EXILE AND AGENCY IN CARIBBEAN LITERATURE AND CULTURE
DAVID W. HART
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
David W. Hart
I thank Brandon Kershner, my chair, whose comments and suggestions greatly
improved this dissertation. I thank my dissertation committee members, Malini Schueller,
Tace Hedrick, and Gerald Murray. I also thank Dr. Schueller for suggesting that I take the
time to visit the Caribbean to help shape my knowledge of the region. I thank the Kirkland
Foundation for enabling my research in two important ways; the Kirkland Travel
Scholarship aided my exchange program to Jamaica, and the Kirkland Dissertation
Fellowship aided the completion of this dissertation. I thank Lyn Straka at the UF
International Center. I thank Sid Dobrin for hiring me as a Teaching Assistant, and Kathy
Williams and Carla Blount for their help in various matters in the UF English Department.
My thanks go to the professors and students at the University of the West Indies in
Jamaica who aided my research and met me with outstretched arms. I especially thank
Carolyn Cooper for sponsoring my exchange program and enabling my cultural education.
I thank Mervyn Morris, Rex Nettleford, Nadi Edwards, Michael Bucknor, Victor Chang,
Rosalyn Kahn, Donna Hayles, Leisa Samuels, and Claudette Anderson; and Sean
Mockyan at the UWI Library of the Spoken Word. Thanks go to my friends from Crofts
Hill, Jamaica: Barrington "Fitzie" Davis, Jona "Damian" Rowe, Richard "Jokie" Douglas,
and Eric "Dinjamin" Benjamin. Thanks also go to Bertram and Swarna Bandara. As a
Jamaican proverb says, "howdy an tenky bruck no square."
I thank my wife Ashley Weycer who has been especially patient and supportive of
my Ph.D. work. And I thank my parents and sisters who have always supported my
various endeavors. I thank Phil Holcomb, who inspired me to a lifetime of education. And
I thank my best friend Blake Bishop, who makes life itself a joy.
Portions of this dissertation (in progress) were given as presentations at
conferences: "Forces of Exile and Agency: Caribbean Identities and Globalization
Theory," at the University of the West Indies Staff/Postgraduate Seminar Series, Jamaica,
2001; "Caribbean Interactions: CLR James' Mariners, Renegades and Castaways," 21st
Annual West Indian Literature Conference, Barbados, 2002; "American Crisis and a
Caribbean Connection," 2003 English Graduate Organization Conference, Gainesville,
Florida; "Matters of History and Faith in Caribbean Chronotopes: Derek Walcott and
Michelle Cliff," 22nd Annual West Indian Literature Conference, Miami, 2003.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ................................................................................................. iii
A B S T R A C T .............................................................. ........ ...... v ii
1 INTRODUCTION: THEORIES OF GLOBALIZATION AND EXILE .................1
In tro du ctio n ...................................... .................................... ................
T heories of G lobalization ............................ .......................................................10
Caribbean Exile ................................ .......... .. .. .................23
2 KALEIDOSCOPIC VIEWS: CARIBBEAN REGIONAL
GLOBALIZATION AESTHETICS .................................. ....................... 31
3 CARIBBEAN FOLKLORE AND MYTHOLOGIES:
LITERATURE OF A TEMPORAL AND SPATIAL MIND ..............................57
4 CARIBBEAN EXILE: INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL
F R A M E S O F B E IN G ..................................................................... ...................92
5 INTELLECTUAL EXILE AND AGENCY: C. L. R. JAMES .......................... 123
Beyond the Boundary of Cultural Hegemony ... through Cricket? ..................128
A Caribbean Ishm ael in Exile ........................................ .......................... 143
6 NUF RISPEK: JAMAICA'S QUEST FOR CULTURAL
AGENCY AND NATIONAL SOVEREIGNTY .............................................. 154
Politics, Poverty, and Violence ................................. 155
The City and the Country ............................ ................... ............ .............. 159
Globalization in Jamaica: A "Life and Debt" Situation ..................................... 166
Exile and Agency in Marley, Muta, and Morris .............................................. 169
Exile and Diaspora ............... ...... ........ ........... ............. 175
C onclu sion ........................................... .......... ................. 183
R E F E R E N C E S ........................................ ............................................................ 18 6
BIO GR APH ICAL SK ETCH ......................................................................... 197
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
EXILE AND AGENCY IN CARIBBEAN LITERATURE AND CULTURE
David W. Hart
Chair: R. Brandon Kershner
Major Department: English
This dissertation examines the local Caribbean interaction with global economic
and cultural forces. My focus is the sense of exile which pervades Caribbean literature, and
the interaction of Caribbean identities with the forces of globalization. My basic premise is
that modem globalization and the heritage of imperialism and colonialism are forces of
exile in the Caribbean region. Caribbean literature, however, is a force of cultural agency.
Through a variety of texts from the latter half of the twentieth century, I explore
how Caribbean intellectuals respond to their exilic economic and cultural circumstances. In
a deft move, Caribbean authors use their exile as a tool in the quest for cultural agency.
The interactions of Caribbean literature and culture with forces of globalization give us
numerous illustrations of the tension between the struggle for agency and the suppression
of agency. By viewing critical essays, folklore, novels, poetry, plays, interviews, music,
and film, we may understand how local Caribbean agency resides in a region always-
already interacting with global forces that supposedly destroy local identities.
INTRODUCTION: THEORIES OF GLOBALIZATION AND CARIBBEAN EXILE
Through the reconstruction of imaginary, knowable places, in the face of
the global postmodern, globalized forces have, as it were, destroyed the
identities of specific places, absorbed them into a postmodern flux of
diversity. (Stuart Hall, "The Local and The Global: Globalization and
Of course, I'm arguing that globalization must never be read as a simple
process of cultural homogenization; it is always an articulation of the local,
of the specific and the global. (Stuart Hall, "Cultural Studies and the
Politics of Intemationalization" 407)
One can-it is amazing-hear a Martinican planter interviewed on television
talk of"we Europeans." (tdouard Glissant, Caribbean Discourse 57)
This dissertation explores the cultural condition of the postcolonial Caribbean
region. Works by many Caribbean intellectuals represent regionally what Edward Said
describes generally as a "response to Western dominance which culminated in the great
movement of decolonization all across the Third World" (Culture and Imperialism xii).
Although most of the island nations are now independent, their local interactions with the
West continue to be problematic in both economic and cultural terms. In the cultural
realm, the problem lies at the heart of a comment made by a British tourist I met in
Barbados in March 2001. I mentioned my area of research, and he responded: "There's a
Caribbean literature?" He was not arguing semantics ("Caribbean" as opposed to "West
Indian"). The British tourist may as well have said, "there's a Caribbean identity?" There
are many variations of Caribbean identity and literature. To the surprise of the British
tourist-and perhaps many others-Caribbean literature contains a vast body of knowledge;
the study of Caribbean literature is useful to understand the Caribbean as much as to
understand the West's relationship with the region. Although Caribbean literature has
existed for centuries, since the 1930s, the post-WWII 1950s, and again since
independence in the 1960s, it has steadily increased in both its mass of production, and
(even more recently) in worldwide acclaim; we may note the Nobel prize in literature for
1992 and 2001, for St. Lucia's Derek Walcott and Trinidad's V.S. Naipaul, respectively.
The Caribbean region's colonial heritage as well as its postcolonial political status
since the 1960s has stimulated its intellectuals to produce a critical paradigm of identity
literature that focuses on their sense of exile. The discourse of exile in Caribbean literature
is quite pervasive. Even after political independence, Caribbean people still must break a
firmly entrenched imperial cultural hegemony; one way they do this is through their artistic
expressions. Working within various forms of exile, Caribbean intellectuals-who may be
viewed as a class of society themselves-actualize various levels of cultural agency that
challenge the totalitarian master narratives which enable such a question as "there's a
Caribbean literature?" Caribbean literature itself represents a force of cultural agency by
inscribing a valuable Caribbean heritage that historically has been marginalized, alienated,
and exiled. Thus, the agency to which I refer throughout this discussion is (depending on
the context) either the Caribbean intellectuals' notions of their personal empowerment as
opposed to their sense of exile, or the actual economic and hegemonic power of their
independent island homes and the region, which is always relative to the West's power.
The Caribbean region includes the islands from the Bahamas southward to
Trinidad and Tobago-a two-thousand mile expanse-and it includes approximately thirty-
eight million people; the region includes the mainland territories of Belize, Guyana, French
Guiana, and Suriname as Caribbean for their parallel cultural histories with the islands
(Segal 213-214). Although there are "thousands of islands" in the Caribbean region, the
Anglophone Caribbean islands constitute 20 of the 33 islands that are large enough for
substantial habitation and political appropriation interests (Knight 3). Because of the small
size of the Anglophone islands, their populations comprise only about seventeen percent
of the total Caribbean population (Knight 314). Therefore, it is important to understand
that the majority of "Caribbean" authors, and their region to which I refer, mainly
represent the Anglophone Caribbean. There are a few obvious exceptions, such as my
references to Edouard Glissant who is from Martinique and thus Francophone, and Alejo
Carpentier who is from Cuba and thus Hispanophone. However, I have simplified the term
throughout this discussion as "Caribbean" since the various authors to which I refer often
denote it as such, especially when they locate cultural conditions in a region-wide context.
In fact, much of Glissant's and Carpentier's work validates the Anglophone Caribbean
intellectuals' suggestions of a regional exilic condition.
My focus is the exilicc paradigm"' which pervades Caribbean literature, and the
interaction of Caribbean identities as represented through this paradigm with what we may
call globalization. Caribbean literature presents many avenues with which to view this
identity of exile as it is being prophesied, formed, addressed, and co-opted. First of all,
most of the authors to whom I will refer are, or have lived, in self-imposed exile. Yet an
earlier exile can be identified in the fact that the ancestors of the authors I refer to as
My thanks to Nadi Edwards at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Jamaica,
for directing me to this conceptual phrase.
Caribbean are not indigenous to this area. The exilic conditions of slavery and indentured
servitude that occurred long ago still have significant cultural capital in much discourse
from the Caribbean. Exile also may be viewed to have more severe social repercussions in
Caribbean identity issues; we thus have the Caribbean intellectuals' notions of cultural
schizophrenia and split consciousness, which are directly related to their struggle against
the imperial cultural hegemony. One reason for the continuance of this struggle rests in
the fact that the old imperial powers survive in forms of neocolonialism, and interact with
the islands through what we call globalization, which influences the region especially in the
economic and the cultural realms. Caribbean intellectuals thus address what Morley and
Chen call a "glib announcement of a 'postcolonial' era" which comes from centers of
hegemonic power; Morley and Chen maintain that "from the geopolitical position of the
third world, the traces of colonialism cannot be so easily erased, and the economic and
cultural forces ofneo-colonialism can perhaps more readily be seen to be alive and well"
(10). Indeed, much Caribbean literature supports Morley and Chen's argument.
Globalization theorists rarely look into the Caribbean region as a point of
departure for analysis; likewise, the Caribbean discourse of exile rarely uses terms similar
to those of globalization theorists. The focus on exile in Caribbean literature is rooted in
the concerns of an individual or a group's place or social space in society. Globalization
theorists do bring up identity issues and community concerns, but these are sometimes
marginal to the privileged focal point of the powers of international corporate finance and
national economic sovereignty. Thus, it may sound problematic for me to place these two
seemingly incommensurable discourses into a context that presumes an interaction
between them. This is indeed problematic for the reasons just given; yet, as I will show,
the interaction does exist.
Exile is inherently caused by forces beyond one's control. The online Oxford
English Dictionary (OED) offers four specific definitions of "exile." The two noun forms
are (la) "enforced removal from one's native land according to an edict or sentence; penal
expatriation or banishment; the state or condition of being penally banished; enforced
residence in some foreign land," and (lb) "expatriation, prolonged absence from one's
native land, endured by compulsion of circumstances or voluntarily undergone for any
purpose," and (2) "a banished person; one compelled to reside away from his native land."
The adjective form is obsolete (meaning "slender," "thin," and "shrunken") and thus not
useful here, although I will use the modem adjectival, exilicc." The verb form of exile is
"to compel (a person) by a decree or enactment to leave his country; to banish, expatriate"
(OED). References to exile exist in fifty-nine separate definitions in the OED, but we may
narrow this list by noting that the term recurs in synonyms for banishment, transportation,
ejection, deportation, and emigration. They all involve movement. Only the last
reference-emigration-allows for agency and choice in the matter. Suggestive of the
complexities of Caribbean identities and struggles for agency, we see virtually "all of the
above" defining points of exile in Caribbean literature. We should, therefore, recognize the
potential variability when one uses the term exile as a descriptor.
The employment of exilic themes is overwhelmingly pervasive in Caribbean
literature. The thematic device of exile often becomes the discursive space of the struggle
for, and sometimes attainment of, agency in Caribbean literature and culture. Exile appears
in a variety of narrative genres, through fictional characters, autobiographical writing,
author interviews, critical essays, and in folklore; all of which may bring up Caribbean
intellectuals' notions of exile (and some are more overt than others), such as alienation,
marginalization, emigration, home, the "mother country," outsider/insider status, race,
class, gender, creolization, hybridity, uprootedness, and the writer as a cosmopolitan
intellectual figure. There are a variety of meanings implicit in these terms. Therefore, as it
is represented by Caribbean authors, I plan to show, contextually, the locality of exile and
agency in Caribbean literature and culture.
Most of the authors in this study, while hailing directly from the Caribbean, have
left their respective islands at some point to pursue career employment and (or)
educational interests. They live in self-imposed exile, which is quite different from people
who live inpolitical exile for their lives' sake. Yet there are more than a few similarities
between the authors in this study and political exiles in their representations of alienation,
isolation, and marginalization; hence, the Caribbean intellectuals deem themselves to be in
exile, and their characters have exilic qualities. For one example, an initial hurdle for the
"early exiles" of the 1950s-60s was the public perception of the legitimacy of their craft.
When George Lamming was growing up, if he had claimed that "I think I would like to be
a writer," then his statement would have been translated into "he had no intention of
getting a job" ("The Making of a Writer" 271). Thus Lamming's work as a writer could
not be completed in these circumstances. He had to leave.
As with exile, globalization as it is discussed by theorists appears in various forms.
