Caribbean Life-Writing and Performative Liberation
In the corpus of Caribbean literature, autobiographical modes of writing serve a very important function. Prose narratives, travel narratives, fictional autobiographies, personal journals, diaries, slave narratives, community histories, biographies, autobiographical poems, memoirs, fictional biographies and one-man plays all represent points on the vast continuum of use through which Caribbean creative writers and ‘real people’ alike have made self-representation. The use and function of each mode has varied over time from the earliest writings by colonial subjects transplanted to the Caribbean either as slaves, colonial masters, or indentured labourers, to the writings of the first wave of nationalist writers who migrated to England, to the most recent writers residing in the region or in the diaspora. The constant need that these modes of writing have expressed over time – across national and ethnic boundaries, across class and gender differences and beyond the rules of genre – is to posit the individual, unique life as valuable and necessary to an understanding of Caribbean identity. In other words, the use of ‘real life’ experiences enacts the dismantling of social, economic and political forces that limit self-discovery and expression.