Erica Johnson is Professor and Chair of the English Department at Pace University in New York City. She is a scholar of Caribbean literature and the author of books including Home, Maison, Casa and Caribbean Ghostwriting, and most recently Cultural Memory, Memorials, and Reparative Writing (2018). She has also co-edited several books on such topics as the writing of Jean Rhys, colonial memory, and shame. Her research focuses on cultural memory and literary and artistic engagements with the colonial archive.
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Archival Ruins in Caribbean Art and Literature
Caribbean writers and artists have consistently addressed the blind spots in the region’s colonial archival records. Erica Johnson frames her readings of archives, art, and literature with the concept of ruins because this incomplete archive lies in ruins in that a structure is deemed a ruin when it starts to go missing—a process that begins at the moment of inscription in the colonial archive. By writing poetry and prose and crafting artworks that form “neo-archives” or “counter-archives,” Caribbean writers and artists have created a distinctive body of work that sustains cultural memory in the face of archival ruin. One example of this is Patrick Chamoiseau and Rodolphe Hammadi’s Guyane: Traces-mémoires du bagne, which features architectural ruins in Hammadi’s photographs and an accompanying aesthetic of ruin in Chamoiseau’s writing.