Merci, mais non merci: Black Ecology in a Creole Context

February 13, 2020 @ 4:30 pm
French House (633 N. Frances St.)


Bénédicte Boisseron is an Associate Professor of Afroamerican & African Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

In ecological terminology, commensalism refers to a class of relationship in which two organisms mutually benefit without affecting each other: there is no contract, no profit, and no need to feel indebted or grateful in a commensal relationship. One takes what is needed with no promise of return. This is often how people in Martinique and Guadeloupe relate to the liminal animal world. One leaves leftover food for the creole (stray) dog behind the house with no expectation of pet companionship in return.

In this talk, Boisseron looks at Creole culture through the prism of commensalism, arguing that this ecology applies not only to the animal world but also to humans in a post-colonial context. She argues that, ultimately, commensalism might be the best antidote to the afterlife of slavery.