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"The next best currency after dollars": Exotic bodies and (neo)colonial desire in recent fiction by Caribbean-American women

Pascha Antrece Stevenson, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This dissertation examines images of woman as the exotic, erotic other as represented in contemporary fiction by Caribbean-American women writers, namely Paule Marshall, Cristina García, Jamaica Kincaid, and Edwidge Danticat. My contention is that the West has historically read the Caribbean as an exotic space and continues to project upon it essentializing ideas collectively identified as exoticism—a concept whose design owes much to Edward Said's Orientalism. Contemporary fiction by Caribbean-American women implicitly, and sometimes explicitly, engages exoticism as a pervasive and inescapable context. Such fiction further contends with global capitalism as a kind of (neo)colonizer working to peddle Caribbean women's bodies as objects of international commerce and desire. ^ One cannot make one clean, non-reductionist statement, however, as to how Caribbean women writers respond to this crisis. Some authors create characters which seem to internalize and reinscribe the erroneous lessons they are taught about themselves as “exotics.” Other authors resist the exotic paradigm, write against it and vividly portray the anxiety and struggle inherent in doing so. Essentially, Caribbean women's writing makes up a kind of regional dialogue on the matter of the exotification and commodification of non-white women's bodies. The voices within this dialogue are hardly harmonious, sometimes agreeing and often disagreeing about what constitutes the exotic, about the kind of response it warrants. It is the dialogue itself, the engagement with exoticism, that this project documents. ^

Subject Area

Literature, Caribbean|Women's Studies|Literature, American

Recommended Citation

Stevenson, Pascha Antrece, ""The next best currency after dollars": Exotic bodies and (neo)colonial desire in recent fiction by Caribbean-American women" (2004). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3147156.