New Book: Mimi Sheller’s “Citizenship from Below—Erotic Agency and Caribbean Freedom”

One of the new books presented at the annual Caribbean Studies Association’s 2012 book launch organized by Faith Smith in Guadeloupe, was Mimi Sheller’s Citizenship from Below: Erotic Agency and Caribbean Freedom (Duke University Press, 2012). [See full list of books launched in our previous post Caribbean Studies Association’s 2012 Book Launch.]

Description: Citizenship from Below boldly revises the history of the struggles for freedom by emancipated peoples in post-slavery Jamaica, post-independence Haiti, and the wider Caribbean by focusing on the interplay between the state, the body, race, and sexuality. Mimi Sheller offers a new theory of “citizenship from below” to describe the contest between “proper” spaces of legitimate high politics and the disavowed politics of lived embodiment. While acknowledging the internal contradictions and damaging exclusions of subaltern self-empowerment, Sheller roots out from beneath the historical archive traces of a deeper freedom, one expressed through bodily performances, familial relationships, cultivation of the land, and sacred worship.

Attending to the hidden linkages among intimate realms and the public sphere, Sheller explores specific struggles for freedom, including women’s political activism in Jamaica; the role of discourses of “manhood” in the making of free subjects, soldiers, and citizens; the fiercely ethno-nationalist discourses that excluded South Asian and African indentured workers; the sexual politics of the low-bass beats and “bottoms up” moves in the dancehall; and the struggle for reproductive and LGBT rights and against homophobia in the contemporary Caribbean. Through her creative use of archival sources and emphasis on the connections between intimacy, violence, and citizenship, Sheller enriches critical theories of embodied freedom, sexual citizenship, and erotic agency in all post-slavery societies.

Mimi Sheller is a professor of sociology and the founding Director of the New Mobilities Research and Policy Center at Drexel University. Among her many publications, her books include Democracy after Slavery: Black Publics and Peasant Radicalism in Haiti and Jamaica (2000), Consuming the Caribbean: From Arawaks to Zombies (2003), and she co-edited (with John Urry) Tourism Mobilities: Places to Play, Places in Play (2004) and Mobile Technologies of the City (2006). Urry and Sheller are also co-founders of the journal Mobilities.

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