This article asks why negative stereotypes of obeah have proved so persistent, seeking the answer in a detailed examination of changing colonial constructions of obeah. It compares the history of anti-obeah laws with that of the Shakerism Prohibition Ordinance in St. Vincent and the Shouters Prohibition Ordinance in Trinidad and Tobago. Adherents of these latter religions mobilised arguments in favour of religious freedom to campaign for the repeal of the Ordinances, while similar arguments proved harder to make for obeah. `Obeah Acts' argues that this is because the colonial production of the crime of obeah discursively isolated those aspects of Caribbean spiritual practice that match terms defined as antonyms of or precursors to religion—“magic,” “superstition,” “witchcraft,” separating these aspects from others that conform more easily to an idea of “religion.” This colonial construction of obeah played an important role in positioning the Caribbean and its population as “backward” and “primitive,” and thus in countering Caribbean people's claims for political rights.
Diana Paton is Reader in Caribbean History at Newcastle University. She is author of No Bond but the Law: Punishment, Race, and Gender in Jamaican State Formation, 1780–1870 (2004), and coeditor, with Pamela Scully, ofGender and Slave Emancipation in the Atlantic World (2005). Her current work concerns the social and political history of obeah.
Tina Campt is associate professor of women’s studies and history at Duke University. Her publications include Other Germans: Black Germans and the Politics of Race, Gender, and Memory in the Third Reich (2004); and Der Black Atlantik (2004), coedited with Paul Gilroy. Her current project, “Image Matters: Archive, Photography, and the African Diaspora in Europe,” engages family photography as a crucial site of cultural formation and articulation for two black European communities, black Britons and black Germans.
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.
Excerpts from Carby's autobiography-in-progress, “Child of Empire: Racializing Subjects in Post World War II Britain.”
Hazel V. Carby is Charles C. and Dorathea S. Dilley Professor of African American Studies, professor of American studies, and director of the Initiative on Race, Gender, and Globalization at Yale University (see http://research.yale.edu.ezproxy.cul.columbia.edu/irgg/index.html). Her publications include Reconstructing Womanhood (1987), Race Men (1998), and Cultures in Babylon (1999). She is currently completing a book titled “Child of Empire: Racializing Subjects in Post World War II Britain.”
The Atlantic Ocean as physical and psyche space forms the basis of this work. During the last 600 years, stretches from the eastern shores in the Caribbean and the America's and the western shores and England and Europe, have been the sites of important arrivals and departures. Using the juxtapositions of various voices this work examines how the legacy of black families in the Caribbean connects with the stories of European maritime `hero's, such as Frances Drake, Christopher Columbus, Walter Raleigh and James Cook. Images of state sanctioned and educational authorities are placed alongside those preserved in family albums and the throwaway colloquialisms of letters, intimate voices that are often overlooked. Hand tinted silver prints and Xeroxes, & text.11x 24x20inch.
Ingrid Pollard is an artist trained in photography, film and video, and mixed media. She has been concerned with social and geographical sites, the people who occupy them, and the stories that are made from their histories, occupations, and cultural identifications. She has exhibited widely in the United Kingdom, Europe, and the United States. Pollard is a research associate at the Centre for Urban and Community Research, Goldsmiths, University of London, and Artist in Residence at Chenderit Visual Arts Collage, Banbury. Her publications include Postcards Home (2004) and Hidden in a Public Place (2008).
The question is still open: what is the purpose of Guantanamo Bay? Why torture people whom the government and the interrogators know are innocent? What kind of U.S. empire now extends its filaments throughout the global gulag of interrogation prisons, torture-ships and internment camps? The U.S. state, I argue, has entered the domain of paranoia, for it is only in paranoia that one finds simultaneously both deliriums of omnipotence and forebodings of perpetual threat. I trace the flashpoints of paranoid violence into the labyrinths of torture to explore three crises: the crisis of violence and the visible; the crisis of imperial legitimacy; and what I call `the enemy deficit. What is the relation between photography and forgetting? What accounts for the persistent presence of photography in the scene of torture? I critique the `pornography-made-them do-it” narrative and explore the torture photographs not for what they reveal, but for what they conceal and what they allow us to forget about the now established but concealed circuits of global imperial violence.
Anne McClintock is the Simone de Beauvoir Professor of English and Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She has been the recipient of many awards, including two MacArthur-SSRC Fellowships. She is the author of Imperial Leather: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest (1995) and a number of forthcoming volumes, including a creative nonfiction book, Skin Hunger: A Chronicle of Sex, Desire, and Money; an anthology, The Sex Work Reader; and Screwing the System: Essays on Sexuality and Power. She is working on a new book titled “Paranoid Empire: Specters from Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib.”
