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1 F ROM SLAVE SHIP TO CITIZENSHIP : RE IMAGINED COMMUNITIES AND THE COUNTERCULTURE OF MODERNITY IN THE HISTORICAL NOVEL OF SLAVERY By AGNEL BARRON A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2013
2 2013 Agnel Barron
3 To my mother
4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to thank Leah Rosenberg, my c ommittee chair, for her unwavering support and guidance through out this entire process and for her excellent feedback and commentary. I would also like to thank the other members of my committee, Malini Johar Schueller, Debra Walker King, and Paul Ortiz f or their comments and s upport. I thank my brother, Aud win, and my cousin, Terry, for looking after practical matters while I was away on my long sojourn in the United States. Finally, I wish to thank my friends Zoanne Evans, Rachel Browne, Janet Layne, E lizabeth West and Patricia Coloma Penate who offered their support from afar.
5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 4 LIST OF FIGURES ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 7 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 8 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 10 2 A MERCY AND SOMEONE KNOWS MY NAME ................................ ............ 29 A Mercy ................................ ... 31 Someone Knows My Name ................................ ................................ ................................ 48 3 TIME, SPACE, SLAVERY: COMMUNITY FORMATION AND THE THE KNOWN WORLD SONG YET SUNG ........................... 67 Conformity and Resistance: Community Formation in the Plantation South ........... 73 Maps, Alternative Worlds, and a Counter Discourse of Nationhood. ...................... 85 Song Yet Sung : Mobility Modernity, and African American Citizenship ................. 92 4 THE PLANTATION MATRIX: MAROONAGE, AND THE IMPERIAL CRITIQUE THE FULL AND CHANGE OF THE MOON AND ................................ ........................... 111 Maroon Theory, Migrancy, and Citizenship in the Diaspora ................................ .. 111 Free Enterprise, Exile, and the Resistance to Racial Capitalism .......................... 121 Maroon Communities and the Counter culture of Modernity ................................ 138 5 GENDERING THE COUNTER CULTURE OF MODERNITY:THE FEMALE SLAVE EXPERIENCE IN THE SALT ROADS AND THE BOOK OF NIGHT WOMEN ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 156 Slavery, Modernity, and Gender ................................ ................................ ........... 156 The Transoceanic Imaginary and Fe The Salt Roads ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 162 The Cult of True Womanness: Rebellion and the Sexual Politics of Slavery in The Book of Night Women ................................ ................................ ................. 178 6 CONCLUSION ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 203
6 WORKS CITED ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 207 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ .......................... 214
7 LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 5 1 Repose 1870. ................ 198 5 2 ................................ ....... 199 5 3 A section of showing background. 1855 ................................ ................................ ............................ 200 5 4 ................................ ........... 201 5 5 Eduoard Manet ................................ ........... 202
8 Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School o f the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy FROM SLAVE SHIP TO CITIZENSHIP: RE IMAGINED COMMUNITIES AND THE COUNTERCULTURE OF MODERNITY IN THE HISTORICAL NOVEL OF SLAVERY By Agnel Barron August 2013 Chair: Leah Rosenberg Major: English This study makes the claim that novels of slavery written in the 1990s and 2000s have significantly refashioned the foundational generation of neoslave narratives published in the 1960s an d 1970s by emphasizing community formation among the enslaved. Initially produced by African Americans who examined the Southern slave experience, these novels are now being produced by writers located in Canada, the Caribbean, London, and other regions of the African diaspora. U nlike traditional slave and neoslave narratives that place emphasis on the individual struggle for freedom, these newer additions to the genr e contextualize the slave experience in relation to processes of nationhood, exile, migr ation, and diaspora A Mercy Edward P. Jones The Known World Song Yet Sung and Someone Knows My Name situate their localized por trayals of community formation within a broader discourse of A merican nationhood to demonstrate the problematic nature of early African American entry into processes of the nation that was characterized both by resistance to and accommodation of the hegemonic discourses of t he larger society.
9 The Caribbean novels e xplore the way slavery shaped the phenonema of exile, migration, and diaspora. Michelle Free Enterprise and At the Full and Change of the Moon demonstrate the continuity between the contemporary migration experience s of Caribbean pe oples and the historical experience of maroonage to position slavery squarely within the contexts of Empire and neo imperialism Nalo Hopkinson The Salt Roads and Marlon James The Book of Night Women explore individual and collective acts of rebellion among female slaves to demonstrate that women played an integral role in the counterculture of modernity articulated by slaves on the plantations of the New World These texts connect the slave resistance that occurred on the plantations of the colonial C aribbean to metropolitan discourses of European modernity, demonstrate the way black female sexuality was denigrated in colonial constructions of femininity and re constructed by black women to articulate a subjectivity of resistance to both slavery and ma le domination; and articulate a distinctly Caribbean aesthetic of modernity. In so doing, these novels gender the counterculture of modernity.
10 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION From Slave Ship to Citizenship: Re Imagined Communities and the Counterculture of Mode rnity in the Historical Novel of Slavery Their progress from the status of slaves to the status of citizens led them [diasporic blacks] to enquire into what the best possible forms of social and political existence might be. The memory of slavery, activ ely preserved as a living intellectual resource in their expressive political culture, helped them to generate a new set of answers to this enquiry (39). Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic In this study, I argue that novels of slavery produced in the 199 0s and 2000s revise the neoslave genre by emphasizing processes of community fo rmation among the enslaved. Initially produced by African Americans who examined the Southern slave experience, these novels are now being produced by writers located in Canada the Caribbean, London, and other regions of the African diaspora. Unlike traditional slave and neoslave narratives that often rewrite history to emphasize the worldview of those written out of official narratives of history, oftentimes from an individua list perspective that stresses the subjectivity of the enslaved, newer additions to the genre expand this focus to include the community experience of slavery which they configure in relation to discourses of nationhood, Empire, diaspora, and citizenship. This expansion of the genre both in terms of subject matter and authorship constitutes a significant critical development in the neoslave narrative that is worthy of investigation. Accordingly, I engage in a comparative analysis of contemporary histo rical novels of slavery written by African American and Caribbean writers in order to highlight the shared yet distinct nature of this diasporic genre; demonstrate the concern with community, nation formation, and citizenship that features prominently in t he newer additions to the neoslave narrative tradition; and elaborate and extend recent work on
11 the black Atlantic and the use of postcolonial theory in American studies. It is my contention that the narratives written by African American writers use the discourse of slavery to interrogate the imagined community of the US nation by showing that it is based on an individualistic ideology fuelled by self interest to offer a counter narrative of the nation that critiques domestic imp erialism as it relates to African Americans. The Caribbean novels also interrogate the performance of national identity but do so by focusing on the way slavery shaped the phenonema of exile, migration, and diaspora. In the process, they render in fictive form what the po stcolon ial theorist s Eduoard Glissant and Paul Gilroy refer to as a counter culture of modernity; a term they use to describe the discourses of resistance articulated by slaves on the plantations of the New World and by their descendants in the postslavery period and beyond. Bernard Bell has been credited with coining the term neoslave narrative to describe these contemporary narratives that fictionalize th e plantation experience. Crediting Jubilee which was published in 1966 with init iating Ashraf offer his own description of neo assume the form, adopt the conventions, and take on the first person voice of the antebellum slave I define t he novels that compr ise the focus of this study as historical novels of slavery in that they make the experiences of real or imagi ned personages central to their plots. I position both the neoslave narrative and the historical novel of slavery within a larger genre novels about slavery that are written in the contemporary
12 present. Unless I am referring specifically to either one of these more narrowly focused The earlier narratives in this tradition that were produced during the 1970s and 1980s tend to thematically and rhetorically reproduce the conventions of the nine teenth century slave narrative in that they make use of the first person narrator; foreground the the acquisition of literacy); and detail the physical escape from slaver y to freedom. In contrast, the neoslave narratives which are the focus of this study and which were all published within the last 20 years differ from earlier novels of slavery in a number of key aspects in terms of their formal techniques as well as subj ect matter. Many of these novels employ non linear narrative techniques that include flashforwards and flashbacks that literally move the reader across time and space. Most of these novels also make use of multiple narrative points of view that often res ult in a polyphonic discourse that gives insight into both the individual and collective experience of slavery in ways that are atypical of the traditional neo slave narrative and historical novel of slavery. Thus these new neo slave narratives articulat e a new visi on/version of the black counter culture of modernity that focuses on the community rather than the individual; on the international, the fluid, and the female, as opposed to the national, the fixed, and the masculine; on the continuity between t he oppression of slavery and the oppression experienced by black citizens today. They articulate these philosophical and/or political visions through non linear narrative techniques. I maintain that this shift in subject matter and narrative technique is indicative of a desire to explicitly demonstrate the continuities between US and Caribbean slavery and colonialism in the seventeenth to
13 nineteenth centuries and the forms of citizenship and nationhood available to African American and Caribbean peoples i n the contemporary era. I examine these novels to investigate how these writers portray the relationship between slave ry, Empire nation, and diaspora with the aim of answ ering the following questions: How is the literary depiction of the transition from the condition of slavery to that of citizenship used to position the black new World community in relation to the discourse of modernity, the nation state, and the neo imperial project? How do the gender, class, and geographical positionality of the subje cts of the black new World diaspora inflect and complicate the portrayal of modernity, nationhood, and discourses of Empire? How might these novels extend traditional theoretical models that are applied to the analysis of African American, Caribbean, and black Atlantic literature? I argue that these novels develop t he idea that the socio economic relations that inform the plantation experience are repeated from one historical era to another and negate a conception of human history as a progressive movement ever forward through time As a result, the descendants of slaves find their ongoing quest for full citizenship rights compromised and limited by the ongoing legacy of the historical experience of enslavement. More specifically, these novels develop the idea that the slave experience, although past, continues to have a profound impact on the types of citizenship available to descendants of slaves. assigned to individuals by st ates, as a relation of belonging to specific communities, or as a set of social practices that define the relationships between peoples and states and of nationhood and dias pora are conditioned by the slave experience, these novels
14 indicate that for descendants of slaves, citizenship cannot be fully conceptualized without taking into account the historical conditions that inform their experiences of contemporary reality. Dav id Scobey notes that intellectuals have felt compelled to question and redefine the concept of citizenship in the light of social changes that characterize the era of globalization. Many of these critics of contemporary exercises of citizenship argue that the concept is increasingly being linked to the acquisition of civil rights as opposed to actively engaging in civic acts that establish community and national identification and a sense of belonging (16 19). These texts enter into this debate by develop ing the idea that there is a historical component to citizenship that is often overlooked. They interrogate the concept and practice of citizenship as it relates to blacks in the African diaspora by exploring the way the process of enslavement, character ized by the utter denial of citizenship rights indeed the failure to even acknowledge the enslaved as human affected and continues to affect slaves and their descendants. They develop the idea that while these individuals have gained citizenship right s, their experiences of civic citizenship continues to be compromised. In many instances, they emphasize the socio political and economic marginalization that descendants of the slaves face in contemporary society and develop the idea that this form of li minality and exclusion is an ongoing legacy of the plantation system that bestowed privilege on the racially and socially privileged while creating an underclass comprised of the racially disadvantaged who were denied access to this privilege. In focusin g on the way the historical experience of slavery continues to compromise the forms of citizenship experienced by descendants of the slaves, these
15 novels also interrogate dominant conceptualizations of citizenship. Iris Marion Young notes that the concept of equality, that drives the contemporary quest by minorities for citizenship and full inclusion into the systems of civil society, stresses the commonalities between individuals and develops the idea that laws are applied to all in the same manner. In h er opinion, this focus on equality ironically promotes continued inequality by obscuring the peculiarities of the experiences of those who have traditionally been denied citizenship. She states : in a society where some groups are privileged while others are oppressed, insisting that as citizens persons should leave behind their particular affiliations and experiences to adopt a general point of view serves only to reinforce that privilege; for the perspectives and interests of the privileged will tend to dominate this unified public, marginalizing or silencing those of other groups. (2 57) These novels, which emphasize the way the legacy of slavery continues to compromise the citizenship of descendants of the slaves in the contemporary present, lend suppo rt to this claim. Since their emergence in the 1960s, neoslave narratives are located within a broader project of re constructing subaltern historiography from the perspective of formerly subjugated groups. In the latter half of the twentieth century, his torical studies that chronicle the experience of slavery from the perspective of the enslaved have flourished in all areas of the African Diasporas of the New World. 1 This historical 1 American research studies on slavery include David Brion Davis ( From Homicide to Slavery: Studies in American Culture and Challenging the Boundaries of Slavery ) ; Ira Berlin ( Many Tho usands Gone: the First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America ); Elizabeth Fox Genovese ( Within the Plantation household: Black and White women of the Old South ); Elizabeth Fox Genovese and Eugene D. Genovese ( Fruits o f Merchant Capital: Slavery and Bour geois Property in the Rise and Expansion of Capitalism ). Caribbean scholarship on the historiography of slavery includes The Black Jacobins (1938) A Study on the Historiography of the British West Indies to the End of the Ni neteenth Century and Slave Society in the British Leeward Islands at the End of the Eighteenth Century Centering Woman: Gender Discourses in Caribbean Slave Society Bridget Gendered Testimony: Autobiographies, Diaries, and Lett ers by Women As Sources for
16 research has been complemented, on the literary front, by the re discove ry of a number of nineteenth century slave narratives and the birth and growth of the genre of the novel of slavery. 2 While the argument can be made that earlier novels within the tradition produced in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, also focus on the colle ctive experience of slavery, I maintain that these newer novels do so in a more explicit manner at both the formal level and in terms of their subject matter. These novels de emphasize the individual experience of slavery/ or position the individual slave experience within the context of community formation in ways that are atypical of earlier novels within the tradition. This shift in focus to the collective experience of slavery is reflected in the change in narrative techniques of these novels which ma nifest a move away from a central protagonist. Indeed many of them do not have a central protagonist ( The Known World by Edward P. Jones, Free Enterprise by Michelle Cliff, At the Full and Change of the Moon by Dionne Brand, The Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkins on). Instead, the action is split between two or more central characters. The novels that do have a clear protagonist situate the individual experience of slavery within a community that is clearly Caribbean History and Engendering H istor y: Caribbean W omen in Historical Perspective (edited by Verene Shepherd, Bridget Brereton, and Barbara Bailey). 2 Re discovered slave narratives include The Interesting Narrative of th e Life of Olaudah Equiano, The History of Mary Prince, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl and Our Nig A number of fictional tales written in the nineteenth century and focusing on Caribbean planta tion societies have also been unearthed These includ e Creoleana, Adolphus, a Tale (Anonymous) & the Slave Son ( edited by Lise Winer ), Warner Arundell by E.L. Joseph, Hamel the Obeah Man by Cynric R. Williams, Obi: or the Story of Three fingered Jack by William Earle, and ca (edited by Karina Williamson). Beloved Shirley Anne Dessa Rose Corregidora Oxherding Tale and Middle Passage Kindred J. Californi Family and The Price of a Child Works of Caribbean literature that foregro und the slave experience include I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem novels Cambridge Crossing the River and Higher Ground Feeding the Ghosts and The Longest Memory, The Salt Roads Strange Music The Book of Night Women The Long Song
17 represented ( A Mercy by Toni Morrison, Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill, Song Yet Sung by James McBride, and The Book of Night Women by Marlon James). Moreover, while earlier neoslave narratives focus on the historical existence of a slave community, the newer novels underscore the relevance of these com munities to contemporary and future expressions of community among descendants of the enslaved. These novels also give less prominence to the act of escape from slavery. In some instances, characters remain enslaved; others make it to the freedom but in all instances, processes of community formation are emphasized. Together with this foregrounding of community consciousness, these novels use temporal and spatial movements to juxtapose the sites of plantation slavery with metropolitan centers of officia l discourse in both North America and Europe (cities include London, Washington DC, New York, Amsterdam, Paris) to situate slavery and its legacy squarely within the contexts of nationalist, imperialist, and neo imperialist discourses. In this way, they explicitly foreground t he concern with nation formation and citizenship is often a latent sub text in the earlier neoslave narratives The se novels also gender the slave experience by focusing on the role that women played in community building and in ant i slavery resistance. Six of these novels feature female protagonists while the other two ( The Known World At the Full and Change of the Moon ) contain no central protagonist but instead privilege a range of narrative perspectives that include that of the female slave. Female slaves, by virtue of their responsibilities as wives/partners, mothers, and caretakers, played a crucial role in the community building that occurred on plantations. Some of the major female
18 characters are healers who occupy a centr al role in their communities. The novels also foreground the female role in militant anti slavery resistance by portraying women who plot and lead rebellions. Some novels ( The Salt Roads and The Book of Night Women ) also emphasize the way sexuality condi tioned the female slave experience to develop the idea that any account of the lives of female slaves that ignores the sexual domination that slave women faced, from both white men and women, and black men, is incomplete. They also illustrate that while b lack female sexuality was degraded and maligned in colonial constructions of femininity, black women manipulated the conditions of their enslavement to re construct a subjectivity of resistance to both slavery and male domination. The earlier generation of neoslave narratives of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s together with the newer neolsave narratives of the 1990s and 2000s, along with the historiography from which this literary genre derives, are part of a process of re constituting historical consciousness among black diasporic subjects. As a result, these collective sense of historical me mory ( Caribbean Discourse past, to which we were subjected, which has not yet emerged as history for us, is, however, obsessively present. The duty of the writer is to explore this obsession, to show its relevance in a continuo similarly underscores the continued relevance of the slave experience to the black experience of modernity when he notes that neoslave narratives examine the tension between the le gacy of African and
19 the position of blacks in the mo 20). Thus t he contemporar y experience of and quest for citizenship is indelibly influenced by the plantation slave experience to the black diasporic con dition and to discourses of modernity are C.L.R. James, Antonio Benitez Rojo, and Houston A. Baker. This continued presence of the past in the present is explored in these novels to explicitly demonstrate the continuity between the slave experience and th e contemporary discourses of citizenship articulated by the descendants of slaves. The writers of the novel of slavery both African American and Caribbean have opted to return, through their writing, to the primal scene of shock, painful dislocation a nd rupture that is embodied in the slave trade, the Middle Passage, and the New World plantation to create a collective memory for African diaspora peoples who exist in contexts where collective memory does not emerge naturally. In the process, they highl ight the continued social, cultural, and economic marginalization engendered by the experience of enslavement and colonialism by illuminating the continuities between slavery and the contemporary reality of African diasporic subjects. Thus far, themes of n ation, Empire, diaspora, and citizenship have not been the focus of criticism on the novel of slavery. In addition to concentrating on the earlier novels within this tradition that do not lend themselves as readily to such analysis, critics have tended to interpret both the earlier and more recent texts not through the lens of Empire or nation but through critical perspectives that foreground the individual rather
20 than community such as identity and gender politics, cultural criticism, and trauma theory. For example, Elizabeth Ann Beaulieu in Black Women Writers and the American Neo Slave Narrative: Femininity Unfettered and Angelyn Mitchell in The Freedom to Remember: Narrative, Slavery, and Gender in Contemporary Black Women's Fiction examine the neoslav e narrative through the lens of feminist theoretical principles. Beaulieu focuses on the maternal narrative of slavery to argue that these texts interrogate the view that gender was erased among enslaved women by demonstrating that slave women, in seeking to be total mothers, were engaged in acts of rebellion (xv). Mitchell argues that neoslave narratives written by women enter into Incidents in the Life in the Life of a Slave Girl (18). She examines the thematic and structural postmodern elements of these narratives such as narrative innovation and intertextuality which takes the form of revising earlier texts in the tradition (11 12), to argue that these ultimately centers her ana lysis on individual subjectivity. Ashraf Rushdy in his work Neo Slave Narratives: Studies in the Social Logic of a Literary Form also examines both the narrative (3). His approach reflects the earlier foc us among writers and critics of the genre whose major concern was contesting dominant historiography to make visible the subjectivity and experience of the enslaved from African American perspectives. He maintains that the neoslave narrative genre arose a
21 publication of The Confessions of Nat Turner which black critics saw as the on of Nat Turner, black writers responded with their own literary representations of slavery. Rushdy positions d the way the black female writer in turn responded to the white and black male texts of the genre. His analysis thus to the white/black, male/female binary oppositi ons upon which discussions of race and gender overwhelmingly rest and upon which criticisms of the neoslave narratives turn. While these theoretical frameworks provide invaluable insight into the nature of this tradition, they tend to focus critical analy sis on themes of identity and subjectivity as opposed to that of nation formation and colonialism. Moreover, analysis of these narratives is often confined to a US/ or national focus that precludes a focus on the diasporic and international representatio n of slavery with which the newer novels are increasingly concerned. A few comparative studies of the novel of slavery, that transcend national/or regional boundaries, have been published. These studies place great emphasis on the relationship between th e novel of slavery and postmodernist discourse but tend to confine their analysis of the postmodernist elements of these novels to traditional topics that are often the focus of the critical on the novel of slavery. These include the coming to voice of th e subject; the privileging of individual subjectivity over discourses o f race and nation; and the rewriting of history.
22 For example, in his work Postmodern Tales of Slavery in the Americas: From Alejo Carpentier to Charles Johnson Timothy Cox compares n eoslave narratives of the US, Francophone Caribbean, and Spanish speaking countries of Cuba and Colombia. He argues that these novels take the discourse of slavery out of a EuroAmerican context (in contrast to their nineteenth century prototypes that were used to advance the abolitionist cause) and position it within a context of black experience (4). They also create a discourse of counter memory that validates black resiliency and survival into ox focuses on the use of history in these texts, the portrayal of the Middle Passage and escapes from slavery, the use of postmodern irony, and the poetic and rhetorical strategies employed to tell these stories (xiii xiv). This work is valuable in its di asporic focus and its inclusion of neoslave narratives from the non English speaking Caribbean. However Cox does not include neoslave narratives from the Anglophone Caribbean in his analysis nor does he place emphasis on the way these novels interrogate t he discourses of nation, colonialism, and imperialism. Anglophone, Francophone, and Hispanophone Caribbean the development of a self chosen cultural identity as the path to joining a global, or at metafiction, anachronism, and breaks in the time space c fragmentary in keeping with the postmodern aesthetics of the works (9). This study is
23 comprehensive in its treatment of novels from the three m ain language speaking areas of the Caribbean. However, the focus on the narrative portrayal of identity and subjectivity and the postmodernist elements of the novels conforms to traditional theoretical approaches that have been applied to the novel of sla very. In contrast, I demonstrate that the more recent novels in this tradition, while they also make use of postmodernist aesthetic and rhetorical elements, that include self reflexivity achieved through meta narrative devices such as flashbacks and flash forwards that creates temporal movement across space and time; multiple narrative points of view; and the use of parody and pastiche; produce a communal and counter modern aesthetic that critiques imperialist exercises of power. Thus they position narrati ve portrayals of slavery beyond the discourses of identity politics, cultural criticism, and trauma theory. The shift in focus in the newer novels of slavery from themes of individual subjectivity to critiques of colonialist and imperialist structures of In discussing the centrality of the nineteenth century slave narrative to the diasporic literary tradition, Gates notes that these narratives repeated and revised rh etorical unique African diasporic tradition (158). Subsequent generations of novels within this tradition engage with their predecessor texts in ways that are distinct to African American literature. In his discussion of the early slave narrative, which he credits with
24 initiating the black literary tradition in the West, Gates discusses the transnational and diasporic aspects of the early black Atlantic world. I maintain that the contemporary novel of slavery is similarly engaged in this pattern of repetition with a difference not only with preceding texts within the same national tradition but also with texts of the same genre from other national traditions. Initially a uniquely African American tradition, whose origins have been located in the 1960s, this genre of the neoslave narrative has been embraced by writers across the African diaspora. It has thus crossed borders and needs to be positioned both within its individual national tradition and a diasporic framework of analysi s. By focusing on the newer additions to the neoslave narrative tradition, that I interpret as yet another revision in the genre, my study extends the critical conversation on the African American neoslave narrative initiated by critics like Beaulieu, Mit chell, and Rushdy and demonstrates the continuing evolution that continues to take place in this literary tradition. Furthermore by demonstrating that the novels from the Anglophone Caribbean are also involved in this process of revision, my study demonst rates that the novel of slavery is constitutive of a diaspora wide discourse. It extends criticism on the neoslave narrative in that the newer novels which I make the focus of my study il lustrate that the neoslave narrative tradition has evolved from its inception in the mid twentieth century to reflect concerns of the late twentieth and early twenty first century such as the imperialism and colonialism of the early US and the role of plantation society, slavery, and colonialism in the discourse of moderni ty In Chapter 2, I examine the novel A Mercy written by the African American writer A Mercy and Someone Knows My Name written by the Canadian writer
25 Lawrence Hill. These novels focus on female slave narrators whose individual experience s of enslavement are embedded within a larger narrative of community formation. A Mercy examines slavery in relation to the process of settler colonialism to detail the methods through which hierarchical race relations were cemented and paved the way for the exclusion of the non white other from discourses of early American nationhood. Someone Knows My Name demonstrates that th is denial of national identity forced some blacks to leave the US and seek an alternative discourse of nationhood based in the lar ger diaspora. This novel develops the idea that the orientation towards diasporic citizenship was created by the slave experience and ironically denied by it in that the colonialist and imperialist practices that excluded blacks from the discourse of Amer ican nationhood also hampered their efforts to form autonomous communities in the larger diaspora. In situating the African American slave experience within the context of Empire and diaspora, these novels depart from the tendency of traditional African A merican neoslave narratives to depict slavery from a purely local or national perspective that often elides the international dimensions of the slave experience. They also embody explicitly signal their revision ist agenda by alluding to and rewriting older slave and neoslave narratives that focus on the localized experience of slavery in America and that portray the slave experience as an individualistic quest for freedom. In Chapter 3, I argue that the Africa n American neoslave narratives, The Known World written by Song Yet Sung written by James McBride explore the African American slave experience in relation to discourses of American nationhood. These novels use spatial tropes to demon strate the centrality of community
26 formation, in both the North and the South, to the counterculture of resistance articulated by the slaves They contrast those blacks (individuals and communities) who enter into modernity by accepting the terms of the d ominant group, with those who enter into the socio political processes of the nation even as they interrogate systems associated with racial exploitation. They also use temporal tropes specifically flashforwards and flashbacks to highlight the continui ty between the oppression of slavery and contemporary racial oppression. Moreover, both novels see that continuity an ideology that was consistent with the institution of s lavery. Jones and McBride critique elite African Americans for assimilating this ideology and depict other approaches to community building and citizenship that can be read as alternative models that the authors see as leading toward full citizenship. In so doing, these novels present a counter narrative of the nation that critiques the exploitative individualism upon which so much of American national identity is predicated. They also interrogate the tendency of traditional slave and neoslave narratives to make implicit, rather than explicit connections betwe en the experience of slavery, processes of nation formation and the discourse of African American citizenship. In Chapter 4, I analyze Free Enterprise and At the Fu ll and Change of the Moon These authors are of Caribbean writers based in North America Cliff in the US and Brand in Canada. I argue that these texts demonstrate the continuity between the contemporary migration experience s of Caribbean peoples and th e historical experience of maroonage to position slavery squarely within the contexts of Empire and neo imperialism. These novels show that the paradox ical
27 combination of resistance and accommodation that oftentimes informed the ancestral experience of ma roonage is replicated in the complicated and compromised forms of resistance of the marginalized Caribbean migrant. In thus linking the peculiar features of the maroon communities they describe to the migration experiences of the contemporary Caribbean su bject, these works demonstrate that elements of the maroon experience transcends the spatial and temporal boundaries of the plantation system and as such, is of ongoing relevance in writing about and theorizing on the nature of diasporic citizenship. More over, b marginality and their complicated forms of resistance as modern maroonage, these novels contribute to a maroon discourse that extends both literary representations and theoretical studies of maroon age In so doing, they demonstrate the concern with community; nation formation, and citizenship that feature so prominently in the newer additions to the novel of slavery genre Moreover, by illustrating the ambiguous relationship between the maroon tra dition and modernity they contribute to and complicate the theoretical discourse on the counter culture of modernity articulated by critics such as Edouard Glissant and Paul Gilroy. In Chapter 5, I argue that the neoslave narratives The Salt Roads written by Nalo Hopkinson and The Book of Night Women written by Marlon James emphasize the importance of the private sphere and female sexua lity to the colonial experience and the discours e of slavery Like Cliff and Brand, these writers are from the Caribbean but are based in North America Hopkinson is considered a Canadian writer although she is currently living in the US and James lives in the US. They explore individual and collective acts of rebellion among female slaves to demonstrate that women played an
28 integral role in the counterculture of modernity articulated by slaves on the plantations of the New World These texts present this counterculture through subject matter and formal techniques that include: explicit representations of sexuality; the us e of Caribbean dialect; alluding to and rewriting historical and archival documents as well as other fictional works; and non linear narrative techniques that literally move the reader across time and space. These narrative devices connect the slave resis tance that occurred on the plantations of the colonial Caribbean to metropolitan discourses of European modernity, demonstrate the way black female sexuality was denigrated in colonial constructions of femininity and re constructed by black women to articu late a subjectivity of community and resistance to both slavery and male domination; and articulate a distinctly Caribbean aesthetic of modernity. In so doing, these novels revise the tendency among some postcolonial critics and writers to mirror the male centered focus of Western modernity in their deconstruction and revision of this discourse.
