SHIBBOLETHS:
A JOURNAL OF COMPARATIVE THEORY
AND CRITICISM

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ISSN 1993-0844
 

 

 

(RE)THINKING CARIBBEAN CULTURE I

1.1 (DECEMBER 2006)


ESSAYS
 

Richard L. W. Clarke

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Introduction.  i-iii.

 

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O. Nigel Bolland

Charles A. Dana Professor of Sociology and Caribbean Studies (Emeritus), Colgate University.




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"Reconsidering Creolisation and Creole Societies."  1-14.

In this paper, I compare the dualistic and dialectical versions of creolization that are derived from European philosophical traditions and suggest some comparisons with more ‘organic’ African perspectives.  Then I critique the implications of the concept of creolization when it is used in connection with people and cultures other than those of African and European origin.  The analytic use of creolization and creole society has been indispensable in the study of cultural change in the African diaspora.  However, the ideological use of the concepts, when they are tied exclusively to Afro-creole cultures and societies, obscures the interconnections and cultural symbiosis that exist between 'overlapping diasporas.'

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E. P. Brandon

Programme Coordinator, Office of the Board for Non-Campus Countries and Distance Education (BNCCDE), University of the West Indies.

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"Creolisation, Syncreticism and Multiculturalism."  15-19.

Multiculturalism is promoted as a desirable educational and social perspective.  It demands acknowledgement of a plurality of cultures and insists on mutual respect and toleration. The idea of culture involved here can easily be misrepresented.  A collective culture is taken as a given; a "package deal"; as tied up with innate characteristics; or as something people ought to maintain.  In the Caribbean we should rethink these assumptions by proposing creolisation as a positive.  The paper looks at two routes to such a positive endorsement: creolisation as revealed in linguistics and Arnold's accounts of Western culture and the English race.

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Lewis R. Gordon

Laura H. Carnell Professor of Philosophy, Religion, and Judaic Studies; Director of the Institute for the Study of Race and Social Thought; and Director of the Center for Afro-Jewish Studies, Temple University; Visiting Professor of Government and Philosophy, University of the West Indies, Mona.


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"Theorising Race and Racism in an Age of Disciplinary Decadence."  20-36.

The author argues that First World cultural studies uses, in an at times derisive manner, canonical figures from Caribbean thought.  A danger in Caribbean cultural studies is to seek legitimacy through the mediation of such readings of the Caribbean instead of going directly to the primary sources of ideas indigenous to the region.  The author then examines how race, as an important consideration, faces challenges of what he calls 'disciplinary decadence,' which involves conducting research under the presumption of an absolutely closed disciplinary perspective.  The paper concludes with a set of recommendations that scholars in Caribbean cultural studies may wish to consider.

 

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Richard L. W. Clarke

Lecturer in Literary Theory, Department of Language, Linguistics and Literature, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill.
 

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"From Dialectic to Différance: Rethinking Creolisation in the Later Work of Stuart Hall."  37-55.

I argue here that Stuart Hall’s attempt to conceptualise Caribbean cultural identity in terms inspired less by the neo-Hegelian dialectical problematic which currently predominates in Caribbean theory than by Saussurean and post-Saussurean notions of ‘difference’ marks an important recent epistemic shift in the study of Caribbean culture.  I explore the importance of this departure principally by explicating those strands of Hall's thinking which might be defined as Post-Structuralist and by making my own interventions at various points in his argument in an effort to take up the challenge posed by Hall to rethink those theoretical orthodoxies which have seemingly cemented themselves here in the Caribbean.

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Edward Baugh

Professor Emeritus of English, University of the West Indies, Mona.








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"Literary Theory and the Caribbean: Theory, Belief and Desire, or Designing Theory."  56-63.

All theories are designs.  They make patterns of things, even of chaos.  They are also designs in that they have designs on us.  The design is a projection of the theorist’s belief, and belief is a function of desire.  If we consider how some of the leading Caribbean writers have preferred to imagine the Caribbean in their theoretical statements, we find a significant degree of congruence, of overlapping agenda, repetition with variation, in what it has seemed to them best to believe, enough that we may delineate the emergence of a native tradition of theory.  A primary informing principle of the theoretical adventure has been the articulating of paradigms to describe Caribbeanness, and metaphor has been the characteristic mode of the process.  The metaphors and paradigms characteristically seek to define Caribbeanness by contrast with imputed Eurocentric biases.  The binaries correspond more or less to Benitez-Rojo’s “white rhythms” and “copper, black, and yellow rhythms.”  The figures and movements, the figures of movement that these writers propose are ultimately an imaginative way of dealing with the problematics of history.  Ultimately, the design and desire of some influential Caribbean theory works toward positing the Caribbean as a model for world imagination.

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J. Michael Dash

Professor of French; Director of the Program in Africana Studies, New York University.

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"Farming Bones and Writing Rocks: Rethinking a Caribbean Poetics of (Dis)Location."  64-71.

In the face of postcolonial theory's promotion of placeless hybridity, place in the Caribbean imagination is treated in terms of the idea of either a grounded identity typical of Cesairean poetics or Edouard Glissant's concept of interactive littoral space.  Open space in a network of global relations is crucial to understanding recent Haitian writing which places identity in the context of contested hemispheric borderlands.

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