My Research

Supervised by: Dr Danielle Sands and Dr Fabrizio de Donno

Institutional Email: renee.landell.2019@live.rhul.ac.uk

Working Title:

“We Run Tings, Tings Nuh Run We”: Rewriting Caribbean Bodies and the Environment in Anglophone Caribbean Literature, 1983-2009

“There has been no cross-cultural functional analysis of the [a]etiology of ethnic images in the [Caribbean] region,” writes Anthony Layng (1975). In this project, I seek to address this lack by investigating the cause and effect of popular stereotypical images (‘Mammy’, ‘Jezebel’, ‘Sambo’ and ‘Mandingo’) and the counter-responses to them in Anglophone Caribbean literature. I shall examine the origins of these stereotypes, the rationale and conditions which have allowed them to exist and the relationship between cultural stereotypes and cultural identity. 

The relationship between Caribbean bodies and Caribbean land is central to this project. The perpetuation of stereotypes can shape identity and justify abuse, however, there has been little regard for the impact that these stereotypes have on the environment. The responses to, and demythologisation of, Western stereotypes by Anglophone Caribbean writers is an attempt to reclaim the Black body and promote positive ecological practices.  Framed as exotic and erotic, the bodies of the indentured natives and diasporic slaves, once dominated and policed, are now being rewritten by Caribbean authors looking to both historicise their identity and to liberate it from the internalised legacies of colonialism. I argue that the bio-political control of Black bodies is reflected in, and perpetuated by, the use of proprietorial language and controlling images which depict the Caribbean as virginal territory ready to be conquered.

This study will examine works by Anglophone Caribbean writers who, from the twentieth century, have produced a significant body of literature prized for its contemporary engagement with the colonial legacy in the form of the neo-slave narrative. Responding to increasing concerns that the postcolonial field is inherently anthropocentric overlooking the ecological effects of colonialism (Huggan & Tiffin, 2015), this study brings eco-criticism and post-colonial scholarship together in one sustained dialogue and employs resources from eco-womanism and literary criticism. I argue that the reconstruction of Black Caribbean identity requires both looking backwards, to recuperate a suppressed history, and forwards, to attentive responses to the human and the environmental body. Therefore, this study approaches post-colonial Caribbean writing in its engagement with European hegemonic ideas of race, gender and the environment to examine the use and perpetuation of stereotypes and to assess the autonomous power of ‘writing-back.’ My fictional corpus will include: The Book of Night Women (2009) by Marlon James, I is a Long Memoried Woman (1983) by Grace Nichols and Slave Song (1984) by David Dabydeen.

Affiliations:

  • Member, Caribbean Studies Association (CSA)

  • Member, Society for Caribbean Studies (SCS)

My Activities-

Invited Speaker:

  • Mythologies, Bodies and Ecologies​.TECHNE Student Congress. Brighton University.

  • On The Plantationocene: Racialising Space and Spacialising Race. TECHNE Student-Led Conference. London.

Paper Presentations: 

  • Reflections on Mess and Research Panel. TECHNE Student-Led Conference. London.

  • The Infernal Paradise: Returning Back to Earth by Re-humanizing the Body and Land Through Caribbean Poetry. The SMLLC Postgraduate Colloquium. Royal Holloway, UoL.

  • We Run Tings, Tings Nuh Run We: Rewriting Caribbean Bodies and the Environment in Anglophone Caribbean Literature. The SMLLC Postgraduate Colloquium. Royal Holloway, UoL.

Public Lecture:

  • That Won't Put Food on the Table: Fighting the Stigma of the Arts and Humanities in Black Communities. Leading Routes x Wellcome Collection. London.