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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: July 2020

5 - Fictions of Migration and Refuge from the Anthropocene


s’en aller en éternelle drive

à trop sentir la terre

se dérober sous ses pieds

dériver encore et toujours

en navette entre ici et là-bas

pour éviter l’effondrement

Louis-Philippe Dalembert, “l’étranger en marche sur la terre … “

Yanick Lahens and Edwidge Danticat are literary witnesses to political and natural catastrophes and their unsettling effects on the experience of time and space. Part Two has drawn attention to the ways that each attests to overlapping temporalities of past, present, and future inherent to aftermaths. Their fictions shed light on communities that remain haunted by the shadows of political violence and that continue to struggle with deteriorating environments and economic deprivation. Lahens and Danticat write and rewrite stories of migration and refuge that are animated by an acute awareness of the dispossession of Haitian experience and a deep sense of environmental justice. Yet if their essays are bolstered by the desire to re-center the place of Haiti within the Americas and to critique reductive, politicized ideas of disaster, they also betray apprehension in the face of an obscured future.

Having considered the synergies of testimonial and creative writing, this final chapter returns to the imbrication of geological and human fault lines. In the introduction to this book, I suggested that questions raised in Failles offer a way to rethink the emergence of the Anthropocene and to check its increasing influence in academic and popular circles – indeed, one might say, its tendency to colonize these discursive spaces. Crucially, Lahens suggests that the well-being of humanity lies not simply in a future-oriented awareness of “our geological age,” but rather in the recognition of the unfinished “Age of Revolution” and the failure of Western European modernity to “humanize the black Man.” As opposed to the universal human of the Anthropocene, perceived to be outside the politics of difference, Lahens underscores the continuous history of subjugation and political and environmental injustice.

This chapter extends the opening analyses of Failles by arguing that the open-ended conclusions of Dalembert's Ballade d’un amour inachevé, Victor's Maudite éducation and L’Escalier de mes désillusions, and Pierre-Dahomey's Rapatriés go against the grain of two widespread narratives that shape the interpretation of disaster. The first is the humanitarian storyline, which I briefly summarize below before turning to the second – the narrative of declension proper to most, if not all, theories of the Anthropocene.