Front Cover
 Half Title
 Table of Contents
 Memorial del olvido
 Pedro Juan Soto: Concomitances
 The barbarians at the gate: Caribbean...
 Novela latinoamericana, novela...
 Rethinking colonial and post-colonial...
 Black, yellow, white on St. Vincent:...
 La parada puertorriqueña de Nueva...
 List of contributors
 Back Cover

Group Title: Sargasso (Río Piedras, San Juan, P.R.)
Title: Sargasso
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00096005/00010
 Material Information
Title: Sargasso
Uniform Title: Sargasso (Río Piedras, San Juan, P.R.)
Alternate Title: Sargazo
Abbreviated Title: Sargasso (Río Piedras San Juan P. R.)
Physical Description: v. : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: University of Puerto Rico (Ri´o Piedras Campus) -- Dept. of English
University of Puerto Rico (Río Piedras Campus) -- Dept. of English
Publisher: s.n.
Place of Publication: Ri´o Piedras P.R
Río Piedras P.R
Publication Date: 1984-
Copyright Date: 1986
Frequency: twice a year[2002-]
two no. a year[ former 1984]
irregular[ former <1987>-2001]
Subject: Caribbean literature -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Caribbean literature -- History and criticism -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Puerto Rican literature -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Puerto Rican literature -- History and criticism -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Genre: review   ( marcgt )
periodical   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: Puerto Rico
Additional Physical Form: Also issued online.
Language: Chiefly English, with some French and Spanish.
Dates or Sequential Designation: Vol. 1, no. 1-no. 10 (2000) ; 2001-
Numbering Peculiarities: Volume designation dropped with no. 3; issue for 2001 lacks numbering; issues for 2002- called 2002, 1-
Issuing Body: Edited by the faculty and graduate students of the English Dept., University of Puerto Rico.
General Note: Title from cover.
General Note: Some issues have also distinctive titles.
General Note: Latest issue consulted: 2004-05,2.
General Note: Has occasional special issues.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00096005
Volume ID: VID00010
Source Institution: University of Puerto Rico
Holding Location: University of Puerto Rico
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 12797847
lccn - 85643628
issn - 1060-5533
alephbibnum - 002422411

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover
    Half Title
        Page iii
        Page iv
        Page v
        Page vi
    Table of Contents
        Page vii
        Page viii
    Memorial del olvido
        Page 1
        Page 2
    Pedro Juan Soto: Concomitances
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
    The barbarians at the gate: Caribbean and native American continuities
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
    Novela latinoamericana, novela caribeña y novela afro-atlantica: Notas para una taxonomia de la novela
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
    Rethinking colonial and post-colonial themes in the state of nature, the state, nationalism, culture, and cultural sovereignty in the Caribbean
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
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        Page 76
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
        Page 83
        Page 84
    Black, yellow, white on St. Vincent: Moreau de Jonnes's Carib ethnography
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 87
        Page 88
        Page 89
        Page 90
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
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        Page 97
        Page 98
        Page 99
        Page 100
        Page 101
        Page 102
        Page 103
        Page 104
    La parada puertorriqueña de Nueva York: Discursos de raza y genero sobre los puertorriqueños en los Estados Unidos
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 107
        Page 108
        Page 109
        Page 110
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    List of contributors
        Page 161
        Page 162
    Back Cover
        Page 163
        Page 164
Full Text




U w -"" "ORIDA



.' '' ..

Pedro Juan Soto W
(1928- 2002) -,

edro:J in Soto was a good friend andd I U l er of
Sargass4 That his death ended.a aI e bof
suffering offer' only meager cmf.t& i' pse
"necessary" individuals mentioned y ~e q~.rhaps
with greater significance for tle colonial cdne l-W live,
George Lamming. To commemorate his life,work an, we
reprint Ana Lydia Vega's article "Memorial del olvdo" A ~ uo
Dia of 6 February 2003 and the 1984 interview (which inclidaoome
comments by Lamming as well) that appeared in Sargasso1 ,ame
year. The rest of the issue is not devoted to Soto's work. However, I
think that the articles included here do toucIh, pncerns also te* l
iq the example of his literature and his life. Ch berlin on ace"tmg
responsibility for aboriginal genocide and the' locaust of s.4e4 ,
Benitez Rojo on the role of the AfricanAltantic nov in the Caribbean,
Watson's critique of nationalism. Hulme's recovery of the global
Caribbean of the late eighteenth century, and Aparicio^ analysis of
mass media views of Puerto Ricanness in the United'. Sates: all
underscore the themes and struggles of Pedro Juan Soto's. ativtty
and humanity as well.

Sargasso 2002-I

Sargasso, a journal of Caribbean literature, language, and culture edited at the
University of Puerto Rico, publishes critical essays, interviews, book reviews,
and some poems and short stories. Sargasso particularly welcomes material
written by and/or about the people of the Caribbean region and its diaspora.
Essays and critical studies should conform to the style of the MLA Handbook.
Short stories should be no more than 2,500 words in length, and poems should
be kept to no more than twenty to thirty lines. All correspondence must include
S.A.S.E. For electronic submission, write to: lofiet@isla.net

Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 22831, UPR Station
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00931-2831

The Ph.D. Program in Caribbean Literature and Linguistics, Department of
English, College of Humanities, University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras, Puerto
Rico publishes Sargasso. It also hosts the annual Caribbean Doctoral Studies
Symposium, an extension of the Rockefeller Foundation-funded Caribbean 2000
Project, 1994-1999, and frequently publishes papers presented as part of the
Symposium. The current volume includes the papers selected from the 2001
and 2002 Symposium sessions.

Lowell Fiet, Editor
Maria Cristina Rodriguez, Co-Editor (Book Reviews)
Maria Soledad Rodriguez, Co-Editor
I. Anthony Bethell-Bennett, Co-Editor
Sally Everson, Don Walicek, and Irina Rodriguez, Assistant Editors

Antonio Garcia Padilla, President of the University of Puerto Rico

Gladys Escalona de Motta, Chancellor, Rio Piedras Campus

Jos6 Luis Vega, Dean of Humanities

Cover: Photo of Pedro Juan Soto reprinted with the permission of Claridad.

Layout: Marcos Pastrana.

Opinions and views expressed in Sargasso are those of the individual authors and are
not necessarily shared by Sargasso's Editorial Committee. All rights return to the
authors. Copies of Sargasso 2002, 1, as well as previous issues, are on deposit in the
Library of Congress. Filed May 2003.

Table Contents

D ed icatio n .......................................... ................................ ........... ..... v

Ana Lydia Vega
"M e m o ria l d e l o lv id o . .. ............. . .1 .................... .. ..................... . ..

Rosa Luisa Marquez
"Pedro Juan Soto: Concomitances" (1984 Interview with
participation by George Lamming and Lowell Fiet)..................... 3

J. Edward Chamberlin
"The Barbarians at the Gate: Caribbean and
Native American Continuities" ................. .... .................. 19

Antonio Benitez Rojo
"Novela Latinoamericana, novela caribeha y novela afro-atlantica:
notas para una taxonomia de la novela" ......................................... 33

Hilbourne A. Watson
"Rethinking Colonial and Post-Colonial Themes in the State
of Nature, the State, Nationalism, Culture, and Cultural
Sovereignty in the Caribbean" ....................................... 45

Peter Hulme
"Black, Yellow, and White on St. Vincent: Moreau de
Jonnes's Carib Ethnography"....... .............................. .................. 85

Frances R. Aparicio
"La Parada Puertorriquefia de Nueva York: Discursos de Raza
y G6nero sobre los Puertorriquehos en los Estados Unidos" ....... 105



Loretta Collins, Review/Essay:
(1) Reggae Wisdom: Proverbs in Jamaican Music
by Sw. Anand Prahlad,
(2) Bass Culture: When Reggae Was King
by Lloyd Bradley, and
(3) Sonidos de Condena: Sociabilidad, historic y political
en la muisica reggae de Jamaica by Jorge Giovannetti .......... 127

Raphael Dalleo
(Review of) White Teeth by Zadie Smith......................................... 138

Ada Haiman
(Review of) Bruised Hibiscus by Elizabeth Nunez......................... 141

Maria Soledad Rodriguez
(Review of) The Daughter's Return: African American and
Caribbean Women's Fictions of History by Caroline Rody............ 143

Sonia Fritz
(Review of) In the Name of Salomd by Julia Alvarez .................... 146

Nalini Natarajan
(Review of) Edouard Glissant and Postcolonial Theory
by Celia Britton ........................... .................................................. 147

Tatiana Tagirova
(Review of) Flight of the Swan by Rosario Ferr6 ........................... 149

Carmen Hayd6e Rivera
(Review of) Different, a novel by Javier Avila ............................... 151

Kristian Van Haesendonck
(Review of) Sirena Selena vestida de pena
by Mayra Santos Febres ...................... ................. 153

Maria Cristina Rodriguez
(Review of) Questions of Travel: Postmodern Discourses of
Displacement by Caren Kaplan and In Praise of New Travelers:
Reading Caribbean Migrant Women's Writing by Isabel Hoving .... 156

List of Contributors .................... ..................................................... 161

Memorial del olvido*

Ana Lydia Vega**

El 7 de noviembre de 2002, en el hospital Auxilio Mutuo de Rio

Piedras, se despidi6 del mundo el escritor Pedro Juan Soto. Re
sefias y noticieros nacionales rindieron amplia cuenta de una
existencia signada, a parties iguales, por la creaci6n y la tragedia.
La muerte de un chofer poncefto, ocurrida en una casa de convale-
cencia norteamericana el 28 de diciembre de ese mismo afio, pas6 casi
inadvertida. Victima de la insidiosa enfermedad que va deshilvanando
la fina tejedura del ayer en el cerebro, discretamente desapareci6 de
la tierra Julio Ortiz Molina.
(Se habrian borrado de su mente las imAgenes espantosas que liga-
ron para siempre la vida del chofer a la del escritor? ZSe llevaria tam-
biWn el torrente turbio del olvido los sucesos de aquel siniestro 25 de
Ha transcurrido casi un cuarto de siglo desde el asesinato politico
que punz6 la sensibilidad del pais. El polvo se ha asentado sobre los
archives. Las gavetas legislativas han devorado cientos de documen-
tos, producidos durante mAs de una d6cada de pesquisas inconclusas
en torno al crime del Cerro Maravilla.
La political entramp6 a la historic. Los culpables se enmascararon de
silencio. Para quienes guardamos todavia el luto severe de esa 6poca,
no han dejado de arder las cenizas de la memorial. Con la mirada inerte
que nos interrogaba entonces a trav6s de la pantalla del televisor, los

El Nuevo Dia, "Perspectiva" (6 de febrero de 2003): 128.
** Escritora puertorriquefia, Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico.


rostros de los j6venes mArtires siguen estremeci6ndonos hoy. A son
de trompetas y tambores, aquel dia veraniego de 1978 se festejaba
otro aniversario colonial. En las alturas de Villalba, un pelot6n de fusi-
lamiento aguardaba, con los rifles aceitados, a Carlos Enrique Soto
Arrivi y Arnaldo Dario Rosado. Un agent encubierto, avezado en las
artes del engafto, se aprestaba a conducirlos hasta el matadero.
Mientras Pedro Juan Soto se sacudia la morrifia mafianera para sen-
tarse frente al escritorio, Julio Ortiz Molina se acercaba a la encrucija-
da donde recogeria, junto a otros dos pasajeros, al hijo del escritor.
Extrafia coyuntura la que convertiria al chofer de carro pfiblico en tes-
tigo estrella del drama sangriento que estaba por estallar.
Un ajedrez macabro habia reunido en el tablero a dos hombres de
id6ntico temple. Serios, recios, valientes, Pedro Juan y don Julio com-
partian, sobre todo, un apego insobornable a la verdad. Grufi6n el uno,
tierno el otro, eran, cada cual a su estilo, series de una incorruptible
Bajo enormes presiones de las autoridades gubernamentales, don
Julio se mantuvo firme en la denuncia de las atrocidades que le habia
tomado presenciar. Amenazas y ataques no lograron doblegarlo. La
miseria tampoco lo supo amilanar. Privado hasta del autom6vil de su
oficio, persisti6 tercamente en su vocaci6n testimonial.
El coraz6n desgarrado del padre nunca baj6 la guardia. Su hijo ase-
sinado reclamaba justicia y Pedro Juan Soto dedic6 toda su energia a
la recopilaci6n incesante de articulos periodisticos relatives al caso.
Un armario atiborrado de cajas rebozantes de recortes apunta al afin
vuelto obsesi6n.
Hora tras hora, golpe a golpe, el escritor destil6 en palabras su do-
lor. Entre episodios de una larga y sufrida enfermedad, el recuento
minucioso de la larga aventura fue cobrando cuerpo. Esa tenaz explo-
raci6n de la memorial personal y colectiva nos dej6, como regalo p6s-
tumo, el manuscrito titulado: Diario de Maravilla.
Mientras Pedro Juan se aferraba al hilo fugitive del tiempo, don Ju-
lio iba soltindolo a pufiados cada dia. Tal vez fue un destino miseri-
cordioso el que lo ungi6, al final del camino, con el bdlsamo de la in-
Sus relatos entregados, el chofer y el escritor se fueron juntos al
encuentro de una paz arduamente ganada. Igual gracia no hallaron los
verdugos. Encorvados por el peso del pasado, todavia respiran y re-

ALV 2003

Pedro Juan Soto: Concomitances
An Interview
Rosa Luisa Mirquez*

(Interviewer's Note: The interview took place on a Saturday afternoon
in October 1984 at the home of Pedro Juan Soto and Carmen Lugo Filippi
in Barranquitas -a town in the mountains of Puerto Rico. Traveling
from San Juan to meet Pedro Juan and Carmen were the Barbadian
novelist George Lamming, Sargasso's editor, Lowell Fiet, and myself.
What started as a sunny afternoon soon produced torrential rains, yet
that did not dampen the spirit of the interview. Pedro Juan's playful
cursing has nothing to do with the downpour, and our conversation
remained light-hearted and pleasant throughout.
Pedro Juan Soto is one of Puerto Rico's most distinguished novelists
(he is also well known as a journalist, short-story writer, and dramatist).
Some of his best known works are Spiks (1956), a collection of stories
about Puerto Ricans in New York, Usmail (1959), a novel that focuses
on the island of Vieques (a Puerto Rican municipality used by the U.S.
Navy for target practice) and the violent conflicts inherent in
colonialism, Ardiente suelo, fria estaci6n (1961; Hot Land, Cold Season),
the story of a young Puerto Rican's problems when he returns to the
island after several years in New York, and Un oscuro pueblo sonriente
(1982; A Dark, Smiling People), winner of the prestigious Casa de las
Americas award in the same year it was published.
Some notes and sound effects have been integrated into the interview
in order to clarify specific references and establish the appropriate
mood for the re-creation of the original conversation. R.L.M.)

*University of Puerto Rico


Rosa Luisa

Pedro Juan


Pedro Juan:


Pedro Juan:

What language do you want to do this in? It's your


The interview will eventually be in English. So if you
want to do it in English ...

I hate translators. I'll do it in English.

We'll start with the first question then. Would you speak
about the influences you have felt from other people in
your field? Who are the writers you most like to read
and who do you feel have been most influential in your
development as a writer?

Speaking about influences is bad for me because I'm
pretty frank. I have no "hairs on my tongue." And I used
to-and I still do-steal from others. I've stolen from-not
knowing (Thunder) it ... George Lamming. I find
coincidences. That has nothing to do with influences. It
has to do with traditions. In the Castle of My Skin [1953]
impressed me a lot. I didn't dare to steal from him then
because I had started somewhat earlier, as far as short
stories are concerned, and I did migration and all that.
But I've stolen from everybody. And I find now that
dealing with this study on [Joseph] Zobel and [Edouard]
Glissant ["La novela de aprendizaje en las Antillas: Zobel,
Glissant, Gonzalez, Soto," a paper delivered at the
Seventh Caribbean Encounter sponsored by the
Department of Languages and Literature at the
University of Puerto Rico] that we have many things
which correspond, things which I call concomitances,
concordances, because of the habitat we share together
in the islands.
But I've stolen from everybody and his aunt. I like
Graham Greene very much because he keeps me going
from one page to another, something which I've always
aspired to do. Graham Greene, Faulkner, who is the



Pedro Juan:

Lowell Fiet:

Pedro Juan:


Pedro Juan:

opposite of Hemingway, who is so concise, so precise,
so abhorrent of adjectives. I dealt with that a long time,
and then I shifted to the very garrulous Faulkner. I stole
from him. Mention an author and I'll tell you what I stole
from him too. I don't give a damn.

Have you stolen from Puerto Rican literature?

Sure, sure. When I started writing-that's in the prologue
I wrote to Jos6 Luis Gonzilez's Veinte cuentos y Paisa
[1973] -while I was doing journalistic work in 1948, I
was very impressed with Gonzalez's El hombre en la
calle. But I detested his approach to New York -dealing
with Puerto Ricans. He had written seven short stories
and only one or two dealt with Puerto Ricans. So I
wanted to reverse the trend, to deal only with New York
and Puerto Ricans. I then proclaimed myself the author
who should speak about Puerto Ricans in New York.
And therefore you set yourself some objectives, some
metas, and you go at them however you can. Sometimes
you have the talent to be a good thief; sometimes you
have no talent as a thief.

You mentioned New York. Maybe we can pause there a
second and bring up the entire topic of New York. Spiks
[1956] is an impressive...

I hate adjectives.

It seems to me that it is a violent work, in some senses,
yet the scenes from New York are portrayed with
incredible affection. What do you feel is the influences
of New York-the New York experience-on your entire
production as a writer?

Well, it faced me with violence. I was a nincompoop,
eighteen years old. (Kikiriki) I didn't know what it was
all about. I went there to do my university studies, my
bachelor's degree at that time. And I was flabbergasted
by the prejudice, and it shocked me so much that I had
to do something. I've never been able to overcome that.


Pedro Juan:


Pedro Juan:

As a matter of fact, I stayed away from New York for
ages-ten, twelve long years-I couldn't face it again: the
many prejudices, the many chastisements I saw there. I
eventually consoled myself. But I had been doing things
here, and I felt proud of it because most of us usually
travel and stay out of the country. Even though ... and
I'm sorry I blame the other Antillean authors, they stay
away from the country. They don't go back to make that
country valuable in terms of what a particular author
concerned can do for a country. They stay away and I
decided I had to come back in order to put back into
my country what I had gained elsewhere. And I think
that should be their attitude.

That also influences your approach to language, does
it not?

Oh sure. I had a lot of trouble for a long time dealing
with my recognition of myself as far as the loss of
language is concerned. I started to write in English really.
I did journalism in English initially. Then I protested
against myself, against my own tastes, and I went back
to study my Spanish grammar, which nobody had taught
me until then. So I had to fight for my own being as far
as linguistics was concerned. And then, of course, I
spoke and I learned a lot from others.

But you said you found violence in New York. You hadn't
experienced violence in Puerto Rico?

No. No. I was living in a village, really a slum, called La
Puntilla in Catafio, and I grew up there. But I had
acquired some experience selling lottery tickets and
learning how to create a good story. I used to engage in
long conversations with all kinds of matrons and
grandfathers and I wrote them out. They start talking
to you and you listen. And you feel in your own
innermost being what the hell he is trying to convey to
you and how you are going to convey something in
exchange. That's the way I learned to write short stories,
or write my stories: talking to people, conversing with


Pedro Juan:

them, and listening, most of all listening. I have a very
good ear and I developed it that way, because otherwise
I could have never done that. But you have to work on
it. You have to have a background to do that. And these
long talks were valuable to me, teaching me many
resources I didn't know about.

The return from New York, what comes out in Hot Land,
Cold Season [1961], was that your own experience? Did
you feel like that when you returned from New York?

Every damn novel, every damn story, is strictly
autobiographical. You change things in order to divert
the attention of the reader. But you're dealing
narcissistically. But yes, I faced that. I faced the fact that
they were always criticizing me (and that was many
people, Ren6 Marqu6s, Francisco Manrique Cabrera),
saying "you are from over there, you're not from here."
And in order to prove that I was from here I wrote Usmail
[1959], wherein I developed an historical ... a feeling
about history pertaining to Vieques and not Puerto Rico.
But it is concomitant in that respect. And I aetetieu that
always, and they saw that I detested it and they knew
because I insulted them. There were always complaints:
"you're from there, you haven't left there. What do you
call life? What do you call life?" My detesting that made
me continue to work in order to prove myself to myself,
not to them or anyone else, but to myself. I was out, I'm
sorry, I was out during what they called crucial years
-the Nationalist rebellion [1950], the inauguration of
the Commonwealth [1952] -and I didn't feel guilty
about it. I have faced that feeling again, defending people
like Pedro Pietri, people who write in English. "Who the
hell are you to criticize them because they write in
English!" They are colonial subjects and they had to
learn. They had to, as they used to say, pull themselves
up by their own bootstraps to learn. "Who the hell are
you? Did you do anything about that? You didn't do
anything. So why do you criticize them for writing in
English?" They can write on any subject -they keep
being Puerto Rican.


Let's return to the experience of violence. I see that
reality very clearly portrayed in El huesped [ The Guest],
where you speak about a violence that is learned in New
York. But I think times have changed and that experience
does not only come from there. We are generating our
own violence.

Pedro Juan:


Pedro Juan:

Oh, of course, of course.

Does your new literature reflect the violence that
emerges from the homeland?

I think that I was born out of violence and that's a "leit
motif" throughout my literature, be it essay, be it novel,
short stories, plays. I've never denied that. I think I am
a creature born of violence, and I continue to be violent
but disguised in order to not get so frustrated.

But you're a gentle man, easy to talk to ...

... and sometimes you're not so gentle ...

Pedro Juan:


Pedro Juan:

Pedro Juan:

That's a disguise! (Laughter)

That's theatre.

That's another disguise. I have a theory, a long essay,
the draft of which I haven't finished yet, of the author
being an actor. And he constantly disguises himself in
order to collect all sorts of lies which may reveal some
truth. So that he's everyman, he's everyman.

That brings me to my main question. You have, that I
know of, one theater piece and one piece that has
become theater, which is Spiks.

Two. There's another one called Las Mdscaras which I

Why don't you write more theater?



Pedro Juan:


Pedro Juan:


Pedro Juan:

Now look, there are too many intermediaries in the
theater and I hate them all. And to put across one idea
I have to deal with the light technician, the director, the
actors, and what not. And I hate that. I am my own man.
I do things by myself through writing.

