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Early Modern sites of Opacity across Francophone Oceans

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Organizer: Christina Kullberg

Co-Organizer: Chelsea Stieber

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This seminar seeks to rethink representations and expressive forms of otherness in early modern oceanic Francophone spaces through the prism of Édouard Glissant’s concept “opacity.” If opacity is central to Glissant’s poetics of Relation as an ethics offering a new de-centralized and non-hierarchic approach to global interconnectedness, the question is how it can be made operative as a new method of listening to early modern texts. Here, the focus shifts from the ethics and aesthetic of poetic style, toward a hermeneutics of opacity that privileges le Divers. Operating as a challenge to reductive modes of interpretation (transparency, scientific universalism) that have shaped colonial modernity, the seminar will explore the concept of opacity as a vehicle to approach representations of the enslaved, the indigenous, and the Muslim subject, among others from other angles, thus continuing in the wake of recent work to reread epistemic “obscurities” (Hartman 2008; Gikandi 2015; Smith 2016; Moten 2018). We invite papers focusing on speech, translingualism and sound as potential (textual) sites of opacity in the Francophone oceanic worlds. We encourage new interpretative approaches to well-known early modern texts as well as archival sources, and under-studied textual and material representations of expressive otherness. The idea is to draw on the multidirectionality inherent in Glissant’s writing and extend his uses of opacity to practices of reading, listening, and interpreting within a framework that allows for creating junctures where the decolonial and postcolonial intersect with the early modern.  

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