Shani Mootoo, Valmikis Daughter (2008) She would embark
Shani Mootoo, Valmikis Daughter (2008) She would embark on a study of Early East Indian communal life in Trinidad, in the countryside, in the town and in the city, and she would theorize on the gulf between the cacao Indian and the sugar Indian Located in South Trinidad, the town of San Fernando is second in size only to Port of Spain in the North of the island. In a country with two major ethnic groups, San Fernando is also regarded, to some extent, as an Indian enclave, in contrast to Port of Spain and the whole East-West corridor of Northern Trinidad [. . .]. But in her incomparably evocative portrait of the town, Mootoo acknowledges San Fernandos Indian/African mixture [. . .] Mootoo lavishes an entire chaptermore
than twenty pageson San Fernando, a unique feat for a West Indian writer describing a West Indian town. (Frank Birbalsingh) a drive through Luminada Heights is a social lesson in itself (187) Eric Williams: Trinidad in 1911 Cocoa the reigning queen, sugar the exking, oil the future emperor. (Inward Hunger: The Education of a Prime Minister, p.13) History of Trinidad: Colonized by the Spanish in the 1530s Captured by the British in 1797 (officially ceded to Britain by Spain in 1801)
Sugar was certainly the most important export crop by the time the British captured the island in 1797, but cotton, coffee and cocoa continued to be significant, and Trinidads economy was far from monocultural (Bridget Brereton, A History of Modern Trinidad, p.18 However, sugar (and slavery) expanded significantly under the British sugar, sugar, nothing but sugar Williams, on the attitude of the colonys Legislative Council to economic development Slavery finally abolished, 1838 Fears of labour shortage amongst the planters; introduction of Indian indentureship first immigrant ship, Fatel Rozack, arrives from Calcutta in 1845 Trinidads cocoa frontier expanded rapidly in the period 1866-1920
driven by a series of land reforms in the late 1860s, which opened up Crown lands to small-scale, peasant farmers for whom cocoa was an ideal crop, requiring neither considerable outlays of capital nor a large labour force. On the other hand, demand had risen on the world market following technological advances in the processing of cocoa that resulted in the drink becoming a staple item of the masses in Britain, Europe and the USA. by the beginning of the twentieth century, cocoa had overtaken sugar in value to become Trinidads leading export staple. Brereton, A History of Modern Trinidad, pp.91-93. By the 1930s, cocoa industry in trouble boom was turning to bust:
Biophysical factors: attack of witchbroom disease; generally depressed world market; competition from West African growers Continued support for sugar by the colonial authorities, at the expense of cocoa Both sugar and cocoa industries struggled throughout the mid- to late 20th century
Trinidads economy became dominated by oil production and refining In 1866 Cadbury Brothers introduced their cocoa essence and eating chocolate of the modern kind began to be manufactured in Britain by the 1840s
Chocolate / cocoa as a cheap food substitute a low-cost, high energy substance that helped keep down labour costs: the commodity frontier helping to produce new cheap natures Commodity frontiers and processes of subject formation The racialization and gendering of subjects, and the construction of normative models of sexuality, tends to occur in more explicit and nakedly violent fashion in commodity frontier zones
e.g., resource extraction and racism go hand in hand; heteronormativity and resource extraction go hand in hand He made a point of engaging in disparaging jokes about women and faggots. He developed the affectation of spitting, velocity and distance becoming markers of his manhood (Mootoo, p. 55)
It wasnt what a woman should do, Viveka reflected, and one shouldnt need to be told so this wasa knowledge one just absorbed and grew up knowing (225) at least since the early twentieth century, wild spaces have been understood and organized in a way that presents natureand its personal domination in the guise of hunting, fishing, climbing, and other outdoor activitiesas a site for the enactment of a specific heteromasculinity. (Catriona Mortimer-Sandilands and Bruce Erickson. Queer Ecologies, p. 3)
With [his fellow hunters, Valmiki] knew an affinity he simply did not share with [Devika]. It was a world of few words, more silence, and hard, immediate, and sure handling of one another that was as loaded, as sprung, as the guns they carried. The act of looking out for one another in the most primal way gripped him. It was not just him looking out for them, but them looking out for him too. An equal caring. [. . .] Such camaraderie made Valmiki bristle with life in a way that not even the practice of surgery had ever done for him. In the forest with the men he might have been duty bound, but he was not weighed down by
