This essay urges that in considering the question of Caribbean studies we think not only about the substantive content of our work but also about the senses in which this work makes assumptions about the idea and project of Caribbean studies as a conceptual-ideological field. The essay briefly refers to two generative moments in the history of Caribbean studies: one in the 1950s framed around M. G. Smith's A Framework for Caribbean Studies and another in the 1970s framed around Kamau Brathwaite's “Caribbean Man in Space and Time.” The point in considering these moments in the figuring and refiguring of Caribbean studies is to encourage a certain kind of history of ideas, namely, one that thinks through the kinds of ideological-conceptual problem-spaces that shape and orient their respective formulations.
David Scott teaches at Columbia University, where he is professor of anthropology. His new book, Omens of Adversity: Tragedy, Time, Memory, Justice, will be published by Duke University Press in 2013
This essay explores the visual arts for models of an archipelagic way of thinking that is endemic to the Caribbean and yet obscured by nationalist frameworks. Unpacking the ways Caribbean studies is imbricated within and articulated through a number of discourses—area studies, the trope of the isle, visuality, and creolization—and investigating the ways these four approaches to the Caribbean are articulated to each other clarifies some of the issues at stake in defining Caribbean studies as a contemporary epistemological field. In contrast, the essay poses alternatives: maritime studies rather than area studies, given the former's focus on the geography rather than culture; the notion of a repeating, fractal island form rather than the isolated desert isle of colonial discourse; relationality rather than difference in defining Caribbean identities; and the visual traces of these alternative modes of expression and knowing in the work of contemporary artists.
Michelle Stephens is associate professor of English and of Latino and Hispanic Caribbean studies at Rutgers University. She is the author of a number of essays on archipelagic American studies and visual art, and of the book Black Empire: The Masculine Global Imaginary of Caribbean Intellectualsin the United States, 1914 to 1962 (2005). Currently she is working on a book titled "Skin Acts: Race, Psychoanalysis and the Black Male Performer."
This essay discusses the process of field formation within Caribbean studies in relation to the building of archives, challenging Eurocentric conceptualizations of history and history making as well as counterdominant tropes about the region and the people who have inhabited it. It explores the purposes served by such archival projects and in so doing interrogates how and why certain social phenomena are more easily captured within the vindicationist ethos surrounding archive building. While many of the early archives that were created were easily and explicitly mobilized toward the projects of political and cultural nationalism, one archive in particular—the emergent archive of violence—cannot be effortlessly rallied toward these ends. Instead, archives of violence bring into relief the limits of the anticolonial and immediately postcolonial focus on the nation-state as the primary locus of vindication. They also encourage us to return our vision more pointedly to the transnational geopolitical spheres that both constituted the frame of reference for earlier internationalists and Pan-Africanists and infuse the social and political worlds of contemporary Caribbean people. Using reparations as a framework for thinking can move us in that direction.
Deborah A. Thomas is professor of anthropology and Africana studies at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of Modern Blackness: Nationalism, Globalization, and the Politics of Culture in Jamaica (2004) and Exceptional Violence: Embodied Citizenship in Transnational Jamaica (2011), and is coeditor, with Kamari Maxine Clarke, of Globalization and Race: Transformations in the Cultural Production of Blackness (2006). She is also the director and producer of the documentary film Bad Friday: Rastafari after Coral Gardens (2011).
This article critically appraises the wealth of cultural criticism and epistemological developments in the study of Caribbean societies now increasingly grouped under an emerging discipline termed Caribbean cultural studies. It advances the claim that the critical study of Caribbean culture is in many ways inseparable from a study of its intellectual traditions in their social, political, and aesthetic dimensions. While this may seem unremarkable, it bears emphasizing that the study of culture and the creation of a Caribbean cultural studies emerged in a manner quite distinct from the formation of cultural studies in Europe and North America. To this end, the author sketches a number of overlapping traditions of writing on culture in the Caribbean that take us from the late nineteenth century and considers the work of two Caribbean theorists, C. L. R. James and Sylvia Wynter, for their own sustained meditations on the question of culture in the Caribbean.