The word only appears in the online OED as a subset of the adjective "global," which is
defined as "pertaining to or embracing the totality of a number of items, categories, etc.;
comprehensive, all-inclusive, unified; total; spec. pertaining to or involving the whole
world; world-wide; universal." Specifically, globalization is referenced under "global"
through the Marshal McLuhan phrase "global village," which refers to the notion of a
"shrinking world" and appears in 1960 and 1962; coincidentally, this time frame (mostly
1960s to the present) is when the Caribbean authors I will discuss are writing their entries
onto the "global page." Not to be confused with globalization, the term "the global" will
be used to signify, contextually, either the worldwide area beyond "the local" Caribbean
region, which I often delineate more specifically as "the West,"2 or the world at-large,
which would include the local Caribbean region.
The absence of "globalization" in the OED suggests the term's newness as critical
jargon. In "Notes on Globalization as a Philosophical Issue" (1998), Fredric Jameson
claims that, generally, "globalization is a communicational concept, which alternately
masks and transmits cultural or economic meanings" (55), and includes the "import and
export of culture" (58). Another broad definition of globalization appears in the
Encyclopedia of Postcolonial Studies (2001):
Globalization refers to the ways in which previously distant parts of the
world have become connected in an historically unprecedented manner,
such that developments in one part of the world are now able to rapidly
produce effects on geographically distant localities. This in turn has made it
possible to begin to imagine the world as a single, global space linked by a
wide array of technological, economic, social and cultural forces. The
relations between global and local are complicated and ambiguous, and
require precise case-by-case analysis. (Hawley 209-15)
This particular definition echoes McLuhan's "shrinking world" paradigm. Perhaps because
of its newness, as well as the divergent focal points of its usage, we will see that
"globalization" is both "a contested and polyvalent term" (Livingston 149). Globalization
2 Carolyn Cooper, at UWI, Jamaica, points out that the Caribbean interaction with
globalization is, in essence, a Caribbean interaction with the West (Personal Interview).
appears as the force which Stuart Hall describes as "destroying local identities" and
likewise as "always an articulation of the local, of the specific and the global." Arjun
Appadurai discusses it in terms of the "ethnoscape," which is an engagement at the centers
of hegemonic power by representatives of the local (usually through emigration or migrant
labor), and "culturalism," which is a response to globalization from within local
communities. Much globalization theory is initiated by (but not always focused on) the
human interaction with the international forces of media, finance, politics, language, and
capitalism. I will focus mainly on the cultural relationships between the local and the
global, through both personal and community as well as national and regional identity
examples as they are brought up by the Caribbean authors.
In the following two sections of this chapter I present a more thorough analysis of
the variations of global and local narratives-from the perspectives of globalization theories
and Caribbean exile-on which I will base my following discussions; although there are
overlapping areas of social concern, there are also great differences between the western
globalization theories and the Caribbean narratives of exile and agency. In a dialogic
paradigm, a two-way relationship exists, for example, in cultural interactions that create
various levels of "uneven geographic development" in globalization theory terms, and
"alienation," "marginalization," and "exile" in Caribbean literary representations.
Chapter 2 focuses on Caribbean intellectual discourses that represent Caribbean
regional globalization aesthetics. It will show the intellectuals' investment, which is often
self-reflexive, in the region's interaction with various economic and cultural forces. The
authors focus on modern globalization, colonization, historical deprivations,
independence, future possibilities, and creolization; viewed together, their diverse focal
points galvanize a regional theme of a New World Caribbean. Chapter 3 shows how the
Caribbean local produces an agency-filled heritage through its literary imagination. This
chapter focuses on orality, folklore, and myth as sites of agency through which a New
World Caribbean Self may be realized in times that are generally filled with exile.
Caribbean authors engage their history to such a degree that their characters occasionally
find themselves exiled from the present; yet, once they have engaged their history, these
characters return to the present with an agency derived from the validation of their cultural
heritage. The affirmation of their cultural heritage is also a key element in their
constructions of positive national identities during transitions to independence.
Chapter 4 focuses on variations on the themes of "internal" and "external" exile as
they appear in representative novels by George Lamming, V.S. Naipaul, and Paule
Marshall. One significant thread which runs through these novels is the characters'
requisite movement-whether continual or occasional-during their struggles for agency.
Chapter 5 explores the exceptional exilic figure ofTrinidadian C.L.R. James, who seems
to desire global citizenship, but who is also mired in the processes of nationalism.
Although he was a self-imposed exile from Trinidad in 1932, he is an exceptional exilic
figure because he was later forcefully deported-a political exile-from both the United
States in 1953 and Trinidad in 1965. Chapter 5 explores James' life of exile and agency
through two of his autobiographical cultural studies: Beyond a Boundary, and Mariners,
Renegades and Castaways. Chapter 6 focuses solely on the representations of exile and
agency in Jamaican literature and culture. I spent the fall semester of 2001 as an exchange
student at the University of the West Indies (UWI) in Jamaica, and some of my analyses in
this chapter-as well as throughout this dissertation-stem from my experiences there. I
make my analysis of Jamaican culture with the aid of local poets, novelists, musicians,
politicians, laborers, films, the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper, and the island's interactions
with the IMF, the World Bank, and the CIA.
Theories of Globalization
Globalization theorists have a general consensus of "uneven geographic
development" as a defining point of globalization; otherwise, they vary in their analyses of
globalization. Problematically, the idea of "uneven geographic development" could just as
well be applied to imperialism. I will, therefore, suggest my own working definition of
globalization, along with my understanding of a few important related terms, before
discussing the theorists' texts. The Caribbean intellectuals' dialogues, both between
themselves and with the West, include important historical conditions that are related to
globalization; in fact, they are "globalizing processes" or even long-standing "forces of
globalization." These historical conditions in the Caribbean are imperialism and
colonialism, which I will differentiate from the more recent "globalization." Also,
nationalism is significant to these processes because it appears, arguably, as one response
to these globalizing processes and it may be viewed as a "localizing process."
Globalization is a mixture of local, regional, and global interactions between
peoples and cultures on historically uneven levels. Generally speaking, globalization
occurs when businesses and governments interact internationally to create systems of
"uneven geographic development," both economically and culturally. Conventionally,
modem globalization is understood to involve a rapid exchange, relative to older
globalizing processes, among nations in their economic and cultural realms. We should
understand the similarities and differences between modem globalization and long-
standing globalizing processes, such as imperialism. The link is evident in the
consequences of the practices of both of them: uneven geographic development.
Imperialism is distinctly rooted in the boundary-filled territories of the nation-state.
Imperialism's nation-state boundaries include real geography, and "imagined
communities," and are drawn from "cultural artefacts," all of which have ties to
nationalism (Anderson 4-7). Nationalism occurs during "times of conflict between nations,
or between colonizers and colonized, and perhaps most commonly, in postcolonial
periods" (Childers 202). We may further understand nationalism as "the feeling that one's
identity is closely tied to one's nation" (201). The very concept of globalization questions
the limitations of this identity, and suggests the possibilities of multinational citizens and
global identities. Hence, reading globalization discourses, one should not be surprised to
hear about the so-called "decline" of the nation-state. Indeed, globalization could care less
about nationalism or the sovereignty of nation-states. Globalization is boundary-less; it
both includes and goes beyond the nation-state.
Some nations, such as the USA and Great Britain, are in privileged positions
during globalization processes. From the point of view of the Caribbean (and other Third
World) intellectuals, it may be hard to distinguish between globalization and imperialism;
after all, imperialism's ultimate concern is the expanding sovereignty and stability of its
root nation, which is generally at other nations' expenses. How is this different from
globalization? The differences may become a bit blurred when we realize that imperialism
may be viewed not only as an older form of globalization, but also as one of the forces of
modern globalization. We may better understand this notion through an example of one
significant process of globalization: capital disbursements from the First World to the
Third World. The economic strife in the Third World, along with the First World
economic and cultural hegemony, empowers international financial institutions-such as the
IMF and the World Bank-to convince Third World governments (1) to take their loans
and (2) to open their doors to free trade and become involved with multinational
corporations, as a stipulation of receiving the loans. Indeed, the common reference to this
practice is "neo-colonialism." But I maintain that imperialism occurs when a nation asserts
control over other nations and peoples; with imperialism, there is little or no dialogue
between nations. Imperialism is thus less subtle than globalization. Imperialism also may
sound similar to colonialism, and they are related. "'Imperialism' means the practice, the
theory, and the attitudes of a dominating metropolitan center ruling a distant territory;
'colonialism,' which is almost always a consequence of imperialism, is the implanting of
settlements on distant territory" (Said, Culture and Imperialism 9). Since they are tied to
each other, both imperialism and colonialism are agents of the nation. Globalization
transcends these boundaries, even while it makes use of their powerful forces.
Vladimir Lenin's prescient discussion from 1917, Imperialism: The Highest Stage
of Capitalism, is still quite relevant to today's economic globalization concerns. As in
Lenin's analysis, two interconnected ideals subsume the modem discourses of
globalization-economic sovereignty for nation-states, and capitalism. Lenin says, "the
capital exporting countries have divided the world among themselves in the figurative
sense of the term. But finance capital has led to the actual division of the world" (79).
Lenin argues that the basic characteristics of capitalism have changed; "the main thing in
this process is the displacement of capitalist free competition by capitalist monopoly"
(104). He says that "Imperialism is the monopoly stage of capitalism" (105). Within this
definition, Lenin says that "the export of capital as distinguished from the export of
commodities acquires exceptional importance" (106). For Lenin, the consequences of
these changes are that "the world has become divided into a handful of usurer states and a
vast majority of debtor states" (121). His argument may help us to understand why so
many march and picket during the World Trade Organization's annual meetings.3
"Monopolies, oligarchy, the striving for domination instead of striving for liberty, the
exploitation of an increasing number of small or weak nations by a handful of the richest
or most powerful nations-all these have given birth to those distinctive characteristics of
imperialism which compel us to define it as parasitic or decaying capitalism" (150).
Imperialism, according to Lenin, is indeed about nations' wills to power over other
On occasion, it may be difficult to differentiate imperialism from globalization
because Lenin's defining points of imperialism are so similar to many globalization
theorists' economically-focused discourses. Yet I view one distinct defining point of
globalization (as different from imperialism); some nations may prosper from it (generally,
First World) and others may struggle because of it (generally, Third World), but in fact
globalization transcends the nation. I find that my understanding of globalization is often
similar to, although not completely in line with, a few of Hardt and Negri's Marxist ideas
in Empire (2000); they argue that Capital, through global flows of production and
exchange, is the new sovereign force of the world, an all-encompassing, unbounded
Empire. They agree that there are privileged nations within the scope of Empire; and their
notion of Empire certainly transcends the nation-state. Empire, they argue, is inclusive; "in
3 See "Peoples' Global Action," www.nadir.org/nadir/initiativ/agp/en/index.html.
contrast to imperialism, Empire establishes no territorial center of power and does not rely
on fixed boundaries or barriers" (xii). Likewise, this is my basic understanding of the
differences between globalization (without boundaries, thus inclusive) and imperialism
(boundary-filled, thus exclusive). Because of the privileged position that some nations hold
in the global frontier, it is indeed hard to distinguish how globalization does not continue
or revise old forms of imperialism and colonialism. I suspect that the problem of
differentiating between globalization and imperialism will remain because nations are so
directly engaged with globalization through international finance, international treaties,
and other humanitarian interests.
Most globalization theorists posit the global society as coexistent with modernity,
which they assert begins in 1492 with Columbus' voyage and "discovery" of the West
Indies. Problematically, the theorists assert this biblical-like "in the beginning" point of
departure, and then suddenly they are discussing the 1980s-1990s-2000s. The theoretical
usage of the term globalization itself is relatively new. In the past fifteen years-with the
exception of McLuhan's "global village" in 1960 and 1962-published analyses of
globalization become more and more prevalent; it is now the term dujour.
The most useful discourse of globalization theory for me is anthropologist Arjun
Appadurai's Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (1996). It is the
most useful because it focuses on "cultural transactions between social groups" (27).
Area studies is a salutary reminder that globalization is itself a deeply
historical, uneven, and even localizing process. Globalization does not
necessarily or even frequently imply homogenization or Americanization,
and to the extent that different societies appropriate the materials of
modernity differently, there is still ample room for the deep study of
specific geographies, histories and languages. (17)
The phrase "still ample room" seems a bit defensive on behalf of the local, since
globalization, as Appadurai says, "is not the story of cultural homogenization" (11). To
view globalization as a "localizing process" helps us to understand that there is a two-way
process at work.
Appadurai's major argument is based on his "five dimensions of global cultural
flows": "ethnoscapes," "mediascapes," "technoscapes," "financescapes," and "ideoscapes"
(33). Appadurai's "ethnoscape" is particularly useful for this study.
By ethnoscape, I mean the landscape of persons who constitute the shifting
world in which we live: tourists, immigrants, refugees, exiles, guest
workers, and other moving groups and individuals constitute an essential
feature of the world and appear to affect the politics of (and between)
nations to a hitherto unprecedented degree. (33)
Appadurai says that "the central problem of today's global interactions is the tension
between cultural homogenization and cultural heterogenization" (32). This "tension"
asserts itself when Appadurai describes his "ethnoscape" in terms divergent from Hall's
construction of ethnicity in "The Global and the Local," yet simultaneously similar to
Hall's ideas in "Cultural Studies and the Politics of Internationalization" (in my epigraph).
Rather than being "absorbed" by globalization, both groups and individuals are the forces
with which globalization must reckon.
Many globalization theorists' discussions, once "uneven geographic development"
is established, present useful departures in understanding notions of globalization. Some
acknowledge the recent course of events in the usage of the term. For example, in Spaces
of Hope (2000), David Harvey says that in the year 2000 "much more politically loaded
words like 'imperialism,' 'colonialism,' and 'neocolonialism' have increasingly taken a
back seat to 'globalization' as a way to organize thoughts and to chart possibilities" (53).
Harvey argues that this term-shifting "signals a profound geographical reorganization of
capitalism" (57). And just as often the general argument in globalization theory occurs in
the realm of a "postcolonial" analysis, such as Masao Miyoshi's argument that "TNCs
[transnational corporations] continue colonialism" (96). Perhaps Miyoshi's discussion is
one point of juncture where postcolonial discourse meets globalization theory.
Theorists often connect other paradigmatic discourses with globalization theory.
