Spivak and Kincaid: an Analysis of the Reproductive Rights of Subaltern 

Topics: Reproduction, Native Americans in the United States, Pregnancy Pages: 13 (5111 words) Published: March 3, 2013
Spivak and Kincaid: An Analysis of the Reproductive Rights of Subaltern      Colonizers utilize unethical reproduction as a form of domination against women-- and in some cases of resistance, many women may refuse to bear children. Xuela, the protagonist of Jamaica Kincaid's The Autobiography of My Mother is the representation of the colonized in the act of rebellion against their reproduction. Although she refuses to have children, even after pregnancy-- she permeates self-love for her own body and sexuality. Her sexuality serves as a form of autonomy and power over her identity as a woman and over her ethnic identity as Carib. The communities around her treat her as a signifier and range from her childhood classroom to the couple she lives with. Xuela's community around her represents the colonizer of her identity and objectifies her, giving her an identity based on their interpretation. Through several demonstrations of masturbation, Xuela shows that she speaks strongly for her body self-love and her rights, despite her various displacements in life. However, Xuela's perceived agency and her decision to not bear children may be a result of the hegemonic power that colonizers have over the colonized. The effects of settler colonialism and reproduction is illustrated through Dorothy Robert's Killing the Black Body: Reproduction in Bondage; Making Reproduction a Crime; Race and the New Reproduction, Andrea Smith's Conquest: Sexual Violence as a Tool of Genocide; "Better Dead than Pregnant", and Gayatri Spivak's Can the Subaltern Speak?         The Autobiography of My Mother takes place in Dominica. After British colonization, the protagonist Xuela's mother dies during childbirth and she experiences abandonment from her father at a young age. He abandons her with his laundress, only making visits to his daughter every time he drops off his dirty clothes. Without the guidance and close support of family members, Xuela grows to be a hardened individual who is manifested through self-loving her body. Her sexuality with men, including Monsieur LaBatte, Roland and Phillip is an example of her refusing to bear children and body's rebellion against colonization by men. Xuela's distant relationships with men may stem from her loveless childhood full of abandonment, and may have led to her refusal to be subservient based on her gender and also on the fact that she was a rare Carib. The source of her self-love and appreciation is apparent in her habitual masturbation and sense of bodily odors, as Kincaid writes, "The smell of my underarms and between my legs changed, and this change pleased me... in private, then as now, my hands almost never left those places, and when I was in public, these same hands were always not far from my nose" (58). Xuela's process of discovering herself is an example of introspection afforded to her autonomy of her own body.         In Dorothy Robert's Killing the Black Body: Reproduction in Bondage, she writes about the decades of female African American slaves forced to reproduce. Black women at the time were forced to reproduce for economic incentives, but not entirely-- because black women were victims of rape and sexual assault that did not result in pregnancy. Many mothers were stripped away from their children at birth as the slaveholder would sell the babies for profit. In the case of Xuela, she did not have her mother to guide her growing up, which caused her to be callous to childbearing of her own. As Kincaid wrote, "I believed that I would die, and perhaps because I no longer had a future I began to want one very much" (82). Her lack of childbearing knowledge makes her feel threatened for her own life and she later decides on an abortion. She also mentions that she carries her life in her own hands-- because she places the responsibility of her female identity within her autonomy, similarly to the black slaves who also induced abortions.         In performing her own autonomy of having an...
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