- Caribglobal:Colonial Desire, Transgression, Exclusion, and Belonging in the Caribbean
"The Caribbean" has been exploited through various mechanisms and axes of power for centuries now. One of the most obvious ways in which the region experiences great challenges is through the potent combination of colonial histories and current tourist industries, given the dismantling of other formal economies of sustenance in the region. Being a native of Puerto Rico, I can speak to this first hand: a U.S. colonial paradise for many in the United States and Europe, the island is currently suffering a drought of resources because of its cumulative deficit, and now faces open exploitation by corporations wanting to cash in on its debt (with a U.S. government unwilling to step in). Yet, Puerto Rico, in many ways like the rest of the Caribbean, continues to reinvent itself, transforming, to whatever extent is possible, the potentials within its reach. This Caribbean—what may seem like disparate independence paths, particular linguistic and sociohistorical developments, and unique understandings of self and nation—is bound by a desirable quality and potentiality. While the topography may be different, the nations of the Caribbean share colonial histories and a social memory, with countless deceased enslaved peoples that are celebrated and remembered (religiously, for instance) or reimagined (say, in Carnival).
Whatever this Caribbean "is" tends to be contested and reimagined in academic literature as well. The authors' social locations and linguistic access, their research focus, and whatever available resources exist, all permit a malleable conceptualization of the Caribbean. We see this in the two books reviewed here, which is a strength in terms of scope and focus. Island Bodies by Rosamond S. King engages English, Spanish, Dutch, and [End Page 310] French Caribbean countries and archives; Resisting Paradise by Angelique V. Nixon also centers its work on authors from several countries in the Caribbean and its diaspora—with some overlap to King's book and some specificity to its own project. King's work focuses on erotic capital, including same-sex desire, women's agency, and interracial eroticism, and ends with tourism (sex tourism in particular), effectively serving as a good entry point to bridge her book to Nixon's. Nixon's argument is squarely focused on tourism and the economies that unfold around it, focusing on the impact of tourism industries in current neocolonial strategies implemented in the Caribbean. To be sure, there are many more contributions than these pages will allow mention of. I highlight the points of comparison and possible bridges between the two as an initial illustration only.
A key concept developed in King's Island Bodies is "Caribglobal," a term she solidifies as a contribution based on, but moving beyond, common discourses of diaspora, transnationalism, and globalization. She does this by talking about the coexistence of what we think are opposites, in this case actually operating in tandem—such as the local and foreign, or the Caribbean and the global(ized). Looking at regional migration and transnationalism within the region, nonhierarchical readings of diaspora that either exile the Caribbeans living outside of its geographic boundaries (challenging those boundaries to begin with) or forget about those living in the region (those who have always lived there or those who returned) demonstrates the need for a concept that takes us beyond the nation-state. Given the varied colonial and sovereignty situations of many countries, Caribglobal becomes something else, something new, that better explains the Caribbean phenomena. I would say that King's most powerful conceptual contribution is in this framing and that, were it not for the close publication of the two texts, they would have been in more direct conversation with each other.
King's Island Bodies brings together cultural and literary texts and, at times, a strong legal analysis of the implications of these texts. In the first chapter the book engages with strong articulations of crossgender and trans (male to female) representations both in novels and...