Tangled Up: Gendered Metaphors of Nation in Contemporary Indo-Caribbean Narratives
Chapter 4 analyzes contemporary anti-colonial texts that nonetheless replicate some of the ideologies of empire: David Dabydeen’s The Counting House and Sharlow’s The Promise. Both novels contain the same trope that appeared in earlier indenture narratives (described in Chap. 3), a British man in power developing a relationship with a young Indian woman. However, these authors deploy this trope to attack the empire; the British male takes advantage of the Indian female, using her for sexual favors and giving little in return. This represents the relationship of Britain to India, suggesting violent, greedy motivations for imperialism, as opposed to noble, altruistic ones. While Dabydeen and Sharlow restructure the metaphor of the British man/Indian woman relationship, they fail to dismantle the traditional patriarchal view of gender that underlies this metaphor. By using female characters to represent India, they support the notion that women are the bearers of tradition and culture, that they are not individuals in their own right, and that their sexuality must be controlled and protected. As a counterpoint to these novels, this chapter explores depictions of a similarly exploitative relationship in Patricia Powell’s The Pagoda, which touches on Chinese indenture in Jamaica. Rather than using her characters as representatives of their nation, Powell explores the ways that colonized individuals were trapped within yet transgressed against repressive gender and racial categorizations, offering a critique of imperialism without perpetuating the ideologies that underpin it.
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