The Antilles remain a society preoccupied with gradations of skin color and with the social hierarchies that largely reflect, or are determined by, racial identity. Yet francophone postcolonial studies have largely overlooked a key figure in plantation literature: the béké, the white Creole master. A foundational presence in the collective Antillean imaginary, the béké is a reviled character associated both with the trauma of slavery and with continuing economic dominance, a figure of desire at once fantasized and fetishized.

The first book-length study to engage with the literary construction of whiteness in the francophone Caribbean, Fictions of Whiteness examines the neglected béké figure in the longer history of Antillean literature and culture. Maeve McCusker examines representation of the white Creole across two centuries and a range of ideological contexts, from early nineteenth-century békés such as Louis de Maynard and Joseph Levilloux; to canonical twentieth- and twenty-first-century novelists such as Édouard Glissant, Patrick Chamoiseau, Raphaël Confiant, and Maryse Condé; extending to lesser-known authors such as Vincent Placoly and Marie-Reine de Jaham, and including entirely obscure writers such as Henri Micaux. These close analyses illuminate the contradictions and paradoxes of white identity in the Caribbean’s vieilles colonies, laboratories in which the colonial mission took shape and that remain haunted by the specter of slavery.

New World Studies