Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Comparative Literature

Document Type



In this dissertation I consider the child to be an ethnographer in works of fiction and autofiction from the Caribbean islands. Through their liminality as culturally and developmentally betwixt or between, their cultural malleability, their linguistic fluidity, and their curiosity, the child becomes a "native" ethnographer who is capable of translating the culture (both linguistically and culturally) for the reader in order to establish understandings of Caribbean cultures. This is accomplished through the creation of hybridized or creolized texts that have many of the same characteristics as postmodern ethnographies.

In the English Caribbean Xuela provides an ethnographic perspective of Dominican culture in Jamaica Kincaid's Autobiography of My Mother and Clare is the character through whom Jamaican culture is filtered in Michelle Cliff's Abeng. In the Spanish Caribbean it is through Negi's perspective in the autofictional When I Was Puerto Rican that the reader becomes aware of the contradictory forces that affect Puerto Ricans in their island and in the United States and it is through the unnamed child narrator in Rita Indiana's Papi that we are introduced to non-mainstream spheres in the Dominican Republic. Lastly, in the French Caribbean we are introduced to the French/Creole linguistic and cultural forces at work in Martinique through the perspective of the Negrillon in Patrick Chamoiseau's Chemin d'école and to the unflinching witnessing and observation of Haitian political turmoil from the perspective of Lili/Paul in Jan J. Dominique's Mémoire d'une amnésique.

Each of these child characters must navigate the opposing forces (colonial/ local, feminine/masculine, official/vernacular, etc.) that contribute to the creation of Caribbean identities. Through their experiences learning from sources of vernacular pedagogy, they are able to convey an understanding of the complexities and specificities of the cultures of their islands while creating an understanding of the similarities and specificities of Caribbean cultures that transcends national, generic, and linguistic boundaries.



Committee Chair

Otero, Solimar



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