The aim of this study is to map the role and function of ethnography in French Caribbean prose from 1950 and onwards. Since ethnography has to do with defining and questioning the notion of culture, it is not surprising to see that in the Martiniquan literary context ethnography is directly linked to the articulation of identity. My hypothesis is that the function of ethnography in literature changes when urban space emerges as a literary scene and when the ethnographer/author persona appears on different levels of the text. In my opinion, this change needs to be analyzed in light of Martinique’s radical modernization in the sixties and seventies. The authors included in this study are in one way or another trying to capture a society in transition rather than a stable and well confined culture. I argue that in these texts ethnography functions as a narrative tool, implying the participation of the narrator/observer, to relate a culture in change and not as an instrument to define culture as a fixed object of knowledge. As a result, the use of ethnography in Martiniquan literature takes a new turn and becomes a means for questioning the relationships between fiction and documentary, past and present, subject and community, between narrator, observer and the world.
In conclusion, I will discuss the entire period and question the idea of a linear Martiniquan literary history. My intention is further to talk about the crossing of ethnography and literature on a theoretical level in order, hopefully, to enlarge the horizon of my study.