'Wi Run Tings, Tings Nuh Run Wi': Black Humanity and the Nonhuman World in Anglophone Caribbean Neo-slave Narratives, 1983-2020

Renee Landell

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

Anti-Black stereotypes have been scrutinised in cross- and inter-disciplinary studies, but as Anthony Layng states, ‘there has been no cross-cultural functional analysis of the [a]etiology of ethnic images in the [Caribbean] region’ (Layng, 1975, p. 130). Several decades have passed since Layng addressed this critical gap. However, his words remain true in literary studies. While attending to this gap, this thesis brings attention to another. The neo-slave narrative, which has become a powerful tool for writing back, has been praised in critical writings predominantly for its rehumanising adeptness. Largely disregarded is how the genre represents the nonhuman world and modes of interspecies bonds that informed enslaved people’s survival and resistance. Completely overlooked is how the genre reveals the historical role the nonhuman was made to play in constructing and perpetuating the degrading anti-Black images that justified violence.
The analysis of the selected neo-slave narratives reveals how Caribbean writers depict the bio-political control of Black bodies as reflected in and perpetuated by controlling images that depict the nonhuman world as open to invasion. Framed as exotic and erotic, enslaved people are also being rewritten in these texts in ways that uncover hidden histories of human-and-nonhuman engagements and oppression. This study brings ecocriticism and decolonial scholarship together in one sustained dialogue to argue that the responses to, and demythologisation of, Western stereotypes by Anglophone Caribbean writers is an attempt to reclaim Black humanity and promote positive ecological practices. Emerging in the analysis are examples of the power of the neo-slave narrative genre to look backwards to recuperate a suppressed history and forward to attentive responses to Black humanity and the nonhuman world. My fictional corpus includes The Book of Night Women (2009) by Marlon James, I is a Long Memoried Woman (1983) by Grace Nichols, Slave Song (1984) by David Dabydeen and Cane Warriors (2020) by Alex Wheatle.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationPh.D.
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Sands, Danielle, Supervisor
  • De Donno, Fabrizio, Supervisor
Award date1 Apr 2024
Publication statusUnpublished - 2024

Keywords

  • decolonial theory
  • slavery metaphor abolition slave narratives
  • caribbean literature
  • ecocriticism
  • animal studies

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