Vulnerable States: Bodies of Memory in Contemporary Caribbean Fiction
According to Martinican theorist Edouard Glissant, the twentieth century has been dominated in the Caribbean by a passion for the remembrance of colonial history. But while Glissant identifies this passion for memory in the thematizing of nature in Caribbean modernist life, scholar Guillermina De Ferrari claims it is the vulnerability of the human body that has become the trope to which Caribbean postmodernist authors largely appeal in their efforts to revise the discourse that has shaped postcolonial societies. In Vulnerable States: Bodies of Memory in Contemporary Caribbean Fiction , De Ferrari offers a comparative study of novels from across the Caribbean, arguing that vulnerability (symbolic and therefore political) should be seen as the true foundation of Caribbeanness. While most theories of the region have traditionally emphasized corporeality as a constitutive aspect of Caribbean societies, they assume its uniqueness is founded on race, itself understood either as a fact of the body or as the ethnic fusion of distinctive cultures of origin. In reconceptualizing corporeality as vulnerability, De Ferrari proposes an alternative view of Caribbeanness based on affect - that is, on an emotional disposition that results from the alienating role historical, medical, and anthropological notions of the body have traditionally played in determining how the region understands itself. While vulnerability thus addresses the role historically played by race in determining systems of social and political powerlessness, it also prefigures other ways in which Caribbeanness is currently negotiated at local and international levels, ranging from the stigmatization of the ill to the global fetishization of the region's physical beauty, material degradation, and political stagnation. Positioned at the intersection of literary and anthropological study, Vulnerable States will appeal to Caribbeanists of the three major language areas of the region as well as to postcolonial scholars interested in issues of race, gender, and nation formation.