Improper Dwelling: Space, Sexuality, and Colonial Modernity in the British West Indies, 1838-1962


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


American Studies and African American Studies


Between emancipation and the independence period in the British West Indies, surveyors and administrators attempted to prescribe acceptable forms of sexuality and reproduction for West Indians of African and Indian descent through the control of space and, in particular, of dwelling spaces. Through analysis of West Indian literary and visual works including landscape painting, short stories, novels, and documentary photography, this dissertation instead foregrounds the intimacies and collaborations between African and Indian working people in the landscape, the barrack yard, and the house. This project analyzes these spaces as anti-picturesque forms, spaces whose compositions refuse surveillance and social control, at disjunctive moments throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It reveals the spatial and social processes of citizen-making in the late colonial British West Indies, illuminates informal and unruly ways of living in that place and time, and theorizes an Atlantic-Indian Ocean modernity.