Principal Investigator @ Representing Gender-Based Violence: Literature, Performance and Activism in the Anglophone Caribbean
Dr Lucy Evans is Associate Professor in Postcolonial Literature at the University of Leicester, UK. Her research specialism is in contemporary Caribbean literature. Her current research focuses on crime fiction and representations of crime in the Anglophone Caribbean, and on gender-based violence, arts activism, and Caribbean literary cultures. She is currently Principal Investigator of the collaborative research project, Representing Gender-Based Violence: Literature, Performance and Activism in the Anglophone Caribbean, funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council. Dr Evans has published widely on contemporary Caribbean literature; this includes a number of journal articles and book chapters as well as her monograph, Communities in Contemporary Anglophone Caribbean Short Stories (Liverpool University Press 2014); and a co-edited collection, Caribbean Short Stories: Critical Perspectives (Peepal Tree Press, 2011). She has also co-edited four special issues of peer reviewed academic journals, including ‘Crime, Gender and Sexuality in the Anglophone Caribbean’, Caribbean Journal of Criminology, 4:1 (2019) and ‘Representing Crime, Violence and Jamaica’, Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies, 22:1 (2020). With Shivanee Ramlochan, she is currently co-editing Unstitching Silence: Fiction and Poetry by Caribbean Writers on Gender-Based Violence, to be published by Peekash Press in 2023.
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- Summary: This paper focuses on domestic noir, a crime fiction subgenre centrally concerned with sexual and intimate partner violence, which has gained prominence in recent years. Set mainly in 1980s Barbados, Cherie Jones’ How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House (2021) centres on the turbulent marriage of a young woman while also featuring various characters engaged in sex work within the island’s lucrative tourism industry. Jones’ novel connects the dynamics of sexual and intimate partner violence both to family histories of abuse and to longer histories of colonialism, slavery, and indenture. Critics and reviewers have located domestic noir in North America and Europe, and have focused on its feminist reworking of classic noir. I argue that Jones’ fiction extends domestic noir’s critical edge by reflecting on the power dynamics of not only gender but also race, class and geopolitical location, and exploring how these intersect. I suggest further that her novel speaks to scholarly and activist debate on gender-based violence (GBV) and its prevalence in the Caribbean. It highlights the limitations of legislative change alone in a context where progressive legislation is at odds with entrenched cultural attitudes, and where law enforcement practices reinforce the structural inequalities that underpin GBV. The formal characteristics of Jones’ novel – which include shifts in narrative mode, narrative perspective and temporal location – enable a complex and textured rendering of the historical and contemporary realities of GBV in the region.