Bodies and Bones

Bodies and Bones: Feminist Rehearsal and Imagining Caribbean Belonging

Tanya L. Shields
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Bodies and Bones
    Book Description:

    InBodies and Bones,Tanya Shields argues that a repeated engagement with the Caribbean's iconic and historic touchstones offers a new sense of (inter)national belonging that brings an alternative and dynamic vision to the gendered legacy of brutality against black bodies, flesh, and bone. Using a distinctive methodology she calls "feminist rehearsal" to chart the Caribbean's multiple and contradictory accounts of historical events, the author highlights the gendered and emergent connections between art, history, and belonging.

    By drawing on a significant range of genres-novels, short stories, poetry, plays, public statuary, and painting-Shields proposes innovative interpretations of the work of Grace Nichols, Pauline Melville, Fred D'Aguiar, Alejo Carpentier, Edwidge Danticat, Aimé Césaire, Marie-Hélène Cauvin, and Rose Marie Desruisseau. She shows how empathetic alliances can challenge both hierarchical institutions and regressive nationalisms and facilitate more democratic interaction.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3598-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction: Reading Caribbean Resistance through Feminist Rehearsal
    (pp. 1-22)

    Sunlight on the sea floor is a familiar image of the Caribbean, but the pages of the region’s history run red. “Drowned women’s bones fused to coral” underlies a history of the sea, one that subaquatically links the stories of the various territories of the Caribbean. The language of bones permits an examination of the structures of resistance and oppression even as they remind us of the flesh that once clung to them.¹ They remind us of flesh that endured the unspeakable and the unimaginable—flesh, which in Walcott’s poem is held together by coral cartilage. Coral as connective tissue...

  5. 1 Rehearsing with Ghosts
    (pp. 23-51)

    Fred D’Aguiar’s 1997 novelFeeding the Ghostscaptures the horror of enslaved bodies becoming bones. The novel, a poetically written history, chronicles the 1781ZongMassacre in which medical-doctor-cum-ship-captain Luke Collingwood threw 132 captured Africans overboard near the Jamaican coast. Collingwood’s desire to profit from insurance claims rather than risk docking with sick, dying slaves—who would be valueless and unmarketable—spurred his conspiracy.¹ In a miraculous twist, one man survived and returned to theZong.² In D’Aguiar’s novel, the survivor is imagined as a woman named Mintah who forges a relationship with Simon, a white working-class cook who sustains...

  6. 2 Their Bones Would Reject Yours
    (pp. 52-87)

    Haiti and its revolution have become for the world a site of—to borrow the words of a Wilson Harris title—“infinite rehearsal.” Haiti’s act of independence, signed on January 1, 1804, begins with liberty—or death—but continues with General Jean-Jacques Dessalines’s exhortation to newly independent Haitians to neither forget nor forgive French treachery. In fact, in the declaration, Dessalines persuades his generals (and, by extension, the nation) that not to avenge the national family is a cosmic act of betrayal. He asks, “What are you waiting for before appeasing their spirits?” And, like the Taino and Africans before...

  7. 3 Hope and Infinity
    (pp. 88-113)

    The Haitian Revolution is one example of the belief in possibility and transformation against overwhelming odds. The triumph of enslaved people over Napoleon’s forces, armies that had subjugated a wide swath of Europe, was hardly imaginable. The story is not just inspirational to Haitians and to the whole Caribbean, but it represents the nexus of black masculinity asserting itself beyond the colonial regime that oppressed and denied it.

    In this chapter, I complicate the work of chapter² by situating the feminine within these masculinized constructions of national belonging. Here, feminist rehearsal places narratives of Haitian history by women at the...

  8. 4 Signs of Sycorax
    (pp. 114-144)

    The previous chapter explored twentieth-century challenges to representations of the Haitian Revolution as solely a heroic romantic male enterprise. In this chapter, I explore contemporary manifestations of Caribbean women who rehearseThe Tempest’s archetypal character Sycorax, Shakespeare’s silenced female figure. Sycorax appears in an array of understudied texts of conquest: André Schwarz-Bart’s novelA Woman Named Solitude(1973), Grace Nichols’s poem “Ala” (1983), and the novelsIndigo(1992) by Marina Warner andThe Salt Roads(2003) by Nalo Hopkinson.

    These authors’ characters interrupt, challenge, and make way for the emergence of an oppositional consciousness against intimate and public power, as...

  9. 5 Rehearsing Indigeneity
    (pp. 145-166)

    Pauline Melville’s first novel,The Ventriloquist’s Tale, offers a model for rehearsing the ramifications of gender, globalization, and transnationalism as they relate to the rights of indigenous peoples. Set in the South American—though culturally and historically Caribbean—country of Guyana,The Ventriloquist’s Talefocuses on the lives of the biracial (half Amerindian, half European) McKinnon family, their interactions with one another, the state, and the larger global order.¹ Rehearsing these stories helps us consider notions of the “native” and the relation between colonial history and the formation of independent nation-states. The novel uses three parallel love stories to juxtapose...

  10. Conclusion: Rehearsing and Proxy-formance
    (pp. 167-174)

    My conception of rehearsal emerged while writing about the three masculinist representations of the Haitian Revolution, two of which are plays, discussed in chapter 2 of this volume. I extended theatrical understandings of rehearsal to help myself understand how we deal with the past. How I dealt with the past. These three texts written by twentieth-century, non-Haitian Caribbean men, who in their own ways defined Caribbean studies, were instrumental in developing my initial interest in rehearsal as a potential methodology for exploring Caribbean pasts.

    Each text revisits the event of the Haitian Revolution from various perspectives. These differences expose the...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 175-202)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 203-220)
  13. Index
    (pp. 221-226)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 227-228)