2019-2021 Our current project, entitled Rhizomatic Communities: Myths of Beloning in the Indian Ocean World, is financed by the Ministry of Science, innovation and Universities (PGC2018-095648-B-I00). Leading on from our previous work, we study the life writing of three marginalized communities: the Chagossians in Mauritius, AIDS sufferers in South Africa and survivors and descendants of survivors of the Partition in East Bengal. We seek to dismantle the myth of belonging which intrudes in identity constructions and, simultaneously, enhances the in-betweeness that defines a rhizomatic understanding of historical, socio-cultural and national affiliations in the Indian Ocean. The life stories we explore express the need to belong but they also highlight the fact that there is no unilateral sense of belonging. This project continues our exploration of indoceanic identities through the theoretical paradigm of the aesthetics of remembering, whereby we analysed postcolonial expressions of selfhood through three axis: empathy, identity and mourning. The archival and textual work conducted was monitored by a focus on the “individual”. However, we observed that the communal self pervades in a manner that challenged but, at the same time, guided the formation of a satisfactory, albeit deeply dis-unified identity. This recognition of a deep-seated communal self is a key factor in the functionality of our aesthetics of remembering which brings to the fore the rhizomatic nature of the Indian Ocean cultural geography.
2018-2019 Escriure mite i memòria: la lluita dels xagossians contra la injustícia cultural/ Writing Myth and Memory to Fight Cultural Injustice Against Chagossians In this project, funded by the Autonomous University Solidarity Foundation, we run a creative writing workshop with members of the Chagossian community in Mauritius, first,second and third generation. Chagossians were deported from their islands by the British in the late 1960s to make way for an American military base. They are resentful of their experiences of forced displacement, marginalisation and ethnic discrimination in Mauritius so a creative writing workshop provides a stimulus and a boost to their self-esteem as well as being a way to air grievances in a constructive and creative manner.
2015-2018 Our project The Aesthetics of Remembering: Empathy, Identification, Mourning is funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (FFI2015-63739-P)., finalized at the end of 2018. Our focus on a selection of life narratives will shed light on traumatic periods of recent Indian Ocean history, specifically East Africa, South Africa and the Eastern part of India. The writing of life experiences is a way to overcome trauma and to create awareness amongst local communities. In this project we endeavour to explore the ethical dimensions of narrative and interpersonal empathy by proving that postcolonial life writing is indeed a site for “affective transaction”. Our final objective is to construct a theoretical paradigm which we call “aesthetics of re-membering” whereby “empathy” is, on the one hand, fostered through reading and creative writing and, on the other, re-assessed through the lens of postcoloniality.
2016-17 Traumes In/visibles: Construir la pau mitjançant l’escriptura – In/visible Traumas: Building Peace Through Writing This is a continuation of the previous project on creative writing workshops and is also funded by the Autonomous University Solidarity Foundation. In this new project we aim to run workshops of creative writing specifically for survivors of gender violence in Uganda. This second cycle of workshops will form part of the activities organized by the newly established Peace Centre in Kampala.
2013-2015. Tallers d’escriptura com a teràpia per a víctimes de violència de gènere – Creative Writing Workshops as Therapy for Victims of Gender Violence. This project, financed by the Autonomous University Solidarity Foundation, aims to identify ways to transform African women’s writing and inform academic writing development. Our focus is on developing strategies that are effective in supporting writing in a second language. We provide training for project leaders who in turn provide support for female victims of war and gender violence. Our role in these retreats is to transmit our skills as experienced English language and literature teachers to the participants in the creative writing workshops and monitor and guide their work in using creative writing as a therapy for these women to overcome their personal traumas.
2012-2015 Relations and Networks in Indian Ocean Writing, funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (FFI2012-32626) contributes to the growing body of critical work on the South Asian diaspora in the Western Indian Ocean – a still relatively underresearched area. Indian Ocean literary studies are still in their infancy and so far no study has undertaken a systematic analysis of the English language literature of the diverse communities that make up the Indian Ocean littoral. Moreover, the South African Indian community has invariably been omitted from studies of the South Asian diaspora so our research seeks to establish a dialogic discourse amongst the Indian Ocean peoples and, in particular, amongst the people of Indian origen in East and South Africa and Mauritius. Therefore, while we continue to focus on the South Asian diapora communities in the Indian Ocean world, we take our previous research findings in hybridity one stage further by exploring the sociality and patterns of connectedness that are being forged between diverse communities in South Africa. The Indian community, which, despite having followed a different settlement pattern from Mauritius or Kenya, forms part of the Indian Ocean experience. Our starting point is that literature inflects productions and performances of identities in relation to the long history of trade and encounter that has been conceptualised largely from the perspectives of economic history and geographical studies. Moreover, we consider that a thorough study of south-south subjectivities can throw light on alternative ways of being in the world and thus can contribute to the creation of fairer, more humane societies.
2009-2012 Cartographies of Indianness in Indian Ocean Writing: Memory, Connections, Trauma (FFI2009-07711) reviewed the diverse ways Indian identity is negotiated with the identities of the host communties in the South-West Indian Ocean. We have mapped the specific manifestations of Indianness that has allowed us to unpack the cultural stereotype of little Indias (Chota Bharat) in the diaspora. Our findings have contributed to the building up of literary and cultural theory in Indian Ocean Studies.
2006-2009 Hybridity in Indian Ocean Literature in English and French: Convergences and Divergences. Contrastive Study of an Emerging Literary System. (HUM2006-02725) was the first project that undertook the systematic study of Indian Ocean literatures and cultures. This project analyzed the concept of hibridity as the driving force behind creative writing and the imaginary in Indian Ocean literature in English and French. The emerging cultural productions from the Indian Ocean and East Africa were observed as the result of all the relationships established between receiver, author and text. The traditional connections that are made between language, literature and individual identity fwere challenged for the purpose of elaborating new literary maps that do not automatically identify notions of country, society, nation, linguistic community and literary system.
Analysis of the development of Anglophone African literature and culture (DGES, PB96-1163). This project focussed specifically on English language African writing and continued with the systematic study of the so-called “new” literatures. We published several innovative studies on African writers who were unknown to Spanish readers, in particular the monographic issue of Studia Africana (1998).
The Influence of African Literature in the Formation of Western European Literary Canons (UAB-CIRIT, grups emergents, 1995-97). This project was our first engagement with the study of African literature and how postcolonial concerns were taking centre stage in literature departments in the Anglo-American world. The special issue of Links & Letters (Nº 4, 1997) was devoted to “Literature and Neocolonialism” and featured many of the concerns we addressed in this project.