articulate the main hypotheses of my thesis, I explore the key historical and social catalysts that have led to the emergence of Saint-Louis, Saint-Pierre and Jérémie as original creole cities.

Through the critical analyses of contemporary literatures from Senegal, Martinique and Haiti by Fanon, Sadji, Boilat, Mandeleau, Confiant, Chamoiseau, Salavina, Bonneville, Moreau de Saint-Méry, Desquiron, and Chauvet and films by Deslauriers and Palcy, I illustrate the dynamics of creolization within the context of the French colonial city. I argue that the city engenders new narratives and interpretations of métissage that scholars have often associated with the enclosed space of the plantation.

My dissertation intends to prove that the three French colonial cities of Saint-Louis, Saint-Pierre and Jérémie offer distinct interpretations and practices of processes of cultural and ethnic métissage. I propose that a correlation albeit a dialectical one, exists between the development of the French colonial city and the emergence of the mulattoes as a distinct class, conscious of its economic, sexual and political agency. I suggest that the French colonial city, represents both a starting point and a space of continuity that permits new forms of ethnic and cultural admixture. The articulation of such mixtures is made evident by the strategic positioning and creative agency of the mulatto class within the colonial city.

The phenomenon of métissage is certainly not a novel subject as evidenced by the plethora of theories and studies advanced by scholars and intellectuals. My research is thus part of an existing critical literary corpus in Postcolonial and Francophone Studies and is inscribed within the theoretical framework of Creolization. My research observes from a historical, comparative and literary perspective, metis presence and consciousness in three specific spaces where colonial authority has been imposed, challenged, resisted and even overpowered (in the case of Haiti). My study therefore analyses the creative agency articulated by the metis ethnoclass in the colonial city and counters the claim of a passive assimilated group.

As an in-between group, mulatto’s access to social, economic and political upward mobility are impeded by their ambiguous positioning within the larger community. Consequently, they resort to unconventional means that I refer to rather as creative ingeniousness in order to survive. Scholars usually focus on these “unconventional” practices as immoral rather than as strategies of self-reinvention and revalorization. As a result, representations of cultural and ethnic interconnections and hybridity are often projected in fragmentary ways. The figure of the metis women for example is overly represented in studies on métissage while metis men receive very little attention. My thesis thus intends to decenter narratives on métissage from the women and implicate equally the creative agency of metis males.

My thesis expands on the complexities that inform processes of métissage during pre-colonial Saint-Louis in the early seventeenth century, Saint-Pierre from the period 1870-1902 and Jérémie during the dictatorship of Francois Duvalier. It examines further the city as a space that engenders new narratives and interpretations of the processes of creolization. Processes of métissage or creolization have often been described as the results of violent encounters that were colonial and imperial. Moreover, these clashes were inscribed within the enclosed space of the plantation.

The city, representation of European pride and greed is an ambiguous space that attracts even as it excludes. Projected as an active commercial, economic and cultural hub, the city is soon engulfed by mass emigration. That site where the European image and culture is imposed, quickly evolves into a complex and chaotic web of human and material interaction giving rise to a complex creolized atmosphere. I propose that practices of métissage in the city are distinct from those generated in the belly of the slave ships, in the trading houses of Sub-Saharan Africa and on the sugar plantations of the French Antilles.

I conclude with a look at the present context of métissage, I rethink the significance of racial and cultural hybridity in relation to contemporary cultural and social theories such as creolization, creoleness, and transculturation in articulating, interpreting and decoding a world in constant transformation.

Read the entire dissertation here.

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The Mulatta Concubine: Terror, Intimacy, Freedom, and Desire in the Black Transatlantic

Posted in Africa, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, United States, Women on 2016-02-03 03:32Z by Steven

The Mulatta Concubine: Terror, Intimacy, Freedom, and Desire in the Black Transatlantic

University of Georgia Press
248 pages
8 b&w photos
Trim size: 6 x 9
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-8203-4896-4
Ebook ISBN: 978-0-8203-4897-1

Lisa Ze Winters, Associate Professor of English and Africana Studies
Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan

Exploring the geographies, genealogies, and concepts of race and gender of the African diaspora produced by the Atlantic slave trade

Popular and academic representations of the free mulatta concubine repeatedly depict women of mixed black African and white racial descent as defined by their sexual attachment to white men, and thus they offer evidence of the means to and dimensions of their freedom within Atlantic slave societies. In The Mulatta Concubine, Lisa Ze Winters contends that the uniformity of these representations conceals the figure’s centrality to the practices and production of diaspora.

