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Space and Identity in Martinique AnalysisResearch Paper

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Space and Identity in Martinique

The writer introduces the article as a discussion of a research. He begins by explaining that studies done in the French West Indies (Martinique and Guadeloupe) had only in the last few years come to acknowledge the existence of a unique peasant society among the islands' plantation communities. The research shows that the fragmented and unstable societal identity in Martinique and Guadeloupe formed the main argument that backed the opinion that the society is not a peasantry, but just another product of the plantation agriculture. The introduction of the article forms the basis of the discussion in the paper by trying to support a theoretical perspective that argues that there are strong bonds between identity and space, using the case of the peasant society in Martinique, as a practical example of the strength of these ties. The research is a human sciences study of the societies in Guadeloupe and Martinique in the French West Indies. It ended up revealing the existence of a peasantry society that was bound by their opposition and resistance to plantation owners or policies. This study not only revealed the existence of a peasantry society, but also gave evidence of the existence of a unique peasant culture within plantation societies.


In this study, the "non-possessed" space in Martinique is based on the recognition of the forced removal of individuals from their land of origin (removal from Africa through slavery), which led to the severing of ties/links with the ancestral lands. "Non-possessed" space in the research also seemingly reflects on the new inhabitants of Martinique, failing to establish roots in their new home, failing to take a hold of the space and also failing to create reference/cultural points in the new land that could protect their group identity (Chivallon, 1995). The research delves further into the collective identity issue by showing the degree to which certain geographic areas/spaces are shown in the narrative as empowering certain groups to rebel against colonial systems. Such areas are referred to as geographies of resistance, and they act as spatial antithesis of the French West Indies plantation. In the end, the research concludes by trying to link the way its narratives represent physical spaces (lands) as enabling and also trying to understand the portrayal of the concepts of power/oppression and rebellion / resistance (Turnbull, 2013). The researcher, in his discussion, comes up with three themes for the study. First, archipelagic thinking, second, dynamic changes in language in terms of power and rebellion, and lastly, the right not to be assimilated and to remain black and the differences between langrage and language forms. The researcher opines that one may see the prescriptive and descriptive dimensions in Glissant's arguments about language. He then introduces various socio-linguistic researches of language forms in Martinique and the other nations in the French West Indies by focusing specifically on their school systems. That part of the study ends up with a short discussion of the manner in which language didactics correlate with Glissant's arguments. The conclusion offers a recommendation of the manner in which Glissant's thinking may make contributions to didactics and socio-linguistics (Bojsen, 2014).

Scholars have argued that the author was asked to change his study objective in terms of the numerous land sales that were less than ten hectares that he "uncovered" in his investigation of archives. The word uncovered is used here because it perfectly captures the situation owing to the fact that social historians who had focused on Martinique had never known of the existence of the phenomenon. This partly explains why the writer was hesitant and proceeded to just document the facts, arguing that the phenomenon was socio-economically important and not talking about how his findings showed that there was very little known about the peasantry. Owing to this fact, the writer's work barely had any mentions (Chivallon, 1995).

Structure of the Paper

The researcher, in the work, attempts to give evidence that the concepts of space and identity are at the core of both colonial and modern narratives. The author attempts to do this by explaining that both narratives are important to the general understanding of the importance of space in the formation of the Francophone Caribbean culture. The writer then presents data on the notions of geography, place and space, and how they are at the core of colonial narratives of early settlers of the islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique in the French West Indies, and how they also play important roles in the modern narratives by writers from the islands. The structure of the article concentrates on power and the establishment of plantation 'space'. The lines of thought by renowned philosopher Michel Foucault are used to back the study whose objective was to identify the way plantations (one of the structures) functions as a physical space that was produced power (Turnbull, 2013). In the field, the author utilized different methods, including participant observation and archive investigations (Chivallon, 1995).

The layout of the article is as follows:

1. The discussion of "non-possession" of space in the French West Indies

This looks into how the new residents of Martinique seemingly failed to establish roots in their new home. And how they also seemingly failed to gain power in the new lands, and also how they failed to create reference points whereby they could build and protect their group/collective identity. This part is based on the concept of structuring the links between groups and their space (Chivallon, 1995).

2. The plantation system as a hindrance to the formation of a group identity

This section looked into how, in the French West Indies, plantation systems were and still is the major hindrance to the formation of collective identities. This section shows how any groups formed under the system are weak. It is based on the argument that lack of control of the economy (being peasants in a plantation system) prevents the inhabitants of Martinique from being bound together by their common ancestry. The individuals could only find time for producing goods and no meaningful time for socialization (Chivallon, 1995).

3. Power over space as an option to overcome the logics of plantation systems

Here, the author depicted how issues of space arose and played major roles. The author argued that in order for individuals to escape the plantation system so as to form their own cultural identities, the residents of Martinique had the ability to break away, both intellectually and physically, from the plantations (Chivallon, 1995).

4. Why it was impossible to control space in Martinique and its implications

This section explains why the only real option of breaking away from the plantation system was the abolition of slavery (Chivallon, 1995). Here, the author tries to connect, together, all the arguments made earlier in the paper by stating that the development of these arguments on the reality in Martinique, is based on the notion of abolition of slavery. The writer argues that the abolition of slavery ended up creating a class of agricultural producers. That the emergence of peasant farmers occurred contrary to what was intended in the plantation system, and it occurred because slaves felt the need to escape the oppression in the system. This section also shows the strength of the links between collective identity and space (Chivallon, 1995).


In the theoretical context, the main argument by the author is that the strength of the links between space and identity offers a practical example of the power between the two phenomenons, as exemplified by the peasantry in Martinique. Although the theoretical bases that explain the correlations between identity and space are a few, they still provide material support to the idea that societies are constructed by and around spaces. The author, in a topical manner, portrays a major subject in the social science field research on the West Indies, arguing that the plantation system was a major hindrance to the formation of a collective identity. This research also called on future researchers to focus more on how societies developed in the inland areas of Martinique. The reading, therefore, is not contrary to theoretical bases of the argument, but instead, it makes the control of space a prerequisite to the formation of collective identities. The paper argues the existence of a peasantry collective identity, despite the obstacles presented by the plantation system (Chivallon, 1995).


The researcher of the article utilized an eco-critical approach in gathering the information for the study. There is a link between the ecological concerns in the Caribbean and the cultural development in the Martinique. Land is usually at the forefront of any post colonialism discourse, especially in regions such as the French West Indies, the nation of Martinique, to be particular, which economically, ecologically, politically and culturally, was and continues to be dominated by French interests. It can be argued that Martinique deserved special attention, especially in the discourse on the ecological and cultural impact on development. Several reasons have been given for the special attention on Martinique: (a) being… [END OF PREVIEW]

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