Creolizing Cultures and Kinship: Then and There, Now and Here

Published: May 1, 2015
creolization feminism globalization Toni Morrison Kim Ragusa Joan Anim-Addo Jamaica Kincaid
Giovanna Covi

This paper considers literary texts by women writers that trouble mainstream definitions of family and love to figure shared knowledges. Through intercultural performances, they stage conversations between Euro-American, African-American, and African-Caribbean cultures to re-present kinship (Judith Butler) as a concept which by being as elastic as intimacy (Ara Wilson) and affects (Leela Gandhi), enables figurations (Donna Haraway) and hence actions that point towards a shared planetarity (Gayatri C. Spivak). I argue that these cultural products nourish creolizing agency (Edouard Glissant and Kamau Brathwaite) which prevents us from falling into a regime of terror, where crisis is equated to public and domestic paralysis under a state of emergency. This is so because they effectively show how to join poetics with politics and ethics, and thus to build collectivities of belonging (Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich). I seek to demonstrate that the creolizing capability of such discourse, as articulated for example by Toni Morrison, Kim Ragusa, Joan Anim-Addo, and Jamaica Kincaid, deconstructs otherness without assimilating it, because it embraces translation as the mode (Walter Benjamin) of the always already necessary impossibility. In tune with Rajagopalan Radhakrishnan’s emphasis on translation as a mode which allows us to imagine conjunctures and intersections that have no originals and cannot speak in a single language, this paper insists on the primary importance of critique to confront questions of power; It offers figurations of the global that, by incorporating intimacy, affects, and by troubling kinship, map material and discoursive reality in a manner that is widely inclusive, through affiliation (Edward Said) rather than filiation. By thematizing love as political practice, the literary texts here examined contribute to the phenomenological grounding of the discourse on affects inaugurated by Eve K. Sedgwick and further elaborated by Rosi Braidotti. Kincaid’s See Now Then provides the wording of my argument: because these figurations never forget the then of colonialism, they bring forward a now of globalization that is populated by subjectivities—Radical Others—capable of subverting and transgressing the establishment, without erasing their own vulnerability.

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Author Biography
Giovanna Covi, University of Trento
Giovanna Covi teaches American Literature and Gender Studies at the University of Trento. More recently, she has authored Jamaica Kincaid's Prismatic Subjects (2003); edited and co-authored Interculturality and Gender (2009), Caribbean-Scottish Relations (2007), Modernist Women Race Nation (2006); co-edited Democracy and Difference: the US in Multidisciplinary and Comparative Perspectives(2012), Gendered Ways of Knowing in Science: Scope and Limitations (2012); contributed to Journal of Contemporary Thought, Modern Fiction Studies, the volumes Edward Said and Jacques Derrida: Reconstellating Humanism and the Global Hybrid (2008), Literatures in English: Priorities of Research (2008), From English Literature to Literatures in English (2005). 
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