Enrique Dussel brings up "modernity," which he claims "is a phenomenon proper to the
system 'center-periphery.' Modernity is not a phenomenon of Europe as an independent
system, but of Europe as a center" (4). The center-periphery model furthers the
Eurocentric positioning in a system of global order which assumes that a certain
marginalization will exist as part of the system. Jonathon R6e believes that, because of
globalization, the "collective life" of the nation "may be under mortal threat" (84). Hence
nationalism serves as a referent for R6e's globalization theory. For instance, if the nation
serves as a protector to its citizens, then the decline of the nation would consequently
bring the decline of security to its citizens (84). R6e claims that our personal identity is
bound up in the relationship we have with our national affiliation (indeed, a defining point
of nationalism), and the nation becomes "indistinguishable from our truest self' (84). This
claim furthers the fear of forces of globalization which supposedly damage nations through
uneven development. From this point made by R6e, one can easily be led to the notion of
the damage to one's "Self' that globalization may cause, which would then provide a
framework for discussions of resistance, dialogism, split consciousness, hybridity, and
syncretism. In the Caribbean, these discussions help us to understand the consequences of
old forms of imperialism and slavery and have settled into a sub-text of cultural identity
signifiers which continue to inform Caribbean literature and culture.
Ulrich Beck argues that globalization is a "process ... which creates transnational
social links and spaces [and] revalues local cultures" (102). Beck's definition is useful
because he suggests the notion of a global order in "process." Beck also argues a truism of
new, too, is the self-perception of this transnationality (in the mass media,
consumption or tourism); new is the 'placelessness' of community, labour
and capital; new are the awareness of global ecological dangers and the
corresponding arenas of action; new is the inescapable perception of
transcultural Others in one's own life, all with the contradictory certainties
resulting from it. (103)
Similar observations were made thirty to forty years earlier by C6saire, Fanon, Lamming,
C.L.R. James, and other Caribbean intellectuals. I am not trying to fault Beck specifically
for this late arrival of globalization theory to the Caribbean identity politics discussion, for
indeed, he never mentions the Caribbean any more than other globalization theorists
mention it. The Caribbean region still seems to be rendered at best negligible and at worst
completely unrepresented in what would otherwise appear to be a great opportunity for
inclusiveness in a global paradigm. It is quite telling that the majority of critical
globalization discussions still concern the West and the "West as center." These analyses
vocalize the notions of power and the actuality of power, which still reside in the West.
So, what are these "forces" of globalization? In the theorists' terms, these forces
are conceived primarily of transnational and multinational corporations (TNCs and
MNCs), non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the International Monetary Fund
(IMF), the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), First World
national interests abroad, mass media, and economic prosperity in the world market or the
lack thereof in Third World nations; and a global culture that promotes migrant labor and
emigration of the intellectuals in a non-reciprocal fashion, that is, mostly from the Third
World to the First World. The intellectuals' exodus is known as "brain drain." These
instances occur in increasing prevalence after World War II and especially since the 1960s.
One general fear of globalization is its supposedly homogenizing force, especially
when this force causes the loss of the locality that one calls home. Similar to Hardt and
Negri, Alberto Moreiras asserts that "globalization is essentially the sovereign pull of
capital, to sovereignty not only as the foundation but also the apotheosis of empire" (86).
Moreiras concludes that "global difference may indeed be in an accelerated process toward
global identity, to be accomplished by means of some monstrous, final dialectical synthesis
after which there will be no possibility of negation" (86). This type of Armageddon is
surely not happening, unless it has already occurred in what we refer to as modernity.
Economic concerns and cultural fears are foremost in David Harvey's discussion as well.
Globalization entails, for example, a great deal of self-destruction,
devaluation and bankruptcy at different scales and in different locations. It
renders whole populations selectively vulnerable to the violence of
downsizing, unemployment, collapse of services, degradation of living
standards, and loss of resources and environmental qualities. It puts
existing political and legal institutions as well as whole cultural
configurations and ways of life at risk. (81)
Harvey posits self-destruction first on his list, when more often theorists will submit that
global (a.k.a. external) forces are to blame for local destruction. What we may actually
view occurring is the interaction of local with Western cultural forces, which sometimes
creates an angst of resistance, and fear of elimination of the local culture.
The fear and sense of exile described by the globalization theorists is real and valid.
And, obviously, it is not indigenous to the Caribbean. Manthia Diawara illustrates what
happens when fear, specific to the perceived loss of local power, occurs in Dakar;
"students at the University of Dakar walked out of the negotiation to end a year-long
strike in 1994, when they heard that the World Bank was behind the plans to restructure
the university" (106). This is a specific case of the local interacting with the West's
globalization when antagonism toward the World Bank can make or break a deal between
students and administrators in Dakar. Thus, dominated and exploited peoples can and
sometimes do create resistance to the forces of globalization.
Economic and cultural globalization may also occur in a more balanced
relationship, with the two sides-representatives of the local and the West-in apparent
agreement on the rules and consequences of engagement. My illustration for this
somewhat "neutral" occurrence of globalization stems from my brief time spent in St.
Lucia (March 2001), where I learned about the capitalist venture between St. Lucia and a
transnational corporation, the Amarada Hess (Oil) company. This venture information
came up in a conversation I had with an island tour guide in the guise of an explanation for
why the public-school students' uniforms are green. The explanation requires some
background information. St. Lucia attained its independence from Great Britain in 1979.
In 1980, the island representatives struck a deal with Hess to lease some land in its port
city and capital, Castries. According to the Hess online home page, Hess built a
transshipment petroleum facility for "9.2 million barrels of storage capacity on 677 acres";
the St. Lucia facility is "strategically situated on sea lanes from the Middle East and close
to major markets in North America and South America" (www.hess.com). Hess
lucratively rents these facilities to TNCs that require storage for petroleum before it is
shipped to the USA for refinement. In 1980, Hess obtained a ten-year tax-free status as
part of its contract with the island. For St. Lucia, the long-term benefits should balance
out Hess' apparent advantages. Hess proceeded to build about a dozen huge oil bins, in
perfect architectural symmetry in a single file line at the entrance to the Castries port. If
you have been to Castries, you would easily have noticed them on the right side of the
port as you enter. In mid-1980, hurricane Allen struck St. Lucia and devastated much of
the island. So, what does all this have to do with school colors? Hess, in a cordial gesture
after the hurricane, most likely in thanks to St. Lucia for the wonderful tax-free deal, gave
the island enough money to help rebuild thirteen of its public schools. The island's public
schools, with their own form of thanks to Hess, now wear the Hess green colors.
I am initially inclined to view the St. Lucia-Hess interaction as representative of the
lighter side of globalization. We see the human interaction and exchange of humanistic
values-in a capitalist arena-without any sense of loss or alienation, in what may be defined
as both social and congenial terms. Although rare, congeniality can exist in local
interactions with global forces. Because of all the problems generally suggested by
globalization, we should search out the more congenial exchanges, so that we may learn
how to reproduce them. Perhaps because of their infrequency, in the greater realm of
critical globalization theory, these types of human interactions are simply lost. Yet let me
return briefly to the notion of a "balanced" relationship. With its students in Hess-green
colors and with the immense bins in obvious contrast to the surrounding landscape at the
port of Castries, St. Lucia serves as a free advertisement for Hess. Although the
reconstruction of the schools were a gracious gesture by Hess, one wonders if Hess will
give similar aid after each ecologically devastating event. It is more likely that Hess is
unable, or possibly unwilling, to engage in an economic program with the government of
St. Lucia that would better enable the island to deal with future hurricanes on its own.
It is important to recognize that the agency that St. Lucia derives or loses from its
interactions with transnational corporations, such as Hess, is derivative of independence.
Yet the history of the island seems to mandate that St. Lucia is always-already affixed as
periphery to the West: St. Lucia's particular colonial history as the "Helen of the West
Indies" (the island was fought over and it changed hands between empires thirteen times
over five hundred years), a French-patois-speaking people living on an otherwise British-
colonial island, and the particular regional geography as a place for settlement for Hess
(yes, it could just as well have been another island-but for some reason it was not). Much
agency resides in St. Lucia's independence, especially in the fact that the local St. Lucia
administrators decided on this contract with the Hess administrators-as well as on the
school colors-which is different from an empire ruling over St. Lucia making these
decisions. What remains to be understood is just how deeply the relationship with Hess
affects St. Lucia's cultural identity and national sovereignty.
In the context of globalization theory, many critics believe the days of the nation-
state and nationalism are in the past, but I think differently. The most significant change
recently in national identity concerns is the flexibility of the national citizen to adapt to a
new citizenship that has a status as a "global citizen," which is something akin to what
Pico Iyer, in his travelogue, describes as the Global Soul (2000). Most often this flexibility
entails movement through a duality or hybridity of citizenship and national loyalties. Iyer's
global soul fits snugly with many of the Caribbean intellectuals' movements across
national borders. But migrant laborers do not fit well into this elitist intellectual paradigm,
and movement is not restricted to the intellectuals. In the Caribbean, the most common
reason for leaving is, as the narrator says in Lamming's The Emigrants (1954), simply
looking for "a better break" (50); this "better break" includes basic wage laborers as well
as intellectual workers.
Significant to the Caribbean intellectuals' identity constructions, movement-which
springs from the hope, and desperation, for an improved lifestyle-leads to new "ways of
seeing" oneself in relation to others (Lamming, The Pleasures of Exile 63). Indeed, the
"ethnoscape" is a dynamic space in the processes of globalization. Lamming says that
no Barbadian, no Trinidadian, no St. Lucian, no islander from the West
Indies sees himself as a West Indian until he encounters another islander in
foreign territory. It was only when the Barbadian childhood corresponded
with the Grenadian or the Guianese childhood in important details of folk-
lore, that the wider identification was arrived at. In this sense, most West
Indians of my generation were born in England. The category West Indian,
formerly understood as a geographical term, now assumes cultural
significance. (The Pleasures of Exile 214)
Lamming is describing a critical moment of cultural interaction and the flux created by the
interaction of local and global forces. The decline of the British Empire after WWII
enables a re-territorializing process for a collective regional identity in the Caribbean. It is
the indefatigable strength of the imperial cultural hegemony which suggests this movement
to the metropolitan center of the "mother country."4 From a national identity construction
per island, Lamming describes an expansion into a "West Indian" regional identity. In
1958 the creation of the Federation of the West Indies (albeit short-lived) further
cemented a regional Anglophone Caribbean community identity.5 There are similarities
4 Lamming is describing the phenomenon of the Caribbean migration to England
which began in earnest in 1948 with the voyage of the ship Empire Windrush from
Jamaica to Tilbury, England ("Windrush"). Lamming's voyage was in 1950.
5 The Federation "included ten island territories-Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago,
Barbados, Grenada, Saint Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Lucia, Saint
Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, and Montserrat" (Rogozinski 269).
here, in Lamming, to other notions of "national" identity construction. For example, like
Benedict Anderson's "imagined community," Lamming's "West Indian" community is also
centered around "cultural artefacts" (Anderson 4), and may exist in a space that is not
bound by its own geographic borders. Thus the notion of the imagined community applies
to moving spatial communities, or "ethnoscapes," just as it does to well-defined
geographically mapped out nations. The borders to which I refer are thus extant in the
concept of the West Indies.
The link between globalization and Caribbean exile occurs in the very moment of
cultural interactions; most of these interactions occurred long ago in the Caribbean
through British, French, Spanish, Dutch, and slightly more recently, US imperialism. In the
wake of empires, cultural interactions have left behind local identities that often
encompass both despair and hope. Martinican Aim6 C6saire writes in Discourse on
Colonialism (1972), "my only consolation is that periods of colonization pass, that nations
sleep only for a time, and that peoples remain" (44). However, as the period of
colonization creates exile through economic deprivations and cultural hegemony, the sense
of cultural exile does not automatically fade when the period of colonization passes.
Barbadian poet and historian Kamau Brathwaite writes in "Timehri" (1970) of the
Caribbean authors who view themselves as having "made it" as authors yet still feel
"rootless" in London. He turns to find his own sense of personal identity fulfillment, a
sense of "wholeness," only after moving from England to Ghana and spending eight years
there before he returns to the Caribbean. Only then does he realize that "I came home to
find that I had not really left. That it was still Africa; Africa in the Caribbean" (347). In his
particular situation, Brathwaite shows that, paradoxically, emotional exile can be
subverted through physical exile.
Edward Said's general definition of exile in Culture and Imperialism (1993)
specifies that "exile is predicated on the existence of, love for, and a real bond with one's
native place; the universal truth of exile is not that one has lost that love or home, but that
inherent in each is an unexpected, unwelcome loss" (336). Myriam Chancy argues a
definition specific to the Caribbean in Searchingfor Safe Spaces (1997):
The condition of exile crosses the boundaries of self and other, of
citizenship and nationality, of home and homeland; it is the condition of
consistent, continual displacement; it is the radical uprooting of all that one
is and stands for, in a communal context, without the loss of the knowledge
of those roots. It is, in fact, this knowledge that renders the experience of
exile so cruelly painful, for what one has lost is carried in this forced
nomadism from one geographical space to another. (1-2)
Chancy, like Said, priorities "loss" and "geographical space," yet she also includes the
"displacement" of personal and cultural identity, both of which are key to my analysis of
Caribbean literature and culture. Chancy reminds us that she speaks of exile in "the Afro-
Caribbean context, and more specifically as it pertains to Afro-Caribbean women" (2),
which she asserts is quite a different form of exile than the Afro-Caribbean men's sense of
exile. Chancy positions her definition of exile in contradistinction to other definitions; it is
different from what she calls Said's Victorian intellectual in "Reflections on Exile" (1992),
and George Lamming's distinctly male Caribbean Caliban figure in The Pleasures of Exile
(1960). However, Chancy's definition is just as useful for the Caribbean male in exile:
especially concerning "crossing boundaries of self and other," "continual displacement,"
and the painfulness of "forced nomadism."
We may view a dialogic interaction between the discourses of globalization and
exile-or perhaps a fusion of the local culture with the global-in the work of Caribbean
authors. In "The Local and The Global" (in my epigraph), Jamaican expatriate Stuart Hall
defines globalization in a context in which Caribbean literature (and perhaps other
postcolonial literature) may be further studied and better understood. The agency that Hall
gives to globalized forces is what Caribbean literature attempts to resist or displace. The
"flux of diversity" that Hall speaks of is indeed a space in which Caribbean people live; yet
it is also a space where Caribbean writers attempt to "ground" themselves, and their
collective and individual "knowable" differences of place, culture, and identity. Caribbean
literature is a representative manifestation of the contact people make with globalization,
and it thus serves to produce a counter-force, or at least a "grounding" that opposes Hall's
"globalized forces." It is within this very "grounding" that many Caribbean writers place
their thematic and dialogic discourses of exile. Caribbean literature, therefore, supports
Hall's ideas in "Cultural Studies and the Politics of Internationalization."
