Engendering Islands


Engendering Islands

Sexuality, Reproduction, and Violence in the Early French Caribbean

Ashley M. Williard

Women and Gender in the Early Modern World Series

310 pages
12 illustrations, index


June 2021


$65.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

June 2021


$65.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

June 2021


$65.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

In seventeenth-century Antilles the violence of dispossession and enslavement was mapped onto men’s and women’s bodies, bolstered by resignified tropes of gender, repurposed concepts of disability, and emerging racial discourses. As colonials and ecclesiastics developed local practices and institutions—particularly family formation and military force—they consolidated old notions into new categories that affected all social groups.

In Engendering Islands Ashley M. Williard argues that early Caribbean reconstructions of masculinity and femininity sustained occupation, slavery, and nascent ideas of race. In the face of historical silences, Williard’s close readings of archival and narrative texts reveals the words, images, and perspectives that reflected and produced new ideas of human difference. Juridical, religious, and medical discourses expose the interdependence of multiple conditions—male and female, enslaved and free, Black and white, Indigenous and displaced, normative and disabled—in the islands claimed for the French Crown.

In recent years scholars have interrogated key aspects of Atlantic slavery, but none have systematically approached the archive of gender, particularly as it intersects with race and disability, in the seventeenth-century French Caribbean. The constructions of masculinity and femininity embedded in this early colonial context help elucidate attendant notions of otherness and the systems of oppression they sustained. Williard shows the ways gender contributed to and complicated emerging notions of racial difference that justified slavery and colonial domination, thus setting the stage for centuries of French imperialism.

Author Bio

Ashley M. Williard is an assistant professor of French at the University of South Carolina.


Engendering Islands is an original, compelling, and important exploration of how metropolitan ideas about gender influenced emerging notions of race in the little-studied seventeenth-century French Caribbean. Ashley Williard’s fine scholarship and keen insights make this book valuable for scholars in a wide variety of fields.”—Micah True, author of Masters and Students: Jesuit Mission Ethnography in Seventeenth-Century New France

“Ashley Williard’s careful reading of travelogues and other French texts within a rich engagement with wider scholarship reveals how colonial representations of violence and sexuality produced the racialized and gendered categories of savages, breeders, cloistered white femininity, pirates, and armed Black resistance.”—Sue Peabody, author of Madeleine’s Children: Family, Freedom, Secrets, and Lies in France’s Indian Ocean Colonies

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction: Bodies and Archives in the Early French Caribbean
1. Evangelism between the Cultural and the Corporeal
2. Colonial Marriage and the Production of Cloistered White Femininity
3. Cannibals, Pirates, and the Authorization of Colonial Violence 
4. Dishonoring and Debilitating Black Masculinity
Conclusion: Memory and Forgetting in the French Atlantic

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