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Imagining Resistance and Solidarity in the Neoliberal Age of U.S. Imperialism, Black Feminism, and Caribbean Diaspora Open Access


Other title
Caribbean Women's Writing
Neoliberal literacy
Caribbean Diaspora
Neoliberal Condition and Neoliberal Medium
U.S. Imperialism
Black Feminism
Resistance and Solidarity
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Stephens, Melissa R
Supervisor and department
Zackodnik, Teresa (English and Film Studies)
Examining committee member and department
Smith, Malinda (Political Science)
Rak, Julie (English and Film Studies)
Slemon, Stephen (English and Film Studies)
Boyce Davies, Carole (Africana Studies, English and Comparative Literature, Cornell University)
Department of English and Film Studies
Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
This dissertation analyzes representational problems of black resistance and solidarity in the neoliberal age. Focusing on transnational black female protagonists in works by Paule Marshall, Jamaica Kincaid, and Michelle Cliff, I consider how they are imagined to resist and assist U.S.-Caribbean relations of trade, labour, and development. The primary texts in this study include: Paule Marshall's The Chosen Place, the Timeless People (1969) and Daughters (1991); Jamaica Kincaid's A Small Place (1988), My Brother (1997), as well as her collaboration with Stephanie Black in the documentary film Life + Debt (2001); and Michelle Cliff's No Telephone to Heaven (1989) and Free Enterprise: A Novel of Mary Ellen Pleasant (1993; 2004). Developing theories of the neoliberal condition and the neoliberal medium, I explore overlooked struggles within the organizational cultures of black resistance and solidarity. The condition appears as a bio-political and geo-economic calculation in these texts, whereby the imagined labour value of the racialized black woman is formulated according to her paradoxically exploitable capacity for socioeconomic responsibility and disposability. The medium is conceptualized as the imprecise reproducibility of neoliberal life in black communities in the U.S. and the English Caribbean. These theories address the replication of neoliberal social relations within cultures of resistance. The celebration of black women as over-burdened agents of development resonates with an over-determined construction of black women as endowed with exceptional, enterprising capacities for critique and resistance. Prioritizing an analysis of the contemporary uses of feminist and anti-racist theory, I argue that we must challenge literary and cultural analysis when it obscures the destructive effects of neoliberalism through celebratory readings of black women's agency and resistance. The interdisciplinary methodology assumed in this dissertation draws upon critical neoliberal studies, histories of women and development discourses, and black feminist intersectional analysis. To conclude this project, I examine early issues of CAFRA News, produced by the Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action, and consider the formation of anti-neoliberal counter-publics to suggest possibilities for critical social care informed by principles of unconditional dissent and forgiveness.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
Citation for previous publication
Stephens, Melissa. "Of Machetes and Machines: Accounting for Life + Debt in A Small Place." MaComère: The Journal of the Association of Caribbean Women Writers and Scholars 12.1 (Spring 2010): 45-65. Print.

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