Silence! AHCS Emerging Scholars Conference | Opening Lecture with Prof. Nelson

Thursday, April 23, 2015 17:00to18:00
Arts Building Room W-220, 853 rue Sherbrooke Ouest, Montreal, QC, H3A 0G5, CA

“I am the only woman!”: The Racial Dimensions of Patriarchy and the Silence Around White Women in James Hakewill’s A Picturesque Tour of the Island of Jamaica… (1825)

Room W-220, Arts Building, 853 Sherbooke Street West

In 1820 the English architect, author, and artist James Hakewill travelled to Jamaica, Britain’s richest colony, where he produced his book A Picturesque Tour of the Island of Jamaica… (1825). Mainly comprised of the plantation landscapes of the wealthy white slave owners with whom he sojourned, his images were a demonstration of the supposedly natural bounty of the colony. Created within the tumultuous years between the abolition of the slave trade (1807) and full abolition (1834), Hakewill’s twenty-one prints represented black men, women, and children as well as white males of various classes, and by implication ethnicities. The missing person of Hakewill’s prints is the white woman. In comparison to Joseph Kidd’s Illustrations of Jamaica… (1838-40) in which eleven of the fifty lithographs represented white females, in Hakewill’s Picturesque Tour… only two of the twenty-one aquatints depicted individual white women: Kingston and Port Royal, from Windsor Farm and Rose Hall, St. James. But Hakewill’s silence around white women was not necessarily the result of the actual racial demography of the island. Drawing from the experiences of Eliza Chadwick Roberts and Lady Maria Nugent, two white female visitors to Jamaica, this paper will argue that similar to white men (like Hakewill), white women also participated in the aestheticization of sugar cane plantations for imperialist ends. I will also endeavour to examine the specificity of white female experience, as it was differentiated within the colonial context of Jamaican slavery, from that of black and mixed race women. Furthermore, in failing to fully represent white European and Creole women in the varied dimensions of their complex lives in Jamaica, and by specifically refusing to represent them in the company of black slaves, Hakewill also delivered the false impression that white women lacked direct association with (or ownership of) enslaved Africans. This paper will explore the ideological work of white female self-representation and black female mis-representation within the structures of British politeness, which served to exclude the latter from the status of woman.

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