But that can also happen in the reading process. My
interpretation of one of the miniatures of Spiks was
completely different from the idea you wanted to
convey. In that sense, as a reader I'm another
intermediary because I'm decoding in terms of what I
bring into the experience.

Sure. You have that right... a secondary right, not the
primary right.

But I'm distorting what you want to say because my
experience is different from yours. Doesn't that negate
your arguments?

Yes, there are always ... I may say the moon is black
and maintain that for two weeks, and then after two
thousand years I'll decide that the moon is not black
but blue. I have a right to do that. I have that right to
contradict myself besides. But concerning a medium
like theater, which is the same somewhat as script
writing for the movies, I find that there are too many
people who can interfere with the idea that you're trying
to get across. There has to be some kind of accord with
your director in the theater or in the movie business
that everything is subject to and that nothing can go
beyond. Otherwise it's a shambles. Others might do it
for money. I won't do it, ever. I have to believe in it.

But you have written for the theater. Why?

Pedro Juan:

I have written for the theater, for movies, and all of that
because I never forbid myself from intervening in any
damn genre that exists. I'll do it even in poetry. I did it
when I was eighteen (I burned them all) and I threaten
to do it again eventually. I'll do it, I'll do everything. I



Pedro Juan:


Pedro Juan:


don't have any inhibitions left. The only thing is the
"moves" [la movida]. The theater here was in the hands
of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture. I dealt with them.
I suggested several ideas about commissioning works
dealing with the different genres. I suggested this to Piri
Fernandez and Ricardo Alegria. Let's commission, say
one hundred, two hundred dollars: "you are
commissioned to write a theater piece for the next
festival." They never listened to me.

But, for example, when the Puerto Rican Traveling
Theater in New York mounted Spiks did you see it, did
you have an interest in seeing how those stories were
translated into a different medium?

No. I saw it when they played it here at the university. I
was away when Spiks was done by Teatro del Sesenta
[a San Juan theater company]. I never saw it. I read the
scripts. I disregarded several things which deserved
some criticism from me. I played like crazy [me hice el
loco]. I am willing to intervene in any damn genre. I don't
have qualms about that except for bringing off any
project, and for that I want people with a certain amount
of seriousness, a certain amount of vision, of
responsibility. That's all I want because, first of all, I
demand that from myself. Then I can demand it from

You mentioned previously that you juggle fiction and
reality in everything you do. How much fiction, how
much reality, how do you decide when you are writing.

I don't decide. I think the work itself demands it from
me, and it's for me to play the doctor or the pharmacist,
or something like that, who gives a certain dosage of
this or that. And you test it on your tongue and you
know, you know, you know, if it's good or it's bad.

On the question of influences, there are two types. You
were speaking largely about literary influences, of books


Pedro Juan:

Pedro Juan:

Pedro Juan:

you may have read, and so on. But what about the other
kind of influence; that is, that writers are often shaped
by an influence that has not to do with literature. What
are the influences in society as lived; that is, influences
of particular events, particular personalities in your life
that have left a mark, that are not about literature.

Well, I think that most of all, as I said before, slum-
dwellers have influenced me a lot. Slum-dwellers not
only in Catafio, my hometown, but in New York. I used
to speak with them a lot and hear their complaints. They
speak to try to reach you, and you, after all, have to be
sort of an echo chamber. His voice is coming through
you. You have to, to a certain extent, to a great extent,
be influenced by his living, his pains, so that you try to
become . and I said this before, as far as New York
was concerned, that after perceiving so much violence
someone should talk about it. I went into that and it fit
for me, and I did it again. Every damn writer is always
writing only one book. His failings are bound for the
future edition of another book. But it's the same old
book. No matter how many volumes you accumulate,
it's only one book. And you pursue that no matter how
many forms or techniques you develop.

We're back to violence. And it's interesting that you talk
about the violence you encountered in New York. And
that's a violence that's imposed upon people who
emigrate to New York and become ghettoized, become
slum-dwellers there. There's also violence in Usmail.

.. and there's violence in the life of my child.

Does it come from the same source? The principal
source of violence in Usmail comes from the presence
of the Navy in Vieques. Is there something here, then,
saying that the violence that comes in the Puerto Rican
reality comes from the colonial experience?

Yes. To start with, you have a colonial system that
pushes you into killing yourself... you kill your brother.


And that's good for them. There's one less, at least. And
that's an arrangement that you work out for them. I'm
against that kind of violence, but we face it constantly.
We've faced it since 1898, after the [U.S.] occupation.
We faced it before, during the occupation of Spain. Since
1898 it's always been the same old thing. Nothing
changes, it's monotonous. And that's why you have
many critics saying, "Oh, Puerto Ricans," -and I dealt
with that when facing Lloyd King [then chairman of the
Spanish Department at the St. Augustine Campus
(Trinidad) of the University of the West Indies]- "all
Puerto Rican novels seem to be the same because they
are fighting the same damn thing, the colonial system,
and they are sometimes too obvious." And I agreed.
That depends on talent or no talent. You can divert, you
can do many things disguising your tracks, but you have
the same situation. It's monotonous. It's oppressive and
we complain and step out of character sometimes. But
you know you have to go back and do it again, and again,
and again. How you do it, depends on talent.

(Interviewer's note: The next group of questions deals
with what is known in Puerto Rico as the Cerro Maravilla
incident. In July 1978, police entrapped and killed two
young supporters of Puerto Rican independence,
claiming that they were terrorists intent on blowing up
communication towers on Mount Cerro Maravilla. One
of those killed was Pedro Juan Soto's son. Public
hearings have since established that the youths carried
no explosives and were killed after they surrendered to
police. R.L.M.)

RLM: You were dealing about a year ago with the novel on
Cerro Maravilla. And you were examining two
approaches, one that was journalistic and one that was
abstract. That leads us back to the themes of violence
and of fiction and reality. Have you chosen one of the

Pedro Juan: Yes, I chose both. I dealt with it along the journalistic
road. I've been doing a diary on that since '78. But I



Pedro Juan:

think that any journalist can do that. Not better than I
can, but he can compete. (Laughter) Well I've put it aside
and I've been going through the abstract, dealing with
a circus, a circus that is near bankruptcy, dealing with
two strange ... I interchange names, sometimes they
are beasts, sometimes they are strays, sometimes they
are just animals. They are captured by this circus in
order to attract the attention of the public in a small
country, and the captors get away with it. They kill them
at the end. I'm struggling with that.
Every damn writer grows from day to day, and I've
found out so many things I'm ashamed to even print
them. On this particular novel I did seven starts. None
has satisfied me and this does not satisfy me either. So
you constantly repent from having started something
that you don't know how to finish. And my last idea
was, "Look, I'll just do this damn thing."

But the essence of your talk at Tony's Place [an Old San
Juan caf6-theater where Soto spoke in December 1982]
was that reality had turned into bad fiction.

Of course it's pretty stereotyped. Yes, I find myself facing
things which are not good even in a bad movie. This
[Maravilla] occurs at noon, everything is plotted,
everything ideally established, and I find too many
stereotypes, too many cliches, I hate them. And then I
decided to go into this circus business and got tired of
that too. And sometimes I find that, well, that my son
deserves a good piece of work, literarily good, but, at
times, I don't know if I can do it, because other eyes are
upon me, and I don't mean the police or that, no, no. I
mean having done a certain amount of work, some good,
some less good, they expect the most, and I don't know
if I can do it. I don't know if I can do it because it's a big
challenge for you to deal with your own suffering and
then write it down. (I remember a good work of Emile
Zola. He did something on Matisse, it's called The
masterpiece, and in his diary I found that he criticizes
him because while his child was dead, he was dissecting
that cadaver as a visual experience. And he challenges



Pedro Juan:

Pedro Juan:

Pedro Juan:

me to whether I can do it or not.) I don't know if I can do
it. After I published a fragment of one chapter, many people
came to me and said that I could not deal with it, that
somebody else should do it. I say, why the hell/ I have my
own rights. Why the hell should anybody else do it? But
that doesn't stop me from being challenged by it.

Are literary concerns very important in this work or
are you satisfied with the testimony of an experience?

I think I can do a book of testimony simultaneously; that
does not exclude the other. I can do two or three works
of fiction, but the reality is different. (Thunder) The only
thing that stops me from dealing with this testimony
business is, well, you don't know how it is going to
change. They keep going with these vistas [hearings]
on television. I don't know how it will turn out and where
I can cut. It would be an extensive book and I hate
extensive books. I wrote one, Un obscuro pueblo
sonriente -1 hate it- I was going to throw it into the
[waste] basket. After many years revising, I couldn't read
it. I hate long books. And this will be a short book,
preferably two hundred pages, two hundred pages at
the most for the fiction. The other is too extensive.
Where do you cut: at three years, at five?

But it's the extensive book that has recognition, for
example, of Casa de las Am6ricas.

Yes and no, yes and no. As a matter of fact, I'm beginning
to hate reading, and I find that that has grown out of my
students. They hate long books and I'm beginning to
know what they mean. (Laughter) I'll do it in two hundred
or three hundred pages at the most, and even three
hundred is pretty obsolete.

How do you see yourself in relation to other Puerto
Rican and Caribbean writers?

I won't say that I've talked with them all, but I've been
in contact with them. I feel much affinity with them and


I have learned from them. They have learned from me, I
find myself proud to say. Regarding Puerto Rican writers
or any writers, the only one who impresses me too much
on the bad side is Naipaul, even though he's a damn
good, a damn good writer. But as far as denying his roots,
I can't conceive that anybody can say, "I hate what I
was born," even though you may feel that. But being
that eloquent about it and at the same time that, how
shall I say it, that... parasite: he hates the place he was
born but he's making money out of that and art out of
that hatred. He's nostalgic and I hope he will come to
terms with himself.

RLM: But your main character in Usmail also hates his roots ...

Pedro Juan: Oh, yes, no, no, no ...

RLM.- ... and he's justifiable as a character.

Pedro Juan:

... you can deal characters like that.

Not with human beings?

Pedro Juan:

Pedro Juan:

No. You can split your personality whatever way you
want. No, no. What I mean is as far as confessing, "I
hate my country and my people." I don't know how you
can do that.

That leads us to another question, which is simply that
any Caribbean writer has to live somewhere on that
margin between the first world and the third world. In
Puerto Rico particularly, because in Puerto Rico these
two worlds are in friction all the time. The question is
how do you define yourself ideologically when
confronted with the situation of your own marginality,
trapped between the third world and the first? (Coqui)

I've never had any qualms. That all depends on where
you want to place Puerto Rico. I think it's pretty third
world and I've always dealt only with Puerto Rico. Of
course, I'm addressing myself to an audience that is not



Pedro Juan:

Pedro Juan:

exactly Puerto Rican. At times I've thought that I've
failed, that I haven't been able to reach my own people
because of the bad system of education, for one thing.
Sometimes I find that I'm throwing words into the wind,
that I'm not reaching my own people. But I must say,
concerning Puerto Rican literature, that we have dealt
with many things that are sort of predictions for Latin
America and most of the Antilles. We've been there
before. We've suffered that before. Now it's coming to
Nicaragua, and has come to Mexico -and they don't
recognize that- and it's due everywhere in Latin
America, at least, and eventually all over the world.
We've been there.

Do you think television could help in solving the
problem of access to a wider Puerto Rican audience?

As I said before, I am not all against dealing with all kinds
of experiments; not only the theater but television and
the movies are new things that I wish I could deal with.
I haven't had the chance, except fragmentally as far as
material for education is concerned, which I find pretty
simplistic. I would like to deal with something else ...
but I have not had the chance. We have no money to do
that, and we have had no aid as far as that's concerned.
When I say "we" I am not speaking about myself but
about all Puerto Rican writers, or Puerto Rican workers
in the theater and in the movies.

One final question, and that's about Puerto Rico and its
relation to the rest of the Caribbean. Is it possible to
consider yourself a Caribbean writer, or do you see
yourself more in terms of the Hispanic tradition? Is there
a new definition that makes you or Puerto Rican writers
in general more Caribbean than Hispanic?

Every damn writer worth his while is always dealing
with society, and that society can be as particular as
Puerto Rican society or it can be as universal as the
rest of the world. But you address ... I at least address


myself to one reader and this abstract reader is myself.
He has to have the curiosity that I have, he has to have
some knowledge of what I have, and I address myself to
that one reader. I don't care about other readers at that
moment -that's in the abstract- and I try to do as
well as I can with whatever little talent I may have in
order to reach that one. If I reach one, that will, if it's
good enough, percolate, to use a favorite word of
Lamming's, and saturate. But it will be really slow
because you know the function of a percolator ...

The Barbarians at the Gate:
Caribbean and Native American Continuities

J. Edward Chamberlin*

here are some things we don't forget. I remember years ago

watching, on television, the Ayatollah Khalkhali parading the
corpses of dead American soldiers in Tehran, the ones who had
come on a hapless mission to rescue hostages being held by Iran. It
was a barbaric scene, and those who saw themselves on the side of
the hostages felt helpless and afraid.
I should probably have used another word than 'barbaric' to describe
the scene. It's not for nothing that people refer to the 'theatre of war,'
for this was unmistakably theatre, staged to appeal to the aesthetic as
well as ethical sensibilities of its audience ... and to deeply offend them.
It was also war, of course, when death stalks the ramparts and the
ceremonies that accompany it are therefore most important. It was
barbaric too, frighteningly so, not because the Iranians were barbarians
but because their leaders wanted to behave like ones, putting
themselves deliberately beyond the pale of civilization. Or maybe it
was that they were setting one kind of theatre, the theatre of
desecration, up against the theatre of a decent burial.
The word barbarian was first used by the Greek to describe the
Persians (whose home of course included the nation that is now Iran),
because they didn't speak Greek. They seemed to stammer when they
spoke, sounding bar-bar-ic. They also looked different, behaved oddly,
and their ceremonies were strange. They weren't necessarily
uncivilized; they just weren't Greek.

* University of Toronto


So defying the need for ceremony as the Ayatollah did was a signal
both of its importance to him and of his knowledge that it was equally
important to us. He might have had in mind another occasion in which
it was the Greeks who behaved like barbarians. After the siege and
sacking of the city of Troy, the Greek hero Achilles drags the corpse of
the Trojan commander Hector in the dust behind his horses to the
funeral pyre of his friend Patroclus, whom Hector had killed; and then
he leaves Hector there in the open to be eaten by dogs and birds. But
other powers are at work to maintain some ceremony. The goddess
Aphrodite anoints Hector's body with ambrosia, and Apollo keeps the
sun away to save it from rotting, until finally on Zeus' command (and
on payment of a large ransom, much like that paid by the Americans)
Achilles delivers up the body to Hector's father.
"Thus held they funeral for Hector, tamer of horses." These are the
final words of Homer's epic The Iliad, a story from the ancient centre
of the crossroads civilizations of the Mediterranean. They hold out a
promise of dignity in the face of defeat and death. They might even
help us two thousand years later, whether watching the terrible events
in Tehran or the latest product of our all too contemporary theatre of
But stories don't really help, do they? "The classics can console.
But not enough," wrote Derek Walcott in a poem about the travels of
Odysseus after the fall of Troy and the funeral of Hector. To expect
comfort from a bunch of words "is like telling mourners around the
graveside about resurrection. They want the dead back," he added in
another poem.
There's something else, too. "Atrocity," writes the Canadian poet
Don McKay in 'Fates Worse Than Death,'

implies an audience of gods.
The gods watched as swiftfooted
godlike Achilles cut the tendons of both feet
and pulled a strap of oxhide through
so that he could drag the body of Hektor,
tamer of horses, head down in the dust
behind his chariot ... Atrocity
is never senseless. No, atrocity is dead ones
locked in sense, forbidden
to return to dust, but scribbled in it


Dead ones, locked in sense, forbidden to return to dust, but scribbled
in it. These are the aborigines of Australia and the Indians of the
Americas and the Bushmen of the Kalahari paraded about in museums
and monographs around the world like the body of Hector. Or the slaves
murdered on the Middle Passage or in the swamps and savannahs and
sugar cane fields of the Americas. They are all unburied. Suffering a
fate worse than death and haunting us with the incompleteness of their
lives. Funeral ceremonies restore a sense of community by affirming
continuity. They complete the circle, physically and psychologically,
materially and spiritually. They provide an audience of gods; or of
In a sense, that is exactly what traditions of stories and song provide,
or traditions of dancing and drumming, painting and performance. An
audience of ancestors . much more important than any other
audience, which is why canons are so contentious. Traditions of words
and images, or of music and movement, do help us live our lives. And
they do so within a deep and compelling contradiction. "By the rivers
of Babylon we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion" sings
the Biblical psalmist, lamenting a loss beyond language. "They that
carried us away captive required of us a song... How shall we sing the
Lord's song in a strange land?" he asks. We cannot, he implies; but
then he goes right ahead and does so, singing a song that is still giving
solace two thousand years later, both to those for whom the legendary
King David is an ancestor and whose sufferings never seem to be over;
and to those brought as slaves into Babylonian exile in the Americas,
and for whom the Melodians provided a melody in their heaviness.
To pick up my earlier question: songs like this don't really bring the
dead back or take you home, do they? Oh, but they do. They surely do.
I want to talk about this contradiction, and about a challenge we all
face: how to bring two stories of unspeakable evil, both of which haunt
every one of us, whether we realize it or not-the holocaust of the
second world war and the holocaust of slavery-into chorus with the
unremittent horror that has characterized relations between native
peoples and newcomers in the Americas. There is a connection between
them, which Rastafari has recognized in its preoccupation with home,
and in the image of Babylon itself, the shitstem of institutionalized
barbarism that continues to pollute the land and to corrupt any attempt
to build a version of William Blake's Jerusalem here in the Americas.
And yet we know, each in our own way and according to our own beliefs,
that "if we forget thee, 0 Jerusalem, our tongues will cling to the roofs
of our mouths."


Until we recognize how these stories are connected, and how the
sorrows and sufferings they commemorate are central to our lives, we
have little hope of finding a ceremony of belief to counter the chronicle
of events that plagues us all. This chronicle includes the 500 year-long
war against the Indians. Puerto Rico is a place-and I mean this in all
seriousness-which just might be able to help us find a new way of
imagining the Americas, a new way of burning down Babylon by
chanting it down.
First, I want to keep with the contradiction I referred to in that great
psalm of David and now anthem of Rastafari, 'By The Rivers of Babylon.'
How a kind of joy comes out of a song of sorrow is one of the mysteries
of art, as baffling as any of the mysteries of science. It is also
fundamental to our ability to transform the barbaric into the civilized,
the grotesque realities of life into the compassionate orderings of the
imagination, and the unburied dead into a covenant for the living.
Understanding this is part of understanding how stories and songs
work, how they offer a moment-often that is all it is-in which the
imagination pushes back against the pressure of reality. Sometimes we
call them histories or myths; sometimes scientific theories or religious
revelations; and they shape the way we live in the world. People learn
to love and hate in them; they make homes for themselves; and
sometimes they drive others out, saying that they have been here
forever, or were sent here because of a vision of goodness or gold, or
instructions from their gods. These stories and songs govern everything
from personal codes of behaviour to political actions; and accordingly
we pay a lot of attention to instructing our children in their complicated
conventions, and in the arcane habits that flow from them. Sometimes
these are very strange; but paradoxically it is this strangeness that
gives us something in common.
"By the meaningless sign linked to the meaningless sound we have
built the shape and meaning of western man," said Marshall McLuhan.
He was talking about words and images, and how we recognize them
as representations; but he could have been talking about all the
ceremonies of belief that make up our imaginative (and spiritual) lives.
And he should have said humankind, for it is in the embrace of
arbitrariness and the artifice of assigning significance that we ultimately
constitute our communities. Often these seem silly to those who don't
grow up in them.
Table manners, for instance. I remember my early lessons in table
manners. They seemed to me to give new meaning to meaninglessness.
One day it was sitting up straight, a waste of a well-made chair; another


it was taking the piece closest to you when the plate was passed, which
was stupid if you wanted another piece. Then it was eating peas with a
fork. My parents tried to convince me that mastering this skill would
improve not only my current position but also my future prospects. I
wasn't persuaded. Fingers were better. But since I was learning all about
arbitrariness I had an idea. I had seen Mary Kozak, the Ukrainian lady
who came once a week to help my mother, eat her peas with a knife.
This was even harder. So I thought I would try that at the dinner table.
I sat up straighter than ever, spooned the portion of peas closest to me
from the serving plate, and went to work with my knife. My father was
not impressed. My mother said it was bad manners. I was ready. "But
Mary Kozak eats that way," I replied.
Silence. My parents loved Mary Kozak, and I was counting on the
fact that they wouldn't say anything disrespectful about her. But eating
peas with a knife seemed to them sort of... well, barbaric would be a
good word. Having failed the first time, I tried once again to balance
the peas. Then, just as I thought I was winning the battle, my father
said "learn to speak Ukrainian and you can eat peas with a knife."
Years later, I heard this same comment in a different context. It was
during a meeting between an Indian community in the northwest of
British Columbia and a group of government foresters, about
jurisdiction over the woodlands. The foresters claimed the land for
the government. The Indians were astonished by the claim; they
couldn't understand what these relative newcomers were talking about.
Finally one of the elders put what was bothering them in the form of a
question. "If this is your land," he asked, "where are your stories?" He
spoke in English; but then he moved into Gitksan-the Tsimshian
language of his people-and told a story himself.
All of a sudden everyone understood... even though the government
foresters couldn't understand a word, and neither could some of his
Gitksan colleagues. But although they didn't understand what the elder
was talking about they understood something ultimately more
important and more sophisticated: how stories give shape and
substance to the world, and how they give it meaning and value; how
they bring us close to the real world by keeping us at a distance from
it; how they hold people together and at the same time keep them
apart. And they understood the importance of the Gitksan language,
even-or especially-to those who do not speak it. It sounded strange,
almost nonsense, like the barbaric Persians did to the Greeks, though
everyone there was much too polite to put it that way. But they
understood that it is through such strangeness that stories and song


