Beyond negritude

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Beyond "Negritude": Some Aspects of the Work of Edouard Glissant Author(s): Beverley Ormerod and Edouard Glissant Source: Contemporary Literature, Vol. 15, No. 3, (Summer, 1974), pp. 360-369 Published by: University of Wisconsin Press Stable URL: Accessed: 14/05/2008 11:03
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Negritude in recent years has fallenout of fashion in the Caribbean. Like most ideologies, it was asked to do too much-revolutionize black literature, cure black alienation, bring about political reformand it is now being measured by its areas of failure rather than by the degree of its success. In the thirty-five years since Cesaire's Cahier d'un retour au pays natal first appeared, there have been immense social and politicalchanges in Africa, but the French islands in the West Indies have remained "the little France of the Caribbean," to quote an enthusiastic travel article in the Parisian review Realites of June 1970. Not only has France retained a firm political hold on these territories;it is equally true that on a psychological plane, the message of negritude-the need to rediscover and accept African roots has found noecho here. By and large, the French-oriented societies of the Caribbean view their African origins with indifference, and Cesaire's great central image of rediscovery is to them an obscure metaphor, an exaggerated cerebral fantasy of plunging into the "flesh of the flesh of the world / panting with the very movement of the world."l Where disenchantment with France does exist, negritude is nolonger seen as a viable method of bringing about significant change. As a political ideology, it has been replaced by a more militant doctrine: it is Fanon who now prescribesthe cure for black neurosis and proffersa textbook for revolutionaries. But there is a very real sense in which Fanon's
1 "Chair de la chair du monde palpitant du mouvement meme du monde." Aime Cesaire, Return to My Native Land /Cahier d'un retour au pays natal, trans. Emile Snyders (Paris: Presence Africaine, 1968), pp. 102/103 (bilingual edition). XV, 3 CONTEMPORARY LITERATURE

solutions are as much oriented towards Africa as negritude and thus are equally unsuited to the social and political realities of the French Caribbean today. Among those who have sought beyond negritude for a more realistic approach to theproblem of Caribbean identity, perhaps the most assured and convincing is the Martinican author Edouard Glissant. Glissant has always seen negritude in historical terms, as an evolutionary moment of the past, not as a contemporary phenomenon. In an interview thirteen years ago, reported in Afrique Action, he asserted: "Negritude corresponded to a particular historical situation and to a period...