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The CLR James Journal

Volume 26, Issue 1/2, 2020

Isabel Astrachan
Pages 163-176

Language and Being(s)
Édouard Glissant and Martin Heidegger

In the mid-twentieth century, many philosophers took up as their aim the destruction of Western metaphysics. Martinican philosopher, novelist, poet, and playwright Édouard Glissant and German philosopher Martin Heidegger were two such authors. Driven by a profound dissatisfaction with the logocentrism of Western metaphysics and concerns over what the tradition excluded—for Glissant, the experience of the creolized and post-colonial subject, and for Heidegger, the “Question of Being”—both advocated for more creative engagement with language and advanced particular views about the link between language and Being. Through a comparative examination of the two authors’ poetics, I aim to “unconceal” an implicit dialogue between their views. I conclude by considering the implications of a key exchange in this proposed dialogue: Glissant’s substitution of Relation for Heideggerean Being. I suggest that this exchange and Glissant’s substitution make plain the problematic tendency in Western philosophy to promote an exclusionary view under the guise of universal truth, that it provides Caribbean philosophy with a greater vocabulary through which to further “produce” itself, and that it is better suited to allow for a process of unceasing transformation and creolization, in contrast to a Western philosophical emphasis on fixity.