This essay analyzes how Edwidge Danticat's Krik? Krak! rewrites and overturns a number of the generic and other conventions that have typically been enlisted to theorize the novel's bearing on democracy. Political philosophy and law have advanced a number of enabling fictions both to legitimize “the People” of democracy and to manage the inherent instability in that category, and dominant theoretical models for explaining literature's democratic potential have also relied on and naturalized those mechanisms. Yet Krik? Krak! indexes the many exclusions smuggled in through such constructs. For instance, while a bildungsroman, Krik? Krak! plots the development of a multigenerational, collective, primarily women's Bildung that explodes individualist conceptions of the autonomous subject. Likewise, while an immigration narrative, it catalogs the wounds of, rather than celebrates, that process; while a marriage plot, it mourns the sacrifices accompanying such a course rather than reinforcing marriage as a route to liberal notions of civic “happiness.” In addition, by revisiting the Middle Passage, it exposes the liaisons between a particular vision of democracy and the birth of finance capital. In the process, Danticat further destabilizes the secularism thesis and premium on democratic reason by aesthetically incarnating the affective, embodied, ritual practices that forge a community.

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