29 CHAPTER 2 A MERCY AND LAWRENCE HILL SOMEONE KNOWS MY NAME A Mercy Someone Knows My Name explore the slave experience, and the processes of community formation that accompany it, in relation to discourses of colonialism, imperialism, and diaspora. In situating the American experience of slavery within the context of Empire and diaspora, these novels depart from the tendency of traditional neoslave narratives to depict slavery from a purely local or national perspective that often elides the international experience of slavery. This nation center ed focus is mirrored in the critical literature on these novels that tend to interpret them within a national perspective that ignores the fact that this genre of literature has become truly diasporan in scope. S et in the North Eastern US in the 1680s an d 1 690s, A Mercy interrogates the tendency to position the process of European settlement of the American continent and the experience of slavery that accompanied it, outside of the discourse of Empire The novel examines slavery in relation to the proce ss of settler colonialism to detail the methods through which hierarchical race relations were cemented and paved the way for the exclusion of the non white other from the processes of the nation. In so doing, it demonstrate s the intimate relationship bet ween the experience of American slavery and the colonialist and imperialist practices that informe d and shaped both the US and the black Atlantic. While A Mercy explores the processes through which American national identity was d ialectically created at th e expense of non whites in the New World demonstrates that this exclusion from discourses of early American nationhood forced
30 some blacks to leave the US and seek an alternative discourse of nationhood that was based in the larger diaspora. Set in the latter half of the 18 th century and the early 19 th century, when the then British American colonies fought for and consolidated a national identity through the 1776 War of Independence with Britain, the novel details the search of its heroine fo r a nation, first in the British colony of Nova Scotia and then in Sierra Leone. In exploring the extensive problems these two colonies of free blacks experience as they try to become autonomous, the novel positions the quest for identity and full citizen ship rights of the formerly enslaved as a truly dia sporic undertaking. Someone Knows My Name shows how the orientation towards diasporic citizenship was created by the slave experience and ironically denied by it in that the colonialist and imperialist pr actices that excluded blacks from the discourse of American nationhood also hampered their efforts to achieve citizenship in the larger diaspora. In revising the neoslave narrative genre that has typically presented American slavery from a purel y nationa list perspective, both novels are example s of what Henry Louis Gates Jr. refers to as Gates uses this term i n his theoretical work, The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro American Literary Criticism to describe the intert extuality that he sees at work in the earliest slave narratives produced b y blacks in the West. He maintains that the writers of these novels made use of and revised rhetorical tropes used by earlier writers within this tradition to point to (169). A Mercy Paradise enters into this implic itly invoked in the earlier work, is explicitly examined in A Mercy which focuses on
31 the European settlement of the American continent to situate the slave experience within the context of Empire and colonialism. A Mercy also revises Beloved in its focus on the young female slave, Florens, whose life is profoundly shaped by her relationship with her mother. Beloved also emphasizes the slave experience and the mother/daughter relationship. A Mercy revisits these themes but combines them with an exploration of the colonialism and imperialism that fuelled the establishment of race based slavery in the New World. Hill also engages in this process of revision in Someone Knows My Name by drawing heavily on tropes that appear in one of the first and most famous s lave narratives The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano path to citizenship was not feasible for the majority of enslaved blacks. Empire, Domesticity, and Ra A Mercy A Mercy situates American slavery within the discourse of Empire Set a pproximately a hundred years before the American colonies declared their independence from Britain, the story explores the dyna mics of labor and property ownership that informed the process of settler colonialism including slavery, and the processes by which citizenship, or lack thereof, was determined in the pre the no vel counters the tendency to view the U nited S tates as divorced from the colonialist and imperialist practices that informed European settlement of the New World. A Mercy depicts the creation and dissolution of a farmin g domicile headed by Jacob Vaark, a trader of mixed Dutch and English ancestry who inherits a patroonship from his Dutch uncle an d settles in the early American colony with the aim of making his fortune. He accepts the young slave Florens as part payment for a debt that is owed to him by a Portuguese trader and
32 takes her to live on his farm. In its description of the Vaark household, which is in effect a microcosm of the larger socio cultural milieu of the period, the novel develops the idea that hierarchical racial and social categories we dominance and control over resources, that included not only land, but also bodies The narrative form of A Mercy community formation in early Ame rica. In commenting on the narrative technique of among multiple points of view so that each novel, while retaining its unity, also projects a collection of perspective s. Plots tend to be circular or spiral rather than linear, as and response, one of the expressive forms of the African American oral tradition, in A Mercy first person narrative is interspersed with the third person narratives of the other characters. The effect is a polyvocal, almost conversational narrative that embeds the individual slave experience within a b roader narrative of community formation that highlights the colonialism upon which the relations of dominations responsible for the Vaark househol creation and subsequent demise are based. This layering of completes the others. The reader can appreciate these intertwined stories but the characters never articulate thei r viewpoints to each other with the result that although they are a community on one level, they remain profoundly isolated from each other on
33 another level. This isolation leads to and reflects the eventual dissolution of the community. Morrison has stres sed that one of her goals in writing the novel was to examine how race was constructed in early America and eventually tied to slavery. Acknowledging that she felt it was important to first immerse herself in the history of early America before she craft ed her novel, she comments on the universality of slavery by noting that all empires were founded on the servitude of labor but notes that America was unique in that it was the first empire to implement a system of race based slavery ( Neary ). In spite of race, slavery, and Empire much of the extant critical literature on A Mercy tends to reinforce the nationalist lens through which much of American literature is read. Michael Warner comme nts on the tendency among American historians to interpret American history from a national framework and asserts that this focus has been mirrored in the work of l iterary critics who tend to read early Anglo American texts from a nation centered perspect ive to consolidate a sense of American national identity. Warner argues that this focus elides the colonial and imperial nature of the early US. Thus far, this nationalist interpretation of A Mercy which revisits the period of colonial America, has pr edominated in the critical literature. Many critics read the text imperialism of the early US. Valerie Babb for example asserts that Morrison uses her novel to re insert the voices that have been lost in the construction of a homogeneous narrative of American origins. Babb examines the racial, gender, and class dy namics of the story and argues that Morrison uses these voices to challenge the discursive
34 construction of th is origins narrative as it manifested itself in the religious, legal, and personal literature of early America. Cathy Covell Waegner also reinforces this focus on nation formation and identity politics in her critique of the novel She argues that by high European conquest of the New World was predicated, A Mercy interrogates the unexamined celebration of American nationhood (91). While there can be no doubt that the nove l foregrounds an analysis of the discourse of nation in relation to the categories of race, gender, and class, I maintain that it also positions this portrayal of identity politics and nation formation in early America in relation to imperialist practices Andy Doolen underscores the imperialism of the early US when he notes that b oth the imperial court and Founding Fathers produced and protected a white national r notes that the institution of slavery was built into the founding principles of the nation and the American constitution 3 Morrison similarly comments on the colon ialism of the US which resulted in the exclusion of blacks from entry into the processes of the nation when she notes, in her critical treatise Playing in the Dark that the African American ingingly separate that highlight the exclusion of African Americans from the discourses of American nationhood, position the m as victims of internal colonization and suggest the relevan ce of a 3 ideas on the use of blackness to cons truct a white national identity resonate with Toni American literature. In her theoretical treatise, Playing in the Dark in the fiction of white Anglo American writers of the nineteenth century who were engaged in the process of creating a sense of American national identity.
35 postcolonial approach to an analysis of this literature Although slavery was a form of internal colonialism it is not examined in relation to discourse s of American nationhood and colonialism in any sustained and overt manner in critical analy ze s of the African American novel of slavery Instead, many of these discussions continue to revolve around the nexus of race and gender within a national framework. American nationhood and, by extension, the forms of citizenship available to African Americans in the contemporary present. Set in the 1680s and 1690s, her novel demonstrates that the imperialism that informed the process of nation formation in the early US was co terminous with the settlement of the North American colony. Moreover the novel demonstrates the crucial role that racial and gender hierarchies played in determining who was entitled to status in the newly emerging nation. Examined from the vantage poin t of the 21 st fledgling nation resonates with the view of citizenship as an exclusionary, as opposed to inclusionary practice. The connection between imperialism and citizenship is underscored by I sin and Wood. imperialism in differences were used t o determine who was entitled to citizenship. The result is that rights and status. They note that this: ice that found its strongest expression in citizenship to mark out the Other. Such a
36 practice is an invented hi erarchy of peoples and nations that attempt to justify the claiming of land and the subjugation of peoples previously foreign groups and classes that had launched empires. (55) I maintain t hat the novel uses the micro community of the Vaark household to demonstrate the The novel details the settler colonialism, that saw the white, propertied male and gender hierarchies that created an ideological and legal discourse that effectively limited or denied citizenship rights to non whites and women while consolidating the power of the w hite, male propertied elite Vaark symbolizes the European adventurers, merchants, and traders who viewed the territories of the New World as places where wealth could be accumulated. d and its resources that is metaphorically invoked in the description of the environment when he is first he is deposited along the shoreline of the eastern seaboard o f the US and as he wades he could walk, or those way north where he lived now, this one was sun fired, turning repeated numerous times in the land with his pursuit of wealth. The imperial c ontext in which this economic activity is situated is further invoked in the references to European processes of colonization: he rides a horse named Regina, the Latin word for queen (10), makes the observation that
37 multiple European powers including the Swedes, the Dutch, and the English currently engaged in a power struggle for possession of the land on t he newly discovered continent. Vaark describes the colony of M aryland, including the palatial estate of D that although the territory is under the control of the British monarchy, then comprised of C atholic kings, ownership of the land i s fluid and constantly changing. This situa tion contributes to the chaotic, disorganized, and lawless appropriation of land is made explicit when he thinks of his own patroonship that he inherits from an uncl e and his tacit admission to himself that the land belongs to the commerce, he is seduced by the profitability of the sugar and slave trade, his entrance into which he justifies with the thought that the remoteness of the slave labor on which his enterprise rests absolves him from any complicity in the exploitation of the enslaved. Hence in spit e of his best intentions Vaark is initially determined to become wealthy without trading in human flesh, is considerate of the natural environment and its creatures, and abhors cruelty to both man and animal he becomes increasing complicit in the explo Although Vaark and his wife, Rebekka, are determined to rid themselves of vestiges of the Old Worl d associated with oppression, they bring with them the seeds of imperialism. This id ea is developed in the description of the sea voyage undertaken by
38 Rebekka. She tea (85). While this parodic portrayal of lower class mimicry of the upper class highlights the class oppression that is responsible for their journey to the New World, it also suggests that they have internalized the hierarchical class relations of British society. This idea is reinforced in that links Empire with religion and foreshadows her later use of religion as a weapon of domination. Moreover, by positioning marriage within a system of econo mic exchange Vaark acquires Rebekka through trade and commerce in the same manner he acquires his female servants this episode indicates that from possession, and property. To escape the class an d gender oppression that she is subjected to in England, Rebekka accept considers this s and a exploration of themes of empire and colonialism can more readily be Paradise In an article entitled "Toni Morrison's Paradise: Black Cultural Citizenship in the American Empire," Holly Flint examines the theme of settler colonialism in Paradise She reads the novel in relation to discourses of American Empire and the concept of cultural citizenship and an settler colonialism from a black
39 nineteenth and twentieth centuries, American settler colonialism was shaped by both federal imperial policies (at home and abroad) and by race, class, and gender 86). I maintain that Morrison continues this examination of American Empire and its ef fects on the domestic sphere in her latest novel. However, Morrison revises her earlier focus from the imperialism inherent in W estward expansion, to the imperialism that informed the initial settling of the Eastern seaboard of the continent in the 17 th c entury. Moreover while t he theme of settler colonialism is implicit ly explored in Paradise the process of American national identity that took place in the aftermath of the Civil War among a group of black homesteaders, A Mercy explores the imperialism and settler colonialism in the late 1600s and the impact that this had on the formation of American national identity. Unlike Paradise that depicts a racially homogeneous black community, the community depicted in A Mercy is racially and socially heterogeneous. This community can be viewed as a microcosm of the larger socio cultural milieu that existed in the American colony at the time in terms of its racial composition. In addition to Florens, Vaark buys Lina, a Native American woman to help with the labor on the farm and accepts Sorrow, a young orphan girl of murky origins from a lawyer and his wife who wish to be rid of her after she is impregnated by one of their sons Two male indentured laborers, Scully and Willar d, owned by a neighboring farmer but leased to Vaark in exchange for a loan, complete this makeshift community. Held together by their tenuous co dependence on each other, this mini community that exists on the outskirts of an Anabaptist town, dissolves a fter Vaark succumbs several years later to small pox
40 Although not related by blood ties, these individuals initially form bonds of kinship with each other that resemble a family. When the household first takes shape, the characters form pairings based on their shared experiences In addition to the Vaarks the household), Lina and Fl orens bond over their shared traumatic separation from their families with Lina performing the role of a surrogate mother to Florens. Although initially wary of each other, Lina and Rebekka also form a fast friendship over shared domestic chores and the c hallenge of learning to run the farm in the wilderness while the two indentured servants, Willard and Scully, become friends over the labor they perform and their sexual attraction to each other. the domestic relations in the household begin to mirror the power relations in the wider society. Rebekka converts to the Anabaptist religion that exercises the same religious bigotry and intolerance from which she had fled. Her conversion is motivated by th e trauma she experiences at the unexpected demise of her husband and the grief of her childless condition (her children all die in their infancy). After she is cured of the small pox that kills her husband and becomes fully immersed in the Anabaptist reli gion, she physically abuses Sorrow; and places Florens up for sale. A formerly pliant and reliable servant, Florens undergoes a personality change, becoming intractable and uncontrollable, after she is rejected by her lover; a blacksmith who had worked on the ornamental decoration rejection to fester, emotionally withdraws from Lina, and becomes surly and
41 unapproachable to other is ass ociated with images of the wilderness, wildness, and untamed sexuality and essentially serves as a contrast with the world o f domesticity that Rebekka strives to embody after she adopts the Puritan religious ethos. thing but wilderness. No and the disaffection that her recalcitrant behavior fosters in Rebekka, Florens is literally and symbolically expelled from the private, dome stic sphere. of domesticity and imperialism. The intricate relationship between the private sphere of the family and home and the public world of commerce and politics in early America is discussed by Amy Kaplan in her essay, Manifest Domesticity Kaplan argues that discourses of domesticity and empire complemented each other and were used to solidify the Anglo American process of nation building in the antebellum US. Sh e surmises that although the public and domestic spheres were seen as separate, they were in reality united as men and women became national allies in their opposition to as opposed to gender were the factors of separation. Thus the discourse of domesticity, that guarded the border between the savage and the civilized and policed the civilized sphere for traces of the savage became an important ideological and practical element of imperialism. She terms this phenomenon mperial I Kaplan also discusses the role that the ideological construction of the wilderness played in the discourse of colonialism. She ican studie s in earlier
42 discourses it was constructed as an empty wilderness in need of taming and conquering Rebekka becomes an agent of imperial domesticity after she converts to the Anabaptist religion which sets up a barrier between Puritan domestici ty and the world She forces Lina to give up her cultural practices, such as sleeping in a hammock which she had previo usly tolerated but which she comes to views as uncivilized and savage. Her perception of the land also changes and literally reflects the change in perspective that she undergoes after her religious conversion. Initially, Rebekka embraces the untamed land. Pleasantly surprised by the contrast between the oppre ssive life that she leaves in England and the personal freedom that she experiences in the US, she relishes the vast, sparsely inhabited land and is tolerant of difference as it is embodied in Lina and Florens. However, under the influence of the Anabapti sts, she adopts the view that the wilderness is untamed and savage. Ironically, women, regardless of race, are associated with the wilderness due to reflects on the fact that she, Florens, and Sorrow lack the security and protection that no one, became wild game for anyone. None of them could inherit; none was attached to a church or re corded in its books. Female and illegal, they would be interlopers, squatters, if they stayed on after Mistress died, subject to purchase, hire, assault, death noting
43 or well Rebekka vicariously derives her status and position through Vaark. When he dies, her sense o f stability is shattered and she is left defenseless and traumatized. Although she may have taken solace in the company of the other women, their powerless in the community forestalls this, and she sees little alternative but to join the close minded and intolerant religious sect to garner recognition in the community and regain a sense of stability. Thus, females, regardless of race are constructed in civil society as outlaws, lacking legal recognition unless they have the protection of a male with statu s. The d on their master is blatantly made clear in the aftermath of his death and is observation: in thrall to based on his own experience he was certain betrayal was the poison of the day. Sad. They once thought they were a kind of family because together they had carved companionship out of isolation. But the family they imagin ed they had become was false. Whatever each one loved, sought or escaped, their 56) The reference to the idea of family is ironic for Vaark and Rebekka define family, and the identifications that derive f rom it, in narrow and exclusive terms: as male centered, patriarchal, racially homogeneous, and based on blood inheritance. Scully comments The Vaarks desire for a male heir and in their naming of their daughter Patrician to signal their i nvestment in patriarchal ideals and in the existing so cial order. Because of their over investment in the idea of a narrowly defined family, the Vaarks devalue the community that forms around them. In the end, Rebekka betrays the women and destabilizes the integrity of
44 the unit they had built through hard work by embracing the very religious bigotry which had caused he r to flee England. The exclusionary nature the socio political order with the imposition of exclusionary legislation that privileges the white male at the expense of all others. I n the o pening page s of the novel, Vaark reflect s on the state of the fledgling British colony. The voice of the omniscient narrator notes: Half a dozen years ago an army of blacks, natives, whites, mulattoes freedmen, slaves and indentured had waged war against local g entry led t of new laws authorizing chaos in defense of order. By eliminating manumission, gatherings, travel and bearing arms f or black people only; by granting license to any white to kill any black for any reason; by compensating whites from all others forever. (10 11) These new law s, that establish the pro per tied white male as the normative citizen while all othe Rebellion that occurred in 1675 1676. 4 Viewed against the background of these laws ease by creating a social hierarchy based on race that protected the economic interests of the wealthy male the story that is developed in the remainder of the novel is effectively an exploration of the social impact of this legal separation of the races. Thus the degeneration of relations in 4 These laws, that curtailed the freedom of blacks include the Virginia Slave Laws of 1662 1669 that cle arly demarcated the difference in status between white indentured servants and black slaves. These laws forbid miscegenation, prohibited blacks from owning property and bearing arms, restricted their mobility, decriminalized the act of killing a slave in the process of disciplining him/her, and stipulated that any slave who was freed by his master had to leave the colony This legislation, that instituted a system of race based slavery designed to systematically strip blacks of any rights and cement their status as slaves, were reinforced with additional legislation in the remaining decades of the seventeenth century. ( Digital History. < www.digitalhistory.uh.edu > 2012. )
45 the Vaark household is emblematic of the larger socio political processes at work in the young colony and become co Rebellion. These laws also demonstrate that even while early America was still a colony of Britain, a process of internal colonization that manifested itself in denying citizenship rights to blacks and other non white groups was already in place. These laws were c onstructed to privilege the propertied white male. The novel underscores this fact through its portrayal of Sully, one of the male indentured laborers who work for Vaark. Scully shrewdly recognizes the changes that are taking place around him both in t he Vaark household and the wider society and is determined to use them to advance his status in the emerging society. He resolves to save enough to walking everywhere n him greater mobility and increase his earning potential. After Rebekka begins paying him for the odd jobs that he performs around the farm, he is careful not to offend her. Thus while he disa pproves of her treatment of the women, he keeps his thoughts to places in the town advertising t he sale of Florens. double both were orphaned at a young age and both are fixated on acquirin g money. The first image of Vaark in the novel sees him astride a horse. In addition to demonstrating his mobility in the public sphere, this image connotes power and aligns
46 s he will eventually join the propertied class who consolidate power at the expense of the raced and gendered other. Thus we can assume that Scully will gradually rise in the social and class hierarchy and like Vaark, gradually secure greater wealth and influence after he throws off the shackles of his indentured servitude. Thus Scully positions himself to gain entry into citizenship in contrast to Florens who is associa ted with rebellion that foreshadows the counter discourse of nationhood that minority groups would later articulate to contest their exclusion from the imagined community of the American nation. After Florens is violently rejected by the blacksmith, she b refuses to occupy after he dies. In spite of its lack of impact on those around her, to survive and preserve her selfhood whether she remains a slave or not. While critics statement in that it develops the idea that even as she is written out of the discourse of the emerging nation, she writes herself into being. Her story can thus be considered a sort of testimony in which she privately articulates her subjectivity. Her final words that are reminiscent of Martin speech given at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, gesture to a seminal moment in the struggle of black Americans for full citizenship rights a nd entry into the processes of the nation.
47 symbolically invokes the counterdiscourse s that would be articul ated by minority groups who would seek to contest their marginalizati on within American society. Vaark builds this house, which is patterned after the mansion of the Portuguese trader whom Vaark visits at the beginning of the story, to publically display his wealth and standing in the nonetheless envies and admires some of the material trappings of his wealth, one of which is the ornate ironwork that adorns the gate to the estate. Vaark patterns his own gate after this work; a mimicry that sugg ests his complete adoption of the worldview his current house being more than adequate for his needs he insists on building this property. If read as a symbol of the developing di scourse of American nationhood that was initiated and his dream; all of which ar e allegorical of the larger process of nation formation Florens also contemp express the rage that she privately expresses through her writing. Thus this group of racially and socially marginalized individuals, who had initially individual desires and weaknesses and the hierarchical social and racial differences that they had initially managed to negotiate but ultimately are unable to overcome. The
48 demise of this fledgling farming c ommunity, that comprised an early contact zone with the potential to forge meaningful cross cultural contact, is an allegory of the early US that prefigures the individualism, race and class based oppression that would later undergird the foundations of th e newly independent US more than a hundred years later. Morrison embeds a slave narrative within a broader discourse of nation formation in early America. In so doing, she revises the novel of slavery genre by situating the slave experience within the context of colonialism and Empire building. The last chapter of the novel that details the Middle Passage experience and positions slavery within the Atlantic world by highli ghting the three points of the triangular trade Africa, England/Europe, and America and the Caribbean, specifically Barbados underscores the international dimensions of slavery that is largely overlooked in most traditional African American neoslave na rratives. In so doing, it illustrates that American slavery is not divorced from but forms part a continuum of oppression that pervaded the Atlantic world. Someone Knows My Name While A Me rcy details the way whites dialectically created an identity at the expense of blacks and other non white others to exclude these groups from the processes of nationhood in the early American colony, Someone Knows My Name demonstrates that as a result of t heir exclusion from discourses of citizenship in the newly independent nation, blacks were forced to create identity out of diaspora. Written by a Canadian author of African American ancestry, the novel positions the American
49 slave experience within the c ontext of the black Atlantic. 5 Like A Mercy marries the individual experience of slavery with the process of community formation. The protagonist Aminata Diallo, whose life is def ined by her search for a nation, exposes the effects of imper ialism on the formerly enslaved who are forced to live in a perpetual form of statel essness and disenfranchisement The story is presented as a memoir written by Aminata, who spends her final days living in London and working as an anti slavery advocate. She writes her life story to highlight the devastating impact of slavery on the enslaved and to provide evidence to support the anti experiences of enslavement, from her kidnapping in Africa at the age of 12, to her life on an indigo plantation on St. Helena Island in South Carolina and later as a domestic slave who works as a book keeper and a midwife for a Jewish indigo inspector in Charleston. Th from her master in 1775 and lives among various communities of blacks, all of whom are marginalized and lack autonomy. After gaining her freedom, she first lives in the black ghetto of Canvas Town in New York, that consists of both legally free and escaped blacks whose tenuous freedom is made all the more perilous by the American Revolutionary War that is occurring around them. During the War, Aminata works for the British who promise f reedom to those blacks who enlist with them. In 1 783, with 1000 other blacks, she relocates to a free black settlement in the British colony of Nova Scotia After nine years of an 5 the post World War 2 period. ( Hill, Lawrence. Someone Knows My Name New York: Norton, 2007. )
50 unsuccessful attempt to form a colony, Aminata departs with a number of th ese colonists for another free colony, Sierra Leone in Africa. The repeated failure of the attempts of the free black communities to which she belongs to form viable states first in Birchtown, Nova Scotia and then in Sierra Leone speaks to the ongoing challenge they face in achieving both nation state and diasporic citizenship In demonstrating that the colonialism and imperialism that facilitated slavery also hampered the efforts of blacks to c reate independent nation states, the novel shows that thi s quest for diasporic citizenship was compromised from its very i nception due to the ongoing relationships of domination that governed the fledging colonies In the process, the novel revises the neoslave narrative genre. This revisionist agenda is expl narrative written by Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano Published in 1789, slave narr ative genre. Equiano, whose work as a sailor saw him traveling extensively all over the New World, is also viewed as the prototype of the black diasporan subject. betwee n the two stories b oth narrators are children w hen they are taken from Africa in 1745; both quickly acquire literacy and numeracy and are valued as slaves because of their intelligence and proficiency wi th language; both travel extensively; and both fina lly settle in England where they lend their voices and stories to the abolitionist cause by penning their memoirs with the hope that their experiences as slaves will make a compelling argument in favor of abolishing the slave trade and slavery. In invokin g
51 slaves and descendants of slaves. Hill comments on his focus on diaspora in the novel with the following claim: I am trying to unite the experiences, the travels, and the vo yages of the African peoples in the eighteenth century They are moving from Africa to the Carolinas, to New York City, to Nova Scotia, and back to Africa, a nd some are going literally, not just in the nov el, back to Sierra Leone, or to England. This is a trans Atlantic migration of phenomenal proportions am looking to bring these trans Atlantic migrations of people together, and show that they are connect ed and united, and that they are living similar experiences in all of these places. (Siemerling16) The novel demonstrates that these shared experiences of diaspora were driven by the quest for identity, on both a personal and national level. Claire Alexan der defines diaspora exile, loss and longing, on the one hand, and the forging of new identities in the places of arrival, She further notes that, he recognition of the unequal and often traumat ic circumstances of migration and dispersal, along with the minorization, These elements of dias pora displacement, systemic exploitation, repeated attempts by the oppressed to challenge their ongoing persecution, and the desire to return to a homeland are embodied for autonomy of the various communities of which she is a member. She becomes an integral part of these communities where her literacy and skill as a midwife are highly prized and realizes an identity based on the recognition and respect that she gains yet sh e experiences a continuous sense of loss and exile and never truly feels a sense of belonging in the New World.