it. He was no ones father, husband, employer, or healer. He was one with them. They were one with each other. (57) The category of nature is a field of multiple exclusion and control, not only of non-humans, but of various groups of humans and aspects of human life which are cast as nature. Thus racism, colonialism and sexism have drawn their conceptual strength from casting sexual, racial and ethnic difference as closer to the animal and the body construed as a sphere of inferiority, as a lesser form of humanity lacking the full measure of rationality or culture. Val Plumwood, Feminism and the Mastery of Nature, p. 4
To be defined as nature in this context is to be defined as passive, as non-agent and non-subject, as the environment or invisible background conditions against which the foreground achievements of reason or culture (provided typically by the white, western, male expert or entrepreneur) take place. (Plumwood, p. 4) The backgrounding and instrumentalisation of nature and that of women run closely parallel. For women, their backgrounded and instrumental status as nature does not usually need to be explicit, for
it structures their major roles in both public and private spheres. Women are systematically backgrounded and instrumentalised as housewives, as nurses and secretaries, as colleagues and workmates. Their labour in traditional roles is also systematically omitted from account in the economic system [. . .]. Traditionally, women are the environmentthey provide the environment and conditions against which male achievement takes place, but what they do is not itself accounted as achievement. (Plumwood, pp. 21-22) Inseparable from the cacao and sugar plantations, the domestic arena is where European colonial rule insidiously sought to monitor
and control bodies, relationships and productivity. Colonial rhetoric idealized familial belonging as the natural union designed to promote the health of the nation and future generations who could also work on the plantations. (McCormack, Illicit Intimacies, p. 204) [In the 1920s and 1930s] the formerly enslaved and indentured women were systematically defined as housewives outside the wage-labour force. Thus, much of their work would be hidden within the household or domestic economy and not recognized as such. This significant change in the relations of production was, of course, accompanied by new ideas. The intensity of the domestic ideology
increased with the separation of women from wage-labour. Indeed, by the end of this period, the once large scale of female employment was lost to peoples collective memory (Rhoda Reddock, Women, Labour and Politics in Trinidad and Tobago, p. 47) Queer Ecologies Queer ecology suggests, then, a new practice of ecological knowledges, spaces, and politics that places central attention on challenging hetero-ecologies from the perspective of non-normative sexual and gender positions.
Catriona Mortimer-Sandilands and Bruce Erickson. Queer Ecologies, p. 3) A queer ecological project might proceed by challenging [the] problematic links between the power relations of sexuality and nature. Queers have, in a variety of ways, challenged the destructive pairing of heterosexuality and nature: by developing reverse discourses oriented to challenging dominant understandings of our unnatural passions; by borrowing ecological thinking to develop radically transformative gay and lesbian politics; and  by taking elements of queer experience to construct an alternative environmental perspective. (MortimerSandilands, http://
www.invisibleculture.rochester.edu/in_visible_culture/Issue_9/issue9 _sandilands.pdf Valmikis Daughter and the Ramayana: Queering the Sacred Text Vlmki is the poet attributed with the writing of the Ramayana. the Ramayana, through the figure of [Ramas] wife Sita (and of course other women, such as his cruel step-mother Kaikey), seeks to curtail the behaviour of women in their roles as dutiful daughters,
wives and mothers. The sacred text can be said, and is certainly used, to capture a form of ethno-religious nationalism which defines what is good and proper through gendered and sexual familial norms, which in turn are interpreted as eternal Hindu values. (McCormack, Illicit Intimacies, p. 208) Vivekas queer desires and embodiment, along with her fathers love of men, convey a narrative unexplored in the original Ramayana.
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