Simon Gikandi posits "limbo" as the Caribbean condition of modernity. Cultural
limbo appears in forms of "cultural dislocation" (14) and "cultural indentureship" (19). As
an initial intervention with the colonial powers-in essence, a postcolonial narrative-the
discourse of exile in Caribbean literature provides a good base for understanding the sense
ofmarginalization and struggle for agency. Gikandi says that "desires imprisoned by a
fixed colonial relationship could only be released through displacement. Dispossessed in
their own land, exiled Caribbean writers would reterritorialize themselves and hence their
identity through discourse and narration" (38).
In Fulcrums of Cliaigc (1988), Jan Carew narrates a history of the Caribbean. He
does what many would deem "re-writing history," but this very notion priorities an earlier
written version, and dismisses or chronologically subordinates the later. We should simply
refer to Carew's narrative (and other authors' works in a similar fashion) as "writing
history." Carew says, "on the morning of October 12, 1492, a gathering of Arawakian
Lucayos discovered Christopher Columbus and his sailors on the eastern shore of their
homeland of Guanahani" (3). For Carew, the discourse of exile is a site of agency.
The Caribbean writer today is a creature balanced between limbo and
nothingness, exile abroad and homelessness at home, between the people
on the one hand and the colonizer on the other. The colonizing zeal of
the European made indigenous peoples exiles in their own
countries-Prospero made Caliban an exile in his. The Caribbean writer by
going abroad is in fact, searching for an end to exile. (91)
Carew asserts the existential angst of a physical exile simultaneous to a "homelessness at
home" when the population for which the writer works does not embrace his words,
which leaves only the colonizer to appreciate these words. Just as with Lamming, we find
with Carew the desire by the Caribbean writer to have a Caribbean audience. This sort of
ideologically-internal exile leads the writer into a self-imposed physical (external) exile
from home, "outwards towards the meccas of the colonizer" (110).
Carew also asserts forms of internal temporal and spatial exile. He suggests that
the river is one representative space in which internal exile and agency reside, found in the
incentive "to move inwards towards some undiscovered heartland" (110). The search into
the heartland through rivers of time and space creates a certain lacuna, or disruption, of
the "mental slavery" that occurs during the long gaze outwards toward "the colonizer's
mecca." Gikandi says that Carew's analysis exhibits "the appropriation of exile as a form
ofmeta-commentary on the colonial condition itself ... In Carew's view, exile accredits
Caribbean writers by releasing them, in both a psychological and a temporal sense, from
the spaces the colonizer has compartmentalized" (38-39). Through "temporal exile,"
Caribbean authors sometimes avoid the present globalizing forces by looking to the past.
Yet the past is quite problematic for Caribbean authors, because the region has been
notoriously mis-represented as a-historical and with a lack of agency-filled "ruins." In the
drive for agency, it is sometimes the resistance to global forces which sends some authors
into the past to recover ancestral memories and artefacts. Perhaps this symbolic delving
into the past is itself a realm of exile, coexistent with (or parallel to) thematic paradigms of
nostalgia which enable resistance and remembrance.
Hamid Naficy, discussing transnational films, also suggests the theoretical
difference between the internal and the external condition of exile: "if internal exile were
to be defined as 'isolation, alienation, deprivation of means of production and
communication, exclusion from public life,' then many intellectuals, women, artists,
religious and political figures, and even entire communities have suffered from it within
their own countries" (123). On external exile, Naficy says that while "stemming from some
form of deprivation, exile must also be defined by its utopian and euphoric possibilities,
driven by wanderlust or, better yet, by what in German is calledfernweh, which means not
only wanderlust but also a desire to escape from one's homeland" (124). The notion of
external exile as wanderlust or even as an "escape" from one's homeland only hints at the
urgency of the condition of exile that we see in much Caribbean literature-for one
example, in Derek Walcott's play Dream on Monkey Mountain (1970). In his dream, the
protagonist Makak wishes to go "home" to Africa; this creates a dual formation of exile.
While leaving the Caribbean would have the defining characteristics of external exile,
leaving the Caribbean for Africa may also be viewed as the final purging of external exile.
Yet the fact that Makak is dreaming his way through to a new self-consciousness-where
he finally realizes that the Caribbean is his home-suggests an "internal" form of exile
caused by what has been referred to as "cultural schizophrenia."
Glissant's Martinican planter, who talks of"we Europeans" (Caribbean Discourse
57), is another representation of cultural schizophrenia. Following Glissant's lead, on one
hand, we should question the Martinican planter's notion of how he fits into "we
Europeans." It sounds like a misunderstanding. On the other hand, we could also question
Glissant's amazement, for this cultural identifier is inbred in the French-colonial education
system and the status of Martinique as a Departement d'Outre-Mer, or Overseas
Department of France; this affiliation with Europe, then, is nothing new. It has been
around since French colonization began, and the connection was re-inscribed in 1946
when the title changed from French colony to Overseas Department.
It is likely that Glissant is suffering from what Said calls "intellectual exile."
Although being a Caribbean intellectual may provide for some "freedom" (such as from
"mental slavery"), it also creates a doubly exilic situation-living on the margins of a
society which itself exists on the periphery of a globalized world that indeed still manifests
"center-periphery" conditions. Said says, "for the intellectual an exilic displacement means
being liberated from the usual career, in which 'doing well' and following in time-honored
footsteps are the main milestones. Exile means that you are always going to be marginal,
and that what you do as an intellectual has to be made up because you cannot follow a
prescribed path" ("Intellectual Exile" 379-80). Said argues against the angst that may
erupt from this type of exile, and instead replaces it with the notion of freedom that may
be found in this living condition (380). He notes that the Trinidadian intellectual CLR
James takes the "road not taken" by so many, and in doing so creates a quite productive
life in sport and letters: "an eccentric, unsettled course, so unlike anything we would call
today a solid professional career, and yet what exuberance and unending self-discovery it
contains" (380). I would have to agree with Myriam Chancy that Said's viewpoint
suggests Victorian intellectualism, for his examples, from Adorno to Vico and from
Kissinger to Ovid-and including CLR James-seem to be quite exceptional people who
have found a way to have an elite life in exile. Cultural agency and validation of self are
not achievable for most exiles. Many of the Caribbean intellectual writers, however, do fit
into Said's category, which may produce a division between those who read and
understand the authors' work, and those who are simply not "intellectuals" who live on
the islands, or even those who continue to make statements such as "we Europeans."
Caribbean authors continue to write of exile and alienation, and for good reason;
they are often living on the West's terms, and on the periphery of a center-periphery world
order. Yet they also invest their region and its people with a cultural agency and potential
that the West seems to dismiss. Nevertheless, Caribbean authors integrate themselves into
Western society by representing their local cultural milieus as always-already engaged with
In the following chapter I will show that Caribbean intellectuals are critically
engaged, and have been for some time, with what I characterize as "Caribbean regional
globalization aesthetics." The chapter will delve more deeply into what I have only
scraped the surface with, for example, Glissant's, Hall's, Carew's, Brathwaite's, Chancy's,
and Lamming's theoretical work. This notion of a Caribbean aesthetics may be useful to
Caribbean literary critics especially, who seem to desire a non- Western and thus
Caribbean literary theory or something that may be deemed a "Caribbean Poetics." Some
of the critical analyses that appear in Chapter 2 spring from some of the same authors
whose fiction, poetry, plays, and music I will analyze in subsequent chapters of this
dissertation. Not coincidentally, then, the authors' aesthetic texts also illustrate their
critical concerns with the interactions between the Caribbean and the West.
CARIBBEAN REGIONAL GLOBALIZATION AESTHETICS
The global issues of poverty, overpopulation, unemployment, indebtedness
and inequitable patterns of production and exchange are, after all,
Caribbean problems. There was never any time in our history when global
concerns did not affect us. We became what we are as extensions of
elsewhere. We were later to be distorted echoes of those elsewherees"
(Rex Nettleford, Inward Stretch Outward Reach: A Voice from the
Western theoretical discourses of globalization generally focus on "the West" and
its interactions with "the rest." Because of this problematic simplification of global order,
globalization theory should have some type of regional theory invested within it to avoid
the pitfalls of over-generalization and marginalization of "the rest." This chapter addresses
this oversight by bringing together some coinciding thoughts on the Caribbean region
made by Caribbean intellectuals. Because of the diverse backgrounds (within the
Caribbean) of the authors, and the time in which they write, their points of departure often
differ from each other. Yet, their discussion points are drawn together by a regional
aesthetic which incorporates a certain "Caribbeanness," even if on different levels. Their
texts represent a Caribbean dialogue concerned with interrelated forms of economic and
cultural globalization as well as the region's heritage of imperialism.
Caribbean intellectuals view their reality of modem globalization as a system in
which some nations and peoples remain on the periphery of a center-periphery model.
Modem globalization supposedly removes or transcends the borders created by the
nationalistic processes of imperialism. Yet, it is within a center-periphery consciousness
that Caribbean intellectuals conduct their varied discourses; and for this reason, they
cannot help but discuss the world in which they live in terms of creoleness, flux, and
fragments, and history without a capital H (a rhetoric of anti-essentialism). Caribbean
intellectuals have been discussing their region's interaction with the West's forces of
globalization for many years. There exists an innate urgency in their discourses, which
arrive as early as the late-colonial era (1930s-1960s) and continue into the post-
colonial/independence era (1960s-present). Taken together, their texts may be viewed as a
Caribbean regional globalization aesthetics.
While I posit these texts as "globalization texts," they also fall into the exilic
paradigm. The exilic qualities of these texts are what I believe to be the motivation and
sense of urgency behind much of the discourses: the usefulness of being in dialogue with
each other, and the desire to be heard/read/understood by-in dialogue with-the wider
world. Lamming has explicitly stated as much in his critical work, The Pleasures of Exile
(1960); "this book ... is intended as an introduction to a dialogue between you and me"
(12). While this is not the first time "we" have met (12)-the empire and the colonized, at
the time of his writing-it is new "ways of seeing" relationships that Lamming wishes to
reveal; "it is this urgency which confronts us now. For what is at stake is the historical
result of our thinking; what is under tragic scrutiny is our traditional way of seeing" (63).
While Lamming's text is a direct response to colonialism, it also serves the ongoing
dialogue within the region when his work becomes a point of departure for so many
Caribbean authors (and quite possibly for many postcolonial scholars around the world).
Further, the dialogue itself is an important ideological concept, for why should one feel
rootless in a Caribbean world that includes such a rich community of authors? While this
was not always the case, much of their work is now often published "in-house" by
Caribbean newspapers and journals and more recently by Caribbean focused (if not placed)
publishing houses.' The discourses of globalization from these authors reflect their
continuing efforts for the Caribbean to be recognized by the West as an active player in
the Western world.
This chapter will explore three dimensions of Caribbean regional globalization
aesthetics by pairing critical texts by Nettleford and Brathwaite, Naipaul and Walcott, and
Glissant and Harris. Nettleford's and Brathwaite's texts are the most similar to the
western globalization theorists' discussions because their cultural analyses include the
focal points of economic conditions and center-periphery models. Naipaul's and Walcott's
critical texts focus on the effects of being colonized; they assert a cultural condition of
historical mimicry and deprivation, on the one hand, and creative possibilities for the
future, on the other. Glissant's and Harris' texts assert a world-system of creoleness, of
which the Caribbean is a microcosm. Importantly, these authors include the social/cultural
sphere as a critical area of exploration in their regionally focused discussions.
What makes the ideas of these intellectuals fall into the scope of globalization
theory is that their discourses, their "kaleidoscopic views," belong to a multifaceted
regional aesthetic representative of Appadurai's notion of "culturalism." Culturalism is the
conscious assertion of identity as a response to imposing external forces, and is
SA few journals have published an ongoing Caribbean dialogue since the 1930s
intermittently and a few have become well-established since the 1960s. Caribbean
Quarterly, Bim, and Casa de las Americas are perhaps the most well known. More recent
additions include Small Axe and the Journal of West Indian Literature. New Beacon, The
Press of UWI, and Sangsters all publish from within the Caribbean today. Also, both
Heinneman and Macmillan presses now have a "Caribbean Series."
"frequently associated with extraterritorial histories and memories, sometimes with
refugee status and exile, and almost always with struggles for stronger recognition from
existing nation-states or from various transnational bodies" (Appadurai 15). We may thus
view the authors' striving-toward-recognition discussions as "culturalism." Nettleford
asserts the significance of "being in the game" of geopolitics even if this is only as a
"junior partner." Brathwaite asserts that the dominated must remind those on the upper
hierarchy of the world order that equality should be understood and incorporated into the
system of world order. Naipaul suggests that self-contempt and perpetual mimicry can
breed a view of holistic ruination. Walcott suggests that self-contempt and mimicry can be
transformed through creativity and inventiveness, which is an important change from
degradation to affirmation of self. Harris suggests that the chasms between cultures may
be bridged through a creole sensibility of the world. And Glissant reminds us that the
depth of one's creole identity and even creole community, while seemingly ever-evasive,
should be plumbed-while still submitting to the fact of its opacity. The authors' texts
discussed here serve only as a representative sample of the vast discourses from Caribbean
intellectuals who focus on their respective spatial and temporal "spaces" in the world; they
are concerned not only with their particular island-home history and future, and its region,
but also with the past and future of those with whom they make cultural contact.
Rex Nettleford is the Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI)
in Jamaica. Nettleford's critical work on Caribbean cultural identity over many years
represents a sustained effort of attempting to create an understanding of the importance of
the creative spirit in a Caribbean identity. He has shown it as well; in the 1960s, Nettleford
founded the internationally acclaimed National Dance Theater Company of Jamaica. He
also has been engaged in critical discussions of Caribbean identity for years. His
publications are evidentiary, from the first formal report on The Rastafari Movement in
Kingston, Jamaica (1960), to Mirror, Mirror: Identity, Race and Protest in Jamaica
(1970) to Caribbean Cultural Identity: The Case of Jamaica (1979), as well as his
contribution as founder and editor of Caribbean Quarterly for the past forty years. For his
lifelong efforts, the First Conference on Caribbean Culture was held in his honor in 1995;
more recently Nettleford was named Jamaica's "Man of the Year" for 2001.
Nettleford's world order model is regionally based yet globally inclusive.