take hold of us, making us believe, carrying us through. Sometimes I
think we should remind ourselves of this strangeness, and celebrate
it. We might find there some sense of community among those of us
who now live together on the turtle's back . which is what the
Anishinawbe, the native people of the eastern woodlands, call the land
that we call America. It was once their home. And they want it back.
But they know we're not leaving.
Can it ever be home to all of us? I think so. But not until we have re-
imagined the place and its peoples. Over the years, many of us have
tried to find ways of acknowledging the relentless antagonisms and of
accommodating the diversity and the division, the remembering and
the forgetting, that are the uneasy heritage of the Americas. We have
tried to believe in ourselves as a community, even though many of us
don't much like one another; but we usually end up believing only in
our differences. The mountains and the sea, or (for others) the desert
and savannah lands, have offered some of us a convenient isolation,
so we can find occasional solidarity in feeling lucky or left out. But at
the end of the day our contracts with each other, our covenants with
the land, and the canticles we sing to celebrate our livelihoods are
wracked with the old anxieties about native and newcomer, the
metropolis and the hinterland, tradition and progress, civilian and
barbarian; and they are riddled with the deceptions and deceits by
means of which we manage those conflicts. We've made a kind of life
out of this failure, and a literature of sorts.
"We live our life as a tale that is told," says Psalm 90, in a passage
often read at funerals. Oscar Wilde, the great Irish trickster, once re-
wrote this as "we should live our life as a form of fiction. To be a fact is
to be a failure." Our failure lies right there. We have become addicted
to facts in our political lives; and we have become obsessed with our
national fictions. We have lost the habit of balancing them-fact and
fiction, the imagination and reality. We have lost our equilibrium.
Fortunately, our children haven't ... and I think we have something to
learn from them. They know not to believe the stories they are told; and
they know not to disbelieve them either. Instead, as Northrop Frye once
said, they "send out imaginative roots into that mysterious world between
the 'is' and the 'is not' which is where our ultimate freedom lies."
This is how stories and songs help us: in finding that freedom. It is a
freedom we exercise daily. I believe the earth is round. But I also
believe I'm standing right side up, not upside down as I would be if
the world were really round. I say "the sun rises in the east and sets
in the west" with the confidence I reserve for things that are absolutely


true, even though I realize we have known since Copernicus that it is
absolutely false.
Well beyond sunrises and sunsets, we routinely accept all sorts of
confusions of fact and fiction. Science is riddled with them, as it gives
wonderful descriptions of atoms as miniature galaxies with colourful
planets, curious moons and remarkable orbits . and then admits
that nobody has ever actually seen one. Scientists talk about the laws
of gravity and evolution . and then add that they aren't laws at all,
just likelihood. They propose one model of light, as a wave (even
though these days, since the idea of the aetherr' went out of the window,
there is no longer anything for it to wave in); and then just in case
we're not in that kind of mood they offer another, as a set of particles
(even though they can't explain anything about these particles, not
even their size or shape).
Every tradition of stories and songs, in both the sciences and the
arts, has allegiance to both reality and the imagination. Sometimes
we make the mistake of trying to choose between them. It is a foolish
choice, between false alternatives. It is a choice between being isolated
and being overwhelmed, between being marooned on an island and
drowned in the sea. Nobody should have to make such a choice.
Ultimately, nobody can. But so much in our contemporary critical
discourse, even when it embraces ambiguity and indeterminacy, seems
to demand it, with its dedication to difference and its commitment to
Which is why the arts are so crucial. They confuse our categories
and complicate our choices, redeeming us from their mental slavery.
They locate us-some would say like the Caribbean-in between: in
between the real and the imagined, the familiar and the strange, the
true and the not true. "It was, and it was not" is how storytellers of
Majorca begin their stories. "Once upon a time" is how many of us
begin ours, conjuring up both time immemorial and bedtime. Among
the herders and hunters of southern Namibia and the Kalahari, where
I have been working for the past five years, the word 'garube' is used.
It means 'the happening that is not happening.' "Infinity is a place where
things happen that don't," say the mathematicians. The novelist E. L.
Doctorow was once criticized for bringing characters together in his
historical novel Ragtime who could not possibly have met in real life.
"They have now," he replied. Did The Greeks Believe Their Myths? asks
the French classicist Paul Veyne in the title of a wonderful book. Yes
and no, he answers. Believe it or not seems to be the challenge of every
riddle, of every metaphor, of every myth, of every religion, of every


community. When we lose that challenge-or more precisely, when we
loses a sense that what is really being asked of us is to believe it and
not-myth degenerates into ideology, religion into dogma, and
communities into totalitarian chaos or civil war.
That's why the central figures in so many storytelling traditions of
the world are tricksters, from the classical god Hermes and the west
African (and now West Indian) spider Anansi to the crafty Coyote and
unreliable Raven of native America. All stories and song-including all
contracts and constitutions and covenants and canticles-are tricks.
And every culture admits it. At the end of Portrait of the Artist as a
Young Man, James Joyce has his character vow "to forge the uncreated
conscience of his race." The word "forge" is carefully chosen to catch
the contradiction: it's both a forging and a forgery.
The original Greek word for a trick was 'dolos,' and the first trick
was baiting a hook for a fish. Hermes, the messenger of the gods in
Greek mythology, began his career when he was one day old by stealing
cattle from Apollo, which he then barbecued but didn't eat, thereby
making the point that some things are valuable not because they are
useful but because they are special; or if you are a thief, because they
belong to someone else. Lewis Hyde, in a new book called Trickster
Makes the World, catches the character of this kind of imaginative
sleight-of-hand when he says that "Hermes is neither the god of the
door leading out nor the god of the door leading in-he is the god of
the hinge."
Others have argued that the crossroads is the most compelling image
for the Caribbean, more so even than the infamous 'crossing' of the
middle passage or the kali pani. I think the hinge may beat them all,
even that haunting door of no return through which the slaves came.
The hinge. It represents the ambivalence that is at the heart of all story
and song, and reminds us why the categories of the real and the fanciful,
of narrative and lyric and the dramatic, of heritage and-most
significantly-of home are so magically uncertain and so marvelously
unstable in the Caribbean, and why this very uncertainty and instability
characterize its greatest literature.
I just said that the hinge represented ambivalence; but it might be
more accurate to say that it doesn't represent anything at all. It is more
like metaphor itself-a bridge, with the traffic going both ways. Or it is
like a banker, offering credit and threatening to call the loan, believing
in us and doubting us all at the same time. This last image, in fact,
keeps us as close as metaphor does to story and song, for the idea of
currency and credit have been central to literature for a very long time.


Credit, after all, means "he or she believes." Credits are what we give
our students when we believe in them. And as Seamus Heaney reminded
us in his Nobel acceptance speech, Crediting Poetry, credit is what we
give to our stories and songs. But this begs another important question.
The Canadian two dollar coin, struck to commemorate the
establishment of Nunavut-the name of the mainly Inuit (Eskimo)
community that received quasi-provincial status in 1999-has a picture
of the Queen on one side and an Inuit drum dance on the other. It is the
quintessential dichotomy of the Americas, state power and indigenous
sovereignty, their backs to one another. But maybe there's a more
interesting point to be made here. A coin is like a story or a song: a
form of credit, worthless unless and until we believe in it. But we only
do so-a coin will only pass as currency-if we also believe that
someone or something is 'backing' it, underwriting it. For commercial
currency, it used to be gold; now it's the government, or the Gross
National Product. Who backs our literary currency? Is it reality, or the
literary imagination? The history of events, or a tradition of
There is no single answer, of course; but I think there has to be a
shared sense here in the Americas of the importance of the question
itself, and of the right balance between the answers. Otherwise, our
literary traditions-Caribbean and Canadian, American and native
American, hispanic and francophone-become minor local currencies
that nobody else credits, or that everybody uses with a tourist's genial
"There will be people here who think the world is round. And people
who think the world is flat. Same people." This was Ras Mortimo (Kumi)
Planno in the mid-1990s, greeting the world at the beginning of a
gathering of Rastafarian elders in Kingston, Jamaica in the name of the
Imperial One, God Incarnate, Emperor Haile Selassie I, Conquering Lion
of the Tribe of Judah. And challenging everyone to accept that they
come together on the common ground of contradiction. "As it is written
in the Psalms of David, To Every Song is a Sign and I an I always Sing
the Songs of the Signs of the Time," he added, insisting (in a long
tradition of visionary thinking) that the past portrayed in the Old
Testament is present, that Africans in the Americas are the Israelites in
Babylon. That Babylon is not a metaphor for the world; but the world
a metaphor for Babylon. That Africa is not a metaphor for home; but
home a metaphor for Africa. I want to suggest that it is in this kind of
radical imagining, with the challenge it poses to credibility, that we
may find a sense of community in the Americas.


The story begins, of course, in Spanish America where the early
settlers saw in the aboriginal people they met the social instincts of a
more or less advanced herd of animals. But then some doubts were
raised, and some re-imagining took place. Maybe they were not seeing
what was right before their eyes. Maybe the aboriginal societies were
rather different than they first appeared. A celebrated disagreement
broke out, involving the fundamental question of whether the new world
people, misnamed Indians, were to be considered human; and whether
their dispossession and enslavement were justifiable. The dispute
culminated in a formal debate held in Valladolid between 1550 and 1551.
You all probably know the story. The debate turned around a
distinction between just and unjust title, familiar to Spanish advocates
of "natural reason." It was based not on racial difference but on religious
classification, and on whether the slaves were won in a "just" war or
"properly" purchased. Juan Gines de Sepulveda, a distinguished
translator of Aristotle and the official historian for the Spanish court,
argued that there was just cause in the Spanish conquest of the
aboriginal inhabitants of the new world. The Indians were incapable of
orderly living, being disobedient by nature; they should therefore be
subjected to rule, including enslavement. Bartoleme de Las Casas, on
the other side, insisted that the Indians of the new world were human
and rational, and that their societies were highly developed, internally
coherent, and continuously sustained by a set of habits and values to
which all members of the society adhered. Their enslavement,
therefore, was unjustifiable, and unjust.
National and international pressures overtook the disputants, and the
essential issue of title to property-in this case, land and labour-remained
unresolved. It has become like the unburied dead, a restless duppy. We
have let it lie about for centuries, getting on with business. But this is
unfinished business. We may admire Las Casas for his dedication to the
essential humanity and the essential civility of the aboriginal peoples of
the Americas; but for five hundred years we have not let these same
people bury their dead. Until we do so, the legacy of African slavery and
European settlement cannot be resolved, and our attempts at
reconciliation, even the prospect of reparations, will be useless.
I know that for many of us, the denial of humanity and the
orchestration of horror finds its most compelling contemporary images
in the holocaust of slavery and the holocaust of the second world war,
both slashed by the genocidal vandalism that has plagued Europe and
Africa and Asia for much of the past century. And while I would not
want to-and could not possibly-discount the absolute uniqueness,


or diminish the abiding barbarism, of these experiences and their
grotesque heritage, I believe that none of us-white or black or yellow
or red-will ever be able to rest here or call this place home until we
acknowledge the brutal campaign-by design and by default-to
obliterate aboriginal peoples from their land, and to make them over
in our imaginations.
This is not a competition among sufferers and survivors, but a search
for a ceremony that will sanctify the land and make it ready for other
elegiac and redemptive ceremonies. To make this happen, to bring to
a close the barbarism of the unburied aboriginal dead and purify the
place, we need to return Hector's body for a proper funeral-Hectors'
body, dragged about the continent in binges of ethnic cleansing that
went by the name of Indian removals or native reservations, tribal
termination or educational assimilation. All of them produced their
own Trail of Tears, as the forced march of Cherokees and Creeks and
Choctaws from Georgia in the 1830s came to be called. All of them
destroyed indigenous livelihoods and languages: hundreds of
languages-or thousands, depending on how you count-have
disappeared over the past five hundred years, and at least fifty more
are on the brink of extinction as we speak. While we worry about the
spotted owl. All of the exercises in ethnic cleansing and cultural
genocide were premised on that unresolved issue of aboriginal
humanity-they remained beyond the pale, variously idle or evil
barbarians-and on a metaphor about land, and about the way in which
we have used a fiction to credit the 'fact' of our ownership. We call it
'title'-remember Sepulveda and Las Casas? If we have it, we believe
the land is ours, the same way we believe the sun rises every morning.
Actually, there is another title, just as there is another explanation
for the sunrise. It is sometimes called 'underlying' title. We don't think
about it until we are reminded about our responsibility to the land and
to its creator-when we often talk about pollution, a word with deep
spiritual roots-or until the government decides to put a road across
our front lawn or build a dam and flood the valley we live in. Then we
are made rudely aware of the fact that our title is not quite as true as
we thought it was. It is underwritten by that underlying title vested in
the nation: the republic (for the United States) or the monarchy (for
Canada). (Rasta might say 'overwritten,' though 'underlying' is a gift
to dread talk.) It is a legal fiction, of course; but it shapes the facts of
life, and of the land.
Why should underlying title be vested in the fictions of the settler
society (which, in one of the other great mistakes in naming the new


world, are always on the move anyway)? Well, it's their story-our
story-is the obvious answer; and we got so used to telling it that we
started to believe it.
What about underlying aboriginal or indigenous title? People-
intelligent, sophisticated, civilized aboriginal peoples (unless we want
to take Sepulveda's side)-they believed in it for thousands of years.
Turtle title, as my Anishinawbe friends might say. Or raven title; or
coyote title. I'm not being entirely facetious here. Underlying title is a
trick; so why not an aboriginal trick?
Changing any story about underlying title has powerful implications.
It's what the United States did at the time of the revolution, replacing
underlying crown title with the underlying title of the republic. But
why not make things right and change back to aboriginal title?
Revolutionary? Perhaps; in the way the 1994 election of the African
National Congress in South Africa was revolutionary. A return to the
past? We live there anyway, so let's get serious about it.
Some folks will say that taking such a radical step would undo
everything. But that's nonsense. In one sense, it wouldn't change
anything at all. An Indian chief couldn't come and sit on my doorstep
or walk into my house any more than the Queen or the President could.
If they tried, I'd have the courts and the congress on my side, just as I
would if the state or any of its representatives tried to interfere with
any of my other rights. There would still be the possibility of
expropriation, of course, just as there would be a possibility that
someone might demand that I join the army and go to war. But that
would follow the same procedures, and meet with the same resistance,
as at present. Nothing would change if underlying title were aboriginal
title. It is a fiction. The facts of life would remain the same.
And yet of course they wouldn't, because this would constitute a
new story, and a new society. Our understanding of the land would
change. Our understanding of aboriginal peoples would change. Our
understanding of ourselves would change. Our sense of the origin and
purpose of our nations would change. And underlying title would finally
provide a constitutional ceremony of belief in the humanity of aboriginal
peoples in the Americas. It would finish the job Las Casas began.
To grumble about the practicalities of changing to underlying
aboriginal title is pointless. The lawyers would work it out, as they
work out many other personifications and paradoxes that characterize
our social and economic and political lives. And the descendants of
the aboriginal inhabitants of the Americas, the Amerindian and native
American peoples of our part of the world, would do what their


ancestors did for millennia: work out new ways of living together with
strange people who have strange habits (including strange table
manners, of course) and speak strange languages.
There are all sorts of models-for instance, from medieval to modern
Europe-for how such a change might be achieved, and how contingent
sovereignties might be articulated in law and reconciled with existing
national constitutions. The original Indian treaties, in fact, represented
interesting acknowledgements of aboriginal communities as first
nations of consequence and constitutional credit... though subsequent
legislative corruption, executive theft and judicial fraud made a
mockery of them.
Every year people celebrate Abolition Day in Puerto Rico, when
slavery was abolished -in the language of the law- 'forever.' Native
people have heard that forever far too often. They have nothing to
celebrate on such days, except broken promises. When Chief Joseph
of the Nez Perce said, in perhaps the most famous Indian speech in the
history of the Americas, "from where the sun now stands I will fight no
more forever," he meant it. When Nelson Miles (famous in Puerto Rican
as well as plains history) accepted his surrender and promised peace
with dignity, he may have meant it too .. but by the year's end, the
Nez Perce were once again being treated like animals.
I believe this new story about underlying aboriginal title might begin
to change all that. If we were to tell it often enough we'd get used to it,
just as we get used to nursery rhymes and national anthems. At the
same time we'll be surprised each time we tell it. We need to start
telling it every night and on all public occasions. It will not be exactly
true, any more than our current story is. It's a metaphor, a hinge, a
trick. But we will say about it the same thing we say about things that
happen in stories which could never have happened. Now they have.
We could all be duppy conquerors then, and come to this place in
peace. There is nowhere this could happen more properly than in
Puerto Rico, with its rare embrace-rare, certainly, for the Caribbean-
of its indigenous heritage and its legacy of both slavery and Spanish
inquiry into the conditions of settlement in the Americas. All of a
sudden, the Caribbean would take us all back to where we began, and
we could begin again. This -and I believe something like this alone-
would set the stage for addressing the holocaust of slavery and the
horror of continuing racism. It would provide that 'audience of gods'
which Don McKay talked about, laying to rest the atrocity that is the
dead of the aboriginal Americas -forbidden to return to dust, but
scribbled in it.


The Viennese call a person who looks after a house for someone
else a 'hausbesorger,' which literally means a 'house worrier.' The
Caribbean can show all of us in the Americas how to be house worriers
and duppy conquerors too of the land we live on, and how to replace
the theatre of desecration with the theatre of a decent burial. Until we
have done this, until we have let the aboriginal people of the Americas
bury their dead, the barbarians will continue to be in charge. And make
no mistake: them is us. All of us.

Novela latinoamericana, novela
caribeia y novela afro-atlantica:
notas para una taxonomia de la novela

Antonio Benitez Rojo*

Se dirA que el titulo de mi ensayo es muy amplio, que va mAs allA del
tema de los paralelismos que presentan las literaturas del Caribe. Tal
vez sea asi, pero como quiera que lo latinoamericano, lo caribeho y lo
afro-atlAntico tienen incuestionables puntos de contact, me ha
parecido itil conversar sobre las regularidades y rupturas que veo
entire estos tres discursos, si bien s6lo en lo que toca al g6nero de la
A manera de preAmbulo, tomar6 un pArrafo de una de las obras de
critical literaria mas Ifcidas y prActicas que ha producido Puerto Rico.
Me refiero a La novela indianista en Hispanoamerica, de Concha

[...] Hispanoamerica ofrece, especialmente en su romanticismo,
fascinantes problems de literature comparada, puntos de partida
inexcusables en el studio de corrientes posteriores y venideras. Mas
el romanticismo, fen6meno complejo en su manifestaci6n europea, se
vuelve laberintico entire nosotros, de modo que no son muchos los que
se arriesgan a explorer en sus "bosques de espesura" (Mel6ndez, 13).

Como sabemos, al menos algunos de los "fascinantes problems de
literature comparada" de que hablaba Concha Melendez en 1934 fueron
estudiados en profundidad posteriormente. No puedo menos de
mencionar dos obras de reconocida importancia: Myth and Archive: A

Amherst College


Theory of Latin American Narrative, de Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria, y
Foundational Fictions: The National Romances of Latin America, de Doris
Sommer. Mucho mas modesto y suscinto es mi ensayo "The nineteenth-
century Spanish American Novel", publicado en The Cambridge History
of Latin American Literature. Si lo menciono, es porque se detiene a
examiner en las primeras novelas nacionales de Hispanoam6rica un
asunto de importancia crucial para mis arguments: el fen6meno que
conocemos con los nombres de transculturaci6n, mestizaje,
sincretismo cultural o criollizaci6n, entire otros.
No citar6 ni repetir6 con otras palabras mis observaciones. Antes
bien, dirigire mi atenci6n hacia otro tiempo, otro lugar, otra
circunstancia; es decir, emprender6 una suerte de viaje imaginario en
el que desearia que todos me acompafiaran. Supongamos...
Supongamos que estamos a mediados de la d6cada de 1830,
concretamente en 1836. Supongamos que estamos en Espafia, en La
Corufa y que somos una joven de veintid6s afios que proyecta escribir
su primera novela. Supongamos, en fin, que somos Gertrudis G6mez
de Avellaneda que, llena de entusiasmo, empieza a planear Sab.
Naturalmente, la idea surgi6 cuando leia la segunda edici6n de Bug-
Jargal (1832). En esa fecha, Victor Hugo ya habia publicado con mas
que suficiente 6xito para ser admirado por una muchacha apasionada,
digamos un alma romAntica y libre como la de Gertrudis. Cierto que es
muy probable que hasta ese moment pensara que su novela tendria
un nombre de mujer y continuaria en espafiol la corriente feminist
que George Sand iniciara en la literature francesa, pero la lectura de
Bug-Jargal la habia iluminado. Su asunto, situado en los albores de la
revoluci6n haitiana, mezclaba un tanto a IA Chataubriand los
sentimientos de amor, odio y sacrificio entire amos y esclavos.
Decididamente, su novela tenia que seguir esa direcci6n. ,Qu6 otra
mejor para fundar propiamente la novela cubana?
Curiosamente, sin saberlo, Gertrudis coincidia al pie de la letra con
F6elix Tanco, quien precisamente en esa fecha le escribia a Domingo

,Y qu6 dice Ud. de Bug-Jargal? Por el estilo de esta novelita quisiera
yo que se escribiese entire nosotros. Pi6nselo bien. Los negros en la
Isla de Cuba son nuestra Poesia; y no hay que pensar en otra cosa;
pero no los negros solos, sino los negros con los blancos, todos
revueltos, y former luego los cuadros, las escenas, que a la larga
han de ser infernales y diab6licas; pero ciertas y evidentes. Nazca
pues nuestro Victor Hugo, y sepamos de una vez lo que somos


pintados con la verdad de la Poesia, ya que conocemos por los
n6meros y el andlisis filos6fico la triste miseria en que vivimos
(Delmonte, III, 37-38).

