chapter  6
Colonial discourse and the subaltern’s voice
Pages 32

Ultimately, any suggestion about ways to read these early narratives will involve responding to the question: “why bother to read them?” What possible relevance can they have for contemporary West Indian women (and men) like the students I teach, the majority of whom are from non-white, non-elite backgrounds? I have always been puzzled by the term, “a usable past,” suggesting as it does that some aspects of history can be tossed out as useless, and others carefully preserved according to some agreed agenda. Yet in a sense, as I have suggested in my introduction, this is precisely the thinking, implicit or not, which relegated most of these early texts to obscurity. So far, I have been arguing that all of our past is “usable,” including these forgotten narratives. I have suggested their value in terms of representations and self-representations of white women in the region; as constructions of the interrelationship of black and white women in a variety of domestic situations; and as a resource for mapping narrative and ideological positioning in relation to the contemporary physical and social landscape.