Dissident Diaspora: Genres of Maroon Witness in Anglophone and Francophone Caribbean Literature

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Waisvisz, Sarah




This study brings human rights criticism into conversation with postcolonial and transnational studies in order to contribute to a decolonizing of trauma theory. I demonstrate how generically innovative writers from the Caribbean diaspora invoke the tradition of the fugitive slave or maroon, and in so doing, put forward revolutionary ideas about identity, race, and belonging. The genre-bending literature examined in the dissertation is engaged in a form of dissident literary maroonage. Overall, the texts demonstrate a dual focus on ethics and genre as they confront the vexed representation of
human rights issues, past and present. I argue that a human rights-oriented approach to Caribbean literature, in tandem with critical attention to form and genre, can attend to witness testimonies, memory, and representations of suffering in literary texts, and can, consequently, draw attention to an ethically-charged poetics of diaspora.
The Francophone and Anglophone texts examined in the dissertation, by M. NourbeSe Philip, Dionne Brand, Gisèle Pineau, Myriam Chancy, Edwidge Danticat, Jan J. Dominique, and Saidiya Hartman, represent the paradoxes and tensions of human rights issues
within a Caribbean context: they engage productively with loss and mourning; underscore the ambivalent impact of ethnic, cultural, and racial mixing; narrate survivor as well as perpetrator testimony; and contribute to alternative memory projects informed by an interrogation of belonging/un-belonging. I argue that the deployment of the maroon trope in these texts indicates an effort to “Caribbeanize” issues related to human rights; consequently, I introduce the concept of maroon witnessing to help bridge the gap between critical approaches to postcolonial studies and typically western-biased
human rights scholarship and trauma studies. Ultimately, the diasporic writers discussed in this project emerge as witnesses and activists who, from their position “lòt bò dlo,” across the waters, confront the limits of genre and contribute to a dissenting, defiant re-articulation of Caribbean poetics.


Literature - Caribbean
Literature - Comparative




Carleton University

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Theses and Dissertations

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