Trash travels: white cockroaches and decapitalization in circum-Atlantic literature

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This essay examines a tradition in Caribbean literature where characters embrace their own decapitalization; it focuses on the circulation of decapitalized whiteness in Caribbean novels that present historical scenarios of cultural devaluation, such as Caryl Phillips’ Cambridge (1991) and Robert Antoni’s Blessed Is the Fruit (1997). I propose that Phillips’ Lady Cartwright and Antoni’s Lilla embody the historical emergence of a new character in the Caribbean novel, one in which a decapitalized white subject joins the poor “white trash” communities that had existed at the margins of circum-Atlantic societies. Those communities attest to a forgotten Caribbean past of white indentured labor. Closing with an examination of V.S. Naipaul’s non-fiction travelogue A Turn in the South (1989), the essay suggests how the writing of decapitalization extends from the Caribbean to the US South.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)112-126
Number of pages15
JournalAtlantic Studies : Global Currents
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2017


  • Caribbean literature
  • Caryl Phillips
  • Jean Rhys
  • Robert Antoni
  • Travel writing
  • V.S. Naipaul
  • poor whites
  • white trash

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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