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Open Access Francophone conjunctures

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Francophone conjunctures

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image of New West Indian Guide / Nieuwe West-Indische Gids

[First paragraph]Decolonizing the Text: Glissantian Readings in Caribbean and African-American Literatures. DEBRA L. ANDERSON. New York: Peter Lang, 1995. 118 pp. (Cloth US$46.95)L'Eau: Source d'une ecriture dans les litteratures feminines francophones. YOLANDE HELM (ed.). New York: Peter Lang, 1995. x + 295 pp. (Cloth US$ 65.95)Postcolonial Subjects: Francophone Women Writers. MARY JEAN GREEN, KAREN GOULD, MICHELINE RICE-MAXIMIN, KEITH L. WALKER & JACK A. YEAGER (eds.). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996. xxii + 359 pp. (Paper US$ 19.95)Statue cou coupe. ANNIE LE BRUN. Paris: Jean-Michel Place, 1996. 177 pp. (Paper FF 85.00) Although best remembered as a founding father of the Negritude movement along with Aime Cesaire, Leopold Senghor was from the very outset of his career equally committed - as both a poet and a politician - to what he felt were the inseparable concepts of la francophonie and metissage. Senghor's has been an unabashedly paradoxical vision, consistently addressing the unanswerable question of how one can be essentially a "black African" and at the same time (in Homi Bhabha's words) "something else besides" (1994:28). In his "Eloge du metissage," written in 1950, Senghor ably described the contradictions involved in assuming the hybrid identity of a metis (an identity that offers none of the comforting biological and/or cultural certainties - about "rhythm," "intuition," and such like - upon which the project of Negritude was founded): "too assimilated and yet not assimilated enough? Such is exactly our destiny as cultural metis. It's an unattractive role, difficult to take hold of; it's a necessary role if the conjuncture of the 'Union francaise' is to have any meaning. In the face of nationalisms, racisms, academicisms, it's the struggle for the freedom of the Soul - the freedom of Man" (1964:103). At first glance, this definition of the metis appears as dated as the crude essentialism with which Senghor's Negritude is now commonly identified: in linking the fate of the metis to that of the "Union francaise," that imperial federation of states created in the years following upon the end of the Second World War with the intention of putting a "new" face on the old French Empire, Senghor would seem to have doomed the metis and his "role ingrat" to obsolescence. By the end of the decade, the decolonization of French Africa had deprived the "Union franchise" of whatever "meaning" it might once have had. The uncompromisingly manichean rhetoric of opposition that flourished in the decolonization years (and that was most famously manipulated by Fanon in his 1961 Wretched of the Earth) had rendered especially unpalatable the complicities to which Senghor's (un)assimilated metis was subject and to which he also subjected himself in the name of a "humanism" that was around this same time itself becoming the object of an all-out assault in France at the hands of intellectuals like Foucault.

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