A review of the book, “Centering Woman”, by Hilary Beckles.
The paper discusses how in “Centering Woman”, Beckles concentrates purely on gender issues rather than race to explain why a number of women were defeated by institutional patriarchy while others took collective action to liberate themselves from it. The paper looks at how Beckles emphasizes the diversity of women’s experiences in West Indian slave societies over several centuries and how he successfully argues that gender instead of race is fundamental to understanding slave relations, both among slaves themselves, and in relation to hegemonic patriarchy. The paper asserts that the greatest value of the book is that it is a reminder of how slave relations were always highly complex and always changing.
In Centering Woman, Beckles concentrates purely on gender issues rather than race. In this historiographical account, he intends to focus on gender as the main analytical category in the culture of the slave mode of production. At the same time, he is aware that both race and gender were influential in the experience of individual people in slavery relations. Beckles’ subject is Caribbean women of all races and socioeconomic classes, whether free women or slaves. The lives of those women are examined in terms of two types of struggle. While they struggled as a group against male domination, they also struggled among themselves for social gain. By the second kind of struggle, they weakened their own position. Above all, the author explains why a number of women were defeated by institutional patriarchy while others took collective action to liberate themselves from it.