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Contributor: Sheila Auguste

The name Caliban refers to Shakespeare?s play The Tempest. in the play, Caliban the island?s original inhabitant who is half beast and the offspring of a witch, is forced to serve Prosperso. Caliban?s inability to grasp the ?masters? language led to him being labelled as a savage. Caribbean intellectuals in the period 1960-1970s who were struggling with issues of identity used the image of Caliban to describe the ethnic mix that is the Caribbean, as hardly any of the original inhabitants of the Caribbean remain. Instead the Caribbean is populated with the descendants of its colonial past. ?The African slave, the white merchant, overseer, and colonial administrator, and the Asiatic?serf.? p.xi. According to Springfield, Caliban epitomised the intermingling not only of indigenous, African and European races but also of African oral and European written traditions, local dialects and standard European languages, a history of colonial oppression and a regional culture of resistance.? p. xii.
Daughters of Caliban is an excellent reference book on Caribbean women. It takes an interdisciplinary approach covering Women and Women? Studies, Work, Health, Law and Political Change and Popular Culture. The writers are feminist scholars who want to challenge western models of feminism. They believe that traditional western feminism and scholarship do not take account of the specifics differences that mean that their theories cannot be applied wholesale to people with different geographies, cultures and histories. Springfield uses the example of Caribbean writer-activist Merle Hodges statement, ?We keep analysing our society as though it were a Western society. We keep talking about how many women are now going out to work?, but women have worked from the beginning. That?s what we were brought here for.?
Springfield also points out in her introduction that Caribbean feminism reacts to problems that are not only specific to gender. Race and class issues are also important when trying to resolve issues formed against the backdrop of ?interregional immigrant female labour, and the connections between race and gender in the construction of national cultures, as well as the impact of developmental policies and colonialist legal practices on women?s lives and women?s creative roles in providing cultural continuity in exile communities.

Condensed from a review by Sheila Auguste
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