The writer Edouard Glissant has died. Glissant, a native of Martinique, citizen of France, was known for his work on African identity in the Caribbean and on French colonialism. He was also a poet. He died yesterday, aged 83, in Paris. The video, above, is an extract of a film, “Making History,” with Glissant and Linton Kwesi Johnson, discussing Caribbean identity politics. It is also a good place to get a start on his ideas. You can watch the film in its entirety here.
More recently, following the 2005 riots by mostly black and immigrant youths in working class Paris “suburbs,” Glissant and fellow Martinican author Patrick Chamoiseau wrote a letter to then-French Minister of the Interior, Nicolas Sarkozy. (At the time Sarkozy used racist language to denounce local “thugs” and vowed to “cleanse” the projects of troublemakers.) Glissant and Chamoiseau’s letter, which was reproduced in media worldwide,
… described the riots as direct consequences of slavery and European colonialism. It also criticized a new law requiring schools to teach the ‘positive role of the French presence overseas, particularly in North Africa.’ Glissant and Chamoiseau wrote: ‘Memory faces off with the world’s truths, and the act of living together is now located within the balancing acts of the world’s truths …’