The term migritude was first coined by French theorist Jacques Chevrier to characterize “extracontinental” francophone sub-Saharan literatures that have their roots in negritude and immigration. Kenyan cultural artist Shailja Patel later expanded the term to include South Asian “migrants with attitude.” This article further expands the current framings of migritude by linking it to the historical movement of kala pani, or nineteenth-century Indian indenture. The idea of kala pani migritude reveals an engagement with clandestine migration, identity, language, translation, and geography, both rooted in France and routed along treacherous seaways. Shumona Sinha’s novel Assommons les pauvres also focuses on the experiences of the privileged immigrant narrator whose story is a core part of the novel. Sinha has the privilege to narrate the stories of the migrants for them in her coveted role as a translator. Her stories are mediated by her ambivalence toward the migrants, for whom she feels shame and disgust, and her own tentative attempts to assimilate Frenchness as a normative ideal. This article offers a contrapuntal reading of Sinha’s novel through the lens of kala pani migritude to determine whether migrant subjectivity in a mediated narrative is an ultimately temporary, fleeting, or failed act.
Migritude and Kala Pani Routes in Shumona Sinha’s Assommons les pauvres (Let Us Strike Down the Poor)
Brinda J. Mehta is professor of French and francophone studies and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at Mills College in Oakland, California. She is the author of five books, including Dissident Writings of Arab Women: Voices against Violence (2014), which won the African Literature Association’s 2016 Book of the Year Award, and Diasporic (Dis)Locations: Indo-Caribbean Women Writers Negotiate the Kala Pani (2004), which won the Caribbean Philosophical Association’s 2007 Frantz Fanon Award.
Brinda J. Mehta; Migritude and Kala Pani Routes in Shumona Sinha’s Assommons les pauvres (Let Us Strike Down the Poor). the minnesota review 1 May 2020; 2020 (94): 85–103. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00265667-8128435
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