about us

“If you are a big tree, we are a small axe.” So goes a Jamaican proverb, famously popularized by Bob Marley. It is a proverb with wide Caribbean resonance: a “small axe” is a subaltern agency of criticism. The inspiring ethos that informs this idea is that relatively marginal voices of creativity and dissent can have disproportionate critical effects at least insofar as they remain responsive and attuned to the changing contexts of our Caribbean life in the global world. We aim to embody this ethos. Thus, the aim of the Small Axe Project is to participate both in the renewal of practices of intellectual and cultural criticism in the Caribbean and in the expansion and revision of the scope and horizons of such criticism.

We acknowledge of course a tradition of criticism in and about the regional and diasporic Caribbean. We want to honor that tradition but also to argue with it, because in our view it is in and through such argument that a tradition renews itself, that it carries on its quarrel with the overlapping generations of itself: at once retaining and revising the boundaries of its identity, sustaining and altering the shape of its self-image, defending and resisting its conceptions of history and community.

It seems to us that many of the conceptions that guided the formation of our Caribbean modernities—conceptions of class, gender, nation, culture, race, for example, as well as conceptions of sovereignty, development, and democracy—stand in need of substantial rethinking. The concrete expression of this ethos of generative rethinking to which we are committed is embodied in the three platforms that now comprise the Small Axe Project: Small Axe, sx salon and sx visualities. Each is distinct in the objects they focus on or the media they deploy; but they are all effectively the overlapping idioms of one interconnected and reflexive project whose overall collective objective is to participate in stimulating, expanding, and deepening the critical conversation about the mentalities and sensibilities and practices that constitute our Caribbean intellectual and cultural traditions.

The Small Axe Project is an integrated publication undertaking devoted to Caribbean intellectual and artistic work. Its organization is realized at a number of interlocking levels. At the most general level it is administered by Small Axe Incorporated, a not-for-profit [501(c)3] organization established in New York State in 2002. Small Axe Inc. exercises overall fiscal and governance control of the Small Axe Project as a whole. It also serves as the point of contact with foundations. Over the past several years the Small Axe Project has received generous funding from The Ford Foundation, The Reed Foundation, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, The Wolf Kahn and Emily Mason Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.