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Through A Glass, Darkly: Jamaica, Speculative Narrative, and The Archives

  • Author(s): Newby, Jessica Alaina
  • Advisor(s): Hudson, Peter J
  • et al.

The sexual violence and terrorism inflicted upon enslaved Black women by white men was integral in shaping the character of Caribbean Atlantic slavery, as was the resistance to that violence. The ramifications of these encounters set and shaped social parameters of intimacy, sexuality and power not only for the enslaved, but for the enslavers as well. This thesis seeks to explore the nuances of these encounters. It will perform a close reading of several passages from the diary of English overseer Thomas Thistlewood, who lived in the British colony of Jamaica during the eighteenth century. The close reading will specifically focus upon passages of the diary that reference two enslaved Black women: a woman named Phibbah, and a woman named Coobah. Rather than allowing the diaries of Thistlewood to narrate this ritual, this thesis argues for the creation of speculative narrations, performed through the perspective of both women. Speculative narratives of Phibbah and Coobah hold the possibility to counter the narrative of Thomas Thistlewood and the narrative of the colonial archive by moving them out of peripheral, dehumanized obscurity and into a place of human existence and recognition.

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