52 From the moment of her capture, Aminata is determined to preserve her identity and cultural heritage. Some of the captives aboard the slave s hip repeat their names to each other in order to retain a sense of self. As someone who moves relatively freely around the ship a privilege she gains through her facility with language which leads the crew to use her as a translator Aminata plays a cr uci al role in this exercise at identity preservation. She becomes acquainted with most of the other slaves who name is abbreviated to Meena, and she learns to speak Gullah and English but as opposed to resigning herself to her new life, she is determined to use the knowledge Thus, she notes that, Georgia, an older woman who acts a surrogat e mother to her Hence while she successfully acculturates to life in t he New World, she discove r the route back to my homeland (164). She continues to investigate the possibilities of returning to Africa. While living in Charleston, she convinces her master to take her to the local library to see a map of Africa but is disappointed to see that most of the continent remains unknown to ire to physically locate her village on a map is indicative of her search for identity which is, in part, ro oted in a sense of geography and place. Her disappointment at not seeing her village on the map results from her conflation of
53 place with identity: ). Her inability to find her village on the map suggests not only the ignorance of cartographers but also demonstrates that such specific entities do not exist in the eyes of the imperialist. T hus h er subjectivity, which is rooted in a sense of place, is erased in imperialist discourse. The emptiness of the map also suggests the inability of return which is literally made clear when Aminata leaves the Sierra Leone settlement in1800 and journeys inla nd to find her village. She is forced to abandon the trip upon discovering that her guides plan to sell her back into slavery. Her failure to physically locate her village while precluded by practical reasons, also develops the idea that she cannot reca pture a past identity but must embrace her hybridity and fight for freedom in the African diaspora. To confirm this point, Aminata returns to the settlement and subsequently journeys to England where she lends her voice to the abolitionist cause by testif ying before parliament and by writing about her experiences of enslavement and the search for a nation. She also constructs her subjectivity around her family and her actions are guided by her desire to preserve the integrity of this unit. At the age of 15, she marries her childhood sweetheart, Chekura, who makes the transatlantic journey with her and gives birth to a son who is sold by her master. In protest, she refuses to work and is sold to Solomon Lindo, a Jewish indigo inspector for whom she works as a book keeper and a midwife. She is twice briefly reunited with her husband first in Charleston where she learns that their son died in his infancy and then in New York just before she relocates to the free settlement in the British colony of Nova Sc otia. The couple are forced to take different ships to Nova Scotia. Chekura travels on an earlier ship and then Aminata
54 follows several days subsequently gives birth to a second child who is kidnapped by the white couple for whom she works. Thus when the Sierra Leone project is proposed, Aminata is torn between her desire to return to Africa and her reluctance to leave without her husband its way to does she decide to go to Sierra Leone. Thus her return to Af rica is a bittersweet journey, informed by her intense desire to return to her native land and her profound sadness at the loss of her family. The destruction of her family, together with her preoccupation with return to her ancestral village also causes Aminata to never completely ex perience a sense of belonging to the various communities in which she lives. These communities are formed in response to the denial of freedom to blacks in the newly independent US. Commenting on the fate of blacks in Cassandra Pybus notes that many were forced to flung corners of the British Empire. In so doing, these blacks const ituted a diaspora within a diaspora, with metropolitan center of London, the novel pr ovides an intimate and problematic portrait of attempts at nation formation experienced by those blacks who left the US in the aftermath of the war of Independence The settlements in Nova Scotia and Sierra
55 Leone demonstrate that African diaspora nation s tates were formed out of the British observations on the importance of diasporic identity for blacks who were denied citizenship rights within individual nation states Boyce Davies notes that the statelessness of blacks caused an alienation from the nation state and led them to see k identity within the diaspora. She identifies Sierra Leone and Liberia countries that were created to provide an alternative for those blacks who did not want to rema in in the US and fight for emancipation and citizenship rights as diaspora nation states and asserts that citizenship was symbolically embedded in the dynamic of the creation of [ the se nation state s] e to the colonialist and imperialist practices that communities of blacks who bought into these projects was compromised from their very inception. Thus while these co mmunities are constitutive of what James Clifford refers to as a counterculture of diaspora in that they resist slavery in the US through migration, ongoing forms of racial exploitation hamper the resettlement efforts of the black colonists. Drawing on Ho lifford notes that diaspora functions as a discrepant temporalities broken histories that trouble the linear, progressivist narratives of nation sta He further observes that or black Atlantic nslavement and its aftermaths displaced, repeated structures of racialization and exploitation constitute a pattern of black experiences inext ricably woven in the fabr
56 While the blacks who form these free colonies hope that the move away from the continental US will result in greater freedom, their political and economic dependency on the British, frustrates the ir attempts to gain political and social aut onomy. Hence while they cast their lot with the British to escape the tyranny of US rule, they in effect trade one master for another with the result that the movement away from the US does little to create the genuine freedom that they seek. Thus while the diasporas that they form is a counterculture of resistance they interrogate hegemonic oppression by fleeing the continental US they are nonetheless inscribed by imperialist practices that undermine their efficacy. Both of the communities in Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone fail because the colonists lack social, political, and economic autonomy. While the British ship captain, who oversees the resettlement of the blacks from New York to Nova Scotia describe s imperial practices persist. Slavery is not outlawed, and some of the whites travel to Nova Scotia with their slaves; an irony that is not lost on Aminata who is giv en the task blacks to form a successful settlement. British promises of land and oth er resources fail to materialize and the black colonists find that their needs are invariably neglected in favor of the white loyalists. Racial tension is exacerbated by the poor economic performance of the nearby white town of Shelburne which fails to ge nerate much business. Many of the business owners leave, and a race riot, that is instigated by unemployed whites angry that blacks are being hired at lower wages, erupts. The mob
57 attack and kill black workers in the town and then descend on the black to wn of Birchtown where they destroy houses and attack those who resist them. The harsh food and fewer comforts than at any other time in my life. But I was in Nova Scotia and To escape this life, most of the black colonists opt to leave the area and relocate to another free colony, Sierra Leone, located in Africa, in the hopes of improving their lot. One resident, Thomas Peters, grows frustrated at the f ailed promises, raises money, British offer to resettle the colonists in Sierra Leone and s end John Clarkson, the brother of the celebrated abolitionist, Thomas Clarkson, to oversee the repatriation. Again, Aminata works as a note taker to help record information about those going to Sierra Leone and in 1792 relocates to the fledgling colony wi inhabitants. The colony in Sierra Leone is similarly plagued by British imperialism which results in the disenfranchisement and marginalization of the black settlers. Upon their arrival in Sierra Leone, the colonists are appalle d to discover that slave trading occurs in the vicinity of their settlement, although they were told that they would not be settled anywhere near such activity. They meet a slave ship even before they disembark their own ship and are forced to rely on the help of oarsmen who transport captured Africans to the slave ships to take them to land; an irony that is not lost on Aminata who reflects,
58 that all decisions about the colony are made by the Company and they have little to no input in matters that directly affect them. Thomas Peters complains about this lack of political agency when the from London doing here? This was supposed to be our colony. Our new life. And all the decisions in our hands. But what are we doing? Waiting while Lieutenant Clarkson discusses our fai whites being placed ahead of their own. They are required to work for the Company in exchange for food and supplies and are told to co back from the water, because prime land was reserved for wharves, stores, warehouses for food staples and this ensures that they remain in a perpetual state of indebtedness to the British. Thus the colonists are made to serve the economic interests of the British. Because they lack resources and are dependent on the Company for basic supplies, they possess little economic and political leverage, and are barred from attending Company meetings. They also face hostility from the surrounding African villagers who do not recognize the legitimacy of the land that the colonists receive. Their relationship with the Company continues to sour ov er the years and six years
59 The practices that undermine the Sierra Leone colony is furthered underscored through the s Sierra Leone and London. In 1800, Aminata makes an ill fated journey ba ck to h er childhood village in 1800. She takes with her with the intention of showing her people the life that those Africans who were taken to the New W orld lived. Aminata also patterns her own autobiography af ter she is disappointed to learn that Equiano had died a few years earlier, and makes the observation that would have liked to meet. I felt I already knew him after reading his story, an d had hoped to ask how he had gone about writing Thus Hill self reflexively draws attention to the fact that his contemporary neoslave narrative draws upon and revises the slave narrative genre and Equiano narrative in particular. This revisionist agenda is signaled by the fact that Aminata is adamant that she will not have the abolitionists authenticate h er autobiography and refuses th I give my account, you will have all of it. But it will be on my terms and my terms only published, Aminata achieves public notoriety, testifies at the parliamentary hearings on
60 the slave trade, and is invited by the King for a royal visit. This stands in contrast to Equiano who had offered to testify at the hearings but was turned down and was not er indicate that Hill deliberately patterns his heroine after Equiano, the important differences between these two works indicate that Hill also re by firmly situating the individual quest for freedom within the context of community formation and nation building among the ex s achievement of freedom. He uses his entrepreneurial skills to first buy himself out of slavery and then makes enough money through commercial activities that he is able to achieve a degree of personal autonomy. Thus he constructs a British identity by embracing commerce and trade, which he sometimes enters into at the expense of the enslaved at one point he works as an overseer and a buyer of slaves and by converting to Christianity. In contrast, Hill situates his in a community of ex slaves who are collectively searching for a homeland. She constructs her identity around familial and community bonds and unlike Equiano, who seeks to acquire full citizenship through commercial activity, Aminata seeks to acquire citi zenship through community building. As if to underscore the fact that her experiences are meant to be representative of the experiences of many other blacks in the diaspora, after interviewing the blacks seeking to go to Nova Scotia, Aminata observes that
61 I learned. Each person who stood before me had a story every bit as unbelievable as In contrast to Equiano who constructs an identity based on his financial success and his ability to integrate into British society, Aminata constructs her identity around community building and familial bonds. Unlike Equiano who buys his freedom, Aminata escapes from her master and takes refuge in Canvas Town, a community of escaped and free blacks. Moreover, in contrast to Equiano who fully accepts the identity that results from his capture and sale into slavery, Aminata never fully embraces her New World subjectivity and is b ent on returning to her homeland. It is also important to note that Equiano supported and actively participated in the Sierra Leone project. The colony is governed by the Sierra Leone Company that finances the repatriation. Equiano works for the Company in that he was appointed Commissary for the settlement. He subsequently resigns this post after he was accused of financial impropriety which he vigorously denied. Equiano was also a friend of Thomas Clarkson, the noted abolitionist, while Aminata is a friend of his brother, John Clarkson, the British lieutenant, who oversees the relocation of the blacks to Sierra Leone. Thus, both characters are part of the same historical milieu with the important difference being that Equiano, who is based in England and works for the Sierra Leone Company is complicit with the imperial project, while Aminata is among the expatriated colonists who Both works explore contrasting experien ces of diaspora and illu strate James counterdiscourses of modernity, diaspora cultures cannot claim an oppositional or
62 primary purity. Fundamentally ambivalent, they grapple with the entanglement of su bversion and the law, of invention and constraint the complicity of dystopia and In some ways, d is by no means a purely celebratory portrayal of his movement from slavery to British m arginalization and lack of full citizenship rights. Thus while Equiano presents an ultimately positive view of diaspora based on his experiences of inclusion within the explores the negative aspec ts of diaspora. While Equia no successfully enters into commerce through entrepreneurial activity and In addition to demonstrating the dire consequenc es of Company policy on the lacks feasibility for the majority of settlers. She achieves this by describing the business acumen of one of the black settlers, Cummins Shac kspear, and contrasts this with the plight of the others colonists and herself. Shackspear brings supplies and a large quantity of rum with him from Nova Scotia and opens a tavern that is patronized by white and blacks alike. He soon makes enough money t o free himself of any dependency on company goods, trades with passing ships to replenish his supply of
63 in that both use their facility with trade to gain economic independence. Aminata he that I offered brought many rewards, but kept me from depending totally 93). This situation British, cit izenship, is not a viable option for the majority of blacks. Robert J. Allison makes the point that for Equiano, economic independence was crucial to achieving freedom and citizenship. He states: Equiano presented two strong arguments against slavery. Though the in the West Indies and end to the African slave trade would actually speed up the transition to an in the British soul and the British purse. (394) have resulted from such a proposal, this arrangement also promotes economic dependency and ongoing British imperialism. the colonists have been granted freedom, economic imperial practices preclude them from entering fully into the discourse of citizenship. They are literally subjected to British rule and treated as second class citizens who lack political and economic control of their territories. Thus for the majority, freedom does not lead to economic independence but rather to continued exploitation that results in political and social
64 abjection Interestingly, Equiano embraces the Sierra Leone Project after he becomes disillusioned with trade. In spite of his success in entrepreneurship and his advocacy of economic citizenship, he is continually discriminated against and encounters n umerous individuals who attempt to cheat him out of his profits. Thus his embrace of the resettlement plan can be interpreted as a tacit realization on his part that business was not the way for the vast majority of blacks to achieve greater freedom for, based on his own personal experiences, the social degradation to which blacks were subjected invariably limits their attempts to use trade and economic activity to improve their status. Moreover, the gendered nature of the freedom that Equiano and Shackspe ar commercial activities succeed in part, because it is rooted in a model of entrepreneursh ip based on a masculine model of individualism and agency that women always gendered. But there is a tendency for theoretical accounts of diasporas and diaspora cultures to hide this fact, to talk of travel and displacement in unmarked ways, establish her as central figure in all of the communities that she lives in. In Canvas Town, s he is much sought after, by both the black inhabitants and the British soldiers to help deliver babies. As one of the few literate blacks in the communities, she relays vital information about the war and British policy towards blacks to the communities. She also teaches literacy and functions as a scribe, recording names in The Book of Negroes that details information about the blacks relocating to Nova Scotia. She again
65 performs this function when the colonists relocate once more to Sierra Leone. Thus Hill deliberately and explicitly genders the quest for citizenship by demonstrating that migration. In demonstrating the efforts of blacks who seek to form independent communities, first in North America and then in Africa, in the hopes of gaining the benefits of full citizenship while simultaneously resisting slavery and the exploitation of the plantation economy, the novel encompasses the main elements of African dias pora theory. Dwayne E. Williams notes that scholarship on the African diaspora has tended to focus on anti constituents of the formation of the African diaspora; the quest of African desce nded peoples for full citizenship rights; and black nationalist movements that sought to establish separate homelands and nations for blacks both in the New World and in Africa (108). The novel explores these strands of the intellectual tradition of diasp ora in fictive form. In fleeing the US, the black colonists attempt to escape enslavement and resist the plantation economy. They embark on a quest for citizenship by forming separate nations outside of the US. Yet the novel shows that the counterculture of resistance that these communities articulate is undermined and fundamentally compromised by their ongoing links to systems of imperialism. Thus the novel demonstrates the way the search for diasporic citizenship grew out of anti slavery resistance but was also compromised by the ongoing exploitation of the capitalist economy.
66 In text supports the view advocated by h istorian Robin D.G. Kelly that a diasporic conceptualizatio nation center and that the international dimensions of American history ( 123 24). Cultural theor ist bell hooks echoes these sentiments when s he notes that the overly national focus that characterizes much of the theorizing on African American lack of a whole critic African American discourse makes it difficult for blacks to move beyond the parameters of identity politics and discourses centered on victimhood and prevents an analysis of diaspora cultures that engage with the politics of colonization and decolonization have been producing ( 217; 226). Both of these novels enter into this critical discourse on colonialism and d iaspora by positioning the African American experience of slavery within the context of Empire and diaspora. A Mercy weds the individual experience of slavery and discourses of identity politics to an exploration of community formation and dissolution in the pre independence period of American history to demonstrate that blacks and other non white groups were subjected to imperialism from the earliest periods of American history. Someone Knows My Name shows that some blacks, in an effort to escape the in ternal colonization that became rooted in the aftermath of the war of Independence, sought freedom in the wider diaspora of the Atlantic world.
67 CHAPTER 3 TIME, SPACE, SLAVERY: COMMUNITY FORMATION AND THE THE KNOWN WORLD SONG YET SUNG In Chapter 1, I examine the slave experience in relation to discourses of Empire and diaspora. In this chapter, I examine two contemporary African American neoslave nar r atives The Known World Song Yet Sung that position the African American slave experience in relation to discourses of American nationhood. Set in the 1850s, in the decade and a half preceding the Civil War, these novels configure resistance to slaver y, not only in terms of escape, but also in terms of community building. Unlike traditional slave and neoslave narratives that place emphasis on the individual str uggle for freedom, these novels situate localized portrayals of community formation, which o ccurred among slaves on the plantations of the South and among free blacks in the North, within a broader discourse of American nationhood to demonstrate t he importance of slavery to the discourse o f African American citizenship 1 These novels make use o f temporal tropes in the form of flashforwards to the postslavery period and the latter decades of the twentieth century to demonstrate that the relations of domination that undergirded slavery continues to impact African hip in the contemporary present In The Known World the flashforwards are presented as metanarrative devices in which the 1 Striking examples of slave n arratives that focus on the individual experience of slavery include Narrative of the Like of Frederick Douglass titious account of a slave revolt The Heroic Slave Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl genders the experience of slavery but again the focus is on a central individual, a single consciousness. Although contemporary neoslave narratives s uch as Dessa Rose and Beloved challenge this linearity and present more complex narrative perspectives that give more insight into the community experience of slavery, the stories still remain focused on a central protagonist, whose consciousness is the fo cal point around which events in the novel turn.
68 omniscient narrator informs the reader of future events. This novel contrasts a group of black slave owners who articulate an entry i nto citizenship by accepting the te rms of the dominant grou p with the communities that form among their slaves that enter into the socio political processes of the nation even as they interrogate systems associated with racial exploitation. Through a ser ies of flashforwards to the lives of their descendants, the novel emphasizes the heritage of the se slaves w hose legacy becomes a part of living history in contrast to the slaveholders, whose descendants are never mentioned in the world of the novel and who remain, for all intents and purposes, consigned to the historical archives. In Song Yet Sung the flashforwards are made through dreams and visions Some of these visions are of the march on Washington and Mar foreground the negative effects of consumerism on blacks. They include visions of blinged out rappers singing songs that denigrate women; music videos of black women gyrating to these songs; and ima ges of overweight black children eating fast food but still crying out in hunger. In addition to demonstrating the continuity between the slave experience, the Civil Rights Movement and contemporary issues of African American citizenship these visions d raw attention to the relationship between the contemporary capitalist economy and the practice of citizenship. Thus McBride effectively criticizes what Nira Yural Davis terms consumer citizenship, a term she uses to describe the construction of citizensh ip which close model of neo liberal globalization, Politics 61). She maintains that this definition of citizenship depoliticizes the concept of citizenship in that it constructs
69 citizens as in informed [promotes] the individual persona and autonomy rather than the relationship between the individua l and the community ( Gender 85). In juxtaposing the Civil Rights Movement, which is a quintessential expression of community power, with contemporary forms of consumerism among African Americans that limit and erode citizenship, McBride develops the i dea that the collectivist sensibility that informed the struggle for equality is being undermined by individualistic practices linked to consumer citizenship. He thus uses his narrative to make political and philosophical statements about the black experi ence in contemporary American slavery. In using the slave experience to emphasize the importance of community formation among slaves and ex slaves which they connect to the continued denial of full citizenship to African Americans, these writers situate their novels squarely within the neoslave narrative genre which, from its inception, has been imbued with political significance. The neoslave narrative was born out of the renewed interest in African American historiography which was stimulated by the Ci vil Rights Movement. These novels, which fictively recreate the period of plantation slavery, became an important aesthetic element of this historiography. Ashraf Rushdy observes that during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, groups such as the Bla ck Power Movements and the New Left stimulated an interest in slavery, and the neoslave narrative was one of the cultural products that resulted from this renewed concern with the slave experience (3 4). The Civil Rights Movement also privileged the conce pt and practice of community; a fact that Elizabeth Kella underscores. She notes that the Civil Rights Movement
70 transformed and politicized the concept of community which, prior to the World War 2 and Civil Rights era, was viewed as a site that was concep tually and socially opposed to ). In spite of the fact that the first generation of neoslave narratives was inspired by the Civil Rights Movement, which is arguably the most overt and successful display of community power ever articulated by African Americans, themes of collective and communal exercises of power are muted in the narratives produced in the 1970s and 1980s which tend to focus on the individual movement to the North to freedom and on rewriting history, as it pertains to the slave experience from the perspective of the ens laved. In contrast, the most recent neoslave narratives produced in the 2000s use the slave experience to provide explicit commentary on the African American condition in the contemporary present. In so doing, they are more closely akin to slave narrativ es published in the postslavery period that tend to privilege the community experience of slavery. William L. Andrews notes that in contrast to antebellum narratives, many of the narrators of these postbellum slave narratives de emphasize individual strug gle opting instead to portray freedom as a community endeavor. As a result, they emphasize their as dedicated less to their own fulfillment in freedom than to their cal ling and duty as stewards of the welfare of a larger group, identified usually with a church or a school, of what they
71 accomplished for others rather than internally focused confessions of how they self viii). 2 I maintain that, like these early narratives of freedom that shifted focus from the individual to the comm unity, in many instances to examine the difficulties that blacks faced in achieving the full rights of citizens in the postbellum period, The Known World and Song Yet Sung make a similar shift away from the individual to the community experience of slavery to demonstrate that the slave experience intersects with the discourse of nation formation and contemporary issues of African American citizenship. Moreover, unlike earlier neoslave narratives that tend to make implicit as opposed to explicit connections between the slave experience and political discourses of the nation, 3 the two contemporary neoslave narratives that are the focus of this chapter, development among ex/slaves within the broader discourses of nation formation and the African American entry into citizenship. African American theorist Houston A. Baker underscores the relationship between discourses of nationhood and the quest of African Americans for c itizenship 2 Behind the Scenes, or Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House From Slav e Cabin to the Pulpit Life and Adventures of James Williams, a Fugitive Slave, with a Full Description of the Underground Railroad Autobiography of James L. Smith Life of Rev. Thomas James, by Hims elf 3 Corregidora Beloved Charles Middle Passage Flight to Canada
72 rights in his discussion of the black entry into modernity. In his book Turning South Again : Re Thinking Modernism/Re Reading Booker T Baker defines the black entry into modernity, what he : the achievement of a life enhancing and empowering public sphere mobility coextensive with a black citizenship that entails documented mobility cess to a decent job at a decent rate of pay. A central right and incumbency of black modernism, as well, is the vote. (33) sphere physical movement as well as social cl ass mobility. He also views the movement North as integral to black entry into modernity and highlights the mass migration of blacks from the South to the North in the latter decades of the 19 th century and the early 20 th century as indicative of this tre nd. associate the movement of blacks to the North with an entry into discourses of modernity, they also portray the community building that took place among slaves in the South as cr ucial to the African American discourse of modernity. Thus they complicate the tendency to equate the North with modernity and the South with plantation slavery. The Known World demonstrates the way slaves both accommodated and resisted the discourse of slavery by contrasting slaves who acquiesced to their enslavement with those who resisted thei r oppression. Spatial tropes figure prominently in the portrayal of the black slaveholders, who conceive of power and progress in empirical terms as ownership of land, house, and possessions objects that can be physically located in space.
73 This worldview is contrasted with the community building that takes place among their slaves. Some of these slaves, while physically confined to the plantation world, suc that affirms the institutions of family and marriage. Others escape the plantation and flee North where they create communities that challenge the exploitation of plantation s lavery that essentially amounts to a counter narrative of the nation that critiques the exploitative individualism upon which so much of American na tional identity is predicated In Song Yet Sung the movement of blacks away from the plantation South to t he North is implicitly evoked through the Underground Railroad, which prefigures the mass migration of blacks to the North in the postslavery era, and a secret system of communication, known as The Code, that is used by the slaves to convey information amo ng themselves and to circumvent the heavy surveillance of the white power structure In addition to illustrating the methods by which the slaves articulate a counterculture of resistance to slavery, these covert methods of resistance demonstrate that oppo sition to slavery was configured not only in terms of escape but also in terms of community building Conformity and Resistance: Community Formation in the Plantation South The Known World which contains no central protagonist but instead uses several characters to explore varied responses to enslavement, examines three approaches to entry into discourses of American nationhood. The first approach is represented by African American slaveholders who uncritically mimic the behavior of the ruling white el ite and can be interpreted as a critique of the consumer citizen who uncritically assimilates American citizenship without altering it. These slaveholders are contrasted with their slaves, led by Elias and Stamford, who place self interest aside to
74 form a n empowered community even in the space of plantation slavery. Flashforwards to the contemporary present indicate that this community would later form the foundation for the legal and civic exercises of citizenship articulated by their descendants in late r years. Another group of slaves, who escape to the North, enter into modernity and processes of nationhood even as they critique the exploitative individualism associated with race based capitalism. Led by a female slave by the name of Alice, these slav es escape to Washington, imagine a utopian world through art and approximate a utopian community even within the segregated capital of the US. In using art, representation, and cultural production to articulate an alternative vision of community that chal lenges the hegemony of official discourse, this community lends philosophical, cultural, and political discourse that would help them chart a course towards citizenship. Th us the novel contrast s the practice of black slavehold ing with the community building that occurs among their slaves to demonstrate the problematic nature of early African American entry into processes of the nation that was characterized both by resistanc e to and accommodation of the hegemonic discourses of the larger society. Moreover, persistent references to European immigrants of varying nationalities that permeate the narrative allude to the process of Anglo American citizenship that was fuelled in t he mid nineteenth century by successive waves of European migration to the country and situate slavery, and the resistance to it articulated by the communities of ex/slaves within the larger discourse of American nationhood.
75 Thus far, critics have tende of American nationhood. S usan V. Donaldson for example, argues that the novel interrogates both official narrat ives of history /slavery and the discourse of mastery itsel f by exposing the daily operations and limits of power and domination, excavating the counternarratives blocked by those operations, and ultimately revising both the content and the form of the his similarly argues that the portrayal of the practice of black slave owning unsettles traditional perceptions of race and gender relations under slavery and in the process, demonstrates the limitations of offici ally recorded history by questioning its authenticity and accuracy I concur with these interpretations, I maintain that the novel also juxtaposes economic enterprise is based with the successes of community collaboration among their slaves to critique not only the system of Southern slavery but also the practices of the nation that facilitated this form of oppression. Thus in addition to articulating a counternarrati ve of history, the novel also provides a counternarrative of the nation. The black slaveholders are an example of those blacks who sought to gain social status by mimicking the behavior of the ruling white elite. They function as a comprador bourgeoisie w ho accommodate and participate in the slave system at the expense of other blacks, and in the process, internalize notions of black inferiority and white superiority that results in their alienation from self and community Tolerated and oftentimes patron ized by the white slaveholders, they are afforded a degree of privilege as a result of their free status and property holding yet they do not possess full
76 citizenship rights. Nonetheless, they think it only a matter of time before they are accepted into t he white world of privilege and view their slaveholding, through which they replicate the social and class hierarchies of the plantation South, as a means of having the power of some whites, had been brought up to believe that they were rulers Henry Townsend epitomizes the rejection of community identification to which these black slaveholders subscribe. Henry is legally owned by his fathe r, Augustus, who buys him out of slavery after purchasing his own freedom in 1834 and later, that of his wife. 4 In the years it takes his parents to amass the money needed to secure his freedom Henry increasingly identifies with his master, William Robbi ns, the largest slaveholder in Manchester County Robbins sells Henry land adjacent to his plantation and Henry subsequently establishes a small scale plantation patterned after th at of his master. He continues to purchase more land so that by the time o t sharply with the behavior of his father who identifies with the slaves. Not only does Augustus Underground Railroad by hiding runaways in secret compartments in his house. Thus 4 1843 is also the year when the slaves in the British West Indies were emancipated. Thi s is a subtle reference to the end of slavery in another area of the Atlantic world that creates the sense that the end of slavery in the US is inevitable and that it is only a matter of time before the Southern US follows suit. In so doing, Jones shows th e relationship and interconnections between various parts of the black Atlantic.
