Kaneesha Parsard

Kaneesha Parsard
Provost's Postdoctoral Fellow in English
  • Department of English
Walker 501

My research and teaching focus on Caribbean literature and visual arts, particularly their representations of the aftermath of slavery and Indian indentureship. I am also interested in how the Atlantic and Indian Ocean worlds, more broadly, have long been connected through imperialism, labor, and trade. For me, gender and sexuality are key to these formations.

My current book project, Improper Dwelling, narrates and theorizes late colonial British West Indian housing and planning as a project of racial and spatial order. After emancipation, planters segregated indentured Indian laborers and African wage laborers. In the early twentieth century, these working peoples migrated to towns and cities like Kingston, Jamaica and Port of Spain, Trinidad, where they lived alongside one another in barrack yards. After clearing the “slums” in the 1940s and 1950s, local housing and planning commissions oversaw new developments: Here, each dwelling would shelter a family of a single racial background, with a traditionally employed, male head of household.

But, this was a contested project. While some working people themselves advocated for these projects, others squatted on Crown lands, farmed for subsistence, and formed diverse, informal communities. To understand these tensions, I read novels and short stories (from such writers as V.S. Naipaul, C.L.R. James and the Beacon Group), newspapers, landscape painting, and documentary photography in conversation with contemporaneous housing and planning documents.

In my next project, I will examine how food and drink companies like Nestlé shaped ideas about nutrition and fitness in the British Empire.

The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship and Graduate Initiatives Program, the Social Science Research Council Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship, and the Mellon/American Council of Learned Societies Dissertation Completion Fellowship have supported my research. Before coming to the University of Chicago, I was the Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Critical Race Studies in the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities at Northwestern University.

I have published reviews of fiction and scholarly works in small axe salon and American Quarterly. I contributed a chapter to the volume Indo-Caribbean Feminist Thought (Palgrave MacMillan, 2016), edited by Gabrielle Hosein and Lisa Outar, on representation and the intertwined legacies of slavery and Indian indentureship. An essay on barrack yard politics in C.L.R. James’ early political and literary works is forthcoming in Small Axe.


2018-2019 Courses:
Undergraduate: Caribbean Literary and Visual Cultures: Work and “Wuk”

Selected Publications

  • “Barrack Yard Politics: From C.L.R. James’ The Case for West Indian Self-Government to Minty Alley.” Small Axe 57. Forthcoming.
  • “Cutlass: Objects toward a Theory of Representation.” In Indo-Caribbean Feminist Thought: Genealogies, Theories, Enactments, edited by Gabrielle Hosein and Lisa Outar, 241-260. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 2016.
  • “Making Space: The Caribbean in Transnational American Studies.” Review of The Intimacies of Four Continents, Lisa Lowe; Freedom as Marronage, Neil Roberts; Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture, Gaiutra Bahadur; Troubling Freedom: Antigua and the Aftermath of British Emancipation, Natasha Lightfoot; Island Bodies: Transgressive Sexualities in the Caribbean Imagination, Rosamond King. American Quarterly 68, no. 4 (December 2016): 1019-1032.
  • Education

    Ph.D., Yale University, 2017. Teaching at Chicago since 2018.