Reimagining the ruins of the penalscape: Patrick Chamoiseau’s carceral ruinology

Fuggle, S. ORCID: 0000-0001-9688-9593, 2020. Reimagining the ruins of the penalscape: Patrick Chamoiseau’s carceral ruinology. Social Identities: Journal for the Study of Race, Nation and Culture. ISSN 1350-4630

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This article explores Martinican author and educator, Patrick Chamoiseau’s evocation of the carceral ruin across his writing and, in particular, his novels. The notion of a ‘carceral ruinology’ at play in Chamoiseau’s oeuvre is explored in the specific context of a ‘penalscape’ marked not only by today’s prisons, camps and detention centres but equally and increasingly by the remnants of historical forms of imprisonment and internment. The article suggests that Chamoiseau’s most sustained engagement with the ruins of the prison, his essay on France’s former penal colony in French Guiana, Guyane: Traces-mémoires du bagne, published alongside photographs by Rodolphe Hammadi, provides a conceptual tool for thinking about the political stakes of these ruins. Such an approach also circumvents existing critiques of the photo-essay and its recent republication as an appendix to new images by Jean-Luc de Laguarigue. The article will argue that Chamoiseau’s writing of the carceral ruin is both a writing against history and a writing against the prison. It will chart the movement from a reluctance to describe the slave dungeon in Texaco, to the use of the same space as a means of telling a different story in Un Dimanche au cachot before finally considering the shift that occurs in L’empreinte à Crusoé where the island in its totality is reimagined as prison. Where the presence of ruins allows different stories to be told, the prison that disappears without a trace enables the return of the carceral as much as the colonial via the myth of virgin territory.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Social Identities: Journal for the Study of Race, Nation and Culture
Creators: Fuggle, S.
Publisher: Routledge
Date: 8 September 2020
ISSN: 1350-4630
Divisions: Schools > School of Arts and Humanities
Record created by: Jill Tomkinson
Date Added: 24 Aug 2020 09:55
Last Modified: 31 May 2021 15:15

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