Christina Kullberg

Professor i Franska vid Institutionen för moderna språk; Romanska språk

018-471 14 40
072-999 95 98
Engelska parken, Thunbergsvägen 3 L
Box 636
751 26 UPPSALA
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Professor of French, specializing in Caribbean literature, travel writing, translation studies and world literature. My current project “‘I speak the rage of over-flowing waters’: Caribbean Poetic Responses to Natural Catastrophe” (funded by RJ) analyzes uses of sound in poetic responses to catastrophes from peripheral island spaces. I welcome research students working on 20th century French literature, literary theory, translation, ecocriticism, postcolonial studies, or travel writing.


  • caribbean studies
  • early modern travel writing
  • francophone literatures
  • french literature
  • translation studies
  • world literatures


I began by working on contemporary French Caribbean literature and have published extensively on authors such as Patrick Chamoiseau, Maryse Condé, Édouard Glissant, and Dany Laferrière. My book The Poetics of Ethnography in Martinican Narratives: Exploring the Self and the Environment (University of Virginia Press 2013), takes as its point of departure the fact that ethnography is a prevailing yet varying reference in narratives from Martinique from the 1940s up to the turn of the 21st century. It argues that authors such as René Ménil, Aimé and Suzanne Césaire, Édouard Glissant, Patrick Chamoiseau, Ina Césaire, along with professional ethnographers Richard Price and Michèle-Baj Strobel turn to ethnography to explore and express the self. Being traditionally a study about others and the external reality, ethnography has the advantage of connecting the exploration of the self to the surrounding world. Thereby, the ethnographic referent offers possibilities to capture, within the hybrid Caribbean culture, an emergent self while maintaining a strong attachment to the history and culture embedded in Martinique’s environment. But in order to become a means for self-discovery, ethnography is radically distorted and, ultimately, transformed into a poetics.

My current project “‘I speak the rage of over-flowing waters’: Caribbean Poetic Responses to Natural Catastrophe” is funded by The Swedish Foundation for the Humanities and Social Sciences. It seeks to counterbalance planetary approaches to the specific question of literature’s role in on-going climate crises by looking at Caribbean local poetic ways of expressing, configuring and ultimately responding to natural catastrophes. Caribbean literatures will serve as a point of departure for exploring new modes of reading the immersive effects of climate change and developing a literary theory that foregrounds sonic aspects searching for echoes, vibrations and resonance as alternative ways to relating to and existing in a world of turbulence. This project’s contribution is to highlight the creativity of Islanders as a resource for thinking and learning, arguing that poetic expressions are crucial vectors for knowledge about the experience of climate change. The premise is that caught in the power of natural catastrophes and the destruction they leave in their trails, people turn to literary forms to create knowledge about what it means and how it feels to face such forces. The project hones in on poetic expressions that respond to the devastation. More precisely, it examines how the workings of sound are used to enact, vocalize and invent a language for the feeling of pervasive immersion of natural forces. Tellingly, the citizens of Port-au-Prince quickly designated the earthquake that struck the country in 2010 by using onomatopoeia: they called it goudougoudou, a name mimicking the sound the earth made as it trembled. The objective here is to analyze what such sensibility says about being-in-the-world and the juncture between nature and culture, arguing that sound plays a crucial role for understanding that lived experience. To capture this idea, the title borrows a line from Haitian poet Frankétienne – “I speak the rage of over-flowing waters.” The poet’s voice forges a language merging with hurricanes while articulating the urgent sensation of natural forces.

I have also been involved in the steering committee of the research program “Cosmopolitan and Vernacular Dynamics in World Literatures” The program was funded by The Swedish Foundation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, and aimed at contributing, critically and decisively, to the current international development of world literature studies. It dealt with literature in more than a dozen languages from the regions of Africa, India, China, Europe, the Caribbean, North America and Latin America, and was undertaken by a group of 26 scholars from six Swedish universities and eleven disciplines (six of them language disciplines). In terms of period, foci ranged from the late eighteenth century until the contemporary moment. Research questions clustered around translation and circulation, literary history, migration, multilingualism, and “world-making”. In each instance, however, the theoretical point of entry was the conceptual binary of “cosmopolitanism” and “the vernacular”. The high ambition of this program was thus to explore, on a global scale, what we choose to call “the cosmopolitan-vernacular exchange”, i. e. the multiple ways in which aesthetic values, genres, forms, ethical commitments, literary communities and individual authorships are shaped in a trade-off between the local and the global, between the national and the international, between dominant and dominated languages, between the North and the South, the East and the West, and the South and the South. The main outcome of the program was a four volume series published by Bloomsbury. Together with David Watson I edited and contributed to the volume "Vernaculars in an Age of World Literatures", available here:

My next main research area is travel writing. I have written a monograph on French dominican missionary Jean-Baptiste Du Tertre, published with Brill, "Lire l'Histoire générale des Antilles de J.-B. Du Tetre",

My second book on travel literature, "Points of Entanglement in French Caribbean Travel Writing (1620-1722)", published with Palgrave MacMillan, investigates Francophone Caribbean literature by exploring and analyzing French seventeenth-century travel writings. The book argues for a literary re-examination of the representation of the early colonial Caribbean by proposing theoretical linkages to contemporary Caribbean theories of creolization and archipelagic thinking. Using Édouard Glissant’s notion of points of entanglement, I claim that the historical, social, and political messiness of the Caribbean seventeenth century make for complex representations and expressions, generating textual instability despite the travelers’ apparent desires to domesticate the islands. Taking a synoptic approach to travel narratives in French from 1620 up to the publication of Labat’s Nouveau voyage aux Isles de l’Amérique in 1722, I examine textual instances where the islands and the peoples of this period disrupt and unsettle dominant French narratives and enter productively into the construction of knowledge and the representations of the region. My contribution is to read French early modern travels in situ as shaped by the archipelagic geography, its history and social formations in order to interrogate both the construction and the limitations of discourses of power.

I work as a translator, mainly from French and publish on translation studies. Moreover, I contribute regularly in Swedish cultural debates, participate in public events and write on literature, theory and translation for a broader audience.


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Christina Kullberg