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Auto-biographing Caribbeanness: re-imagining diasporic nation and identity

By Hazel A. Pierre


This thesis undertakes a multidisciplinary study of the construction of nation and identity in the context of the Caribbean and its diaspora in Britain. Taking Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Britain as the countries for comparative analysis two primary research questions are addressed: How can Caribbean nation and identity be re-conceptualised to represent its complex, heterogeneous societies? How have Caribbean identities resisted, metamorphosed and been re-constituted in the diasporic context of Britain? While current scholarship on nation and identity is interrogated, the principle guiding the methodology has been to engage with the specificities of the region's history and culture with a view to arriving at new interpretations that reflect the contemporary Caribbean situation. It is argued that Caribbean auto-biographical practice, prevalent in much of its artistic production, provides a conceptual tool for interpreting the Caribbean nation. As a site of resistance to received knowledges, Caribbean autolbiography has facilitated inter alia the re-inscription of histories and the imagining of nation spaces. Since as a genre it IS inherently democratic, multiple imaginings of nation emerge and coalesce from the wider range of voices accommodated by auto-biographical practice. The prismatic creolisation model is proposed as a re-visioning of Caribbean identity. This model modifies and augments Kamau Brathwaite's creolisation thesis with relevant scholarship from Stuart Hall and the artistic philosophy of the painter Dunstan St Orner, Prismism. Prismatic creolisation suggests a polycentric, more inclusive perspective from which Caribbean identity, culture and language might be interpreted. These theoretical tools - auto-biographical practice and prismatic creolisation - are applied to the examination of how Caribbean identity and culture are translated and re-constructed in the diaspora situation. The Windrush generation, it is argued, began negotiating Britishness by auto-biographing Caribbean transitional identities into the national imagination. Succeeding generations have been renegotiating these terms by creating new cultural forms and ways ofbeing that resist and inflect Britishness

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