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Critical Perspectives on Conflict in Caribbean Societies of The Late 20th and Early 21st Centuries

Alexandra Roch
Référence(s) :

Patricia Donatien and Rodolphe Solbiac (dir.) (2015). Critical Perspectives on Conflict in Caribbean Societies of the Laate 20th and Early 21st Centuries, UK, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, ISBN: 1-4438-7699-2.

Texte intégral

1 In their recent publication, Patricia Donatien and Rodolphe Solbiac have chosen to focus on the Caribbean area not as an exotic place attracting tourists from all over the world but rather as a conflictual site. This facet of the Caribbean is often examined in studies on the formation of Caribbean identities not only through a geographical approach, but also as a conception which challenges traditional forms of nation building.

2In Critical Perspectives on Conflict in Caribbean Societies of The Late 20th and Early 21st Centuries, published in 2015 at Cambridge Scholars Publishing, the two Martinican scholars shed some light on the contemporary aspects of conflict in English, Spanish, and French-speaking territories. This collective work of 123 pages is composed of eight chapters from North American and Caribbean contributors in literature, arts and civilisation that offer a comparative perspective on such questions as  rivalry », « opposition » and confrontation in contemporary Caribbean societies. Moreover, photos, paintings and images considerably enrich the analysis.

3 The bi-lingual (French and English languages and multidisciplinary study tackles on « the role and impact of conflict in the construction and development of the Caribbean » (1) but also on its future representation. The book proposes a reading of « conflict with colonial history, the internal conflict of the artist, cultural conflict, ethnic conflict and conflict in the representation of Caribbean identities » (3). This vast panorama on conflict brings the reader to the awareness of its real impact on societies born out of colonization and slavery.

4In a clear, detailed and well-written introduction, Donatien and Solbiac explain the different key words encountered throughout the analysis. The notion of conflict is first presented in its simple definition that is to say « an antagonistic relation between two or several units of action » (1) which is applied to Caribbean geography and history. Conflict in the Caribbean refers to, inter alia, the relationship between the colonized and colonizers, between Black and White. According to Donatien and Solbiac’s words: « throughout the insular and continental Caribbean, whether English-, Spanish- or French-speaking, societies have been created on the basis of confrontation, whether between civilizations, masters and slaves, or the dominant and the dominated. There has been competition between European colonisers, but also between black and Indian groups who have struggled for survival and the conservation of their beliefs and respective systems of representation » (2).

5 In her article, « Of Naked Body and Beheaded Statue: Performing Conflicting History in Fort de France », Anny Dominique Curtius examines the beheading of the statue of Josephine de Beauharnais, Napoleon’s wife as a counter-discourse where the dominated express their rebellion and their resistance to an imposed history by the Motherland. In that process, the beheading is not an insignificant gesture; it illustrates the recovery of the history from the Martinican point of view which is expressed through the concept of resistance. Jacqueline Couti from University of Kentucky tackles the subject through French-speaking literature. Couti exposes the representation of the Caribbean woman by writers which is torn between the fanm poto mitan that is to say « a devoted maternal figure strives for her progeny’s or family well-being and social advancement without the support of a male companion » and the fanm cho, « loose woman and insatiable sexual partner » (31). This antagonism about the status of the female body highlights a fragmented society marked by the legacies of history. As she expresses: « most mothers are revealed to uphold a system inherited from a colonial structure in which black men have no real power. This notion indicates that in the French Caribbean, despite the end of slavery, the end of colonial status and the beginning of departemenalization in 1946, the domination structure created by colonization remains » (34). Gladys M. Francis’paper conjures up the « Ka-ribbean » bodies as a site of conflict in Gerty Dambury and Gisèle Pineau’s novels. These bodies in movement interfere with the construction of the texts’ diegeses. The placements, dis/placements and re/ placement of bodies under rhythm, dance and music create a counter-discourse which opposes to Western ideologies. In these narratives, Francis tries to demonstrate the existence of a Caribbean aesthetic of the conflict through a violent, transgressive and writing.

6Thus, Curtius and Couty’s ideas demonstrate that conflict is not a mere opposition between two groups. Conflict is approached in a creative way which plays a major role in the development of a Caribbean identity and a Caribbean aesthetic. This is what Patricia Donatien demonstrates in her article entitled « When Art Rethinks the Conflict in the Caribbean Experience in the Context of Diaspora ». Donatien analyses the representation of cultural conflicts in three artists of the American and Canadian Caribbean Diaspora: Miguel Luciano, Manuel Mathieu and Arthur Simms. The reflection demonstrates how these artists redefine space to conceive imagery spaces for the resolution of historical and cultural conflicts. Art acts as a space of negotiation and mediation of cultural conflicts.

7Thus, conflict is originated from Colonial policy and spreads over time, reflecting everywhere, every time, in everybody, on spaces, bodies and languages.

8Bruce Jno Baptiste’s essay identifies the conflict in a cultural, linguistic and intercultural dimension. Indeed, the writer alludes that conflict in the Caribbean space is the expression of an historical desire to remodel Western civilisation imposed by violence.

9Dominique Aurelia develops the notion of « the poetics of staggering » to feature the difficulties of belonging for the migrant Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat. She evokes Deleuze’s concept of deterritorialization and Homi Bhabha’s third space to theorize the quest for belonging and search for a third place of re-creation and reinvention of the self as « the poetics of staggering ».

10In her analysis of Earl Lovelace’s last novel, Is Just a Movie? Rita Keresztesi explores the nature of political conflict through resistance and rebellion in Trinidadian society.

11Her reading discloses the way in which the novel’s representation of the 1970’s Black Power Revolution challenges binary confrontations between the colonizer and the colonized, the former master and the former enslaved. Keresztesi shows how rebellion and resistance categorize Afro-Trinidadian agency and intervenes in a « strong tradition of defining Caribbean identity » (103).

12In « Beyond Conflicting Belongings: Cultural Citizenship in Ramabai’s Espinet’s The Swinging Bridge », Rodolphe Solbiac questions the diasporic Indo-Trinidadian subject’s belonging in Espinet’s fiction. The scholar points out the way Espinet develops a poetic of the refoundation of belonging to the Trinidadian nation, an analysis based on Renato Rosado’s definition of a cultural citizenship that emancipates its citizens from the colonial legacy of cultural and gender conflicts.

13The eight contributions are not disrupted; they complement each other and contribute to a rich and exceptional essay.

14Patricia Donatien and Rodolphe Solbiac who have both written extensively on Caribbean societies have clearly made an original and useful contribution to the postcolonial studies.

15Critical Perspectives on Conflict in Caribbean Societies of The Late 20th and Early 21st Centuries represents a significant study for scholars and students interested in Caribbean literature, postcoloniality, feminist literary studies and contemporary Art Studies.

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Alexandra Roch, « Critical Perspectives on Conflict in Caribbean Societies of The Late 20th and Early 21st Centuries »Études caribéennes [En ligne], 35 | Décembre 2016, mis en ligne le 16 décembre 2016, consulté le 14 avril 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Alexandra Roch

Université des Antilles, Docteur en études anglophones,

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Le texte seul est utilisable sous licence CC BY-NC 4.0. Les autres éléments (illustrations, fichiers annexes importés) sont « Tous droits réservés », sauf mention contraire.

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