Remaining Where You Are: Kincaid and Glissant on Space and Knowledge

In: Mobilizing Place, Placing Mobility
Author: Isabel Hoving

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The concepts of travel and space are now being deconstructed and we have reached the point where traveling and dwelling are recognized as aspects of the same spatial practice. A happy result is that the migrant can no longer be stereotyped as either exceptional or as the trope through which our mobile age must be explained. Consequently new possibilities offer themselves for the study of both migrant writing and other writings within the postcolonial. A starting point for such studies would be a concept of space that implies mobility. For mobility can be understood as a dimension, and even as a cause of space. As De Certeau and Clifford suggest, space is an effect and a practice rather than a given structure, and certain concepts of space are the results of the practice of traveling, as the example of early world maps shows. Space can even be seen as a knowledge practice – it functions as a means to endow the world with meaning. The search for such a concept of space leads me to the unconventional narratives on landscape and space by Edouard Glissant and Jamaica Kincaid. When read together, these narratives not only offer productive spatial images, but they also suggest an approach to the epistemological question of how to know this postcolonial age that is organized around a new understanding of space. These narratives show that the desire for new concepts (such as the desire that inspired the writing of this article) might lead away from knowledge. The last section of this article will therefore consider the relation between desire, knowledge, and the concept of home. Rather than pushing radical concepts to their extremes theorists might want to produce insights by lingering in the midst of concepts. Knowledge doesn’t only spring from travel, but equally from remaining where you are – and from there, deepening, and broadening the analysis.