The annual colloquium of the Caracol Association will take place on February 19 and 20, 2021, at Sorbonne University, Paris, France. The 2021 theme is “Frontières et insularité dans la Caraïbe : quels espaces pour les littératures caribéennes ?” [Borders and Insularity (“Islandness”) in the Caribbean: spaces for Caribbean literatures?] The deadline for submissions is October 12, 2020. See description below—for more information (in French), see Fabula. [Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.]
Description: The notion of border occupies a central place in the literary and artistic works of the Caribbean. Inevitably, for historical reasons, it lost its rigidity during the 20th century. By envisaging the border in their works at times as a limit to be transgressed or to be surpassed, and at others as an interstitial space, artists have made “the border” a fertile place to characterize the Caribbean region.
The Caribbean is a region with a complex design, delineated in a jarring manner during the centuries that have passed since the European conquest. What constitutes its core is the archipelago stretching from Cuba to Trinidad, caught between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. However, it has long been given enlarged contours, implying a separation between an island area and a continental area, which may be limited to countries bordering the Caribbean Sea, or which is sometimes extended to the land area from Cancún to Miami, with the perception of a “greater Caribbean.” This difficulty in defining the Caribbean as a geographic space is mirrored in reflections on the Caribbean as a cultural space.
Therefore, from the middle of the twentieth century, the Caribbean has often been defined under the sign of paradox; whether one evokes “a sea that diffracts” like Édouard Glissant, an “island that repeats itself” like Antonio Benítez Rojo, or an “underwater unit” like Edward Kamau Brathwaite, the insularity that characterizes the Caribbean region comes into tension with an abstract unit which goes beyond different borders, concrete or symbolic, and which divide it into so many disparate fragments.
Writers and artists regularly seize on this ambivalence, and make of the notion of border a concern for representation and definition of the Caribbean. An intrinsic characteristic of the Caribbean territory and an indelible mark of the colonial period, the border is also the subject of permanent reconfigurations, and becomes an essential space for the debate on a possible identity of the Caribbean area. The imaginary first allows a reappropriation of concrete space, by an often poetic exploration of the different natural areas and an enhancement of the oppositions between rural or unexploited areas and urban areas or areas of colonial exploitation. These ecocritical and geocritical explorations help to shape social spaces in tension; concrete limits then regularly become the site of problematization at the intersection of political, economic, and social issues.
Geographical borders are also considered by artists as signs of historical ruptures; the forced diasporic phenomena of the colonial period gave the Atlantic Ocean its dimension of border separating the peoples of the Caribbean from their African origins, and involved a fragmentation of memory that continued during subsequent diasporic manifestations. The Caribbean artist can then be envisioned, like Derek Walcott, as one who unites fragmentary memories from diverse cultures, overcoming the historical boundaries that separate Caribbean societies from their lost origins to envision a common history.
Thought on transcending historical boundaries is one aspect of a larger cultural reflection, one that has been constantly evolving since the mid-twentieth century. Artists regularly emphasize that the Caribbean was “[born] in colonization” (P. Chamoiseau), and work to reconfigure the multiple borders drawn since modern times to make them places where a possible Caribbean identity is developed, open and plural. Starting with the observation of the linguistic métissage that was gradually created since the conquest to give rise to Creole languages, fluctuating and varied, they envisage a Caribbean “border” culture, characterized by its hybridity: “Antillanité,” the thought of a rhizomatic Caribbean identity developed by Édouard Glissant in the 1960s, found an extension in the notion of “Creolité” (J. Bernabé, P. Chamoiseau and R. Confiant) in the 1980s. The latter, which has been widely discussed, has since gradually given way to thoughts on creolization, while trying to ward off any temptation of essentialism, and considering new border issues, such as literary hybridity issues, or gender or intersectional issues.
Thus characterized on the basis of various reconfigurations of the notion of border, the Caribbean, as a place of creolization, has been envisaged as the base from which a global thought is developed: the Caribbean space in fact opens up to the globalized space defined as the Tout-Monde [All-World] by Edouard Glissant; it is the place of development of the “Relation” (E. Glissant) or of “diversity” (P. Chamoiseau) proposed as operative notions to apprehend the globalized world, and developed in the form of poetics in literary works.
Clearly, our reflection on Caribbean literatures in the light of the notion of border will therefore take on a comparative dimension; we welcome communications relating to works in all the languages of the Caribbean area, as well as communications exploring the borders between literature and the other arts, from an intermedial perspective. The concepts of border and insularity will be considered in all the richness offered by their different definitions. The following topics may be considered:
The proposed themes:
- The cartography of Caribbean areas: natural, social, political borders.
- Border crossings.
- Temporal and historical borders.
- Linguistic and literary borders.
- Questioning or challenging borders.