Aaron Kamugisha is lecturer in cultural studies at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill. His current work is a study of coloniality, cultural citizenship, and freedom in the contemporary anglophone Caribbean as mediated through the social and political thought of C. L. R. James and Sylvia Wynter. He is the editor of forthcoming readers in the two series Caribbean Political Thought and Caribbean Cultural Thought, to be published by Ian Randle Publishers.
Reflecting on the methodology for the author's forthcoming book, The Grenada Revolution in the Caribbean Present: Operation Urgent Memory, this essay argues for the importance of fieldwork in Caribbean literary and cultural studies and contributes to the development of a shared public discourse about fieldwork by articulating and refining the untheorized practices of fieldwork in the humanities. It situates literary fieldwork in relation to practices of literature, area studies, anthropology, and trauma studies.
Shalini Puri is associate professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh, where she works on postcolonial theory and cultural studies of the global South with an emphasis on the Caribbean. She is the author of The Caribbean Postcolonial: Social Equality, Post-nationalism, and Cultural Hybridity (2004), which won the 2005 Gordon and Sybil Lewis award for best book in Caribbean studies, and is editor of Marginal Migrations: The Circulation of Cultures within the Caribbean (2003) and The Legacies of Caribbean Radical Politics (2011). Her forthcoming book The Grenada Revolution in the Caribbean Present: Operation Urgent Memory studies the conflicting cultural memories of the Grenada Revolution as they surface in the arts, everyday life, landscape, and the diaspora. She is also working on a second, collaborative book, titled "Theorizing Fieldwork in the Humanities."
This essay advances the definition of Caribbean studies as a practice. Rather than understanding this field of study as a preconceived category open for arbitrary self-appointment, a Caribbeanist practice should be something “which in fact happens (and can be shown to have happened)”—to refer to E. P. Thompson's dictum. It “happens” through the multidisciplinary and border-crossing research of the Caribbean establishing intra- and extraregional connections that enable the better understanding of Caribbean processes. The article begins by reviewing the ideas on the field advanced by several pioneering scholars. It then provides two concrete examples of the author's own research practice: one of a violent incident in the Cuban Republican era and another of intra-Caribbean migration processes in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As a conclusion, the author reconsiders the relation of Caribbean studies with other geographical frameworks of analysis and fields of study.
Jorge L. Giovannetti is associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Puerto Rico. His most recent articles appeared in journals such as Cuban Studies, International Labor and Working-Class History, and Caribbean Studies, and in the edited books Contemporary Caribbean Cultures and Societies in a Global Context (2005) and Cangoma Calling: Spirits and Rhythms of Freedom in Brazilian Jongo Slavery Songs (2013).
This essay explores the narrative of “aboriginal absence,” arguably the foundational colonial myth of Caribbean history. Since the early colonial period, the space of the “native” in the Caribbean context has been treated as a space left vacant for others to fill. Beginning in the 1960s, this narrative of aboriginal absence was widely incorporated across a range of genres into texts that constitute the anglophone Caribbean's decolonizing intellectual tradition. The essay critically engages with the claim—made most poignantly by Sylvia Wynter and Kamau Brathwaite—that diasporic peoples have indigenized in the Caribbean and replaced the region's first aboriginal peoples. In particular, Guyana's debates over the Amerindian Act illustrate the profoundly colonial implications of adopting “indigenization” as actual state practice.
Melanie J. Newton is associate professor of history and director of the Caribbean Studies Program at the University of Toronto. She is author of The Children of Africa in the Colonies: Free People of Color in Barbados in the Age of Emancipation (2008). She is editor of a forthcoming Small Axe issue focusing on Caribbean historiography and is researching a study of indigeneity in Caribbean history.
