While globalization is often conceived of in terms of the transnational movement of capital, culture, people, and ideas, in his novel A Brief History of Seven Killings Marlon James draws attention to a less salubrious form of transnational flow that may also circulate through diasporic networks: that of violence in all of its different social registers, from means of social control to response to the traumas of past violence. This essay argues that while James’s text is concerned with unveiling the roots of Jamaica’s violence in late–Cold War US imperialism and the larger regional historical reproduction of structures of violence over time, as well as its relation to the patriarchal culture organizing Kingston’s gangs and the organization of its impoverished downtown communities, at the center of the novel is an attempt to give narrative form to how violence is a co-contributor to the formation of the Jamaican diaspora and a social force transmitted in mutable form across its geographic expanse. In other words, A Brief History of Seven Killings thematizes the reverberations across transnational Jamaican society of a violence born of neo-imperialism and perpetuated in a particularly masculinist manner, one that simultaneously serves to disperse and bind together the Jamaican diaspora.
Violence, Diasporic Transnationalism, and Neo-imperialism in A Brief History of Seven Killings
Michael K. Walonen is an assistant professor of English at Saint Peter’s University, New Jersey, who specializes in world literature and postcolonial studies. He is the author of Writing Tangier in the Postcolonial Transition: Space and Power in Expatriate and North African Literature (2016), Contemporary World Narrative Fiction and the Spaces of Neoliberalism (2016), and Imagining Neoliberal Globalization in Contemporary World Fiction (2018), as well as articles that have appeared in Interdisciplinary Literary Studies; ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature; LIT: Literature, Interpretation, Theory; Studies in Travel Writing; African Literature and Culture; and Frontiers: The International Journal of Study Abroad.