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The CLR James Journal

Volume 26, Issue 1/2, 2020

Annette Joseph-Gabriel
Pages 133-152

René Ménil’s Myths of Origin and Labor Activism in the French Antilles

Between January and February 2009, the longest general strike in French history took place in Guadeloupe and Martinique. The labor movement had far reaching implications for the relationship between France and its overseas departments. In particular, they brought to the fore France’s colonial history in the Antilles, with attendant questions of race, citizenship and sovereignty that highlighted once again the cracks in the image of Antilleans as full French citizens. René Ménil’s essays provide a unique lens through which to read the philosophical underpinnings of the 2009 labor movements in the Antilles. Ménil’s articulation of “a non-mythological elsewhere” posits a three-fold process of excavating history in order to articulate a myth of origin that in turn allows for the possibility of reclaiming a non-colonized identity.