The Twin Transcripts

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In this graphic story, Roanne Moodley tells us a short fiction dramatizing an exchange of politically-charged monuments between Reunion Island and France, thus allowing a reflection on post-colonial relationships, emancipative events, and the memorialization of colonialism.

Article published in The Funambulist 24 (July-August 2019) Futurisms. Click here to access the rest of the issue.

Our ideas about twins and twinship […] are therefore in a state of perpetual dialogue with a set of substitutes — ‘proximity,’ ‘similitude,’ ‘likeness,’ ‘closeness,’ ‘exclusivity’ […] a kind of currency in an economy of ideas about what we are or could be. Twins are useful, then, for their supposed intimacy — emotional, corporeal, real, or imagined.” (David Baldacci)

Reunion Island was a French colony which became one of France’s “overseas departments” in 1946, just off the coast of the African continent. Its street names (and even the fonts and colors of the street signs), public amenities, and governing systems are often duplicates of those that exist in France. However, the island’s Creole culture, demographics, tropical climate, and ecology are distinct.

Saint-Denis is a twin city to the French town of Montreuil, a banlieue (suburb) on the outskirts of Paris in mainland France, which houses various African diasporic communities. The concept of a “twin city” was first developed after World War II as a way of reconciling cities or countries that had formerly been at war with one another. Applying this history of twin cities to Montreuil and Saint-Denis in a postcolonial context allows for various new readings and political possibilities. This project imagines one of these readings.

Twin cities often share similar characteristics: parks, street names, important buildings and so on, but the cultural idea of the twin goes much deeper than site or location. Various cultural and medical anomalies exist in the concept of the twin, which have fascinated artists, scientists, and societies. For centuries references to the existence of “another self,” have featured in works of fiction as a way to confront the reality of the self. The psychological and social history behind the concept of twins, doppelgangers, the narcissist, and Freud’s notion of the uncanny have all influenced this project, as has Swiss French architect Bernard Tschumi’s seminal work The Manhattan Transcripts (1981), with its assertion that a city is influenced as much by its events as it is by its architecture.