From Sugar to Revolution
Women’s Visions of Haiti, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic
Table of contents
Sovereignty. Sugar. Revolution. These are the three axes this book uses to link the works of contemporary women artists from Haiti—a country excluded in contemporary Latin American and Caribbean literary studies—the Dominican Republic, and Cuba. In From Sugar to Revolution: Women’s Visions of Haiti, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic, Myriam Chancy aims to show that Haiti’s exclusion is grounded in its historical role as a site of ontological defiance. Her premise is that writers Edwidge Danticat, Julia Alvarez, Zoé Valdés, Loida Maritza Pérez, Marilyn Bobes, Achy Obejas, Nancy Morejón, and visual artist Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons attempt to defy fears of “otherness” by assuming the role of “archaeologists of amnesia. ” They seek to elucidate women’s variegated lives within the confining walls of their national identifications—identifications wholly defined as male. They reach beyond the confining limits of national borders to discuss gender, race, sexuality, and class in ways that render possible the linking of all three nations. Nations such as Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba are still locked in battles over self-determination, but, as Chancy demonstrates, women’s gendered revisionings may open doors to less exclusionary imaginings of social and political realities for Caribbean people in general.
"In this original and provocative study, Myriam Chancy reads the catastrophic history of the Caribbean in the narrative and visual fictions of a number of remarkable women artists, disclosing hitherto uncharted maps of time and voice and remembrance. A work of studied insight, engaged criticism, and graceful sentences, it will alter not only the frames in which Haiti, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic are represented, but the very conditions for a gendered and transnational inquiry into the Caribbean present. "- David Scott, Columbia University; Editor, Small Axe
"Believing that texts by women have the most to teach us about the limits of subjectivity and identity, Chancy fearlessly exposes the role of gender and the identity of Blackness in making women invisible. Her analysis playfully swirls throughout the text, an intellectual liveliness that defies its serious and challenging conclusions. Of the many poignant questions posed by the author, her ultimate quest is an exploration of how can the bodies of women in these three regions—Haiti, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic—be reclaimed, if at all, and can they, as figures of the nation, reformulate the body politic?. ... Drawing on the work of scholars in history, geography, sociology, political science, anthropology, women's sexuality, and gender studies, Chancy employs feminist, race, and literary theories to constructively reconceptualize the role of Black women. Moving effortlessly between these perspectives, Chancy arrives at a fundamentally different rationale for the absence of Black women in the historical record. Rather than identifying the notion of the degenerate African as the heart of the problem, she argues that it is the strong, courageous, adaptable, and living African, or in this case descendants of Africans, that remains the fundamental obstacle. This Blackness is menacing not because of racialist views of degeneracy, but rather because of the threat of the alternative epistemes and structures of power of the African presence, especially embodied by the first constitution of the Haitian nation, upsetting the drive for ‘whiteness’ reflected in the national discourses of Latin American countries. (10). ... As with all pivotal works, Chancy has created an intellectual and activist road map for us to follow believing that these writers, their stories, and the painful truths they expose, will provide a new way forward. "- Patricia Harms, Labour/Le travail, 74
"Chancy's multifaceted study examines contemporary Cuban, Haitian, and Dominican women's use of literary and performance arts to resurrect marginalized and silenced subjects' memories. Her paradigm for constructing cohesive Caribbean relations is the Haitian Revolution's broad rejection of the French occupation, Haiti's reclamation of national sovereignty, freedom from the imposition of Enlightenment logic, and reassertion of collective national memory. Troubling for Chancy's transformative vision is neighbouring nations' acceptance of imposed rather than original, indigenous cultures, thereby rejecting association with Haiti's black majority population. ... This book is an incredible read. "- J.C. Richards, Choice
"Rich and suggestive, this broad-ranging and original study combines interpretive readings and personal conversations with individual artists. Chancy places women's bodies, voices, memories, and visions at the centre of a careful scrutiny of the way three global axes of power—sugar, sovereignty, and revolution—have defined and confined Caribbean history, with its traumatic events and lingering painful memories. Conjugating national and transnational approaches to the Creolophone, Anglophone, and Hispanophone islands, Chancy redefines our understanding of terror by opening up innovative cultural and scholarly avenues for hopeful new beginnings. This is a transformative intervention in the contemporary realities of the region. "- Françoise Lionnet, UCLA; Co-editor, The Creolization of Theory