Pero habria de ser Gertrudis quien escribiera tal novela. Mas aun,
no se limitaria a remedar el conflict de Bug-Jargal, sino que,
continuando su fidelidad al feminismo literario de Sand, acercaria a la
mujer y al esclavo en tanto victims de una sociedad injusta, no s6lo
en lo que tocaba a Cuba sino en tanto causa universal. Pero claro, en
esa fecha ya Gertrudis se sentia cubana, y para demostrarlo basta leer
su soneto "Al partir". Asi, Sab debia ser tambien una novela cubana, y
para ello habia que situar los conflicts amo/esclavo, blanco/negro y
hombre/mujer en la geografia de Cuba, en la naturaleza de Cuba y en
las tradiciones mas teliricas de Cuba. Eso la llev6 a escribir el
afortunado pasaje donde narra una excursion a las cuevas de Cubitas
(el nombre de la patria), mostrando alli las pictografias indigenas en lo
profundo de la tierra; eso la llevaria a crear el personaje visionario de
la india Martina, descendendiente de los antiguos caciques de la region;
eso la llevaria a caracterizar a Sab como duefio de la naturaleza de la
isla, conocedor y cultivador de sus flores y plants; eso la llevaria a
hacer de Enrique un personaje de origen extranjero, ciego tanto a la
naturaleza como a la cultural de Cuba. Satisfecha de su obra, por cuanto
habia sobrepasado a Bug-Jargal no s6lo en densidad sino en su
proyecci6n nacionalista -recu6rdese que para darle cierto aire
national a su novela Hugo escribi6 un epilogo donde d'Auverney muere
heroicamente en Francia luchando por la Repfblica- Gertrudis firm
el manuscrito de Sab y lo mand6 a la imprenta. Como sabemos, la novela
fue publicada en 1841.
Ahora, en pocas palabras, veamos los factors que la Avellaneda
conect6 entire si para organizer el mundo de Sab: de una parte Bug-
Jargal y las primeras obras de George Sand, asi como el espiritu
cristiano de sacrificio que vemos en las novelas de Chateaubriand; de
la otra, su conocimiento de la tierra, la cultural y la problemitica social
de Cuba. Podemos decir que, en t6rminos de una economic political de
la novela, la Avellaneda expropi6 los discursos literarios extranjeros
con el prop6sito utilitario de nacionalizarlos, contribuyendo asi al
despegue de las letras cubanas. En esto la Avellaneda no se diferencia
de los escritores latinoamericanos de su epoca -los del circulo de
Delmonte, los de la Asociaci6n de Mayo y tantos otros- que, buscando
legitimaci6n en los canones del Romanticismo asi como en la


naturaleza, tradici6n y problemitica locales, toman la pluma para
plasmar en sus obras sus deseos de mejorar el estado de la naci6n al
tiempo que propagan entire los lectores un sentimiento national, por
entonces apenas desarrollado. Como es sabido, esta suerte de
compromise con la patria y sus ciudadanos habria de ser la medula
del americanismo literario de Andr6s Bello, proposici6n que habria de
encontrar un lugar much mis articulado dentro de las concepciones
socioculturales y political de Jos6 Marti.
En 1940, con objeto de explicar las complejidades de la cultural cu-
bana, Fernando Ortiz sustituiria el pasivo concept antropol6gico de
aculturaci6n con el de transculturaci6n. Este seria aceptado ensegui-
da por la mayoria de la critical literaria y cultural latinoamericana, aun-
que por lo general bajo el nombre de mestizaje cultural. En 1992, Ulf
Hannerz tomaria de la lingilistica el t6rmino creolization, no asi su sig-
nificado, anteponi6ndole el adjetivo cultural. Con esto no hizo mas
que introducir una confusion innecesaria, ya que no fue mis alli de lo
que Ortiz habia definido como transculturaci6n; esto es: las varias
manifestaciones del fen6meno continue de intercambio cultural que
comenz6 en el Caribe cuando amerindios, europeos y africanos en-
traron en contact. Lanoci6n implica un intercambio mutuo de frag-
mentos culturales, donde se gana y se pierde, much menos
etnoc6ntrica que el concept de aculturaci6n, donde un pueblo sub-
yugado se acultura a una cultural dominant. En cualquier caso, cul-
tural creolization muy pronto pas6 a ser simplemente creolization,
generalizandose su uso primero en el Caribe de habla inglesa y des-
pu6s en el resto del Caribe, si bien ajustandose a los diferentes idio-
mas de la region.
Mientras estas exploraciones semainticas ocurrian, se fue perfilando
lo que pudi6ramos llamar la independencia del Caribe en tanto region
sociocultural. Dado que es impossible determinar no ya los limits
socioculturales del Caribe, sino cualquier tipo de limits incluyendo
los geograficos, sugiero que convengamos en la propuesta siguiente:
todos sabemos que lo caribeflo existe pero nadie puede precisar donde
no esta. Unanimes en la complicidad, vayamos ahora al primer libro
que habla de una literature caribefia escrita en espahol, francs e ingles.
Me refiero aRace and Colour in Caribbean Literature, de G. R. Coulthard,
publicado en espafiol en 1958 y en ingles, en edici6n revisada, en 1962.
Coulthard observa dos cosas fundamentals. La primera es que el
Caribe va mis allA de las Antillas y que la historic de la region es
semejante: conquista europea, desaparici6n del aborigen, plantaciones


de azticar y caf6 trabajadas por esclavos africanos, e independencia o
semi-independencia de la metr6poli. La segunda, que la literature
caribefa tiene en comun con la latinoamericana, exceptuando la 6poca
que corresponde al Modernismo, un compromise national con los
problems sociales y politicos. No obstante, a nuestros efectos el libro
de Coulthard tiene un interns adicional: incluye a Sab dentro de las
obras de la literature caribefia. Asi, podemos decir que la novela de la
Avellaneda, sin dejar de ser una novela cubana y latinoamericana, en
1958 pas6 a ser, ademis, una novela caribefia.
Ahora bien, gracias a la publicaci6n de algunos trabajos de Kamau
Brathwaite, Sidney Mintz, Richard Price y otros, empez6 a opinarse
que la caracteristica fundamental del sistema cultural de la region era
su dependencia hacia el fen6meno de la transculturaci6n, mestizaje, o
criollizaci6n; mas ain, dado que la expansion mercantil atlantica habia
generado alli durante siglos el encuentro de europeos, amerindios,
africanos y asiaticos, los objetos culturales se distinguian por su
densidad etnol6gica. Esto, naturalmente, lejos de excluir tipificaba mas
a Sab como novela del Caribe. Independientemente de su proyecci6n
antiesclavista, el personaja de Sab era en si mismo un significant
caribefo: era depositario del amor filial de Martina, descendiente de
los caciques de Camaguiey; su madre habia sido una princess africana
y su padre un terrateniente criollo. Por si fuera poco, la caracterizaci6n
de Sab tenia elements de estos tres origenes.
Ahora bien, pregunto: ,Seria caribefa una novela escrita en Cuba o
Puerto Rico cuyo conflict no tenga que ver obviamente con el color
de la piel o con algin tipo de problematica ajena a la de la conquista, la
encomienda, la colonizaci6n, la esclavitud o la plantaci6n antigua o
Mi respuesta es: si. Entre todos los sistemas que se manejan en el
campo de las humanidades, el de la cultural es el mis duradero. Prueba
de ello es que, desde los romances juglarescos hasta acd, el idioma ha
experimentado pocos cambios. En realidad, como adviertiera Ortiz,
puede decirse que vivimos flotando en una olla de ajiaco que se puso
al fuego en el siglo XVI. Ahi estamos, navegando a trav6s del caldo de
la transculturaci6n, rodeados de medusas de pimiento y cebolla y
tomate, salvando escollos de yautia, yuca, platano, batata, mazorcas
de maiz, flame, y pedazos de tasajo, care de res, puerco y gallina.
Bien mirado, no hace falta hablar de los conflicts raciales ni de c6mo
asumimos socialmente el color de nuestra piel. Ni siquiera hace falta
la referencia a la naturaleza. Lo caribeho se expresa en todo lo que
hacemos, aunque no lo advirtamos. Claro que estA en la comida y en la


mIsica y el baile, y en la manera en que hablamos y en la que nos
movemos e incluso en nuestras creencias. Pero esta tambien en nuestra
psicologia colectiva, en nuestro modo de ser y de pensar, en esa
manera de vivir a la vez en la isla y allende el mar. Pi6nsese que en
gran media somos products de la enculturaci6n. Nuestra
gestualidad podra parecernos nuestra, personal, quiero decir, pero
s6lo es casi nuestra pues much de ella se ha repetido ya en el pasado.
Los sistemas culturales estAn en flujo, son descomunales
hectoplasmas que condensan las formas de millones y millones de
reencarnaciones. En el caso del Caribe, se trata de millones y millones
de vidas indigenas, africanas, europeas, asiAticas, latino y
norteamericanas que reencarnan cotidianamente en nosotros sin que
reparemos en ello. Por ejemplo, hay numerosos refranes, dichos y
supersticiones que fijaron los esclavos en nuestro espafiol caribefio
cuyos origenes solemos desconocer. Algunos de ellos encierran una
ktica africana que hemos Ilegado a compartir: "Lo que hay que hacer
es no morirse", frase muy comin en Cuba y que forma parte de la
psicologia del pueblo cubano.
Manuel Moreno Fraginals, en su libro Cuba/Espafia, Espafia/Cuba:
Historia comun, observa que el vocabulario propio de La Habana, ciudad
con una intense historic maritima, recoge el lenguaje de la marineria
para designer ciertas parties del cuerpo y situaciones er6ticas. Y pienso
yo, pero eso es s6lo la parte evidence de lo caribefio. En los habaneros,
no importa su educaci6n, hay un component de vulgaridad que huele
a muelle, a prostibulo, a taberna; component que salta a las pAginas
de nuestra mejor literature con Jos6 Lezama Lima, Guillermo Cabrera
Infante, Alejo Carpentier y una pl6yade de autores y autoras que
escriben exit6samente dentro del genero llamado "realismo sucio".
Hace poco, en busca de significantes tainos que todavia contribuyeran
al discurso popular de lo caribefo, encontre dos casos de interns que
correspondent a la yuca y a la guayaba. La dependencia de los tainos
hacia la yuca era tal, que para perpetuar su trascendental importancia
la divinizaron en el cemi YucahO, que se representaba con una yuca a
manera de falo. Naturalmente, la rApida desaparici6n de los tainos y
las pr6dicas contra el paganismo borraron en pocas d6cadas la religion
taina, aunque no algunos de sus fragments. Asi, en el lenguaje soez
de La Habana la masturbaci6n masculina se conoce como "hacerse
una yuca".
En lo que toca a la guayaba, tenemos que en los c6digos religiosos
de los tainos 6sta era fruta tabuf, s6lo podian comerla los muertos que
erraban nocturnamente por el monte. Por supuesto, los colonizadores


espanoles hicieron caso omiso de la prohibici6n y la fruta pas6 a ser
no s6lo una de las mas estimadas de la isla sino de las mas
aprovechables. ,Qu6 ocurri6 entonces? Ocurri6 que para desvirtuar
la verdad que suponia el mito taino, la palabra guayaba se convirti6 en
sin6nimo de engafio, de mentira. Asi, al menos en mi juventud, si alguien
trataba de engafiarnos le deciamos: "Oye, jeso que me estas diciendo
es tremenda guayaba!"
Con todo esto he querido decir que, segun mi parecer, cualquier
novela escrita desde la experiencia caribefia es necesariamente
caribefia. No importa que Sab fuera escrita en Espafia: es y serA,
simultaneamente, una novela cubana, una novela latinoamericana y
una novela caribefia.
No obstante, podria creerse que abogo por una suerte de
determinismo cultural. Nada mas lejos de mi opinion. Pienso que si
bien es cierto que, culturalmente hablando, actuamos a veces como
un eco del pasado, es decir, como simple usuario del sistema, en otras
ocasiones lo hacemos en calidad de performer. Todos aquellos que
hayan estado envueltos en actividades artisticas o artesanales de alg6n
tipo, incluyendo la cocina, saben bien que hay una distancia entire el
interprete y la receta o la partitura o el libreto o el gui6n. Gracias a esa
distancia, podemos decir: X toca a Chopin como nadie, Y baila El lago
de los cisnes como pocas, nadie le gana a Z cocinando un asopao. Esto
es, pese a que el performer se ajusta a una guia mas o menos fija que
norma el objeto de su interpretaci6n, aqu6lla es lo suficiente flexible
como para no interferir con su manera particular de comunicarse con
el objeto interpretado. ,Pero qu6 determine esto iltimo? Yo diria que
la suma de dos factors: la habilidad t6cnica del individuo que
corresponde a un arte u oficio dado y su capacidad de transformar
imaginativamente el objeto cultural al cual se aplica. Y sin embargo,
hay otro tipo de performance mAs complejo, aqul en que el performer
no se limita a trabajar dentro del mainstream del discurso sino que
toma el riesgo de buscar materials fuera de 6ste con objeto de
renovarlo. Tanto el primer tipo de performer como el segundo han
recibido various nombres. Por ejemplo, agents, actors, bricoleurs,
tinkers, y tambi6n, para el segundo tipo, engineers, designers, entire otros.
Yo prefiero llamarlos performers a todos, ya que la diferencia que los
separa no estA en el individuo en si sino en la modalidad del
Si alguien me preguntara por qu6 uso el t6rmino performer y no
otro de los que ya existen, mi respuesta seria: pienso que para que el
fen6meno de la criollizaci6n se produzca con 6xito se precisan tres


requisitos: 1) el encuentro de expresiones culturales de distintos
origenes etnol6gicos; 2) la presencia de individuos que tengan la
habilidad de seleccionar fragments de estas expresiones culturales
con el prop6sito de articularlos y dar forma a un nuevo artefacto
cultural; 3) que el nuevo artefacto cultural permanezca dentro del
sistema sociocultural, propio de los individuos en cuesti6n, un tiempo
lo suficientemente largo para que, a su vez, pueda ser tomado para la
construcci6n de otro artefacto a trav6s de una nueva criollizaci6n.
Lo que acabo de decir se ha dicho implicitamente con otras palabras
al describir la criollizaci6n como un process continue que no tiene fin.
Si lo he dicho a mi manera es porque al preguntarme por qu6 hay
artefactos que pasan de un primer grado de criollizaci6n a un segundo,
a un tercero, etc., y otros no pasan del primero, se me ha ocurrido que
la criollizaci6n tiene lugar gracias a una armonia ritmica. Me explicar6
mejor. Como sabemos es lugar comfin en las cultures africanas y
orientales que dentro del universe todo vibra y, por lo tanto, nada se
escapa al ritmo. La ciencia occidental nos dice lo mismo; nos habla de
que la tendencia de los atomos de un cuerpo a combinarse con lo de
otro se produce gracias a la ley de afinidad. S61o que el cristianismo no
toma en cuenta esta propiedad universal mientras que las religiones
africanas y orientales si. Hay que reconocer que, en tanto cristianos,
tenemos una limitaci6n que no tiene, digamos, ni un africanista ni un
orientalista, ya que el conocimiento profundo de estas religiones
supone la sabiduria de relacionar distintos elements sobre la base de
vibraciones y estados de la material, incluso de los espiritus y
divinidades. En ese sentido podemos asegurar que un esclavo yoruba,
que era capaz de relacionar los orichas con colors, minerales, plants,
animals, alimentos, bebidas, sahumerios, medicamentos, accidents
geograficos, literature oral, patrons percusivos y coreograficos,
propensiones a ciertas enfermedaes, rasgos sicol6gicos y un mundo
de cosas mas, poseia conocimientos enormemente mas complejos y
extensos que los que tenia su amo blanco. Asi, como nadie ha explicado
c6mo, por qu6 y sobre que bases se logra la criollizaci6n, se me ocurre
que mi idea, algo que a muchos antrop6logos pudiera parecer
disparatada, al menos es un punto de partida. Si los bailes cubanos
Ilamados pachanga, mozanbique y paca no prosperaron en tanto
artefactos culturales, es porque los fragments europeos y africanos
que los constituyeron no pegaban lo suficiente como para que se
prolongara dentro del sistema cultural de Cuba. En otros artefactos,
digamos la rumba, el son y el bolero, la armonia ritmica afrocubana


era mas stable y a eso se ha debido no solo su duraci6n dentro del
sistema, sino ademis su transformaci6n o enriquecimiento a trav6s
de sucesivos fen6menos de criollizaci6n. Dicho todo esto, y
desempefiando el ritmo un rol tan preponderante en mi esquema, me
ha parecido l6gico darle el nombre de performer a todo individuo capaz
de unir distintos fragments ritmicos en un montage o collage que
Ilamamos ajiaco, salsa, o Tunt6n de pasa y griferia.
Bien, hemos visto que, gracias a la observaci6n de Coulthard, Sab
pas6 de ser una novela latinoamericana a una novela caribefia.
Coulthard no habl6 de criollizaci6n, pero comprendia que la novela de
la Avellaneda se debia al encuentro en Cuba de Africa y Europa.
,Podremos considerarla tambien una novela afro-atlantica? Veamos,
pero antes habria que definir que es lo afro-atlantico.
Cuando la Avellaneda tomo como modelo el Bug-Jargal de Hugo lo
tom6 como un solo texto, homog6neo, como un product empezado y
acabado por su autor y nadie mas. Sin embargo, habria que recorder
que Hugo era un admirador de Walter Scott, al punto que en 1823
escribi6 en su homenaje. Alli celebraba implicitamente la tecnica del
novelist escoces en lo que se referia a imaginar un asunto dramatico
y colocarlo en el scenario real de un event hist6rico. Por otra parte,
es incuestionable que Bug-Jargal, el personaje, estA construido sobre
las ideas de Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, Rousseau y Schiller relacionadas
respectivamente con el exotismo, el respeto a la dignidad del individuo
y la rebeldia contra el opresor, temas que caracterizarian a muchas
obras del Romanticismo. No obstante, no hay duda que Victor Hugo
tenia un conocimiento de la Revoluci6n Haitiana, al punto que en su
prefacio dice que fue alli, en America, donde por primera vez se
enfrentaron Africa y Europa en un campo de batalla. Tambien
posiblemente habria leido Mizra (1795), de Madame de Stael, primera
novela antiesclavista francesa. Ademas, es muy probable que hubiera
sabido de la existencia de Ourika, novela donde la duquesa Claire de
Duras narraba la infortunada vida de una negra. Si bien esta obra
permaneceria in6dita hasta 1824, en el capitulo primero del libro tercero
de Les misdrables, titulado "El afio 1817", Hugo dice: "La duchesse de
Duras lisait a trois ou quatre amis, dans son boudoir meubld en satin
bleu ciel, Ourika inddite". Pero, ademas en Bug-Jargal hay pasajes donde
se habla de la chica, baile congo, y del vodi, informaci6n que Hugo
debi6 de obtener probablemente en las obras de Moreau de Saint-M6ry,
publicadas en los 1790s.
Entonces, Zc6mo clasificar a Bug-Jargal? Z,SerA una novela caribefia?


Pienso que no. Hugo no tenia la vivencia del Caribe y su conocimiento
de Haiti es puramente libresco. Es, por supuesto, una novela europea.
Pero ahi no debe quedar la cosa? Pienso que Bug-Jargal, al igual que
Jane Eyre y Wuthering Heights, escritas respectivamente por Charlotte
y Emily Bronte son novelas afro-atlanticas. Obs6rvese que los viajes al
Caribe de Rochester y de Heathcliff le confieren a ambos personajes
un aura turbulenta y misteriosa que se trasmite al asunto de cada
novela. No es casual que en el siglo XX las autoras caribefias Jean Rhys
y Maryse CondO, respectivamente, decidieran basar Wide Sargasso Sea
y Windward Heights en las obras de las Brontes. En realidad, la novela
antiesclavista afro-atlantica inglesa comienza con Oroonoko, or the
Royal Slave, publicada por Aphra Behn en 1688. Esta obra introdujo la
idea del buen salvaje, despues reelaborada por Rousseau, y desde
finales del siglo XVIII sirvi6 para propagar la causa abolicionista. MAs
adelante vienen otras novelas afro-atlAnticas, aunque no antiesclavistas.
Por ejemplo, de Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe, con el personaje Viernes,
y Moll Flanders, donde se ofrece una vision idealizada de las
plantaciones de Virginia. En espafiol, el g6nero afro-atlAntico lo inicia
El Lazarillo de Tormes a mediados del siglo XVI, y en francs, Madame
de StAel con Mizra (1795). En resume, consider novelas afro-atlAnticas
europeas a todas aquellas que tocan el tema africano, aunque sus
autores no hayan viajado ni a Africa ni America. Estas novelas, si bien
muestran intertextualidades, como es el caso de Bug-Jargal con respect
a las obras de Scott, Duras y Moreau de Saint-M6ry, no existe la
criollizaci6n. Son novelas exclusivamente escritas dentro de la tradici6n
cultural de Europa. Mi criterio cambia en lo que toca a las novelas de
Estados Unidos, Africa, el Caribe y la America Latina, donde no hubo
pais en que la instituci6n de la esclavitud no existiera o afectara a las
distintas sociedades. Pienso que el criterio de criollizaci6n debe de
extenderse a todos ellos. Por ultimo nos queda la novela atlAntica, a la
cual pertenecerian por definici6n todas las novelas de America y de
Africa asi como las novelas afro-atlAnticas europeas. ,Alguna mas? Si,
todas aquellas obras que toquen de alg6n modo el corso, la pirateria,
el contrabando, la pesca, el comercio, las batallas navales y el
transport de esclavos, trabajadores contratados, mercancias,
pasajeros y tropas por el AtlAntico. Asi, cualquier novela hispano-
caribefia, como es el caso de Sab, seria a la vez latinoamericana, afro-
atlAntica y atlAntica.
Para terminar, quisiera subrayar un hecho curioso: las primeras
novelas antiesclavistas, independientemente de diferencias lingfisticas
y geograficas, fueron escritas por mujeres, ya que, como se queja la


Avellaneda en su propia novela, su rol subalterno en la sociedad las
acercaba a la situaci6n del esclavo. Asi, Sab y Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852),
de Harriet Beecher Stowe, representan al continent americano en el
grupo iniciado por Aphra Behn, Claire de Duras y Madame de Stiel en


Obras Citadas

Mel6ndez, Concha. La novela indianista en Hispanoambrica (Rio Piedras:
Ediciones de la Universidad de Puerto Rico, [1934] 1961).
Tanco y Bosmeniel, Felix. Cent6n epistolario de Domingo del Monte (La
Habana: Imprenta "El Siglo XX", 1930).

