Refusing to 'Write Black': Caribbean British Writers Imaging Whiteness

Aisha D. Tinnermon (State University of New York at Stony Brook, USA)

". . . Yet do I marvel at this curious thing: To make a poet black, and bid him sing" -- Countee Cullen, "Yet do I Marvel"

The argument is old but the social and racial implications are new. In its current demonstration, Caribbean British authors, haunted by the idea of art for art sake, in the realm of the colonial/post-colonial, are responsible for a new breed of writing: Caribbean British writers imagining whiteness. Straying away from the more traditionally expected black character oriented writing, these authors, two in particular, Fred D'Aguiar and Caryl Phillips, have chosen to write texts that place white characters at the centre with the heart of each of the novels, Feeding the Ghost, and Cambridge, being an attempt to depict and interpret white guilt. I argue that this movement is an attempt unconsciously to re-create a classist hierarchy, separating the Caribbean British artist/ intellectual from the Caribbean British labourer. "Since in the 'Mother Country' no regard was paid to the complex hierarchy of shades by the 'host' society. . . " (James, 239) perhaps Caribbean writers uncomfortable with this, try to re-inscribe a collective familiar: a complex hierarchy, that separates Caribbeans not by colour but by education instead.

Postcolonial OV discourseov Casablanca Conference

Last modified: 7 May 2001