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This chapter describes and explains the emergence of majoritarian decision-making in twenty-seven lower colonial assemblies in Ireland, mainland North America, and the Caribbean between 1619 and 1776. It documents the peculiar conditions under which majoritarian politics developed in the colonies while also registering the importance of attempts to imitate parliamentary practices. Colonial lower assemblies were created under conditions fundamentally different from those that prevailed in the Westminster House of Commons. Some were part of corporations and proprietorships, not royal colonies; and some initially admitted all freemen, not simply elected representatives. These factors led to distinctive institutional trajectories. In general and over the long run, these factors appear to have reinforced a tendency for the colonial lower assemblies to be or become majoritarian. By scrutinizing the available evidence, one is left with the overwhelming impression of a total embrace of majoritarian politics before the American Revolution and, in most cases, long before that time. As the colonial lower assemblies of North America became provincial congresses and then state lower assemblies, they predictably continued their majoritarian practices. This pattern continued in the first intercolonial assemblies and in the US House of Representatives.
The early colonial period witnessed new scales of connectivity and unprecedented projects of resource extraction across the Spanish Americas. Yet such transformations also drew heavily on preexisting Indigenous landscapes, technologies, and institutions. Drawing together recent discussions in archaeology and geography about mobility and resource materialities, this article takes the early colonial route as a central object of investigation and contributes to new emerging interpretive frameworks that make sense of Spanish colonialism in the Americas as a variable, large-scale, and materially constituted process. Using three case studies—the ruta de Colón on the island of Hispaniola, the routes connecting the southeastern Caribbean islands with mainland South America, and the ruta de la plata in the south-central Andes—we develop a comparative archaeological analysis that reveals divergent trajectories of persistence, appropriation, and erasure in the region's routes and regimes of extraction and mobility during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
This chapter provides an overview of the French circum-Atlantic novel, as written primarily by metropolitan whites, between 1697 and 1807—the period in which both the French novel and French slavery evolved. The chapter links canonical novels, such as Prevost's Manon Lescaut and Voltaire's Candide, to the major themes and narrative mapping of less well-known colonial fictions by Alexandre-Olivier Oexmelin, Jean-François de Saint-Lambert, Germaine de Staël, and Jean-Baptiste Picquenard, and others. The chapter summarizes some of the major critical explanations for the relative paucity of representations of slavery in eighteenth-century French fiction as well as some accounts of colonial reading and writing among whites and people of colour in French Caribbean colonies. It argues that the French circum-Atlantic novel evolved as an imaginative space in which chattel slavery was transformed into an aesthetic atmosphere for depicting human enslavement to passion rather than human enslavement to humans. Emerging as the characteristic element of this fiction, the harangue spoken by the revolting slave leader or abused woman of colour translated historical slavery into a colonial hamartia, the internal flaw or enslavement to destiny.
Only five years ago, Montserrat was a blank spot on the distribution map of islands in the Lesser Antilles where petroglyphs were known. In January 2016, hikers in Soldier Ghaut, a deeply incised watercourse in the northwest of the island, came upon a panel of nine petroglyphs engraved on a nearly vertical wall of volcanoclastic tuff. Soon afterward the petroglyphs were documented by the Survey and Landscape Archaeology on Montserrat project (SLAM). Then in January 2018 an additional petroglyph was spotted on a large slab of rock, detached from the rock wall on the opposite side of the ghaut. At the invitation of the Montserrat National Trust (MNT) and with European Union funding, Susana Guimarães and Christian Stouvenot traveled to Montserrat in 2018 to assist in further studies at the site. They conducted photogrammetric documentation and photography under enhanced lighting conditions and inspected the petroglyphs and their context in detail in order to advise MNT about their conservation and provisions for public access. This report presents this new group of petroglyphs and their landscape setting and considers questions of dating and interpretation.
