Christopher Ian Foster
Donette Francis, Fictions of Feminine Citizenship: Sexuality and the Nation in Contemporary Caribbean Literature (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010); 191 pages; ISBN: 978-0-230-61987-6 (hardcover).
Donette Francis’s important and rigorous work Fictions of Feminine Citizenship: Sexuality and the Nation in Contemporary Caribbean Literature presents a wide-ranging descriptor of contemporary women’s Caribbean writing while offering a critical engagement with the sociohistorical colonial and postcolonial contexts that these writers negotiate and critique. Specifically centered on Caribbean women’s narratives displaced by official history, Francis argues for an expansion of the archives that have historically excluded forms of women’s writings such as letters and postcards and ignored the narratives of women’s own bodies. Often, these marginalized expressions have been silenced by male-centered or patriarchal institutions. Furthermore, they have been doubly effaced by dint of the cultural conquest of Western imperialism. Just as Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak argues that “between patriarchy and imperialism, subject-constitution and object formation, the figure of the woman disappears, not into a pristine nothingness, but into a violent shuttling which is the displaced figuration of the ‘third-world woman,’” so Francis tracks displaced counternarratives of “third-world” women’s desire marking a necessary intervention into Caribbean studies. Shuttled between colonial processes and heteropatriarchal national mores, Caribbean women’s voices are often expunged from official history. These narratives, expressed both textually and metatextually (via letters, postcards, and their own bodies), make up what Francis presciently calls the antiromance. This contestatory genre challenges the “romance” as intimately bound to and produced by colonial history and representing the subject-position of white or European males. The antiromance also indicates the ways in which citizenship imbricates sexuality—that sexuality is indeed constructed or controlled by the mores and laws of society. “Sexual citizenship” for Francis denotes these intimate histories between the State and the domestic sphere specifically considering the violence women of color face as a consequence of the management of sexuality in the colonial and postcolonial context. The radical potential of the antiromance, as Francis shows, is the very possibility of alternative modes of community within which female desire is not governed by sexual-patriarchal or racial hierarchies; it presents the possibility of women’s agency within these regulatory and often violent contexts. (more…)