Skirting history: Decolonizing strategies in Caribbean women's literature

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Sandra Pouchet Paquet - Committee Chair


This study examines Caribbean women's fiction and memoir that creatively interferes with colonial and postcolonial Caribbean historical discourses. I argue that this literature decolonizes historical narratives by redressing aspects of conquest and colonialism, specifically by engaging discourses of race, gender, sexuality and class. These narratives are decolonizing agents because they posit voices of the historically silenced and subjugated as history-tellers, use unofficial sources of knowledge to derive a feminist historical poetics, and propose alternative literary strategies for telling Caribbean history.The first chapter traces writers' uses of the indigenous Caribbean's history of resistance, especially the iconographic Carib Leap of 1651/1652, as a literary trope. Merle Collins' The Colour of Forgetting, Dionne Brand's In Another Place, Not Here, Edwidge Danticat's The Farming of Bones, Jamaica Kincaid's The Autobiography of My Mother, and Michelle Cliff's No Telephone to Heaven contest colonial history's erasure and misrepresentation of indigenous cultures by invoking the indigenous Carib figure and fashioning Caribbean women as warrior figures. The middle section comparatively reads Jamaica's (hi)story as told in the genres of autobiographical writing and fiction. Chapter Two reads autobiographical writing from women in the highly political Manley family. I argue that Rachel Manley's memoirs Drumblair and Slipstream and Edna Manley's posthumously published diaries ( Edna Manley: The Diaries, ed. Rachel Manley) inscribe Jamaica's national history through the discourse of personal writing and family history. Chapter Three argues that Erna Brodber's novel Jane and Louisa Will Soon Come Home and Margaret Cezair-Thompson's novel The True History of Paradise represent indigenous feminist historical discourses. They posit the folk culture and landscape of rural Jamaica as the island's ancestral and historical root. Finally, Chapter Four locates an autobiographical-based historical critique in Jamaica Kincaid's memoirs A Small Place, My Brother, and My Garden (book). Her autobiographical writing constitutes a critical polemic on issues of colonialism, neocolonialism, and history. These narratives intervene into the existing male-dominated critical discourse on Caribbean history while they redress history's effect on Caribbean people whose daily lives, childhood socialization, education, even their natural environments, bear the marks of conquest and colonization.


Biography; Literature, Caribbean; Women's Studies

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