Island Mentality: Mapping 'de globality ov it all' between Jamaica, England, and Australia in Maxine Beneba Clarke's 'Big Islan'

Ruth McHugh-Dillon

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Maxine Beneba Clarke’s story “Big Islan,” from her collection Foreign Soil (2014), charts unexpected Australian-Caribbean connections, exploring colonialism, globalisation and “island mentalities.” Subverting three colonial institutions (language, map-making, cricket), Clarke reveals ambivalent, decolonising potential in celebrating Caribbean experience. Patois narration focalises Caribbean reality and Nathanial Robinson’s beloved home, 1960s Kingston, which he considers centre of “de globality ov it all”. However, the West Indies’ celebrated “Calypso Summer” cricket tour of Australia makes Nathanial restless and he considers leaving his “small-tiny islan” for the island-continent where Black men are “kings”. Clarke ironically exposes the story’s historical context: terra nullius and the White Australia Policy. The reader maps apparently disparate but actually deeply connected histories, participating in story-telling’s “total expression” (Brathwaite). The coordinates are set by Clarke, who constructs a literary archipelago of islands; a counternarrative to colonial/multiculturalist belonging.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalPostcolonial Text
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Caribbean
  • Australia
  • Globality
  • postcolonialism
  • Maxine Beneba Clarke

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