"What is mine": Césairean negritude between the particular and the universal

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Considering contemporary criticisms of Césaire's most important theoretical construct, Negritude, in light of the anti-essentialist turn in postcolonial studies, this article deploys the critical vocabulary of Frantz Fanon in order to read Césaire as a theorist of colonial disalienation whose Negritude is not a fixed object but a process through which Césaire comes to problematize both black essentialism and the very idea of racial particularism itself. The point, for Césaire, is not to opt for a constructivist model that evacuates both race and subjectivity, but rather to move toward the universal "human" for which particularism is both a negation and a fundamental condition of possibility. In drawing attention to the self-reflexive aspects of the Cahier and other literary works, my reading brings forward the productive tensions between essentialism and constructivism, particularism and universalism, and independence and reciprocity, through which Césaire articulates this critique.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-86
Number of pages16
JournalResearch in African Literatures
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 16 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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