Beginning with a meditation on what captive black subjects may have seen and remembered when encountering free women of color living in slave ports, the book traces the echo of the free mulatta concubine across the physical and imaginative landscapes of three Atlantic sites: Gorée Island, New Orleans, and Saint Domingue (Haiti). Ze Winters mines an archive that includes a 1789 political petition by free men of color, a 1737 letter by a free black mother on behalf of her daughter, antebellum newspaper reports, travelers’ narratives, ethnographies, and Haitian Vodou iconography. Attentive to the tenuousness of freedom, Ze Winters argues that the concubine figure’s manifestation as both historical subject and African diasporic goddess indicates her centrality to understanding how free and enslaved black subjects performed gender, theorized race and freedom, and produced their own diasporic identities.

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Artist Phoebe Boswell explores what ‘home’ is, migration, family and Kenya’s troubled past

Posted in Africa, Articles, Arts, History, Interviews, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2016-01-25 16:29Z by Steven

Artist Phoebe Boswell explores what ‘home’ is, migration, family and Kenya’s troubled past

True Africa

Phoebe Boswell is one of the most exciting young artists working today. Her moving-image installation, The Matter of Memory, was exhibited at Carroll / Fletcher Gallery in London in 2014 alongside John Akomfrah and Rashaad Newsome. She is involved in Paul Goodwin’s African Diaspora Artists of the 21st Century project and is currently collaborating with Binyavanga Wainaina on a digital literary project called Since Everything Suddens in the Hurricane.

Her work mainly focuses on ‘transient middle points and passages of migration’, hardly surprising given her upbringing. She was born in Kenya, she spent most of her childhood in the Middle East before coming to London where she now lives and works. She took some time to tell us about her exhibition at the Gothenburg Biennale where she recreated her grandmother’s living room and what’s next for her.

Could you tell us about the Gothenburg Biennale and your piece?

The theme of GIBCA this year is A Story Within a Story, a title allows us as artists the opportunity to really play with the construction of storytelling. Elvira Dyangani Ose is at the curatorial helm of GIBCA and has offered us this title with the aim of contesting history, of rewriting it from new and perhaps previously silenced vantage points.

Curatorially, she has brought together works that seek to re-examine and possibly debunk predetermined histories, histories constructed in stuffy seats of power in order to control the collective memory of who we are, where we are, why we are, and how we came to be. The question she and the Biennale are asking the audience is: ‘If you could rewrite history, what would you do?’ It’s a very participatory experience. It’s a Biennale full of works which demand the audience to be active.

The Matter of Memory Courtesy of GIBCA ©Hendrik Zeitler

My piece in it is an immersive installation called The Matter of Memory. Within the Hasselblad Centre of the Gothenburg Art Museum, I have recreated my grandmother’s living room and filled the fabric of it – its wallpaper, teacups, milk pots, lamps, mantelpiece etc – with drawings, props, sculptures, sound and animated projections based on stories my Kikuyu mother and fourth generation British Kenyan father told me of their childhood memories of ‘home’…

Read the entire interview here.

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Mixed-race children are not ambassadors for anti-racism

Posted in Africa, Articles, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, South Africa on 2016-01-23 16:32Z by Steven

Mixed-race children are not ambassadors for anti-racism

Parent24 (News24)
South Africa

Aneshree Naidoo

Why it’s unfair to lay the responsibility to prove that “love conquers all” on their little shoulders.

The events of the past few weeks have spurred a shift in South Africa, from tight smiles and blank faces at work and dinner tables, to voices now being raised very loudly against racism, and – as is inevitable and still somehow shocking – for it.

One particular act of anti-racism has me quite concerned though.

I have in the past few weeks seen pictures of interracial couples and their mixed-race children, or white families and adopted black children, circulated as ‘proof’ that love conquers all. That some sort of interracial utopia exists when we love and have sex across the colour line and birth biracial children.

It’s a dangerously naive sentiment, and places responsibility on tiny shoulders that do not ask for such, nor need it thrust it upon them…

Read the entire article here.