Reminiscent of Harvey's discussion from Spaces of Hope concerning the newness of the
term globalization (53), Nettleford relayed to me how he views globalization;
"globalization is a new name for old obscenities" (Personal Interview). In the context of
our discussion, his comment should be understood as a generalizing statement about
Caribbean relations with the wider world. When asked if he means that globalization is
simply the same old system-colonialism-with a new name, he responds that "no, there are
some differences." He suggests that power relations have not changed much in recent
years, but the small changes that have taken place are important. Nettleford says,
"although we are junior partners, now we are in the game." This sense of being "in the
game" is an important step for Caribbean relations with the wider world because it is the
difference between independence/self-government and being ruled by foreign nations. But
the consequences of independence in the Caribbean region still leave the island nations
dependent on many forms of foreign aid which often cause further problems in terms of
the islands' forced integration with a foreign consciousness and economic system; this
integration is indeed a similar situation to the old forms of colonization when one views
the seemingly inevitable onslaught of-and hence resistance to-a foreign cultural
consciousness with a Caribbean psyche.
Nettleford's collection of essays, Inward Stretch Outward Reach: A Voice from
the Caribbean (1993), provides insight into his views of the Caribbean local interaction
with global forces. Although Nettleford is overtly concerned with economic development
issues, he often counterposes these issues with his ongoing argument for education and for
the relevance of artistic production to cultural agency interests. He desires that the
University of the West Indies prepares "individuals to develop a kaleidoscopic view of the
world" (34). Nettleford's idea about a "kaleidoscopic view" is helpful to understand how
Caribbean people must deal with issues of integration, diversity, and a regional "range of
contradictions" (34). Nettleford's educational concerns, when placed beside Lamming's
thoughts on identity and education penned in 1966, suggest both Nettleford's sense of
urgency and how the imperial cultural hegemony affects intellectual struggles in the
Caribbean. Lamming, in "Caribbean Literature: The Black Rock of Africa," says that
it is impossible to overestimate the influence that this crisis of identity
exercises in every sphere of behavior in the colonized politics and
education of the West Indian: self-contempt, lack of confidence, and an
organized hypocrisy of superiority assumed by the educated elite as a way
of protecting its own assimilation from the contagion of ignorance and
blackness of the numerous poor. (Conversations 120)
We may thus better understand Nettleford's concerns thirty years later; "we became what
we are as extensions of elsewhere. We were later to be distorted echoes of those
elsewherees' (186). Nettleford's push for a "kaleidoscopic view"-indeed a more "global"
knowledge base-is an attempt to transcend the cultural binds of colonial mimicry.
Although Nettleford's discussion points are generally about cultural agency, his
discussion of this agency is often tied to political and economic sovereignty. He says, "the
global compact against political domination (colonial style) sealed at Bandung, ended up
giving us flags and anthems and, not to be scoffed at, representation in world bodies
where we can at least make our own noise" (186). Here, again, Nettleford discusses the
significance of being "in the game." He also notes that simply having the ability to make
one's "own noise"-and be heard-is often not enough in a economically devalued region.
Nevertheless we still await that global compact that will release the
developing world of which the Caribbean countries are frontline members,
from the 'mature anarchy' of currency distortions engineered by the
powerful, from the lopsidedness of a buyer's market in which the
commodity prices which remain the mainstay of our economies depend on
the whims and fancies of the purchasers. Market forces indeed! It is easy to
believe in market forces if one controls not only the market but also the
Nettleford's analysis looks into the sense of powerlessness when a buyer's market is
determined by external powers. A similar line of thought appears from Trinidadian critic
We cannot control the price of oil; we cannot control, try as we may, the
price of bauxite; nor can we control the American quota for sugar. But we
can control our exploration and presentation of ourselves. The Arts are
probably the only area in which sovereignty is possible; though even here
the burden of autonomous statement is exacting as frightening a toll as the
region-wide collapse of our economies. (The Shape of That Hurt 297)
Rohlehr thus supports Nettleford's argument for cultural agency rooted in the arts, as well
as the economic difficulties resulting from external pressures. We should also note that
Nettleford poses a "mature anarchy" as an external global force while some Caribbean
scholars suggest an anarchy of varying degrees as resident in the Caribbean.2
2 See Antonio Benitez-Rojo's The Repeating Island: The Caribbean and the
Postmodern Perspective (1992). He argues a Caribbean condition based on chaos theory,
"a cultural meta-archipelago without center and without limits, a chaos within which there
is an island that proliferates endlessly, each copy a different one, founding and rebounding
ethnological materials like a cloud will do with its vapor" (9).
Nettleford points out that a "re-colonization" appears in the form of a triple threat
to national and cultural identity through media, education, and culture (117-130). In 1968
Sylvia Wynter similarly remarked on this media "war," that "the public in the Caribbean,
equally like the public in the great metropolitan centres, are being conditioned through
television, radio and advertising, to want what the great corporations of production in the
culture industry, as in all others, have conditioned them to want" ("We Must Learn to Sit
Down Together and Discuss a Little Culture" 309). Wynter's theoretical base of Theodor
Adorno's "culture industry" seems well placed, especially in the Caribbean with the
premium it places on "culturalism." The media, as Nettleford views it, has brought forth a
"'Dallasisation' of consciousness" (121) in the Caribbean. He refers to the Hollywood hit
television show "Dallas" from the 1980s. One may infer, with Wynter's comments in
mind, how foreign media infiltration creates cultural problems when it intermingles with
the Caribbean psyche. We thus have a "recolonization" problematic deemed plausible
through the foreign media. With Caribbean cultural agency as his continual subject it is no
surprise to hear Nettleford's refrain throughout Inward Stretch Outward Reach stem from
a home spun or "roots-reggae" media source. A regional aesthetic exists in the lyrics of
Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" (1980): "free yourselves from mental slavery / none but
ourselves can free our minds."3 Political independence is only one form of freedom.
Kamau Brathwaite, who is celebrated in the Caribbean as a historian and a folk
poet, engages the globalization debate in his essay "World Order Models: A Caribbean
Perspective" (1985). Generally speaking, Brathwaite's "globalization theory" may be
viewed as a regional exploration akin to Enrique Dussel's discussion of modernity's
3 All the Marley songs I reference are from the box set, Songs of Freedom (1992).
center-periphery models. Brathwaite systematizes global relationships as he extrapolates
first historical systems of group interactions between cultures, and then Caribbean
interactions with the world at-large. He differentiates between "ecosystem cultures" and
"expansionist societies," which are "antagonistic forces," and are represented by the
"drum" and the "rocket," respectively (54-55). The European expansion-as a "rocket"
society-works well with Brathwaite's sequence of historical events and groupings.
Brathwaite states that the separate societies had an "increasingly unequal development"
(54), which is akin to western globalization theorists' "uneven geographic development."
He states that "to participate equally and meaningfully in a Just World Order, each
participant in such an order must first have solved his own problems" (55). In light of
events like the killing of "The Braeton Seven" in Kingston, Jamaica in March 2001; and a
general pattern of violence suggested by the deathly riot in Tivoli Gardens (also in
Kingston) July 2001; one could question how external perceptions of this violence and
downtrodden economy may play just as important a role in the difficulties toward equal
membership in a Just World Order.
In the section titled "The Case of the Caribbean" Brathwaite puts forward the
notion of the "whole society" and the "hole society." Nations of Europe represent whole
societies and the numerous islands in the Caribbean region represent hole societies. The
"whole society" is "where geo-politics coincides with culture. Where from Original
Parents the nation/tribe speaks the same language, worships the same gods, prepares and
eats the same foods, creates shelters which are aesthetically similar" (57); the "hole
society" is where "this integrity does not exist" (57). Evidently, "world models cannot be
evolved from hole societies" (57). The hole society is in a demeaned state of being caused
by the whole society, and exists on the margins of the whole society. Brathwaite offers
"counter models" to the colonial expansionist ones represented by the "whole societies."
These models include anti-colonialism, Jose Marti's Our America, negritude, assimilation,
nationalism, marxist/socialism, interculturation, and his culturally-imbued neologism
"nam" (60-63). Interculturation is most useful because it provides the best possibilities in
his argument for equality-although it still lacks actual equality. Brathwaite defines
interculturation: "when two or more cultures come into contact with each other, creating
an abnormal, culturally heterogenous situation, a gravitational obscure process
immediately comes into play, the object of which is to restore order and homogeneity ....
The dominant culture creates the norm; the subdominants respond and react" (62-63).
Brathwaite's discussion too-closely resembles colonialism, which does not allow for
equality. Problematically, Brathwaite is still discussing a center-periphery model.
Brathwaite concludes by arguing that a government in a Just World Order "cannot
be conceived of as centralized, but its opposite; an acephalous council of equals" (63),
which indeed attempts to replace the center-periphery model. He says that "all men are
equal even though their nations may not be" (63). But more important is Brathwaite's
argument that it is the dominated who invariably must champion the notions of equality in
world orders (56). The implication of his analysis of "the dominated" is that cultural
relations will remain on unequal ground, which is something to which globalization
theorists also submit, although they do not generally offer models for change. To change
this inequality, Brathwaite says, "certain orders of priority will have to be reversed: culture
must precede politics and politics must remain an aspect of culture, rather than of power"
(63). This notion lends itself to Nettleford's and Rohlehr's arguments for the significance
of artistic production to cultural agency. Regrettably, those with power rarely decide to
reverse "orders of priority" out of humanistic ideals. Hence, we should understand the
social capital in Nettleford's use ofMarley's reggae lyrics, since change must come,
ironically, from those without the categorical power to produce it.
V. S. Naipaul's The Middle Passage (1962) represents a scathing yet realistic
commentary on the Caribbean region generally and a few islands in particular. Naipaul
includes illustrations that resound with gritty clarity the deleterious economic and cultural
condition of the region. I feel compelled to go to some relative extent in the discussion of
this text because of its ignominious significance to the region's intellectuals. A few lines in
particular from this text have become central to the Caribbean intellectual psyche, as most
have responded against them. Overall, the text represents a regional aesthetic of its time
just as it fits squarely into the Caribbean exilic paradigm.
Naipaul's The Middle Passage, his first travelogue, was written at the request of
then Prime Minister of Trinidad, Eric Williams. The chapters focus mainly on five
nations-Trinidad, British Guiana, Surinam, Martinique, and Jamaica-but the book begins
with Naipaul's highly symbolic "middle passage" from England to the Caribbean. He
embarks in Waterloo on the Francisco Bobadilla, with a pit-stop at Southampton, then
onward to St. Kitts, and then to Grenada, and finally to the first major focal point of
Trinidad. The text of the sea-crossing shows the passengers' race and class divisions and
the general stereotypes given to West Indians by non-West Indians, and by West Indians
Naipaul sets the tone of the text when he places himself as one of the elite, an
outsider to the mass of West Indian society, as he is one of "only nine first-class
passengers" on the ship (15); "there was such a crowd of immigrant-type West Indians on
the boat-train platform at Waterloo that I was glad I was travelling first class to the West
Indies" (11). He gives examples of this "type" of people as his text begins prophetically
with violence in two accounts of West Indian passengers who discuss their respective
relationships with a foreman and a landlord. In each case, they seem to be bragging about
their ability to rough-up these people, notably non-West Indians. The man says about the
foreman, "I went up and I hit him baps! Clean through a window" (12), and the woman
says of her rent-requesting landlord, "I gave him one kick bar! He roll down the steps
bup-bup-bup" (13). The explicit violence relayed by these passengers represents an
implied violence of colonial imposition and racism, on which Naipaul chooses to focus
much of his travelogue. Although Naipaul repeatedly denigrates the Caribbean region and
its people in The Middle Passage, we must be aware that this work is also a critique of the
colonizer, for it is the colonial condition-replete with its history of slavery, economic
poverty, and external dominance-which has produced the adverse cultural conditions that
Naipaul details in this text.
The racism and national stereotypes that Naipaul illustrate are quite extreme as
well as real; they represent the peculiar absurdities innate in racism and stereotyping. For
example, a Miss Tull was a bit unnerved to find out that one of the passengers was leaving
England because she was thrown out of her living quarters for having a baby. After she
was thrown out, the landlord put up a sign that read "No Coloured Please" (19). A Mr.
Mackay responds to her confusion, "But a lot of you English people forget that there is a
type of black man-like the Jamaican-who is an animal" (19). Miss Tull states, "but this
woman isn't Jamaican." She thus accepts the proposal about the Jamaican as a brute. Mr.
Mackay responds simply, "a lot of the black fellers provoke the English people" (19).
Naipaul puts Mr. Mackay's comment into perspective; "like all good West Indians, he was
unwilling to hear anything against England" (19). The reader is not shocked to find out
that Mr. Mackay's son, Angus, passes himself off as Brazilian while he is in England (24);
one may assume that he does not want to be confused for a Jamaican.
Surprisingly, this mentality persists to some degree to this day. When I was in
Barbados in March 2001, a local cab driver told me that he did not get along with
Jamaicans because "they are a violent people." On the other hand, we may see how
Jamaicans view Barbadians. In March 2002, I was in Barbados for the 21st Annual West
Indian Literature Conference with a few friends from Jamaica. One morning, the bus they
were riding in broke down. They were shocked at the other passengers who sat patiently
as the bus driver announced that he would provide them with seats on the next bus that
came along. They were equally surprised at the calmness and near silence of the
passengers when "no one cuss up the driver." Of course, my Jamaican friends did not
"cuss up the driver" either; but what is significant here is their expectations of some form
of violence (whether verbal or physical) in what could have been a relatively difficult
situation back in Jamaica.
Naipaul notes that a peculiar change takes place in the passengers when the ship
nears arrival in the West Indies; "as England receded, people prepared more actively for
the West Indies. They formed colour groups, race groups, territory groups, money groups.
The West Indies being what they are, no group was fixed; one man could belong to all"
(22). Indeed, these groups are not static, for Naipaul goes on to say that when the first
group of emigrants are picked up on St. Kitts, another sudden transition of hierarchy
occurs; "there were now only two classes: travelers and emigrants" (27). These travelers
and emigrants may represent a microcosm of the center-periphery model: the travelers as
"center," and the emigrants as "periphery."
The arrival of the emigrants-who embrace such hope and promise for their
future-creates a counter-intuitive energy from Naipaul. Just after his comments on the
new class structure of the ship, he makes his most scathing and perhaps most-often-quoted
remarks about the Caribbean.