77 while he overtly accommodates the slave system by purchasing his wife and son, he senti ment to be openly expressed, and is mortified when Henry becomes a slaveowner. Their relationship never fully recovers from the conflict that ensues between father and the house that he constructs for himself on his newly bought property and opt instead to stay in the slave quarters. identification manifested by two of his slaves, Elias and St amford, who lend support to the intimacy and family life that took place in the slave quarters of [and] was a structure of community Spiritual Interrogations 131 32). Like Henry, these slaves are initially intensely egocentric and driven by personal desires but undergo personal transformations that lead them to place the needs of fellow slaves above their own. Elias runs away immedia tely after Henry purchases him. Although part of his ear is cut off as punishment, he is determined to make another escape attempt but curtails this plan after he falls in love with, and marries Celeste, a lame slave, whose physical deformity precludes an sacrifice his single minded focus on escape to pursue a relationship with Celeste is he remembered that there was something b ack in slavery that he had forgotten and so he ran back into slavery, passing millions who were running toward freedom. He
78 searched the empty slave quarters for what he had forgotten and in the last cabin out of the hundreds he had searched, he had come u Henry shrewdly encourages the marriage knowing that this union is a more leg, 5 the intense egocentricity that the system of slavery fosters in him and embracing the institutions of marriage and family that were habitually debased und resistance shifts from physical escape and becomes centered on family and community building. To be sure, Elias continues to be self interested, but as opposed to a narrow focus on self, he devotes himself to the needs and well being of his family. Although he black overseer does not exempt him from his slave sta tus in the eyes of the white world. entailed not only physical escape but was also a mental process that saw slaves asserting their subjectivity and resisting attempts to dehu manize them Like Elias, preservation. At a very young age, he internalizes the advice of an older man who tells him that young female companionship will protect him from the vagaries of sla very. After he is rejected by a 5 This struggle be tween master and slave invokes master/slave dialectic Gilroy interprets slave narrative thro ugh his master/slave dialectic to highlight how slavery can be used to interroga te the discourse of modernity. He argues that ry of the master/slave to invest the slave with agenc choice of death over enslavement death, Elias chooses family.
79 series of young lovers, and then by an older slave woman to whom he proposes marriage, Stamford experiences a personal crisis. He attempts to commit suicide by incinerating himself in the lighting that accompanies a thunde rstorm but is thwarted by runs towards a patch of lightening, but then runs away from it to place the bucket of s to run back to the lightening, it moves away from him and shatters a tree burning itself out in the process. Stamford views two crows that die in the lightning strike as sacrifices that take his place in death and undergoes an epiphany that leads to his rebirth. 6 He subsequently renames himself Stamford Crow Blueberry and devotes himself to caring for the young. claim that blacks in the pre Emancipation e)produced] cultural forms and practices whose central function is community building and the production of the Spiritual Interrogations ctive self Spiritual Interrogations 131). Through a series of flashforwards, the novel develops the idea that the pra ctices and communal identification that these slaves fostered on the plantation lays the foundation for the 6 This incident is remin Beloved where Stamp Paid gathers in law to hold a feast for the neig hbors whose goodwill changes to envy of her good fortune with the result that they refuse to warn Sethe that her master is coming to re capture her. She is caught unawares, and kills her toddler, Beloved, rather than return her to slavery. In contrast to betrayal, building among the slaves on Townsend plantation.
80 centers on Stamford and occurs in 1875, twenty years after his epiphany. Now running an orphanage in Richmond, Virginia with his wife, Delphie, Stamford reflects on the passage of time, his personal transformation, and the progress that the community has made in the aftermath of slavery: Stamford that day would reali ze for the first time just how far they had come. He would have cried as he had that day after the ground opened up and took the dead crows, but he had in his arms a baby new to being an It mattered only that those kinds of chains were gone and that he had crawled out into the clearing and was able to stand up on his hind legs and look around and appreciate the di fference between then and now (353 54) Another flashforward, this time to the late twentieth century demonstrates the continuity between the community that forms on the plantation in the antebellum period [Stamford], as he walked back, was the very corner where more than a hundred years later they would put that first street sign STAMFORD AND DELPHIE CROW historian writes a book, published by the University of V every ninety seventh person in the Commonwealth of Virginia was kin, by blood or nuclear family that begins on the Townsend plantation woul d later have a state wide These acts of recognition enable the community to symbolically claim ownership of the area and articulate an entry into the civic discourses of the nation. Yet the difficulty that they face in achieving recognition in these discourses reflects what Sites of Slavery: Citizenship and Racial Democracy in the Post Civil Rights Imagination Tillet observes
81 that in s pite of legislation passed during the Civil Rights movement that was designed to give minorities access to the full rights of citizens, African Americans continue to be marginalized and excluded from the civic discourses of the nation; a situation that she the right to vote and politically participate in the processes of government, marginalized or underrepresented in the civic myths, monuments, narr atives, icons, creeds, and images of the past that constitute, reproduce, and promote an American civic citizenship or The process through which the name of the str eet is made official demonstrates help to promote a sense of national belonging as well as the ongoing challenges that they face in achieving full inclusion in the se discourses. In spite of repeated petitions by than a hundred years after the orphanage is founded, and more than eight decades after the street is unofficially name d by the community. Thus the flashforward illustrates the continuity between contemporary civic discourses of African American citizenship that slavery that disrupts the teleological notion of progress as well as the binary logic of past/present, inside/outside, that is associated with modernity. 7 Here the time lag or temporal 7 Bhabha maintains that theorists of modernity tend to view the experience of slavery as an a nomaly and not as an integral component of modernity. According to Bhabha, theorists such as Michel Foucault and Benedict Anderson do not account for racism in their theories and thus overlook the temporal disjunction that the experience of slavery introd
82 disjuncture that informs the expr ession of African American citizenship is demonstrated in the dissonance between the de facto citizenship, civic and otherwise, that the community had been articulating since the postslavery years and the official recognition that is only granted to them o ver a hundred years later. These flashforwards also indicate that while the ex slaves physically remain in the south, their descendants are firmly situated within the discourse of modernity. In contrast to the descendants of the slaves, whose lives in the postslavery future are referenced, and who seek to repossess, in actual and symbolic ways, the space that had been denied them during slavery, the slaveholders are temporally and spatially dispossessed. In spite of the fact that Henry owns land and prope rty, at the moment of 11 ). His wife Caldonia, who inherits his property, e ). Thus in spite of their material wealth, the couple experiences a spiritual emptiness that manifests itself metaphorically as the loss of their worldly possessions. This psychic dispossession is literalized in the spatial dissolution of their plantation enterprise after Manchester County is torn apart bert Colfax. Robbins buys land that Colfax history of traditions of civic and liberal humanism that create ideological matrices of national aspiration, together with the lag
83 ensuing feud which results in four deaths and becomes intergenerational: Over time the bad blood helped to tear apart the county, so that by the fire of 1912, when all the judicial records of the county were destroyed, the town of Manchester was the county seat to nobody. Manchester became the only county in the history of the Commonwealth of Virginia to be divided and swall owed torn asunder in what was the that legally establish ownership rights ensures that the slaveholders are literally wiped off the map This incident develops the idea that the lust for material possessions that drives the slaveholders, both black and white, is ultimately self destructive. As if to further develop situate the slav that accompanies it in the past, chapter four of the novel is narrated as a flashback. Set in 1881, this chapter is presented in the form of an interview that Fern, a former slaveholder and close family friend of He nry and his wife, gives to Anderson Frazier, a pamphleteer who would later write a short history about the phenomenon of black slave flashbacks, and her conversation wit h Frazier, to explicitly situate the events that she describes in the past. The reader is also informed that a few copies of the pamphlets reflexively position the slave experience that oc curred on the Townsend plantation as history. modern and confined to the past when contrasted with the experiences of Alice, one of gh she is an extremely productive worker in the fields by day, Alice escapes the routine of slave life by feigning madness
84 and wandering about at night. The slave patrollers eventually come to view her as harmless and she gains unprecedented mobility for a slave which enables her to map the surrounding territory. She eventually uses this knowledge to escape from the incident draws attention to what historian Walter Johnson refers to as politics rigid routine of daily discipline that slaveholders used to control their slaves and the role that resistance to these attempts at time control played i n slave revolts. He maintains that in addition to physical escape, the way slaves conceived of and utilized their time was also an integral component of slave resistance. He questions dominant interpretations of slave revolts that conform to the progre metanarrative of racial liberalism the story of black that they were making the a rguments and politics, the historical process, through In his own interpretation of these revolts, Johnson notes that slaves planned rebellion in and that they possessed myriad conceptualizations of events that were unfolding around them that res (152 53) Alice, who is conscious of how time is controlled in the life of the slave, successfully devises a method to manipulate the conditions of her enslavement which quotidian time. These slaves settle in Washington DC where they collectively own and operate a hotel with a number of other blacks, many of w hom are also escapees from
85 slavery. In contrast to individuals like Stamford, Elias, and Celeste who remain in the South and fight for freedom by preserving the community, effectively creating a physical and symbolic communal space in which they articulat e freedom, the runaways achieve freedom and an entry into modernity through spatial movement out of the zone of plantation slavery. However, like the community that the ex/slaves form in the South, the community that the runaways create in the North also model an alternative discourse of citizenship in that they claim an entry into the socio political processes of nationhood, even as their economic enterprise challenges the exploitation of race based capitalism that is exemplified in the system of Southern slavery. Maps, Alternative Worlds, and a Counter Discourse of Nationhood. In situating the community that the runways form in Washington D.C., the underscores the rela tionship between the expression of freedom articulated by the ex slaves and the larger discourse of American nation building that was predicated in large measure, upon the exploitation of slavery. T he ir hotel cate Congressmen, a physic al proximity to the processes of government that juxtaposes the ex the official discourse of American nationhood that they simultaneously enter into even as they interrogate the exploitation with which it is associated. Moreover, t he American Civil War is explicitly alluded to in a letter that runaways living in Washington This letter is dated April, 1861, the month when the war began; a sub tle but explicit reference to the crisis of identity that the country was experiencing concerning the role of slavery in its future development, which would be deci ded by the outcome of the War
86 pports and mobility, a concept that refers both to the movement North away from the physical space of plantation slavery and to the importance of upward social mobility for bl acks. This community embodies this concept in that their achievement of freedom is associated not only with their physical movement away from the South but also with upward social mobility that sees them acquiring status and property. However the ex slav embracing an ethic of community that contrasts with the exploitative individualism that characterizes the system of Southern slavery This community also complicates for civic citizenship (similar to that expressed by the community that forms in the South among the ex /slaves) which suggests that the de facto, if not de jure legal citizenship that they exercise, while crucial to their entry into nationhood, is not the only component of citizenship. their representation of the plantation world that they flee through two murals that are inspired by her night wanderings, these works are ekphrastically described by Cald artwork that is part tapestry, part painting, and part clay structure all in one exquisite County of
87 (384 s] of vision and his belief that her maps are an origins narrative, rendered visually. The word is also a direct reference to the actual community that the ex slav es create. Although the vision of utopia depicted in the maps is at odds with the actual past Alice deliberately omits the horrific elements of slave life from which she flees choosing instead to re envision the South in idyllic terms the life that Al ice and her fellow runaways live in Washington is in fact a kind of utopia that reifies the concept of observation that blacks in the Atlantic world combined aesthetic and political discourses status of citizens led them to enquire into what the best possible forms of social and political existence might be. The memory of slavery, actively preserved as a living intellectual resource in their expressive political culture, helped them to generate a new ). By blending an aesthetic display of culture with the articulation of their political vision, t his community develops the idea that resistance entails not just a physical escape from the site of slavery but also requires a radical re envisioning or re imagining of the slave past. By opting to recuperate and positivize the cultural memory and ident ity that is only by connecting with and thereby redeeming the past can the immigrants [to the
88 North] envision a vi 9). Page makes this o bservation in the context of his discussion of the conflicted relationship between African Americans and the South. In his text Reclaiming Community in Contemporary African American Fiction he argues that African Americans simultaneously associated the S outh with a sense of identity arising out of a shared ancestral heritage and the degradation of the plantation system. The ex slaves attempt to reconcile this conflict by using the murals to show that although compelled to flee the South to achieve freedo m and selfhood, their subjectivity is still indelibly tied to their past. Thus while the maps position the plantation world that they leave behind in the subjectivity of th e community that the ex slaves form in Washington. They function as slaves leave behind and the new world they create for themselves that is characterized by their entry into modernity as represented by their business enterprise. Yet in eschewing private ownership in favor of communal ownership, Alice and her cohorts reject elements of moderni ty associated with oppression, namely the economic exploitat ion and forced both the identification with, and the interrogation of, modernity The murals reflect this ambivalence in that they interrogate modernity, even as they articulate the subjectivity of the community and their entry into modernity. They function as a visual and artistic form of knowledge production that in their accuracy,
89 contrasts with the scribal records sanctioned by official discourse, such as maps, census taking, and pamphlet writing that litter the novel which are presented as flawed, es her intimate knowledge of the plantation and nothing missing, not a cabin, not a ba rn, not a chicken, not a horse. Not a single person is missing. I suspect that if I were to count the blades of grass, the number would be the maps and other recor ds associated with official discourses are presented as these novel takes its title) that the sheriff of Manchester county keeps in his office is three hundred years out of date. In spite of its title, most of the territory that it depicts is in fact unknown to the cartographer who provides no details about the landmass. The map is a sketch of the outline of the North American continent, and even this is incomplete as Fl refers to South America while the North American continent remains unnamed. The data collection methods used to compile information that becomes part of the histori cal archives of Manchester County are also depicted as flawed. The census hegemo nic official histories is parodied in a description of a contemporary historian who inclusion in the official narrative that she gives of the area. Thus traditional ma ps,
90 history, the census, and other official records associated with empirical, scientific, supposedly objective methods of data collection, are invalidated. In their interrogation of an alternative citizenship that, in critiquing the exploitative individualism upon which so much of American national identity is predicated, articulates what Bhabha describes as narratives of the nation that continually evoke and erase its to talizing boundaries both actual and conceptual [and] disturb those ideological manoeuvres The discourse of American nationhood is also signaled by persistent references to European immigrants of varying nationalities that permeate the narrative and that allude to the process of Euro American citizenship that was ultimately consolidated, sometimes at the expense of the resident black population, by the waves of immigrants wh o were arriving from Europe in the 1800s. 8 One such immigran t is the Frenchman, Broussard, who is tried in Manchester County for killing his business partner and subsequently convicted and hanged. Broussand vociferously touts his American citizenship, wh ich he gains three years before his death, to the sheriff and the jurors but is condemned because of his foreign accent. Another immigrant, the wife of the death on the s ea voyage from Ireland to the US. Consequently, she never comes to 8 David Roediger explores the way immigrant groups constructed themselves as white, and became ( Roediger, David R. Working Toward Whiteness: How America's Immigrants Became White: t he Strange Journey from Ellis Island to the Suburbs New York: Basic Books, 2005. )
91 her misery. Had America not called out to her first husband, not sung to him, they could have staye 52). This feeling of not belonging to America is reminiscent of the lack of civic citizenship that the two communities of free blacks experience. The bonds of sympathy between the ex/slaves an d the newly arrived immigrants is underscored in the fact that walking sticks that he sends to the Irish merchant. The fact that the merchant and his wife do not turn the escap ed slave over to the authorities indicates their tacit collusion with the discourse of anti slavery resistance. Interestingly, Rita hands the the woman and queen of E base. Adam was holding up Eve who was holding up Cain who was holding up Abel and so on and so on. After fourteen or more other figures, including his idea of the king and queen of England, symbolically merge the Biblical story of creation, the colonial past of America, and the American narrative of independence, invoke the American origins narrative. By articulating an entry into the c ivic discourses of the nation the communities of free blacks, in the North and in the South, hig hlight their own creation story w hich is omitted from the Anglo American narrative of origins. In contrast ing the individualism of the black slaveholders with the communi ty building that their slaves participate in, The Known World indicates that blacks adopted various responses to slavery and charted various courses to freedom that involved both resistance to and accommodation of the hegemonic discourses of the larger society
92 Augustus is representative of those slaves who resisted slavery yet did not challenge the principles upon which it was founded. In Henry, we see slaves who bought into the system and sought to perpetuate it while Celeste and Elias repres ent those slaves, who while physically trapped in the plantation South, possessed the mental and moral fortitude to conceive of a reality devoid of slavery. Alice is an example of those who cunningly bided their time until viable opportunities for escape from slavery presented themselves. B y situating these various responses to slavery in relation to discourse s of American nationhood this novel draws attention to the way the movement from slavery to freedom conditioned African American citizenship. Son g Yet Sung : Mobility Modernity, and African American Citizenship Song Yet Sung makes use of temporal and spatial tropes to examine the slave experience in relation to discourses of community formation, nati onhood, and modernity. S et in March 1850, in Dorchester County, which is situated on the eastern shore of Maryland, the novel centers on the experiences of Liz Spocott, an escaped slave who is assisted by fellow blacks in her attempt to elude slave catche details the inner workings of the Underground Railroad and a secret system of communication, known as The Code, that is used by the slaves to convey information among each other and to circumve nt the heavy surveillance of the white power structure. In addition to illustrating the methods by which the slaves articulate a counterculture of resistance to slavery, these covert methods of resistance demonstrate that opposition to slavery was configu red not only in terms of escape but also in terms of community building. This idea is developed through the fact that none of the characters actually escape to the North. Rather emphasis is placed on the community
93 co operation that is needed to ensure th at the Underground Railroad remains a viable method of escape as opposed to the actual escape itself. This focus on the process of the Underground Railroad as opposed to its efficacy develops the idea that while the movement North was crucial to African A merican modernity, an equally important element of this process was community building. Moreover, through repeated visions that Liz has of black life in the US in the latter half of the twentieth century, the novel explicitly links its portrayal of ninet eenth century American slavery with the Civil Rights Movement and the ongoing struggle of blacks to fully actualize the citizenship rights that they legally gained in the course of this movement. The slave experience depicted in the novel is also explicit ly connected to the Civil Rights era through the son of a maroon slave, known as the Woolman, who Amber, a male slave who is legally freed by his mistress and raised as his own. Interesting, Liz, around whom the activities of the Underground Railroad are centered, never makes it to the North but instead succumbs to injuries sustained trying to avoid re capture. Thus the males as the argument can be made that McBride gender s the African American entry into modernity by constructing it as a masculinist discourse that marginalizes the role of the female. symbolic component of the African American e ntry into modernity, and the covert activity of the slaves, much of which is centered on the movement away from the space modernity is associated with the movement North and with the creation of a distinctly
94 African American form of nationhood that he links to the phenomenon of maroonage In The New Negro: An Interpretation Baker maintains that Locke articulates the concerns of the rac e, in the process of which he refers to blacks as a nation. In so doing, Locke was engaging in an act of radical marroonage by challenging the larger national polity responsible for the oppression of the race. Baker states: the world of The New Negro rep resents a unified community of national interests set in direct opposition to the general economic, political, and teleological tenets of a racist land. The work is, in itself, a communal project, drawing on resources, talents, sounds, images, rhythms of a marooned society or nation existing on the frontiers or margins of all American promise, profit, and modes of production. It thus seeks its inspiration in the very flight, or marronage, to the urban North of millions of black folk (77). Thus for Baker, b lack society of the postslavery era, like maroon communities that existed under slavery, was marginalized and forced to dialectically construct itself in opposition to the broader economic and political discourses of American society. In equating the ma roon experience with the black migration to the North, Baker configures this mass migration as an act of resistance, by blacks, to the oppression they encountered in the post slavery era. Moreover, i radical marronage, intellectual discourses that interrogate American national discourse, within the counterculture of resistance to slavery and oppression that was first ar ticulated by the maroon, who fled t he plantation system, and subsequently reinforced by tho se blacks who fled the South. The Underground Railroad can be positioned as part of the system of maroonage in that it functions as a precursor to this mass migration of blacks to the North that
95 wo uld take place in the post slavery period. The Underground Railroad was made up of a vast, secret network of individuals who hid, guided, and transported runaway slaves to the North and mid West. It was operated primarily by blacks, who funded and mainta ined the operation although they were aided by white abolitionists, quakers, and others sympathetic to the cause. The Underground Railroad was formed in response to the original Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 and was a way of combatting this law which stipula ted that slaves who fled to the North remained slaves, gave masters the right to recapture runaways who had made it to the North, and retu rn them to the South, and instituted harsh penalties for individuals who assisted runaways In setting his story in 1 850, when the second Fugitive Slave Law was passed, McBride draws attention to the relationship between the activities of the Underground Railroad, around which so much of the novel centers, and this piece of official legislation that was designed to suppo rt the system of slavery. Not only did the Underground Railroad literally move blacks from slavery to freedom, it was also a powerful symbol of the desire for freedom held by many slaves and it counteracted proslavery arguments that blacks were content w ith their lot. Donald Yacovone notes that in addition to smuggling escaped slaves to freedom, the advocates who argued that blacks were unfit for freedom and incapable of managing their own affairs (2224). The Underground Railroad was thus a counterculture, a way by which the slaves covertly resisted official discourses that supported the slave system. It also helped to metaphorically present the movement of blacks to the North coded in
96 r ailroad terminology for secrecy [and] consisted of various routes (lines), hiding places (stations), and assistants (conductors) who helped to transport escapees al (1034). In light of the fact that the railroad was a symbol of modernity in the wider culture, the appropriation of railroad metaphors to describe the process by which slaves were smuggled to freedom indicates that blacks conceived of their m ovement North as an entry into modernity. The novel further invokes the Underground Railroad through its protagonist, Liz, McBride freely acknowledges that his story wa character of Liz shares certain parallels with Tubman like Tubman, she is struck in the head in early life and experiences sudden periods of sleep where she has visions of the future. Tubman also suffered simila r episodes of sudden sleep during which she claimed that she had dreams that provided practical solutions to her problems; an ability (356). Liz is similarly revered for her mystical abilities by her fellow slaves who refer to Tubman along with Frederick Douglass two of the most well known escapees from slavery who later became leading figures in the movement to abolish slavery, were from shore was a draw for runaways coming from concentration of runways positions the area as a border zone that connects the free
97 blacks in the Nort h with the slaves in the South. Underground Railroad that was instrumental in smuggling slaves into the North, underscores the pivotal role that the area played in articulating a counterculture of resistance to slavery that prefigures the discours e of black nationhood that would begin to take shape at the turn of the 19 th century. Thus in addition to its strategic physical location, the area can also be viewed symbolically as a transit point that marked the movement of blacks into modernity. The novel presents the Code a secret system of communication that the slaves use to circumvent the heavy surveillance of the white power structure as being integral to the success of the Underground Railroad. Thus the Code can be viewed as part of the black geared at perpetuating black oppression. It is an audio visual means of communication used to convey messages and warnings designed to help runaways and their helpers avoid d iscovery. Messages are transmitted through various visual and verbal symbols including patterns stitched on quilts, knots on fishing lines, Biblical scriptures songs, and the direction of sails on fishing boats The Code is gradually divulged to Liz, an d to knowledge to her. She is later taught some more of the code by an old slave woman while they are both imprisoned by the slave trader Patty Canon who monopolizes t he slave catching business in four counties, and is notorious for her ruthlessness. In addition to hunting fugitive slaves, she steal s s laves from other slave catchers as is the case with Liz whom she steals from two slave catchers who had been hired, by her master, to capture her. After Liz escapes from Patty Canon, she hides in the woods,
98 and is helped by the Woolman, a maroon, in return for helping his son escape from a muskrat trap. She then uses parts of the Code to communicate with Wiley and his un cle, Amber, two slaves, who also assist her in her escape attempt. Amber, who is himself planning escape, hides her in a deserted area of the woods and then takes her North. The covert activity that surrounds the Code and the Underground Railroad demonstrate the community formation that took place among the slaves even in the face of hostility from the surrounding white community. While some whites are aware that t he blacks have a hidden method of communication, they are unable to determine oings communication Railroad, as he attempts to transmit a coded message in his presence, by tapping a specific rhythm on his anvil but he does not possess full knowledge of it. In addition to being a literal system of communication, the Code is also metaphorically constructed as a shared ideology and a way for blacks who resist slavery to identify each other. [the Code] Underground Railroad, who transport workshop with the intention of starting her on her journey to the North, equates it with
99 the Bible, telling Liz Clarence refuses to take his freedom, op t ing instead to remain enslaved in order to help smuggle others to freedom. He states: The backsmith, who is free similarly chooses to remain in the South and act as a conduit to help smuggle other blacks to the North. Thus the worldview, the orientation to freedom and the network that makes freedom possible is presented as being just as important as the attainmen t of freedom. Others involved in the Underground Railroad include Ducky, an elderly slave who feigns imbecility to escape suspicion and transmit messages to other principals in the ighbor of possesses the entire code. T he rest is told in pieces and given out as needed, in order to ensure that if members of the group are caught, they will n ot divulg e the entire operation; a security measure that demonstrates that the community of slaves who work blacksmith tells Long that the entire village of Cambridge City is involved in the blacks are familiar with the Code in demonstrating how a select group of blacks succ essfully uses this mode of communication to subvert the slave system, the novel demonstrates the importance of the community in articulating a counterculture of resistance.
100 In portraying the network that formed among slaves and free blacks to assist fugi tive slaves on their journey to the North, the novel departs from the tendency of many slave narratives, and some neoslave narratives, to portray the pursuit of freedom as an individualistic endeavor. Many writers of slave narratives did not record their method of escape because they were still fugitives and needed to protect themselves from recapture. They may als o have wanted to preserve the code of secrecy upon which those who aided runaways relied on to preserve the integrity of their activities. Whi le the lack of detail on escape methods may have been due to practical concerns, the effect was to portray the entry into freedom as a single minded pursuit largely or solely achieved through the individual agency of the escapee. 9 narrative casts the process of escape as a collective endeavor that develops the idea that the pursuit of freedom is a community experience. However like The Known World Song Yet Sung also demonstrates that while some blacks willingly sacrificed their freedom to advance the interests of the larger community, engaging in acts of collective collaboration to articulate a counterculture of resistance to slavery, others individualistically pursued their own interests, oftentimes at the expense of the enslave d. This idea is developed through the character of Little George who works for the slave catcher Patty Canon who raises him from infancy. Like the black slaveholders in The Known World who collude with the plantation system, L ittle G eorge exploits other b lacks for personal gain. He shoots Liz in the head in the process of capturing her a nd imprisons her, along with eleven other captured slaves in 9 Frederick Douglass deliberately omits the details of his escape from the South because he was technically a fugitive slave and did not want to provide information that co uld lead to his recapture. While this was done to protect him identity as he a fugitive slave, as was his assumption of a new name, it also presents the movement into freedom as an individualistic pursuit.
