(Re)writing pathways: Oral tradition, written tradition, and identity construction in Kanaky/Nouvelle-Calédonie = Chemins de la réécriture : tradition orale, tradition écrite et construction identitaire en Kanaky/Nouvelle-Calédonie

Arts Literature New Caledonia
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Set against the background of a Kanaky/Nouvelle-Calédonie moving towards a future of increasing autonomy with the possibility of independence under the 1998 Noumea Agreement, this thesis maps the pathways of the story of Le Chef et le lézard, found in a number of Kanak oral traditions, as it moves across the New Caledonian literary landscape, both real and virtual. The original contribution of this study is to elucidate, through an exercise in literary cartography, the potential influence of Kanak oral traditions upon on-going identity construction processes underway in contemporary Kanaky/Nouvelle-Calédonie in the context of the Noumea Agreement. The thesis structure comprises three parts. The Introduction highlights the socio-political and historical contexts in which this research is situated and sets the terms of reference for the study. Part I “Definitions, Approach and Method” contains two chapters: the first defines key terms, and the second introduces the conceptual tools of pathways, (re)writing and encounters, along with the methods and questions that underpin the thesis. Using these concepts, questions and methods, the 48 written versions of Le Chef et le lézard in the study’s corpus are analysed in Part II “Pathways of Le Chef et le lézard across the Literary Landscape of Kanaky/Nouvelle-Calédonie”. Part II is organised into four chapters that examine networks of (re)writing pathways originating in different oral traditions. These networks are charted on the map of the literary landscape of Kanaky/Nouvelle-Calédonie. The transformations undergone by the story of Le Chef et le lézard are contextualised and analysed through the lens of the encounters that lead to the production of the texts of the corpus. The images of Kanak oral traditions and cultures that these (re)writings project are also discussed – each (re)writing is viewed as constituting a relational space between Kanak oral traditions and New Caledonian written tradition, and between Kanak communities and the other communities living in the islands, all of which together constitute the projected community of the destin commun outlined in the Noumea Agreement. In Part III, the results of the analyses of the (re)writings are discussed. Conclusions are drawn about the nature and scope of the potential influence of (re)written elements of Kanak oral traditions on identity construction processes, both for Kanak and for the groups that together constitute the community of the destin commun. Finally, reflections on the study and future directions for research that arise from it are proposed.

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