F20 Black Atlantic: Resources, Pedagogy, and Scholarship on the 18th Century Black Atlantic

[Week 13 Colloquium] Imaginative Returns of the Spirit: Marronage as Black Atlantic Psychology

In Orrieann Florius’s conceptualization of marronage, which she explores in the West Indian (literary) context, maroon spaces emerge as multilocal and multitemporal sites:  sociopolitical communities in one geographic location imagine a spiritual rootedness to and exile from a distant homeland, and history and memory thereof elide in the present.  She frames maroon spaces as liminal zones imbricated in the manufacture of autonomy and resistance in the face of oppressive and violent systems and continuity in the face of fragmented history.

While her tripartite investigation of marronage consists of its geographic (West Indian maroon camps), cultural (Afro- or Indo-Caribbean retentions), and imaginative valences, the imaginative aspect most directly aligns with a theorization of the Black Atlantic.  This imaginative marronage – not false or unreal but rather psychic, spiritual, narrative, and historiographic – plays with and collapses notions of past and present to engage with the complex revisionary bridge of the phantom limb of the Middle Passage to relocate or regenerate the continuity of the African homeland.  This continuity in the midst of rupture embraces disorienting paradox, bespeaking the violence of history, through reorientation that refigures the Middle Passage as a two-way crossing across the (Black) Atlantic.

Pulling from theorists like Kamau Brathwaite and NourbeSe, Florius uses this conceptualization of marronage to read West Indian literature broadly and Dennis Scott, Ramabai Espinet, and Marlon James specifically through discourses surrounding ancestry, landscape, and the kinopoetics of the literary body.  While rooted in history and theory, she extrapolates to the postcolonial moment techniques of marronage in the wake of neocolonial intervention – resonating with the work of Paul Gilroy.

Digitally mapping geographic maroon spaces would thus serve as a technology of depicting the historical and spiritual maroon psyche and perhaps convey the colonial overlap with the contemporary neocolonial era.

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