Research in recent decades has drawn out the Caribbean dimensions and occlusions of the Harlem Renaissance and its historiography. Building on the foundations of such work, this chapter focuses on a rarely discussed Caribbean backstory to a symposium on Negro art that W. E. B. Du Bois ran in TheCrisis through much of 1926. As a backdrop to US-tropical American fissures, the discussion charts some of the graphic, textual, and representative tensions between Alain Locke’s Survey Graphic, “Harlem: Mecca of the New Negro” and The New Negro anthology and rival work by Eric Walrond and Miguel Covarrubias in Vanity Fair. In the foreground, it examines how Knopf’s 1925 edition of Haldane Macfall’s 1898 novel, The Wooings of Jezebel Pettyfer – which is virtually unheard of today – prompted one of the most significant discussions on the issue of black representation in the arts in the 1920s.
Reflecting on Derek Walcott’s early relationship with movement, dance and ritual, this article sheds light on the centrality of embodied memory in Walcott’s work for the stage and reflects on the relationship between memory and materiality in his epistemology of performance. Walcott’s ideas shaped his approach to dramaturgy in the late 1950s and position his work in relation to global debates around materialism (Brecht) and ritualism (Grotowski) in the theatre. A discussion of two plays, Dream on Monkey Mountain and Pantomime, examines the use of gestural language in specific performances of each. Such an approach demonstrates that the importance of embodied memory, as reflected in the staging of these plays, relates to certain Afro-Caribbean belief systems, which have exerted much influence on Walcott’s work. The article also emphasizes how Walcott’s theatre functions as a decolonial praxis that fosters the emergence of empowered subjectivities and Africanist modes of humanness that challenge the cultural order of colonialism. Jason Allen-Paisant is a lecturer in Caribbean Poetics and Decolonial Thought at the University of Leeds, and Director of the Institute for Colonial and Postcolonial Studies. He is currently at work on the monograph Staging Black Futures in the Twenty-First Century.
Few historians have noticed that, from the abolition of slavery in the British West Indies (1834) to the same milestone in the United States (1865), the planters of the British colonies of Jamaica, Trinidad, and Guiana made repeated attempts to entice over the black Americans whose white rulers seemed so eager to expel them. The planters’ offer divided abolitionists, who heard echoes of the prejudicial premise of Liberian colonization, but who also saw an opportunity to boost the free-labor British Caribbean. The 2,000 black Americans and Canadians who immigrated to the British West Indies at the turn of the 1840s found many things to commend in their new home – and many things to condemn. Such ambivalence about the entire venture was shared by the British government, which forever feared that colonial canvassers would jeopardize Anglo-American relations by accepting fugitive slaves. Latterly joined by the other European powers with West Indian colonies, namely, France, the Netherlands, and Denmark, Britain approached the matter gingerly during the American Civil War, when the prospect of benefiting from wholesale emancipation, but under the fraught auspices of the US military, offered unimaginable risk and reward.
This essay explores how authors, texts, and forms moved throughout the Caribbean in the period, transgressing boundaries of language and geography. Regional responses to the Haitian Revolution and other Caribbean antislavery and anticolonial movements reveal the clear trans-Caribbean focus of many nineteenth-century Caribbean writers. Additionally, the growing sphere of newspapers provided a concrete means through which ideas circulated throughout the region. This chapter looks primarily to Haiti and Trinidad as early examples through which to consider literary anglophone–francophone connections and the formations of Caribbean identity that heavily influenced later Caribbean writers. I argue that the circulation of ideas and authors in the period ultimately generated complex negotiation of contested spaces, shifting boundaries, and complex identities that gave rise to conceptions of creoleness and exile that are foundational to Caribbean literature.
This essay summarizes the renewed and expanded perspectives on Caribbean literature made possible by the three-volume critical project to which it contributes the final essay. It then addresses three of the most pertinent issues facing Caribbean literature and literary studies as it moves further into the twenty-first century: first, how the future of Caribbean literary criticism will be shaped as much by what we rediscover about its past as by what is yet to come; second, how critical models might evolve as we reach the limit point of cascading inclusions; and third, questions of accessing and preserving literary sources (past, present and future), with a cautious appraisal of the promise of digital humanities.