Nothing was created in the British West Indies, no civilization as in Spanish
America, no great revolution as in Haiti or the American colonies. There
were only plantations, prosperity, decline, neglect: the size of the islands
called for nothing else .... The history of the islands can never be
satisfactorily told. Brutality is not the only difficulty. History is built around
achievement and creation; and nothing was created in the West Indies. (27-
Naipaul seems to dismiss the recuperative abilities of the historian. But there is one story,
at least, which is "satisfactorily told." This occurs in fellow Trinidadian CLR James'
account of The Black Jacobins (1938), a narrative of the Haitian revolution. Most, if not
all, West Indians are satisfied with the history that exists in James' text. Said remarks on
the significance of history in James' text; "James' Black Jacobins treats the San Domingo
slave uprising as a process unfolding within the same history as that of the French
Revolution .... James writes of Toussaint as someone who takes up the struggle for
human freedom-a struggle also going on in the metropolis" (Culture and Imperialism
279). Thus James' Haitian history is appropriately placed within the history of the wider
world. Naipaul's comments problematically negate a regional system of being which
would include Haiti (and its historical significance to the region) and "Spanish America" as
a part of the Caribbean, along with the (British) West Indian islands. Naipaul maintains his
view of the region as he publishes a nearly identical summation in 1970.
The island blacks will continue to be dependent on the books, films, and
goods of others; in this important way, they will continue to be the half-
made societies of a dependent people, the Third World's third world. They
will forever consume; they will never create. They are without material
resources; they will never develop the higher skills. Identity depends in the
end on achievement; and achievement here cannot but be small. ("Power?"
The notorious lines from The Middle Passage do not represent an isolated opinion by
Naipaul. It is clear that he sees primarily the absence of possibilities in the Caribbean.
Naipaul's travelogue is a personal journey, and this comes through especially in the
chapter on his homeland of Trinidad. He says, "as soon as the Francisco Bobadilla had
touched the quay, ship's side against rubber bumpers, I began to feel all my old fear of
Trinidad. I did not want to stay. I had left the security of the ship and had no assurance
that I would ever leave the island again" (40). His visceral fear reminds him of his initial
arrival in England, when "for many years afterward ... I had been awakened by the
nightmare that I was back in tropical Trinidad" (41). Everything about Trinidad seems to
upset Naipaul. Similar to Lamming's discussion in "Caribbean Literature: The Black Rock
of Africa," Naipaul says that Trinidad is a society where "power was recognized, but
dignity was allowed to no one. Every person of eminence was held to be crooked and
contemptible. We lived in a society which denied itself heroes" (41).
Naipaul places himself within his true homeland when he states that he hates the
calypso-which was created in Trinidad-even while he seems to support its local currency;
"no song composed outside Trinidad is a calypso" (70). He further comments that other
cultures have taken it up and "debased the form" (70). This type of commentary on the
calypso suggests a distinct loyalty to the musical form, which arguably cannot come from
anyone but a Trinidadian. We may thus understand why Naipaul comes under fire from the
Caribbean community when his response upon hearing about his Nobel prize (2001) leaves
out any recognition of his Caribbean heritage; "it is a great tribute to both England, my
home, and to India, home of my ancestors" (Singh "Praise and Criticism for V.S.
Naipaul"). However, Nettleford remarks to journalist Rickey Singh about Naipaul's Nobel
prize, in one of the few publicly-made positive observations about Naipaul's response; "I
have never taken Naipaul seriously on his oft quoted view that we in the Caribbean have
created nothing. By a strange bit of irony he is, of course, one of our proud creations"
(Singh). It is thus a peculiar distance that Naipaul maintains from the Caribbean, when
many would welcome him back.
The representative state of mind in Naipaul's Trinidad can be viewed in the
incident of blues-man Sam Cooke's four shows in Trinidad circa 1960. According to
Naipaul, the concert promoter, Valmond "Fatman" Jones, obtained funds for advertising
and the concerts were soon sold out. A few days before the event, when Cooke was
supposed to have arrived and had not arrived, Jones "flew unexpectedly to Martinique"
(75). The peculiarity of this caper does not appear merely in the obvious criminal activity
by Jones, but in the reaction by the general public, which Naipaul relates in the comments
of a few boys sitting around discussing what had happened.
The Indian said, "I don't know how anyone could vex with the
man. That is brains."
"Is what my Aunt say," one of the Negro boys said. "She ain't feel
she get rob. She feels she pay two dollars for the intelligence." (76)
Naipaul describes what drives these boys' enthusiasm for Jones (even if they are merely
joking) as a general descriptor of his society; "the Trinidadian is a natural anarchist" (77).
In the section on British Guiana, Naipaul's harsh critique of the region and its
people continues. He sums up a whole society as having "the power to transmit to you
their sense of defeat and purposelessness: emotional parasites who flourish by draining
you of the vitality you preserve with difficulty. The Amerindians had this effect on me"
(102). It is curious that Naipaul's vitality should be so difficult to preserve because he
otherwise presents himself as an outsider, a traveler, or better yet, one who has "escaped."
His exploration of Martinique supports his despisal of the colonial condition:
"Martinique is France" (192). This simple statement contains voluminous significance. He
explains further, "they are black but they are Frenchmen. The myth of non-separation
is carried to the extent that routes nationals, which presumably lead to Paris, wind
through Martiniquan countryside" (192-193). Naipaul suggests that in the British West
Indies at least the colonial knows and understands that he is not an English citizen, which
is much different from Glissant's Martinican planter who "talks of 'we Europeans'"
(Caribbean Discourse 57). In the French West Indies, Naipaul sees mimicry when he
wishes to see originality. Anxious to leave the island, he has nothing but bitter protest
against what he calls "the French colonial monkey-game" (210).
Tired from his seven-month journey, Naipaul sums up his feelings toward the
region, although the focus is on Jamaica.
The pressures of Jamaica were not simply the pressures of race or those of
poverty. They were the accumulated pressures of the slave society, the
colonial society, the under-developed, over-populated agricultural country;
and they were beyond the control of any one 'leader.' The situation
required not a leader but a society which understood itself and had purpose
and direction. It was only generating selfishness, cynicism and a self-
destructive rage. (224)
Indeed, what Naipaul says here is key to understanding the West Indian living condition
today just as much as when he wrote these lines.
In Naipaul's closing remarks, he makes a final unmistakable connection between
himself and the West Indies. On his airplane ride to New York he is seated beside a
Gideon proselytizer; "my appearance marks me as a heathen. My expression is benign. My
manner gentle; and all the way from Kingston to Nassau I received the Christian message"
(232). Naipaul ends with his loathing of everything the Gideon stands for conflated with
the external perceptions of everything his own appearance marks himself to be. It seems
that Naipaul wants us to picture him sitting there in the airplane seat, receiving the
message, smug and helpless, steam rising from his ears, ruminating futile thoughts. Of
course, he is not helpless. He is one of the Caribbean's (if not the world's) intellectual
elite, and given his literary success, his thoughts are far from futile.
Derek Walcott's essay, "The Caribbean: Culture or Mimicry?" (1974), addresses
Naipaul's concerns with mimicry. Walcott distinctly seems to support and then dismiss
Naipaul's assertion in The Middle Passage that "nothing was ever created in the West
Indies." Walcott proposes that a lack of power does not necessarily connote a lack of
influence (4). He asserts that while the Caribbean archipelago may be deemed
"powerless," leaders such as "Garvey, Cesaire, Fanon, Padmore, and Stokely" have had a
great influence worldwide (4). While Walcott claims that "in the Caribbean history is
irrelevant," he adds "that what has mattered is the loss of history, the amnesia of the races,
what has become necessary is imagination, imagination as necessity, as invention" (6).
While he supports Naipaul's critique of mimicry, Walcott suggests that the disabling force
of this "amnesia" can be changed through "imagination as necessity." Yet how does one
change one's perception of self if it is rooted in a gaze "toward the meccas of the
colonizer" (Carew 110)? Walcott describes the metropolitan center, similar to
Brathwaite's "whole" society, as holding the supposed "virtue of social order, a lineally
clear hierarchy, direction, purpose, balance" (7). Walcott shows how to make a change
when, in a deft move, he turns "nothing" into something; "nothing will always be created
in the West Indies, for quite long time [sic], because what will come out of there is like
nothing one has ever seen before" (9). Walcott offers Carnival ritual, steelband, and
calypso as examples of the "something from nothing" Caribbean creativity (9). Many
would now add reggae music to this list, as well as Marley himself to Walcott's earlier
"worldwide influence" list.
Walcott questions the apparent "confusion" and "chaos" in the Caribbean. He
argues instead that there are "patterns" and even "contradicting strains" within the
apparent chaos (10). This problem of order-in-disorder creates a need ("imagination as
necessity") for Walcott to give an alternative to the cultural stagnancy of mimicry;
"because we have no choice but to view history as fiction or as religion, then our use of it
will be idiosyncratic, personal, and therefore, creative" (13). Walcott's optimistic outlook
is a welcome relief from Naipaul's colonial angst. Yet Walcott does not blame Naipaul for
his views. He explains Naipaul's angst to those who may not fully appreciate it; "the
embittered despair of a New World writer like Naipaul is also part of that impatience and
irascibility at the mere repetition of human error which passes for history, and that
irascibility is also a belief in possibility" (13). In a regional context, Walcott envisions the
privileged space of an all-inclusive Americas as a site for Caribbean ground-breaking
creativity (13). Walcott speaks of a New World Caribbean mentality, which is distinctly
not the metropolitanism of "the mimic men" of the Old World.
Similar to Brathwaite's discussion, Guyanese Wilson Harris' "Creoleness: The
Crossroads of a Civilization?" (1998) speaks directly to the notions ofjustness in a
hierarchal world order. Yet Harris explores the possibilities of global creolite as opposed
to Brathwaite's distinguishing between "whole" and "hole" societies. Harris says,
"creoleness became a form of self-deceptive division even as it harboured within itself a
potential for the renascence of community" (24). This division seems to support even
while it calls into question the notion of "naturalized" hierarchal orders, especially that of
center and periphery. For Harris, it is a quite personal situation; "I found myself on the
edges or margins of a world" (24). One way for Harris to relieve the burdens of
marginality is to "throw bridges across chasms, to open an architectural space within
closed worlds of race and culture"; he claims that these bridges already exist, yet within
the "suppression ofprofoundest creativity" (25).
Creoleness, Harris explains, not only creates divisions or "chasms" between
cultures (perhaps with differences akin to Brathwaite's "whole" and "hole" cultures), but
creoleness also serves as a "saving nemesis," which has "recuperative powers and vision
within a scale of violence that is dismembering societies around the globe" (26). Thus, the
"involuntary associations" (28), which result in the chasms of which Harris speaks, allow
for both negative and positive side effects. Harris claims somewhat cryptically,
unless a genuine cross-cultural apprehension occurs of the unfinished
genesis of the imagination affecting past and present civilizations, an
innermost apprehension of changing, cross-cultural content within frames
we take for granted, the involuntary ground of association to which I have
referred, remains between privileged and afflicted cultures. (28)
Harris' "ground of association" between cultures brings to mind notions of "uneven
geographic development," while his "unfinished genesis of the imagination" represents his
unflagging argument that "History" does not exist except as it is remembered.
Harris describes how our understanding of the creolization of world cultures
depends on who represents it. He uses Picasso as a representative of Western power
appropriating cultural "artifacts." Picasso's appropriation of "facets of the African mask"
suggest "formal" techniques of creolization by a "privileged" world force (28). Harris then
turns from appropriation of cultural artifacts to "gifts-bom of unconscious momentum
within the chasm of humanity-that one culture unselfconsciously .. offers to another
culture" (29). His notion of the cultural "gift" is a useful way of perceiving cultural
transactions, even if they are more often represented as cases of unequal development. In
the Picasso example, the formal appropriation of the African gift "reduces the past to a
passive creature to be manipulated as an ornament of fashion or protest or
experimentation in postmodernist styles, post-modernist games" (31). Harris wants the
past to live in the present, that is, to be more active. Harris argues for an anti-
enlightenment philosophy of history, in which we must accept the disjunctures in history
which create creoleness as an undeniable element of modernity. However, while Picasso's
work represents a cultural creolite, Harris argues for a more equal "apprehension of past
and present" so that the creoleness of the world may come into better view by all parties
of the world. Harris' creoleness is rooted in cultural interactions, as he suggests a global
order at play in history and in the present.
Harris places the folklore of the African Legba beside the Greek myth of
Hephaestus (a.k.a. Vulcan) to show how cultures may "throw a ceaseless bridge across
the chasms of worlds" (35). Legba uses Hephaestus' shield (which was forged for
Achilles). Harris says that "one needs more than a formal appropriation of Achilles' armor
if one is to arrive within a capacity to lift an invisible seed of fire, within Hephaestian
technology, into a trigger of simultaneous densities and transparencies" (35). Harris does
not make clear exactly what more is needed. On the other hand, he states that "Legba and
Hephaestus are symbols of the chasm raised onto a plane of maimed immortality to strike
an uneasy, perhaps terrifying, balance between abnormal stress within the body of a
civilization and creative/re-creative genius" (33). As "symbols of the chasm," these
metaphors for cultural creolization represent Harris' attempt to push spatiality and
temporality into a flux of dismembered history, which does indeed strengthen his notion of
a creoleness of world history.
Edouard Glissant's two collections of critical essays, Caribbean Discourse (1981)
and Poetics of Relation (1990), strive for a view of"Caribbeanness" that includes an all-
encompassing world view of creoleness. Glissant, in Caribbean Discourse, shows both
how exile was formed and how it may be used to fulfill a future of independence in
Antillanite, translated as "Caribbeanness." Michael Dash states that Glissant "locates in
the Caribbean a process of global dimensions" (xxxix). The beginning of Caribbean
Discourse includes a litany of catch-phrases that signify the interaction of the local with
the global: "we demand the right to obscurity" (2); "we are part of the disorientation of
the world. A morbid unreason and a stubborn urgency make us a part of a global process.
The same H bomb is for everyone" (3); "the Caribbean, the Other America" (4); "when
the oral is confronted with the written, secret accumulated hurts suddenly find expression"
(4); and "assimilation made balkanization complete" (7). Glissant expands the implied
argument in these few lines throughout Caribbean Discourse which argues, similar to
Harris' discussion, that the world at-large needs a "cross-cultural imagination" (87).
