Rethinking Cesaire

Rethinking Cesaire

Friday, May 30 / 9:30 AM-5:00 PM
University Center Lobero Room
This is a one-day symposium in honor of the centenary of the birth of Aimé Césaire, the great Martinican poet-statesman (1913-2008). Césaire, in both his literary and political careers, strove to be “the spokesman for those who cannot speak,” devoting his life to the cultural and social advancement of his fellow Martinicans and all formerly colonized peoples around the world. This symposium will make a significant contribution to the ongoing reassessment of Aimé Césaire’s multi-faceted legacy that has begun in the six years since his death. Aimé Césaire is a beloved figure in his native Martinique, but his legacy has not been without controversy. Notably, his theory of Négritude has been criticized as exclusionary (an “anti-racist racism,” as philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre put it), and his role as the principal architect of the 1946 law on the “Departmentalization” of France’s former colonies has made him a target for independentists who believe that the choice to remain under the tutelage of France exacerbated the neocolonial domination of the region. This conference, then, seeks to celebrate that legacy by paying it that most meaningful of tributes: a critical re-evaluation of his many accomplishments in light of their shifting meanings over time.

Sponsored by UCSB College of Letters and Sciences • Graduate Center for Literary Research • French & Italian • Interdisciplinary Humanities Center • Program in Comparative Literature • Center for Black Studies Research • Film & Media Studies • Global Studies


9:30                 Coffee & Welcome

10-10:45          Christopher Miller (Yale) — ‘Eternity Changes Him’: Posthumous Reinventions of Césaire

10:45-11:30     Nick Nesbitt (Princeton) — Césaire 1960: Decolonization and the Problem of the State

11:30-12:15     Jennifer Wilks (U. of Texas) — Resurgent Dissident: The Re-emergence of Suzanne Césaire as Negritude Theorist

2-2:45              Richard Watts (U. of Washington) — Césaire and ‘Nature’ after Surrealism

2:45-3:30         Souleymane Bachir Diagne (Columbia) — Rethinking Negritude

3:30-3:45         Coffee break

3:45-5              Closing Roundtable — Césaire Today (with the participation of UC Caribbeanists Carrie Noland, Roberto Strongman, and Eric Prieto)