Only my revolt is mine : gender and slavery's transnational memories

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2013-05

Authors

Dhar, Nandini

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Abstract

This dissertation is a study of how slave rebellions continue to exert a profound political, affective and cultural influence on postcolonial writers. These writers claim histories and memories of such rebellions as strategic allegories, which enable both articulations of contemporary concerns about neocolonial and neoliberal forms of governmentality, as well as the resistances to such. Through an examination of texts by Ghanaian playwright Mohammed Ben Abdallah, Haitian poet and novelist Évelyne Trouillot, Canadian-Caribbean writer Dionne Brand, and Indian writer Amitav Ghosh, I argue that these narratives demonstrate that our present moment of globalized capital and its accompanying forms of expropriation, though seemingly disembodied and all-pervasive, bear suggestive resemblances to the ethical and political questions raised by the global machinery of slavery. Memories of slave rebellions operate as vital forms of oppositional narratives in these texts, providing writers with an imaginary of a foundational class struggle which threatens the existing status quo. While such narrativizations remobilize the cultural memories of earlier radicalisms, they also point out the failures of such radical imaginaries to move beyond a privileging of certain forms of heroic and heteronormative revolutionary black masculinity. By foregrounding women within the spaces of the slave rebellions, these texts de-masculinize the dominant masculinisms of slave rebellion narratives of previous eras. In doing so, they complicate the notion of racialized class struggles as theaters of supremacy between two classes of men, and challenges the reduction of enslaved women into passive allegories of family, community and nation.

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