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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Indebted Pasts, Alternative Futures: Caribbean Digital Imaginations in Twenty-First Century Literature
by Maldonado, Yairamaren Román, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 2020, 133; 28262676
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation, “Indebted Pasts, Alternative Futures: Caribbean Digital Imaginations in Twenty-First Century Literature”, argues that Caribbean transmedia writers converge in their integration of new media in literary objects to engage, read, and bring our attention to the erasures of regional history. I propose the concept of Caribbean digital imaginations to conceptualize how digital imaginaries have become central to contemporary Caribbean literature and its engagement with the region’s past, present, and future. I conceptualize this marginal engagement with the region’s history as a form of indebted pasts whereby writers reject neoliberal notions of indebtedness (Lazaratto) and instead replace them with alternative notions that show how historical pasts remain indebted to the present. My comparative model—which focuses on Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba-- puts forth an understanding of how decolonized Caribbean subjectivities emerge outside of national or disciplinary boundaries today. I look at contemporary Caribbean writers Jorge E. Lage (Cuba), Rita Indiana (Dominican Republic) and Guillermo Rebollo-Gil (Puerto Rico) to make the case for the relevance of experimental literature in the production of Caribbean imaginations today. These three relatively young writers have received increasing recognition as part of a new wave of Caribbean narrative. However, the complexity and range of their emergent and non-canonical work has yet to be examined more broadly in Caribbean cultural studies. I propose that their literary representations of new media technologies facilitate imagining alternative collectivities, and that contrary to most accounts, literature rescues national memories that have been erased from official histories and remains engaged in the process of forging collective identities with the hope of building a decolonial future. I aim to show how these non-canonical writers configure a new Caribbean episteme—articulating subjectivities through the intricacies of lived contemporary realities and a politics of solidarity—by intertwining technological motifs with a critical revision of recent history. Taken together, these authors constitute a body of works that represent the ever-changing and tumultuous nature of Caribbean subjectivity while also articulating consistent collective identities in the twenty-first century. Through the framework of Caribbean digital imaginations, I propose that contemporary experimental literature needs to be seen through a regional, pan-Caribbean lens. This approach sheds light on shared political concerns regarding democratic politics in countries geopolitically distanced from one another.

I argue that their aesthetic repertoire includes the appropriation of technological forms such as internet discursive practices regarding identity politics and that through this appropriation they configure a collective yet antinational Caribbean discourse. My research is therefore in dialogue with new media studies as well as with the Caribbean’s rich histories of intellectual critique and avant-garde aesthetics.

I propose the concept of Caribbean Digital Imaginations to index how new technologies trigger new literary forms and support the inclusion of alternative collective memory in public discourse. Consequently, my research brings to the fore how these authors adopt digital technology into their fiction to record traumatic episodes omitted in hegemonic discourses. New media scholarship looks at post-digital subjectivities emerging from internet-based media, which is relevant to my project (Manovich, Jenkins, Chun). But it doesn’t elaborate on how new technologies impact the content and form of literature as pre-digital media. How can metaphors of digital memory or interfaces and overt inclusion of online references in literature inform the understanding of Caribbean imaginations today? Caribbean scholars have looked at the emerging trends of literary representations of new media (Price, Dorta, Maguire). My project builds on these contributions to add questions about democratic politics seen through the lens of new media studies. I generate a comparative paradigm, working across all three Hispanic Caribbean islands, to highlight the presence of a series of shared concerns among contemporary authors and work against the insular tendencies of Caribbean criticism. It demonstrates that these writers’ understanding of new media as an experimental literary form is connected to their anti-racist, anti-colonial and queer democratizing impulses, which we have seen proliferating at their best in digital practices.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Tarica, Estelle
Commitee: Domínguez, Daylet, De Kosnik, Abigail , McEnaney, Tom
School: University of California, Berkeley
Department: Spanish
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 82/9(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Literature, Caribbean literature, Caribbean Studies
Keywords: Contemporary literature, Digital culture, Transmedia, New media, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Cuba
Publication Number: 28262676
ISBN: 9798597061764
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