Barbara Bush. STAFORDSAIRE UNIV. U.K.
11 Congreso International, Santiago de Compostela .14-18 July, 1999
Complete Paper Attached
HISTORY, MEMORY AND MYTH': RECONSTRUCTING THE HISTORY (OR HISTORIES) OF BLACK WOMEN IN THE AFRICAN DIASPORA".
This paper confronts some of the key debates amongst contemporary historians, particularly the problem of how we can disentangle 'fact and fiction' in black women's history and deconstruct historical representations rooted in western racist discourses. In exploring the main problems posed in this area of study I explore three main themes:
1. White representations of black women during slavery and the colonial era and the implications of such representations for black women today.
2. How misrepresentations and 'myths' about black women's identity shaped their experiences in the African Diaspora, including their relationship to black men, white men and white women.
3 How black women negotiated 'oppositional' identities, inspired by their 'long memory' of Africa, which enabled them to survive the dislocations and traumas of migration.
Throughout the paper I raise problems of reconstructing a more positive and enabling history of black women - subjects that became the 'ultimate other', almost 'beyond history' in the context of conventional historical methodology. Black women's retrieval of their own history through literature and film and the relationship between history and 'fiction' is discussed here, as are other 'alternative' sources of history such as oral traditions and 'sites of memory' evoked through, for example, music and song.
The main focus is women in the African-Caribbean diaspora but I will make cross-references, where relevant, to the African-American women's experiences. In taking a broad view of black women's lives during slavery, colonialism and the post-colonial migrations, I will address new developments relating to history and memory, fact and myth, arguing that reconstructing the history of black women presents a particularly challenging task for the historian but also furnishes important insights into the complexities of interpreting gender and race in the historical context.