“When the Skin Comes Off, Their True Selves Emerge”

Folkloric Irrealism and Gender Politics in Twenty-First Century Caribbean Short Fiction


  • Madeleine Sinclair University of Warwick




Folklore, Short Fiction, Feminism, Gender, World-Systems Theory, World-Literature


This article considers how a contemporary wave of Caribbean short story writers re-work the language of folkloric irrealism as a tool of critique against the structural inequalities ingrained in the patriarchal capitalist world-system. Building on the Warwick Research Collective’s (2015: 72) examination of how irrealist aesthetics correspond to the “violent reorganization of social relations engendered by cyclical crisis,” it considers how transplanted folk figures attend to the distinctly gendered geographies of unevenness produced by the expansion of capitalist modernization. This article first unpacks the significance of the short story as a distinct vector for folkloric re-inscription, tracing the form’s dialogic interconnection with folk orality and its unique responsiveness to registering the processes of uneven development in Caribbean societies. Secondly, it offers close readings of selected short stories from collections including Nalo Hopkinson’s Skin Folk (2018), Breanne Mc Ivor’s Where There Are Monsters (2019) and Leone Ross’s Come Let Us Sing Anyway (2017). Tracking a resistant aesthetic of folkloric corporeality, it considers how these writers re-animate oral poetics to critique the interrelated problems of global racial capitalism and what Silvia Federici describes as capitalism’s new war waged against women’s bodies in the current phase of accumulation (Federici 2018).


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How to Cite

Sinclair, M. (2024). “When the Skin Comes Off, Their True Selves Emerge”: Folkloric Irrealism and Gender Politics in Twenty-First Century Caribbean Short Fiction . Journal of World-Systems Research, 30(1), 104–127. https://doi.org/10.5195/jwsr.2024.1235



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