Dangerous Creole Liaisons explores a French Caribbean context to broaden discussions of sexuality, nation building, and colonialism in the Americas. Couti examines how white Creoles perceived their contributions to French nationalism through the course of the nineteenth century as they portrayed sexualized female bodies and sexual and racial difference to advance their political ideologies. Questioning their exhilarating exoticism and titillating eroticism underscores the ambiguous celebration of the Creole woman as both seductress and an object of lust. She embodies the Caribbean as a space of desire and a political site of contest that reflects colonial, slave and post-slave societies. The under-researched white Creole writers and non-Caribbean authors (such as Lafcadio Hearn) who traveled to and wrote about these islands offer an intriguing gendering and sexualization of colonial and nationalist discourses. Their use of the floating motif of the female body as the nation exposes a cultural cross-pollination, an intense dialogue of political identity between continental France and her Caribbean colonies. Couti suggests that this cross-pollination still persists. Eventually, representations of Creole women’s bodies (white and black) bring two competing conceptions of nationalism into play: a local, bounded, French nationalism against a transatlantic and more fluid nationalism that included the Antilles in a “greater France.”
Jacqueline Couti's important book Dangerous Creole Liaisons demonstrates that while a politically turbulent nineteenth-century France was defining itself, in turns, as an empire, a monarchy, and a republic, a corpus of writers in Martinique, mainly white and heretofore little-known, was producing texts that both dialogued with and opposed the prevailing French discourses of nationhood. In doing so, her study counters the received notion that Aimé Césaire (followed by Frantz Fanon, Edouard Glissant, Patrick Chamoiseau, and Raphaël Confiant) was the inaugurator of a distinctively Martinican literature, and that his Martinican predecessors were mere imitators, in form and content, of French prose and verse. Couti writes that belying the "fallacy of a monolithic French colonial discourse," the writers in question not only divorced themselves from mere imitation, they also introduced distinctive notions of gendered race relations and transatlantic nationalisms that "still haunt the French Caribbean imaginary" and influence Martinican identity construction today.
Paula Sato, Kent State University
This is an ambitious, original, well informed and richly documented study of a neglected corpus. One of the real strengths of the book is the weaving together of writings by novelists, journalists, historians and travellers, Creoles and non-Creoles alike, to produce an analysis that sheds new light on an important period of Martinican history.
Dangerous Creole Liaisons is divided between exploring these issues of gender reification and initiating the reader to a neglected ‘sub-literature’, and occasionally Couti’s emphasis falls on one aspect at the expense of the other. When the two themes are juxtaposed, however, the study provides a fascinating argument on the construction of French Caribbean identity and colonial stereotypes. As Couti herself states in her conclusion, her work opens the way for new debates in the field of French Caribbean literature and Francophone postcolonial studies.
Vanessa Lee, Bulletin of Francophone Postcolonial Studies
'Dangerous Creole Liaisons is an indispensable reference for scholars and students keen on working beyond mainstream Francophone Caribbean literature, and revisiting the underpinnings of Caribbean critical theory and literary aesthetics.'
Anny Dominique Curtius, New West Indian Guide
Overall, Couti’s Dangerous Creole Liaisons is a meticulous study, with its strong suit being its careful textual analysis of the works it employs. If not a study that will turn French Caribbean studies on its head, it is certainly a necessary contribution toward advancing the field. It points to a need for alternative histories in future scholarship: the book’s greatest value lies possibly in its willingness to consider white creole literature—often viewed as unoriginal and being in bad taste to study—as a corpus with its own value and ramifications.
Jason Hong, Small Axe
'Couti’s Dangerous Creole Liaisons is a meticulous study, with its strong suit being its careful textual analysis of the works it employs. If not a study that will turn French Caribbean studies on its head, it is certainly a necessary contribution toward advancing the field.'Jason Hong, sx salon