This essay examines the ubiquitous presence of Venus in the archive of Atlantic slavery and wrestles with the impossibility of discovering anything about her that hasn't already been stated. As an emblematic figure of the enslaved woman in the Atlantic world, Venus makes plain the convergence of terror and pleasure in the libidinal economy of slavery and, as well, the intimacy of history with the scandal and excess of literature. In writing at the limit of the unspeakable and the unknown, the essay mimes the violence of the archive and attempts to redress it by describing as fully as possible the conditions that determine the appearance of Venus and that dictate her silence.
Saidiya Hartman teaches at Columbia University where she is professor of English. She is the author of Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth Century America (1997), and Lose Your Mother: A Journey along the Atlantic Slave Route (2007). She is currently at work on a project on photography and ethics.
Although little studied or understood, the black impostor occupies an important place in the history of the African diaspora. The present essay examines the imposture of Prince Thomas Mackarooroo, aka Prince Ludwig Menelek of Abyssinia, as an avatar of Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia, whose military victory over Italian forces at the Battle of Adwa in 1896 made him the black culture hero par excellence at the height of the imperialist era. The black impostor, it is argued, represents a political actor of a certain type.
Robert A. Hill has been a professor of history at the University of California, Los Angeles, since 1977, before which he taught at Dartmouth College and Northwestern University. He moved to America from Jamaica in 1971 and was a senior fellow at the Institute of the Black World in Atlanta. He is the editor-in-chief of The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers (1983–), ten volumes of which have been published thus far by the University of California Press. He served as executive consultant to the making of the PBS-WGBH documentary film Marcus Garvey: Look for Me in the Whirlwind for theAmerican Experience series in 2001. He is also the editor of numerous historical editions, among them Marcus Garvey’s Black Man, Cyril Briggs’s Crusader, The FBI’s RACON, and George S. Schuyler’s Black Empire and Ethiopian Stories. In addition, he is the literary executor of the C. L. R. James Estate. In October 1992 he was awarded the Gold Musgrave Medal of the Institute of Jamaica for Distinguished Contribution to history.
In addition to providing some conceptual and theoretical cues from fiction, literary and visual criticism, history, and philosophy that treat the subject of memory, this paper provides an outline of a critical method to distinguish among various deployments of black memory. This paper highlights and explores some of the tensions between state and popular memory in the discourses of transnational black politics, as well as in the development and circulation of state sanctioned national history within national societies.
Michael Hanchard is professor of political science at The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore. He is the author of Orpheus and Power (1994) and Party/Politics: Horizons in Black Political Thought (2006), and editor of Racial Politics in Contemporary Brazil (1999).
Patricia Saunders is an assistant professor of English at the University of Miami, Coral Gables, where she co-directs the Caribbean Literary Studies Program and is associate editor of Anthurium: A Caribbean Studies Journal. She is the author of Alien-Nation and Repatriation: Translating Identity in Anglophone Caribbean Literature (2007) and co-editor of Music, Memory, Resistance: Calypso and the Caribbean Literary Imagination (2007). She is currently working on a manuscript entitled “Fusion and Con/Fusion: Gender, Sexuality and Consumerism in Caribbean Popular Culture.”
M. NourbeSe Philip is a poet, essayist, novelist, and playwright living in Toronto. She practiced law for seven years before leaving to write full time. She has published four books of poetry, one novel, and three collections of essays. She was awarded a Pushcart Prize (USA) in 1981, the Casa de las Americas Prize (Cuba) and the Tradewinds Collective Prize in 1988, and was made a Guggenheim Fellow in Poetry (USA) in 1990. In 1994 she was awarded the Lawrence Foundation Prize (USA) for short fiction and in 1995 the Writing and Publishing Award from the Arts Foundation of Toronto. In 1999 her play Coups and Calypsoswas a Dora Award finalist. She recently completed a residency at the Rockefeller Foundation, Bellagio, Italy.
Joscelyn Gardner is a Caribbean visual artist working primarily with printmaking and multi-media installation whose practice focuses on her (white) Creole identity from a postcolonial feminist perspective. Her work has been exhibited widely in solo and group exhibitions in Europe, the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, South and Central Americas, and India, and has represented Barbados at several international exhibitions, including the Sao Paulo Biennials. She currently teaches in the School of Art and Design at Fanshawe College, London, Ontario, and works as an artist between Canada and the Caribbean. Visit www.joscelyngardner.com for more information.
Annalee Davis lives and works in Barbados producing videos, installations, drawings, and paintings. Her work explores notions of home and belonging, and issues of migration and land use, all while exploring the ambivalent nature of post-independence Caribbean states. She recently completed a video project entitled On the Map. This thirty-two-minute documentary looks at current intra-regional migration and gives un/documented Caribbeans an opportunity to speak about their migrant experience. “Identities Withheld by Choice” was born out of the On the Map project. Visit www.creole-chant.blogspot.com for more information.
