Postcolonial Nation and Matrilineal Myth: Social Construction of Maternity in Michelle Cliff’s “Clare Savage” Novels

Izabella Penier

Abstract

The aim of my essay is to show how the Afro-American writer Michelle Cliff uses the concept of matriliny in the process of the feminist recovery of the history of Jamaica. I will argue that Michelle Cliff is a writer that honors the anachronistic tradition of essentialism that is based on the notion that cultures and identities have certain innate qualities immutable irrespective of time and place. I will contend that this essentialist worldview, skews the fictive world of Cliff’s much celebrated “Clare Savage novels”: Abeng and No Telephone to Heaven by reducing it to facile, Manichean oppositions between the colonizer and the colonized, white and black culture. My essay will particularly focus on how Cliff’s project of the affirmation of matriliny is undermined by her deep ambivalence about the institution of motherhood, which in times of slavery and decolonization was implicated in various discourses inimical to the well-being of black women.

Keywords

Black matrilineage; Matriliny; Female bonding; Postcolonial and feminist revision of history; Essentialism



DOI: https://doi.org/10.14198/raei.2014.27.10