RECLAIMING DIFFERENCE: Caribbean Women Rewrite Postcolonialism

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RECLAIMING DIFFERENCE: Caribbean Women Rewrite Postcolonialism Carine M. Mardorossian Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press; 2005.

In Reclaiming Difference: Caribbean Women Rewrite Postcolonialism, Carine M. Mardorossian asks us to consider the ways in which critical authors - Jean Rhys, Maryse Condé, Edwidge Danticat, and Julia Alvarez - provide a "renewed" understanding of subaltern writing and criticism. This renewed perspective, Mardorossian explains, is not one that merely "unsilences" black/Caribbean voices or asserts an oppositional narrative that counters Euro-Western colonial philosophies. Rather, the theoretical underpinnings of Reclaiming Difference disclose the ways in which the critical writings and thoughts of these writers "envision the future by questioning the terms in which the colonial past has been cast rather than by reacting against it" (p. 8). It follows, then, that the writings of these particular Caribbean women do not easily follow anti-colonial and postcolonial trends of insides/outsides, the empire writing back, novels of delegitimation and "nation" disappointment.

Instead, Mardorossian suggests that these creative works operate across and beyond these trends. These writers bring into focus our lingering attachment to questions of race; but more importantly, they also pay attention to how these attachments are limited. In refusing to cast race as the only organizing category through which Caribbean texts are produced and written - and can be read - Mardorossian analyses the work of these Caribbean women as racial crossings, literatures that destabilize our investment in both the seeability of corporeal schemas and the modern nation. In addition to creatively opening up new analytical questions, Mardorossian argues that these writers provide us with innovative approaches to reading precisely because their texts unsettle the classificatory bodily logics that continue to organize our world.

Reading practices are connected to, then, the question of "rewriting" - which is what interests Mardorossian. She unravels how race, identity, nation, home, exile, gender and class are approached by Caribbean women writers vis-à-vis complex canonical narratives and the question of nation affiliation: the Brontes loom large offering the author a place to analyze the deep and meaningful re-configuration of race provided by the writings of Condé and Rhys; the raciology of Withering Heights is illuminated as Mardorossian allows us read this "classic" text anew, through the inseparable racial-economic contours embodied by central characters Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw; the seeming axiomatic connections between race and nation are thrown into disarray through a discussion of creatively writing Caribbean-ness beyond the Caribbean, not simply through the eyes of a migrant exile, but through a sense of a changing space that is continually encountering, and incorporating, outernational and local subjectivities and concerns. …