Postcolonialism, Positioning and the Use of Drama in the Teaching of French Language and Literature

By Small, Jean | Caribbean Quarterly, March-June 2007 | Go to article overview

Postcolonialism, Positioning and the Use of Drama in the Teaching of French Language and Literature


Small, Jean, Caribbean Quarterly


The political discourse surrounding the terms postcolonial, post-colonial or Post Colonial is one that tries to define the experiences and the quality of life that former colonies share. Do the colonies that speak the same language share a common experience that differs from colonies that do not share that language? Did the colonies that speak one of the European languages such as French, Spanish or Dutch inherited from their colonizers experience a colonization that is in any way different from the colonies of the British Empire? If not what are the commonalities? Now that the colonies have seized their liberation through political independence are there any continuities from the experience of colonization that affect their present existence and their hope for change?

This paper is using the term postcolonial to simply mean those countries that were former colonies. The Caribbean Region which experienced a long period of colonization under differing European imperial powers, and where the majority of the population is of African descent, belongs to the African diaspora. All the former colonies in the Caribbean, whether speaking English, French, Spanish or Dutch share this common experience though the particularities of the experience of colonization may be different.

The uniqueness of colonization and slavery in the Caribbean is that of being the worst kind of slavery that existed in the world, as the slaves who were brought mainly from West Africa, and who suffered displacement, depersonalization, loss of name, loss of language, loss of religion, were made chattels. They therefore had no hope of returning to their homeland and were engaged in labour on the sugar plantations for little or no pay which was in fact a carefully created state of poverty from which it was difficult to extricate oneself. The horrible physical cruelty meted out to our ancestors is very well documented. It is amazing how they were able to survive the horrendous and inhumane conditions under which they worked to make the white man rich. Our people are a people of survival if no tiling else.

This traumatizing experience has left the majority of people psychically and psychologically damaged for centuries having been made to feel inferior in physical attributes, mental capabilities, intellectual prowess, and cultural expression. Every aspect of life in the black world was devalued. The fact that at the time of colonization the Africans that were captured and enslaved were coming from an oral society, unable to read or write, made diem not different from but inferior to peoples of the western world. They looked different, they spoke a different language, they danced, sang and worshipped differendy. No aspect of their culture was considered of value, so they had to be taught the colonizer's way of Ufe to be considered acceptable. This resulted in a feeling of lack of confidence in oneself which was further reinforced by the fact that the colonizers imposed on the colonised their language, their Uterature and their education system. This became the hallmark of civilization.

There are two main theories about the Africans that came through the Middle passage to the Caribbean. The eurogeneticists1 beUeved that the slaves came with nothing, a tabula rasa upon which a new learning and a new culture had to be engraved. On the other hand, the afrogeneticists2 such as Prof. Mervyn AUeyne3 ,argue that the African came with a habitus or mentaüté4 that formed the infrastructure upon which reformulations took place. This soüd infrastructure was what aUowed them to survive the separation from famüy and country, the horrible conditions of transportation through the Middle Passage, the social deprivations and hard labour on the plantation. Their reügious beüef system, their memory of past customs and cultural practices, their language which they were not aUowed to speak in pubUc remained buried in their subconscious upon which were superimposed the manners, the language and the culture of the colonizer. …

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