Rethinking Colonial and Post-Colonial Themes
in the State of Nature, the State, Nationalism,
Culture, and Cultural Sovereignty in the Caribbean

Hilbourne A. Watson*

W western philosophy and political theory have made major
cultural investments in the concept of the state of nature in
matters that pertain to the production of knowledge about
the nature of the world, human nature, the origins of the state, culture,
society, and the individual, with the effect of marginalizing and/or
smothering ideas that "challenged the universal assumptions of
Christian beliefs about the history and destiny of mankind" (Jahn 2000a:
7). Klaus Eder argues that "modern myths of creation ... describe a
more or less fictitious transition from the state of nature to society,
which becomes possible by a contract concluded among the
participants...." (1996: 96; see Fabian 1991; 192). Pierre Manent notes
that social contract theorists like Locke and his supporters have made
assertions about how humans (men in particular) made a miraculous
leap out of the state of nature and into civil society but have failed to
account for both the history of the state of nature and how the leap
took place. Justin Rosenberg observes that Western "constructions of
space and time ..." have rendered time and space "abstracted, linear,
and empty or emptiable." Rosenberg insists that the "recognition that
temporality and spatiality have varied across periods and cultures,
that they have been socially constructed and mentally experienced in
different ways, and that those different ways have themselves been

Bucknell University


highly consequential for the constitution of social orders" are not in
dispute, considering that there has been more or less consensus around
these things, rather what is problematic is the attempt to universalize
a Western cultural particularism that also distorts time-space
relationships (Rosenberg 2000: 4, 5).
Contrary to the expectations of mainstream political theory, the
concept of the state of nature is incapable of solving the "problem of
cultural diversity" in the world (Jahn 2000a: 2, 4) rather it serves to
dichotomize nature and culture in time-space and creates conceptual,
epistemological and ontological problems for liberal conceptions of
nature, culture, and history. This is a problem that pervades the social
sciences but it is not limited to social science disciplines. As humans
we produce and reproduce ourselves in ways that undermine the very
plausibility of an original or pre-social human nature or essence. Levins
and Lewontin argue that it is problematic to begin with the question of
an original human nature because the "evident fact about human life is
the incredible diversity in individual life histories and in social
organization across space and time." The attempt to understand this
diversity by looking for some original ideal uniformity, called "human
nature of which the manifest variation is only a shadow, is reminiscent
of the pre-Darwinian idealism of biological thought." Levins and
Lewontin emphasize that it is the "interpenetration of individual and
social properties and forces" rather than the search for linear origins
and process around "individual-social and biological-environmental"
dynamics that should occupy our concerns. It is necessary to abandon
the "Cartesian-ideal analysis" because the separation of the subject
from object and the reification of the abstract individual simply cannot
account for "the interpenetration of the individual and the social" (1985:
257, 258, 264).
In this article I will argue that for the most part Caribbean intellectual
and ideological consciousness is shaped in fundamental ways by this
dominant liberal conception that is bounded by the cultural logic of
the state of nature. Notably, when Caribbean social theory imagines
the unity of Caribbean people it does not start from the premise of
commensurable diversities but from the notion of an original and
defining organic essence that miraculously defines each racial or ethnic
group that is part of the whole. There is no idea of a complex totality in
that the imputed essence of each group is assumed to contribute to a
whole that is always less than the sum of the parts. More broadly, I will
argue that political and social theory has been poorly served by the
concept of the state of nature and the false nature-culture dichotomy


on which it rests. Alternatively, I argue for the concept of the "human
history and nature" and culture, in which nature and culture are
interdependent. The concept of the human history of nature does not
simply restore nature, culture, time-space, and consciousness to their
proper location but it also takes human history as its point of departure,
without necessarily sacrificing the idea of nature. The concept of the
human history of nature and culture questions the dominant Western
Social Contract theory and modern Christian accounts of origins that
equate the state of nature to an empirical referent and what Jahn calls
a "secular telos" that is ontologically prior to human cultural diversity.
This article will address the main liberal presuppositions and
suppositions that are hidden in Caribbean conceptions of culture,
freedom, citizenship and cultural sovereignty, with reference to the
national state and political sovereignty, with the idea of contributing
to the theoretical discourse of the nation-state, sovereignty, freedom
and culture in the Caribbean. I use the concept of the individual to
refer to a person who is already a member of a society, because a person
becomes an individual by internalizing the values and institutions of
society. As such, individual autonomy does not mean that a person is
prior to or independent of society. This conception contrasts with the
concept of the individual in liberal theory, an entity that fails the test
of being a historical subject and is forced to abide as an abstract, self-
interested, yet rational person whose rationality derives from the state
of nature and who is incapable of exercising or enjoying rights, freedom,
or justice, for such a being is to be found only in the uninhabitable
zone between the abstract and concrete (see Ramsay 1997: 253-54).
Furthermore, the rights of the abstract individual are always in conflict
with the socially configured and historically conditioned rights of the
community of social beings. In fact, the liberal position that privileges
individual rights over community rights derives from the primacy
liberals attach to private property (see Jahn 2000: 67). The effect of
naturalizing history and culture and historicizing the state of nature is
to force the self-movement of human consciousness within market
norms with debilitating results.

The State, Nationalism and Culture

The state and nationalism are important themes in any meaningful
discussion of Caribbean culture. The state expresses a dual identity as
"separation-in-unity" (competition market subjects) and "unity-in-


separation" (collective identity of the nation) (see Reuten and Williams
1989). Nationalism embraces both components of the state's identity.
In its liberal articulation nationalism expresses the cultural sensibility
of the national state and many secrets about the state, nation, class,
race, ethnicity, patriarchy, and gender are hidden in the tracks of this
particular cultural sensibility. States are neither neutral nor indifferent
about culture and national identity. Appeals to national culture,
tradition, and organic roots often help to mobilize classes, races, and
genders for populist ends. The state and nationalism hold interesting
lessons about how people feel about becoming national. Ideologically,
patriotic nationalism socializes and politicizes individuals on the way
to making them national and affects how they grasp world reality from
the angle of the national. Appeals to blood, tradition and other myths
often bolster irrational nationalist tendencies.
In effect, how the "imagined community" imagines itself depends on
what the social forces in the power bloc, including organic intellectuals,
the political elite and the ideological forces bring to the group, and
this might include chauvinistic and fascist ideas and values, or even
progressive anti-colonial and anti-imperialistic values: since
"nationalism has no prior ontological essence of its own that determines
its trajectory" it must depend on what is imparted to it "by the power
bloc that takes hold of it" to shape and mould it, according to the given
social, political and cultural circumstances (Ahmad 1997: 56-57).
Nationalism is known to mask class and gender struggles and to
reinforce class and gender inequality and foment forms of patriarchal
oppression of women as well as exploitation and xenophobia. Of course,
under very different conditions nationalism might also facilitate the
development of progressive forms of political and cultural
consciousness to move society from a backward condition to a more
progressive outlook.
Many of the dangers of nationalism can be detected in the way it
fosters the myth that national autonomy and state sovereignty are the
highest and ultimate expression of forms of rational political and
cultural organization, based on the myth that "nations have some
preordained right to exclusive sovereignty." This fictive principle from
the bourgeois era is deeply beholden to the logic of the state of nature.
It is necessary to interrogate the project of the nation-state in order to
subject this myth to appropriate critique. Progressive and democratic
forms of anticolonial nationalism that politicize oppressed nations,
modernize their politics, address the question of their human and other
rights, and resist and contribute to overthrowing imperialism (Ahmad


1997: 55) play an important historical role in helping to end oppression,
but they have routinely drawn on organic notions of history that treat
nationalism as a naturally liberating ideology and cultural sensibility.
The dangerous basis of nationalism lies also in its historical tendency
to foment exclusivity, purification, majoritarianism, and other racialized
imaginaries of the bloodline at the expense of inclusiveness and
commensurable diversities (see Poppi 1997).
Caribbean states claim to embrace the values of the territorial civic
nation, which has its roots in the dominant modernist European form,
with the French Revolution as its model. Ostensibly, the territorial civic
nation transcends national, racial, ethnic, cultural, and linguistic origins
and embraces its members on the basis of their commitment to the
civic virtue, including acceptance of the rule of law and
constitutionalism. Citizenship becomes a cultural contract in the
making of the civic nation. One of the ideological and cultural
peculiarities of the national state is that it subordinates the humanity
and civility of each individual member of society to the nation-form,
by nationalizing society under its sway and rule. In effect, becoming
national takes precedence over human universality and national
particularity has become the basis for separating the nation and the
world against each other. The very idea of individual autonomy, which
is so central to liberal philosophy, is already compromised by this
cultural and ideological subordination. Liberal notions of individual
autonomy privilege the fragmentation that nationalism engenders and
the ideological basis of nationalism reveals its internal prejudices. This
does not mean that nationalism is monolithic or hegemonic by
definition, as nationalism is subject to ongoing contestation. In large
measure the power of nationalism and its specific configuration derive
from the bourgeois form of the state with its organic prejudices, a point
that should be considered in any analysis of nationalism and its
relationship to culture.
Nationalism subverts the commensurable diversities that reflect
what cultures share and equates them to absolute differences, a
tendency that has often guided nationalism toward reactionary and
genocidal projects that privilege racism, expropriation and larger
adventures in Lebensraum (see Lindquist 1992:121-160). The dominant
liberal social and political theory treats the state, nation, and
sovereignty as extensions of an organic Species-Being that derives from
a pre-ontological essence rather than as expressions of historical social
relations. Modern nationalism equates culture with custom and
tradition, makes human nature and culture prior to human history by


fostering the myth that they have roots that are prior to human history,
and encourages the mind and feeling to imagine things the way they
never were. It is the quest for the "retrospective illusion" of an original
"national personality" that makes all forms of nationalism suspect and
undermines prospects for dating the modern nation-state to its concrete
social and historical roots in bourgeois property relations.
To escape the trap of nationalism it is necessary to link the discourses
of nature and culture to the historical social processes that constitute
the complex totality (see Gulli 2002: 2-3). The Marxist concept of totality
stands in contrast with the liberal method of philosophical
individualism and methodological nationalism that alienates,
fragments, pulverizes, and externalizes reality and constructs individual
and cultural autonomy on such a disembodied foundation.' Liberal
nationalism banishes the inescapable interconnectedness between
insidedness and outsidedness, due in part to the power that Cartesian
anxiety exercises over the liberal worldview and the way it seduces
one to search for origins in blood and other mythic symbols. The
organic theory of the origin of the nation and the state naturalizes
human history and invents an empirical basis for the fictive state of
nature (Jahn 2000a). It is on this highly questionable basis that
liberalism rambles about in search of a "conceptual adequacy" with
which to imbue this fictive cultural construct.

The Liberal 'Empire of Uniformity' and the Antinomies of
Modernization Theory

Liberalism's perspective on the moral and equal worth of each
human being, its take on the imperative of individual autonomy, the
way it connects justice to meeting basic human needs, the emphasis it
places on economic, political, and civil rights, and the role it assigns to
the state to regulate redistributive justice are among its more important
insights and contributions. One key problem is that liberalism imagines
capitalist political economy to be the necessary and ultimate framework
for achieving these important values, with the effect of undermining

Pablo Neruda observed that if you propose or possess a sense of the totality of
life as a dialectical form in liberal society, "...they say you are not free" (see Rodman
1974: 69). Neruda viewed totality in relation to complexity, heterogeneity,
contradictoriness and commensurable diversities where common bonds and
otherness intersect dialectically.


the possibilities of ever achieving what liberals take to be worthwhile.
Another major contradiction is that liberalism foregrounds the idea of
culture in International Relations in the state of nature, with the effect
of subordinating cultural diversity to timelessness. In fact the state of
nature is abstracted from the historical cultural diversity of real human
societies and used to frame beliefs about the world, philosophy, political
theory, and public policy (Jahn 2000b). In effect, if cultural diversity is
what characterizes humanity, how then do we subject our
understandings of humanity to a norm of universality that depends on
acceptance of a prior existing state of nature?
As Jahn notes, the "use of the concept of the state of nature, ...,
which presupposes a common, universal nature of human beings
beneath their particular cultural identities, thus enables International
Relations theory to make statements of general validity despite the
cultural diversity of its subject matter" (Jahn 2000b: xi). In International
Relations theory liberals and realists see humans of diverse cultures
sharing reason in common from the state of nature, with reason serving
as a unifying factor that can be used to assess the world reality, provide
a basis for interacting and dealing with conflicts and differences that
arise from cultural diversity and thereby share a "common and
universal ground...." For liberals reason helps humans to find
"universally valid principles of political organization" for overcoming
"conflicts arising out of cultural diversity" (Jahn 2000b: xi, xii).
In the liberal schema original reason engenders individual strivings
toward political interests, private property, civil society and civilization,
with capitalism as the logical outcome of a naturally evolved,
eternalizable wealth producing rational system, rather than a system
of production based in exploitation. The fact is that the social and
economic inequalities of capitalism condition the production of culture
and reinforce contradictions along lines of class, race, ethnicity, gender,
and even national origins. The liberal project is highly patriarchal and
masculinist and carries contradictory implications for the progress of
women in their class, racial, gender, and ethnic configurations (see
Ramsay 1997: 190). In the liberal imagination there is a hierarchical
system of cultures and civilizations with European man at the top and
tempered by his natural and rational predisposition to liberty and
freedom, a notion that has to be subjected to a relentless critique in
order to demystify it (see Patterson 1991, Mills 1997).
Postwar liberal modernization theory arises on the edifice of the
state of nature, the pristine site of original free and equal humans, but
liberal theory sets Europeans at the top of cultural food chain of human


history and civilization. It was not merely where one started out from
that mattered but more so where one had arrived and Europeans had
reached the highest point and with Europe as the norm, all cultures
could be ranked on a "linear scale of development" according to how
they met the criteria for the "universally valid form of political and
social organization," a method that suggests all the cultural differences
could be seen in terms of "developmental stages." Thus the universal
state of nature informed the universal validity of the stages of history
and cultures theory, a cultural logic that liberal and realist International
Relations theory continue to uphold (Jahn 2000b: xiv). True to its liberal
foundations modernization theory empties historical time-space and
fills it with Western fixed universals that it equates to empirical reality
and deploys it to justify flattening and destroying cultural difference
to make the world ready for capital and to give Western culture a claim
to hegemonic universality, starting with the White Man's Burden2 and
working through to the latest project of Western freedom to rid the
world of terrorism. Whether we start with the civilizing mission of the
West or with antiterrorism the structure of Enlightenment thought "is
predetermined and the roles are distributed beforehand." Europeans
invented "savage man" and made him the object of inquiry as far back
as the "discovery" of Africa and America. In fact, civilized (European)
man made himself the subject of history, the one "who ... brings
civilization along, speaks it, thinks it, and because it is his mode of
action it (...) becomes the referent of his discourse" (Duchet 1971: 17,
quoted in Fabian 1991: 195; see Henry 2000: 10-12).
Enlightenment intellectual culture has invented wild men in history
and held them captive in the state of nature apparently unmindful that
those wild men "are ... its own creatures" just as "Rousseau's wild man
is ... himself..." (Bartra 1997: 201). Roger Bartra's insistence that the
conceptual and methodological problem is that the "Western tradition,
... invented and constituted the other, before even hearing its voice"
speaks to the fundamental dichotomy that abides in liberal and realist

2 Cecil Rhodes declared "I contend that we are the first race in the world, and
that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race.... If there
be a God, I think that what he would like me to do is to paint as much of the map of
Africa British red as possible" Cecil Rhodes (quoted in Stavrianos 1981: 263; see
Spivak 1999: 13, note 20). Rhodes' model of human progress was compatible with
the dominant Judeo-Christian myth of origins that dichotomized nature and culture
upon foundations that extended Western private property-sanctioned patriarchy
and masculinity.


conceptions of nature and culture.3 Liberalism's preferred way of
dealing with cultural difference despite its declaration of commitment
to dialogical and social pluralism is to practice radical surgery on its
rational and material forms with the aim of subordinating culture to
nature: culture is a problem for nature to tame with its original rational
properties, even though it is assumed that reason has to be cultivated
through a process of cultural development. Liberalism divides the world
into at least two broad camps of liberal and non-liberal cultures. The
'civilizing mission' must yet force the non-liberal cultures into the realm
of civil law that comport with Western conceptions and interests.
Not only is culture a problem for nature to fix but also it is the culture
of the 'Other' that poses a mortal threat to liberal culture. Immanuel
Kant insisted that what distinguished civilized Europeans from non-
Europeans whom he believed to inhabit the state of nature was
European civil law. Kant insisted that political communities which live
under civil law "afford each other the requisite security through the
sovereign which has power over both. Man (...) in the state of nature
deprives me of this security, and injures me, if he is near me, by this
mere status of his, even though he does not injure me actively; he does
so by the lawlessness of his condition which constantly threatens me.
Therefore, I can compel him either to enter with me into a state of civil
law or to remove himself from my neighborhood" (Kant 1963:92, quoted

:1 Leading anthropologists like Franz Boas and Claude Levi-Strauss subscribed
to the doctrine of a single humanity but saw culture as the factor that determined
how humanity interacted. Boas felt that cultures were both different and marked
by naturally valid and unchanging inequalities. He presented a linear, state of nature
logic of history, culture and change that made human progress dependent upon
tradition that prefigured culture and operated behind the backs of society (Malik
1996: 153-4). According to Kenan Malik, Claude Levi-Strauss insisted that what
captures and depicts human essence is not their racial or biological unity but rather
their cultural pluralism or difference. Levi-Strauss argued that "cultural barriers"
are primary and "... all cultures leave their mark on the human body," determining
the rhythm of ... biological evolution and ... direction," intimating that the human
body remains passive in the production of culture. He insisted that the struggle
"against all forms of discrimination" is an integral part of the very movement which
is "carrying humanity towards a global civilisation ... that is the destroyer of those
old particularisms, which had the honour of creating the aesthetic and spiritual
values that make life worthwhile" (see Malik 1996: 155-163). Boas and Levi-Strauss
located humanity on a horizontally segmented, stationary axis of linear time. They
failed to produce a theory or praxis for transcending the contradiction between
the belief in equality and the defense of capitalist system that is founded in inequality.


in Eze 2001: 79). Kant's neighborhood could be any place in the world
that Europeans had already cleared, were in the process of clearing, or
might decide to clear, for capital as part of the Lebensraum experiment
(see Eze 2001: 79) in territorialization, deterritorialization, and
reterritorialization. Liberalism locates its own retrospective illusions in
the state of nature whence it deploys its own fundamentalism to rid the
world of non-liberal cultural fundamentalists that refuse to disappear.

The Nature-Culture Dialectic: the West, 'Justificatory Neutrality' and

According to Marx "Man lives from nature, ... nature is his body and
he must remain in a continuous process [...] with it if he is not to die.
To say ... man's physical and mental life is linked to nature simply
means that nature is linked to itself, for man is a part of nature" (quoted
in Spivak 1999: 77). Clearly, Marx does not impose a dichotomy between
humanity and nature. His perspective strikes me as compatible with
the concept of the human history of nature (but see Eder 1996). Terry
Eagleton says human "... transhistorical or universal features are as
socially instantiated as all their other features" that are mediated by
their self-transforming behaviors (Eagleton 1999: 151).4 Our Species-
Being sets limits on how we make our history and reproduce ourselves
through the process of cultural production, for "culture or history is of
our nature." As humans we never stop exceeding and remaking our
material nature, "so that non-identity, ..., is ...part of what we are," for
it is culture that "allows us to sit loose to the constraints of our species-
being" and "opens up history in the first place, ...." (Eagleton 1999:
154; 2000).
Clearly, the perspectives of Jahn (2000a-b), Rosenberg (2000), Eder
(1996), Levins and Lewontin (1985), Ramsay (1997), Eagleton (1999,
2000), and Marx reveal the unsatisfactory ways in which liberalism
subordinates culture to the state of nature. Malik (1996) exposes the
ways liberalism makes race the basis of inequality (see Malik 1996,
Mills 1997). Liberalism also shapes how the dominant national
literatures erase or impose ethnic or racial factors within a cultural

Joao Cabral De Melo Neto provides an insightful observation on the making of
culture as a process when he says: "...Man, because he lives collides with what is
living ... the way a bird fights every second to conquer flight..." (Rodman 1974: 219).


context around nation building and how those literatures propagate
big power chauvinism and global white supremacy in the discourses
of human progress. It is necessary to understand how the production
of modern history has privileged the racialization of global politics
and the world. Aim6 C6saire (2000) and other anti-colonial and anti-
imperialist critics stressed that fascist methods and practices informed
colonial practices long before fascism took hold in twentieth century
Europe (see Watson 2001). Liberal ideology inherits profoundly
authoritarian and anti-democratic norms from the European feudal
orders (see Wood 1995), and liberalism has played a dominant role in
racializing history, culture and society throughout the history of
capitalism (Goldberg 2002).
Literature, art, and a range of other aesthetic representations of
peoples' cultures have also been racialized with a view to reinforcing
the liberal strategy that makes race the source of economic and social
inequality. Largely, the production of knowledge and truth regimes has
been bound up with the production of racialized understandings of
history. In this context not only has race been used to frame debates
and justify the creation of hierarchies around culture, justice, equality,
freedom, and progress but also liberal states have racialized
themselves, nations, culture, rights and freedom. In fact, long after the
legal abolition of racial hierarchies and institutions their cultural
scaffoldings continue to survive in domains of intellectual culture and
social practices. Enlightenment "rationality and rationalization
constitute power" and give meaning to particular power relations,
around "the power to dominate" in overlapping multiple ways-
philosophically, theologically, economically, militarily, materially,
socially, and culturally (Holt 2000: 34).
Liberalism operates through a seductive open-endedness that priv-
ileges partisan conceptions of being and belonging and fragments re-
ality, while extolling the virtues of dialogical pluralism and "justificato-
ry neutrality" for the state and individuals. The liberal notion of "justi-
ficatory neutrality" implies that the state acts in the interest of the
whole when it functions as a neutral administrative institution without
sectional political interests and that power in society is an expression
of interpersonal relationships. This liberal mischaracterization of the
state hides the state from its political nature and its social and politi-
cal interests, and abstracts it from the social relations of production of
which it is an integral part. The liberal view elevates the technical divi-
sion of labor between the state and capital to a substantive division, a
view that equates the state to an expression of the collective will of


sovereign market subjects. Liberals do not appreciate that the bour-
geois state aggregates the moral and political will of capital and pro-
tects the power and rights of capital from popular determination in
the mediation of the contradictions that inhere in class society.
The notion of justificatoryy neutrality" also hides the state's role in
racializing and gendering nations and societies and institutionalizing
other forms of difference. Connolly has asserted that difference ap-
pears to the liberal (Western) imagination as "fundamental threats,
deviations or failures in need of correction, reform, punishment, si-
lencing, or liquidation" (1995: 89). Johannes Fabian observes that the
"... connection between knowledge, domination and, ultimately, de-
struction ..." brings to mind "the echo of a Hegelian theory of Self and
Consciousness necessarily demanding negation of the Other...." (1991:
194). Genocide, politicide, the willful intent to destroy and other ex-
tremes have been cradled within liberalism's own self-image (see Tatz
2003 forthcoming). The division of the world into liberal zones of civi-
lized races and cultures and non-liberal zones of inferior races and
cultures gives liberalism a permanent stake in making the world safe
for Western values to thrive. Liberalism has not abandoned state
centrism with its violent proclivities.
"Justificatory neutrality" operates through an Enlightenment-based
self-image of humaneness, rationality and reasonableness that forces
liberals to cling to irreconcilable positions that derive from the cul-
tural logic of the state of nature. The dominant approaches to culture
in the Caribbean are influenced by Western intolerance toward differ-
ence. This tendency does not only carry serious implications for Car-
ibbean culture which is a heterogeneous mix of different flows and
currents, but it also embraces the logic of the state of nature that fixes
culture in primordial illusions. Not only did Prospero succeed in si-
lencing Caliban before they met but also Caliban continues to speak
through Prospero, repeating the morality play of subordination and
alienation (see Henry 2000: 90-114).5
Liberal justificatoryy neutrality" also abandons social life to a
deontological, private, existence in which social life becomes an alien-
ated, individualistic private practice, tangentially connected with the