“See you there. In the free.” This is the closing statement in Erna Brodber's fourth novel, The Rainmaker's Mistake (2007). In the novel, Brodber creatively imagines a past for the New World present, taking advantage of the space literary speculation and science fiction offer to create a counterhistory of the present. Reading the novel through the lens of Afrofuturism and via Kamau Brathwaite's conception of a Caribbean cosmology and Sylvia Wynter's theories of aethetics, this essay examines the novel's representation of “the free”: a rapidly changing present existing simultaneously with an imaginary past and slippery future, all unmediated by physical geography.
Kelly Baker Josephs is associate professor of English at York College, CUNY, specializing in world anglophone literature with an emphasis on Caribbean literature. Her forthcoming book, Disturbers of the Peace: Representations of Insanity in Anglophone Caribbean Literature (2013), considers the ubiquity of madmen and madwomen in Caribbean literature between 1959 and 1980. She is managing editor of sx salon: a small axe literary platform and manages the site The Caribbean Commons.
Recent political agitations across countries, including those in Southern Europe, the Middle East, South America, and North and Middle Africa, are further problematized by the perceived failure of “state multiculturalism” in Europe. European citizens of different cultures—such as the racialized “black” diasporic figure of African, Middle Eastern, Asian, South American, and Caribbean descent, now a significant urban population in Europe—are feeling the brunt of such regressive thinking. The contemporary backdrop for this essay emphasizes such contexts for future Caribbean studies and particularly for conceiving of Caribbean visual culture. It considers ways the exploration of Caribbean art practices and research of Caribbean visual culture might require reconsideration as global and interconnected structures requiring a transnational and intercultural approach. Insight of contemporary Caribbean visual culture is inextricably linked to circulation of knowledge and production of global culture and visual representation.
Roshini Kempadoo is a London-based photographer, media artist, and lecturer. Her recent work includes contributions to the exhibition Wrestling with the Image: Caribbean Interventions(2011) and to the edited publications Black Venus 2010: They Called Her "Hottentot" (2010) and Renewing Feminisms: Radical Narratives, Fantasies, and Futures in Media Studies (2013).
Drawing on the way international financial institutions, development organizations, and the state have “discovered” the investment possibilities of diasporic populations, this essay suggests new directions for a reinvigorated approach to Caribbean studies, one that is well placed to historicize the ways the diaspora is approached, and one that can also engage reflexively with how contributions in the field have created the conditions of possibility for the current official romance with diaspora.
Beverley Mullings is associate professor of geography and gender studies at Queen's University, Canada. Her research is located within the field of feminist political economy and engages broad questions of social transformation, neoliberalism, and the politics of gender, race, and class in the Caribbean and its diaspora. She has published articles on neoliberal governmentality, social reproduction, diasporic transnationalism, and urban governance.
D. Alissa Trotz is associate professor in women and gender studies and Caribbean studies at the University of Toronto. She is a member of Red Thread in Guyana and edits a weekly newspaper column, "In the Diaspora," in Guyana's Stabroek News.
Caribbean studies, institutionalized from inception as part of the “third world,” might be beneficially reconceptualized minus the postwar geopolitical presumptions of three worlds and, remapped, instead, within the two-world schema. To resituate the Caribbean this way enables recognition of the region as an inaugural space in the invention of a modern consciousness—not as a problematic tertiary portion of the globe where modernity is a belated burden. In advancing this case for a hemispheric recasting of the Caribbeanist field, it helps to reread a little-known essay that took the New World approach to the region. Titled “Paths to National Self-Discovery: USA and Puerto Rico,” it first appeared in 1956 and was written by Daniel J. Boorstin, a historian of the United States. Unlike conventional scholarship on the Caribbean, including the definitive work, The People of Puerto Rico: A Study in Social Anthropology, Boorstin's essay framed Puerto Rico within the familiar “New World” rather than the exotic “third world” in relation to First World North America.
Harvey Neptune teaches in the history department at Temple University. He is the author of a number of articles and the book Caliban and The Yankees: Trinidad and the United States Occupation (2007),and is currently working on a project that reinterprets mid-twentieth-century US historiography from a New World perspective.
