African philosophy, as a negritude, is a moment in the postcolonial critique of European/Western colonialism and the bodies of knowledge that sustained it. Yet a critical analysis of its' original articulations reveals the limits of this critique and more broadly of postcolonial studies, while also pointing towards more radical theoretical possibilities within African philosophy. Jean-Paul Sartre's essay 'Black Orpheus', a philosophical appropriation of negritude poetry, serves as a guide for this reflection, for the text reveals the inspiration and wealth of expressions of negritude, as well as their ambiguity. Sartre's essay however also renders possible a further act of re-appropriation that takes us beyond culture and identity-centred readings of African philosophy and postcolonialism, readings whose conceptual and critical potential is far greater than what has hitherto been explored.
Tomaz Carlos Flores Jacques
In the first part of this essay, in order to grasp the complex and ambivalent relation of Fanon with negritude, I will recover the context from which emerged the ideology of negritude by focusing on the views of Léopold Senghor and the ways in which these views determined Sartre's interpretation of the movement. I will also examine Sartre's Black Orpheus and the influence it had on Fanon, especially on his Black Skin, White Masks. In the second part, I will adumbrate Fanon's critique of the advocates of negritude, whom he refers to as 'men of culture', who fell back on archaic cultural practices far removed from the political realities of their colonized societies. In the third section, I will turn to Memmi's critique of Fanon with a view to establishing two points: first, Memmi misreads Fanon's rejection of negritude as a failure on the part of Fanon to 'return to self'; second, far from being an oppositional post-modern figure whose work is rife with contradiction, I will argue that the political project of Fanon is consistently Sartrean, despite his disagreement with Sartre on some issues.
Long Live Césaire! Recuperations and Reparations
A. James Arnold
Events surrounding Aimé Césaire's funeral in Martinique (April 2008) brought to the fore a number of unresolved contradictions that have swirled around his literary production, as well as his political legacy, for decades. Did Césaire really mean to speak for a culturally and historically determined group of dispossessed colonials and former colonials, as he often stated from the 1960s onward? Or did he intend to appeal to a biologically determined collective unconscious, as he sometimes stated in less guarded moments? Finally, should Césaire's ambiguous statements about the movement to require reparations from the French state for centuries of enslavement in the Antilles be taken as an endorsement of such demands? None of these questions were resolved in the flood of writing about Césaire's importance and significance in the year of his death.
Francis Abiola Irele
This essay examines the centrality of Aimé Césaire's work in the emergence of a black poetic and intellectual discourse in French, and his influence, in terms both of theme and idiom, on generations of Francophone writers, an influence that can be discerned in the work of Tchikaya u Tamsi, Jean-Baptiste Tati-Loutard, Lamine Sall and Sylvie Kandé in Africa, and Frantz Fanon, Edouard Glissant, René Depestre, and Daniel Maximin in the French Caribbean region. The relationship of Césaire's work to the Créolité movement is discussed, as is the impact of his work on Anglophone Caribbean writers, such as Kamau Brathwaite of Barbados and Lansana Sekou of St Martin, as evidence of the enduring legacy of his work.
Revisiting the Poetry
In July 1989, as part of the celebration of the Bicentennial of the French Revolution, the great Martinican poet, playwright, and essayist Aimé Césaire was a special invitee of the Avignon Theatre Festival. I led a round table with him then in the context of the Institut d'Études Françaises of Bryn Mawr College. In his remarks he also read two unpublished poems. One of them, "Parcours," which I translate here as "Journey," is the subject of this article. This piece constitutes a reading of the poem as the poet's looking back, metaphorically, on his poetic journey, fifty years after the publishing of his epic poem, "Cahier d'un retour au pays natal" in 1939. This theme of looking back becomes a way to meditate on my own intellectual trajectory as a scholar of Césaire's poetry. I conclude with a poem of my own, on "Rereading Césaire Thirty Years On."