Glissant strives to change the way we understand the world. He speaks of
"reversion" and "diversion"; the former occurs when one has an "obsession with origins"
(16), and the latter occurs when "the community has tried to exorcize the impossibility of
return," which manifests itself, for example, in "the Creole language" (20). Critically,
Glissant wishes to bring together reversion and diversion at "the point of entanglement"
(26). He desires an intellectual aesthetic which may bring him and his Martinican people to
an understanding of Self that is not dispossessed by "missed opportunities" (as he repeats
throughout). He looks forward to a time when, for example, the oral is not reduced to
folklore and the written is not privileged, a notion which is based as a consequence of
external cultural impositions. Glissant is upset-somewhat similar to Naipaul-because he
sees and hears so much colonial mimicry (as in the example of the Martinican planter). Yet
unlike Naipaul, Glissant offers ways through this mimicry. One such way is through an
"exploded discourse," and another is through a transcendent realization of "opacity."
Glissant's "exploded discourse" suggests that the Caribbean writer's "entrance"
into history stems from a "tortured sense of time" (144). This "anxiety of influence" comes
from a stilted history of slavery and negation, and erasure of a sense of community or
unity in the Caribbean, whereby "diversion" cannot take place because the "balkanization"
of the islands was completed so long ago that it has become somewhat naturalized into the
islands' collective identities as such; further, the spatial and linguistic separation of the
islands creates inter-island misunderstandings and-in a colonial setting-mimicry. Although
Glissant claims that "we are finished with the fight against exile" (154), he goes on to
discuss the "insignificance of the Martinican in his own land" (180), which suggests a form
of "internal" exile. Glissant further notes that in class the students speak French, while at
play they speak Creole (187). This occurs on other islands as well. One may read almost
any issue of Jamaica's daily Gleaner for examples of the Creole/English debate.
Glissant suggests that his two collections of essays are bookends to a philosophy
of Caribbean identity. Therefore, from Caribbean Discourse (1981), we may turn to
Poetics of Relation (1990) where Glissant attempts a world view through some repetition
and expansion of former arguments. Contrary to his earlier statement in Caribbean
Discourse that he is finished with exile, he begins his discussion here with the notions of
errantry and exile. He takes from Deleuze and Guattari the useful idea of the "rhizome,"
which does not put down one long stock root, but creates many temporary branch-roots
which may be moved when needed (11); "the notion of the rhizome remains, therefore, the
idea of rootedness but challenges that of the totalitarian root. Rhizomatic thought is the
principle behind what I call the Poetics of Relation, in which each and every identity is
extended through a relationship with the Other" (11). Glissant suggests how this poetics
can effect the notion of exile uprootednesss) and errantry (wandering/nomadism). "In this
context," Glissant says, "uprooting can work toward identity and exile can be seen as
beneficial" (18). In this sense, physical exile could be a solution to intellectual exile. Yet
later in his discussion, Glissant suggests that physical exile may still be harmful; he implies
this in his discussion of chaos-monde (world chaos) in which he posits the Caribbean as
being a participating player. Similar to Walcott's notion of world order, Glissant gives
some order and structure to the chaos in the Caribbean and the world system. He says that
"when identity is determined by a root, the emigrant is condemned ... to be split and
fastened" (143). The duality of being both "split" and "fastened" suggests that "chaos"
may ensue when one attempts to wander toward or even away from origins and
Glissant suggests how to avoid being "split and fastened." He claims that "there
has to be dialogue with the West" (191), which does not appear to be such a novel claim;
however, the word dialogue in the context of his discussion implies a resistance to the
stagnancy of received economies and received transmissions from, for example, FR3
(French radio) and French culture as the highlight of world civilization. His counter-
poetics, his creoleness, his coming to knowledge against Knowledge, then, is his desire to
"move toward entanglement" (191). His ultimate desire is to hear his people say, "as far as
my identity is concerned, I will take care of it myself' (192). How does he change an
identity of missed opportunities and mimicry, what he calls with a linguistic twist, "that
those being be not being" (183)? From a general notion of a poetics of depth, a poetics of
structure, a consciousness of relation, to the specific chaos-fulfilling argument against
totalitarianism, Glissant claims, "we clamor for the right of opacity for everyone" (194).
We may see the obvious convergence of Caribbean communities, a certain Caribbeanness
already showing itself, when we realize the similarities between Glissant's opacity and
Harris' desire for a "trigger of simultaneous densities and transparencies" ("Creoleness"
35). Indeed, Glissant's cultural capital of opaque-ness supports his notion of chaos-
monde, which also allows for a convergence of personal errantries with independent island
identities, in a continuous, free-flowing creoleness of Caribbean identity-thus fulfilling
Glissant's notion of a regional Antillanite.
The three subsets of "Caribbean regional globalization aesthetics" support the
overall intellectual endeavor. Together, they suggest a way of seeing a region-wide
"Caribbeanness." Nettleford's and Brathwaite's texts are useful to understand local
economic and cultural interactions with the processes of globalization. Naipaul's and
Walcott's focus on the cultural conditions in the Caribbean also concentrate on these
"local/global" interactions; yet, in apparent opposition to each other, they suggest their
respective disheartening and likewise hopeful visions for the future of the region. Naipaul
sees an ending, "after empire," while Walcott views opportunities for a new beginning.
Finally, Glissant's and Harris' focus on the creoleness of the region also stems from
historical cultural interactions of uneven geographic development.
The authors discussed in this chapter have attempted to make the region more
accessible intellectually for themselves as much as for the outsider, which in itself is a
dialogic interaction of the local with the global. The agency that may be found in exile is
especially crucial to comprehend in these discourses. The Caribbean region is now a
"player" in the Western world, even if it has relatively little power in it. In the Caribbean
literary imagination, we may view how the local interacts with the global in such an
unevenly developed world. While focusing on their respective islands and region,
Caribbean artists incorporate-on various levels-similar concerns with local/global
economic and cultural interactions in their fiction, poetry, plays, and music.
CARIBBEAN FOLKLORE AND MYTHOLOGIES:
LITERATURE OF A TEMPORAL AND SPATIAL MIND
The stone had skidded arc'd and bloomed into islands.
(Brathwaite, "Calypso" in The Arrivants 48)
Where else to row, but backward?
(Walcott, Another Life 217)
It is no mystery / we making history.
(Michelle Cliff, No Telephone to Heaven 5)
Crick-crack. Caribbean oral narrative is fundamental to my general arguments
about the interactions between the Caribbean and the West. This chapter will explore the
use of shifting temporal and spatial modes in the quest for origins and identity fragments in
Caribbean literature. M. M. Bakhtin's theory of the "chronotope" or the flux of "time-
space" in popular folktales will serve as a conceptual frame for this discussion. I will
explore how the Caribbean local produces an agency-filled heritage through its literary
imagination. This agency production supports the enterprise of national identity formation.
Indeed, most of these texts were produced in the decades approaching and following
independence. These narratives exhibit what Homi Bhabha describes as "dissemination," in
which "the language of culture and community is poised on the fissures of the present
becoming the rhetorical figures of a national past" (142). In Caribbean literature, ancient
myths and folklore become appropriated and revised to reclaim exile as a local force of
agency in the globalized Caribbean. Caribbean authors use, for example, African gods,
geographical space, ancestral histories and memories, and folk tales of trickster figures,
such as the devil and Sasabonsam, to interact with global forces for the purpose of both
creating and maintaining positive signifiers for local identities. Some authors'
engagements with history are so extreme that they exile the present. But once the cultural
agency of the past has been engaged and brought back into a present Caribbean psyche,
we may better see the interconnectedness of the forces of globalization and exile in the
Caribbean region. Caribbean folklore, while seemingly portraying only very specific local
cultural interests, also has the global context imbedded in it. This duality often occurs
through two similar strains of narrative: (1) a resistance narrative, or "resisting against the
system," which occurs in numerous Marley songs, and is somewhat representative of the
Rastafari mind-set, and (2) a creole narrative, which is often a re-inscription of commonly-
held western beliefs-such as the origins of world creation and the classical Greek
myths-into a narrative which better fits a creolized Caribbean model.
There are areas of overlap in the three main arguments made in this chapter. The
first argument is mostly implicit and supports the greater argument of the dissertation, that
the local cultural engagement with external forces has manifested into pervasive exilic
themes in Caribbean literature, and that exile has become a tool for cultural agency in
Caribbean literature. The second argument is that much Caribbean folklore (or even
"literary" texts with "folkloric" elements) focus on history and faith in their "resistance" or
"creole" narratives of cultural agency. The third argument is that this same Caribbean
folklore exemplifies Bakhtin's "chronotope."
I will explore, first, notions of the chronotope (Bakhtin), orality (Finnegan, Ong,
Brathwaite), and Caribbean folklore (Glissant). The "time-space" flux of the chronotope is
especially useful in Caribbean folklore; the authors often look to the past for agency in the
present-as Walcott writes, "who will teach us a history of which we too are capable?"
(Omeros 197). Second, I will explore representative "folkloric" texts, chosen for their
engagement with oral narrative folklore as well as the chronotope. Although I include
other texts, the main focal points are Walcott' Omeros and "Ti-Jean and His Brothers,"
Carpentier's The Lost Steps and The Kingdom of This World, Harris' Palace of the
Peacock, and Cliff's No Telephone to Heaven, all of which depict the exilic heritage of the
region, and to a lesser degree elements of faith, to inscribe a present Caribbean agency.
Bakhtin's notion of the chronotope or "time-space" brings together time and space
into a critical moment of flux, with the imbued power that apparently may produce either a
debilitating or a strengthening change in its protagonist. In The Dialogic Imagination
(1981), Bakhtin says, "in the literary artistic chronotope, spatial and temporal indicators
are fused into one carefully thought out, concrete whole. Time, as it were, thickens, takes
on flesh, becomes artistically visible; likewise, space becomes charged and responsive to
the movements of time, plot and history" (84). Although Bakhtin is discussing what he
calls the "ancient novel," his theoretical perspective is useful here, especially concerning
the politically-charged quest for cultural agency within which much Caribbean literature is
placed. Perhaps because of this quest for agency, there is a heightened predisposition
toward temporal and spatial significance in Caribbean literature.
The significance of the chronotope to Caribbean literature appears especially in
what Bakhtin calls "the chronotope of the thri \l Jl, (248); this particular type of
chronotope is "connected with the breaking point in life, the moment of crisis, the
decision that changes a life" (248). The main "threshold" or "crisis" in Caribbean literature
is represented by an identity of exile that is striving toward agency. This crisis develops
especially within the historic processes of nationalism; this "identity crisis" is energized
both before and after political independence. Much Caribbean literature illustrates this
crisis in variations on the theme of attempting to break the "threshold" of the imperial
cultural hegemony and assert a sense of Caribbean cultural agency.
Some of the texts themselves more overtly than others suggest the time-space flux
of the chronotope. For instance, Harris' Palace of the Peacock and Carpentier's The Lost
Steps are both narratives where, for every step forward the protagonist takes, time moves
in reverse sequence (and later fluctuates back to the present). There are also less obvious
chronotopic texts which still exhibit elements of a lost Caribbean heritage being brought
into the present; their protagonists only symbolically leave the present-an "internal" form
of exile-and Time does not "shift." In a few of these texts the chronotope may be
simplified further as a critical "middle moment" in time, which forever changes the
protagonist. In Caribbean oral narrative, exilic characters engage their past-in a variety of
ways-and return to the present with new-found agency.
Ruth Finnegan, in Oral Poetry (1977), points out a discursive problem concerning
the defining elements of oral poetry.
There is no clear-cut line between "oral" and "written" literature, and when
one tries to differentiate between them-as has often been attempted-it
becomes clear that there are constant overlaps. Oral poetry is not an
odd or aberrant phenomenon in human culture, nor a fossilized survival
from the far past, destined to wither away with increasing modernisation.
Finnegan does, however, narrow her discussion of oral poetry in terms of ballads,
folksongs, popular songs, children's verse, and epic poetry (3-16). She arrives at one
conclusion, which is quite relevant to Caribbean literature.
The element of performance, of oral presentation, is of such obvious and
leading significance in oral poetry that, paradoxically, it raises the question
whether this element is not also of more real importance in the literature we
classify as "written" than we often realise. Is there not an auditory ring in
most poetry? Is reading aloud, declaiming aloud, not in practice an
important part of our culture? How many people only appreciate poetry
through the eye? (73)
The element of performance is critical to Caribbean oral poetry. For many years, the
Caribbean has produced "performance poets" and "Dub poets," who emphasize the
rhythm, or musicality, of the sounds they speak. There are numerous endorsements for the
critical importance of sound, especially "noise" in Caribbean literature, which we see in
work by Brathwaite and Lamming, and more recently in the work ofEma Brodber, and
Carolyn Cooper's critical analyses of both performance and sound in Noises in the Blood
(1993). Cooper notes that many "Jamaican Caribbean" authors' "experiments in form
inscribe the Jamaican attempt to 'colonise' a western literary form, the novel, adapting the
conventions of the genre to accommodate orality" (3). We may view the Caribbean novel
as a scribal extension of the oral cultural milieu. But this is also applicable to other artistic
forms, such as drama and poetry.
While Finnegan sees an overlap between oral and written texts, Walter Ong, in
Orality and Literacy (1982), states that "an oral culture has no texts" (33). Yet, if an oral
culture has no texts, it still has contexts. In the modem Caribbean, we have creole societies
that are largely oral, yet easily intermingle the oral with the scribal. Further, we should
resist the suggestion in The Empire Writes Back (1989) that "oral literature" is a
"contradictory" term (Ashcroft 127). This reduction represents the West's inability to fully
understand creole sensibilities, which perhaps gives more impetus to Afro-Caribbean
Ong's progressive ideology suggests an "orality-literacy shift" in which orality
leads to literacy, and not the other way around (145). However, he also states that
"reading a text oralizes it. Both orality and the growth of literacy out of orality are
necessary for the evolution of consciousness" (175). Ong, therefore, presents us with an
orality-literacy paradox. He further claims that the classical epic cannot be reproduced for
the simple reason that "the narrator of the Iliad and the Odyssey is lost in the oral
communalities: he never appears as 'I'" (159). But we may view Walcott's Omeros
(1990)-with its narrative "I" figure-as a modem creole epic poem which intermingles both
the oral and the literate/literary. This mixture of orality and literacy may very well stem
from a Caribbean irruptionn into modernity" as Glissant suggests (Caribbean Discourse
146). In Caribbean literature, we thus have a construction of oral narrative, where one's
written text-complete with new mythologies of the world mixing with the old-may be
deemed not only to have oral antecedents, but to be itself in scribal dialogic interaction
with its own oral cultural milieu.