The attempt to narrate and represent a coherent black masculinity in its singularity is in part what I want to respond to in this essay. But even more, I want to suggest that thinking about a range and variety of black manhoods and masculinities might provide analysts with a set of interesting refigurings of black manhood outside of its current and historical spectacularizations that offer a lens for seeing black manhood differently, and thus thinking about black manhood differently. I am interested in highlighting modes of self-fashioning that allow for a reconstruction of black manhood from the place of incoherence and femininity which might be best exemplified, or at the least typified, in recent representations of and by black trans-cultures, but not exclusive to them.
Rinaldo Walcott is an associate professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and the Institute for Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Toronto. His teaching and research are in the areas of black cultural studies, queer theory, gender studies, and multicutural debates. He is currently working on a book titled “Black Diaspora Faggotry: Frames, Readings, Limits,” which examines the circulation of black queer expressive cultures across national borders.
The Stranger's Work reads Hazel Carby's Reconstructing Womanhood into a critical tradition that considers the awkwardness and “outsider” status of Western intellectuals, particularly those who take up the subjects of diaspora and colonization. With special emphasis on C.L.R. James' Mariners, Renegades, and Castaways, Albert Camus' The Stranger, and James Baldwin's “Stranger in the Village” Reid-Pharr argues that Carby's particular genius is her sensitivity to the ways that the works of colonial and diasporic intellectuals must by necessity grapple with their own outsider status. In particular, he suggests that these intellectuals have little choice but to operate within routes established by the very forms of oppression that they attempt to disrupt.
Robert F. Reid-Pharr is professor of English and American studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He is the author of Conjugal Union: Gender, Sexuality, and the Development of a Black American National Literature (1999); Black, Gay, Man: Essays (2001); and Once You Go Black: Choice, Desire, and the Black American Intellectual (2007).
In Reconstructing Womanhood, Hazel Carby showed us that reading lost histories required the deconstruction of liberal institutions and ideologies that had worked to render them illegible. My contribution takes up this dimension of Carby's work as I discuss the place of the autobiographical genre in reckoning with histories of slavery and empire, beginning with The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, Written by Himself (1789), and concluding with Carby's own autobiography-in-progress, “Child of Empire: Racializing Subjects in Post World War II Britain.”
Lisa Lowe is professor of comparative literature at the University of California, San Diego, and an affiliated member of the ethnic studies department and the program in critical gender studies. She is the author of Critical Terrains: French and British Orientalisms (1991), Immigrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics (1996), and the forthcoming Metaphors of Globalization, and she is coeditor of The Politics of Culture in the Shadow of Capital (1997). Her current project, “The Intimacies of Four Continents,” examines the convergence of colonial slavery and indentured labor in the Americas as the conditions for modern liberal notions of freedom.
Political monuments in Europe played an important role in the construction of national traditions and as spectacles of governmental power in the nineteenth century. But while the genre of the heroic statue had waned in Europe and America by the 1960s, it was an important convention utilized by the newly independent country of Jamaica to authorize a new concept of the self that had been marginalized under colonial rule. As a new and different model of achievement, the local and mostly black “ancestral” heroic figures and their attending monuments served to instill a sense of pride and confidence in the populace, which in turn gave legitimacy to the new leadership base of the present. Visual displays are part of the social practices of memory that create and reinforce political communities. This article therefore addresses the aesthetic terms by which a “bold” national history, to quote Edna Manley's description of Bogle, is established, fashioned, or brought to material life. How do images participate in the constitution of identity through history, and what are the ambivalences or tensions such displays reveal about the political culture of the new nation?
Petrina Dacres is a curator and the head of the art history department at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performance Arts, Kingston. She was educated at Emory University and Cornell University. In addition to her ongoing research on monuments and memory in the Caribbean, she is currently working on a short film on the practices of portraiture and masculinity in contemporary Jamaica.
West Indian identity was created in the context of Diasporic migration and the West Indian front room as the `special' room designated in the domestic interiors of migrants was reserved for guests with restricted access to children. In response to the trauma of displacement, these migrants brought with them a sense of dignity, `good grooming', aspiration and desires for social respectability as remnants of a `colonial time' as suggested by Richard Wilk. The front rooms they created when they eventually acquired homes was based on the Victorian parlour of the Caribbean colonial elite in terms of social function and prescribed behaviour. The West Indian Front Room exhibition curated by Michael McMillan (Geffrye Museum 2005-06) attempts to critique the heritage orientated representation of West Indian migration, which to use Krista A Thompson's and Leon Wright's perspective is a `framed ideal' of the `tropical picturesque'.
