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Author ORCID Identifier

https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7447-2797

AccessType

Campus-Only Access for Five (5) Years

Document Type

dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

English

Year Degree Awarded

2022

Month Degree Awarded

May

First Advisor

Asha Nadkarni

Second Advisor

Rachel Mordecai

Third Advisor

Rebecca Hamlin

Fourth Advisor

Samita Sen

Subject Categories

Labor History | Literature in English, Anglophone outside British Isles and North America | Women's Studies

Abstract

The system of indentured servitude operated as a regime of contracted labor in several British colonies after the abolition of slavery. Between 1838 and 1917, over half a million South Asian workers were recruited and shipped across the Indian and Atlantic Oceans to bolster the growth and expansion of the plantation economy in Caribbean colonies such as British Guiana, Trinidad and Jamaica. Stories Women Carry examines the figure of the coolie woman, or the South Asian indentured woman worker, in the post-emancipation context of the Caribbean. Assembling fiction, nonfiction, historical texts and archival materials together, this dissertation examines the ways that contemporary writers such as Gaiutra Bahadur, Krystal Sital, Ryhaan Shah and David Dabydeen probe the colonial discourses of racialization and labor through revisionist, speculative and counter-historical accounts. In doing so, it reveals the ways that discourses on sexuality and reproduction shaped and produced the figure of the coolie woman. Thus, tracing representations of reproduction and reproductive capacities, this dissertation unveils the ways that literature offers avenues to imagine coolie women as negotiating circumscribed, quotidian and ordinary forms of resistance. This is theorized as a form of coolie agency that disrupts remissive and binary understandings of subjection and freedom often deployed in the context of indentured labor, and positions coolie women as producers, preservers and negotiators of knowledge on embodied practices of resistance against colonial authority. Turning to postcolonial, Black and transnational feminist scholarship, Stories Women Carry presents the coolie woman as a cohering figuration that grates against histories of labor, capital and colonialism in South Asia and the Caribbean.

DOI

https://doi.org/10.7275/28470644

Available for download on Thursday, May 13, 2027

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