One of the leading Critical Race theories in the Caribbean, as put forth by Édouard Glissant, Edward Brathwaite, Jean Bernabé and others calls for a collective "we" in Caribbean society characterized by the idea of creolization, or the fusing of heterogeneous characteristics. In other words, people are able to feel a part of society because everyone shares a background of diversity and racial mixing. This utopic concept often attempts to move beyond racial categorization that creates exclusionary practices to privilege cultural fluidity; identity is no longer fixed because all Caribbean people have multiple genealogical backgrounds. This dissertation aims to complicate the concept of creolization as a unifying factor. Indeed, "Orphans of the Other America: Contesting Community in Twentieth Century Caribbean Literatures" explores the different ways that orphan protagonists in Caribbean literature spurn creolization in the region in favor of their own individual, albeit differing, needs. My approach therefore challenges creolization as nothing more than an ideal that has failed to be pragmatic in the Caribbean setting. This is in tune with recent research like Shalini Puri's The Caribbean Postcolonial (2004) which articulates the social inequalities on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago where racial tension continues to exist between the Afro-Caribbean and Indo-Caribbean sectors. My conclusions thus demonstrate insular societies that are racially fragmented and disjointed. I use orphan characters as a way to highlight the unwillingness to accept creolization as a premise. Orphan characters are particularly useful because their loss of parents should represent a sense of freedom from familial ties. Indeed, leading scholarly work on orphans in the Caribbean, such as Valérie Loichot's Orphan Narratives (2007) praises orphan protagonists for their ability to create their own creolized narratives and communities that often challenge the power in place. However, the orphan protagonists in my dissertation often revert back to the colonial models left behind by their parents. Instead of serving as a site of liberty, they come to be a site of recalcitrance. For this reason I use the term counter-community, which I define as elements that thwart social and racial equality and oppose community-building. As a result, colonial violence (rape and incest) as well as racism are acted out by these very orphans. Specifically those descendants of the plantocracy do not break from their parents and create their own narratives; they reassert the narratives of colonialism. Meanwhile, descendants of slaves are too entrenched in their own search for identity and questions revolving around their parents' history, that their parents' absence prevents their initiation into society. Instead of being part of a collective, they survive in solitude.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2013. Major: Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Literatures and Linguistics. Advisors: Jaime Hanneken, Joanna O'Connell. 1 computer file (PDF); v, 220 pages.
Orphans of the Other America: Contesting Community in Twentieth-Century Caribbean Literatures.
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