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Annette Joseph-Gabriel. Reimagining Liberation: How Black Women Transformed Citizenship in the French Empire
2019, University of Illinois Press
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Publisher’s Note: Black women living in the French empire played a key role in the decolonial movements of the mid-twentieth century. Thinkers and activists, these women lived lives of commitment and risk that landed them in war zones and concentration camps and saw them declared enemies of the state. Annette K. Joseph-Gabriel mines published writings and untapped archives to reveal the anticolonialist endeavors of seven women. Though often overlooked today, Suzanne Césaire, Paulette Nardal, Eugénie Éboué-Tell, Jane Vialle, Andrée Blouin, Aoua Kéita, and Eslanda Robeson took part in a forceful transnational movement. Their activism and thought challenged France's imperial system by shaping forms of citizenship that encouraged multiple cultural and racial identities. Expanding the possibilities of belonging beyond national and even Francophone borders, these women imagined new pan-African and pan-Caribbean identities informed by black feminist intellectual frameworks and practices. The visions they articulated also shifted the idea of citizenship itself, replacing a single form of collective identity and political participation with an expansive plurality of forms of belonging.

Comment: Useful for discussing concepts of citizenship and belonging in the decolonial movements of the mid-twentieth century. Prior knowledge of these themes is required for an in-depth discussion of the book. However individual chapters can constitute a good starting point for questions of gender, race, and postcolonialism without prior advanced knowledge.

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Annette Joseph-Gabriel. Suzanne Césaire: Liberation beyond the Great Camouflage
2020, University of Illinois Press
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Abstract: Suzanne Césaire's essays in Tropiques make an important intervention in imagining a new Martinican and ultimately Pan-Caribbean identity during World War II. This study examines Césaire's joint politics and poetics of liberation in the context of dissidence in Martinique. A close reading of her essays alongside previously uncited personal correspondence reveals Haiti to be central to her vision for a Caribbean cultural renaissance after the death and destruction of the war.

Comment: Useful for discussions on belonging, citizenship, and nation-building, and expanding knowledge of Suzanne Césaire. Prior knowledge of key concepts of political history is needed, as well as some knowledge of French decolonization. Can be used to expand knowledge of French education in the former colonies.

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Marika Preziuso. A Subtlety by Kara Walker: Teaching Vulnerable Art
2016, Journal of International Women's Studies 17(3)
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Abstract: In late Spring 2014, the nonprofit organization Creative Time commissioned artist Kara Walker to create her first large-scale public installation. Hosted in the industrial relics of the leg- endary Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn, Walker’s A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby was as controversial as it was revered. The powerful presence of the installation, coupled with its immersion in historical consciousness, makes A Subtlety rich in educational value. This article engages in a comparative reading of A Subtlety in the light of female writers and thinkers from the Caribbean, but also incorporates some of the generative questions Walker’s installation has pro- voked my students to ask. I especially engage questions on how to unravel the mixed metaphors that make A Subtlety the artistic embodiment of the textured experience of the African diaspora, with its complex history, cultural hybridity and transnational ramifications. While Walker’s instal- lation seems to sustain its many layers of meanings through both form and content, the (mostly white, US-born) students in my class have responded to it in a range of critical ways that pointed especially to their emotional and critical response toward female Blackness, and reflections about the artist’s responsibility toward her intention. The article reflects on the inherent possibilities for teaching A Subtlety and other forms of what I consider “vulnerable art,” which at its best helps to channel our collective and personal discomfort in effective, healing ways.

Comment: Very useful for teachers interested in integrating contemporary exhibitions into debates about race, gender and colonialism. Establishes connections to other literary pieces and discusses implementation in the classroom as well as reception by students. Prior knowledge of the themes mentioned is recommended but not mandatory if the focus is on the methods used.

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