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Vulnerable States

Bodies of Memory in Contemporary Caribbean Fiction
Guillermina De Ferrari

BUY Cloth · 272 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813926469 · $75.00 · Dec 2007
BUY Paper · 272 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813926476 · $27.50 · Dec 2007
BUY Ebook · 272 pp. · ISBN 9780813926728 · $27.50 · Jun 2012

According to Martinican theorist Édouard Glissant, the twentieth century has been dominated in the Caribbean by a passion for the remembrance of colonial history. But while Glissant identifies this passion for memory in the thematizing of nature in Caribbean modernist life, scholar Guillermina De Ferrari claims it is the vulnerability of the human body that has become the trope to which Caribbean postmodernist authors largely appeal in their efforts to revise the discourse that has shaped postcolonial societies. In Vulnerable States: Bodies of Memory in Contemporary Caribbean Fiction, De Ferrari offers a comparative study of novels from across the Caribbean, arguing that vulnerability (symbolic and therefore political) should be seen as the true foundation of Caribbeanness.

While most theories of the region have traditionally emphasized corporeality as a constitutive aspect of Caribbean societies, they assume its uniqueness is founded on race, itself understood either as a "fact" of the body or as the "ethnic" fusion of distinctive cultures of origin. In reconceptualizing corporeality as vulnerability, De Ferrari proposes an alternative view of Caribbeanness based on affect—that is, on an emotional disposition that results from the alienating role historical, medical, and anthropological notions of the body have traditionally played in determining how the region understands itself. While vulnerability thus addresses the role historically played by race in determining systems of social and political powerlessness, it also prefigures other ways in which Caribbeanness is currently negotiated at local and international levels, ranging from the stigmatization of the ill to the global fetishization of the region’s physical beauty, material degradation, and political stagnation.Positioned at the intersection of literary and anthropological study, Vulnerable States will appeal to Caribbeanists of the three major language areas of the region as well as to postcolonial scholars interested in issues of race, gender, and nation formation


"Vulnerable States shows how impossible it is to extricate the Body from the cultural discourses that surround it, as well as from the subjectivity that it helps to produce. De Ferrari seeks to understand the dialectics between the writing of the self and the intervention upon the Other; the ideologies of colonialism and the resilience of those "vulnerable bodies that it aimed to rule. In its analyses of French, Hispanic, and Anglophone texts, it embodies the Caribbean at its best: a region both surprisingly "open but also joined by a unique sense of historical memory.—Jose Quiroga, Emory University"This book makes a very considerable intellectual contribution, both to Caribbean studies in particular and to postcolonial studies in general. Its scholarly merits are multiple, not the least being its courageous and successful effort to deal with the Caribbean as a multicultural whole.... De Ferrari navigates this intricate diversity with insight and elegance, guiding her reader toward a richer, more complex understanding of the Caribbean.

Sylvia Molloy, Albert Schweitzer Professor of the Humanities, New York University

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