The Mauritian Novel: Fictions of Belonging - Introduction
University of Reading, GB
Julia Waters is Professor of Contemporary Literature in French at the University of Reading, Great Britain. Her research interests include twentieth-century and contemporary French & Francophone literature; Francophone cultures of the Indian Ocean, especially Mauritius; women’s writing in French, especially Marguerite Duras and Ananda Devi; feminist & postcolonial theory. Her main publications include: The Mauritian Novel: Fictions of Belonging (Liverpool University Press, 2018); Duras and Indochina: Postcolonial Perspectives (SFPS Critical Studies in Postcolonial Literature and Culture, 2006); (ed.), ‘L’ici et l’ailleurs’: Postcolonial Literatures of the Francophone Indian Ocean. E-france: an Online Journal of French Studies, vol 2 (2008); and (with Adalgisa Giorgio, eds), Women's writing in Western Europe: Gender, Generation and Legacy. (Cambridge Scholars, 2007).
The introductory chapter provides an overview of the historical, political and socio-cultural factors that make belonging such a central but fraught issue in contemporary Mauritius and in its literature. It explores recent theories of ‘belonging’ from a range of disciplines, in order to demonstrate the usefulness of the term for an analysis of the diversity of the Mauritian situation. It offers an overview of recent Mauritian literature and of critical approaches, in order to show how my own approach offers a new perspective and fills gaps. It introduces the main corpus and the criteria for selection, as well as outlining the central research questions and the eclectic theoretical framework adopted in the close readings of ensuing chapters. Throughout, I show how the Mauritian context provides fruitful grounds for testing the assertion, by scholars such as Vertovec or Antonsich, that ‘contemporary societies [are] characterised by the co-presence of a plurality of forms of belonging.’