Blue Curry was born in Nassau, Bahamas; completed studies at Skidmore College, New York, and University of Westminster, London; and is currently studying for an MFA in Art Practice at Goldsmiths, London. Recent exhibitions include “Into Position: Failure Notice,” at Bauernmarkt 9, Vienna; “Bahamian Art: Pre-Columbian to the Present,” at National Art Gallery of The Bahamas, Nassau; “The Next Level Guerilla Show,” at Photographers’ Gallery, London; and “Funky Nassau,” at Nassauischer Kunstverein, Wiesbaden. Blue currently works and lives in London.
All Men Are Mad, by Philippe Thoby-Marcelin and Pierre Marcelin, is set during the antisuperstition campaign in Haiti, which was led by the French Catholic Church during the 1940s. The Marcelin brothers' novel was not only a devastating critique of religious persecution but also a pithy commentary on the structure of the nation-state, meaning all nation-states, not only the polity of Haiti. The text was consequently misread by literary critics whose stereotype of Haitians and belief in nationalism influenced their mean-spirited dismissals of the novel. This paper rereads the Marcelins' prescient novel and addresses its critics in light of critical theory and ethnography.
Marlene L. Daut is currently an Erskine A. Peters-Reid Fellow in the Department of Africana Studies and a doctoral candidate in the Department of English at the University of Notre Dame. In the fall of 2008, she will join the faculty of the Department of English at the University of Miami as assistant professor of English.
Karen Richman is director of the Migration and Border Studies Center at the Institute for Latino Studies and is on the faculty of the Department of Africana Studies at University of Notre Dame. She is the author of Migration and Vodou (2005) and numerous articles and book chapters. Her current book projects are a study of Haitian migration and religious conversion and an ethnographic biography of a Mexican immigrant woman. She has worked as an advocate for refugees and immigrant workers in the United States.
In her contribution, Braziel resists Torres-Saillant's valorization of diaspora as the anti-dote to national paradigms. As an organizing rubric, “Caribbean diaspora” obscures nationality, class, race, gender, sexuality, and political economy as striating diasporas and diasporic communities; it ignores the fact that there is not one Caribbean diaspora but many. Diasporas are fractured landscapes: not only oppressed individuals but also corrupt presidents and even petty but violent Calibans are part of out-migratory waves that constitute diasporic formations abroad, or form the long-arm, transnational tentacles of the nation-state.
Jana Evans Braziel is associate professor of English and affiliate faculty in African American Studies and Women’s Studies at the University of Cincinnati. She is author of three forthcoming books: Diaspora: An Introduction (2008); Artists, Performers, and Black Masculinity in the Haitian Diaspora (2008); and Caribbean Genesis: Jamaica Kincaid and the Writing of New Worlds (2008). She has recently co-edited (with Joseph Young) two collections: Erasing Public Memory: Race, Aesthetics, and Cultural Amnesia in the Americas (2007); and Race and the Foundations of Knowledges: Cultural Amnesia in the Academy (2006).
Silvio Torres-Saillant's passionate defense of Caribbean intellectual traditions is far from being “an intellectual history of the Caribbean.” Nevertheless, this is an indispensable book, both for what it says and for the Antillean passion that drives the author's argument, as well as for its silences, errors, and innumerable paths of deviation and reflection that it opens. The work is a truly Caribbean contraption, combining autobiography, philosophical argumentation, certain features of the political manifesto, and various modalities of criticism with a good deal of historical narrative and discursive inventiveness.
José F. Buscaglia-Salgado is associate professor of Spanish and comparative literature and director of the Program in Caribbean Studies at SUNY Buffalo. He is the author of Undoing Empire: Race and Nation in the Mulatto Caribbean (2003).
Arguing that An Intellectual History of the Caribbean is an important text in the emerging field of Caribbean intellectual history, this essay suggests that missing from this important text is the working through of an intellectual history that grapples with black religious practices as modes of thought. It also argues that if Caribbean thought gets knotted up in the trope of Caliban, it will not decolonize itself and begin to wrestle with what Kamau Brathwaite has called the “inner plantation.”
Anthony Bogues is Harmon Family Professor and current chair of the Africana Studies Department at Brown University. He is the author of Caliban’s Freedom: The Early Political Thought of C. L. R. James (1997); Black Heretics, Black Prophets: Radical Political Intellectuals (2003); Empire of Liberty: Power, Freedom and Desire (2008); and Caribbean Thought: History, Politics and Intellectuals (2008); and the editor of After Man, Toward the Human: Critical Essays on Sylvia Wynter(2006).
In this response to his critics, the author values the areas of missed opportunity observed by Braziel, Buscaglia-Salgado, and Bogues, while also endeavoring to “defend” his book from those objections that he ascribes more to the exigencies of the critic's particular reading practice than to the text's demonstrable failings. He uses the occasion to meditate on the psychopathology that informs the writing of a scholarly critique of a peer's work and the tension that such a task may entail.
Silvio Torres-Saillant is a professor in the Department of English and director of the Latino-Latin American Studies Program at Syracuse University. He is one of the senior editors of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Latinos and Latinas in the United States and an associate editor for Latino Studies. He is the author of An Intellectual History of the Caribbean (2006), El Retorno de las Yolas (1999), The Dominican Americas (1998), and Caribbean Poetics (1997). He also directs the New World Studies Series at the University Press of Virginia.