Caribbean American Women Essay

1400 words - 6 pages

Carole Boyce Davies discussion on Zora Neale Hurston’s essay “How It Feels to be Colored Me” she uses posits Hurston’s proffering to travel “piece of the way” with visitors as a new way of thinking about the periphery in academia . Beginning her chapter “Coming to Terms with Theory,” Boyce expresses how outdated and inefficient the current theoretical practices have become. She states that scholars are intellectually trapped by the hierarchical systems within scholarship. Her main critique comes from the reality of upcoming scholars having to laboriously quote Euro-American male scholars in order to establish them within their field. Under this standard what we find is that in the constant ...view middle of the document...

Without this disruption of academia virtuoso found in the margins will continue to be devalued and underappreciated. The marginalized subject recognizes the substantive work done by European scholarship; however, in their journey to becoming an authorized voice, they can only go ‘piece of the way’ with the theories others provided. By initially asserting that one will go only part of the way with another assumed that agency is established within the speaker. The speaker chooses not to go the whole of the journey with the visitor because he knows what he is sacrificing along the way. Davies sees issues with the dominant theoretical positions. She contests that once one declares their alliance to a specific theoretical position they assume the burdens and the legacy of that group. However, though those in the margins may be willing to take on this responsibility, being placed into a group such as feminism, Marxism, etc. “inevitably places [them] in the ‘homes’ of the people where [they] will have to function as either a maid or exotic, silenced courtesan, but definitely not as a theoretical equal” (46).
To go “piece of the way” or the “visitor theory” is useful when considering West Indian American writings. Davies’s visitor theory serves as a critical lens through which we can analyze the dynamics of women writers such as Jamaica Kincaid and Paule Marshall. In Davies case she used the visitor theory to describe the black/ woman consciousness. I am using visitor theory to bring to our attention that the West Indian American’s consciousness is more complex than how we have traditional considered it. And instead what we find represented in the works of authors like Kincaid and Marshall is a hybrid yet independent selfhood that simultaneously works within, yet disturbs western hierarchies.
At the university level, when authors like Kincaid and Marshal are taught, they are often discussed exclusively within an American context. This overlooking of West Indian influences in their text is due to racial contentions and common conceptions of where the West Indian fits within American society. This is demonstrated most vividly by literary anthologies. West Indian American authors such as Garvey, McKay, Kincaid, and Marshall are featured in the Norton Anthology of African American Literature. This anthology was initially produced out of an anxiety within the black community which developed from their uncertainty of their place in America. In Kenneth Warren’s text What was African American Literature? he traces the history of our understanding of African American literature. According to Warren, the category African American literature was created out of response to the Jim Crow era; “ writing by black Americans became African American literature only retroactively” ( Warren 7). Black Americans during this era wrote as a means of confronting the constraints of the Jim Crow era. The work of Marshall and McKay were instrumental in signifying the...

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