101 the He habitually rapes the female captives and attempts to sexually assault Liz aft er she partially recovers from her injury. In an effort to stymy this attack, Liz tries to appeal to him as a member of he r race W hen he rejects this mode of identification, she attacks him, by driv ing a nail into his neck The other slaves join in the attack him and beat him to death Of these slaves, Linus, whom Little George had befriended and captured by using his fears against him, deals him the death blow in re venge for his betrayal Thus the collective attack on Litt le George is motivated no but also by their need to avenge the betrayal and abuse that they suffer at his hands. Little George is subsequently replaced by Eb, a twelve year old slave groomed by Patty Canon as his r eplacement. The exploitative individualism manifested by Little George is also critiqued Throughout the novel, Liz experiences numerous visions of the contemporary presen t that develop the idea that oppression has been reinscribed in the contemporary era e a critique of consumerism in an interview with Publishers Weekly where he notes that While o ther slaves, such as Amber
102 vie w freedom as the movement North, out of the plantation South, Liz repeatedly resists attempts to smuggle her North because her visions of the future indicate that space does not equate with freedom. p further notes that everyone has been sullied by slavery, and she has been defiled trying to t. I 58). She also questions the nature of freedom when she tells Amber, I n critiquing the preoccupation with material possessions upon which so much of modern American identity is predicated, McBride criticizes contemporary expressions of individualism that denigrate the concept of community. He develops the idea that consumer ism that has become an integral component of the contemporary expression of American nationhood and citizenship, and posits that blacks have uncritically embraced the exploitative elements of modernity with the result that they have, in many ways, reinscri bed their oppression. recapture her. Long becomes a victim of his material ambitions after he takes up slave catching to escape a life of poverty as an oyster fisherman even though he views slavery as morally wrong. He attempts to reconcile the conflict between his beliefs and his desire for profit by hunting only specific slaves that he is hi red to capture but ignores the network that aids fugitive slaves on their journey to the North Hence while he is
103 aware that the blacksmith is a n important leader in the Underground Railroad, he leaves him alone. Long gives up slave catching after the de ath of his son. In a drunken fit, he questions the morality of a preacher, his erstwhile healthy son sickens and dies a few retribution for the sin of trading in humans, retu rns to oyster fishing and he spends the on his own greed, the greed of the slave owners, and the nature of freedom mirror the critique of materialism that is developed through dreams. Long observes possibility of freedom, though God knew if the man understood what that was. Freedom to die on the bay tonging oysters? Or farming yourself to death? While the fat cats like the thought of profiting more. This colored probably claimed himsel f a freedom fighter, ). Here Long contextualizes the freedom that the slaves aspire to in relation to his class positionality as a lowly oyster man to expose the social inequality that manifests itse lf in the exploitation of own the means of production. In a moment of candor, he also likens himself to the slaves that he hunts: as he, not the coloreds, who was the real runaway. Running from himself, from what he was and what he should ). He then remarks on the negative
104 interdependence of masters and slaves who are all ensnared by the m aterial relations of slavery: [were] trapp 268 ). The constant and ultimately futile movement, in which most of the characters engage, seems to reinforce this idea that the system of slavery is an exp loitative endeavor that ultimately destroys both master and slave. A great deal of the plot centers on the movements of the characters in Dorchester County as the y try to outwit each other. Amber shelters Liz by hiding her in the woods then takes her to the blacksmith to be smuggled North. Both Patty Canon and her slave catchers as well as Long track her there. She narrowly escapes recapture and is taken to the river to be ferried North but instead she makes her way back to her hiding place in the wood s. Kathleen Cannon also goes to the woods to rescue her son who is kidnapped by the Woolman who tries to use him as leverage to have his son, who is imprisoned in the town jail, returned to him Ultimately, no one escapes to freedom, and in some instance s, the characters end up right back where they started. scene, t he principal cha racters all meet in the wo slavecatchers are killed two by the Woolman, one by Long and one by Patty. Patty is herself killed by Kathleen while Liz kills the Woolman after he attacks Long who subsequently succumbs to his wounds. Liz also dies of her wounds without ever leaving the County while Ambe r is liberated by his mistress who purchases the rom the country. Amber adopts the boy and together, they go North Thus i n spite of the emphasis placed on the U nderground R ailroad none of the characters actually go North via that method
105 It is also significant that the characters who die are indivi dualistic the slavecatchers, Liz, to some extent, and the Woolman, and Long while those who survive Amber and Kathleen Sullivan manifest an orientation towards family and community. Amber originally plans to go North through the Underground Railro ad but is reluctant to make good his escape without his nephew, Wiley, to whom he acts as a surrogate father. Hence he delays his escape until his nephew is strong enough to bear the physic al rigors of the journey. He also feels guilt at the thought of d eserting his mistress whom he respects in spite of the master/slave dynamics of their relationship. Her husband dies and she lives with her three young boys. Amber and his sister in law, Ma ry, along with Wiley, are her slaves yet she views them more as f amily. After disappear on an oystering expedition Amber assumes the role of surrogate father to the young boys In contrast to the negative interdependence of the slave catcher/fugitive relationship, this household is portrayed as a positive affirmation of the interdependence better part of fifteen years in fact, had helped Mary bring Wiley into the world. They were, she felt, pa rt of her family, and hers, she felt was part of their. She could not imagine a life without them. She believed that they, like her, understood that their (10 3). This re lationship of mutual dependence is positively affirmed when she grants Amber freedom at the end of the novel (Amber and Kathleen are however still bound to the economics of slavery in that Amber will work to repay her after he reaches the North) and buys t
106 subsequently departs for the North with the young boy who he intends to raise as his own. discourse of African American son, who is depicted as a direct ancestor of Martin Luther King. At the end of the story, Liz reveals that t many years from now, des These visions connect the events of the novel to the Civil Rights Movement. Moreover, in positioning Martin Lut political resistance of the Civil Rights Movement to the maroon tradition of resistance to slavery. While the Underground Railroad is one form of resistance, the Woolman, a maroon, represents another more extreme form of resistance. He opts to live outside of society and engages in violence to recover his son, whom he leaves in the village to receive medical treatment for his injured leg. In spite of the contrasting methods that they use the Wool man fights for his freedom through violence, Martin Luther King advocated non is very much centered on group identity they are nonetheless positioned within the same discourse o f resistance. Thus the novel develops the idea that the maroon tradition of resistance to slavery is integrated with the African American political tradition. Hence the maroon, who formally occupied the margins of plantation society and unsettled it from this position as an outsider, becomes the center of the political struggle for equality and full citizenship rights.
107 out of the space of plantation slavery is also indicative of the mobility that, according to Baker, informs the quest o f African Americans for citizenship in that it evokes the movement and flight to the North of blacks that would occur in the postslavery era. Amber goes to Philadelphia to start his new life but has no intention of living there permanently. Kathleen is a ware of this and reflects on the mobility that will he knew where to move next. She could not imagine living in that fashion, moving about from place to place wit peripatetic existence in the North suggests that he fails to find a sustainable community. is evocative of the placelessness, resulting from the lack of full citizenship rights that would characterize black life within the larger American body politic in the one hundred years following the abolition of slavery and prior to the attainment of Civ il Rights in the 1960s. This situation foreshadows the problematic nature of African American citizenship in that it develops the idea that while the movement North is essential to the black entry into modernity, without a stable community, the black expe rience of modernity is compromised. Thus McBride uses the slave experience to interrogate and problematize the African American entry into nationhood and to critique the degeneration of citizenship in contemporary American society. However, in emphasizi ng the biological lineage that characters with the movement North and with an entry into modernity, the text constructs the black discourse of nationhood, what Baker calls th
108 masculine discourse. Through gendering the discourse of African American nationhood, McBride may unwittingly be reinforcing the gender disparity that has come to be associated with all discourses of the nation. This gendering of the black quest for the nation and the subject and Black counterdiscourses, men are the only active agents; Thus in contrast to The Known World that questions traditional gender assumptions by depict ing women as mobile agents who escape North while the men, who remain confined to the plantation space, engage in familial and community building, Song Yet Sung reinforces traditional gender dynamics. Although Liz is a primary character and the focal poin t around which the narrative turns, her exclusion from the entry into modernity can be read symbolically as a recreation of the patriarchal Amber whose longing for free dom is due, in large part, to his exclusion from the discourse of manhood. Reflecting on his father lived to another ma who judged his worth by the recognition that he gained from white men, Amber concludes that he teach him how to be one. He then observes whatever you think of yourself, you always come back to how centered
109 discussions of the black condition articulated by theorists such as W.E.B DuBois and Franz Fanon. Indeed, they are reminisc consciousness that he views as a characteristic of the African American experience. but also with a quest for manhood which causes him to view familial connections as a hindrance. Hence on black men who have to watch their loved ones sold away: emphasis that it places on father/son relationships. After his son is imprisoned in t he boy for the other. Thus great emphasis is placed on the male heir; a situation that is made all the more obvious by the exclusion of females from these father/son r blames him for the death of their son and leaves him, while Liz, who potentially could ha and dies in Maryland as a result of the physical injury that she sustains at the hands of the slave catchers. Thus the female is symbolically excluded from the discourse of Afr ican American nationhood in contrast to the male as symbolized by Amber, who as the
110 as part of a male lineage that would be instrumental in the contemporary movement for Af rican American citizenship. Both The Known World and Song Yet Sung develop the idea that in the contemporary era, oppression has been reinscribed in different forms, most notably through consumerist and materialist impulses that leads to both inter and in tra racial exploitation. Jones does this implicitly by using the practice of black slaveholding to allude to contemporary forms of exploitation within the black community. In an interview, when asked to identify contemporary African Americans who co u ld b e likened to the black slaveholders that he describes, Jones identifies "rap stars, certain politicians movie stars who have no consciousness or awareness." Interestingly, McBride also identifies rappers and certain entertainers as being complicit in the oppression of African Americans but does so by explicitly incorporating this critique of African Americans who take freedom for granted and pursue materialistic and consumeristic behaviors fu ture. Thus these writers use th e slave experience to demonstrate the way the contemporary experience of African American citizenship is compromised and to develop the idea that for African Americans, the quest for full citizenship is ongoing and can only be fully realized through collective acts of community building.
111 CHAPTER 4 THE PLANTATION MATRI X: MAROONAGE, AND TH E IMPERIAL CRITIQUE IN E FULL AND CHANGE OF THE MOON AND MICHELL E ISE Just how were our memory and our time buffeted by the Plantation? Within the space apart that it comprised, the always multilingual and frequently multiracial tangle created inextricable knots within the web of filiations, thereby breaking the clear, linear order to which Western tho ught had imparted such brilliance The Plantation region, having joined with the endless terrain of haciendas or latifundio, spread thin to end up in mazes of sheet metal and concrete in which our common future takes its chances. This second Plantation m atrix, after that of the slave ship, is where we must return to track our difficult and opaque sources. Edouard Glissant, Poetics of Relation Maroon Theory, Migrancy, and Citizenship in the Diaspora In his philosophical treatise Poetics of Relatio n Edouard Glissant comments on the continuity between the experience of slavery and the contemporary reality of African the aftermath of the dissolution of the tradition According to this claim, the localized experience of slavery and oppression that occurred on the plantation s and haciendas of the New World serves as a template for the modern diasporic experience of the descendants of the slaves. The an image that c onjures up visions of modern day cities and the gross disparities in material wealth responsible for their slums and ghettos highlights the spatial and temporal interconnections between the New World diaspora and the era of plantation slavery.
112 One of t narrative portrayal of the continuities between US and Caribbean slavery and colonialism in the nineteenth century and the forms of citizenship and nationhood available to African American and Caribbean peoples in the contemporary era In this Free Enterprise and At the Full and Change of the Moon demonstrate the continuity between the contemporary experience of migration of the Caribbean subject and the historical experience of maroonage 10 to position slavery squarely within the contexts of Empire and neo imperialism. Moreover, by pre se nting contemporary Caribbeans experience of marginality and their complicated forms of resistance as modern maroonage, these novels contribute to a maroon discourse that extends both literary representations and theoretical studies of maroonage In contra st to traditional literary depictions of maroonage that remain rooted in the physical landscape of the Caribbean, these novels transplant the experience of maroonage from the geopolitical space of the Caribbean to the metropoles of the contemporary US. Th ese novels also resist the tendency to mythologize the colonial resistance in which maroons engaged (a celebratory gesture that Glissant himself advocates). Instead, they demonstrate that the paradox of resistance and accommodation that oftentimes informe d the ancestral experience of 10 Throughout this document, I use the anglicized quoting, I retain the original spelling used by the author of the quote which may differ from the anglicized version of this word. The French spelling of the word is marronage. Other spellings include mar onage and marronnage.
113 maroonage is replicated in the complicated and compromised forms of resistance of the marginalized Caribbean migrant. 11 These novels use the maroon experience to foreground the process of community and nation formation among the descendants of slaves. In so doing, they extend the novel of slavery genre. While earlier novels within this tradition tend to focus predominantly on the plantation era, these newer novels cover a vast historical period that encompasses both the nine teenth and twentieth century, to demonstrate that the dynamics of slavery and maroonage continue to affect the forms of citizenship and nationhood available to black diasporic peoples in the contemporary era. These novels critique imperialist exercises of power by juxtaposing the various sites of slavery and maroonage with metropolitan centers of official discourse to demonstrate that the systems of oppression that occurred during the plantation era have been transmuted into contemporary socio cultural syst ems that perpetuate the ongoing marginalization of the descendants of slaves. Specifically they show that maroons were resistance fighters who also participated in the economic systems of the colonial state. This legacy of resistance and participation i s replicated in the relationship of their descendants to the postcolonial nation state. In presenting maroonage as an ongoing process that evolved with modernity and that continues to inform the experiences of black diasporic subjects, these works contest the view, among historians and theorists of the phenomenon, that maroonage was an experience peculiar to the plantation past. Both novels also highlight the contribution of women to the maroon tradition of resistance to 11 Here I am thinking of writers such as Michelle Cliff ( Abeng ); Nalo Hopkinson ( The Salt Roads ); and in a I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem
114 interrogate the tendency, among his torians of slavery, to masculinize the practice of maroonage and the theoretical discourse with which it is affiliated. Maroons were runaway slaves who escaped the plantation system and established independent settlements of their own. Very often they eng aged in a type of guerilla warfare against the slave system which often saw them raiding, vandalizing, and stealing from the plantations. They also incited slaves to join them yet sometimes colluded with the planters by entering into arrangements with the m to return runaway slaves to the plantations. Maroon communities formed soon after European powers began to settle in the territories of the Caribbean and the Americas and remained in existence throughout the entire era of plantation slavery. As an exa mple, historian and poet Edward Braithwaite cites the Jamaican maroon community that formed in 1655 and waged a constant battle against British forces until 1739 when a treaty that granted the maroons their independence was signed. if the British had not accommodated the maroons in this way, the plantation system would not have been able to take root and flourish as it did. Referring to the maroon experience as an that it nonetheless exerted a strong influence on the forms of resistance that occurred on the plantations themselves (55). The maroons also preserved their freedom by aiding the plantation system; a fact that historian Mavis C. Campbell notes in her dis cussion of the 1739 treaties, which included clauses that stipulated that the maroons were to return escaped slaves to the plantations and assist the planters in putting down rebellions (133;138 139).
115 Maroonage is both a phenomenon that was peculiar to the areas where it occurred no maroon communities were totally alike, they were all forced to adapt to the peculiar condition of the territory in which they were situated in terms of the physical terrain, and the character and propensities of the plantocr acy yet it was also a diaspora wide phenomenon that occurred wherever there was slavery. These novels link the peculiar features of the maroon communities they describe settlements in the Southern US and n Trinidad to the migration experiences and fortunes of the contemporary Caribbean subject. In so doing, they highlight the specificity of the maroon experience to the Caribbean and certain areas of the American South yet demonstrate that elements of th is experience transcends the spatial and temporal boundaries of the plantation system and as such, is of ongoing relevance in writing about and theorizing on the nature of diasporic citizenship. I maintain that these novels use the maroon experience to e xplore the nature of citizenship in the post emancipation and postcolonial periods of Caribbean history; to probe its possibilities and explore its limitations. It is fitting that an exploration of the nature of citizenship should be tied to the mar oon ex perience for as Mavis C. Campbell has observed, the maroons, as the progenitors of resistance to colonial authority, were the first peoples to arrive in the New World in the aftermath of European colonization who could legitimately claim the status of citi hemisphere were the first to strike a blow for freedom as far as recorded history goes. which posits that by establishing commu nities outside of the authority of the plantation
116 system, maroons unequivocally staked their claim to citizenship in the New World, lends credence to my position that the maroon experience, in its local, national, and diasporic manifestations, provides a l ens through which to interpret and analyze later forms of citizenship available to the descendants of slaves in the post slavery and post independence periods. In addition to offering a way to conceive of and think about citizenship, these novels, als o demonstrate that maroonage provides a useful way to theorize on the uniqueness of the Caribbean experience of migrancy and the communities that result. Joy Mahibir contends that maroonage offers a way to highlight the specificity of anti imperialist res istance in the Caribbean in that it avoids the homogenizing tendency of discourses centered on resistance and migrancy as they relate to postcolonial peoples. She notes that maroonage: the amorphous arena post Caribbeans who have negotiated migrancy in the New World for five centuries, are very differently situated from other migrant communities newly formed in the twentieth century, a nd a reassessment of the concept of marronage is needed for a more accurate understanding of Caribbean migration patterns. (35 36) Cynthia James, in her book The Maroon Narrative: Caribbean Literature in English Across Boundaries, Ethnicities, and Centur ies also comments on the importance of maroonage in theorizing about migration by noting that to read Caribbean literature from reflecting the siege of continuous m igration, writing out narratives of ambiguous relationships with a three centuries 16). T hese novels encompass elements of this theory They foreground the historical phenom enon of maroonage and connect it to the contemporary experience of diasporic migration by descendants of the
117 slaves, whose travels to the metropoles of the former imper ial powers emphasizes the connection between present day neo imperialistic practices and the era of the plantation slavery. Maroon communities are o f theoretical significance in that their practical resistance to slavery is associated in the postcolonial political and cultural discourses of the Caribbean, with an ideological resistance to the hegemony of colonial and imperial relations of domination. The use of maroon theory as a vehicle to interrogate hegemonic discourse is exemplified in the work of cultural theorist and literary critic Antonio Benitez Rojo. Like Braithwaite, Benitez Rojo views the maroon or runaway slave as emblematic of an alter dominant group. He further notes that many of the behaviors associated with the flight away from the plantation and the defensive mechanisms that were put in place to avoid re capture, such as the way maroon communities disguised and hid themselves, continue to inform the Caribbean sensibility. He also underscores the diasporic reach of the maroon phenomenon when he observes that maroons, or fugitive slaves from the Caribbean, have traversed large sections of the globe in their flight from the oppressive regime of the plantation (254). 12 These comments isolate the salient features of the maroon experience which in clude disguise, movement, travel, and a transcendence of localized geography and 12 An example of the global spread of the maroons can be see n in the case of the Jamaican maroons In the aftermath of the Trelawny Town War (1795 1796) between the planters and a community of maroons in Trelawny Town some maroons were deported to Nova Scotia where they became part of a colony of free blacks and former slaves. Eventually this settlement was relocated to Sierra Leone. ( Campbell, Mavis C. The Maroons of Jamaica, 1655 1796: A History of Resistance, Collaboration & Betrayal Granby, Mass: Bergin & Garvey, 1988. 241 42, 257)
118 demonstrate that maroons were among the first travelers within the New World. As such, they were integral to the formation of the Caribbean diaspora. Thus any consideration of this diaspora and the processes of migration responsible for its formation would be incomplete without an examination of the condition of maroonage. The maroon experience is also associated with a conceptualization of time that contests a linear, teleol ogical interpretation of history. In discussing the ongoing effects of the legacy of the plantation era on subsequent epochs of Caribbean history, Benitez Rojo notes that although the territories of the region were often owned by different colonial powers at various stages of their history, these powers were all invested in the plantation economy which remained a perpetual constant in the region. Thus the exploitation that characterized this system and the social hierarchies to which it gave birth were re plicated from one colonial era to the next. He states: Both Enrique Bernardo Nunez and Alejo Carpentier have said that in the Caribbean orbit one historical stage does not cancel the earlier one as happens in the Western world. Such a peculiarity, that o f living history implacable repetition of the economic and social dynamics inherent in the rather there was a coexistence, relatively critical or not, within the same historical space. (203 04) This view of Caribbean history as a palimpsest of layered experiences informed by the plantation system further underscores the centrality of the maroon and plantat ion experiences to an understanding of the continuing effects of plantation slavery on the descendants of the slaves. Free Enterprise At the Full and Change of the Moon develop t he idea that the socio economic relations that info rm the plantation experience are repeated from one historical era to another and negate a conception of human
119 history as a progressive movement ever forward through time In Free Enterprise the descendants of maroons embrace the free market system of the capitalist economy but reject the exploitation of labor upon which it is predicated. In At the Full and Change of the Moon compromises their participation in the socio economic pr ocesses of modernity. Hence while these novels demonstrate the oppositional relationship between the plantation and the alternative to this system that the maroon communities created, they also show that the maroon was nonetheless influenced by and at tim es participated in processes of modernity that were associated with the plantation system. This indicates that the maroon tradition is associated not only with escape from the plantation and armed resistance to slavery but also with a complicated relation ship to the processes of modernity with which the plantation system was associated. Moreover, in demonstrating that maroonage was integral to processes of modernity, the se novel s contest the tendency, among some historians of maroonage, to view the phen omenon as confined to the historical past. Juan Antonio Hernndez cites Haitian Revo lution as an example of this line of thinking. Hernndez maintains that marronage within the telos of a modernity aspiring to be homogeneous, or subordinated to the logic of a Hegelian 72). In demon strating the reciprocal relationship between maroonage and modernity they show that maroonage challenged modernity eve n as it was transformed by it
120 these novel s take maroonage out of this telos and instead present it as non linear and cyclical. The a mbiguous relationship between the maroon tradition and modernity also contributes to and complicates the theoretical discourse on the counter culture of modernity articulated by critics such as Glissant and Paul Gilroy. Glissant defines the counter culture of modernity as the systems of subversion or culture of the slave that was used to challenge the dominant discourse of the master. In his opinion, the plantation was a contradictory place that was characterized by outmoded and archaic practices yet initi ated modernity, which is connected to the systems of colonial and imperial rule, into the New World ( Poetics of Relation 63 67). Paul Gilroy similarly conceives of the counter culture of modernity as a discourse of resistance against systems of domination In his seminal work The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness Through the narrative portrayal of rebellion and maroonage, these novels depict the contested discourse between master and slave that is central to this counter culture of modernity. They also demonstrate that the rela tionship between maroonage and modernity is not solely oppositional. Rather, like the ancestral experience of maroonage, that was characterized by both resistance to and accommodation of the plantation system, the maroon tradition, in its practical and id eological manifestations, is marked by the paradox of opposition to and participation in the systems of modernity. These novels also demonstrate that the outright rejection of modernity that informed the
121 experience of maroonage manifests itself, among the descendants of the slave/maroon, as an ambivalence to the systems of modernity under which they must function in contemporary society. Thus while they seek to participate in the socio economic systems of the island nation and the broader diaspora, their ongoing marginality results in a complicated form of accommodation and resistance to these structures that mirrors the accommodation and resistance to the plantation system that was so integral to the historical experience of maroonage. Free Enterprise, Exile, and the Resistance to Racial Capitalism Free Enterprise examines the phenomenon of maroonage in relation to the diasporic migrations of the Caribbean subject. Cliff aligns the anti slavery activities of the maroon communities, in the process associating these communities with the exile of the diasporic subject, who is permanently separated from her place of origin, and with resistance to capitalist enterprise based on the exploi tation of labor. While the novel portrays maroonage as an alternative to the plantation system, it eschews a simple dichotomy between this phenomenon and the system of free enterprise. Instead Cliff sets up her maroon communities as alternative spaces th at opposed plantation slavery even as she shows their participation in the economy of free trade. Thus even as these communities embrace the economic elements of modernity, they critique the racial capitalism that it promotes by rejecting the exploitation of the labor of ethnic minorities Free Enterprise which explicitly refers to capitalist economic activity, but also gestures towa rds the view, advocated by the two female protagonists, that the enslaved should not only be granted liberty but
122 should also be free to participate fully in economic activity. In the process, the novel underscores the culture of resistance to impe rialism that is epitomized by the maroon tradition and demonstrates the diasporic reach of this tradition showing that maroons comprised a vast network, stretching from the coasts of South America through the Caribbean to the North American mainland. Thu s far, the critical discussion on Free Enterprise has focused predominately on the counter example, Myriam Chancy asserts that the novel contests the official received version of history and at the same time explores the complicated relationship between those occupying diverse race, class, national, and gender positionalities to demonstrate the multiple forms of identity that characterize the New World diaspora. Erica Johnson als o creates the stories of these silenced historical subjects who exist in official narratives of history as mere tr aces; a phenomenon that Johnson terms a haunting. She maintains that Cliff combines historiographical and biographical information with her own imaginative interpretation to re place these subjects from the past in history. I concur that a central goal of the novel is to explore the subaltern histories that have been silenced under the hegemony of official discourses and maintain that the narrative depiction of maroonage, which has not received any sustained critical attention, constitutes an integral co mponent of this revisionist agenda. Free Enterprise can better be appreciated through a consideration of her earlier novels Abeng and No Telephone to
123 Heaven Examined collectively, these three novels demonstra te that the maroon experience and its integral connection to a tradition of resistance against oppression is a rec In Abeng the omniscient narrator emphasizes the significant presence of maroon communities and the destabilizi ng effect that their subversive activities exerted on the system of slavery with the observation that after the obtained in 1834, there was armed, sustained guerilla warfa re against the forces of enslavement. A complex intelligence network between the rebels and the plantation slaves. A network of towns and farms and camps independent from the white planters. An army of thousands literally thousands called the Marron This novel also details the exploits of Nanny, the female leader of the Windward maroons of Jamaica, who fought against British forces from 1655 to 1740. This story positions Nanny as the true revolutionary hero who refused to capitulate to Bri tish demands by contrasting her actions with that of her male counterpart, Cudjoe, the leader of the Leeward maroon community. Nanny attempts to join forces with the Leeward maroons with the aim of wresting control of the island from the British but Cudjo the British that grants him freedom from British attacks in exchange for hunting and returning escaped slaves to the plantations; a choice that demonstrates his accommodatio with giving voice to the often suppressed female version of history, this story also makes it clear that the female has not only been marginalized in the official history of
124 privileges Nanny to highlight the female contribution to what theorists on the maroon experience such as Edward Brathwaite and Antonio Benitez Moreover, in titling her novel Abeng Cliff overtly alludes to the tradition of resistance to slavery and colonial authority for which the maroons have become emblematic. The abeng, a cow horn, used by the maroons to communicate with e ach other during times of war and celebration, has become a prominent symbol of the maroon resistance to oppression in Jamaica. In her book, The Mother of Us All: A History of Queen Nanny, Leader of the Windward Jamaican Maroons Karla Gottlieb remarks th information over long distances during their wars with the British and counter surprise attacks with ambushes of their own. This instrument, which was also used within the maroo n community to call meetings and relay emergency messages, gave the maroons a strategic advantage over the British who had no means of long distance communication. As a vestige of African culture, the abeng was also of great spiritual relevance. Because (Gottlieb 44 46). 13 In contemporary Jamaica, the abeng continues to be a symbol of resistance to domination. In N o Telephone to Heaven the sequel to Abeng the armed 13 lture continues to associate the abeng with a counter discourse of resistance to oppressive forces. As examples, Gottlieb cites a novel that renders maroon history in fictive form that was published in the 1970s and a newspap er that was associated with Jam Movement. Both of these texts are entitled Abeng (46). (Gottlieb, Karla. The Mother of Us All: A History of Queen Nanny, Leader of the Windward Jamaican Maroons Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1998.) More recently, the Abeng New s Magazine an online publication that features news of Jamaica and the wider Caribbean, has made use of this word in its title.
125 resistance to neo launched from land that she inherits from her grandmother. This land is located near to Accompong town, one of the historical strongholds of the maroons. The proximity of the two sites of resistance aligns the resistance to slavery that is mounted by the maroons imperialism. The story of the maro associated with the growing awareness of the heroine to her African ancestry and with her later resistance to imperialism. In Free Enterprise the heroines are similarly positioned within the anti colonial and anti imperial tradition of resistance that the experience of maroonage epitomizes. Maroon communities also figure prominently within the plot of the narrative and play a significant role in the organized resistance to slavery undertaken by t an African American, Mary Ellen Pleasant, and a Jamaican, Annie Christmas. Cliff bases the character of Pleasant on the historical Mary Ellen Pleasant, an African American entrepreneur who fought for an end to slavery a to undermine her reputation during her eventful life, was, until recently, completely written out of his torical accounts of this raid (Johnson 119 22). The character of Annie, while not ostensibly based on any historical personage, assumes the moniker Annie folklore, who was said to have operated a riverboat on the Mississippi River and
126 lifestory and connects her story to Nanny of the Maroons. 14 In the process of assuming this new name, A nnie symbolically discards the colonized status that was hers on the lineage, which pos itions her as a descendant of the maroons, Cliff revises history to not only demonstrate the female contribution to the struggle to end slavery, but also to underscore the profound but often ignored role that maroon communities played in bringing about the her with maroon communities. Her mother, Quasheba, who exerts significant influence islands off the coast of South Carolina, Quasheba she is schooled by Ogun in the art of weapon making and meets a ship captain who fathers Pleasant. Quasheba takes her infant daughter to a maroon settlement hidden in a forest that overlooks the Appalachian Trail where the maroons hold a nine night ceremony for the baby. 15 In exchange, Quasheba imparts her knowledge of weaponry to the maroons. Quasheba is subsequently killed in a raid on the maroon settlement known as the Great Dism to Pleasant who carries it with her for the rest of her life (131). The revolver is a symbol activities design ed to subvert the slave system. 14 have their own versions of this legendary character. 15 This ceremony is traditionally performed at the death of a member of the community and involves a communal meeting to celebrate the life of the deceased. It is a cultural practice in Jamaica and fea tures very prominently in Jamaican literature.