Michael McMillan is a writer, playwright, and curator/artist of Vincentian parentage. His recent plays include Blood for Britain (BBC Radio 4 Drama, 2001), Babel Junction (Maya Productions, 2006), and Master Juba (Theatre Is and GLYPT, 2006). His books include The Black Boy Pub and Other Stories (1997) and Same Difference (2006). His exhibition “The West Indian Front Room” (Geffrye Museum, 2005–6) had over thirty-five thousand visitors and inspired the BBC4 documentary Tales from the Front Room (see http://www.thefrontroom.org ). His recent exhibition is “The Beauty Shop” (198 Contemporary Arts and Learning, January–March 2008). McMillan is a visiting professor of creative writing at the London College of Communication, University of the Arts, London.
David Boxer is an artist and director emeritus and chief curator of Jamaica’s National Gallery. Through exhibitions, publications, and his own artistic practice, he has played a central role in the history of Jamaican art. He has published on various aspects of Jamaican art, but most notably on Edna Manley, the Intuitives and, recently, Jamaican photography. Publications include the monograph Edna Manley: Sculptor (1990) and the survey Modern Jamaican Art (1998), which he coauthored with Veerle Poupeye. He has curated most of the National Gallery of Jamaica’s exhibitions since 1975, including the groundbreaking “Five Centuries of Art in Jamaica” (1975), the first historical survey of Jamaican art, and “The Intuitive Eye” (1979), from which the term intuitive was derived. As an artist, Boxer has exhibited widely in Jamaica and in major international exhibitions such as the 1996 Sao Paulo Biennial and the Havana Biennials of 1986 and 1997. Painting, collage, and installation art have been central to Boxer’s creative life. In the late 1980s he began his Memories of Colonization collage cycles. The latest development is the movement from declamatory triptychs (there were six triptychs created between 1995 and 1997, four of which were destroyed) to dialogues, which are featured in the present issue of Small Axe.
Terry Boddie is a mixed-media artist, photographer, and educator. He received his BFA from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in 1989 and an MFA from Hunter College in 1997. His work has been exhibited at the Smithsonian, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Bronx Museum of the Arts, and most recently at the Brooklyn Museum in the show “Infinite Island: Contemporary Caribbean Art.” He has been the recipient of the Studio Museum in Harlem Artist in Residence, Center for Photography at Woodstock Fellowship, the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, and Marie Sharpe Walsh Artist in Residence. Boddie is on the Artist Advisory Committee of the New York Foundation of the Arts and the Artist Advisory Board of En Foco. He teaches at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and lives and works in West Orange, New Jersey.
Roshini Kempadoo is a London-based digital artist, critic, and Reader in Media Practice at the School of Social Sciences, Media, and Cultural Studies at the University of East London. Her recent exhibitions include the retrospective exhibition “Roshini Kempadoo Work: 1990–2004,” Pitzhanger Manor and Gallery, London (2004); and “Art and Emancipation in Jamaica: Isaac Mendes Belisario and His Worlds,” Yale Center for British Art, New Haven (2007). Her recent publications include “Amendments: A Fictional Re-imagining of the Trinidad Archive” (2008), and “Back Routes: Historical Articulation in Multimedia Production” (2007). Kempadoo is a founding member of culture rights, the international network of cultural producers and critics committed to equitable exchange and support across racialized and cultural boundaries (see http://www.culturerights.co.uk).
A discussion of Left of Karl Marx: The Political Life of Black Communist Claudia Jones.
Kevin Gaines is director of the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies and professor of history at the University of Michigan. He is author of American Africans in Ghana: Black Expatriates in the Civil Rights Era (2006) and Uplifting the Race: Black Leadership, Politics, and Culture during the Twentieth Century (1996). He is writing a book on the memory of African diaspora freedom struggles in the post–civil rights, postcolonial era.
A discussion of Left of Karl Marx: The Political Life of Black Communist Claudia Jones.
Patricia J. 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 coeditor of Music, Memory, Resistance: Calypso and the Caribbean Literary Imagination (2007). She is currently working on a manuscript titled “Buyers Beware: Hoodwinking On the Rise; Epistemologies of Consumption in Jamaican Popular Culture.”
The authors response to Kevin Gaines' and Patricia Saunders' discussion of Left of Karl Marx: The Political Life of Black Communist Claudia Jones.
Carole Boyce Davies is professor of Africana studies at Cornell University with appointments in English and comparative literature. She is the author of Black Women, Writing, and Identity: Migrations of the Subject (1994) andLeft of Karl Marx: The Political Life of Black Communist Claudia Jones (2008); coeditor, with Elaine Savory Fido, of Out of the Kumbla: Caribbean Women and Literature (1990); and general editor of The Encyclopedia of the African Diaspora (2008).