'We Have to Keep Moving': Transnational Witnessing in Dany Laferrière's The World is Moving Around Me

Dany Laferrière has never claimed to represent Haitian identity, either as a person or in his texts. Constantly moving between Haiti, Montreal, Paris, and other places in the world, Laferrière explores the idea of identity as a shifting transnational category by using strategies such as playing with his role and position as a writer both within and outside his fictional worlds. The earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010, gave his play with the authorial identity an acute seriousness, as he quickly assumed the role as an eye-witness to the disaster in international media. What happens then when someone who is notoriously known for refuting any national and cultural identity suddenly becomes the voice of the inside? Drawing on Blanchot's theories of disaster writing, on Mark D. Anderson's study of disaster and national identity and on Mads Rosendahl Thomssen's notion of "world theme", the aim of this essay is to analyse how Laferrière uses his transnational experience of global movement and of being at once inside Haiti, and thereby reconfigures the notion of disaster writing. I will show how the very act of witnessing transfolds in a transnational setting which has an impact on writing itself, and I will problematise the ways in which Laferrière's writing operates as to avoid turning the disaster into an event by creating a narrative that paradoxically builds a sense of continuity through fragmentation. 

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author Christina Kullberg
publication

In Transnational Identity Constructions in a Changing World, edited by Catharina Edfeldt, Lung-Lung Hu, Herbert Jonsson, André Leblanc, 153-166. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang Publishing Group.

published 2016