See Hilbourne A. Watson "Caribbean Marxism: After the Neoliberal and
Linguistic Turns: A Critical Interpretation" for a perspective on Paget Henry's theory
of peripheralization in relation to modernization theory and epistemology, more


social process of cultural production. This is due to liberalism's am-
bivalence toward culture and its subordination of culture to the state
of nature. Liberalism provides the ideal medium for segregating and
ghettoizing components of social life that is already polarized along
lines of class, race, gender, ethnicity and other forms. Domination and
exclusion mediate liberalism's predisposition to make culture amenable
to nature. When European colonizers invented the "black problem" in
the Caribbean they enmeshed themselves in a form of "terrified con-
sciousness" that rationalized the violence they instituted to normalize
the clearing of the Caribbean earth for capital, the commodification
of humans as slaves, the extraction and appropriation of surplus la-
bor, and the monopolization of the state, society and the domination
of cultural institutions. In societies like Guyana and Suriname that
endure acute ethnic cleavages along lines where the vast majority of
the main ethnic groups are separated from the means of production
the racialized logic genuflects to an ideology called "dominate or be
Liberalism builds bourgeois hegemony partly by fragmenting civil
society and equating it to a mass of competition (market) subjects
whose preoccupation is with individual self-interestedness. The
marketization of society also involves equating the market to a natu-
rally evolved extension of an eternalizable capitalism that approximates
the culmination of history. The market and liberal democracy become
interchangeable concepts in the liberal imagination. Market anarchy
contributes to disorganizing civil society and reinforcing alienation
partly through the process of reifying what Marx called the 'real ab-
straction,' which causes concrete social reality as a complex totality
to seem to disappear. The evidence that liberal bourgeois civil society
is complicit in this process lies in the fact that it has become the self-
monitoring, self-regulating, and self-alienating power that defends the
rights, power, and privilege of capital from popular determination (see
Wood 1995).
The fragmentation of civil society also engenders the subordination
and neutralization of difference, for in the liberal model deontological
equality does not defeat hierarchy even when liberals assert the cel-
ebration of difference: the preservation of hierarchy under liberalism
has its basis in the naturalization of inequality. In the liberal project,
deontological equality is at variance with substantive commensurabil-
ity; time-space is objectified and rendered as linear; the state of nature
becomes the primary empirical referent or "secular telos" for theory
construction; culture acquires pre-social roots and history becomes a


series of distinct developmental and 'emptiable' stages that serve as
receptacles for cultures and civilizations based on liberal understand-
ings of civilization, savagery and barbarism (Todorov 1984:49-50). Terry
Eagleton puts the matter rather neatly when he argues that the "preda-
tory actions of capitalism breed, by way of defensive reaction, a multi-
tude of closed cultures, which the pluralist ideology of capitalism can
then celebrate as a rich diversity of life-forms" (2000: 129-30). Here
dialogical pluralism becomes a surrogate for democracy, while repres-
sive tolerance in the state and civil society flattens any alternative vi-
sion of the world and humanity.
The liberal project confuses its own particularistic ethic of Western
fundamentalism with universalism. In this respect liberalism has
consistently produced a cobweb of consensus as the basis for defending
its ideals, what Marx calls the 'real abstraction,' to the bitter end. This
displacement of the concrete totality comports with Isaiah Berlin's
notorious aphorism that "to recognize the relative validity of one's
beliefs and to stand for them unflinchingly is what distinguished the
civilized man from the barbarian" (quoted in Rengger 2000: 56). What
Berlin had in mind is captured by Connolly above in the idea that
difference appears to the liberal (Western) imagination as "fundamental
threats, deviations or failures in need of correction, reform, punishment,
silencing, or liquidation" (1995: 89) and by Fabian that the "...
connection between knowledge, domination and, ultimately,
destruction ..." brings to mind "the echo of a Hegelian theory of Self
and Consciousness necessarily demanding negation of the Other..."
(1991: 194). Liberalism's commitment to the ultimate dialogical
democratic pluralist enterprise lodges itself in the repressive tolerance
that displaces its own totalitarianism.
Liberalism participates in coupling the "philosophical notion of
totality" with the "political notion of totalitarianism" with the ideological
ends of cold war liberal hegemonism in view. One important effect of
how Hannah Arendt and others used the term totalitarianism has been
to smother and displace opposition to bourgeois hegemony during what
Kenan Malik (1996) calls the postwar "Liberal Hour." Liberal opponents
of totalitarianism became defenders of 'authentic' democratic ideals,
with the seamy side of the system covered over in the tracks of
repressive tolerance and with systemic contradictions such as
exploitation, racial and gender oppression and other features hidden
from view. Of course, liberals are not alone in using the term
'totalitarianism' to draw a line between appropriate and inappropriate
thinking. Slavoj Zizek argues that "the predominant critical


philosophical response to liberal hegemonism, that of the postmodern
deconstructionist Left, relies on the category of 'totalitarianism" (Zizek
2001: 7, 6).
In the deconstructionistt political doxa," "the social is the field of
structural undecidability, it is marked by an irreducible gap or lack,
forever condemned to non-identity with itself; and 'totalitarianism' is,
at its most elementary, the closure of this undecidability...." In effect,
deconstructionists elevate 'totalitarianism' "to the level of ontological
confusion; it is conceived as a kind of Kantian paralogism of pure
political reason, an inevitable 'transcendental illusion' which occurs
when a positive political order is directly, in an illegitimate short circuit,
identified with the impossible Otherness of justice any stance that
does not endorse the mantra of contingency/displacement/ finitude is
dismissed as potentially totalitarian" (Zizek 2001: 6). An endorsement
of the "basic co-ordinates of liberal democracy (democracy versus
totalitarianism, etc)" approximates an acknowledgment of "theoretical
defeat." Zizek calls for a fearless violation of "liberal taboos" (Zizek
2001: 3).
Bruno Gulli treats the dialectical concept of totality in Marxism within
the philosophy of praxis in Marxism. He understands totality as a
"complex reality" that "brings together, under the same ensemble, the
commonality and specificity (singularity) of thinking, the objective and
the subjective." This understanding of totality does not aspire to a seat
within the bourgeois dialogical "pluralism of voices" rather it insists
on the "univocity of a transfigured totality" which "announces itself
first as difference, then as antagonism and autonomy, and finally- when
it actually totalizes itself as the destruction of the forms and forces
which it counters and which counter it. For it belongs to the concept
of totality not to have parts outside of itself" (Gulli 2002: 2). There is a
clear recognition that liberal dialogical pluralism functions as a
mediating strategy within bourgeois ideology which means that it would
be naive to turn to dialogical pluralism to engender any equality of
ideas within unequal class societies (see Ebert 1996). Gulli returns to
Antonio Gramsci who argued, the "philosophy of praxis is sufficient
unto itself, ... it contains in itself all the fundamental elements needed
to construct a total and integral conception of the world, a total
philosophy and theory of natural science, and not only that but
everything that is needed to give life to an integral practical organization
of society, that it, to become a total integral civilization" (Gramsci 1971:
462, quoted in Gulli 2002: 2). The philosophy of praxis does not fetishize
deconstructionist cultural criticism.


Liberalism and the Caribbean Cultural Problematic

Culture, understood in terms of "political action, social institutions
and organizations, and moral beliefs" and other factors that comprise
"the substance, the empirical and material embodiments of ... a system
of meanings" is what underscores any society (Jahn 2000b: 7). The
idea that the completion of biological man predated cultural
development is untenable. In this context Clifford Geertz argues that
biology and culture developed together or that if we define nature in
relation to biology then nature and culture are mutually constitutive
(Geertz 1993: 46-52, Jahn 2000: 4-6). Humanity's inability to develop
through a simple adaptation to the environment makes cultural
production inevitable.
In Derek Walcott's play, Dream on Monkey Mountain, one of the
characters, Makak, is made to reify the deontological basis of his power.
Makak does not fare well when, upon rising from a simple woodcutter
to king, he has to confront the power of imperialism. In discussing
Makak's character Walcott reveals his own views on the antinomies of
colonialism and independence and takes the liberal path of equating
power to a naturally corrupting force. Walcott argues that while
overcoming the "overwhelming awe of everything white is the first
step every colonial must take," political strategies seem destined to
lead-"wrongly, disastrously-into acts of murder and eventually
genocide." Walcott equates Makak's return to his woodcutter status
with a return to "nature ... as a regenerative force" (Rodman 1974: 249,
254). Here Walcott makes the classic liberal error of separating politics
and power from culture and abstracting nature from culture. Power
and culture acquire deontological roots in the pre-social state of nature
in Walcott's liberal imagination.
In the liberal imagination Western cultures are miraculously
predisposed to conquer and subdue power and tame it with rational
liberty after the manner of Montesquieu (see Manent 1994). Western
cultures abide in the realm of meaningful time,6 having completed the
leap out of the state of nature meaningless time where non-Western
cultures and civilizations remain trapped in their non-liberal state (see
Fukuyama 1989, Huntington 1996). In reality, there is no culture that is

Western concepts of meaningful time and meaningless time do not break down
at the simple level of Occidentalism versus Orientalism. See Noble 1998 and Carrier
1992 for details.


naturally inclined toward liberty (see Patterson 1991). For liberal though
to arrive at such a fantastic proposition it had first to deny the
substantive humanity of certain groups and then banish them from
the historical time-space of liberty and freedom and objectified them.
In this particular approach the excluded 'Other' was confined to the
realm of imitation and meaningful time was construed to mean "
progress from the artificial to the natural" or "a movement away from
the world of human construction, ..., toward ... timeless, immutable,
external nature" (Noble 1998: 253-55, 256, see Todorov 1984: 49-50).
The West equated otherness to the artificial and/or the ephemeral
in history and poured it into the empty vessel of premodernity and
assumed the ultimate responsibility for modernization. The liberal logic
of linear time displaced the spatio-temporal dialectic of real human
history and substituted the stages theory of history to represent the
"progressive" history of the Anglo-Protestant (Hegelian-Weberian)
bourgeois-capitalist European culture (Noble 1998: 257-261).
Considering that the liberal cultural logic sees culture as posing
contradictions that only nature can resolve the question becomes how
the cultural hybridity and "redemption" that Walcott embraces can
resolve the contradictions that envelop Makak. This problem seems
to preoccupy Walcott who insists that the West Indian must undergo
"purgation" to redeem himself (Rodman 1974: 234, 240), with purgation
defined in terms of separating from the past, entering civil society and
embracing progress defined as Westernization. There is little evidence
that Walcott considers the ontological and epistemological basis of
the power relation that cultural hybridity expresses even when he
argues that the colonial subject must overcome the overwhelming awe
of whiteness. Of course, whiteness as phenotype is not the issue rather
it is the ontological priority accorded to whiteness as expressed in a
racialized, class-based system of power relations that is the issue, for
this is where global white supremacy abides (see Mills 1997).
When Marx observed that "labor in a white skin cannot emancipate
itself where it is branded in a black skin" (Marx 1976: 414, quoted in
Harvey 2000: 116) he was speaking to the implications of the
contradictions of the racialization of the social relations of production
under capitalism for developing effective strategies of emancipation
from all forms of exploitation and oppression. He was mindful that just
as labor produces the "the conditions and instruments of its own
domination" so too does its "transformative and creative capacities ...
always carry the potentiality (...) to fashion an alternative mode of
production, exchange, and consumption." He was conscious of ways


in which race mediates class relations and the implications of such
mediation for waging class and other struggles. Marx used the concept
of 'living' labor in relation to the "circulation of variable capital" "to
emphasize not only its fundamental qualities and dynamism and
creativity but also to indicate where the life-force and the subversive
power for change resides" (Harvey 2000: 117). The ruling strata from
the North and South and the states they manage are integrated through
this system of power relations and their shared interests are expressed
within those said relations in complex and contradictory ways. They
understand the necessity of intensifying class struggle while making
class seem irrelevant to the production of culture.
With respect to the Caribbean problematic NicolAs Guill6n's
metaphor of bleeding races and colors suggests a different landscape
of the Caribbean cultural and racial condition than the one Walcott
sketches. Guillen says the "whites and blacks and Indians and Chinese
and mulattoes ... are cheap colors.... Since through trade and indenture
the dyes have run and there is no stable tone" (Guill6n 1972: 212; quoted
in Morej6n 1993: 234). Of course, Guill6n understood the importance
of connecting the lack of stability in tones to the hierarchies of class,
race, and ethnicity as expressed in and through power relations of
capitalism and imperialism (see Lamming in Drayton: 1992).

Beyond Liberalism: Lamming and the Antinomies of Caribbean
Culture, Labor and Gender Dynamics

... the first and essential meaning of culture is,..., the means whereby
men and women feed themselves; clothe and shelter themselves; the
means whereby they achieve and reproduce their material existence.
No food; no life. No food: no book, no religion, no philosophy, no politics,
no performing arts. No one is exempt from the demands of material
life. So we need to understand why the farmer and fisherman are cultural
workers, and that all questions relating to the process of social
transformation are cultural questions. (Lamming in Drayton 1992: 283)

Lamming's concept of culture sets the stage for exploring the role
and place of labor in the production of culture.7 Given that labor is

7 For a discussion of some of the elements that inform the material basis of the
culture of the capitalist sugar plantation "system" that conditioned the forms of
cooperation and conflict that Afro- and Indo-Guyanese experienced in colonial


neither productive nor unproductive by definition, we must look for
evidence of labor's productive or unproductive role in relation to
capital. Bruno Gulli stresses the importance of distinguishing "clearly
between two levels of discourse and two categories ... productive
labor and living labor, or,... the subjective power of labor; the former
pertains to the discourse of political economy, the latter is an
ontological category" (Gulli 2000: 1). The multiple dimensions of the
forms of abstract and concrete and simple and complex labor of
material culture, artistic and creative activity, and intellectual work
show that labor can never be reduced to economic activity like
commodity production. Lamming's perspective shows that humans
produce and transform cultural life through diverse forms of laboring
activity. Lamming's approach includes all categories of workers as
cultural workers and expands the space for thinking about what culture

Guyana, see Lamming (Drayton 1992) and Rodney (1981) "Introduction." As Lamming
has noted, the preparation of the lands for the production of sugar cane and sugar
for export required the construction of miles of "drainage canals and ditches, and
... of higher level waterways ... for transportation and irrigation...." and the removal
of million of tons of "... water-logged clay with shovel in hand, while enduring
conditions of perpetual mud and water" (Lamming in Drayton: 1992: 273, 274). The
labor of the Africans and indentured Indian workers did not only produce material
culture but also built up the broader cultural landscape and the broader spatial
forms. It was the anti-commodification struggles of black workers and the withdrawal
of their labor from the plantations that deprived capital of the necessary surplus
labor and dictated the shift to "bound" indentured labor from Asia. Capital and the
British colonial state agreed that bound labor was essential for the success of the
plantation because, unlike wage labor, its movement and actions could be monitored
and controlled down to where the Indians "walked, and worked, and slept." (quoted
in Lamming in Drayton 1992: 278-79). The specific ways and conditions under which
Afro-Guianese and Indo-Guianese were thrown together to produce material and
other forms of culture, and the forms of conflict and competition they endured to
reproduce themselves were dictated by the imperatives of capitalist production
and accumulation (Rodney 1981) rather than by any notion of natural racial or
ethnic difference. Capital accumulation imperatives based on sugar also helped to
define the structural violence the state and capital carried out against the indentured
workers, including rape by plantation overseers and their assistants and other forms
of violence by spouses and other male relatives against Indo-Guyanese women. All
of the material acts, poems, literature, plays, and sculpture that commemorate the
struggles and accomplishments of those direct producers constitute integral parts
of the cultural production by the workers as men and women on plantations and at
other sites of production. Clearly, aesthetic production is but one component of
cultural production.


While Marx saw productive labor as the value form of labor and
capital as objectified labor or "the communal substance of all
commodities" (Marx 1973: 271), liberal accounts fold labor into a pre-
social nature, with the effect of abolishing the sociality of labor and
equating it to a trait that humans naturally alienate in reproducing
themselves as self-interested individuals. Under capitalism labor
necessarily reproduces capital as the precondition for reproducing itself
and here the ontological category of labor is subordinated to the
political economy aspect. Capital is interested in labor foremost
because it is the source of surplus labor which is capital. Liberalism
works to banish the class relations of capitalist society by reducing
the sociality of labor to a natural form. It is necessary to distinguish
between the political economy and the ontological categories of labor
to expose the error in the liberal account.
Historically, the bulk of the culture of the Caribbean was produced
in the "shadow of the plantation and at the rigorous mercy of the
merchant" (Lamming in Drayton 1992: 9). Under capitalism each
worker's "experiential world, physical presence, the subjectivity of that
person are partially if not predominantly forged in the fiery crucible of
the labor process, the passionate pursuit of values and competitive
advantage in labor markets, and in the perpetual desires and glittery
frustrations of commodity culture. They are also forged in the matrix
of time-space relations between persons largely hidden behind
exchange and movement of things" (Harvey 2000:113), such that social
relations between humans often assume the appearance of technical
relations between things. From production to exchange and
consumption the fundamental capitalist process reveals itself as
contradiction in which the laboring body comes under "the mercy of a
whole series of forces outside of any one individual's control. It is in
this sense that the laboring body must be seen as an internal relation
of the historically and geographically achieved processes of capital
circulation" (Harvey 2000: 113-114).
Substantively, how people in society produce and reproduce culture
cannot be separated from their relationship with the political economy.
For example, women in Caribbean societies produce culture in all its
diverse forms from producing bodies for capital to farming, nurturing,
teaching, managing state agencies and participating in trade unions,
holding political office, engaging in the professions and practicing the
performing arts, but are routinely subordinated to the norms of
bourgeois patriarchy within which certain men and other women frame
class, gender, and other relations in unequal ways. Women are not by


definition external to the reproduction of the social relations that
bourgeois patriarchy mediates around the reproduction of capitalism.
Indeed, if "the circulation of variable capital... is about the reproduction
of the working class in general, then the question of the conditions of
its biological and social reproduction must be posed in ways that
acknowledge ... complexities" that revolve around the family, sexuality,
'open bodily desires,', 'identity-based struggles,' and other choices that
are "generally framed by the social order and its predominant legal,
social, and political codes, and disciplinary practices (including those
that regulate sexuality)" (Harvey 2000: 114, 115).
It is beyond debate that the subordination of women imposes
constraints on the space and options that are open to society to
produce and reproduce culture. The struggle to dismantle bourgeois
patriarchy in the Caribbean is a necessary part of the struggle to
restructure Caribbean culture, which would be incomplete without
restructuring gender relations. The gender question is inseparable from
the labor and surplus labor (class) question, in paid and unpaid forms,
for the paid and unpaid labor of women goes into the production of
culture and sustains patriarchy, masculinity (Andaiye 1992: 12-14), the
state and power relations of capitalism more broadly. The idea that
patriarchy approximates a timeless transhistorical form derives from
the cultural logic of liberalism that traces the origins of gender to the
state of nature, an ideological orientation that is at work in the feminist
and gender literature on the Caribbean (see Barriteau-Foster 1995).
The state of nature becomes the empirical reference point for Social
Contract theory and the Christian myth of origins. Those who endorse
this unreflective conception of patriarchy and gender also trace the
origin of the state, nations and culture to the state of nature.
The tendency to abstract so-called social relations of gender from
the broader social relations of production resonates with the view to
naturalize patriarchy on the way to making it responsible for all sins
against women. Such a perspective nestles the social contradictions
of which gender is but one component within biological male-female
differences where patriarchy is also assumed to have had its origins.
The inescapable implication is that certain laws of nature predispose
men to act in certain ways toward women, with historical gender
differences always being on the verge of becoming naturalized. What
is implied is that since neither patriarchy nor the masculine state seems
capable of shedding their timeless nature, pragmatism and
commonsense dictate that we should concentrate on getting them to
change their behavior toward women by adopting appropriate policies


that engender equity for women (see Gopaul 1998, Barriteau-Foster
1995a-b, 1998, 2001, see Watson 2003b, forthcoming for a critique). The
logic of the state of nature is well preserved in the tracks of the
ideological consciousness of positivist and postmodern feminist and
gender literatures in the Caribbean.
Liberal theory is beholden to a certain "Cartesian anxiety" that
fragments, pulverizes, and externalizes social relations. The effect of
lopping all social class relations onto the Procrustean bed of
methodological individualism makes it impossible to see how the mass
is subordinated to the power of capital and the state by the ponderous
weight of the very surplus labor (capital) the mass of male and female
workers produce. Not surprisingly, liberals show little interest in locating
the "members of a subordinate social class engaged in ongoing collective
struggle against the power of capital in the workplace and against the
privileging of private property entailed in liberalism's core conception
of social reality" (Rupert 1995: 167, see Harvey 2000: 113-117).
Almost without exception Caribbean states, their societies and many
Caribbean scholars and intellectuals have invested heavily in liberal
ideology and institutions. They equate Western liberalism to an open-
ended form that is uniquely designed to accommodate all rational and
legitimate concerns about rights, justice, freedom, equality,
representation and democracy. Basically, the intellectuals embrace
Enlightenment deontological equality which treats material and social
inequality as natural and they take for granted the notion of restoring
the integrity of the moral and ethical order of a pristine and universal
liberalism that was denied to the people of the Caribbean during
colonialism and slavery. The contradictions of the social relations of
capitalism become moral and ethical problems. The efficacy of the
"moral epistemology of imperialism" and the corollary that European
or British imperialism epitomized the moral idea of freedom are abiding
principles in the liberal imagination in the Caribbean. The struggle for
deontological equality-the normalization of economic, material and
social inequality-pervades the cultural environment of Caribbean
societies and the values of European constitutionalism, American
republicanism, classical liberal notions of individual rights that separate
the production of ideas from their historical contexts are embraced as
fixed universals. Evidence can be found in the tenets of the territorial
civic nation, the embrace of insular nationalism, the idea of the equality
of each human being in the sight of God, the sanctity of the market,
party politics, parliamentarism, and democracy all have for their hidden
subtext the abstraction of the rights of capital as primary to all other


rights. From such a vision social relations between humans are easily
equated to technical relations between things and historical
contradictions become the residuum of differences between groups
that date back to the state of nature and the fall from grace.

