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This chapter examines the island prologues in Pauline Hopkins’s novels Contending Forces and Winona through the frameworks of archipelagic American studies to illuminate how her deft incorporations of island tropes and manipulations of genre and history allow her to create a circum-Caribbean, diasporic space that challenges continent-based constructions of nation and rigid understandings of racial identity, indigeneity, and belonging. By imagining islands as archipelagic circuits including coastal communities, Hopkins goes against the grain of dominant island tropes that imagine the bounded geography of the island as a “distinct territory” that is “naturally” politically unified. Rather than conceiving of islands as organically sovereign spaces, Hopkins extends her archipelagic understanding of US transnationalism to include the mainland coast. Starting off in island space and on island time enables also Hopkins to recycle imperial and utopic tropes of the island as paradise, while simultaneously evincing a black circum-Caribbean sensibility of insurgency via the Haitian revolution.

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