The Construction of an Essentialist ‘Mixed-Race’ Identity in the Anglophone Caribbean Novel 1914-1998

Persuad, Melissa. 2001. The Construction of an Essentialist ‘Mixed-Race’ Identity in the Anglophone Caribbean Novel 1914-1998. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis examines the portrayal of the 'mixed-race' person in twentieth-century Caribbean literature. The premise that their portrayal has been limited by essentialised racial stereotypes is investigated and the conclusion is reached that these stereotypes have been founded in nineteenth century theories of racial hybridity. The development of this racial theory is explored and reveals that the concept of hybridity was generated through imperialistic and colonial endeavours to support a policy of racial subjugation predicated by European economic desire to exploit non-white peoples. In the Caribbean this took the form of African slavery, and the need to keep the 'races' separate and unequal under this system led to the demonisation of 'mixed-race' people of African and European descent. Despite attempts to prevent the proliferation of a 'mixed-race' population, their increasing numbers led to further plantocratic strategies to divide the 'mixed-race' and black population in order to maintain white socio-economic supremacy.

This thesis finds that the literary construction of 'mixed-race' identity has been grounded in a biologised fallacy of `hybridity'. Despite recent attempts to appropriate the term `hybridity' as a cultural metaphor, hybridity itself remains entrenched in nineteenth century notions of absolute racial difference. The biological concept of `mixed-race' degeneracy coupled with the white engineered racial divisions within Caribbean society has left the 'mixed-race' person in an ambivalent position. Although the Caribbean novel has spearheaded an awareness of European colonial oppression and has challenged racial stereotypes of black people, offering positive portrayals of Afro-Caribbean identity, the portrayal of the 'mixedrace' person remains limited. The development of indigenous and, subsequently, diasporic Caribbean literature has tended to perpetuate the stereotype of the deviant `mixed-race' person, previously popularised in the nineteenth century European novel on the Caribbean.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


'Mixed-Race' Identity, Caribbean Literature, Twentieth Century

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature



Item ID:


Date Deposited:

11 Jun 2020 18:39

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 14:28


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