The project of Caribbean feminist scholarship has been extensive—producing alternate narratives in an attempt to undermine practices of domination, engaging in significant projects of recovery, and aiming to uncloak the multiple and complex ways in which gender is significant to Caribbean life. This book furthers these efforts by providing multidisciplinary analyses of the implications of gendered discourses for various aspects of Caribbean societies.
Eudine Barriteau’s introduction presents the book as concerned with rupturing “embedded and resilient patriarchal knowledge claims” (p. 4). She notes that in spite of the transformative contributions of feminist scholars in the Caribbean, there remains a reluctance to engage with their work and the gendered analyses it exemplifies. The book, then, is aimed at confronting this trend, while taking on the “contradictions, continuities, changes and transitions confounding and configuring the social, political and knowledge economy” of the region (p. 10). Critical to this undertaking, she writes, is the need to trace circuits of power and the ways in which they produce relations of gender.
The chapters make important contributions to a range of subjects including political economy, masculinities, motherhood, science and technology, pedagogies, and epistemologies. They deal with the issue of “multiple exclusions,” often associated with theorizing the Caribbean, by centering both gender as a relevant and necessary analytical consideration and the Caribbean as the site of these analyses. While gender is the entry point for this book, many authors engage with the way gendered realities are constituted within and through the racialized, classed, and sexualized hierarchies produced by the (post)colonial conditions of the region. For instance, in her examination of issues of security and HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean, Wendy Grenade highlights the inadequacies of conventional conceptualizations of security, illustrating how they have overlooked critical issues associated with women’s precarious life situations in the Caribbean. She uses this critique to generate a more nuanced approach, demonstrating how a range of historically situated structural inequities produce specific security issues for women in the region.
Many of the chapters also establish the salience of gendered discourses not only to fields of study where they have been more readily examined in the region, but also to disciplines often associated with what Kristina Hinds-Harrison, in a chapter on Caribbean trade relations, refers to as “gender forgetting” (p. 208). As such, a number of the essays make tangible links between these theoretical gaps, their implications for “gender neutral” policy development and decision-making, and consequently, their inimical material outcomes. By introducing such analyses, the assumed universality of their various disciplines is destabilized and the gendered assumptions embedded in these theoretical traditions exposed.
A number of the contributors pay attention to the Caribbean’s positioning in relation to networks of power, knowledge, and bodies—both across and within national borders. Through a focus on contemporary contexts and in some cases historical inquiries, the authors write against varied forms of othering. By extension, these examinations also consider the production of (de)legitimized subjectivities, the ways in which they are maintained, and the inequities they (re)produce. Charmaine Crawford, for example, examines such connections while exploring working-class African Caribbean women’s practices of mothering, challenging traditional and privileged definitions of motherhood. By examining their experiences as they migrate to contend with economic struggle in contemporary neoliberal conditions, she tracks the transnational networks of care that these women develop to support their families as they parent across national borders. She links these practices to their strategies for survival.
The collection extends existing feminist scholarship in the region, primarily through Barriteau’s engagement with the underexplored area of love, the erotic, and their generative power. She invites us to consider the matrices and productivity of this power as she embarks on inquiries into politicized sexuality and its implications for women’s positionings in the political economy. Although the questions of love and the erotic are not new to feminist theorizing, Barriteau offers new possibilities for understanding negotiations of power, the (re)production of domination at various sites, and the fallibility of private/public binaries in the region.
While incorporating the work of established scholars such as Patricia Mohammed, Don Marshall, and Barriteau, the text also allows a newer generation of thinkers to establish dialogues with existing Caribbean feminist praxis—incorporating its analyses and methodologies and aiming to challenge and transform it. This is a promising and exciting sign as it points to investments in the further cultivation of critical engagements with issues of gender in the region. Tonya Haynes’s chapter is an excellent example of this as she questions Caribbean feminists’ lack of engagement with the work of Caribbean scholar Sylvia Wynter. She suggests that Wynter’s challenges to mainstream conceptualizations of gender are potentially productive for Caribbean feminisms, since they urge the continued interrogation of our relied-upon discursive frameworks and their legacies. It is such reminders that make this book a valuable addition to existing scholarship. The contributors have crafted timely gendered explorations of the social, economic, cultural, and political life of the Caribbean that are relevant to the critical challenges facing the region in the contemporary moment.