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PhD candidate @ University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus


O’Neil Joseph is a PhD candidate in History at The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus. His research and writing explore the social and cultural histories of Caribbean societies, issues of identity and the intersections of gender and sexuality.

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Historical Roots to a Contemporary Issue: Intimates Histories of Domestic Violence in Tobago

Studies into Afro-Caribbean families focus primarily on the prevalence of matrifocal households or the subordination that characterised women’s role in the home. While these themes are critical to understanding the gender dynamics within Afro-Caribbean households, the proliferation of this narrow view of women’s roles as mothers or subordinated wives has contributed to an underestimation of the complexities of women’s lives within the home. This paper captures the frequently trivialised trauma associated with women’s experiences within the private sphere. The paper contends that while the dominant literature positions Afro-Caribbean women as revered heads of their households, many Afro-Tobagonian women endured years of misery within the home due to a culture of domestic violence and the social acceptance of extramarital affairs during the period 1900-1960. This knowledge offers us a peek into the interiority of women’s lives and complicates our understanding of the historical roots of intimate partner violence in the Caribbean. This work is undergirded by oral testimonies from Afro-Tobagonians, newspaper articles and official documents.

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