Between Racial Rehabilitation and Colorism: Ambivalent Conceptions of Blackness in Guadeloupe and Jamaica – Ary Gordien

12 March 2020 - 12 h 30 min - 14 h 00 min


Through nationalism and Afro-centrism, Guadeloupean and Jamaican anti-colonial and anti-racist organizations have popularized forms of cultural and racial rehabilitation of blackness and Africanness. Today, the dissemination of nationalist and Afro-centrist theories and discourses goes hand in hand with that of bodily practices (so-called traditional music- and dance-related practices and invented spiritualities).

At least since the nineteenth century, these positive self-identifications embody the cultural aspect (from both a symbolic and material standpoint) of the fight for racial equality and decolonization. These fights aim to debunk once and for all racist and colonialist theories according to which black people are biologically and culturally inferior.

The victims of anti-black racism, who have often interiorized these racist stereotypes, are the main target of these rehabilitation policies. However, to this day, in Guadeloupe and in Jamaica, denigrating representations of black cultures and physical types are still being transmitted within the predominant population of African descent, despite the growing success of empowering discourses and practices. This presentation aims to comprehend how and why these seemingly contradictory ideas coexist.

To that end, I will use the data collected in the course of both my doctoral research on nationalism, race and ethnicity in Guadeloupe, and my postdoctoral research on Jamaica conducted through the REPAIRS (Reparations, Compensations and Indemnity Related to Slavery [Europe-Africa-Americas] [19th-21st Centuries]) research project, funded by the French National Agency for Research.

I will compare, on the one hand, the rehabilitation policies and their diffusion, and, on the other hand, the manifestations of colorism. This latter term refers to the distinctions established by black people on the basis of skin shade, and to the tendency to value the lightest pole of the color spectrum.

Location :

Room 830
Campus Paris Diderot,
bât. Olympe de Gouges,
Place Paul Ricoeur
75013 Paris