In her 1949 article ‘We Want Books – But Do We Encourage Our Writers?’, Jamaican writer Una Marson alludes to the lack of exposure of Caribbean writers to potential readers and bemoans the lack of interest in reading. She also implies that Caribbean writers might be scarce or unproductive because they lack financial support. As the second decade of the twenty-first century closes, it is clear that the cultivation of a Caribbean reading audience as well as a market for Caribbean literature has gathered momentum since 1949. This essay considers the role of literary prizes and festivals in stimulating new writing, in growing a global audience for Caribbean literature and in supporting the careers of Caribbean writers in the region and in the Caribbean diaspora.
Children’s and Young Adult Fiction has slowly emerged since the 1970s as a significant presence in Caribbean writing, although it still constitutes an understudied group of texts and has received comparatively little critical attention from scholars and critics. This essay explores how Caribbean Children’s and Young Adult Fiction draws on Afro- and Indo-Caribbean oral traditions and folklore whilst also exploring contemporary cultural issues such as sexuality and body-image as it approaches questions around Caribbean cultural identity with different perspectives, purposes and poetics. Collectively, these works have provided an important space through which to revisit history, either to tell stories that have been left out of the official record or to retell grand historical narratives (colonial and national) from other perspectives. The presence and centrality of child narrators has been a marked feature, and their voices are frequently deployed to critique and provide fresh commentary on established narratives, historical reasonings and social questions.
This chapter examines Caribbean writing of the 1950s–1960s in relation to modernism as a concept, movement, and literary practice. Based on writing by Caribbean intellectuals, including C. L. R. James, George Lamming, Wilson Harris, and Édouard Glissant, and building on work by critics Simon Gikandi, Charles Pollard, Mary Lou Emery, Maria Cristina Fumagali, and others, it identifies a project of questioning modernism that challenged Eurocentric notions of Enlightenment modernity while contributing to modernist aesthetics. Further, it suggests that Caribbean writers of that period anticipated and currently inspire revisions of mainstream modernist studies. Critical reassessments of the Windrush generation, including feminist critiques of canon formation (J. Dillon Brown, Peter Kalliney, Faith Smith, Leah Rosenberg, and Alison Donnell), help support the essay’s argument for the importance of earlier decades of Caribbean modernism along with translinguistic philosophical and artistic influences. Specific readings focus on interactions among literary and visual arts – especially in the work of Lamming, Harris, Kamau Brathwaite, Roger Mais, and Aubrey Williams. In the writing of Harris, Brathwaite, and Jean Rhys, the essay locates ‘tropes of brokenness’ as ground for new concepts of the individual, new portrayals of vision, and a Caribbean modernist poetics based on creolized and indigenous arts.
The essay surveys a broad selection of literary responses to tourism, which plays a significant role in the Caribbean. While the tourism economy is not inconsequential, the authors in focus tend to portray the commercialization and commodification of the archipelago, often marketed through the fantasy of paradise islands, in a negative light. Targeting the ‘leisure imperialism’ of tourism ideology, they trace an unsettling legacy in which the violent past of sugar and slavery survives in the smiling servitude of industrialized tourism. The superficial discourse of love and peace, the hedonism imposed on the sunny tropics, the supposedly willing sycophancy of the locals eager to please wealthy tourists are all dismantled through humour and dark satire to reveal a bleak underside of drugs, sex, exploitation, antipathy and social rot. However, calls for responsible, ‘slow’ tourism more beneficial to the locals hope that the industry may be ethically operated.
The white female planter is an understudied figure in Caribbean history and literature. This essay follows the idea of the gendered responsibility to memory using the methodology of feminist rehearsal to examine representations of white women plantation owners in a range of contemporary Caribbean novels. The essay recounts the heated debates among the region’s literary critics and writers around the status of the white woman as author and character, while also looking at the literary characterization of women who had titular (or representative) plantation power and others who owned plantations outright. Most of the novels deploy intertextuality and multiple timelines to recuperate and consciously rehearse experiences missing or invisible in official chronicles. These novels explore the intersectional ideological negotiations that shaped the imperial spaces of the plantation and the lives that were lived within that terrain.