127 colonies of other runagate, scattered across the continental mass, on the islands strung along the coast, or, deciding enough is enough, some decided to piece their way back at slavery is welcomed those willing to stay, for it was from those places that the war of the flea was being waged. Long before the costumed tragedy of the Civil War, r ebellion was a fact. (109). This description points to the extensive range and movement of the maroons whose communities and activities were felt all over the New World where ver slavery existed and underscores the diasporic origins of the resistance to slavery in which Pleasant engages. maroon tradition of economic agency. The participation of maroon communities in the capitalist system is highlighted in the story of Ultima Thule, a maroon settlement that existed in a vast network of underground caves in the hills of Kentucky. 16 This community mines the caves for lead and zinc, and engages in a lucrat ive trade with the whites of the area until their settlement is raided and destroyed by the local militia. the nouveau riche who make their fortunes in the California G old Rush and the soldiers, 16 The name Ultima Thule, the Latin phrase for a distant or remote location, alludes to the far flung range of the maroon communities and the vast span of the underground network of which they were a part.
128 enterprise. She employs only escaped slaves, who are She also uses disguise, one of the tropes of maroonage, to deflect attention away from her economic enterprise. Although she chafes aga inst the image of the mammy stereotype, she initially conforms to it to secure her footing in the business Mammydom, as much as she grated against the word, the notion, taking c are of the the way the real life Mary Ellen Pleasant was affected by the mammy image, Wendy Walters asserts that Francisco in the mid appropriates the stereotype and uses it as a strategy of disguise to empower herself and advance her revolutionary activities. By adopting the persona of the black woman as a caregiver, she successfully deflects attention away from her subversive abolitionist activities which include cashing in $30000 in shares, converting the money to gold and planners of the raid, and its chief financier, Pleasant strategizes battle tactics with John
129 Brown, Harriet Tubman, and Annie, at a meeting of the group in Canada. She is on her way to reinforce John Brown weapons, when she discovers that the raid has failed and Brown has been captured. Forced to abort her plans, Pleasant disguises herself as a man and succeeds in making her way back to California b y way of New York. plantation and that of the maroons by demonstrating that maroon communities resisted imperial exploitation yet willingly engaged in capitalist economic acti vity. This position complicates the view, advocated by some theorists, that maroons embraced a communal way of life that was diametrically opposed to the individualism and capitalism upon which the slave economy rested. Mahibir is one such theorist. She defines imperialism through a nexus of recurring tropes central to the practice of marronage itself: space, flight and the these communities were fundamentally opposed, on a practical and ideological level, to the individualism upon which capitalist economic practices rest. Through her heroine, who incorporates capitalist business practices within a maroon tradition of resistance, Cliff demonstrates that the anti imperialist critique articulated by maroonage was not fundamentally opposed to the economic systems of modernity. Maroon c her island home of Jamaica in 1858, at the age of twenty, to escape a fate in which she is expected to trade sexual favors for financial gain; a destiny for which she is
130 foreordained b y her virtue of her light Repulsed at the prospects of achieving class and social privilege in this manner and desirous of helping the black and the poor but recognizing that she lacks the will to resist the dictates of her position if she remains in Jamaica, Annie flees to North America where she meets Pleasant. The two women form a life defining friendship based on their de sire to actively fight against the oppression of blacks and their shared opposition to social class stratification within the black community. scheme that would result in John active role in the rebellion. She is given the task of travelling through the South with the aim of arming the slaves, and encouraging them to join the rebellion. She too uses disguise, blackening her face t o look like a dark skinned man, and poses as a cooper, as she drives a wagon in which guns are concealed. She aborts her mission when she is raided several days later by Confederate soldiers. The women and children are shot and the men, including Annie in her disguise, are captured, made into a chain gang, and put to work. Her disguise is subsequently discovered and she and the men on the gang are forced to engage in acts of sexual intercourse for the amusement of their white captors. The gang is freed several years later by Yankee soldiers and a broken Annie heads South, finally establishing a home on the banks of the Mississippi. She remains there for the remainde r of her life in a state of self imposed exile.
131 home conflate the conditions of exile, illness, and maroonage, to reveal that even though slavery has ended, the US still p ractices a form of internal colonialism against non white racial others who are denied citizenship and entry into the processes of the nation. Although she has spent the majority of her life in the US, Annie views herself as sense of belonging surfaces e ven in her resistance to slavery in that although she participates in the abolitionist movement, she does not fully identify with it and views it The lepers also live in exile. They are ethnic minorities, who, like the hi storical maroons, exist as an alternate culture on the fringes of the larger society from which they are excluded. Their alterity is underscored through their disease, which is as a form The story of Rachel DeSouza, the descendant of Spanish Jews, who are forced to flee Spain in the face of the Inquisition, further underscores that the condi tions of persecution and are forced to hide their place of worship in the jungle. Rachel
132 Surinam that aligns her with the maroon community of this country. 17 After she is diagnosed with leprosy, Rachel is placed in the leper colony where she continue s to live in a state of exile. imposed exile; the confinement experienced by the lepers is enforced by the state. Nonetheless, confinement, in both instances, is triggered by illness. In the case of the lepers, illness is phys psychological and manifests itself as post traumatic stress. Unable to speak of the atrocities inflicted on her during the war, she can neither let go of the past nor is she fully able to live in the present; a state of being that traps her in time and space. the psyche of the migrant in particular, the psyche of the migrant w hose entire existence has been 3). Her condition is similar to the silencing of the lepers who are forbidden from contacting their relatives; a state of being that is likened to the secrecy assoc iated with maroon communities that The idea of time repeating itself is also associated wit h the experience of maroonage Like An nie, the leper colony is suspended in time; caught between the past and the pr esent. Established in the nineteenth century, this colony is first run by nuns and then by the U.S. government. The continuity between the nineteenth century 17 The reference to the Surinamese maroons is no doubt meant to draw attention to the substantial presence of this particular maroon community. Anthropologists, Sally and Richard Price, who have done extensive research into these communities note that the Surinamese maroons comprised one of the largest maroon settlements in the New World. They are comprised of six groups whose descendants account for over one/tenth of the population of Surinam. (Price, Richard, and Sally Price. Two Evenings in Saramaka Chicago: University of Chicago P, 1991.)
133 world in which the lepers lived the seminal moments of their lives and the realities of the earl world most of them had known was of another century. The colony became a pastiche associated with slavery and the plantation system of the U.S. in that the land upon which it is established was originally a plantation. Although the facilities are back to ant Whereas maroonage in the past is associated with armed resistance to slavery, in the leper colony it is associated with ideological resistance to oppression that is expressed throu telling stories. Annie and her cohorts undermine the hegemony of colonial discourse from within the space of the colony. They p rotest the film Birth of a Nation by silently walking out of the theatre and the authorities in charge of them respond by showing the films of the black filmmaker, Oscar Micheaux. In substituting the white supremacist film that perpetuated negative images of blacks to justify denying blacks their rightful place in American society with one designed to promote positive images of the black experience, the colonists succeed in challenging the racist representations of blacks in mainstream discourse. They also use the oral tradition and storytelling to contest offici al received history associated with the colonization process, preserve their individual silenced by official discourses. The common element in these stories is the past
134 o ppression that diverse communities experienced at the hands of the European colonizing mission. of the oral tradition on the colonial plantations. He asserts that the or al texts of the slaves functioned as a survival mechanism; they were non linear and characterized by discontinuity evocation of situations. As if th ese texts were striving for disguise ben eath the Maroons create through that other detour called marronnage 69). Thus Glissant interprets these stories as part of the counterculture of modernity that the s laves used to interrogate the discourse of the master. The colonists use their tales in a similar manner. They contest their silencing by the official discourse through their stories which they use to assert their individual and collective subjectivity, their ongoing resistance to oppression. ory that centers on the activities and fortunes of the Jamaican Revivalist preacher, Alexander Bedward, positions contemporary forms of resistance to imperialism within the maroon tradition of resistance to slavery. Born in 1859, Bedward was the protg o f an African American named H. E. Shakespeare Wood who inducted Bedward into the Baptist faith in 1889. Bedward became a religious leader and combined Christian doctrine with a call for social justice. His preaching and social activism on behalf of the po
135 him arrested in 1895 and charged with inciting rebellion. He was confined to a mental asylum but subsequently released. He continued his ministry which grew to include numerous congregations in Jamaica, neighboring Cuba, and Central America. While some of his followers were poor laborers, some were successful small entrepreneurs. Bedward acted as a mediator who settled labor disputes among his followers thereby facilitating their commercial ac tivities. Bedward was arrested a second time in 1921 after contravening a ban on marching and leading a group of his followers into Kingston. He was again placed in an insane asylum where he spent the remainder of his life. A year before his arrest, Be dward identified Marcus Garvey, who had come to prominence by this time as the (Schuler) This story casts Bedward as a forerunner to the black nationalism of Marcus Garvey, the R astafarian movement begun in the 1930s in Jamaica, and subsequent nationalist movements. It thus places him within a tradition of resistance that begins with maroonage and continues into the nationalist and post independence phases of Jamaican history. Th with the Caliban/Prospero story, which has been used by Caribbean postcolonial theorists to articulate an anti imperialist discourse. In this way, the novel further aligns Bedward, and the tradition of black liberation that he helped to initiate, within a maroon tradition of Shakespeare II, has a young Bedward play the role of Ariel, and that as he matures, Bedward grew
136 strapping man, and into the role of Caliban, which Shakespeare II cast in the role of Toussaint, for audiences who had never heard of Toussaint but had been taught about Caliban in schoo The Tempest in his seminal theoretical work The Pleasures of Exile In this work, Lamming interprets the Prospero/Caliban relationship as a metaphor for the mast er/slave dialectic that was established on the plantations of Caliban fails. By portraying Bedward as a Calibanesque figure to self reflexively sis and the ideological discourse with which it is affiliated, silenced by the master narrative of history as symbolized by Prospero. to the male postcoloni al text as articulated by The Pleasures of Exile also self reflexively positions her novel in relation to this tradition even as it alludes to the exclusion of th e female from this maroon tradition of resistance. The maroon h as been associated with the ideological discourse of resistance for which Caliban has become a symbol. Moreover, t he Prospero/Caliban, master/ slave relationship has been depicted as a masculinized discourse by the earlier generation of male post colonial writers. Patricia Krus underscores this idea in an No Telephone to Heaven Krus stresses that male postcolonial critics such as James
137 examines the intertextuality of the novels No Telephone to Heaven and Abeng w ith the work of male Caribbean writers, such as Aime Cesaire and Edouard Glissant, to argue that Cliff appropriates and genders the trope of the maroon that ha which the maroon is associated is illustrated in her article hter: and bec omes the absent female figure of resistance who is written out of the male text, indicates that Cliff views her female heroines as Sycorax figures. In Free Enterprise Cliff continues the gendering of the maroon experience begun in her earlier novels and critical writings by positioning her two female characters Pleasant and Annie within a female maroon tradition of resistance This is in keeping with her agenda to self consciously rewrite history to highlight the contribution of the Sycorax figures who se resistance, both on and off the plantations, has been silenced and marginalized in official versions of history. Moreover, through its portrayal of maroonage, the novel connects anti slavery resistance to the discourse of diasporic citizenship In man y ways, Pleasant who embraces modernity and uses her economic agency to fight for the rights of blacks to full entry into the processes of the nation, represents the possibilities of citizenship. Although initially part of this fight, Annie who retreats i nto illness and exile, comes to symbolize its limitations.
138 Maro on Communities and the Counter c ulture of Modernity Published in 1997, Dionne At the Full and Change of the Moon also explores the psychological and economic legacy of slavery on the descendants of slaves interrogates both colonial and imperial discourses, as well as the male centered focus of the counter hegemonic discourse in which an older generation of Caribbean postcolonial writers such as V.S. Naipaul and George Lamming engaged. This constitutes a gendering of the counter culture of modernity. conflates the ex perience of migration with maroonage to illustrate that the margi nality t hat was so central to the maroon condition continues to inform the experiences of their descendants whose citizenship is severely circumscribed by the neo colonial and neo imperial relations of domination under which they are forced to exist. In s o doing, the novel demonstrate s that maroonage and its associated tropes is crucial to an analysis of the complexities, challenges, and limitations of diasporic citizenship. The initial chapters of this novel detail the experiences of Marie Ursule, a Tr inidadian slave, who is hanged for staging an act of rebellion against her master in 1823 by orchestrating a mass suicide of the slaves on his plantation. 18 Marie Ursule is survived by her young daughter, Bola, who is smuggled off the plantation by Marie U 18 1823 is also the year of the Demerara Revolt that occurred in the then British colony of British Guiana, what is now present day Guyana. The allusion to this year, which is made even more pertinent in that Kamena conspirator, has a name that echoes that of one of the black planners of the Demerara Revolt, who was named Quamina, indicates that rebellion was a constant feature of life on the plantations of the Caribbean. Although not on the scale of the Demerara Revolt, which involved tradition of anti slavery resistance. ( Crowns of Glory, Tears of Blood: The Deme ra ra Slave Rebellion of 1823 New Yo rk: Oxford UP, 1994).
139 this colony, Kamena takes Bola to an abandoned plantation, Culebra Bay, once owned The st grandson, Sones, and her granddaughter, Cordelia Rojas, whose lives encompass the two W orld Wars and the pre independence and nationalist phases of Trinidadian Carlyle, Adrian, Maya, and Eula to the metropoles of North America and Europe in the last three decad es of the twentieth century, follow. These multiple narrative perspectives, together with the broad historical range that they span, illustrates the continuity between the plantation experience and the contemporary issues of citizenship experienced by the descendants of slaves/maroons and the communities that they form in the aftermath of colonization. As happens in Free Enterprise ovel self reflexively mirrors this layering of the past on the present by appropriating and revising the work of a n older generation of male Caribbean writers to highlight the female contribution to the maroon tradition of resistance to oppression generation of writers is seen in the fact that the character of the slave ancestor, Marie Ursule is inspired by the work of her fellow Trinidadian writer, V.S. Naipaul, who in The Loss of Eld orado: A History contains an account hanged, mutilated and burnt, her head spiked on a pole, for the mass deaths of
140 Marie Ursule around the facts of this incident. gleaned from the colonial archives indicates his reliance on the official interpretation of history and the progressivist, linear view of history t hat it propagates. In contrast, Brand linear interpretation of history that illustrates that elements of the slave and maroon experience continue to haunt subsequent generations. In the process, she engages in a feminist revision of the male colonial and postcolonial text by highlighting the rebellious, revolutionary actions of women, both on and off the plantations. While critics such as Marlene Goldman, Johanna Garvey, and Al exis Pauline such as Maureen Moynagh and Julia Grandison have read the novel from the vantage point of trauma theory, thus far no sustained critical attention has been pl aced on the narrative portrayal of maroonage. After taking Bola to the abandoned Culebra relocate the maroon colony of Terre Bouillante that he had found by accident and subseq uently left in order to fulfill his promise to Marie Ursule that he would take the young Bola to safety. In spite of constant trips from Culebra into the interior of the island in search of this colony which takes on mythic proportions in his fevered mind he is never able to find the maroon settlement and dies in a state of unfulfilled maroonage. displacement and disorientation with which it is associated, functions as a prototype that is repeated in subsequent g
141 Through this portrayal of maroonage as an ongoing process, the novel evokes the phenomenon of grand maroonage. Historian Leslie Manigat notes that slaves who engaged in grand maroonage deserted the plantation for length y periods of time and in some cases, remained permanent fugitives; went as far away as possible from the plantation, preferring to inhabit remote and difficult to access locations; strengthened their position by joining with other escapees and forming band s or communities of maroons; and engaged in guerrilla warfare against the plantations. In contrast, petit maroonage refers to individual acts of maroonage that ended quickly when the escaped slave returned to the plantation (423). The definition of grand maroonage stresses the importance of the temporal component to indicate that this type of maroonage is measured not only by the numbers of escapees but also by the length of time that they remain in a state of maroonage fugitives from the plantation and are eventually joined by slaves fleeing the plantation system. The novel examines the connection between the ances tral experiences of Kamena and Bola and the personal fortunes of their descendants and more generally, the larger colonial and imperial relations of domination upon which slave society, the emancipated colony, and the contemporary experience of migration a re founded. The tropes of the maroon experience displacement, disguise, movement, travel, a transcendence of localized geography, and a non linear conceptualization of time feature prominently in the communities that evolve from the original maroon se ttlements and inform the migration experiences of their inhabitants. Although these communities
142 are inevitably shaped by the society of which they are a part, they reject processes of modernity associated with the terror and oppression of the plantation s ystem, in effect expressing a counter culture of modernity that would continue to manifest itself in the post emancipation and post Culebra Bay develops into a settlement when a number of slaves, in order to es cape the indentureship period, that occurred from 1834 1838, begin making their way to the area. They join Bola who had been living there alone for years and by the mid rep utation as a former leper colony ensures its ongoing marginality with the result that it remains closed to the outside world until the latter part of the nineteenth century (64). The area is also marginalized by the official discourse of the island. In 1 833, the Lieutenant Governor of the island, Sir George Fitzgerald Hill, pores over a map of Trinidad as he writes a notice informing the slave population of their manumission and apprenticeship and makes the highly ironic observation that the Culebra Bay i borders to control the slave population and their descendants while Culebra Bay symbolizes the inability of official discourse to contain and account for resis tance to it that is epitomized in the figure of the Maroon or runaway slave for which the area becomes an emblem. not contain the dispositions and reflections that collect a t a harbour, or what those people will do on arrival, which is to work out the way to Maroonage, the way to
143 island, that faces the South American mainland a phy sical marginality that mirrors its ostracism in the official discourse of the island the area functions as a transit point that facilitates the oftentimes unsanctioned movement of peoples among Trinidad, the nearby Dutch islands, and the Northern territo ries of South America. The name of the area, Culebra, Spanish for snake or serpent, speaks to the alterity of the community in that the image of the snake evokes the covert border crossing and slippage that the area facilitates and further establishes its oppositional relationship to official discourse. Moreover, the snake is associated with feminine sexuality and a subversive discourse that destabilizes male centered official discourses. 19 The fact that the community of Culebra forms around Bola (64) whose own sexuality would be viewed as transgressive by the official discourse she takes multiple lovers and her children each have different fathers further emphasizes the challenge that t he area poses to the ruling powers. While Culebra Bay and the community that it gives birth to is marginalized by the official discourse of the island, the marginalization that Terre Bouillante experiences stems from a self imposed desire on the part of it s inhabitants to protect themselves from the oppressive systems of modernity. The contemporary inhabitants of this community remain fiercely loyal to their traditional way of life, protective of their privacy and resistant to incursions of modernity into the area. 19 diety, Coatlalopeuh, the Mesoamerican counterpart of the Earth and fertility Goddess, was divided into light and dark elements by patriarchal Azteca Mexica culture used to control female sexuality in the Catholic dominated society that was est ablished in the wake of the Spanish conquest. Anzaldua notes that among the Mexican poor, Guadalupe, is more powerful than Borderlands / La Frontera: The New Mestiza San Francisco, California: Spinsters/ Aunt Lute, 1987. 25 39)
144 modernity was inextricably bound up with exploitation. In describing the town, the a place where strangers remained strangers for decades until the last person who knew them as strangers died. The building of a store or the coming of electricity made Terre Bouillante nervous.... Its past as a refuge for runaway slaves left Terre Bouill 41). inherent insecurity of maroonage, characterized by constant vigilance and movement, for fear of being discovered and re captured, ensur es that they never completely experience the belonging and rootedness that they crave; an idea that is captured in the the topography of the settlement that is loca ted in the forested interior of the island where waterfalls and fissures abound. The water sources give the mud a bubbling quality so that it appears to be boiling. Symbolically, the name evokes images of movement, fluidity, and instability that call to mind the insecurity that is a salient feature of maroon life. This ancestral memory is preserved in the psyche of the area and re and privacy demonstrates that they are inscribed by the behaviors associated with maroonage that enabled their ancestors to survive but which now function as an
145 Th e resistance to official discourse that Culebra Bay and Terre Bouillante represent, coupled with their marginality within the nation space, positions them as an outs ide of the state that begins within a state of being that disrupts the center periphery binary, physical and im aginative cultural (79). The inhabitants of Culebra Bay who transgress the official borde rs of the state by moving between the islands and the South American mainland and those of Terre Bouillante who inhabit a space of self imposed exile within plantation society and the post colony to which it gives rise embody this transgressive and int erstitial subjectivity. This state of being, that is experienced by both the original maroons and the modern day inhabitants of these areas, demonstrates the continuity between the slave /maroon experience and the contemporary reality of their descendants Although Kamena and Bola flee the oppression of the plantation system, the memory of its terror continues to haunt their descendants and the modern towns into which the original maroon communities of Terre Bouillante and Culebra Bay eventually transform t characterized the plantation era in subsequent stages of Caribbean history. Thus in opposition to the tendency to view maroonage as a relic of the past that ended with the
146 plantation era a view propagated by the Francophone writers Patrick Chamoiseau, Raphael Confiant, and Jean Bernabe the novel presents maroonage as an integral component of modernity. maroonage to processes of modernity. The character Carlyle, the grand son of Sayman, (140 ) illustrates that contemporary issues of diasporic migration and citizenship are intimately related to the ancestral experience of maroonage. Carl yle feels trapped and stifled by the secrecy and reserve of Terre Bouillante and an inexplicable sense of shame that pervades the town. The omniscient narrator states: understand it and the tightness of Terre Bouillante, the pervading secrecy that seemed to wrap itself around the small town high in the hills, still obscure to plain sight more than a hundred years since it was last a Maroon camp. The town where everything was viewed with suspicion. Beginning with the road th at sinewed its way up the rise during 40). In what proves to be a defining moment of his life, Carlyle at the age of sixteen robs the This act of rebellion makes him aware that he can use the sense of shame and fear that his rebellious behavior induces in his family to manipulate them. He subsequently drops out of school and embarks on a life of crime that establis hes him Carlyle embraces the modernity that the townspeople view with suspicion yet his rebellion against authority also aligns him with the counter culture of modernity expressed by his maroon ancestors Exhilarated b y the discovery that he possesses him, something like water too, electricity and water, and he was burning in the middle of
147 it, bright like something so hot it was resistant because of its maroon past, symbolizes his embrace of modernity. T he element of water that destabilizes the ph ysical topography of the area also emphasizes the disruption that he introduces into the town and underscores the way his refusal to inheritance unsettles the community. After a police inflicted beating, Carlyle undergoes a religious conversion and becomes a travelling evangelist taking him to America does not materialize. I n addition to his rebellion, Carlyle (161). The name Carlyle may also be an allusion to Thomas Carlyle, the Victorian intellectual/historian, a proponent of English imperialism who is known for discoursing on modernity and criticizing the religious and political ideas of his contemporaries on the grounds that they could not address the demands of the modern age (51). 20 his ability to assume different identities is further illustrated after he migrates to the United States. Precipitated by his 20 influence on the philosophical discourse of the age was first felt in the 1820s, the decade in which the Demerara Revolt occurred. In his fa which he viewed as an intrinsic moral defect. Therefore whites, whom he viewed as morally superior, were just ified in coercing them to work (125 26). A younger generation of British historians, J.A. Froude Thomas Carlyle London: Hambledon Continuum, 2006.) Considered together, t he allusions to Thomas Carlyle and the revolt highlight the conflict between the discourses of the slave and master that dominated public consciousness at the time. The name also associates Priest with the discourse of the master and points to the characte r ambiguities that he displays that result from his inheritance of the traits of both master and slave.
148 incarceration for severing the ear of a rival criminal (ironically a form of punishment migration positions the experience of maroonage within the context of diaspora. Upon his release, his family secures his entry into a farm labor program and he leaves the island to work on the orange farms of Florida. A few weeks later, he escapes from the He thus confers himself an automatic and fake citizenship into American society. Carlyle subsequently reunites with a Trinidadian friend in New York. Together they engage in small scale drug running and other illegal activities that see them traveling back and forth along the Eastern seaboard of the US from New York to Florida. and demonstrates that the material relations of domination of the plantation era are replicated in the neo imperial structures of contemporary society. Moreover his economic activity situates him on the f ringes of the global economy and emphasizes his marginal subjectivity that is constructed in opposition to official discourse. In this way, he is associated with a counter culture of modernity. Paradoxically, Carlyle is also situated within the tradition of exploitation activity, symbolically links him to the nuns of the Culebra plantation, and more broadly speaking the priest and nuns who helped to perpetuate imperia lism. The nuns who own Culebra are presented as agents and symbols of Empire who combine religious ethic with mercantile and capitalist activity to subjugate the original inhabitants of the region and the transported Africans whose labor sustains their ec onomic activity. They are
149 ground and ton loads of sugar and cocoa and whale oil and anyt hing they turned their had moved, skittering down the archipelago (as they had skittered down the centuries La Trinidad before islands exhaust 38). Arriving in the region in the wake of adventurers and merchants, the nuns acquire land, labor in the form of slaves and material commodities to continue the profiteering and e xploitation of the region and its pean territorialization of the islands of the Caribbean. ownership and material accumulation that enables him to objectify and control others through the use of fear and violence. His ability to manipulate others is manifested in his escape from an INS detention center for illegal immigrants located between Gainesville and Jacksonville, Florida At this camp, Carlyle meets his cousin, Adrian, who is d ause of their uncanny resemblance further characteristic possessed by the nuns. blackmailing his sister, Eula, whose passport he had used to illegally re enter the US after visiting his girlfriend in Canada. During this initial incident, Carlyle utilizes his
150 dexterity at assu ming different personalities, disguises himself as a woman and succeeds in passing himself off as his sis ter to the unsuspecting border agents. To prevent him from revealing her complicity in th e original fraud, Eula drive s from Canada to Florida and transport Adrian and Carlyle away from the area after they effect their escape from the detention facility. Carlyle subsequently puts Adrian to work as a drug mule but after their relationship sours and Carlyle turns on him and attempts to kill him Adrian flees t o Amsterdam In addition to possessing the predatory traits associated with the slaveowners, Carly le also possesses the traits of his maroon ancestors. Hence in spite of his desire to rebel against the history of his birthplace by embracing the modernity to which the area remains resistant ostensibly through his economic activity he finds himself, against his better judgment, engaging in behavior that undermines his economic endeavors. At the end of each cycle of material accumulation designed to procure him self control and self sabotages by engaging in behavior that results in the loss of his phean quest arising from the contradiction between his conscious embrace of modernity and h is repeated self sabotage that reflects an unconscious rejection of the materialist worldview that his money making activities ostensibly support. This quest in sea rch of Bouillante Together with his escape from the detention center, which resonates with his earlier escape from the farm laborer program, (both facilities are loca ted in Florida),
151 theme of the novel the constant repetition of the pa st in the present This idea is crystallized through the conflation of the historical experi ence of maroonage with the contemporary migration experiences of the Caribbean subject that is explicitly evoked in the description of t he detention center as gusanos and boat people and runaways, a place like all places like this, as far ba ck as any blood between Adrian and Priest would go. It was both the place Kamena wanted to find and the place he was running from all mixed up in one catastrophe of high fences and (197). Here the maroon camp refuge are conflated in the paradoxical space of the detention camp for illegal immigrants. This paradox is further emphasized in that these contemporary refugees/maroons are seeking refuge in the country in which they are marooned. borders establis hes them as the people of the transnation, who illegally cross borders and infringe official discourse. They have freedom in the sense that they traverse all sorts of metropolitan locations New York, Atlanta, Miami, Amsterdam yet remain marooned on the on the corners and in t Like Kamena and Bola, whose occupancy of the Culebra plantation positions them as maroons within the
152 of modern day manifestations of Empire. Like his maroon ancestors, his position is marginal, liminal and outside of the official discourse which he challenges by manipulating the documents associated with it such as a stolen green card and his in order to cross borders and gain a transgressive and interstitial agency that is not unlike that experienced by the original inhabitants of Culebra Bay and Terre Bouillante. However, unlike them, his resistance is compromised in that while his illegal activities places him in opposition to official discourse, he embraces an economic ethos based on predatory practices that underscores his complicity in the exploitation associated with the imperialist and neo imperialist practices responsible for his ancestors enslavement and his own ongoing marginality. progressivist, linear conceptualization of history and points to a recurring trope of the idea that the era of conquest, colonizati on, and slavery that initiated modernity into the region has not been exorcized in the collective unconscious of its people who remain haunted by this history. 21 In describing this phenomenon, whereby the past continues to be imprinted on the present, the voice of the omniscient ting of the Culebra Estate 21 slavery on subsequent generations of the descend ants of slaves. The main character returns to the ruins of the estate where she grew up, that was formerly a plantation and reflects on the legacy if the system ieth century and the slave barracks are still standing; one, with pe 50). (Brand, Dionne. Sans Souci and Other Stories New York: Firebrand Books, 1989.)
