Monthly Archives: October 2014

Race In The Americas (RITA) Future Spaces Conference

I’m just back from the fascinating RITA Future Caribbean Spaces conference, held here at the University of Birmingham. My paper considered the ways politics and culture intersect in the film Nèg maron and the Manifeste pour les ‘produits’ de haute nécessité, reading them in the context of the 2009 General Strikes in Guadeloupe and Martinique. For a full run-down of topics discussed throughout the day, see the RITA twitter feed. Huge thanks to the organisers James Heath,  Adunni Adams and Pat Noxolo for a fantastically stimulating day.

Conference at Oxford University

I’m just back from the University of Oxford ‘Language and Identity in Francophone Worlds’ conference. I was invited to give a paper by organizers Elizabeth Marcus and Edward Still, and was very pleased to have the opportunity to discuss my work on language and identity, politics and ecocriticism in the context of the 2009 General Strikes in Guadeloupe and Martinique. You can see the programme here:

The language used by Francophone Caribbean authors to define identity and to challenge the status quo has always been one of the most fascinating creative aspects of French Caribbean literature. For example, Aimé Césaire’s poetry uses many neologisms, and as the Zobel project advances, I’ll be thinking (and blogging) more about Zobel’s own innovative use of language to define identity as an author writing between the Caribbean, France and Senegal, and to challenge power hierarchies.

Black History Month – October 2014

In the UK, it’s currently Black History Month. The University of Birmingham is running a series of events to celebrate Black History Month, including film screenings and even a Caribbean menu in the student canteen. For more, see:

We’re delighted that is also featured in the Black History Month programme, as part of the University of Birmingham’s ongoing commitment to scholarship into black culture,

It’s also an opportune moment to reblog this post on Fieldwork in Martinique, written exactly one year ago, to celebrate Black History Month 2013 at the University of Birmingham:

Toulouse conference with Patrick Chamoiseau

(Version française ci-dessous/ French version below)


I’ve just got back from beautiful Toulouse where I gave a paper at the conference ‘Patrick Chamoiseau et la mer des récits’ (Patrick Chamoiseau and the sea of stories), held at the University of Toulouse – Jean Jaurès (campus photos below).

maison de la recherchelibrary

For the full programme, click here: Chamoiseau Conf Toulouse Sept14.

My paper was about Ecocriticism in the work of Zobel and Chamoiseau, and you can find out more by looking at my blog page on ECOCRITICISM/ECOCRITIQUE.

In addition to the academic paper, and more nerve-wrackingly, I also participated in a Round Table public discussion at an annual festival called ‘Toulouse La Novela’. This wonderful festival of ideas, science and culture takes place in the heart of the city each year. Our round table took place in a beautiful park in a Big Top tent (see photos below)!

At the round table, I explained the main ideas of my conference paper on biodiversity and the environment to the Toulouse public, and talked about Birmingham Institute for Forest Research and the need for researchers in the sciences and humanities to take a more joined up approach to tackle environmental challenges. A couple of joggers, wondering what was going on in the tent, even popped in! Patrick Chamoiseau then responded to the themes of my paper. He spoke with such passion about the Martinican environment that I’m feeling inspired to push on with my research into ecocriticism in Zobel’s work.

round table


Je viens de rentrer de Toulouse, où j’ai donné une conférence lors du congrès ‘Patrick Chamoiseau et la mer des récits’. Pour le programme, cliquez ici: Chamoiseau Conf Toulouse Sept14

Dans ma contribution, il s’agissait d’une exploration de l’écocritique chez Zobel et Chamoiseau. Pour en savoir plus, jetez un coup d’œil à la page ECOCRITICISM/ECOCRITIQUE.


De plus, j’ai participé (non sans trépidation) à une Table ronde dans le cadre du festival Toulouse La Novela. Ce festival d’idées, science et culture a lieu chaque année au cœur de la ville. Notre table ronde a eu lieu dans un très beau parc sous un chapiteau !

Le grand rondLe Chapiteau

Lors de la table ronde, j’ai résumé les idées principales de ma communication sur la biodiversité et l’environnement au public toulousain, et j’ai parlé du Birmingham Institute for Forest Research, en soulignant qu’il faut que les chercheurs dans les domaines des sciences et des humanités se réunissent afin de répondre aux défis environnementaux. A mon très grand plaisir, quelques joggeurs, curieux de voir ce qui se passait sous le chapiteau, ont pris la décision de rentrer pour écouter notre discours ! Ensuite, Patrick Chamoiseau a répondu aux thèmes de ma communication. Il a parlé de l’environnement martiniquais avec tant de passion que j’ai hâte de reprendre mes recherches sur l’écocritique chez Zobel…

New page on Ecocriticism/Ecocritique

Just added a new page on Ecocriticism and the project’s links with Birmingham Institute of Forest Research… Take a look (click on ECOCRITICISM/ECOCRITIQUE above).

Je viens d’ajouter une nouvelle page sur l’écocritique, ainsi que sur les liens de ce projet de recherche avec le Birmingham Institute of Forest Research… Cliquez ci-dessus sur le bouton ECOCRITICISM/ECOCRITIQUE

BiFoR and UoB logos and treeLogos BiFoR and UoB

Exploring Joseph Zobel/Autour de Joseph Zobel

The French Caribbean author Joseph Zobel (1915-2006) is best-known for his childhood memoir La Rue Cases-Nègres which was published in 1950 in the original French, and translated into English as Black Shack Alley by Keith Q. Warner in 1979. Zobel’s clear and accessible prose has brought the French Caribbean to life for many generations of readers across the world:

RCN book coverBlack Shack Alley trans

The book was adapted into the prize-winning film Rue Cases-Nègres by Euzhan Palcy in 1983 (English title: Sugar Cane Alley), and it remains the only film adaptation of a Martinican text to date. The film is available in numerous languages and has played a vital role in raising global awareness of the French Caribbean by bringing iconic characters, sights and sounds to cinema and TV screens.

Rue_cases_negres film

Yet despite his status as a canonical French Caribbean author, little is known about Zobel’s wider publications and international career. He published novels, short story collections and poetry, and lived in the Caribbean, Africa and France, where he interacted with the leading thinkers of the Negritude movement. He became a radio broadcaster in Africa, released a record of poetry, and in his later life, became fascinated by Japanese art.

This blog aims to raise awareness of Zobel’s work by bringing him to new audiences in the UK and internationally. It is part of a wider academic research project into the life and work of Joseph Zobel, funded between 2014-2016 by the Arts and Humanities Research Council in the United Kingdom. The project is just one of the cultural initiatives launched under the “Translating Cultures” Research Theme, which has its own blog by Professor Charles Forsdick: 

Please enjoy using this blog to learn about Zobel and the French Caribbean, and feel free to leave feedback via the page “Questions and Comments” – this will help shape the blog’s development!