The International Centre for Research on Slaveries (CIRESC) within the European Project EURESCL (FP7) is organizing an international conference as a tribute to René Maran for the 50th anniversary of his death.
2010 will see not only the 50th anniversary of the Independence of French colonies in sub-Saharan Africa, but also that of the death of a writer who was among the first to take up his pen in defence of those colonies.
René Maran (1887-1960) may in many respects be considered a founding father of anticolonialism. The son of a Guyanese colonial administrator with his origins in slavery, his militant political commitment dates from his years spent in Oubangui-Chari as a representative of the colonial administration. He drew his inspiration for his novel Batouala, awarded the Goncourt prize in 1921, from that experience, unashamedly denouncing in its preface the abuses of the system in French Equatorial Africa. Considered after his death by Senghor as a precursor of Negritude, he remains without doubt an unavoidable point of reference in the colonial history of ‘Black’ literature.
This conference, organized in his honour, will nonetheless provide the opportunity to question these assumptions which have often served to camouflage the writer as well as his work. What, precisely, are Maran’s real as well as imagined contributions to the intellectual, cultural and political histories of the American, African and European worlds? What has he to teach us about his time? What have the echoes of his political and literary ideas been in Europe, Africa and the Americas, and in what phases? What was his contribution to the various ‘Black issues’ of the Atlantic world during the colonial period of the 20th century? What survives from his work and thinking? Along what lines? How does he help us rethink the relationship between writers and political commitment? Can he still be useful to us in understanding our own historical moment?
Such are some of the questions which will guide our reflexions.
Proposals for papers are invited along the following lines, which are by no means intended to be exclusive:
• Situating René Maran in his time: Rather than focusing exclusively on ‘Black literature’ or on Maran’s place in relation to it, we hope to try and situate him in the literary world, especially that of his time: his culture (Marcus Aurelius, H. de Régnier…), his literary relationships (Suarès, Bocquet…), his ‘jobs’ (as writer, journalist, literary critic, biographer, speaker…), his literary opinions (genres, themes, style…), his evolution, etc. An attempt will be made to distinguish his reputation, good or bad, from the position he really held at the time.
• René Maran and the ‘Black question’: Let us enquire into his contribution to the definition of the ‘Black question’ in Europe, Africa and the Americas; into the discussions he had with other intellectuals in these areas on issues relevant to Blacks (their status, their identity, etc.), and which formed the basis for understanding the situations and conditions of Blacks both in their specific circumstances and in what they had in common. The reception (political, cultural, social…) of his literary and journalistic contributions, both in the original and in translation (especially of Batouala), will be studied under this heading.
• René Maran, a committed writer: We shall study Maran’s commitment as a writer. This rubric will offer an opportunity to consider the links between the aesthetics of literature and political thought. To what extent and in what ways does Maran invite us to reflect on the committed writer? Does his example throw light on the development of other writers? Comparative studies will here be highlighted, putting in focus his evolution and that of other writers, but also some of his lesser-known texts, such as Le Petit Roi de Chimérie (1924), which criticizes the first World War.
• René Maran’s heritage: We should interrogate Maran’s status as a precursor of ‘Black literature’ in the American, African and European worlds, asking inter alia to what extent he has been a literary or political point of reference. The question of his real or imagined contributions invites us to reflect on the misunderstandings prompted by his work and to put them into perspective in the light of the political, social, cultural and literary positions of his readers. Particular attention will be given to the transmission of his work. Does a specific recollection exist in Europe, the Americas or Africa, in respect of René Maran or his writings? Beyond the question of his place in intellectual, literary or political histories, we should also investigate the different ways in which he is taught and the impact of that teaching.
Myriam Cottias, Director of research, CNRS-CRPLC-CIRESC-EURESCL (7E PCRD), Paris
Vincent Duclert, Professeur agrégé, EHESS-CRH-AHMOC, Paris
Elsa Geneste, Doctoral student, EHESS-CRH-CIRESC-EURESCL (7E PCRD), Paris
Roger Little, Fellow emeritus, Trinity College, Dublin
Lourdes Rubiales, Professor, Université de Cadiz.
Proposals for papers should include a 300-word summary, as well as a brief biography of the author and his or her coordinates (email address, telephone, fax). They should be sent, preferably as a Word.doc email attachment, to email@example.com or otherwise by post to: « Colloque Maran », CIRESC Bureau 21, 105 Bd. Raspail 75 006 Paris, France. The deadline for proposals is 1st May 2010.
Conference coordinator: Elsa Geneste
« Colloque Maran »
105 Bd. Raspail
75 006 Paris
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