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The Romance of Independence

  • Donette Francis
Chapter
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Abstract

Elizabeth Nunez’s Bruised Hibiscus (2000) opens by restaging a dramatic cover story that appeared in the local Trinidadian newspaper in 1954: a fisherman finds the body of a white woman washed ashore. Immediately ascribing significance to this event, the community spreads this news across the island. Functioning as a virtual public courtroom, the community exercises the power to determine which stories are important and whether their substance warrants island-wide circulation, or simply provincial dissemination. This particular cover story of a disembodied white woman was judged “too sensational, too shocking to keep to themselves.”1 In the eyes of the villagers, because of this woman’s whiteness she “seemed mystically protected, unaffected by the taint of poverty, sickness, or the everyday tide of calamities taken as a way of life—certainly [she was] protected from the vulgarity of violence.”2 Even though this white woman’s death appeared on the front page of The Trinidad Guardian as “a small article” in a tiny column, the community had already assigned her story value with the oral circulation of this news.3 In contrast, on that same day, another woman’s murdered body is also discovered. She was “black, poor, and therefore of no consequence.”4 This latter story about a black woman’s murder remains uncovered since her race rendered her unnewsworthy by the national community and the media alike.

Keywords

Domestic Violence White Woman Sexual Violence Cover Story White Mother 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Elizabeth Nunez, Bruised Hibiscus (Seattle, WA: Seal Press, 2000), 4–5.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    M. Jacqui Alexander, “Erotic Autonomy as a Politics of Decolonization,” in Feminist Genealogies, Colonial Legacies, Democratic Futures, ed. M. Jacqui Alexander and Chandra Talpade Mohanty (New York: Routledge, 1997), 63–99.Google Scholar
  3. Morgan, Paula and Valerie Youseff, Writing Rage: Unmasking Violence through Caribbean Discourse (Kingston, Jamaica: University of the West Indies Press, 2006).Google Scholar
  4. Saidiya Hartman, Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-making in Nineteenth-century America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997)Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    Belinda Edmondson, Caribbean Romances: The Politics of Regional Representation (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1999), 2.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    Shalini Puri, The Caribbean Postcolonial: Social Equality, Post-Nationalism, and Cultural Hybridity (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 13.
    See Belinda Edmondson’s “Race, Privilege, and the Politics of (Re)writing History: An Analysis of the Novels of Michelle Cliff,” Callaloo 16, no. 1 (1993): 180–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 14.
    See p. 105 of novel. See also Aisha Khan, “What is a “Spanish” Ambiguity and “Mixed” Ethnicity in Trinidad,” in Trinidad Ethnicity, ed. Kevin Yelvington (Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press, 1993).Google Scholar
  9. 15.
    Faith Smith, Creole Recitations: John Jacob Thomas and Colonial Formation in the Late Nineteenth-century Caribbean (Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 2002), 172.Google Scholar
  10. 22.
    See Belinda Edmondsons Making Men: Gender, Literary Authority, and Women’s Writing in Caribbean Narrative (Chapel Hill, NC: Duke University Press, 1999).Google Scholar
  11. 31.
    See Reddock, “Douglarisation and the Politics of Gender Relations in Trinidad and Tobago,” in Caribbean Sociology: Introductory Readings, eds. Christine Barrow and Rhoda Reddock (Oxford, United Kingdom: James Currey, 2001). Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener Publishers, 2001., pp 322Google Scholar
  12. 38.
    This practice is consistent throughout the region. In Haiti, extreme examples seen in cases of restavecs. See Jean-Robert Cadet’s book, Restavec: From Haitian Slave Child to Middle-class American (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1998).Google Scholar
  13. Nancy Sollen, “Household and Family in the Caribbean.” In Peoples and Cultures of the Caribbean. Michael M. Horowitz, ed. Garden City: The Natural History Press, 1971Google Scholar
  14. Christine Barrow, “Caribbean Masculinities and Conjugal Relations: Ideologies and Contradictions,” in Gender and the Family in the Caribbean: Proceedings of the Workshop ‘Family and the Quality of Gender Relations? ed. Wilma Bailey (Kingston, Jamaica: Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of the West Indies, 1998), 70–71.Google Scholar
  15. 44.
    Stephanie Daly, The Developing Legal Status of Women in Trinidad and Tobago (Port of Spain, Trinidad: National Commission on the Status of Women, 1982), 7.Google Scholar
  16. 50.
    Caryl Phillips, Cambridge (London: Bloomsbury, 1991)Google Scholar
  17. 55.
    Min die Lazarus Black, Legitimate Acts and Illegal Encounters: Law and Society in Antigua and Barbuda (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994).Google Scholar
  18. 56.
    Bridget Brereton, Race Relations in Colonial Trinidad, 1870–1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).Google Scholar
  19. 58.
    Evelyn O’Callaghans recent scholarship proves useful in the ways it unpacks the complex heterogeneous social world white women inhabited in the nine teenth-century Caribbean. While we arrive at a discursive sexual typology that casts the white créole woman as “sexually ravenous” and the white English woman as “chaste,” O’Callaghans historical and literary fieldwork tells us how we got there. During the early period of colonial setdement, some white women entered the region as indentured servants and worked alongside black enslaved women; yet to mark the racial distinction between black slave and white servant, white women were removed from this labor force and “had become rare by the mid-eighteenth century” (20). If, at times, white women outnumbered their men in the colonies, who they were partnering with? If we stay within the bounds of compulsive heterosexuality, then we have to at least take seriously black and colored men, which historical sources confirm. For example, Kamau Brathwaite documents “fourteen instances of white women marrying free colored men” and Hilary Beckles “records evidence of sexual relations between black men and white women in seventeenth-and early eighteenui-century Barbados” (quoted from O’Callaghan 23?). See also Ann Laura Stoler, Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power: Race and the Intimate in Colonial Rule (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2002), 6.Google Scholar

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© Donette Francis 2010

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