Headshot of Graduate Aaron Witcher.

Graduate Fall 2021: Aaron Witcher

Tourner autour du Mahagony: Marooning poetics of Martinican literature

Department of French and Francophone Studies

Though its primary sense refers to the flight of slaves from plantation spaces to forested and/or mountainous regions, marronage has grown in significance and meaning since the era of slavery and colonialism. Indeed, in addition to its literal sense, I contend that marronage encompasses a large gamut of resistance (political, cultural, memorial, or otherwise) whose dynamism renews its relevance even into the eras beyond slavery and indentured servitude. Drawing on the theoretical and poetical works of poet-philosopher Édouard Glissant, my dissertation, entitled “Tourner autour du Mahagony: Marooning poetics of Martinican literature,” explores how the dynamics of marronnage—notably flight, cultural transplantation, daily acts of resistance, and re-membering—are taken up in the poetics of a number of Martinican authors. By adapting these maroon dynamics to their poetics, the authors not only highlight and validate afro-creole experience and memory, but also propose decolonial articulations of Martinican (indeed, Antillean) identity and history. The latter articulations, like the acts of marronage that inform and inspire them, derive a portion of their character from their relations to what Glissant calls entour, namely their natural and cultural “surroundings.” The work performed by these poetics, then, also points to relational and ecological modes of being and re-membering.