Global Capitalism and the Antinomies of Political and Cultural
Sovereignty in the Caribbean

George Lamming has argued that the West Indian intelligentsia,
technocrats, political leaders and other middle strata forces are alienated
and isolated from the masses and show little appreciation for the
relationship between creative arts, literature, and drama as key sites
of cultural production (in Drayton 1992: 285-86). As the contradictions
of capitalism deepen in the Caribbean and as national states become
more deeply integrated with the global movement of capital the call
for cultural sovereignty' becomes more pronounced, even in the non-
independent territories where majorities insist on maintaining their
claims on resources from the metropole (see Ramoand Rivera 2001,
Daniel 2001, Lampe 2001, Connell 2001). The emphasis on cultural
sovereignty coincides with the intensification of the decomposition
of national societies with reference to the debilitating impact of drug
transshipment, trafficking and use, drugs-related gun violence, the
growth of corruption within the state apparatuses and certain
professions, human rights violations, illegal migration, environmental
decay, (see Tulchin and Espach 2000), violence against females and

It is necessary to clarify that Lamming's concept of political and cultural
sovereignty has to be seen as a dialectical unity. He says: "The political sovereignty
of a people is impossible unless it rests upon a cultural base created by its working
people" (Drayton 1992: 224). Here Lamming has a particular historically grounded
sense of nationalism that mediates and moderates his concept of sovereignty. He
develops this aspect in Of Age and Innocence where he discusses his concept of
nationalism within what sounds like a liberal organic context. He says that
nationalism is not "a material possession but a spiritual possession of the landscape
in which you live." Wind, sea, stone, and rock are not mere objects in this landscape.
They "are a part of your consciousness. This is one of the foundations of nationalism
and nation" (quoted Drayton 1992: 10-11). Logically, Lamming's point is compelling,
but does the national state model function this way? I am not certain that his
argument addresses the contradictions of nationalism, its relationship to the state,
class rule or female subordination.


the explosion of social contradictions of unemployment in the form of
trafficking of women and sex work around tourism.
It is difficult to see that the national state model in the region is in
crisis particularly when the state is viewed as a naturally evolved form
that expresses the collective will of sovereign subjects. The United
States strategy of applying military approaches to dealing with the
structural and conjunctural aspects of contradictions of capitalism and
imperialism in the Caribbean compounds the problem of the crisis of
the state. Largely, the proponents of cultural autonomy, cultural
sovereignty, and national identity have been reacting to the enervating
effects of the macroeconomic neoliberal policies of global capitalism.
They begin from what they perceive as a loss of national sovereignty
and fail to distinguish between sovereign autonomy (political
independence) and the global process of capital accumulation.
Methodologically, the idea of subsuming cultural sovereignty under
national sovereignty has deep roots in the organic (monist) theory of
the state that treats the nation as a naturally evolved self-generating
form, with culture as a derivative that has to be adjusted to primordial
and autonomous impulses of the nation-form.
National state sovereignty is a recent historical form with roots in
the specific property rights and property relations of the bourgeois
revolutions, capitalism, and the nation-state. It is necessary to
distinguish between the legality of the state and its institutions on the
one hand and the various forms of fixed and mobile property and the
property relations of state sovereignty on the other. It is inappropriate
to detach the sovereignty of the national state from its social base in
the property relations of capitalism, for to do so would disconnect it
from its historically specific moment in the bourgeois revolutions. When
we separate the modern state from the specific social relations the
state also loses its political character and power becomes depoliticized
and alienated to the point of becoming a technical feature of the division
of labor or an expression of interpersonal relationships. This tendency
within philosophical individualism and methodological nationalism
complicates the task of finding ways to disalienate power (see Wood
1995). Liberalism disembodies the state, nation and sovereignty to the
point where liberals are forced to ramble through the "retrospective
illusion of the national personality" (see Balibar 1991) in search of
To understand sovereignty we must pass through the "social
blender" of the national state which requires taking capitalism seriously.
Modern national states are "... the historically shaped political form of


bourgeois class relations" (Burnham 1995: 104). At the very minimum
national sovereignty expresses spatially configured nationalized
property relations and sovereignty also presupposes an international
political economy in which states are embedded and where the
socialization of the national and international space of class relations
and class practices endures. In other words, the international state
system is "a single system in which state power is allocated between
territorial entities" (Burnham 1995: 103) and national states deploy
sovereignty to negotiate and mediate the capital accumulation process.
As such, it is appropriate to consider class, gender, race, citizenship
and other social relations beyond the nation-state. To appreciate this
basic point requires that we understand how domestic and international
politics share a common source and how mainstream "political and
international theory are derived from the same conception of the state
of nature" (Jahn 2000: xiv).
How society understands the nature of the relationship between
domestic and international politics and how the belief in natural origins
of the state and nation conditions that understanding will influence
the shaping of nationalist impulses. Lamming insists that the alienation
of the general populace from "the social product of the intellectual
classes presents the greatest threat to our regional and cultural
sovereignty" (in Drayton 1992: 286). Rex Nettleford notes that the "new
ruling and governing classes" in the Commonwealth Caribbean function
as "the most effective and uncritical carriers of the values of the old
imperial dispensation making the new order little more than the old in
black or brown skin" (quoted in Lamming in Drayton 1992: 285, see
James 1933). Nettleford sees the problem in terms of a "battle for space"
(1993: 80) that requires us to "dig deeper within ourselves," in the
process also reaching outward to find answers to deal with the enduring
traumas of the postcolonial age (Nettleford 1993).
Nettleford's metaphor about space would have to encompass the
material and social dimensions of cultural life, for without "geographical
expansion, spatial reorganization, and uneven geographical expansion,
capitalism would long ago have ceased to function as an international
political-economic system" (Harvey 2000: 23, italics mine).
Substantively, capitalism pushes the parameters of the state and nation
beyond the narrow geographical conceptions of the nation-state. What
the "new ruling and governing classes" bring from the "old imperial
dispensation" to condition the "new order" never equates to a neatly
framed inside/outside dichotomy in which external cultural influences
smoother national culture. Getting beyond methodological nationalism


requires an appreciation that there has long been a "definite reverse
undercurrent in which these ideas and the resulting practices have
actually been developed in the context of the systematic interaction
between European and non-European cultures, that is imported from
the international encounter into domestic political thought and practice
from where they were subsequently exported again into the
international realm" (Jahn 2000b: xiv). In other words, even after we
acknowledge European contributions to reason, progress, nationalism
and the Enlightenment we must interrogate the idea that each one of
these contributions has original European roots (see Patterson 1991)
or that each is neutral in the cultural significance or impact on human
communities. Each of the three concepts has been linked to cultural
practices that have reinforced the myth of the "linear scale of
development," normalize cultural differences in terms of
"developmental stages" of history, and objectify the intellectual
consequences of producing a debilitating theory of history, and the
unspeakable crimes that have been committed along the way.
Of course, as we go about addressing these issues we discover that
a deeply Eurocentric cultural logic still frames intellectual discourses
in the Caribbean with respect to each national society, the region and
the world at large. Of course, there are legitimate concerns about the
enduring burden of the "moral epistemology of colonialism and
imperialism" and the assumptions about the "... connection between
knowledge, domination and, ultimately, destruction ..." that demands
the "negation of the Other ..." (Fabian 1991: 194). Those matters
concern Nettleford, Walcott, Lamming, Guillen and others but these
individuals do not address them from the same angle. Guill&n's
metaphor of the cheap colors of whites, blacks, Indians, Chinese and
mulattos whose dyes have run without leaving any "stable tone" (see
Morej6n 1993: 234) brings to mind the complex forms of the Caribbean
cultural landscape. Contextually, I am reminded of Fanon's insight that
"national consciousness ... is the most elaborate form of culture" and
"... the only thing that will give us an international dimension" (Fanon
1967: 198). Clearly, Fanon appreciated the difficulty of freeing national
consciousness from narrow nationalism and the implications of
cultivating national consciousness to transcend itself by embracing
commensurabilities. A major problem in a number of Caribbean
societies such as Guyana, Suriname, Trinidad and others is that
nationalism does not only reflect a sharp "consciousness of national
unity ... rooted in a sharp sense of the differences that are manufactured
between one human society and another" which is bad enough in itself,


but it also cultivates the pathology of ethnic nationalism that proclaims
the "supreme value" of each ethnic group's "own culture, history, race,
spirit, institutions, even of its physical attributes and its superiority to
those of others" (Berlin 1996: 232-233). In effect, the cultural production
of the national and the ethnic becomes part of the problem of how
states racialize themselves and their societies.
Corporate capital will embrace appeals to national cultural autonomy
that make niche marketing of commodities more feasible and so long
as cultural autonomy does not restrict the expansion of capital and
the ongoing commodification of life. It is understandable that Caribbean
states and scholars and intellectuals would attempt to connect cultural
autonomy with political autonomy. Here it is important to understand
that an ideology of nationalism that is nestled within the state of nature
holds out little hope for erasing the damage done by the "moral
epistemology of imperialism" with its rationalization of violence,
oppression, myths about racial superiority and inferiority, and the
production of the "approved histories of oppressive societies" (see
Thompson 1997: chapter 1).
Just as the enduring consequences of the moral weight of imperialism
influence the idea that cultural imperialism undermines the cultural
sovereignty of Caribbean states and societies so too do they endure in
the embrace by Caribbean societies of the notion that emancipation,
decolonization, and independence resulted in freedom. Such an idea
continues to show that the traumas of slavery, racism, colonialism,
and imperialism have real consequences in Caribbean life, but no matter
how plausible may be the assertion about a connection between
cultural imperialism and the erosion of cultural sovereignty the idea
remains problematic on a number of grounds. First, it follows the liberal
method of fragmenting imperialism by implying there is a way to resolve
problems of cultural imperialism apart from the fuller expression of
imperialism, which is covered over in the tracks of the liberal discourses
of globalization (see Rosenberg 2000). In this specific sense the
argument genuflects to cultural nationalism. Second, it reduces spatial
relations to physical notions of the "power politics" of national states
and privileges geographical determinism. Third, it takes its
methodological cues from liberal ideology: methodological nationalism
fosters the impression that economic and political life is coterminous
with the territorial boundaries of national states. Lastly, it separates
the economics and politics of capitalist commodity relations and fails
to address the implications of these assertions and leaves unresolved
issues that fall between universalism and relativism.


Such problems also tell us something about the cultural investment
Caribbean states and societies have made in liberal philosophy and
ideology: the racism that endures in ethnic conflict in the region, the
contradictions of the peculiar power relations of global white
supremacy on which those conflicts feed, and the broader complicity
in the forms of domination and inequality which the nation-state system
prefigures. The question of freedom remains pivotal. Class, ethnic and
gender violence is inseparable from the nation-form and the state-form
that require us to become national as a precondition for becoming real
historical subjects.
While much of the anti-imperialist discourse of cultural sovereignty
in the Caribbean targets U.S. cultural imperialism, the experience of
the non-independent countries in the region point to a more nuanced
outlook on imperialism. It is important to clarify the role of the US in
the Caribbean and to understand how and why Puerto Rico, the French
Ddpartements Outre Mer (DOMs), Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles,
and the British colonies view the path from emancipation to
constitutional independence in ways that differ from the independent
states. The United States used the Monroe Doctrine and more recent
articulations of its national security doctrines and strategies to
subordinate the sovereign autonomy of Caribbean states to its security
interests. The twin questions of race and culture have always been
important in U.S. assessments of the capacity of Caribbean states and
their societies for self-government. The US played a major role in
propagating the debilitating myth of the "Africanization scare"
otherwise called the "Haitian problem" and the "black problem" (see
Watson 2001 for a critique).
Race, racism and white supremacy have been parametric constants
in the U. S. vision of its republican cultural destiny in the New World
and these factors have helped to rationalize U.S. imperialist exploits in
the Western Hemisphere (see Maingot 1994: 14-28). The US expects
Caribbean states to appreciate the importance of negotiating their
sovereignty on terms Washington can approve before they act in the
world which means defining their foreign policy strategies in ways that
respect the primacy of American security strategy. Cuba questioned

Of course, there are other emphases, for example, the debates going on in the
French Antilles (Guadeloupe and Matinique) over the cultural commitment to local
(national) solidarity is conditioned by French assimilation and republican solidarity.
See Justin Daniel (2001) and Fred Constant (2001). For a discussion of aspects of
the Puerto Rican problematic, see Ramos (2001).


and violated the strategy on grounds of sovereign autonomy. Broadly,
the European states with colonies in the Caribbean see the drug
transshipment and trafficking problem defying national borders and
they have set out to create a new security strategy to help refashion a
post-Cold War hegemony in the Caribbean. They see the cultural growth
of Caribbean societies as a secondary matter just as they have made
state restructuring necessary to advancing the interests of corporate
capital on a global scale. Issues such as what constitute good
government and democracy and autonomy are playing a decisive role
in how imperialism is redefining security. The political process in each
group of countries is an important factor. In Puerto Rico, for example,
the main political parties have mobilized different segments of the
public around independence, statehood, and Commonwealth status
and the contemporary discourse of the political status of Puerto Rico
suggests that constitutional independence is not the only possible
option (see Ramos and Rivera 2001). The Netherlands Antilles (NA)
and Aruba present a different picture (see Giacalone 2001, Lampe 2001),
and what seems clear is that somewhat like the case of the French
DOMs, there is no strong interest in independence in the NA. Such
thinking seems evident also in the British colonies (see Connell 2001).
I find Armando Lampe's interpretation of the case of the Netherlands
Antilles and Aruba particularly interesting and I will provide an
interpretation and critique of his analysis to explain how I see the
contradictory relationship between cultural autonomy and national
sovereignty. Lampe appreciates that colonialism and sovereignty are
not necessarily polar opposites, considering that decolonization does
not have to conclude with "the transformation of ... colonies into
independent entities" (Lampe 2001:111) as the perspectives in the three
groups of territories indicate. Lampe considers the role played by
"structural" and "conjunctural" factors that have affected the process
toward independence. But Lampe does not pay attention to the nation-
state model, which has been central to modernity. He does not account
for the crisis of the nation-state which is an integral part of the problem
rather he situates the key issues of the constitutional and political status
of the territories under structural and conjunctural problems with the
effect of equating the symptoms of the problem to the nature of the
problem; in effect, Lampe misses an opportunity to address the crisis
of the nation-state under contemporary globalization. When the
residents of the various territories equate independence to crisis,
instability, stagnation and systemic decline they are pointing to certain
fundamental problems within modernity that force us to ask whether


there is a status quo ante to return to that is capable of reopening the
"normal" path to sovereign autonomy that Lampe imagines, when the
structural and conjunctural problems-e.g. the neoliberal project, drug
trafficking, money laundering, and the security preoccupations of the
NATO powers in the Caribbean-are resolved.
The problem is that even after Lampe explains the limitations of the
nationalist discourse of decolonization and recolonization he does not
transcend the strictures of the Hegelian rational state that culminates
in true sovereign autonomy. In effect, Lampe misses an opportunity to
explore some of the seminal questions about the limits of Enlightenment
modernity and rationality. For example, has the national state model
reached and exceeded the limits of its historical development? Are
societies that have endured colonial slavery and imperialism forced to
imagine emancipation through the lens of nationalism and the nation-
state? Is their concept of cultural autonomy inevitably shaped by the
logic that derives from the experience of colonialism? Are we entering
a postnational era? The record shows that capitalism has created
particular historical societies that it also flattens and/or destroys,
disemboweling the nation in the process. This fact requires us to rethink
the project of the modern state and to reimagine class, nation, and
culture beyond national borders in the historical context of bourgeois
property relations. This is what I have in mind when I speak of national
states becoming more deeply integrated with the global movement of
capital in contemporary globalization. These matters come to light in
how the US and its NATO allies of Britain, France, and the Netherlands
are becoming more actively involved in the internal affairs of Caribbean
states and societies in matters of financial and economic policy, for
example. The emphasis on collaboration and cooperation to deal with
the drug transshipment and trafficking problem is also instructive (see
Tulchin and Espach 2000). Of course, 'narcocapitalism' is an integral
part of global capitalism, the illegal status of drugs does not negate
this material fact!
Capital, the nation-state and sovereign autonomy are integral parts
of a common form of bourgeois modernity. It is only when we reimagine
the nation-state model beyond the liberal logic of fixed universals such
as the state, nation and national culture that the discourse of
decolonization can take a different turn and the symptoms can be
isolated from the structural shifts for purposes of analysis. The analyses
provided by Ramos and Rivera (2001), Ortega (2001), Lampe (2001),
Giacalone (2001), Daniel (2001), Constant (2001), and Connell (2001)


are constrained by the Hegelian logic that sees the nation-state as the
culmination of freedom, liberty, autonomy and democracy. No matter
how we may think about emancipation in the Caribbean the discourses
of cultural autonomy and national identity continue to be constrained
by the ideology of liberal fundamentalism.
When Lamming, Nettleford, and the contributors to Ramos and
Rivera (2001) criticize Caribbean politicians, cabinet ministers,
technocrats and certain intellectuals for failing to protect cultural
sovereignty they are making assumptions about the nature of the
relationship between the national state and global capital and about
the nature of state sovereignty (see also Henry 2000: 9-13). They have
not paid attention to the fact that the economy is not just there at the
disposal of the neocolonial state to be manipulated at will to bolster
national cultural sovereignty (Watson 2003a). It is worth considering
that a technical division of labor between the bourgeois state and
capital does not amount to a substantive separation between the two.
National sovereignty (political autonomy) and capital accumulation
as a global process, do not part company at the water's edge,
considering too that one of the primary tasks of the national state is to
use sovereignty to bring the internal processes of the political economy,
including cultural production in line with the global process of capital
accumulation. The relationship between national states and global
capital is such that the imperatives of capitalist accumulation always
pose problems for realizing the commensurable cultural diversities that
are indispensable for understanding how the national is connected with
the global. Without a doubt national culture and national consciousness
are the main vehicles for realizing an international perspective on
alternatives forms of universalism.'"


An important part of the meaning of the 'power of culture' abides
in how it operates in and through power relations to name, label and
fix history, nature, and destiny in relation to what is internally and

"0 According to Justin Daniel, even with the growth of "cultural revival in the
French Antilles" that reflects ways in which Guadeloupe and Martinique are asserting
their cultural identities "it is the French government that partially finances the
valorization of local cultural promotion" (2001: 73).


internationally possible and how it can misrepresent the limits of the
possible in the world by confining possibilities within the norm of a
cyclical model of international politics that is trapped in the sovereignty
of the nation-state as the highest expression of patriarchal, gendered
human possibilities. The concept of the state of nature has framed the
scientific method in the social sciences and acquired the status of a
secular empirical referent, what Beate Jahn calls a "secular telos as
the basis of the historical process" (Jahn 2000: 95). This "secular telos"
has made it very difficult to find a universality that is grounded in an
appreciation of commensurable and 'mutually constitutive' cultural
diversities that are conditioned by the dialectic of historical change.
Instead, the cultural logic of the state of nature has bequeathed the
idea that the "authentic and legitimate" natural forms of the
epistemologicall, ontological and ethical" political community are to
be discovered in a "hierarchy of cultures" comprised of yesterday's
civilized, savage, and barbaric societies and today's liberal and non-
liberal societies, hence the debilitating "theory of unequal relations
between political communities" (Jahn 2000: 96) and the rationalization
of the sovereignty of violence that girds the domestic and international
unity of liberal fundamentalism.
The idea of commensurability makes sense when history as "the
present is no longer turned in upon itself but spread out for all to see"
(Fanon 1967: 194). It is the liberal state that sets the world against
itself and attributes the antinomies produced in the process of
fragmentation to human nature. In the liberal imagination humans made
uneven leaps from the state of nature to civil society, some groups still
seem to have one leg in the state of nature. The liberal notion that
reason is uniquely suited to help humans to find "universally valid
principles of political organization" for overcoming "conflicts arising
out of cultural diversity" (Jahn 2000: xi, xii) holds reason hostage to
the logic of the state of nature: reason has to adjust culture to the laws
of nature. The idea of the Caribbean as a synthesis of interdependent
civilizations and cultures is not in itself remarkable rather the problem
is that each of those civilizations is assigned natural origins in the state
of nature that make the pursuit of substantive commensurabilities
Inevitably, Caribbean culture regenerates itself through its
engagement with the world, and to appreciate this fact we must restore
the unity of nature and culture by denaturalizing history and liberating
time-space from linear reasoning. This move can help us to banish the
organic theories of the state, culture and nationalism. Contemporary


global integration intensifies the commodification of all spheres of
human existence and reconfigures the bases on which material and
aesthetic cultural production takes place. A key issue that ought to be
investigated is to what degree the demand for cultural sovereignty
signals a call for erecting boundaries around identity after capitalist
spatial geographies and power have already flattened those boundaries
in line with how contemporary imperialism (so-called globalization)
intensifies the decomposition of national society. The contemporary
logic of cultural sovereignty emerges as a response to contradictions
of global capitalist integration which continues to unhinge nations,
leaving them increasingly 'unbound' in the dialectical interplay of
national and postnational forces. At such times there is a tendency for
the traumas associated with economic, social and political
marginalization to engender an interest in cultural identity and
autonomy politics in ways that misinterpret the interconnectedness
of the material, economic, political, psychic, and other aspects of
Throughout its existence capitalist expansion has affected the world
system in contradictory ways, integrating society and nation and
decomposing both and threatening to annihilate the potentialities of
the nation (Amin 1997: 68). Those who equate the origins of the nation-
form to illusory organic roots try to deal with the contradictory effects
by seeking refuge in nationalist projects. Nationalism makes it difficult
to appreciate that it is not dissimilarity but rather the similarity of
social formations to one another that becomes the basis of the problem
(Poppi 1997: 298-99, see Rodney 1981). The national state and ethnicity
are part of "the unfinished project of modernity with its globalizing
implications." According to Cesare Poppi, globalization engenders the
tendency to stress 'locality' and 'difference', both of which "presuppose
the very development of worldwide dynamics of institutional
communication and legitimation," a situation that makes it theoretically
problematical to fragment the subject without a clear conception of
the nature of the fragmentation (Poppi 1997: 284, 285; Ahmad 1997: 63,
see Eagleton 2000: 122).
Gordon Lewis' interpretation of the Antillean "colonial subject
person" posits a cultural agent that "became more metropolitan than
the metropolis, more royal than the king," a psychological cultural
condition that survived decolonization. Lewis concludes it is "no
accident ... that so much Caribbean political thought in the twentieth
century was to concern itself with the whole problem of psychological
decolonization" (1983: 305). Frantz Fanon equated national


consciousness to the "most elaborate form of culture," and basically
"the only thing that will give us an international dimension" an opening
to universalizingg values" (1967: 198). Lamming's idea of a "destiny
that remains open" and Fanon's commitment to universalizing values
intersect in Terry Eagleton's argument that what is "constitutively open-
ended can never be completely totalized" (Eagleton 2000: 119).
What strikes me as seminal about such ideas is that they leave room
open to produce forms of cultural consciousness that are not resigned
to any accommodation with imperialism via the fixed universal of the
nation-state model and the linear thinking that derives from the cultural
logic of the state of nature. Indeed, as long as culture remains the
medium through which we at once develop and transform our nature,
and so long as culture lets us "sit loose to the constraints of our species-
being" (Eagleton 2000: 154) there will be room to imagine a world
beyond the nation-state model in which capitalism is embedded and
which can help to free cultural production from nationalist ideology.



