Journal article Open Access

Post-Colonial Healing through Environmental Justice: A Psychoanalytic Reading of J.M.G. Le Clézio's Literature

LaLonde, Suzanne

This research links post-colonial and eco-critical theories through a psychoanalytic
reading of Desert (2009) and The Prospector (2008) by the Francophone and Noble-
prize novelist J.M.G. Le Clézio. The rationale behind this interdisciplinary approach
stems from Frantz Fanon’s position that colonialism damaged both minds
and the colonized earth. Relying on the research of psychoanalysts, three critical
arguments are advanced. First, Le Clézio’s character Lalla develops a relationship
of interdependence with nature (rather than one of interconnectedness), which
guarantees freedom and in turn healing from the trauma of colonialism. Second,
this agency to define herself on her own terms—as united with nature—is a keen
example of justice that also applies to the natural environment. This concept of
justice and environmental justice is inspired by Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s notion
of rendering the other his/her “due”. Third, the character Ouma defies Homi
Bhabha’s positions regarding the colonized subject and fulfills instead a special role.
By living close to nature and sharing the trauma of colonialism, she is privileged to
speak out on behalf of it; the post-colonial figure Alexis conversely reverts to automatic
and scattered behavior, as he struggles in vain to heal from the role of the
colonizer. This leads to the conclusion that although humans might have an overinflated
sense of specialness as a species, colonized peoples who have lived a similar
fate as the earth are well-positioned to advance justice for the natural environment
and may very well serve as members of a keystone species that will determine the
well-being of so many other living species on the planet.

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