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Kinships of the Sea: Comparative History, Minor Solidarity, and Transoceanic Empathy

Abstract

Creole literatures and expressive cultures from the Mascarene Islands and the Caribbean region have long trained our minds to think transversally. Not only do they foreground narratives of migration and displacement that have put diverse peoples, cultures, and languages into close contact over extended historical periods, but they also bring together trajectories and epistemologies that turn minor-to-minor solidarities into a rhetoric of a new humanism. This essay focuses on the figure of the migrant in the works of transnational artists and writers such as Nathacha Appanah, Nirveda Alleck, Ananda Devi, and Patrick Chamoiseau. At stake is the construction of new kinships, which destabilize historical, geographical, and cultural divides inherited from colonialism and engage anew with questions of comparative history, minor solidarity, and human empathy.

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Fig. 5.1

Notes

  1. 1.

    My opening questions were further inspired by an interview with Lionnet. She pointed out in that conversation: “These are the challenges of our field: how do we respond to creative voices that imagine the pain of the ‘other’?” (Jean-François 2018, p. 140).

  2. 2.

    The original reads as follows: “Une vieille histoire, cent fois entendue, cent fois ressassée. L’histoire d’un pays qui brille de mille feux et que tout le monde veut rejoindre. Il y a des mots pour ça: eldorado, mirage, paradis, chimère, utopie, Lampedusa. C’est l’histoire de ces bateaux qu’on appelle ici kwassas kwassas, ailleurs barque ou pirogue ou navire, et qui existent depuis la nuit des temps pour faire traverser les hommes pour ou contre leur gré. C’est l’histoire de ces êtres humains qui se retrouvent sur ces bateaux et on leur a donné de ces noms à ces gens-là, depuis la nuit des temps: esclaves, engagés, pestiférés, bagnards, rapatriés, Juifs, boat people, réfugiés, sans-papiers, clandestin.” All translations are mine unless otherwise stated.

  3. 3.

    There are actually two World’s Cultural and Natural Heritage sites in Mauritius. The other one is the Morne Brabant, a hideaway mountain for runaway slaves located on the southwestern coastSeeSeeMauritian Kreol of Mauritius. For a detailed presentation of both sites, including pictures, see Lionnet 2015.

  4. 4.

    In an article dealing with “Migration Control and Migrant Fatalities at the Spanish-African Border,” Jørgen Carling writes, for instance, that “the principal mode of unauthorized entry to Spain from Africa has been small-scale smuggling in wooded boats known as pateras” (Carling 2007, pp. 319–320).

  5. 5.

    The French original reads that “ils refoulent les migrants parce que les migrants ne leur laissent pas le monde. Les migrants le leur reprennent … par l’infini du mot A-C-C-U-E-I-L qu’ils nous forcent à épeler dans toutes les langues du monde.”

  6. 6.

    “Le solidaire s’impose comme principe … Une solidarité ardente et multiforme.”

  7. 7.

    “polyrythmies qui naissent des différences quand elles s’appellent et qu’elles se trouvent, s’accordent souvent, se repoussent autant, mais conservent chacune le souvenir de l’autre.”

  8. 8.

    In the original, we read: “[Cette barbarie] lie tous nos malheurs et nous oblige à considérer ensemble tous nos défis. Tout est lié, tout est noué ! La résistance stérile est d’abord celle qui ne sait pas lier. … les mondes multiples se percevant autonomes et se croyant étanches n’existent que dans les stases de nos imaginaires.”

  9. 9.

    indéfinissable mise en relation avec le tout-vivant du monde nous émeut, nous affecte … Nous remplit en finale d’une éthique sans grande démonstration.

  10. 10.

    The original reads: “Il m’est arrivé d’espérer quand il y a eu le petit Syrien échoué sur la plage turque. Je me suis dit que quelqu’un, quelque part, se souviendrait de cette île française et dirait qu’ici aussi les enfants meurent sur les plages. … j’ai parfois l’impression de vivre dans une dimension parallèle où ce qui se passe ici ne traverse jamais l’océan et n’atteint jamais personne. Nous sommes seuls … Les vies sur cette terre valent autant que toutes les vies sur les autres terres, n’est-ce pas ?”

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Jean-François, E.B. (2021). Kinships of the Sea: Comparative History, Minor Solidarity, and Transoceanic Empathy. In: Kim, D.D. (eds) Reframing Postcolonial Studies. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-52726-6_5

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