An Interview with Aimé Césaire
William F.S. Miles
Nineteen eighty-two marked a milestone in the history of Martinique and the career of Aimé Césaire. One year had passed since François Mitterrand's election as president and Césaire's declaration of a "moratorium" on challenging the island's status as a French département (state). Pro-independence violence still rocked the French West Indies. In this interview Césaire discusses the burdens of material dependency, dangers of in- and out-migration, centralizing legacies of France, opportunities afforded by Socialist governance, the need for decentralization, and the future of Martinican identity. The interview reveals Césaire's strategic flexibility within inviolate principles, his unique capacity to channel his people's psyche, his keen recognition of the relationship between nationalism and economics, and his sensitivity to micropolitics and intra-island differences.
Une histoire inachevée?
The double commitment of Aimé Césaire on the political and literary fronts as well as the comparison between his achievements in these two fields of activity have drawn various interpretations, often impassioned. This contribution proposes to throw light on some apparent or real paradoxes that underlie his political thought and action. It also tries to evaluate his role through his literary commitment and his investment in the political field by taking into account the specific logics at work in each of these spheres, without neglecting their own temporality, as well as their possible contradictions or complementarities.
Kathryn T. Gines
Jean-Paul Sartre’s “Orphée Noir” was first published in 1948 as the preface to Leopold Senghor’s Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie nègre at malgache de langue française, a classic anthology of Negritude poetry.1 Frantz Fanon replied to Sartre with “L’expérience vécue du Noir” published in Esprit in May of 1951.2 This essay later became the fifth chapter of Fanon’s Peau noire, masques blancs, published in 1952.3 In Black Skin, White Masks, Fanon is not only confronting Sartre’s analysis of Negritude in “Black Orpheus,” he is also meeting head-on Sartre’s analysis of race as it pertains to the Negro in “Black Orpheus” and as it pertains to the Jew in Anti-Semite and Jew. Towards that end, Fanon claims that Sartre’s arguments about the Jewish experience are incompatible with the “lived-experience” of the Negro.
Sartre's writing on colonialism and anti-colonial critique is diverse, protean and frequently self-contradictory, and for this reason has generated a good deal of controversy. His celebrated and notorious 'Orphée noir', written as the preface to Senghor's Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie nègre et malgache de langue française, has been read as both veneration and critique of the negritude movement, and he has been named both spokesman and traitor of anti-colonial resistance in Africa. Explicating the dynamics of an assertion of black identity in contradistinction to colonial influence, Sartre introduced revolutionary black poetry to the European audience it was directed against, only to be condemned by some of the other negritude thinkers, such as Alioune Diop, as eurocentric and blinded by his own position as a metropolitan, and therefore colonial, intellectual. The version of negritude promoted in 'Orphée noir' was criticised by such thinkers for being too rigid and essentialist, yet conversely, Fanon objected that Sartre's stress on the movement as transitory and provisional meant that was insufficiently immersed in 'authentic black experience'. In addition, Sartre's more journalistic writing, which called for the withdrawal of the French presence in Algeria during the war of independence, aptly served to draw attention to dissension about the Algerian question within French society, but, as Robert Young points out, the Marxist approach underpinning many of these pieces has also been seen as universalising.
Dana Currier Penser la famille au XIXe siècle (1789-1870) by Claudie Bernard
Emmanuelle Saada The French Imperial Nation-State: Negritude and Colonial Humanism between the Two World Wars by Gary Wilder
Amelia H. Lyons Policing Paris: The Origins of Modern Immigration Control between the Wars by Clifford Rosenberg
Gisèle Sapiro Robes noires et années sombres: Avocats et magistrats en résistance pendant la Seconde Guerre mondiale by Liora Israël
Nicole Rudolph Riding the New Wave: Youth and the Rejuvenation of France after the Second World War by Richard Ivan Jobs
Donald Reid Francis Jeanson: A Dissident Intellectual from the French Resistance to the Algerian War by Marie-Pierre Ulloa
Arthur Goldhammer Modernisation et progressisme: Fin d’une époque, 1968-1981 by Pierre Grémion
Philippe Steiner Inherited Wealth by Jens Beckert
Mary Dewhurst Lewis Why the French Don’t Like Headscarves: Islam, the State, and Public Space by John R. Bowen
Kimberly J. Morgan Differential Diagnoses: A Comparative History of Health Care Problems and Solutions in the United States and France by Paul V. Dutton