Diasporic Identity: The Struggle to Find Meaningful Work in the Three Anglophone Caribbean Novels

Dr. Katherine Tsiopos Wills
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Traditionally, literary analysts portray these Anglophone Caribbean works — Brown Girls, Brownstones (Paule Marshall), Zami: A Biomythography (Audre Lorde), and Lucy (Jamaica Kincaid) — as stories of gender and generational issues. In this presentation, I argue that the characters in all three of these works can be interpreted also as diasporic subjectivities struggling in global labor markets to shape their identities after having been uprooted from Caribbean homelands. The characters confront the consequences of transnational labor issues stemming from transnational capitalism, the breakdown of natural economies into world economies with subsequent deterritorialization, and the emergence of technologies that cause space-time compression (Carole Fabricant 1998; Benitez-Rojo 1996). Characters often find themselves oscillating globally between familiar birthplaces and newly adopted homelands.

Since the 1500s, the Caribbean has served as a global trading center for the maritime machine crossing the Black Atlantic. Today, with slavery greatly diminished, immigrant workers struggle to find identity through meaningful occupation. Contemporary global labor markets reinscribed nuanced slavery that ultimately leaves workers with fragmented identities, economies, and cultures. In Brown Girls, Brownstone, Deighton and Silla's marriage falls victim to their choice to leave Barbados and work in Brooklyn. Silla aligns herself with upperwardly-mobile capitalists, while Deighton longs for a return to his pastoral birthplace. Zami: A Biomythography is a "coming of age" story for a black lesbian. When reflecting on the transient nature of relationships in her circle of friends, Zami states that she knows the relationship between her friends, Joan and Muriel, will not workout because neither one of them had a job. Lucy, the au pair in Jamaica Kincaid's Lucy exemplifies the deterritorialized migrant labor described in Thomas Klak's Globalization and Neoliberalism. Her notions of labor complicate her relations with her mother, co-workers, and friends.

Keywords: Anglophone Caribbean Novels, Diaspora, Deterritorialization, Transnational, Globalization, Labor Markets
Stream: Ethnicity, Difference, Identity
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Dr. Katherine Tsiopos Wills

Professor, Division of Liberal Arts, Indiana University-Columbus

Ref: H05P0272