Reading across the Archipelago: anglophone and francophone Caribbean perspectives on place and ontology by Jamaica Kincaid and Gisèle Pineau
Sherratt-Bado, Dawn Miranda
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This interdisciplinary study traces the relationship between place and ontology in anglophone and francophone Caribbean contexts, respectively, in selected fictional texts by contemporary Afro-Caribbean women writers Jamaica Kincaid and Gisèle Pineau. In particular, the thesis considers the ways in which notions of place are complicated by the fact that these authors are doubly diasporic. Kincaid and Pineau are of the African diaspora, and they are also migrant writers who travel back and forth between the Caribbean neocolonies and the neoimperia (the United States for Kincaid and France for Pineau). The Antiguan-born Kincaid relocated to the United States as an adolescent and continues to reside there today – despite not having renounced her Antiguan citizenship. Pineau was born and raised in Paris by Guadeloupean parents, who later transplanted the family to their Caribbean homeland when Pineau was an adolescent. After moving between the Caribbean and Paris throughout the ensuing decades, Guadeloupe is now her primary place of residence. Kincaid and Pineau, who are of the same generation and from neighbouring Caribbean islands, share fascinating points of intersection and divergence with regard to their treatment of place and ontology in their oeuvres. This project draws upon a number of theoretical paradigms and examines them in conjunction with Kincaid and Pineau’s fiction in order to discern whether or not these models are apposite to their work. Some examples are: decolonisation/decolonial, postcolonial, womanist and feminist, gender, critical race, psychoanalysis, trauma, ecocritical, spatial, semiotic, ethnographic, Marxian and post-Marxist, poststructuralist, deconstructionist, postmodernist, aesthetic and anti-aesthetic, and photographic theories. The thesis opens with an introductory chapter that locates my research within larger, ongoing discussions of place and ontology in the field of postcolonial studies. It also explains the methodological approaches of the project, in addition to brief descriptions of subsequent chapters. The first chapter of the investigative body of the thesis outlines the decolonising theoretical axiomatics which underpin Kincaid and Pineau’s fictional writings. Next I provide a chapter each on key works by Kincaid and Pineau in order to establish their individual thematic and formal concerns before turning, in the ensuing chapters, to connective readings of their texts within certain contextual frameworks. I also examine Kincaid and Pineau’s imbricated treatment of connecting themes that appear to ricochet throughout their corpora of writings. This linkage between landscape and ontology is fundamental to understanding migration experience in that multiple landscapes and cultures become rooted in individual and collective identities as complex biographic phenomena. Kincaid and Pineau address this relationship between the environment and (auto)fiction as a way of investigating the constitutive relations between place, body, and ontology.