While the story of Caribbean literature in English generally focuses on its emergence in relation to Great Britain, Caribbean writers also urgently explored the Caribbean’s relationship to the United States. US imperialism in the region was most explicit with the US presence in Cuba and Puerto Rico after the Spanish-American War, in the occupations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic in the 1910s to 1930s, and in its post-World War II involvement in various territories. Caribbean migration into the US fuelled the alliances that Brent Hayes Edwards describes as ‘the practice of diaspora’. In the 1920s, Caribbean activists and writers such as Hubert Harrison, Claude McKay, and Eric Walrond helped shape the Harlem Renaissance. That movement’s aesthetic experiments and pan-African identifications inspired the development of literature within the region. The United States was also a hub from which some writers travelled to other parts of the world (Russia, France, the UK) and became part of a network of mutual influences. US writers such as Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston travelled to the Caribbean. Later, the ranks of the predominantly male writers in the United States were expanded with the emergence of women writers such as Audre Lorde and Paule Marshall, and growing Caribbean immigration to the US coupled with the rise of US cultural institutions meant that the US location continued to influence Caribbean writing.
This analytical survey of key texts in contemporary urban Caribbean fiction and poetry from Kingston, Port-au-Prince, Havana, Santo Domingo and Pointe-à-Pitre explores several themes this literature holds in common: the postcolonial (or, in the case of Cuba, post-revolutionary) breakdown of the urban fabric and its attendant covert and more often overt violence, seen here in relation to the haunting and haunted after-lives of the plantation complex, along with the lived textures of daily life, with its unstable interplay of social anomie and possible emancipatory alternatives.
While the naming of Caribbean works as speculative fiction has enabled the possibility of this regionally specific genre to take shape in the twenty-first century, there has been a long tradition of literary works that seek to represent alternative and multiple realities by fragmenting realist forms and employing the rich folkloric and spiritual traditions of the region. Figures such as the soucouyant and mermaid often symbolize gendered realities, the zombie represents psychological trauma, and spirits emphasize the continuation of the past in the present. Drawing on elements of fantasy, these works are thus often deeply informed by socio-political concerns and traumatic events, and arguably transform, rather than bypass, the historic character of Caribbean literature. Through the utopian/dystopian scenarios recognizable within speculative literature, readers are returned to the issues of memory, history and identity, while also pushing at the imaginative limits of community and embodiment in their creation of alternate possibilities.
Creative non-fiction, including modes of essay, letter and journal writing, has been an important genre in Caribbean writing. Caribbean literature has had a long history of creative/critical intersections, and many of the most significant creative figures have also been influential in setting critical agendas through these literary forms (Brathwaite, Brodber, Lamming, Walcott, Wynter). During the contemporary period, creative non-fiction has also functioned as a key site for writers to explore ideas about the changing Caribbean, in its political, social, artistic, and spiritual dimensions, and to constantly recontextualize the Caribbean’s place in the world. This essay addresses how selected Caribbean writers have participated in the genre of nonfiction from the 1970s to the present. The discussion explores the issues and problems of categories and classifications and offers close readings of non-fictional works by V. S. Naipaul, Jamaica Kincaid and Rachel Manley.
This essay considers seven texts by Caribbean authors, fiction, poetry and travel narrative, which in setting and ethos move beyond diasporic spaces, thus extending the dimensions of how we understand the Caribbean experience in the world. The essay explores how travel for the Caribbean subject has almost always been considered a kind of escape and rebellion, but in this new dispensation can also be read as self-indulgence and self-care. It argues that even in these beyond spaces in the world, blackness is often traditionally oppressive, but that new Caribbean subjects are interpellated in so many different, other ways that instead race is not central to their experiences.
Caribbean eco-poetics takes the categorial imperative – the culmination of the long history of Western separation of human and nature in the Enlightenment/colonial mandate to categorize and systematize, to collect and enclose, to divide and conquer – as part of the violence of colonialism. Caribbean eco-poetics offers ways of articulating the endless transitions, the perpetual revolutions, and the inextricable imbrications of humans with not only nature, animals and things but also of all those with spirits, folk figures and divine forces that are endemic in the Caribbean. This essay examines how Caribbean eco-poetics return to the colonial archive to examine the naturalization of the categorial imperative and to recuperate its victims, reconfigure the garden and gardening as ways to reinhabit and reconfigure the categorial imperative, write worlds where indifferences of human, animal, spirit, genre are manifest, and include indifference to binary gender and heteronormativity.