Rape and remembrance in Guadeloupe
Paper short abstract:
The common assumption that rape trauma is language-destroying is challenged in this presentation, for it examines how Guadeloupian women have found ways to remember and narrate rape by means of a religious idiom from slavery up to today.
Paper long abstract:
Based upon ethnography in the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe and rape experiences of Guadeloupian women specifically, the common assumption that rape trauma is language-destroying is challenged. Although it is generally proclaimed that raped people "often become living-dead people, refusing to speak of the unspeakable," Guadeloupian women continually speak of it, since rape relations have been routinely part of the island's history that is grounded in colonialism and slavery. In few studies, however, there has been eye for the impact of the constant threat and 'normal' reality of rape on the lives and family relations of slave women and their descendents. In this paper, therefore, this issue will be addressed by tracing a genealogy of memory from slave heroine Mulatress Solitude (1772-1802) to female members of one family today in order to understand the transgenerational effects of rape trauma. It will be argued that rape memories are mainly produced and transmitted by means of storytelling and religion in which women are haunted by rape spirits i.e. 'men with stick'. Moreover, Guadeloupian women bear witness of and keep the memory of rape alive by talking of rape in a religious idiom that permits them to express and accuse rape troubles publicly.