RHONDA COBHAM-SANDER

Keynote

Rhonda Cobham-Sander

Rhonda Cobham-Sander is the Emily C. Jordan Folger Professor of English and Black Studies at Amherst College, where she teaches courses on Caribbean and African Literatures and postcolonial and feminist theory. She is the author of I and I: Epitaphs for the Self in the Work of V.S. Naipaul, Kamau Brathwaite and Derek Walcott and her essays have appeared in such journals as Callaloo, PMLA, Research in African Literature, Small Axe, and Transition as well as in numerous critical anthologies. Her two current research projects are Digital Africas, 2007-2017, in which she analyzes how the forms, production, and circulation of African literature have shifted in response to the rise of social media, and Amital Queer: Aunts, Auntie Men, and Other Anansis in Caribbean Literature, which examines how Caribbean writers engage the figure of the aunt in poetry, fiction and performance.

Amital Queer: Towards a Definition of the Aunty in Caribbean Literature

Starting from a close reading of a poem by Dionne Brand, I map the ubiquity of the term aunt in Caribbean social discourse and examines how writers deploy it to challenge the practice of privileging genealogical descent as the basis of social reproduction, a practice that theorists like Edouard Glissant and Wilson Harris also have critiqued. The essay draws on works by Danielle Boodoo-Fortuné, V.S Naipaul, Erna Brodber, Merle Hodge, and Hilton Als, among others, to demonstrate how literary representations of aunts reinforce networks of fictive kinship, critique class hierarchies, and negotiate queer identity. I also raise questions about how these strategies affect narrative form. In closing, I offer a definition of the amital as a theoretical concept. (30:52)

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