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Staging Creolization

Women's Theater and Performance from the French Caribbean
Emily Sahakian

BUY Cloth · 296 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813940076 · $75.00 · Jul 2017
BUY Paper · 296 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813940083 · $35.00 · Jul 2017
BUY Ebook · 296 pp. · ISBN 9780813940090 · $75.00 · Jul 2017

In Staging Creolization, Emily Sahakian examines seven plays by Ina Césaire, Maryse Condé, Gerty Dambury, and Simone Schwarz-Bart that premiered in the French Caribbean or in France in the 1980s and 1990s and soon thereafter traveled to the United States. Sahakian argues that these late-twentieth-century plays by French Caribbean women writers dramatize and enact creolization—the process of cultural transformation through mixing and conflict that occurred in the context of the legacies of slavery and colonialism.

Sahakian here theorizes creolization as a performance-based process, dramatized by French Caribbean women’s plays and enacted through their international production and reception histories. The author contends that the syncretism of the plays is not a static, fixed creole aesthetics but rather a dynamic process of creolization in motion, informed by history and based in the African-derived principle that performance is a space of creativity and transformation that connects past, present, and future.


Sahakian’s work is impeccably researched, impressively documented, and original in its bringing together cultural analysis, textual analysis, and performance analysis.

Judith G. Miller, New York University, coeditor of Plays by French and Francophone Women: A Critical Anthology

This work is extremely original and contributes significantly to francophone scholarship and theater studies. Sahakian takes to task the rigid, patriarchal constructions of women’s identity in the Caribbean as portrayed in literature and movements (such as Negritude) that have been traditionally articulated solely by men. Her work is commendable. A valuable addition to the critical works on francophone literature and theater.

Valérie K. Orlando, University of Maryland, College Park, author of The Algerian New Novel

This well-documented, performance-driven study brings to life pathbreaking works by Guadeloupean and Martinican women who deserve to be read and staged worldwide. Excellent illustrations.... Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.


[A] fascinating study of French Caribbean women’s theater [that] greatly contributes to this exciting and developing field.... [Of] interest to both scholars of Caribbean studies and theater practitioners and specialists, who in the disciplinary interstices thrown up in Sahakian’s study may uncover as of yet unseen connections and potential inspiration for further interdisciplinary study.

Vanessa Lee · H-France Review

Sahakian’s richly textured and well-researched book is a solid addition to understanding Caribbean theater. Not only does Sahakian historicize and contextualize Martinican and Guadeloupean identity for her readers, but her work is also a manifestation of the multidimensional method of creolizing performance that she articulates.

Tanya L. Shields · Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature

Sahakian undertook an enormous task with Staging Creolization and accomplished it admirably. It is well-documented and includes previously unpublished photos and important background information about the role that Ubu Repertory Theater played in bringing these plays, playwrights, and performers to American audiences. Following the path of women scholars who came before her, Sahakian has opened yet another avenue for the study of black women of the African diaspora, and has done it very well.

Sandra Adell · Theatre Journal

Motion, contradiction, ambiguity, tension...these concepts comprise the multi-faceted lens through which Emily Sahakian’s Staging Creolization investigates women’s theatre and performance from the French Caribbean...[the book]...break[s] up the historical cement upon which Creoleness has been rooted over the last three decades and takes its canon to task not only for its failure to incorporate women’s voices in its theory, but especially for its characterization of Créolité as fixed and stable...[T]he theoretical assemblage of Sahakian’s book is fascinating and strong. It is thrilling to read a work that transparently engages with the more thorny issues of its genre.

Jodie Barker · Women in French Studies

Set at the methodological intersection of theatre studies and Caribbean cultural and literary studies, Emily Sahakian’s Staging Creolization meditates on theories and practices of creolization, with a focus on gender and sexuality. The book takes up plays by four twentieth-century Guadeloupean and Martinican intellectuals from France’s Caribbean territories – Maryse Condé, Ina Césaire, Gerty Dambury, and Simone Schwarz-Bart – focusing specifically on those plays that encouraged transnational interchanges among French, American, and African diasporic audiences through the New York City–based Ubu Repertory Theater of the 1990s...Sahakian’s reconstruction of the plays on the basis of archival research and performance analysis provides a valuable addition to studies of intercultural and postcolonial theatre, and her demonstration of creolization as a process of performance makes this book essential for Caribbean specialists... Staging Creolization points a way toward researching, writing, and teaching phenomena that defy methodologies seeking to impose clear definitions by adopting approaches that protect their dynamic and continuous transformations.

Modern Drama

Staging Creolization...examines seven plays written by French Caribbean women playwrights and contends that the process of creolization, which builds upon the legacies of colonialism and slavery, is brought to the fore upon the stage. However, the US productions of these plays, staged by Ubu Repertory Theater, produced conflicting outcomes...Sahakian argues that each production undergoes a process of creolization when performed. To support her...research, Sahakian is in conversation with scholars whose work centre on gender, Caribbean theoretical movements, the Black Atlantic and performance studies; and thus, adds a new perspective that converges with discourses of performance, gender and the ongoing phenomenon of creolization.

Sherri V. Cummings · Journal of Caribbean History

[I]mpeccably researched, meticulously analyzed, and impressively documented... Staging Creolization [is] an exceptional piece of scholarship. [Sahakian's] self-awareness, self-interiority, and self-reflection as archivist, ethnographer, and theater scholar in this work add to the strength and quality of this monographic study. In its bringing together cultural analysis, textual analysis, and performance analysis, Staging Creolization is essential reading—across all disciplines and languages—for scholars and students alikeof theater and performance studies.

Bulletin of the Comediantes

[T]he subject matter is complex and this book repays diligent lucubration, not least for its fascinating insights and rich, interdisciplinary analysis.

New West Indian Guide

About the Author(s): 

Emily Sahakian is Associate Professor of Theater and French at the University of Georgia.

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