153 by its former owners, the Ursuline nuns; a phenomenon that Bola, who possesses extra the spirit of the nuns continues to occupy the crumbling ruins of their former estate descendants. plantation matrix and Benitez synchronicity of Caribbean linear conceptualization of Baucom maintains that Glissant and a black Atlantic genealogy and itself into the present (311 12). They eschew a progressivist Hegelian view of history and instead offer a counterhistory and countercu lture of modernity that view passage into an hrough its portrayal of maroonage and its modern manifestations, reflects these views. demonstrate that maroonage is worthy of study because not only is it a historical phenomenon, it has also served as the basis for an ideologica l discourse that contributes to a maroon theory of Caribbean literature. These novels contemporary issues of migration and citizenship in relation to the historical experience of slavery and maroonage. In the process, they extend, challenge, and complicate historical interpretations of the function
154 of maroon communities put forth by theorists of maroonage. Moreover, they gender the maroon experience and the counter culture of modernity with which it is a ssociated by highlighting the role that women played in actively resisting the culture of the plantation. By taking maroonage, which is viewed as a localized experience peculiar to the era of plantation slavery, and placing it within the modern day context of diaspora to indicate that this phenomenon in effect transcends the spatial and temporal boundaries to w hich it had been confined, these novels show that the underlying relations of domination that gave rise to the plantation and maroon experience conti nue into the present. In thus conflating the experiences of exile, migration, and maroonage they illustrate the problematic nature of diasporic citizenship. While they portray maroonage as a diaspora wide phenomenon that resists the culture of the plant ation, as opposed to constructing a simple dichotomy between the two cultures, these texts show that even as maroons actively resisted slavery, their complicated entry into modernity has very strong implications for the forms of citizenship available to th em and their descendants. The novel s demonstrate that, like the ancestral maroon, who found an alternative to the plantation system but who was nonetheless ultimately circumscribed by it and sometimes compelled to collude with it, the contemporary Caribbe an migrant is also caught in the paradox of resistance and complicity with the imperial and neo imperial systems that order economic relations and their associated social and political discourses. This is a complicated legacy, characterized by resistance to and accommodation of the system of exploitation within which the marginalized must
155 function even as they resist it. The se novel s suggest that until these competing tendencies are reconciled, citi zens of the diaspora will continue to be compromised.
156 CHAPTER 5 GENDERING THE COUNTER CULTURE OF MODERNITY:THE FEMALE SLAVE EXPERIENCE IN THE SALT ROADS AND THE BOOK OF NIGHT WOMEN Slavery, Modernity, and Gender In this chapter, I argue that the neoslave narratives The Salt Roads and The Book of Night Women emphasize the importance of the private sphere and female sexua lity to discourses of resistance articulated by the slaves They explore individual and collective acts of rebellion among female slaves to demonstrate that women played an integral role in t he counterculture of modernity articulated by slaves on the plantations of the colonial Caribbean These texts present this counterculture through subject matter and formal techniques that include: explicit representations of sexuality; the use of Caribbe an dialect; alluding to and rewriting historical and archival documents as well as other fictional works; and non linear narrative techniques that literally move the reader across time and space. These narrative devices connect the slave resistance that o ccurred on the plantations of the colonial Caribbean to metropolitan discourses of European modernity, demonstrate the way black female sexuality was denigrated in colonial constructions of femininity and re constructed by black women to articulate a subje ctivity of resistance to both slavery and male domination; and articulate a distinctly Caribbean aesthetic of modernity. In so doing, these novels revise the tendency among some postcolonial critics and writers to mirror the male centered focus of Western modernity in their deconstruction and revision of this discourse. Slave rebellions are of ideological significance in Caribbean postcolonial discourse in that they are viewed as the most concrete and visible way that blacks articulated an entry into Enl ightenment discourse and the project of modernity. However, there has been a tendency, among postcolonial critics who examine the
1 57 importance of these rebellions to the counter culture of modernity articulated by slaves and their descendants, to mirror the male centered focus of Western modernity by privileging the experiences of the male subject who is established as normative. I maintain that in revisiting the period of plantation slavery, which is viewed as seminal to the creation o f the modern New Worl d subject, to emphasize the female role in slave rebellions, these novels construct the female subject as integra l to the discourse of modernity and its counter culture. In so doing, these novels revise the tendency among some postcolonial critics and wri ters to mirror the male centered focus of Western modernity in their deconstruction and revision of this discourse. The Salt Roads is set in Haiti and underscores the role that women played in the resistance to enslave ment that was articulated by the slaves on the plantations of the colonial Caribbean through its exploration of the conflict between a female slave by the name of Mer and the maroon slave turned rebel, Francois Makandal. The novel also explores the impact of the Caribbean to the discourse of modernity through its fictive portrayal of the relationship between the French poet and cultural critic, Charles Baudelaire and his mulatto mistress Jeanne Duval. The female role in slave rebellion is similarly the fo The Book of Night Women Set in 1803, the plot of this novel centers on a slave rebellion that is planned and executed by women on the Montpelier plantation in eastern Jamaica. By focusing on the two main characters, Lilith and Homer who combine their resistance to slavery with resistance to male domination, the novel demonstrates the way female sexuality conditioned the slave experience and the types of resistance that women articulated. These novels highlight the female contribut ion to the counterculture
158 of resistance to plantation slavery engaged in by the slaves and to the discourse of modernity. In the process, they interrogate the masculinist bias of modernity and its counterculture. The term modernity is used as an umbrella term to describe the epochal transformation that Europe experienced beginning in the nineteenth century. Cultural studies theorist, Stuart Hall, notes that the term refers to the political, economic, social, and cultural processes, and the distinctive fe atures associated with them, that transformed traditional societies into modern ones (7 8). 1 Rita Felski layers this definition of modernity by making the point that the term refers not only to the major societal processes of transformation but also encom passes a conscious attempt on the part of intellectuals of the time to theorize about the changes that were taking place around them. In her view, the modern periodization, by the attempt to situate individual l ives and experiences in relation to broader historical patterns and overarching narratives of innovation and decline. capitalism, bureaucracy, technological developmen t, and so on but above all to 1 Some of the main characteristics of modern societie s include the formation of the modern nation state that is defined by clearly demarcated boundaries, the secularization of political power, large scale production and consumption of goods, extensive ownership of private property and capital accumulation, d ynamic new class formations that replaced a static and rigid social hierarchy, the sexual division of labor, and the displacement of a religious worldview in favor of an emphasis on secular, materialist the Renaissance, the scientific revolution of the nineteenth century, and the Enlightenment of the ei 8).
159 particular (though often contradictory) experiences of temporality and historical 2 While the Caribbean, and the New World in general, has traditionally been excluded from Eurocentric discussions of modern ity, engaged in by such theorists as Marshall Berman and Jurgen Habermas, postcolonial critics interrogate the tendency to construct modernity as an exclusively European discourse. Commenting on the dynamic relationship between the modernity that took pla ce in Europe and the territories developments in Europe and America, and through relations of unequal exchange the frequently excluded, conquered, colonized, Historian and literary critic, C.L.R. James, in his groundbreaking work The Black Jacobins was the first t heorist to comprehensively establish the Caribbean as foundational to modernity by emphasizing the integral role that New World slavery played in the societal transformations that took place in Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. James note s that the large scale mode of production of the plantation which saw the crop being exported and the food, clothing, and other material 2 phenomena defined by the terms mo dernization, modernism, and modernite. Modernization refers to the technological advances, capitalism, and the development of the nation state. Modernism refers to an artistic movement that originated in Europe and the US in the late nineteenth century that explored and general aestheticization of everyday life, as exemplified in the ephemeral and transitory qualities of an (13).
160 items needed to support the slaves being imported, was a fundamental characteristic of modernity. Other features of mo dern life that arose in plantation society include the quick and easy communication between the town and the outlying areas facilitated by the small sizes of the islands, the opulent lifestyle of the planters, and the slave labor 92). Brett St. Louis maintains that in thus highlighting the w ay the experience of forced migration and enslavement created a modern subject on the plantations of the New world, James interrogates the tendency of Western modernity to locate the modern subject within the confines o f the European nation state. Histori locate the politics of black liberation within the philosophies of Enlightenment dis (777). Drawing on the colonial mission then, was a missile that launched the Caribbean, its European commanders, and African cargo on the path to modernity on board the plantation enterprise that rose on the site of native E duoard Glissant also discusses the centrality of the plantation to the discourse of modernity when he notes that development of present spot, on the ( Poetics that met, clashed, and influenced each other in spite of the rigid s ocial and racial
161 hierarchies of the plantation. In his opinion, this confluence of cultures is one of the defining features of the modern subject; a point that he captures with the observation that the plantation cultural metissage that Poetics 74). Paul Gilroy echoes these views with the claim that the mixture of African and European p hilosophical cultural systems is one of the by products of modernity These theorists establish the ideologic al significance of slavery and the central role that it played in the counterculture of modernity articulated in the region but replicate the masculinist bias of Eurocentric modernity in that they elide or ig nore the impact of gender in the modernity that was articulated on the slave plantations of the Caribbean. This masculinist bias is reproduced in James black Jacobins which in focusing on the male leaders of the Haitian Revolution, elides the contribution that women made to this rev olution and the discourses associated with it. James himself seems to be aware of this bias when, in his preface to the revised edition, he asserts that if he were to rewrite his text, he would place more emphasis on and de emph This comment implies that he would emphasize the collectivist nature of the revolution highlight factors, such as gend er, that are elided in his portrayal of the revolution as a masculine, individualistic battle of wills between the hero, Toussaint and the French forces that sought to recapture the island. Gilroy also centers his analysis of the black Atlantic on male fi gures; a fact that Natasha Barnes comments upon with the could create a
162 black Atlantic with different contours from that of the male figures that inform Gilroy's theories Thus i n interrogating Western constructs of modernity, these postcolonial theorists nonetheless reinscribe the male centered focus of discourses on modernity. This elision of gender under a normative masculine experience is replicated in discour ses of modernit y. According to Felski, an example of this can be seen in the the French revolution is seen as a watershed moment in the history of modernity in that it gave currency to th of equality [was] grounded in fraternity that effectively excluded women from many effectively serv ed to silence women through a recurring identification of the human with T he Transoceanic Imaginary and Feminine Modernity in The Salt Roads The Salt Roads focuses on the female slave experience through its portrayal of the life of its three protagonists: the slave Mer, a field slave who lives on a plantation in Haiti in the mid eighteenth century; Jeanne Duval, a mulatto of Haitian descent, who lives in nineteenth century Paris, and has a lifelong relationship with C harles Baudelaire; and Thais, a prostitute who lives in Alexandria, Egypt in the year 345 C.E. and who becomes the inspiration for the Christian saint, Mary. These worlds are symbolically linked through the deity and sea Goddess, Ezili, who travels back a nd forth across time and space as she inhabits the bodies of these women and guides their
163 movement. Hopkinson uses the character of Mer to highlight the female role in the counterculture of resistance to slavery that was articulated on the plantations of the colonial Caribbean. In the process, she revises the male centered focus of postcolonial discourses on this counterculture. Through the character of Duval, Hopkinso n connects the resistance that is articulated on the plantations of the colonial Caribbean in the mid 1700s to the discourse of modernity that reached full expression in the metropolitan cities of Europe a hundred years later. Through the character of Mer Hopkinson alludes to the work of an older generation of Caribbean writers and privileges the often marginalized female element in Omeros man who cursed the sea had cursed his own mother/ Mer are spoken in relation to Hector, the fisherman turned taxi driver who is continually haunted by his desire to return to the sea. The etymology of the word Mer is also explicitly delineated in the O was the conch mer was / both mother and sea in our Antillean patois, / os a grey bone, and the white surf as it crashes / and spread its sib attention to this female element, the poem focuses primarily on the masculinist perspectives and experiences of its male characters, Hector and Achille. In contrast, field slave who lives on a plantation in mid eighteenth century Haiti. In addition to her work in the fields, Mer uses her knowledge of herbal medicine to doctor to the other slaves. She shares a specia l relationship with the sea Goddess, Ezili, who is born after
164 Mer and two other slaves, Tipingee and Georgine, bury a still born baby on the banks of a river that runs through the plantation. Shortly after she is born, Ezili, who is also known as Lasiren appears to Mer in the form of a mermaid. The two characters are depicted as having a mother/daughter 65). The Goddess also refers to the enslaved blacks (the Ginen) as her children and gives Mer the task of clearing the salt roads so that she can re establish contact with them. Literally, the salt roads are the sea routes that Ezili/Lasiren travels. She notes th at these passages are blocked, she becomes trapped, and this manifests itself in the human world in the enslavement of her children. Thus she tasks Mer with repairing the damage that has been done to salt roads. And the sweet ones, In equating the figure of the mother with the sea through the character of Ezili, the sea is positioned as originary as it is in Omeros However, whereas this element performs positioned as a backdrop against which the ma le characters perform), Hopkinson personifies and privileges this female element, who together with her human agent, play a crucial role in the events that unfold on t he plantation. In centering the marginalized female element, Hopkinson not only revises the male text, she also associates this element with what Elizabeth DeLoughrey refers to as olonial theories that use the sea space/ seascape as a metaphor to underscore the centrality of processes of diaspora, migration, and creolization to the historical development of
165 island regions in the Atlantic and the Pacific (25). According to DeLoughre y, these theories emphasize the interrelatedness of land and sea to interrogate the tendency to view islands and their inhabitants as bounded, static, terrestrial entities with little or no relation to the sea; foreground the interconnectedness of supposed ly isolated islands; and posit a cyclical view of history that interrogates Western teleological views of time. She maintains that the transoceanic imaginary is constitutive of anti colonial and anti linked to human origins and exploring these fluid histories offers an alternative to the rigid ethnic genealogies of of the transoceani c imaginary in that he uses the trope of the ship, that is associated with motion, travel, and the middle passage, as a metaphor for the transnational and transcultural elements that he deems a salient feature of the black Atlantic and Western society. He of the transoceanic imaginary include Eduoard Glissant, and Antonio Benitez Rojo who both view the sea as foundational and originary to Caribbean history and culture. 3 In he Caribbean Sea acts as a conduit for the meeting places of the cul tures of the two Americas; a view that he articulates with the comment: 3 Edward Brathwaite and Derek Walcott are two writers who also contribute to the discourse of the transoceanic imaginary by emphasizing the importance of the sea in their creative works.
166 Benitez Rojo similarly uses the sea as a metaphor to articulate his views on cultural formation in the Caribbean culture. He states: culture where time unfolds irregularly and resists being captured by the cycles of the clock and calendar. The Caribbean is the natural and indi spensable realm of marine currents, of waves, of folds and double folds, of fluidity and sinuosity. It is, in the final analysis, a culture of the meta archipelago: a chaos that returns, a detour without a purpose, a continual In spite of the centrality of the transoceanic imaginary to the theory produced by these critics, their literary and critical analyzes tends to be centered overwhelmingly on the bounded and rooted space of the land, the plantation, and the male experience. Part of this emphasis is due to the ideological significance that they place on slavery and slave resistance to the formation of the Caribbean and to modernity; discourses which have traditionally been constructed as male centered. I maintain that in using the characters of Mer and Ezili to construct the sea space as a feminine, originary space that exerts tremendous impact on human behavior, Hopkinson renders this transoceanic imaginary in fictive form to highlight t he importance of the female element to the counter culture of modernity. She emphasizes the interrelatedness of the sea and the land that is an essential element of the transoceanic imaginary through her portrayal of the conflict between Mer and another p lantation slave Makandal. This conflict is presented as battle between the masculine space of the land and the feminine space of the sea. Makandal is a fictional rendering of the real life Francois Makandal who organized and led a slave rebellion in Hait i from 1752 to 1758. Mackandal united the various maroon groups that lived in the mountainous regions of the island and liaised with slaves on the plantations, with the intention of poisoning the
167 whites, and taking control of the island ( Brief History of the Caribbean ). This plan failed after he was betrayed and subsequently put to death in 1758. Hopkinson portrays Makandal as emblematic of the male leader who would come to embody the counterculture of the slaves that would reach its fullest expression w ith the Haitian Revolution forty years later. He derives power from his oratory, charisma, and showmanship, frequently engaging in mock debates with his friend Patrice, who nd to latter to rhetorically dramatize his ideas in an effort to convince the slaves of the viability of his plans. Thus the rebellion is literally and symbolically constructed as a male discourse. Like Makandal, Mer also longs for freedom she observes that: but finds his methods of rebellion untenable. She believes that his pla n, which involves an island wide poisoning of the water supply of the white plantation owners, followed by armed rebellion, will result in the death of large numbers of domestic slaves and will ultimately quelling opposition by murdering those slaves whom he thinks will betray him to the whites. The conflict between Mer and Makandal eventually takes on cosmic proportions and becomes a battle between the sea Goddess, Ezili, and Ogun, the God of fire and wa r. During a meeting among the slaves, the two Gods battle for possession of House, Ezili, attempts to save the lives of the slaves who work there by taking possession
168 mouth. In addition to demonstrating that the female element is literally and symbolically silenced by t he male element, this incident also constructs the plantation as a masculine space that is estranged from the feminine space of the river and the sea. Unlike Mer, Makandal is unable to speak to Ezili because he refuses to eat salted food. This choice gi ves him the ability to transform his human shape into animal forms but is viewed as arrogance by the Goddess who thinks he is usurping the powers of the Gods. Thus he is estranged from the Goddess or female element. Ironically, his death results from the fact that, after his capture, he is fed salted food which impairs his ability to transform neglect of the female deity. Through this conflict, Hopkinson genders resist ance to slavery by highlighting the female role in resistance and the way it was marginalized. Moreover, Hopkinson merges her focus on the bounded space of the slave plantation literally personified through the character of Ezili, to underscore the female contribution to slave rebellion. connected to the revolutionary tradition through her role she delivers a child who is named Dedee Bazile. Also known as Defilee the Madwoman Bazile is one of the most prominent women discourses. She worked as a sutler in the army of Jean J acques Dessalines one of the After Dessalines was killed in October, 1806, Bazile is credited with gathe ring the piece s of
169 his mutilated body and taking them to their final restin g place She has been mythologized and inc orporated into Haitian folklore and nationalist discourse where, according to Jana Evans Baziel, she is viewed as a national heroine whose meanings are suff used with political re sistance, anti imperialism, and pa triotic r e Mer is thus positioned within a female tradition of resistance. Hopkinson also connects the resistance that is articulated on the plantation in the mid 1700s to the discourse of modernity that reached full expression in the me tropolitan cities of Europe a hundred years later. She achieves this through the character of Jeanne Duval in whose body Ezili becomes trapped. relationship with the French poet, essayist, and cultural critic Charles Baudelai re, to draw attention to the way European modernity was shaped by colonial relations and to also highlight the female contribution to the discourse of modernity. Baudelaire is canonized as one of the major luminaries associated with the phenomenon of mode rnity. Marshall Berman, a major contemporary theorist of modernity, argues that known for his es philosophized on the transformations that he observed taking place around him. In the couple began their volatile, twenty year relationship, which was characterized by several br eak ups and reunions, in 1842. Baudelaire considered Duvall his Muse and used her
170 as the inspiration for some of his poetry. In spite of the importance of this relationship to n Caribbean has been excluded from Eurocentric discussions of modernity. very littl e archival evidence on her. However, it is believed that her mother was most likely from Nantes, a slave trading fort, and that her ancestry would have included mixed race parentage at some point (262). In writings about Baudelaire, Duval has been descri foreignness, otherness, and position her as part of the colonial project. Pollack argues that while Duvall was not literally black, but due to her history and origins, she wo uld have been inscribed as such in the European imaginary in which the appellation black at the Baudelaire by his contemporaries, Duval has been maligned and vilified. She is negatively associated with images of darkness and presented as someone who preyed upon and tormented the poet (269). Through the figure of Duval, Hopkinson not only highlights the impact that the discourse as male. An examination of how Duval func tions in the art work of impact that she had on the emerging discourse of modernity as well as the way this
171 impact was obscured, both at the time when this discourse of the moder n was unfolding and in the subsequent scholarship on modernity. Manet is a canonical figure in art nalyzes She compares this painting with similar portraits of other women that Manet painted and concludes that Manet attempted to transcend the black versus white; erotic versus respect able divide contemporary feminine modernite/modernity d. presenting a white model in the same pose but with a nuanced rendering of her lady/white lady trope was used to construct white, European femininity in positive terms overseas that sets up a domesticated, either virginal or maternal, femininity the white lady in opposition to a dangerous, sexually dominating or alluring fi gure that is always elsewhere, connected with the spaces of alterity and exoticism, and hence of 4 4 Pollack notes that this painting was made in 1862 after B (272 73). This fact, together with the fact that the painting causes Pollack to conclude that Duval never posed for him and that the painting was most likely made from a s mall photograph of Duval that Baudelaire had given him (276).
172 Duval is similarly presented as symbolic of a larger sociohistorical phenomenon of the period in the portrait Studio: A Real Allegory Summing Up Seven Years of My Artistic Life instance, she is depicted as an allegory of slavery and colonialism. Christina Maria Fumagalli analyzes t he painting which i s meant to depict Courbet 1855. A long with the artist himself, who is central ly position ed, the painting includes other figures such as Napolean III, Baudelaire, various European figures associated with counter cultural movements, and an Irish woman and child who represent the harsh impact of industrialization on the Irish. Fumagalli notes that Courbet appears to privilege Duval by placing her in a central p osition in the painting and by depicting her conscious and (self ) ref The artist himself is the only other figure who has a similar awareness while t he other characters are presented as passive and unmindful of their surroundings and their relationship to each other (9 ). Gi ven the fact that all the characters are presented as allegories of importa nt events that were taking place in the sociopolitical milieu of Paris and Europe, Fumagalli surmises that Duval represent s the abolition of slavery in the French West Indies on 27 th April, 1848. Duval was subsequently e rased from the painting (her presence was only detected after the paint used to cover her up began to erode). In 7). She vi ews this as emblematic of suggests that Duval exerted a tremendous influence on Baudelaire, both personally and
173 professionally and thus played a central, though indirect role, in the emerging discourse of modernity of which Baudelaire was one of the major luminaries. 5 Both of these artworks that centralize Duval and depict her as representative of major cultural transformations that were occurring in metropolitan Franc e indicate that as opposed to the marginalized and maligned figure that much of Baudelaire scholarship interprets her to be, she is in fact of great cultural and historical significance. Both paintings associate her with discourses of the other: one with a discourse of feminine modernity; the other with slavery and colonialism. One attempts to establish her subjectivity but fails; the other succeeds in establishing her subjectivity but this is undermined after she is literally erased from the painting. T hus she symbolically and literally becomes a palimpsest that is written/painted over with other discourses. Hopkinson addresses these erasures by constructing a fictional history for Duval that fills in the gaps in the historical records and gives her a co mplex subjectivity that is show that the circumstances of her life were determined to a great degree by the grandmother is described as an African from Dahomey who is ens laved and brought to the Caribbean where she is forced to work as a sex slave. Duval and her mother, who 5 She also notes that the influence that Duval exerted on his philosophy of cosmopolitanism h as been ignored by writers.
174 The intergenerational exploitation that she is heir to is underscored through the fact, that like her grandmother and her mother before her, she if forced to work as a prostitute. To escape this life, she becomes a dancer and showgirl but her limited means compels her to enter into sexual relations with rich men to improve her material status and provide for her mother and grandmother. She leaves the theater after Charles sets her up in an apartment, where she lives with her mother, bu t after he loses control of his estate, she is forced to return to the stage. Her family background signals speaks that is infused with the dialect of her grandmother. Baudelaire belittles her for this and corrects her grammar. In addition to her racial and ancestral heritage, the ey powder that Baudelaire from her that her and her kin are your spices, your honey scent; she knows that you and your class have made them the aesthetic sensibilities of upper class Europeans. spices and honey scented powder the novel also underscores the commodification of eros that was a
175 major feature of modernity and situates Duv al squarely within this discourse. Felski paradoxical combination of eros and artifice [that] has frequently been seen as the quintessential In commenting the prostitute in the nineteenth century social imaginary and her emblematic status in the literature and art of the period prostitute was the ultimate symbol of t he commodification of eros, a disturbing example of the ambiguous boundaries separating economics and sexuality, the rational and the viewed in a similar vein for the prostitute, the actress could also be seen as a the artificial and commodified forms of contemporary female sexuality. The l esbian was also a significant figure in the work of male cultural critics of the era who viewed her unorthodox 20). transgressi ve and fluid, positions her within this discourse of modernity. In addition to her affair with Baudelaire, which is viewed as taboo because of her African ancestry, she is shown in a sexual relationship with another female actress, Lisette, who is describ ed as her true love and with whom she would live were it not for her need for colonialism. Along with her racial heritage which situates her firmly within a colonialist histo riography, the way she is used by Baudelaire equates her with the colonial Other.
176 Baudelaire uses Duval as inspiration for his work; a fact that Duval resentfully comments upon after he sees her dancing under the possession of Ezili and is inspired to wri te the She notes: streets, always looking, looking. Eating up what he saw. We were all just food for his eyes, for his pen. Fodder for making These words are a direc t reference to the figure of the flaneur, literally translated as an idler or loafer, that Baudelaire embodied and viewed as central to Parisian modernity. The discourse of the flaneur was constructed as masculine and fraternal; a fact that Katie Urch com ments upon when she notes that women were excluded from being flaneurs because they were a vital part of the urban scene/spectacle that the flaneur observed (23). This description also conflates the flaneur, as exemplified by Baudelaire, with the consumpt ion of the Other in that it is evocative of the colonial gaze whereby Baudelaire is depicted as the masculine modern, the observer/colonizer in contrast to Duval who is presented as the feminine modern, the observed/colonized. relationship is positioned within the broader socio cultural phenomenon of modernity, and the colonial exploitation that accompanied it. The conflation of the discourse of Europena modernity, colonialism, and slavery ations about the dehumanization of slavery that she and her various hosts experience and attempt to combat. In words that are evocative of the Ginen story, fighting to destroy that cancerous trade in shiploads of African bodies that ever demands to be fed more sugar, more rum, more The references to sugar, rum, and Nubian gold locates the
177 exploitation that Mer endures on the Haitian plantation in the mid 1700s, that Duval is subjected to in Paris a hundred years later, and that Thais (into whose body Ezili is thrown after Duval dies) faces in the ancient Alexandrian capital, within a shared context of exploitation and mar ginalization. These women are all commodified and associated with transgressive sexuality. Like Mer, Thais is enslaved and like Duval, her body is erotically commodified in that she is made to work as a prostitute and dancer. Like Duval, Mer engages in a lesbian affair with her best friend and fellow slave, Tipingee. Thais is also symbolically Meritet; a longer version of Mer. Moreover, her experience of a pilgrimag e to Jerusalem female element; this time in the discourse of religion. After she leaves Jerusalem, she has a spiritual experience in the desert where she communicates w ith Ezili. She meets a monk who revers her for being under the influence of the Christian Saint Mary and subsequently canonizes her as the dusky saint of Egypt. The conversation between Thais/Ezili and the monk indicates that Ezili is concerned with estab lishing the influence of the female element in male discourses of religion. Thus in spite of their separation in time and space, these women are positioned within a common nexus of commodification and consumption that is played out on their bodies. By fo cusing on these women who are associated with transgressive sexuality, Hopkinson uses them to show the impact that women exerted on the discourse of European modernity, associated with such seminal figures as Baudelaire and on the counterculture of modern ity associat ed with figures like Makandal.