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Too Black to be Arab, too Arab to be Black

Posted in Africa, Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive on 2016-01-17 22:31Z by Steven

Too Black to be Arab, too Arab to be Black

Media Diversified

Leena Habiballa, Co-Editor
Qahwa Project

Edited by: Mend Mariwany, Middle East & North Africa Editor

Within every Sudanese diasporan is an unceasing internal dialogue about where we fit in the dominant racial order. Sudan is one of the most ethnically, culturally, linguistically and religiously diverse places on the African continent. It was also home to some of the most ancient civilisations in African memory. But today it suffers from the brutal legacy of Arab slavery, Ottoman imperialism and British colonialism.

My early childhood was spent living in various Arab countries, where I learnt from a young age that my darker skin tone threatened my claim to Arabness. To be authentically Arab, it wasn’t enough to speak Arabic or have facets of Arab culture syncretised into my own. My Blackness needed to be invisible. My identity as an Arab was, therefore, always contested and fraught, though nevertheless an important part of my being and, ultimately, self-evident. When others denied my Arabness I felt its existence affirmed, for how could something be stripped off if it didn’t exist?

It wasn’t until my mid to late teens that I was forced to see Blackness and Arabness as ontologically separate. This was the result of being introduced to the Western concept of race. Being racialised within this schema gave me a new sense of self, one which was innately linked to my skin colour and its difference to others. I had previously equated ‘Arab’ with Arab culture, and ‘Black’ with skin tone, not an identity. The concept of race, however, meant not only that I now saw Black and Arab as representing very different racial identities but also as invariably competing and mutually exclusive. I came to embody these two irreconcilable racial categories, and my body had become the site of a visceral and daily contradiction.

Too Black to be Arab, too Arab to be Black. This is the daily discourse that I grappled with. I was racially perplexed and traumatised…

Read the entire article here.

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Phoebe Boswell: The Matter of Memory

Posted in Africa, Articles, Arts, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2016-01-16 16:46Z by Steven

Phoebe Boswell: The Matter of Memory Arena for Contemporary African, African-American and Caribbean Art
Amsterdam, Kingdom of the Netherlands

Yvette Greslé, Art Historian/Writer

Edited by Rob Perrée

Phoebe Boswell. ‘The Matter of Memory’, 2013-14. Installation view at Carroll/Fletcher [detail]. Courtesy the artist and Carroll/Fletcher.

I settle into an armchair and am surprised by voices audible from a mechanism buried in the fabric. I hear the voice of the artist, Phoebe Boswell, but also simultaneously, the voice of another. I discover that the chair on the right hand side (as I face the screen) transmits the voice of Boswell’s mother; and the other that of her father. Each parent narrates their memories of life in Kenya, where both were born, raised and married. As they narrate, their child (the artist) repeats their words. This device of multiple, simultaneous narration, does not obscure the speech of each. When the father pauses, the daughter pauses, when the mother sings, the daughter sings. This is a work of memory, a deliberate, staged act of remembering, but it is also a work of familial intimacy. The daughter appears to cherish the memories of the parents, repeating them so as not to forget. This gesture is poignant, it resists erasure and forgetting, and anticipates the inevitability of loss.

The armchairs, with their audio, are titled ‘When I Hear My Own Voice, I Can Hear Kenya’ (2013/14). These sound-objects are an important component in what is an immense spatial installation occupying the whole of the basement level of the Carroll/Fletcher Gallery. Titled ‘The Matter of Memory’ the work encompasses sound, looped projections, animations, objects, and drawings. It embodies the existence of multiple, simultaneous narratives functioning strategically to oppose assumptions about the world in which we live. Deeply sedimented racial prejudices that still hold the world in their thrall are potently countered and resisted. Boswell’s ‘The Matter of Memory’ draws attention to the continued critical significance of human subjectivity, and memory-work, as a counterpoint to the tyranny of singular, overarching narratives…

