Original Research

Loin du monde, l’île est le monde : Les écotones insulaires de l’océan Indien entre créolisation et frontières liquides

Markus Arnold
Literator | Vol 43, No 1 | a1901 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v43i1.1901 | © 2022 Markus Arnold | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 April 2022 | Published: 26 October 2022

About the author(s)

Markus Arnold, Faculty of Humanities, School of Languages and Literatures, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, South Africa


Far from the world, the island is the world: The island ecotones of the Indian Ocean between creolisation and liquid borders. Due to their specific geography and plural histories, the island societies of the south-western Indian Ocean are characterised by a considerable anthropological and cultural complexity. Colonial regimes and migratory and diasporic phenomena have strongly marked these territories on the oceanic borders as well as their social construction and particular ethno-racial composition. Island-as-utopia, island-as-prison, island-as-refuge, island-as-stopover, island-as-relation, island-as-world … there is no shortage of notions to imagine and describe these heterogeneous places where the realities, potentialities, and limits of (post)colonial cultural plurality are negotiated. For behind the tropical dreams and the exaltations of harmonious cohabitation (vivre-ensemble) appear the precariousness of the island condition, the ambiguity of identity, and the difficulty of anchoring oneself in and expressing oneself from a place which continues to be significantly shaped by its relations with the outside (the old and new ‘metropolises’ and places of reference, other islands). To what extent can the specificities of the Indian Ocean islands – this other ‘archipelago’ less visible than its Caribbean counterpart – inform and nourish continental territories, France, the world? Are they models of ethical solidarity? Antidotes to identity-based blockages? Laboratories of democratic thought? Creative prefigurations of the future? It may well be. However, according to certain thinkers, writers and artists from these spaces, the islands and archipelagos – far from being the idealisations of a vitalist and blissful community (en-commun) – prove to be above all plural and conflicting contact zones. They emerge as complex ecotones that allow us to imagine and think about the challenges of our contemporary societies and cultures from the ‘margins’, the interstices, the unstable borders.


Indian ocean; island; literature; Mauritius; ecotone; creolisation; postcolonial


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Crossref Citations

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