Academic journal article Twentieth Century Literature

Locating the Destitute: Space and Identity in Caribbean Fiction

Academic journal article Twentieth Century Literature

Locating the Destitute: Space and Identity in Caribbean Fiction

Article excerpt

Locating the Destitute: Space and Identity in Caribbean Fiction, by Stanka Radovic. University of Virginia Press, 2014.192 pages.

Locating the Destitute: Space and Identity in Caribbean Fiction goes beyond the promise implicit in its title not only to locate the destitute, those placed outside of colonial systems of legitimacy, but also to help readers recognize those Caribbean spaces and the identities they shape that do not appear on colonial maps. In locating those people who are excluded on the basis of space as it is configured by colonial ideologies, Radovic also makes visible these peoples' acts of creative resistance against colonial practices and denials. Drawing upon Henri Lefebvre's concept of "third space," she articulates how the destitute shape and claim their own spaces, and thereby themselves in the world. They do so, Radovic argues, by drawing upon both the material and the imaginative resources accessible through narrative.

According to Radovic, postcolonial studies still stumbles over its reliance on binaries and/or its promotion of an in-between solution to the problem of spatial and communal autonomy. As a result, it fails to take into account the "mutually constitutive relations between space and identity" (181). Locating the Destitute does the slippery and careful work of analyzing space as both a material lack and a metaphor. Drawing upon Henri Lefebvre's concept of "third space," she articulates how the destitute shape and claim their own spaces, and thereby themselves in the world. With Lefebvre's aid, the book explores how Caribbean literature, with its common use of spatial symbols, highlights material inequities by way of the social, economic, psychological, and linguistic exclusions that often characterize postcoloniality. Radovic posits that while literature cannot correct these inequities, it can--by communicating both the practice and representation of space--potentially challenge material lack and imaginatively claim spaces of belonging.

The book's argument is divided into six well-ordered chapters that make its discussion of Caribbean spaces and identities accessible to both scholars of the region and those who may be engaging with it for the first time. After an introduction stating the text's argument, goals, and methodologies, the first chapter offers one of Radovic's greatest contributions, putting pan-Caribbean postcolonial discourse into dialogue with contemporary spatial theory from Europe. The second chapter illuminates the unique particularities of Caribbean spaces and communities that evade Western (colonial) methods of identification, and thereby undermine Western pretensions to universality. Following these preliminary discussions, each of the subsequent four chapters analyzes a different Caribbean novel's use of space as both physical divider and crafted tool of agency. These text-based chapters move from exploring the West's traditionally exclusive conceptions of physical space to the more imaginative and thus inclusive notions of Caribbean cultures.

Radovic's first chapter, "Caribbean Spatial Metaphors," establishes that the region's spatial identity and location have always been contested, "torn between fact and fiction," and argues that the notion of a third space best characterizes Caribbean lived experience (28).The chapter draws upon Caribbean theorists such as Elizabeth DeLoughrey and Edouard Glissant who articulate the region's difficulty in representing its own reality within Western classifications of realism that exclude what they cannot account for. Within the Caribbean counter-imaginary, the slave ship, the sea, the archipelago, the island's landscapes, flora and fauna, weather and constructed shelters all "maintain their geographical specificity while being transformed into a metaphor (and subsequently an emblem) of cultural location" (38). Radovic posits that readers of spatial metaphors in Caribbean literature and theory enter into a network of history and poetics whose metaphors work to create intimate connections between readers and the region, and thereby require readers to care in order to understand. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.