…Narratives of multiple-heritage and displacement are ones that many twenty-first century subjects, emerging out of historical conditions of travel and migration, can relate to. Boswell’s British-born, Kenyan father, is a fourth generation Kenyan settler and her mother is Kikuyu Kenyan. Visual significations of colonial settler life into which the artist’s father was born, and the Kikuyu Kenyan heritage of her mother is present throughout the installation. The story of this family is one wound up in migration: Boswell who moved to London in 2000, was born in Kenya but grew up in the Middle-East. She now lives and works in London having studied painting at the Slade School of Art and 2D Character Animation at Central St Martins. ‘The Matter of Memory’ invites us into the most intimate spaces of Boswell’s family history. It speaks about the presence of love despite the borders dreamed up by the historical obsession with racial difference. But this work is certainly no idealistic account of the transcendent capacities of love in conditions of trauma and social and political violence. Kenya inhabits the memories and the emotional life of mother, father and daughter who negotiate belonging, displacement, and ideas of ‘Home’….

Read the entire article here.

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A note on race and racism

Posted in Africa, Articles, History, Media Archive, Social Science, South Africa on 2016-01-10 22:09Z by Steven

A note on race and racism


T.O. Molefe

This week in South Africa has made it clear there are many people who have a limited understanding of race and racism — two very different things. Either that or they are working with different definitions (and moral theories) and don’t know it, or lack the diligence and honesty to reconcile their definition with those of others.

This note outlines a few points on race and racism that guide my thinking and writing. I’m committing it to the internet in the hopes it might help others think through the issues and let readers of my work understand some of its underpinnings.

  1. Race is meaningless. The categories (race groups) of human it creates are based on characteristics that are largely superficial and often not exclusive to that group. If the borders of the categories are porous and the categories don’t tell you anything essential to the being of what is categorised, then the categories are meaningless.
  2. Race was conjured into existence from virtually nothing, and backed with military might and untruthful intellectual projects, to perpetuate slavery, justify European imperialism and colonialism, and defend white supremacy — ideologies all founded in a belief in the individual’s right to property to the denial of others. Without the individual’s right to property, no person could own another. No person could land upon a shore and lay claim to it as theirs alone. No law could be enacted and enforced denying people this right…

Read the entire article here.

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Mariage et métissage dans les sociétés coloniales: Amériques, Afrique et Iles de l’Océan Indien (XVIe–XXe–siècles) (Marriage and misgeneration [miscegenation?] in colonial societies: Americas, Africa and islands of the Indian ocean (XVIth–XXth centuries))

Posted in Africa, Anthologies, Books, Brazil, Canada, Caribbean/Latin America, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Mexico, Oceania, United States on 2015-12-13 02:31Z by Steven

Mariage et métissage dans les sociétés coloniales: Amériques, Afrique et Iles de l’Océan Indien (XVIe–XXe–siècles) (Marriage and misgeneration [miscegenation?] in colonial societies: Americas, Africa and islands of the Indian ocean (XVIth–XXth centuries))

Peter Lang
357 pages
Softcover ISBN: 978-3-0343-1605-7

Edited by:

Guy Brunet, Vice President
Société de Démographie Historique, Paris, France
also: Professor of History, University Lyon

La conquête de vastes empires coloniaux par les puissances européennes, suivie par des mouvements migratoires d’ampleur variable selon les territoires et les époques, a donné naissance à de nouvelles sociétés. Les principaux groupes humains, indigènes, sous différentes appellations, colons d’origine européenne et leurs descendants, et parfois esclaves arrachés au continent africain, se sont mélangés parfois rapidement et avec une forte intensité, parfois plus tardivement ou marginalement. Les unions, officialisées par des mariages ou restées consensuelles, provoqué l’apparition de nouvelles générations métisses et ainsi qu’un phénomène de créolisation. L’effectif de chacun de ces groupes humains, et l’existence éventuelle de barrières entre eux, ont produit des degrés de métissage très divers que les administrateurs des sociétés coloniales ont tenté de classifier. Les seize textes réunis dans cet ouvrage abordent la manière dont les populations se sont mélangées, ainsi que la position des métis dans les nouvelles sociétés. Ces questions sont abordées dans une perspective de long terme, du XVIe au XXe siècle, et à propos de nombreux territoires, du Canada à la Bolivie, des Antilles à Madagascar, de l’Algérie à l’Angola.

