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68 3 Framing Violence Resistance, Redemption, and Recuperative Strategies in I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem One cannot help but notice the manifest violence in Caribbean women’s writing and black women’s writing in general that renders the cliché “violence begets violence” effective. Stuart Hall, among other theorists, historicizes this violence, locating it in the colossal disruptions created by colonization and slavery that have “distributed [black people] across the African diaspora” (235). Consequently, Hall establishes that “the displacements of slavery, colonization, and conquest . . . stand for the endless ways in which Caribbean people have been destined to ‘migrate’” (243). This severance from one’s origin registers unspeakable violence. Addressing the pervasive violence in women’s narrative as representative of their lived experiences, M. Giulia Fabi writes: “The awareness of how human bodies can be systematically reduced to the total objectification of captive flesh, the practice of breaking the silence on female-specific experiences of sexual and racial abuse, the insistence that racial violence is always ‘en-gendered’: these issues characterize the narrative tradition of African American women and dominate [their] literary works” (229). Fabi’s accurate assessment rings true for Guadeloupian-born writer and scholar Maryse Condé, whose body of work engages even as it fiercely interrogates the aforementioned themes. An invaluable contributor to this narrative tradition, Condé joins the band of black female writers who break the silence often deemed too horrific to tell. Capturing the “initial” violence as intimated by Hall, Condé demonstrates how black women’s lives are shrouded in violence that becomes encoded on their bodies, resulting in their silencing and their Resistance, Redemption, and Recuperation in I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem · 69 denial of personhood and attendant citizenship. Tituba’s opening statement captures the unspeakable violence, “the experience of dispersal and fragmentation, which is the history of all enforced diasporas” (Hall 235). The telling statement reads: “Abena, my mother, was raped by an English sailor on the deck of Christ the King one day in the year 16** while the ship was sailing for Barbados. I was born from this act of aggression. From this act of hatred and contempt” (Tituba 1). Achieving its intended objective, this abrupt opening paragraph captures the brutality of slavery and the inhumanity of the enslaver. In other words, brevity encapsulates the severity of the act of rape that has both literal and symbolic resonance. Abena’s rape coincides with the rape of the mother, Africa. The denial of personhood —Abena’s rape has rendered her a non-person, a non-citizen— which was initially caused by her separation from her mother (land), Africa , is complicated by her separation from the self, personified through the rape.1 Along these lines, Abena’s captivity is twofold, first, as “captive flesh,” her body is restrained in the bowels of the ship, and second, her “body violation” further manifests in her being raped, resulting in “silencing ” of the flesh. Abena’s denial of personhood transfers onto her daughter , Tituba, who, the product and victim of rape herself, experiences dual victimization. Tituba also doubles as witness to her mother being hanged and as subject of lynching that bears resonance with her mother’s lynching . Hence Tituba literally (somatically) relives the catastrophic events her mother experienced. On a grander scale, Tituba’s narrative qualifies as a reenactment of the Middle Passage, as we are presented with images of ships that in Paul Gilroy’s careful assessment “immediately focus attention on the middle passage, on the various projects for redemptive return to an African homeland, on the circulation of ideas and activists as well as the movement of key cultural and political artefacts: tracts, books, gramophone records, and choirs” (4). This reenactment engenders resistance and repatriation of the severed subject. By the same token, it fosters “the circulation of ideas and activists,” to echo Gilroy, promoting transnational alliances. “This redemptive return to an African homeland” to which Gilroy alludes is crucial in the quest for (or redemption of) citizenship, as Hall reminds us: “Africa is the name of the missing term, the great aporia, which lies at the center of our cultural identity and gives it meaning which, until recently, it lacked” (235). Acutely aware of the need to accomplish a redemptive return to give meaning to one’s cultural identity, Condé rescues 70 · African Diasporic Women’s Narratives Tituba from obscurity, confessing in the epigraph: “Tituba and I lived for a year on the closest of terms. During our endless conversations she told me...


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