You are here

Rum Histories

Drinking in Atlantic Literature and Culture
Jennifer Poulos Nesbitt

BUY Cloth · 232 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813946580 · $95.00 · Dec 2021
BUY Paper · 232 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813946597 · $32.50 · Dec 2021
FREE DOWNLOAD Open access ebook via Virginia Open

When you drink rum, you drink history. More than merely a popular spirit in the transatlantic, rum became a cultural symbol of the Caribbean. While rum is often dismissed as set dressing in texts about the region, the historical and moral associations of alcohol generally—and rum specifically—cue powerful stereotypes, from touristic hedonism to social degeneracy. Rum Histories examines the drink in anglophone Atlantic literature in the period of decolonization to complicate and elevate the symbolic currency of a commodity that in fact reflects the persistence of colonialism in shaping the material and mental lives of postcolonial subjects.

As a product of the plantation and as an intoxicant, rum was a central lubricant of the colonial economy as well as of cultural memory. Discussing a wide spectrum of writing, from popular contemporary works such as Christopher Moore’s Fluke and Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland to classics by Michelle Cliff, V. S. Naipaul, and other luminaries of the Caribbean diaspora, Jennifer Nesbitt investigates how rum’s specific role in economic exploitation is muddled by moral attitudes about the consequences of drinking. The centrality of alcohol use to racialized and gendered norms guides Nesbitt’s exploration of how the global commodities trade connects disparate populations across history and geography. This innovative study reveals rum’s fascinating role in expressing the paradox of a postcolonial world still riddled with the legacies of colonialism.

New World Studies


Fascinating and accessible, this important book situates rum as a potent economic, cultural, and specifically literary product in the Caribbean.

Supriya M. Nair, Tulane University, author of Pathologies of Paradise: Caribbean Detours

This outstanding and engaging study uses the lens of rum to untangle the legacies of Caribbean colonialism and to challenge discourse that has demonized and eroticized the Caribbean region. Drawing on popular novels and historical scholarship, this theoretically sophisticated study is grounded in postcolonial studies, literary criticism, alcohol studies, and the anthropology of the Caribbean. Rum, according to Nesbitt, is simply "strange." However, a critical reading of rum histories offers Nesbitt a unique, and sometimes blurred, prism through which to confront colonial tropes and examine competing political dichotomies in the modern global community.

Frederick H. Smith, North Carolina A&T State University

Interested in this topic?
Stay updated with our newsletters:

Related Books