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ILCS Practitioner in Residence 2023

The project aims to transform two Caribbean neo-slave narrative poems into a multisensory experience using vocal and abstract sound and textured visual art pieces. Going through the process of decoding and reassembling based on my own literary analysis and interpretation, this project ‘reads’ representations of Black humanity and the nonhuman world in the selected poems. The artistic elements work to inform our understanding of interspecies collaboration during slavery in new ways but also, more broadly, engage our embodied experience as living, breathing creatures profoundly embedded in a shared natural world. I will create two large-scale visual art pieces and two sound clips alongside the original written form of the selected poems through my perceptible interpretation. The triangular relationship between the text, the images, and the sounds, where each element is informed by the other, is an attempt to encourage others to think about how we can indulge the sensory dimensions of our intellectual understanding of literature. The project also widens access for an audience of differing physical abilities. Furthermore, a multi-sensory experience of Caribbean neo-slave narratives can provide a powerful tool for examining the limitations and possibilities of written literature in re-presenting the intimacies and enigmas of embodied contact with our complicated world.

Readings of the poems in Caribbean creole languages will be layered with sounds and music that reflect some of the distinct images in each poem. Visual art is incorporated into the project to demonstrate how we can manipulate the written word by visually illustrating the mental images that are evoked. As the pieces work to engage the body, they intend to make the audience feel like an integral part of the art rather than passive observers quietly inspecting its content from a comfortable distance. We gain a creative licence for the sake of interpretation as readers but also as part of an audience (considering literary and cultural texts are themselves artefacts). Ultimately, this research project aims to encourage reflections on the ways we can deepen and disrupt how we engage with literature or, more specifically, how we come to understand Blackness and the nonhuman world in Caribbean neo-slave narratives.

Core Research


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. 

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  • Member, Caribbean Studies Association (CSA)

  • Member, Society for Caribbean Studies (SCS)



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