Self-consuming Fictions: The Dialectics of Cannibalism in Modern Caribbean Narratives
Howling words of fresh blood to spark the sacred fire of the world, Aime Cesaire in 1939 claimed kinship with madness and cannibalism. In Cesaire's view, colonialism and western rationality had imposed a falsely barbaric identity --or, in effect, a non-identity--upon the peoples that Europe had uprooted, subjugated, enslaved and otherwise mastered. Against the Eurocentrist representation of American otherness, Cesaire, within his poem's ritual of parthenogenesis, prophetically identified with that otherness, subsuming it into his apocalyptic redefinition of Afro-Antillean selfhood. By such iconoclastic gestures, Cesaire and numerous other writers of the region have demonstrated the manner in which poetic self-identification can mean empowerment in providing the starting point for resisting the cultural annihilation of colonialism. My aim in this essay will be to account for some of the ways in which Cesaire's "cannibalisme tenace" has indeed persisted, tenaciously and obsessively, in modern Caribbean narratives concerned with the question of critiquing and constructing a post-colonial cultural identity.
This article is from Postmodern Culture 1 (1991). Posted with permission.