178 The Cult of True Womanness: Rebellion and the Sexual Politics of Slavery in The Book of Night Women Like The Salt Roads The Book of Night Women demonstrates the importance of the priva culture of modernity articulated by slaves on the plantations of the New World. This novel explicitly details the physical and sexual abuse that slave women face at the hands of white men and slave men to undersco re the role sexuality played in the domination of women as well as the integral role that it played in their resistance to enslavement. The novel imaginatively fills in the silences of seminal slave narratives and other historical accounts of slavery from the colonial archives to develop the idea that the female slave experience cannot be totally understood without fully exploring the sexual and physical abuse that these slaves were forced to endure. I n contrast to female slave narratives, whose authors w ere required to defer to the discourse of to interrog ate the discourse of true womanhood which in propagating notions of European femininity denigrated black female sexuality As part of their resistance to slavery, protagonists self consciously construct themselves in opposition to the European notions of femininity to articulate an alternative discourse of wo manhood In linking resistance to the sexual politics of slav ery, the novel makes the point that an understanding of their experiences of slavery. In her text Fictions of Feminine Citizenship: Sexuality and the Nation in Contem porary Caribbean Literature Donette Francis notes that the private sphere played an integral role in the articulation of colonial and nationalist projects. Speaking
179 specifically about the Caribbean region, she observes that historically, Caribbean female sexuality has been constructed to further imperial and national agendas. Operating from the premise that sexuality is a vital but underexplored component of female citizenship, Francis examines contemporary female authored Caribbean novels that imaginati vely interpret the archival silences surrounding both the intimate and against women that occurred at pivotal moments of Caribbean history, ranging from the postemancipatio n period to the present. She concludes that these novels indicate that the postcolonial present to construct a politics of citizenship that results in an erosion, as oppo demonstrates that any account of the slave experience that does not take into consideration the way sexuality conditions the female slave experience is limited, enters into this conve womanhood excluded slave women from citizenship, makes a similar point. However while Francis focuses on the construction of female sexuality in the postemancipation and nationalist phases of Caribbean history, James revisits the period of slavery, to rewrite the Caribbean canon of slave narratives and other accounts of slavery, to highlight the important role that sexuality played in the counterculture of resistance to slavery in wh ich female slaves engaged. The story is narrated from the perspective of Lilith, a 15 year old slave girl, who is recruited by a group of six women who are planning a rebellion on the Montpelier estate located in eastern Jamaica. Similar groups form on neighboring plantations and they
180 collectively co ordinate their attack through those slaves granted permission to transport goods and messages among the plantations. The Montpelier group is led by the nd authoritarian leader who carefully With the exception of Homer, who is brought from Africa as a slave, the women share a common patriarchy. They l overseer. The women are inspired by the slaves to go east to the Cockpit country after they are done attacking the plantation, tates all over the county like what be in the slaves there can successfully rebel, the slaves in Jamaica can do the same. When Lilith expresses doubt about her plans Domingue nigger can do it and they be the same nigger we be, that even you be. All it take is some smart thinking. rebellion be planned and exec uted by women Homer makes it patently clear that she conceives of slave resistance not only in terms of race, but also in terms of gender. Hence, she recruits only women who she views as strong willed and is reluctant to involve men in the planning of th e rebellion. When she learns that the women on a ces of physical and sexual violence at the hands of slave men which cause her to view female resistance to slavery as inseparable from resistance to male domination. The violence
181 to which she is subjected is precipitated by her attempt to escape slavery. Upon hearing that Jack Wilkins plans to sell her baby after she gives birth, Homer and her partner, Benjy, escape Montpelier and flee to the maroons in the hopes that they would be given refuge. The maroons are escaped slaves who form independent communi ties and live outside the strictures of plantation society. Although the maroons have signed a treaty that obligates them to return runaways to the plantation, Homer knows that they sometimes accept escaped slaves, especially strong, healthy men. This pr oves true in that they take Benjy but reject Homer after concluding that she is of little use to them sexually. Before returning her to the plantation in exchange for a reward, they flog her until she miscarries. This incident, which illustrates the prem ium that the maroons place on the strong, healthy male body, indicates that for many female slaves, the maroons are not a viable alternative to plantation slavery. Homer underscores the masculinist nature of the freedom that the maroons have when she stat mer places on womanhood and femininity which she equates with freedom. In demonstrating the threat to freedom posed by the Maroons, this incident demythologizes and genders the phenomenon of maroonage, which is often celebrated in postcolonial discours es as an alternative to the plantation system. The omniscient ensured their success but notes that after Cudjoe, the leader of the Leeward maroons, signs a peace treaty in 1738, which grants the maroons freedom on the condition that
182 they return escaped slaves to the plantation, the maroons become the accomplice of the treaty, the Maro who choose to run away now face a new enemy who breathe like he breathe and look 6 plantation after he e scapes, most likely because he is deranged, and in the aftermath of the rebellion, they round up almost a hundred slaves who escape the plantations. These actions indicate that the maroons are driven by their desire for profit, lack sympathy for those who are enslaved, and have no broader concept of freedom; a fact who refuses t o defend Homer because he values his freedom more than he values their relationship. She sums up his betrayal which results in the devaluation and ultimate (216) Thus mar oonage is constructed as a masculine enterprise of resistance that in its denigration of the female, motherhood, and the family, replicates the gender disparities of the plantation system. These gender disparities are brought sharply into focus through th e treatment that is meted out to Homer upon her return to the plantation. results in the birth of two children who are sold in their infancy and die shortly after. 6 Historian Mavis C. Campbell notes that the 1739 treaties signed by these maroons included clauses that stipulated that the maroons were to return escaped slaves to the plantations and assist the planters in putting down rebellions (133;138 139).
183 Altho ugh the children are the products of rape, she values them and her role as their mother. When news of their deaths reaches her, Homer begins to plan her rebellion which is predicated on her desire to avenge their deaths and the sexual violation that she i s made to endure. In addition to being used as a weapon to punish rebellious female slaves, sexual violence against women is also used as a weapon of war in the struggle between enslaved men and their white masters. This idea is developed in the descriptio n of the ve involved in the plot, he rapes the fourteen year old girl in a fit of vengeance. Eight months later, she dies giving birth to Lilith, the product of this rape. further demonstrates the way sexuality conditioned the female slave experience At the age of fifteen Lilith is attacked by a Johnny jumper, one of the black assistants to the white overseer. She successfully fights him off, killing him in the effort, and is recruited into ressed by her will to resist male domination. Homer covers up the murder and takes Lilith to live with her in the Great House. Lilith nonetheless experiences sexual violation after she is raped by a group of overseers as punishment for her crime of acci dentally spilling hot soup on one of the also retaliates against Lilith for sexually pursuing the master by having her repeatedly flogged twice a week by the Johnny jumpers Eventually, these floggings are stopped by Jack Wilkins who intercedes on her behalf, but not before she comes to be known
184 abuse, Lilith refuses to be cowed. Afte r she is verbally harassed by a Johnny jumper, her violence to demonstrate that fa r from weakening her resolve, the abuse that she suffers strengthens her determination to resist male domination. This incident underscores the resistance that they articulate. and lends credence negotiate not only the imbalances of their relations with their own men but also the baroque and violent array of hierarchical rules and restrictions that structured their new After the whippings are stopped, to further punish Lilith for attempting to compete with her for the sexual attenti on of the master, degrade Lilith even further. She flaunts her own privileged status as a woman whose 77). Here the discourse of womanhood. These words also a llude to Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl discourse of respectable womanhood is discussed at length. In this work, Jacobs states her to describe an arrangement whereby he
185 would set her up as his concubine (384 85); an ironic use of the term that signals the degradation that black womanhood was subjected to under slavery. In demonstrating the way sexuality impacted the power dynam ics between slave mistresses and their female slaves, the novel also draws attention to the way slave women were devalued by the construction of white womanhood. Barbara Welter uses vailed in nineteenth century America that promoted an ideal of domesticity based on a concept of bourgeois respectability. This ideology, which was disseminated through religious and popular literature geared towards women, promoted the idea that the char acteristics piety purity, submissiveness and do mesticity (152). These traits were deemed essential to developing the virtue that was needed to achieve and maintain both spiritual and material success and promote the highest forms of civilization in the burgeoning nation. McClintock comments on the importance of this ideology to the colonial and imperial projects with the observation domesticity was a crucial, if concealed, dimension of male as well as female identities shifting and unstable as these were and an indispensable element both of the Lilith is interpellated into this sentimental ideal of womanhood after Tantulus shows her a picture of prince charming kissing sleeping beauty. Lilith is captivated by, and begins to identify with this image that represents the European ideal of romantic she is tak en to live and work in the Great House, she begins to associate the master, Humphrey, with this romantic ideal. She tries to win his favor with the hope that he will
186 ju save her from the Johnny jumpers and put her above other negro womens. A white man like Massa Humphrey can also take her and hold her with the gentle hand that niggerman don Lilith is nonetheless aware that she can never fully in the hopes that she can attain a semblance of this id eal. Only after Lilith is violently attacked by Humphrey and subsequently sexually and physically violated, does she disabuse herself of the thought that she can enter into or approximate the sentimental ideal. The novel exposes the negative effect of this ideological discourse of womanhood on black women who were implicitly constructed in opposition to this ideal of white femininity with the result that the institutions of marriage, motherhood and the family, that were highly prized in white genteel societ y were devalued in the life of the slave woman. Hazel Carby notes that black women were viewed as governed by baser, were also deemed threats to the institution of marriage in that white males were viewed as powerless to fend off their overt sexuality. Thus this construction of black women effectively absolved white men from any responsibility for sexual relations with slave women by placing the blame for these illi cit liaisons solely on the women (27). Caribbean historian, Barbara Bush, echoes these observations with the claim that the
187 The Salt Roads through the character of Jeanne Duval. This discourse is explicitly rendered in The Book of Night Women The women who plan the rebellion are aware of the ways in which they are denigrated under the slave system and interrogate the discourse of sentimental womanhood by self consciously constructing themselves in opposition to European ideals of femininity. They define womanhood as resistance to enslavement and the ability to endure hardship without becoming cowed and submissiveness. Along with planning the practical details of the rebellion, the women use their meetings to build self esteem and empower themselves. During her first meeting, Lilith is struck ground, nobody wrapping her arms up to make themselves smaller, and nobody hiding Homer also te aches the women how to during the multiple rapes and whippings that she is subjected t o as punishment for her infraction at the ball. hut where Lilith is kept during her recovery and combine caring for her with planning the rebellion. They give her herbal remedies to ensure t hat she will not have an unwanted pregnancy and apply healing ointments to her back. They secretly worship African Gods and perform religious rituals designed to help Lilith heal as well as fortify their resolve in carrying out their plans : ear the song and feel the drum click on
188 act that also advances the cause of the rebellion. These women are unapologetic for failing to conform to the cult of true woman hood. Instead, they take pride in their strength and their rebelliousness and are showing that they have the mental fortitude to withstand abuse and carry through with the rebellion. in the face of abuse, as a term of respect among themselves. This is evident in the respect that Lilith gains for Homer who explains to Lilith that after she is punished fo r escaping, she learns to hide her defiance in the presence of whites. Lilith is profoundly or a long time. She look again at the hair and the dress and wonder how it take her so long to defiance at Coulibre where, like Homer, she is outwardly submissive in the presence of her owners but inwardly defiant: she keep quiet and make the spirit work secret practice occurs at the Coulibre estate where she successfully resists the physical and sexual abuse to which she is subjected. This episode incorporates elements of the plot of the slave narrative The History of Mary Prince: A West Indian Slave which was first
189 published in 1831, and is the only known extant slave narrative written by a Caribbean woman. Like H arriet Jacobs who was forced to apologize for her failure to conform to the discourse of womanhood, and who used the sentimental genre to elicit the black women were ir onically constrained by the sentimental ideal even as they were excluded from it. Critics note that Prince needed to avoid offending the sensibilities of her white bourgeois audience whose investment in the discourse of sentimentality would have precluded her from explicitly detailing any sexual abuse that she may have experienced at the hands of her master. Thus she hints at possible sexual abuse but nineteenth century enslaved narrators like Prince understood that this sort of testimony risked confirming to their white middle class abolitionist readers that they were indeed the promiscuous wenches that slave societies accused them of being, rather than the victim of sexual ). Helena Woodard similarly comments on the limitations under which Prince wrote compromised abilities to maintain sexual and reproductive control disqualified her for (18). 7 G 7 Other female writers of slave narratives were similarly constrained by t h e cult of true womanhood ideology Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl where the main the standards of respectab ility set for white women in the nineteenth century.
190 the autonomy as authenticating materials that were included in the preface, which were meant to prove Moreover, her dialect would have been translated into Standard English to ensure that she would be understood by her audience, and this would have further diluted the force of her story (129). I n contrast to these female slave narratives, whose authors were required to sentimentality. The language of the novel is replete with expletives and sexually explicit terminology that reflects the verbal, physical, and sexual violence that are everyday occurrences of plantation life. he time come to write her song elide any sexual abuse that she may have endured at the hands of her master in order
191 abuse experienced by the female slaves of the Coulibre household. 8 This household is patterned after the family of Capt. I____ t hat Prince describes in her narrative. Prince is purchased by the Captain and his wife. Soon after she enters their household, she describes the abuse inflicted on Hetty, a fellow slave, who i s owned by the family One night Hetty forgets to stake out th e cow and is brutally beaten by the master. She goes into premature labor and gives birth to a stillborn child. Although she resumes her duties, she is subjected to continued beatings, and soon falls ill. Her body and limbs swell, and she dies soon afte after she dies. She own (17 ). Prince also describes being forced to bathe her naked master and the discomfort that it caused her but refrains from explicitly stating that she was sexually abused. 9 experiences similar types of abuse. Her sexual and physical abuse by the master is graphically described as it witnessed by Lilith and she tells Lilith about twins that she gives birth that are fathered by the master and subsequently sold. Like Hetty, Dulcimena is eventually flogged to death. One evening, she forgets to put the goats in nd in a fit of rage, the mistress flogs Dulcimena 166 times. Her body swells up and she dies shortly after. Lilith is made to 8 Jenny Sharpe notes that, after Prince works for ten years in t he Salt Ponds, her master takes her to live Thus, 9 Prince describes this incident as follows: ordering me then to wash him in a tub of water. This w as worse to me than all the licks. Sometimes when he was a very indecent man
192 language, (200). The sexual abuse that Lilith experiences is also explicitly described and is presented as the catalyst that leads to her rebellion. Like Prince, she is forced to bathe her master. During one of these sessions, she inadvertently voices her displeasure at strike her but suffers a heart seizure. In a fit of rage, Lilith drowns him. After the mistress enters the room and discovers her crime, Lili th chases her and pushes her over the second floor balcony. She then sets fire to the house to cover up the murders blame three other slaves who are part of the house hold for the killings, torture and lynch them, and Lilith returns to the Montpelier plantation. 10 This incident illustrates that female resistance to slavery is inextricably bound up with their resistance to sexual exploitation. Like her first act of viol ence, that saw her killing a Johnny jumper to avoid resist sexual abuse. Thus James re develop the idea that the female sl ave experience cannot be totally understood without fully exploring the sexual and physical abuse that these slaves were forced to endure. which is invoked and undermine 10 Wide Sargasso Sea els the burning of the Coulibre estate by disgr untled ex slaves. In this novel, the Creole women warn Mason the estate owner, about the real possibility of black rebellion but he dismisses their fears as unfounded. Later in The Book of Night Women Isobel similarly warns Humphrey about slave rebellion but he ignores her warning
193 epic/comic romance novel Joseph Andrews Homer uses this book to teach Lilith and the other women to read. While attracted to the humor of the story, Lilith is profoundly disturbed by the fact that honorable men like Joseph Andrews do not exist in her world. She finds a copy of this book at Coulibre (significantly the entire section of the novel that from to a muse herself and temporarily take her mind off the hardships of life but towards wom in the colony like Joseph Andrews or him very dear friend Mr. Abraham Adams. And even if there be white mens of such quality, they only be so for white people. There be no love for about the character, Tow Wouse. Lilith identifies with this character, especially the lines hich interrogation and ultimate rejection of the sentimental ideal, Lilith drowns her master. tion of her sexual abuse, and her successful rebellion, the novel illustrates that sexuality conditioned the female slave experience together with the forms of resistance that h is power that she experiences after she successfully defends herself against her master develops the idea that, for female slaves, the state of being women is the single most
194 Coulibre and burning the house to conceal their murders, her emotions are described as ake her think that preservation and the defiance that compels her to resist abuse is also used to express her feelings after she murde rs the Johnny jumper who defense of her Montpelier, they view her with awe and Homer goes as far as to make Lilith describe the killings in detail so that she can vicariously partake of the experience. In addition to the symbolic interrogation of the romance tradition, that is signaled relationship with the overseer, Robert Quinn, who takes her as his mistress after she return s to Montpelier. In spite of herself, Lilith begins to develop an emotional attachment to Quinn and finds herself torn between remaining loyal to the women and being. their a lternative discourse of womanhood and, to ensure that she remains true to their violent abuse to which he subjects the slaves in his position as overseer. Homer also reve als that he kills a woman in Italy to cover up a crime that Humphrey commits. Homer conceives of the relationship between Quinn and Lilith as a power struggle and
195 is determined that Lilith should win telling her that in order to be a true woman, she must use her sexuality to gain as much control over Quinn as she can, and in the process, avoid becoming emotionally attached to him. As a result, Lilith finds herself unable to they are in private and call each other by their names to signal that their relationship is 10). Thus she cannot ignore the racial domination that defines plantation life and, although she is able to conceal her true feelings from him, never relates to him in the way he desires Thus Quinn offers her an entry into the sentimental discourse of womanhood that Lilith tell herself. She not no sleeping princess and Robert Quinn is not no king or pr effect a separation between the public and private spheres, Lilith demonstrates that in her worldview, the two domains are inseparable. Thus for the slave woman, intimate relations between master and slave are inextricably bound to and conditioned by the material relations of racial and social oppression that dominate the public sphere of plantation life. Hence, the narrative of sentimentality is twice undermined first through the interrogation of the romanc e between Lilith and Quinn. The merging of the intimate and public spheres becomes evident during the rebellion. The women supply the slaves with weapons, direct and assist t hem in setting
196 fire to the fields and plantation buildings, and help them to coordinate their attacks on whites and those blacks who are viewed as traitors. Yet they also take time to settle personal vendettas and private scores. Homer delays escape to p ersonally exact revenge on the mistress for selling her children and having her flogged. She vents her rage by torturing the mistress after which she kills her and tosses her body out a window. Another one of the plotters, Pallas, decides to spare Isobel raped by two slaves so that she will live with the shame of her sexual degradation. relations that inform slavery and plantation society. This tragic outcome of the story can be read as yet another interrogation of the romance tradition and seems to lend s the image of a man or woman obliged to act in a world in which values are unstable and unambiguous. And consequently, for tragedy the relation between past, present, and future is never a Romantic one in which history rides a triumphant and seamlessly p rogressivist rhythm, This rape that she suffers at the hands of the rebelling slaves is the culmination of a series of sexual humilia tions that she suffers. She seduces the master and has premarital sex with him; a fact that delights Homer and Lilith for it deconstructs the ideal of purity associated with white womanhood that Isobel is expected to embody. This impropriety is compounde d after Isobel is forced to married to Humphrey. Homer compounds the trauma that Isobel experiences after the
197 death of her parents by giving her teas that induce bouts of dementia. She begins making frequently trips to Kingston where she prostitutes herself in fits of drunken stupor. subsequently departs for England after placing the plantation und er the care of a lawyer and Isobel, who is pregnant, finds herself abandoned. She essentially suffers the same fate as Lilith who is also pregnant, is symbolically blackened, and becomes a victim of the cult of true womanhood. As if in tacit acknowledge ment of their shared plight, Lilith cares for Isobel in the aftermath of the rebellion. Of the women involved in rebellion, only Lilith who is haunted by the murders that she commits is devoid of vengeance. She refuses to betray the women but attempts to protect Quinn from harm by drugging him in the hopes that he will sleep through the rebellion. He wakes as the fighting is at its peak, goes out into the fields to defend the plantation, and is killed by the rebelling slaves. Lilith also protects the ov erseer Jack Wilkins, shooting and killing her sister, Hippolyta, who is also one of the plotters, in the process. In spite of herself, she is unable to kill him because he saves her from field work and he stops the whippings instigated by Isobel. She mov es gives birth to a daughter and, although she is not technically free, she lives as though she is on the plantation. With the exception of Homer and Lilith, none of the women survive the rebellion. They are either killed or rounded up in the aftermath and put to death with scores of other slaves who participate in the uprising. Thus master and slave are both destroyed and/or damaged by the experience of slavery and rebe llion.
198 Figure 5 1 Moriset entitled Repose 1870. (Pollock, Griselda. Differencing the Canon: Feminist Desire and the Writing of Art's Histories London: Routledge, 1999.)
199 Figure 5 2: of Jeanne Duval 1865. (Pollock, Griselda. Differencing the Canon: Feminist Desire and the Writing of Art's Histories London: Routledge, 1999.)
200 Figure 5 3: showing Baudelaire in th background. 1855 (Pollock, Griselda. Differencing the Canon: Feminist Desire and the Writing of Art's Histories London: Routledge, 1999.)
201 Figure 5 4: Reclining ( Differencing the Canon: Feminist Desire and the Writing of Art's Histories London: Routledge, 1999.)
202 Figure 5 5 : ( Differencing the Canon: Feminist Desire and the Writing of Art's Histories London: Rou tledge, 1999.)
203 CHAPTER 6 CONCLUSION On April 27 th 2011, the president of the US, Barack Obama, released a copy of his birth certificate to provide proof that he is a natural born American citizen in order to silence a small but virulent minority of polit ical opponents who seized upon his American president are indicative of the ongoi ng struggle that African Americans face over their citizenship or sense of belonging in the US. This study indicates that the genre of the slave narrative, which arose out of the Civil Rights Movement and the fight of African Americans to have their citize nship rights recognized, is transforming itself to reflect changes in the contemporary experiences of black diasporic subjects whose experiences of citizenship continue to be compromised by the legacy of slavery. While the first generation of neoslave nar ratives focused on re writing history to foreground the selfhood of the often silenced black subject obliquely gesturing to discourses of nation formation and citizenship in the process, these newer neoslave narratives explicitly address the ongoing limita tions, and in some instances, the outright failure of citizenship for the black subject, not only in the US but throughout the African diaspora. Produced by writers across the African diaspora (the Caribbean, the US, England, and Canada) these novels use a range of innovative narrative devices to juxtapose the fictional portrayal of slavery with metropolitan centers of official discourse, the past with the present. They explicitly contextualize slavery in relation to the contemporary quest of black diaspo ric subjects for full citizenship, in some instances by invoking central figures associated with the Civil Rights Movement Martin Luther
204 King, Malcolm X, and Rosa Parks. They also use a variety of narrative techniques that include temporal movement, mos t commonly flashforwards to the present, to explicitly signal the connection between the slave experiences that they portray and the contemporary era. In Song Yet Sung on Washington and foretells that the son of a fugitive slave is the ancestor of King. Malcolm X appears as a hologram to the one of the heroines in Free Enterprise to position her within a tradition of militant resistance to oppression. In The Salt Roa ds the deity Ezili, who travels across space and time, sits beside Rosa Parks and witnesses her act of refusing to yield her seat and sit at the back of the bus. At the Full and Change of the Moon describes a detention center on the outskirts of Gainesvi lle, Florida in which blacks and other minorities seek illegal entry into the US to escape the systemic oppression that they face in their home countries. These individuals lack official recognition and exist on the margins of societies in a manner simila r to that of the enslaved. Brand describes the detention gusanos maroon camp to develop the idea that there is an alternative and marginalized community of individuals who have b een historically displaced by slavery and that this displacement continues into the present and contributes to their ongoing liminality. These non linear, innovative narrative techniques highlight the parallels between the experience of slavery and contem porary forms of oppression to position the descendants of slaves within a tradition of oppression and resistance that begins with anti slavery resistance on the plantations and continues into the present.
205 These novels also gender the slave experience to d evelop the idea that resistance to the (neo) colonial and (neo) imperial discourses responsible for the perpetuation of slavery cannot be fully addressed without interrogating the patriarchy that accompanies these systems of domination. They wed the femal e slave experience to their portrayal of community formation to highlight the fact that under slavery, women faced both racist and sexist forms of oppression. The impact of sexuality on the experiences of female slaves is particularly pronounced in The Sa lt Roads and The Book of Night Women These novels emphasize the importance of the private sphere and female sexua lity to the colonial experience and the discours e of slavery by ex ploring individual and collective acts of rebellion among female slaves to demonstrate that women played an integral role in both traditional and non traditional forms of community building and resistance. Other contemporary neoslave narratives not examined in this study but which also revise the genre by foregrounding the femal e slave experience to demonstrate the centrality of women to the counterculture of modernity articulated by slaves on the plantations of the New World include Strange Music by Laura Fish, Stigmata by Phyllis Alesia Perry, The Long Song by Andrea Levy, Wenc h by Dolen Perkins Valdez, Feeding the Ghosts Family The overwhelming focus on the female slave experience in these newer novels of slavery develops the idea that colonialism and imperialism cannot be fully in terrogated without considering the fact that these are patriarchal systems of oppression. Thus they revise the male centered focus of many of the earlier novels of slavery to render a more complet e view of the slave experience. By highlighting the fact
206 project of community and nation building, these novels interrogate the tendency to associate nation formation with the public, political sphere which is oftentimes conceived as a masculine d omain. In so doing, they develop the idea that without deconstructing traditional paradigms associated with gender, patriarchy, and the family, full citizenship will continue to elude blacks, at the level of the nation state and in the wider diaspora. In addition to revising the neoslave genre, the newer novels of slavery provide an important intervention in the critical discussion on the neoslave narrative. They situate the slave experience within the context of Empire, diaspora, migration, and nation fo rmation to highlight the problematic and conflicted entry of blacks in the diaspora into modernity They develop the idea that black diasporic subjects possess an ambivalent and paradoxical relationship to modernity stemming from the underlying relations of domination that gave rise to the plantation experience and that t h ese relations of domination continue into the present and force blacks in the diaspora to simultaneously resist and accommodate hegemonic discourses responsible for their historical oppre ssion. Thus an exploration of the slave experience is vital to understanding and theorizing about the nature of the citizenship experienced by contemporary subjects of the African diaspora.
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214 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Agnel Barron gained her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados in 1996. She then worked as a high school Engli sh teacher while pursuing a Master of Education degree on a part time basis which she completed in January, 2000. From 2005 to 2007, she worked as a full time instructor in the Foundation Language Program at the University of the West Indies in Barbados. In August 2007, she began a M aster of A rts degree in English at Georgia State University. After completing this degree i n 2009, she enrolled in the Ph.D program in English at the Univ ersity of Florida, specializing in African American and Caribbean lite ratures and postcolonial studies. She graduated in August, 2013.