Tracing the Emergence of Indo-Caribbean Feminist Perspectives

The collection opens with Patricia Mohammed’s chapter, “A Vindication for Indo-Caribbean Feminism,” which weaves together autobiography and biography to trace the role of education in defining and advancing Indo- Caribbean feminist consciousness, writing, and activism. The story of education, and now scholarship, may appear as non-threatening or less radical than a more confrontational politics with masculinity and patriarchy in the region. Yet, Mohammed points out that within an Indo-Caribbean feminist intellectual trajectory are concepts of gender that enable us to see how Indo-Caribbean women and men chose to transform labor relations and create a new social and political imaginary. “The time has come for comparative histories of feminist consciousness,” she concludes, “for heroines from every class to be counted and for their stories and actions to provide us with further role models, for a mature home-grown feminist history in the region, and, with this, renewed strategies for transformation.”

Both Preeia D. Surajbali and Andil Gosine pick up on Mohammed’s suggestion to attend to histories of feminist consciousness and the emergence of early Indo-Caribbean feminist perspectives. In her chapter, “Indo-Caribbean Feminist Epistemology: A Personal and Scholarly Journey,” Surajbali draws upon the work of Ramabai Espinet, Gaiutra Bahadur, Peggy Mohan, Mariam Pirbhai, Shani Mootoo, Shalini Puri, and Brinda Mehta, to note that the emergence of a uniquely Indo-Caribbean feminist epistemology has shaped the identity formation and gender consciousness of younger scholars like herself. It has also opened a new area of exploration for Caribbean feminism, and transformational possibilities that are guided by a jahaji bhain challenge to patriarchal and heteronormative constructions of post-indentureship subjectivities.

Somewhat differently, in his reflexive look at his mother’s Baby album of family pictures and his own experience of growing up in Trinidad, Andil Gosine considers various strategies for negotiating patriarchy, ethnocen- trism, and homonationalism. He critiques a teleological narrative in the writing of Indo-Caribbean feminist histories, arguing that indentured subjects and their descendants are always engaged in resistance to the organization and execution of injustice, whatever their historical and geographical contexts. Drawing on Khal Torabully’s theorization of indentureship which uses metaphors of a sea voyage to emphasize the “wrecking work” of the system, Gosine argues for characterization of his mother’s representations in Baby as illustrative of Indo-Caribbean feminist “wrecking work,” for it interrupts dominant narratives, reclaims humanity, and potentially informs future social justice-seeking advocacy projects.

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