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Island Bodies

Transgressive Sexualities in the Caribbean Imagination

Rosamond S. King

Publication Year: 2014

In Island Bodies, Rosamond King examines sexualities, violence, and repression in the Caribbean experience. She analyzes the sexual norms and expectations portrayed in Caribbean and diaspora literature, music, film, and popular culture to show how many individuals contest traditional roles by maneuvering within and/or trying to change their society’s binary gender systems. She skillfully argues and demonstrates that these transgressions better represent Caribbean culture than the “official” representations perpetuated by governmental elites and often codified into laws that reinforce patriarchal, heterosexual stereotypes.

Unique in its breadth and its multilingual and multidisciplinary approach, Island Bodies addresses homosexuality, interracial relations, transgender people, and women’s sexual agency in Dutch, Francophone, Anglophone, and Hispanophone works of Caribbean literature. Additionally, King explores the paradoxical nature of sexuality across the region: discussing sexuality in public is often considered taboo, yet the tourism economy trades on portraying Caribbean residents as hypersexualized.

Ultimately King reveals that despite the varied national specificity, differing colonial legacies, and linguistic diversity across the islands, there are striking similarities in the ways Caribglobal cultures attempt to restrict sexuality and in the ways individuals explore and transgress those boundaries.

Published by: University Press of Florida


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

My interest in the topics explored in Island Bodies spans many years; this book was developed through research, conference presentations, journal articles, and long conversations. My academic research has also benefited, however, from my personal experiences and community work. I have long been a part of Caribbean communities in the region and its diaspora. I have spent time in Trinidad, Barbados, and Puerto Rico and have lived in or visited many other Caribglobal spaces in New York, Miami, Toronto, and elsewhere...


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pp. xi-xii

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Introduction: From the Foreign-Local to the Caribglobal

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pp. 1-19

The Caribbean body has consistently been exploited for its labor, in previous centuries through slavery and indentureship, and more recently through cheap labor for multinational corporations. The Caribbean body has also consistently been used for sexual labor, through sexual access to slaves and indentured persons, and now through sexual tourism...

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1. The Caribbean Trans Continuum and Backhanded Re/Presentation

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pp. 20-62

Those who inhabit unconventional genders—whether deliberately or unconsciously and whether through behavior, dress, speech, or some combination of these—are often considered ineligible to be full, legitimate members of Caribbean societies. As in the global North, their sexuality is automatically suspect, and since they are far from ideal citizens, too often the state sees no need to treat them as full citizens or to protect them from others’ mistreatment...

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2. “El Secreto Abierto”: Visibility, Confirmation, and Caribbean Men Who Desire Men

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pp. 63-92

Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes made this comment about sexuality in Puerto Rico, but the concept of el secreto abierto, or the “open secret,” exists in the rest of the Caribbean as well.1 For instance, in reference to Suriname, Gloria Wekker notes that “It is common knowledge in Surinamese male mati circles that same-sex sexual behavior among men, even those who are married or in a steady, publicly displayed relationship with a woman, is quite common.”2...

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3. “This Is You”: “Invisibility,” Community, and Women Who Desire Women

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pp. 93-122

The issue of revelation discussed in the previous chapter as being dominant in the experiences of Caribbean men who desire other men does exist for Caribbean women, but it is not the dominant trope for them. Similarly, the issue of supposed invisibility can be applicable to Caribbean men who desire men, but it is not the dominant trope for their experiences or representation...

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4. “Force-Ripe”: Caribbean Women’s Sexual Agency

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pp. 123-160

“Force-ripe” is a colloquial English Caribbean phrase that refers to fruit picked before it is ripe and then forced to ripen early. It is also commonly used to sneer at girls who dress or behave as mature women, usually in a manner perceived as sexual. The likening of women to fruit—ripe or spoiled—is also found in other parts of the Caribbean...

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5. One Love? Caribbean Men and White Women

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pp. 161-194

Caribbean men of color are largely portrayed in the Caribglobal imagination as heteronormative, patriarchal heroes. This is true in historical narratives of Great Men who fought or defeated slavery (for example, Toussaint L’Ouverture and Cuffy), colonialism (Eric Williams, Frantz Fanon, and José Martí), or imperialism (Che Guevera and Maurice Bishop)...

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pp. 195-198

At the beginning of this study, I proposed imagination as part of a methodology for the study of sexuality in popular culture and literature. The preceding chapters explore portrayals of transgressive sexualities in diverse creative works, including carnival and festival performances, novels and short stories, feature films and documentaries, and music and visual art...


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pp. 199-230


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pp. 231-250


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pp. 251-261

About the Author

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E-ISBN-13: 9780813048895
E-ISBN-10: 0813048893
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813049809

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 877772043
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Island Bodies

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Homosexuality and literature -- Caribbean Area.
  • Sexual minorities -- Caribbean Area.
  • Homosexuality -- Caribbean Area.
  • Interracial marriage -- Caribbean Area.
  • Transgender people -- Caribbean Area.
  • Homosexuality and music -- Caribbean Area.
  • Homosexuality and motion pictures -- Caribbean Area.
  • Caribbean Area -- Social conditions.
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