Redefining the Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness in Andrea Levy's The Long Song
Haynes, Annabelle Elizabeth
Paul Gilroy’s The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (1993) positions the African diaspora, created by transatlantic slavery, as a counter-culture to modernity and in a permanently irreconcilable relationship with Western nationalisms. However, Andrea Levy’s liberatory narrative, The Long Song (2010) undermines Gilroy’s black Atlantic claims. The Long Song offers a redefinition of modernity that centers the experiences of previously enslaved 19th century women, whose commodification predicts the spread of global capitalism. Rather than representing the African diaspora as a counter-culture to modernity, Levy’s novel reveals the experience of transatlantic slavery as foundational to modernity itself. Furthermore, Levy’s mulatto protagonist portends the rise of creole nationalism in the Caribbean, counteracting Gilroy’s claim that double consciousness is a relationship between race and nationalism, thus reorienting double consciousness as a conflict between black positionality and global white supremacy. The Long Song also undermines Gilroy’s rejection of nationalism by foregrounding narrative plurality – the existence of contesting narratives within all nationalisms. Ultimately, The Long Song dismisses Gilroy’s black Atlantic, offering a more robust and useful definition of the Black Atlantic.
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