Architecture is a form of cultural production that evolves as a response to fundamental human needs and desires and to the economic, social, and political circumstances that triangulate broader culture. If in mapping our understanding of the location and nature of Caribbean architecture our purpose is critical clarity, we may wish to consider it not purely through the tired perspective history or style habitually used but as a dynamic component of Caribbean culture, an operation mediated and influenced by the individual, the local, and the global.
Mark Raymond is an architect based in Port of Spain. After completing his studies at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, he worked on projects in the United Kingdom, France, and Germany, before returning to Trinidad to establish his own practice. He has been responsible for a wide range of architectural projects in Trinidad and throughout the Caribbean, on his own account and in collaboration with others.
Danielle Boodoo-Fortuné is a poet and artist from Trinidad. Her writing has been featured in publications such as Bim, Anthurium, sx salon, Tongues of the Ocean, and Room Magazine. She was awarded the Charlotte and Isidor Paeiwonsky Prize for First Time Publication by the Caribbean Writer in 2009 and nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2010. She is currently the poetry editor of Anansesem: The Caribbean Children's Ezine.
Lynn Sweeting is a Bahamian writer who was a prizewinning journalist before turning to poetry. Her poems have appeared in the Caribbean Writer, Tongues of the Ocean, Poui, Sisters of Caliban, Yinna, the Journal of the Bahamas Association for Cultural Studies, the Journal of the 2010 Carifesta Festival, and WomanSpeak. In 1997 she was a contributor to the Caribbean Writer's special anthology of Bahamian writing that was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She was awarded the 1998 Isidor Paiewonsky Poetry Prize from The Caribbean Writer and short-listed for the 2010 Small Axe Literary Prize.
Sharon Millar is a Trinidadian writer who lives in Port of Spain. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Lesley University, Cambridge. Her work was shortlisted for the 2012 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. She was also a 2012 AWP Intro-Journal Award Fiction nominee.
Alexia Arthurs is a transplanted Jamaican who lived in New York for twelve years and now lives in Iowa City, where she is working toward an MFA in creative writing at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She is also working on a collection of short stories.
Instead of dismissing skin bleaching, this photographic project's intention is to understand both the practice and the means by which a person would attempt to ascertain some kind of beauty where many saw none. Some proclaimed it was merely a fad; others felt it elevated their confidence. This concept may have been born from a flawed perception of beauty, through global advertising. They are entitled to their portrayal.
Marlon James is a Jamaican photographer currently based in Trinidad. He attended the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, and, in 2010, he participated in the group exhibition Young Talent V at the National Gallery of Jamaica. He has since exhibited in Trinidad, Washington DC, London, and Canada, and his work has been published in the surveys Jamaican Art: Then and Now, edited by Petrine Archer-Straw and Kim Robinson (2011), and Pictures from Paradise, edited by Melanie Archer, Mariel Brown, and O'Neil Lawrence (2013).
Born in British Guiana (now Guyana) in 1936, a resident of London in the 1950s, and dividing his time between London and New York since the late 1960s, Frank Bowling is one of the foremost artists of his generation. As a pioneer of abstraction during the 1960s, his work as both a painter and critic for the New York–based Arts Magazine is of singular importance to the historiography of the visual culture of the “black Atlantic.” In particular, the six articles he wrote for the magazine between 1969 and 1971, in which he meditated on the notion of “black art,” reveal the ambivalent complexities that inform his aesthetic practices as both theorist and painter, or what Kobena Mercer has aptly referred to as Bowling's “discrepant abstraction.” The nature of the “discrepancies” in Bowling's work is the focus of this essay.
Dorothy C. Rowe is an art historian based at the University of Bristol, where she leads the Transnational Modernisms Research Cluster. She is the author of a number of books and articles in the fields of German modernism and contemporary diasporic art in Britain, including Representing Berlin: Sexuality and the City in Imperial and Weimar Germany (2003) and the forthcoming After Dada: Marta Hegemann and the Cologne Avant-Garde (2013). She is coeditor, with Abigail Harrison-Moore, of Architecture and Design in Europe and America 1750-2000 (2006), and, with Marsha Meskimmon, of Women, the Arts and Globalization (2013).