Dougla Feminisms

Dougla Poetics and Politics in Indo- Caribbean Feminist Thought: Reflection and Reconceptualization

Gabrielle Jamela Hosein


I write from contemporary desire, as an Indian mother of a Dougla 1 daughter, to analyze the politics of knowledge production in Indo- Caribbean feminist intellectual trajectories that invoke Douglaness. I therefore interrogate conceptualizations of Dougla poetics and feminism in Indo-Caribbean feminist thought by reflecting and drawing upon scholarly writing which emerged at the turn of the twenty-first century. In particular, I trace theorization of dougla poetics and feminism in Shalini Puri’s (1997) essay, “Race, Rape and Representation: Indo-Caribbean Women and Cultural Nationalism”2; Rosanne Kanhai’s essay, “The Masala Stone Sings: Poetry, Performance and Film by Indo-Caribbean Women,” in Matikor (1999a), and her IGDS seminar presentation “From Matikor to a Dougla Feminism” (1999b); Kamala Kempadoo’s personal story, “Negotiating Cultures: A ‘Dogla’ Perspective,” in Matikor (1999);

G.J. Hosein (H)

Institute for Gender and Development Studies, The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago

© The Author(s) 2016

G.J. Hosein, L. Outar (eds.), Indo-Caribbean Feminist Thought, New Caribbean Studies, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-55937-1_13

Sheila Rampersad’s (2000) Ph.D. dissertation on douglarization and race relations in Trinidadian literature; and my M.Phil. thesis on young Indo- Trinidadian womanhood (2004).

Bringing together the personal, epistemological and political in my analysis of this literature, I argue that Indo-Caribbean women’s experiences and expressions, and approaches to cross-race and cross-class solidarities, have (mis)represented Dougla poetics and feminism, analytically displacing Dougla particularities and politics. As I reflect on what these key pieces of scholarship offer for Douglas like my daughter Ziya to articulate matters of their own embodiment, it is clear that much of what has been discussed could have been conceptualized as radically Indo-Caribbean and feminist and should now be reconceptualized as such. I therefore propose how theorization of Indo-Caribbean feminist poetics and politics can draw on this literature to provide room for thinking about multiple embodiments of Indianness, which neither displace nor efface Douglas in Indo- Caribbean feminist thought. It can also allow us to trace a genealogy of such Indo-Caribbean poetics and feminism in scholarly writing.

Here, Indo-Caribbean feminist thought refers to gender analysis, both creative and scholarly, produced by Indo-Caribbean feminist activists, scholars, writers and artists. Regardless of the national, ethnic, sex and gender identities of those speaking, it also refers to analysis which makes visible and interrogates Indo-Caribbean women’s and men’s gender negotiations and feminist navigations over Caribbean history, including by those who are mixed-race Indo-Caribbeans. Drawing on Indo-Caribbean diasporic cosmologies, artifacts, myths and symbols, engagements with embodiment, popular cultural expressions, and intellectual traditions and concepts, such analysis is part of a feminist praxis where Indian gendered experiences in the Caribbean are not marginal. It also both centers a politics of solidarity across ethnicity, class, sexuality and nation, and an approach to identity that problematizes myths of respectability and authenticity.

To exemplify and advance this literature, I argue that an Indo-Caribbean poetics and feminism thus needs to be articulated, not simply to explore particularities of Indian experience, but to fearlessly situate mixing and transgression within Indianness, to challenge fictions of ethnic purity. Having Indian women’s articulations represent and define Dougla politics and feminisms forecloses the different negotiations with race, class, gender and sexuality particularly experienced by Douglas. Where else does my daughter Ziya get to express how different her experience of her body, as a mixed embodiment of Indianness, Caribbeanness and feminism, might be from mine? What poetics can describe her different relationship, from both Indian and African women, to racial mixing?

Aside from Kamala Kempadoo’s chapter, “Negotiating Cultures: A ‘Dogla’ Perspective” in Matikor, there are no writings by Douglas on feminist praxis in which Dougla subjectivity is reflexively interwoven with scholarly thought. Somewhat differently, Rhoda Reddock (1994, 2014), Hernandez-Ramdwar (1997), Mehta (2004b), Sarah England (2008), Rahim (2010) and Regis (2011) extensively discuss Dougla perspectives and experiences, but none of them extend their discussion to the implications for Dougla feminism nor engage Dougla (scholars’) feminist perspectives. However, such articulations are no doubt emergent. I hope my own daughter will one day contribute to them, as Indian, African, Dougla, Caribbean and feminist, in one voice or another, or many. For this reason, I take seriously Indo-Caribbean feminist responsibility to examine both historically inclusive openings as well potential displacements, insufficiently explored thus far.

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