The conquest of large colonial empires by European powers, followed by migratory flows, more or less important depending on places and periods, gave birth to new societies. The most important human groups, indigenous, European born settlers and their descendants, and sometimes slaves snatched from the African continent, mixed, more or less early, more or less intensely. Unions, legally registered or not, and misgeneration [miscegenation?] lead to the appearance of mixed-blood generations and to a process of creolisation. The numerical strength of these human groups, and the existence of barriers between them, produced various degrees of misgeneration that the authorities of the colonial societies tried to identify and to classify. The sixteen texts gathered in this book study the way that these populations got mixed, and the place of mixed-blood people in the new societies. These issues are tackled in a long-term perspective, about various territories, from Canada to Bolivia, from the French West Indies to Madagascar, from Algeria to Angola.

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Krotoa-Eva’s Suite: A performance by poet Toni Stuart

Posted in Africa, Arts, History, Live Events, Media Archive, South Africa, Women on 2015-12-02 01:56Z by Steven

Krotoa-Eva’s Suite: A performance by poet Toni Stuart

Goldsmiths University of London
New Cross
London, United Kingdom
Caribbean Studies Centre
Top Floor, Education Building
2015-12-03, 18:30-20:30Z

Join the Centre for Caribbean and Diaspora Studies and the Centre for Feminist Research for a performance by poet Toni Stuart and a ‘Stories are Medicine’ discussion circle.

Toni Stuart (@nomadpoet) is a poet, performer, festival organiser and educator from Cape Town, South Africa.

She’ll be performing poems from her collection in progress, Krotoa-Eva’s Suite – a cape jazz poem in three movements. This is the re-imagined story of Krotoa-Eva, a Khoi woman who played a pivotal role in South African history in the 17th Century, when the first European settlers arrived at Cape Town, as it is known today. The poems give voice to Krotoa-Eva’s “interior” life, and aim to offer a counter-narrative to the male, colonial perspectives through which her story has previously been told.

The performance will be followed by an informal discussion circle around the role of self-care and healing in our work as feminists. And, it will explore how stories and the creative arts might facilitate and support this practice.

For more information, click here.

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‘We have a right to determine how our histories are told’: An interview with poet Toni Stuart

Posted in Africa, Articles, Arts, Interviews, Media Archive, South Africa, United Kingdom on 2015-12-01 16:08Z by Steven

‘We have a right to determine how our histories are told’: An interview with poet Toni Stuart

Goldsmiths University of London

Sarah Cox

On Thursday 3 December the Centre for Caribbean and Diaspora Studies (CCDS) and Centre for Feminist Research host a spoken word performance by Toni Stuart: poet, festival organiser and educator, recently named on the South African Mail & Guardian’s list of inspiring young South Africans. Toni is also a Goldsmiths graduate, completing her MA Writer/Teacher with us this year as a 2014/2015 Chevening Scholar. We caught up with her to find out more about her work and Goldsmiths experience.

Toni was first introduced to Goldsmiths by friend and fellow poet Raymond Antrobus while he was studying for his MA Writer/Teacher here. Raymond was also taking part in our Spoken Word Educators Programme (SWEP), working with school children to develop their confidence, self expression, oral communication and literary skills.

Invited in to teach for the day at the school where Raymond was based, Toni got a taste for what being poet-in-residence was like and also learnt more about our MA – a course taught by the Departments of Educational Studies and English and Comparative Literature.

“It sounded like exactly what I wanted,” she says. “A course that allowed me to develop my creative writing and teaching practices simultaneously, with a specific focus on developing my own pedagogy and ‘poetry syllabus’. I don’t know of any other course like it in the world. And, the SWEP – started by Peter Kahn and now with Jacob Sam-La Rose as director – is the only one of its kind in the world as well.”

After her performance at Goldsmiths this December, Toni and her audience will be taking part in a discussion circle exploring the use of stories as medicine. As a 32-year old mixed heritage South African woman poet, she believes her work – and that of her generation – is to heal the wounds that they have inherited from their parents’ generation and from the past.

“Sometimes these wounds are apparent and we’re able to address them directly, other times they are unconsciously passed down through many generations,” she says. “My experience of working in the NGO sector in the past, and in the arts sector now, is that self-care is fundamental if we hope for our work to have a meaningful impact in our communities, and, that in order for our work to be sustainable we need to ensure we are taking care of ourselves first…

Read the entire interview here.

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