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Black, Yellow, and White on St. Vincent:
Moreau de Jonnes's Carib Ethnography'

Peter Hulme*

"todos los series humans
sin excepci6n somos mestizos
de incontables cruzamientos"
(Fernando Ortiz)2

In Leslie Marmon Silko's wonderful novel, Almanac of the Dead, the
black Cherokee character called Clinton traces his spiritual ancestry
back to the children born to escaped African slaves and indigenous
Carib Indians during the colonial period.3 His reference is to the so-
called Black Caribs who supposedly dominated the island of St Vincent
in the second half of the eighteenth century until they were defeated
militarily by the British during the Revolutionary wars of the 1790s
and deported en masse to the Atlantic coast of Central America, where
their descendants still live. The story of the Black Caribs has often
provided a standard example of ethnogenesis, the creation of new

* University of Essex
This article also appears in The Global Eighteenth Century, edited by Felicity
A. Nussbaum. Published by Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003, Reprinted with
permission of the publishers.
2 Fernando Ortiz, Etnia y Sociedad, ed. Isaac Barreal (La Habana: Editorial de
Ciencias Sociales, 1993), 135. Spoken during a 1934 homage to Jose Marti, the words
translate, roughly, as "We are all, without exception, the mixed result of countless
:1 Leslie Marmon Silko, Almanac of the Dead (New York: Penguin Books, 1992),


hybrid groups or 'new peoples' generated out of the maelstrom of
colonial history.4 From the day they were dumped off the coast of
Honduras, the Black Caribs could certainly be considered as a 'new
people', so radically different were the circumstances in which they
then found themselves. But what interests me here are the stories that
were told during the second half of the eighteenth century about the
origins and development of the Black Caribs on St Vincent, and to
the extent to which we can access it the cultural and political realities
that lay behind those stories. My particular focus will eventually be on
a soldier from the French Revolutionary army that fought alongside
the Caribs against the British, whose first-hand evidence about the
disposition of indigenous people on St Vincent casts doubt on the
traditional picture and helps pose new questions about cultural and
ethnic 'crossings'.
In recent years postcolonial studies has readily become identified
with an emphasis on crossings and mixtures, one shorthand for which
is Salman Rushdie's celebration of, in his words, hybridityy, impurity,
intermingling, the transformation that comes of new and unexpected
combinations, ... mongrelization, melange, hotchpotch, a bit of this and
a bit of that": all of which is, in short "how newness enters the world".5
Beyond that reflection of ethnogenetic 'newness', Rushdie's celebratory
phrase has its general anthropological equivalent in the greater

See Stuart B. Schwartz & Frank Salomon, "New Peoples and New Kinds of People:
Adaptation, Readjustment, and Ethnogenesis in South American Indigenous
Societies (Colonial Era)", in The Cambridge History of the Native Peoples of the
Americas: Vol. III: South America, Part Two, eds. Frank Salomon and Stuart B. Schwartz
(New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 443-501. The standard study of 'red-
black' peoples is Jack D. Forbes, Africans and Native Americans: The Language of
Race and the Evolution of Red-Black Peoples, 2rn1 ed. (Urbana: University of Illinois,
1993); other examples include the Seminoles, the Miskitos, and the Lumbees. The
modern use of ethnogenesis seems to date from William Sturtevant's use of the
term in his essay, "Creek into Seminole", in Eleanor Burke Leacock and Nancy
Oestreich Lurie, eds., North American Indians in Historical Perspective (New York:
Random House, 1971), 92-128; it is then a key concept in Nancie L. Gonzalez,
Sojourners of the Caribbean: Ethnogenesis and Ethnohistory of the Garifuna (Urbana:
University of Illinois Press, 1988). However, intriguingly, a very early appearance of
the word is in the published work of Alexandre Moreau de Jonnes fils, Ethnoginie
caucasienne. Recherches sur la formation et le lieu d'origine des peuples Ethiopiens,
Chalddens, Syriens, Hindous, Perses, Hebreux, Grecs, Celtes, Arabes, etc.( Paris: Par.
&c., 1861).
5 Salman Rushdie, hnaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism, 1981-1991 (London:
Granta Books, 1992), 394.


attention given in the last two decades, especially by writers such as
James Clifford, to cultures that are impure, adulterated, transculturated
- not, in Clifford's case, particularly to celebrate the impure, but rather
to try to shake anthropological discourse free of its fascination with
the ideal of the pure, the untouched, and the authentic.' The Caribbean
as a cultural region occupies something of a pivotal role in these
debates: once scorned as of little interest because it was culturally so
mixed, now the Caribbean is seen as offering an exemplary case study
precisely because of its history of vertiginous cultural crossings.
Though debates about metissage have held centre stage, a different
introductory example will here suggest that not all crossings are
between white and black, however defined.
In 1998 the Museo del Barrio in New York organised an exhibition
called "Taino", dedicated to pre-Columbian art in the Caribbean. The
lead item in the exhibition, displayed in a case at the entrance and
pictured on the cover of the catalogue, was a piece called the Pigorini
zemi.7 This remarkable object was constructed by native craftsmen
on Hispaniola in the early years of the sixteenth century from
Caribbean cotton, Venetian glass, and African rhinoceros horn: in
other words it is the very embodiment of the tri-cultural mix out of
which colonial Caribbean culture developed. Of special interest is
that it was this piece that was chosen by the exhibition curators to
represent Taino culture, not one of the unequivocally pre-contact
pieces. This would not have happened twenty years ago, when the
Pigorini zemi would have been seen as 'inauthentic' because of its
use of non-Caribbean materials. But what I would like to draw from
the example is the point that transculturation, to use Fernando Ortiz's
phrase for cultural crossings, can have at least three component parts,
a necessary reminder both of the powerful indigenous presence in the
Caribbean up to the end of the eighteenth century and of the need to
think our way beyond the limitations of the genealogical metaphor when
considering cultural process.8

See James Clifford, The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth-century Ethnography,
Literature, and Art (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1988).
7 See Fatima Bercht et al., eds., Taino: Pre-Columbian Art and Culture from the
Caribbean (New York: The Monacelli Press, 1998).
8 On transculturation, see Fernando Ortiz, Cuban Counterpoint: Tobacco and Sugar,
trans. Harriet de Onis (Durham: Duke University Press, 1995).


Sir John Fortescue, author of the multi-volume History of the British
Army, calls what happened in the West Indies in the 1790s the "darkest
and most forbidding tract" in the whole of that history.9 Britain
ultimately won what it called the Brigands' War, defeated the French
and their native allies, took back possession of islands that it had looked
like losing, and extirpated its Black Carib enemies. Yet the experience
was apparently so horrific, even for the victors, that, according to
Fortescue, the few survivors had no desire to talk about what they had
been through.I" Perhaps as a direct result of this sense of the war as a
journey to the heart of darkness, there has been little historiography
about it, most writers content to see the Brigands' War as an unfortunate
offshoot of the French Revolution, a series of disturbances instigated
by agents provocateurs in an attempt to destabilise British islands which
a benevolent plantocracy had previously shared amicably with
contented slaves and happy natives. As the Cambridge History of the
British Empire puts it, with laconic inaccuracy: "A serious crisis had
arisen in St Vincent in March 1795, when the Caribs (now mainly
negroid) broke loose from their reservation. Previously contented, they
were roused by the levelling propaganda of Victor Hugues from
Guadeloupe, and for a time threatened to master the whole island"."
In 1748 Britain and France had agreed to regard St Vincent as neutral,
outside the limits of each other's penetration in the Caribean, and
therefore effectively in possession of the Caribs. After 1763, however,
at the end of the Seven Years' War, the island became as far as the
British were concerned British, and commissioners were sent out to

J.W. Fortescue, A History of the British Army, vol. IV (London: Macmillan, 1906),
Around 50,000 British soldiers may have died in the Caribbean between 1793
and 1798 (David P. Geggus, Slavery, War, and Revolution: The British Occupation of
Saint Domingue 1793-98 [Oxford: Clarendon Press., 1982], 463n.50).
J. Holland Rose, "The Conflict with Revolutionary France, 1793-1802", in The
Cambridge History of the British Empire: vol. II, The Growth of the New Empire 1783-
1870 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1940), 36-82, at 64. The best
contemporary study is Michael Duffy, Soldiers, Sugar, and Seapower: The British
Expeditions to the West Indies and the War against Revolutionary France (Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 1987); see also Roger N. Buckley, Slaves in Red Coats: The British
West India Regiments, 1795-1815 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979); and
Michael Craton, Testing the Chains: Resistance to Slavery in the British West Indies,
(Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1982).


organise the surveying and sale of land for the plantation of tropical
crops, especially sugar. One of the commissioners, William Young,
thought that the island had the potential to become the most valuable
British sugar colony after Jamaica.12 The activities of these
commissioners occasioned several major incidents in the 1770s in
which the Caribs, with an acute sense of what was at stake, destroyed
surveying equipment and maps in order to prevent a road being built
into the fertile windward valley that the British planters especially
coveted; and with Carib help the French took back control of the island
between 1779 and 1783.
For many years before 1795 the planters and commissioners had
clearly wanted the Caribs removed altogether from St Vincent, but the
British government was, in the eyes of the planters, too sensitive to
the opinion of sentimental do-gooders, including missionaries, who
knew little about the realities of Caribbean life and who tended to have
a low opinion of West Indian slave-owners. The native uprising in March
1795 converted the government to the need to remove the Caribs from
St Vincent once they had been militarily defeated, and Carib collusion
with the French enemy silenced humanitarian voices. Once that removal
had taken place, the only voices who wanted to tell the story, their
story of suffering and eventual triumph, were the British planters and
their allies. Through their pens, the planters' version of the ethnography
of the Vincentian Caribs entered the historical record, where it has
never been seriously challenged. William Young produced what he
called an "authentic account" of the Black Caribs, providing evidence
which, he writes, "a British court of justice would admit as competent,
and decide upon as true". 1: In effect, Young's version has become

12 Bernard Marshall, "The Black Caribs Native Resistance to British Penetration
into the Windward Side of St. Vincent 1763-1773", Caribbean Quarterly, 19:4 (1973),
4-19, at 8; referencing C.O. 101/11 (Sir William Young's propositions for Surveying
and Selling the Carib lands on the Windward side of St. Vincent, 11 April 1767).
13 William Young, An Account of the Black Charaibs in the Island of St Vincent's
[1795] (London: Frank Cass, 1971), 3. Apart from Young's Account, the main sources
pertaining to Vincentian Carib history in the late eighteenth century are William
Young, A Tour through the Several Islands of Barbadoes, St Vincent, Antigua, Tobago,
and Grenada, in the Years 1791, and 1792, published as the third volume of Bryan
Edwards, History of the British Colonies in the West Indies (London: John Stockdale,
1801), 260-301; Charles Shephard, An Historical Account of the Island of Saint Vincent
[1831] (London: Frank Cass, 1971); FW.N. Bayley, Four Years'Residence in the West
Indies during the years 1826, 7, 8, and 9 by the Son of a Military Officer (London: Kidd,
1830); Thomas Coke, Some Account of the Late Missionaries to the West Indies in Two


historical truth because he appeared to be the only witness prepared
to give testimony.

At the centre of the planter description of the free non-European
population of St Vincent is a division between what it calls the Yellow
Caribs and the Black Caribs. From the 1770s onwards, the planters
describe a situation in which the westward side of the island is occupied
by a small number of Yellow Caribs largely under the protection of
French settlers, while the eastward half desired by the planters is
controlled by a much larger number of Black Caribs. William Young
stressed that the Yellow and Black Caribs were "two nations of people
of very different origin and pretensions","4 although actual descriptions
have remarkable difficulty in locating these differences.
Origin stories about this supposed division are frequently repeated,
although not always consistent. They usually involve the shipwreck of
a slaving ship, sometimes dated to 1675, with the Caribs enslaving the
shipwrecked Africans, the Africans revolting, setting up their own
community, stealing Carib women, joining forces with existing maroons,
becoming stronger than their erstwhile captors, and taking over the
most fertile parts of the island. So completely, according to this account,
had the Black Caribs come to dominate their former native masters
that British population estimates for the middle of the eighteenth
century are of around 3000 Black Caribs and somewhere between 100
and 500 Yellow Caribs.

Letters from the Rev. Dr. Coke, to the Rev. J. Wesley (London: n.p., 1789); George
Davidson, "The Copy of a Letter... containing a short History of the Caribbs" [24
July 1787], in The Case of the Caribbs in St. Vincent's, [ed. Thomas Coke] (Dublin?:
n.p., 1788), 5-19; and Alexander Anderson, Geography and History of St Vincent,
edited and transcribed by Richard A. and Elizabeth S. Howard (Cambridge, Mass.:
The Arnold Arboretum, 1983). The best modern account of the Vincentian Caribs is
Nancie L. Gonzalez, Sojourners of the Caribbean; see also C.J.M.R. Gullick, Myths of
a Minority: Changing Traditions of the Vincentian Caribs (Assen: Van Gorcum, 1985);
Michael Craton, "From Caribs to Black Caribs: The Amerindian Roots of Servile
Resistance in the Caribbean", in Gary Y. Okihiro, ed., In Resistance: Studies in African,
Caribbean, andAfro-American History, (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press,
1986), 96-116; and Michael Craton, "The Black Caribs of St. Vincent: A Reevaluation",
in Robert L. Paquette and Stanley L. Engerman, eds., The Lesser Antilles in the Age
of European Expansion (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1996), 71-85.
14 Young, An Account, 5.


The planter evidence for two distinct nations or races, for how that
division came about, and for how completely the Black Caribs
dominated by 1795 is not without certain self-contradictions, not least
that even on the planters' own account the Black Caribs spoke the
same language as their Yellow counterparts and had adopted the entire
repertoire of their cultural practices, such as flattening infant heads
and upright burials. The planter story of Africans made slaves by Caribs
before rebelling and capturing Carib females is also suspiciously similar
to stories of supposed Carib settlement in the islands vis-a-vis the
indigenous Arawaks.15 There is little evidence of what the Caribs
thought of all this, but one Colonial Office document quotes the Black
Caribs as refusing to give up any of their lands, "which lands were
transmitted to them from their ancestors and in defence of which they
would die" suggesting that they saw themselves very much as Caribs
first, at least on this issue."' But if, linguistically and culturally, Black
and Yellow Caribs were identical, the British planters were determined
that the Black Caribs should be seen as distinctly African. They were
sometimes simply described as a "colony of African Negroes""17 on the
assumption that the 'Africanness' of the maroon men had overwhelmed
the 'Caribness' of the women they had kidnapped for sexual partners,
although occasionally remembering that the Caribs themselves had
also had a reputation for fierceness the Black Caribs might be called
that "doubly savage race".18 Agostino Brunias's painting of the meeting
between the Carib chief Chatoyer and the British General Dalrymple
in St Vincent in 1773 depicted the Caribs as so dark-skinned that
lithographs of the painting could be used in subsequent years to
illustrate British negotiations with Jamaican and Dominican maroons."1
William Young neatly summed up the four important divisions on the
island as the planters saw them: "aboriginal Indians, Negro colonials,
French intruders, and British settlers".20

1' See Peter Hulme, Colonial Encounters: Europe and the Native Caribbean, 1492-
1797 (London: Methuen, 1986), 45-87.
"' Quoted in Marshall, "The Black Caribs," 12, referencing C.O. 101/16 (Governor
Leyborne to Hillsborough, no. 26,30 July 1772). The 1773 peace treaty speaks simply
of "Charaibs" (Young, An Account, 89).
17 Young, An Account, 5.
'" Shephard, An Historical Account, 22.
Craton, "The Black Caribs", 81. On the colonial tendency to stress African
background over against Native American, see Forbes, Africans and Native
Americans, 85-6.
"2 Young, An Account, 30.


So the British planter account Africanised the group it called the
Black Caribs. This had a number of advantages for the planters. It
emphasised the Black Carib role as usurpers. It helped avoid a repetition
of the groundswell of British liberal opinion in defence of the indigenous
Caribs during the war of the 1770s which had forced the British to
sue for peace. It reduced the number of indigenous families to a handful.
And it drew upon the traditional association of blackness with savagery
and evil, heightened by the success of slave revolts in the Caribbean in
recent years, especially in St.-Domingue after 1791.
Douglas Taylor described the problems with this picture very well,
some fifty years ago in asking "why this fortuitous assemblage of fugitive
African slaves... should have prospered"; and why, having been
deported by the British, they should have clung with such tenacity "to
the language and traditions they adopted from a breed so little of whose
blood they inherit, and whom they themselves helped to defeat.""21
Taylor's language actually hints at how he tried to avoid these
questions: the Black Caribs were 'really' Africans who adopted
indigenous cultural practices but remained phenotypically and
psychologically separate from their 'host' community. The complexities
of the historical record of transculturation were only 'solved' by positing
an African truth behind an indigenous mask.

In the first half of the nineteenth century slavery began to become
the subject of scholarly analysis. The earliest statistical study in France
was published in 1842 by Alexandre Moreau de Jonnes, already a
distinguished historian of the French Caribbean islands and author of
a study of yellow fever, the disease that had devastated the islands at
the end of the eighteenth century. Moreau was appointed as head of
the new French Bureau of Statistics in 1833, and went on to crown his
academic career with a book on the general principles of statistical
analysis. He became a member of the French Academy and died as the
grand old man of French social science in 1870, aged 92.22 However, in

1 Douglas Taylor, The Black Carib of British Honduras, Viking Fund Publications
in Anthropology, 17 (New York: Wenner-Gren Foundation, 1951), 28.
Observations pour servir 6 'histoire de la fidvre jaune aux Antilles (Paris: Impr.
de Migneret, 1817); Histoire physique des Antilles francaises, savoir la Martinique et
les Ties de la Guadeloupe (Paris: Impr. de Migneret, 1822): Recherches statistiques sur
I'esclavage colonial etsur les nmoyens de le supprimer[ 1842] (Geneva: Slatkine, 1978);


1858, at the age of 80, he published a memoir of his first career as a
soldier, Aventures de guerre au temps de la rdpublique et du consulate2 3
Moreau had an extraordinary early life. He had left school in Rennes
to go to Paris to serve the Revolution: he was present in the Tuileries
at the meeting between Louis XVI and Lafayette; he fought against the
Breton resistance; he was in Toulon when it was burned by the English
in 1793. He took part in both French invasions of Ireland, meeting
Fitzgerald in Munster in 1796, and Wolfe Tone on another occasion in
France; and he was a spy at The Nore during the great British naval
mutiny, actually witnessing Samuel Parker's execution. In the Caribbean
he served as a gunner and military commander; but he was also forced
by circumstance to act as an engineer, a surveyor, a lawyer, and a doctor.
He worked under cover on Martinique during the British occupation
and took part in the French attack on Dominica in 1805. He crossed the
Atlantic on ten occasions during the Anglo-French wars, the last time
in 1809 on his way to a prison ship in Portsmouth where he drafted a
first version of his memoirs. He returned to France aged 35, after
spending a remarkable 22 years as a soldier. However, during that time
he had also taught himself geography, botany and mineralogy: he claims
to have been the first person to prove that the Caribbean islands were
volcanic in structure.
Moreau's adventures included several long tours of duty in the
Caribbean, the first of which lasted from August 1795, when he crossed
the Atlantic in a privateer, until June 1796, when he was taken prisoner
by British troops in St Vincent and deported back to France. His most

Elements de statistique comprenant les principles g6ndraux de cette science, et un
apergu historique de ses progres (Paris: Guillaumin, 1847). On Moreau's eminence as
a statistician, see Fernand Faure, "The Development and Progress of Statistics in
France" in John Koren, ed., The History of Statistics: Their Development and Progress
in Many Countries [1918] (New York: Burt Franklin, 1970), 218-329, at 218.
2:' Aventures de guerre au temps de la rdpublique et du consulate, 2 vols. (Paris:
Pagnerre, 1858). An abbreviated edition was later published: Aventures de guerre
au temps de la republique et du consulate, preface by L&on Say (Paris: Guillaumin,
1893). There are two partial English translations, both of which leave out much of
the ethnographic material: Adventures in the Revolution and under the Consulate,
trans. Cyril Hammond, with an introduction by The Hon. Sir John Fortescue (London:
Peter Davies, Ltd, 1929), reprinted, with an introduction by Michael Glover (London:
Peter Davies, 1969); and Adventures in Wars of the Republic and Consulate, trans.
Brig-Gen. A.J. Abdy (London: John Murray, 1920). None of the existing
anthropological or historical writing about the Caribs of St Vincent refers to Moreau
de Jonnes.

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