Caribbean literature's mixture of the oral with the scribal conjoined with its
irruptionn into modernity" fits well with Bakhtin's chronotope. In Caribbean Discourse
(1989), Glissant argues that "the Caribbean folktale zeroes in on our absence of history: it
is the site of the deactivated word. Yet it says all" (85). Glissant further poses this identity
argument: "the question we need to ask in Martinique will not be, for instance, 'Who am
I?'-a question that from the outset is meaningless-but rather: 'Who are we?'" (86).
Glissant also states the historical cultural significance of living in his own time and space;
"for history is not only absence for us, it is vertigo. This time that was never ours, we must
now possess" (161). As Glissant suggests, Caribbean authors often appropriate their local
folklore to answer questions of cultural significance. The power inscribed in Caribbean
oral narrative folklore, and hence a reason for its success, is that it answers Glissant's plea.
Walcott and Brathwaite use space and time as discursive entities by which to make
their arguments. Walcott asserts, in his book-length autobiographical poem Another Life
(1973), "where else to row, but backward?" (217). Walcott writes history as he brings
together various fragments of history to complete his incarnation of a New World
Caribbean Self. In his Nobel prize acceptance speech (1992), Walcott explains why he
feels compelled to do this; "the sigh of History rises over ruins, not over landscapes, and
in the Antilles, there are few ruins to sigh over, apart from the ruins of sugar estates, and
abandoned forts" (The Antilles 7). Walcott often turns to history in his quest for
Caribbean agency. We may view Walcott's inscription of History in his poem, "The Sea is
History" (1979). "Where are your monuments, your battles, martyrs? / Where is your
tribal memory? Sirs, / in that grey vault. The sea. The sea / has locked them up. The sea is
History" (Collected Poems 1948-1984 364). Walcott places History in the sea, a peculiar
"vault," which as an idea contains a parallel notion to Brathwaite's critical analysis of
Caribbean cultural identity in Contradictory Omens (1974) in which he concludes, "the
unity is submarine" (64). In "Calypso" (1967), Brathwaite turns to mythic origins of the
Caribbean which cannot help but include the unstated sea with which the stone comes in
contact: "the stone had skidded arc'd and bloomed into islands" (The Arrivants 48). In
Walcott's poem, the narrator expresses how the unity of the region exists as well in what
is not history: the Ark of the Covenant, Song of Solomon, Lamentations, Emancipation
(Collected Poems 364-66). The narrator implies that History, as such, is not Caribbean
history, and thus cannot ennoble a people to move forward with a positive fulfillment of
Self. Akin to "Calypso," "The Sea is History" describes the genesis of Caribbean history,
when "each rock broke into its own nation; / ... / and in the salt chuckle of rocks / with
their sea pools, there was a sound / like a rumour without any echo / of History really
beginning" (367). In this case, history is conflated with the islands' political positions as
independent nation-states. The implication is that history is there for one to find, if one can
just swim deep enough to obtain this knowledge and hear the sounds that are so critical to
Brathwaite suggests that sound resides in a privileged space in Caribbean poetry in
his study, History of the Voice: The Development of Nation Language in Anglophone
Caribbean Poetry (1984).' Brathwaite's general argument may be summed up in his
comment that "the hurricane does not roar in pentameter" (10). Here Brathwaite suggests
the right sounds of a distinctly Caribbean poetry, a "nation language" that does not require
the mimicry of the European pentameter. Yet a search for origins remains problematic in a
Caribbean which has not had the past half-millennium to create and build a positive sense
of self-a side effect of existing as a "hole" society ("World Order Models" 57). The
Caribbean's irruptionn into modernity" results in poetry that awkwardly mixes the
European tradition with the Caribbean locale as Brathwaite illustrates with a student's
poem: "the snow was falling on the canefields" (History of the Voice 9).
From the awkward mixing of the cultural and literary local-global in the student's
poem, we may turn to a response which looks at the hegemonic field of play and
'A small part of my discussion of Brathwaite's text exists in different and extended
form in my article, "Erosion, Noise, and Hurricanes: A Review of Edward Kamau
Brathwaite's History of the Voice: The Development of Nation Language in Anglophone
Caribbean Poetry." Revista Mexicana del Caribe 12. (2003): 211-216.
comments directly on it. Jamaican poet Louise Bennet turns the cultural problem brought
forth by this irruptionn" on its heel, by describing emigration of the 1950s-60s when
Jamaicans "tun history upside dung" in her dialect poem "Colonization in Reverse"; "What
a joyful news, Miss Mattie; / Ah feel like me heart gwine burs- / Jamaica people colonizin
/ England in reverse" (Selected Poems 106). Bennett's description is infused with orality-a
discussion in Jamaican dialect with Miss Mattie-as well as the historical relevance of the
"myth of England." Lamming discusses this myth as a direct historical consequence of the
"cutting down to size of all non-England. The first to be cut down is the colonial himself'
(The Pleasures of Exile 27). The historical changes in "Colonization in Reverse" represent
both the diminishing power of England's hegemony as well as the increasing abilities of
Jamaican emigrants' quests for agency.
Brathwaite, in delivering his "electronic lecture" (History of the Voice), found that
he could only make his presentation with the aid of tape recordings of the music and the
poetry he was discussing. The critical element of performance which Finnegan argues
(273) is validated here; we can only read the surface level of Brathwaite's discussion,
without hearing the rhythm, or hearing the "noise" in which Brathwaite places so much
credence. Brathwaite gives his own "Wings of a Dove" from Rights of Passage (1967)
and reprinted in The Arrivants (1973), as a sample of the "riddimic [sic] aspect of nation
language" (34) which reflects the "sound structure of the Rastafarian drums" (33). Hence,
the local cultural milieu is inscribed in the poem, while the sound structure as well asserts
the dialogic orality of the scene.
watch dem ship dem
come to town dem
full o' silk dem
full o' food dem
and dem plane dem
come to groun' dem
full o' flash dem
full o' cash dem (32-33)
The chronotope here is the daily moment of the arrival of the global into the local sphere.
The shipping industry which brings food and silk and the planes that are full of flash and
cash represent the rhythm of the outside world arriving on the island. But the West does
not intrude so much as to negate the rhythm of the local lives. The rhythmic functions of
these events are more easily seen and heard in actual performance as Brathwaite will tap
his thighs or the podium when reciting these words so that the significance of the local
rhythm is "amplified" for his audience.2
Brathwaite's text, in its scholarly endeavor to create an understanding of the
cultural implications of nation language in Anglophone Caribbean poetry, opens up similar
routes of analysis for understanding various forms of Caribbean literature. He reminds us
how expansive and influential nation language has become, how recently "Bob Marley's
and Oku's riddmic words become Authorities for linguists" (49). Following Brathwaite's
lead, we may look into Caribbean writing-that is not limited to poetry-and we will still see
an engagement with the orality/aurality of "noise" in Caribbean literature. Lamming
refers specifically to noise multiple times in describing identity issues in The Pleasures of
Exile (1960). It is Caliban's voice in Act III Scene II of Shakespeare's The Tempest from
2 I have had the honor of seeing and hearing Brathwaite perform his poetry on two
occasions: the Second Conference on Caribbean Culture, Jamaica, January 2002, and the
22nd Annual West Indian Literature Conference, Miami, March 2003.
which Lamming quotes: "Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises, / Sounds and sweet airs,
that give delight and hurt not / Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments will hum
about mine ears" (14). Lamming claims that when reciting a poem in London, he "made a
heaven of a noise which is characteristic of my voice and an ingredient of West Indian
behavior. The result was an impression of authority" (63). With Era Brodber-a Jamaican
author and intellect whose work is often compared to Lamming's-we may also see a
creative representation of the "noise factor" in the first pages of Myal (1988). Myal aptly
begins (not with a hurricane but close enough) with a lightning storm and all the mythic
and metaphoric possibilities inherent in it. The character Mass Cyrus says, "this discord
could shake a man out of his roots" (1). Carolyn Cooper's Noises in the Blood (1993)
supports Brathwaite's general notions of orality, rhythm, and nation language. She points
out further that "one culture's 'knowledge' is another culture's 'noise'" (4). We may thus
understand the "noise factor" as intrinsic to Caribbean nation language, and nation
language itself as (to some degree) elemental within Caribbean oral literature.
In Walcott's Omeros (1990) we may view the continuing narrative of the
"absence" of history. The classical epic, such as the Iliad or the Odyssey, is understood to
be an oral narrative; Omeros is a modern descendant of the classical epic poem. The
narrator asks, "who will teach us a history of which we too are capable?" (197), and the
answer is in Omeros. For example, we may view Achille's sunstroke as a chronotopic
answer where "time is the metre, memory the only plot" (129). Achille's sunstroke is
absolutely understandable in the Caribbean heat. Yet he is an experienced fisherman.
Shouldn't he know better than to allow the sun to get the best of him? The sunstroke is a
device Walcott uses to enable Achille's ancestry to resurface into Achille's consciousness.
During his illness, Achille's mind goes back in time, and when he returns, a changed
person, he brings his African heritage back with him. During his sunstroke, Achille meets
his ancestral father, Afolabe. While Omeros is considered to be an epic poem, this scene is
written in a textual style as if it was a play, and may be viewed as a dramatized
performance for our benefit. Afolabe presents Achille with a critical question; "Achille.
What does the name mean? I have forgotten the one / that I gave you. But it was, it
seems, many years ago. / What does it mean?" (137). Achille's response, at first a bit
sympathetic, "well, I too have forgotten / Everything was forgotten" (137), quickly
becomes more lackadaisical: "it means something, maybe. What's the difference?" (138).
Achille's attitude causes Afolabe's tribe to grieve (138) and condemns Achille to a
veritable lecture on the importance of names. Afolabe reminds him of the importance of
his ancient name, and of the importance of his African heritage (135-39). "No man loses
his shadow except it is in the night, / and even then his shadow is hidden, not lost. At the
glow / of sunrise, he stands on his own name in that light" (138). Afolabe tries to tell
Achille that his past can be reclaimed, and his name can mean something again. Through
Afolabe, Walcott's oration extends outward to the culture of St. Lucia. Like Achille and
Afolabe, the island's culture is not lost but merely hidden in the legacies of slavery and
Later in the poem, Walcott's intrusive narrative "I" asks, "why waste lines on
Achille, a shade on the sea floor?" (296). Walcott "wastes" these lines to educate the
reader about the "rage of Achille at being misunderstood / by a camera for the spelling on
his canoe" (298). The canoe's name is inscribed, "In God We Troust." This Caribbean
rage is a modern version of the rage of Homer's Achilleus. The tourists simplify Achille
and other locals, but Achille "refuses to strike a pose / for the crouching photographers"
(298). Achille has wounds that may never heal completely, but after visiting Afolabe in
Africa, he has a better understanding of how his heritage became fragmented over three
hundred years. At the end of the poem, Achille "sniffed his name in one armpit" (325) as
perhaps a representative gesture of a folk hero re-asserting an organic connection to his
environment. Significantly, Achille is last seen returning from a fishing trip, just as history
continues: "when he left the beach the sea was still going on" (325).
In a visit to the underworld, Walcott is guided by Omeros (reminiscent of Virgil
guiding Dante) to confront and understand his "lost faith both in religion and myth"
(Omeros 293). Yet Walcott's faith, by all appearances, continues to the present day. In an
interview with Edward Hirsch, Walcott suggests as much; "if you go to a peak anywhere
in St. Lucia, you feel a simultaneous newness and a sense of timelessness at the same
time-the presence of where you are. It's a primal thing and it has always been that way"
(Hirsch 105). Here we see a schizophrenic Caribbean chronotope that occurs where
"newness" and "timelessness" intersect in a specific place, the peaks of St. Lucia, and
when something can be "primal" and simultaneously "has always been that way." In other
interviews, Walcott similarly describes his homeland as "a very green, misty island, which
always has a low cloud hanging over the mountaintops. When you come down by plane,
you break through the mist, and it's as if you were entering some kind of prehistoric
Eden" ("Man of the Theater" 18). We thus have Walcott's sense of his local Adamic
universe. We see this again with his response to Naipaul's comments in The Middle
Passage that "nothing was created in the West Indies" (29); Walcott says, "if there was
nothing, there was everything to be made. With this prodigious ambition one began"
("What the Twilight Says: An Overture" 4). Bhabha suggests that "it is this forgetting-the
signification of a minus in the origin-that constitutes the beginning of a nation's narrative"
(160). Of course Walcott does not confuse his Eden with the biblical referent. He is
discussing a New World Caribbean Eden. In "The Muse of History" (1974), Walcott
writes, "the apples of this second Eden have the tartness of experience" (41). This second
time around, Walcott's view of Adam's task to give things their names comes with a
certain pretense about faith, myth, and history. However, the Caribbean chronotope must
submit that outside the region history continues at a staggering pace; we thus have an
imaginative duality of time in the space of a Caribbean chronotope. Can there be a
"prehistoric Eden" concurrent with modernity? This is indeed a paradox of the Caribbean
Walcott's narrative of time duality lends itself to what Bakhtin calls "historical
inversion." Bakhtin says that "where there is no passage of time there is also no moment of
time" (146), which is the very problem of an "a-historical" Caribbean. Perhaps as
compensation for this problem, historical inversion appears in Caribbean literature.
Historical inversion occurs when the future is "somehow empty and fragmented-since
everything affirmative, ideal, obligatory, desired has been shifted, via the inversion, into
the past (or partly into the present); on route, it has become weightier, more authentic,
more persuasive" (147). Caribbean narratives of historical inversion are part of the
developmental processes of cultural decolonization and quests for affirmative national
identities. Historical inversion lays the groundwork for a positive future, and a more
amenable present. We may thus view the productivity of "historical inversion" in Achille's
sunstroke in Omeros, and in the origin mythologies of Walcott's "The Sea is History," and
Walcott further explores history in Omeros when he shows school children who
have brief moments to live as "their own nouns. Screaming only in vowels, / the
children burst out of History" (315). The separation of the realities of life from inside and
outside the classroom weigh heavily on Walcott's turn of a phrase. The history colonial
children are taught is not theirs but that of the stifling Old World. When Walcott was one
of these school children, he had their divided consciousness. Sandra Paquet says, "the
divided child walks with Homer and Milton and Methodism among a people rooted in a
culture of their own making and their own language, St. Lucian Creole. The poetic
impulse is to unite both traditions in a primal act of self-identification" ("Beyond Mimicry"
201-2). Through his poetry Walcott unites his literary colonial education and his cultural
heritage. Paquet's thoughts rest at the heart of my argument, that Walcott unites oral with
scribal traditions. We may therefore understand the communal significance that goes
beyond defining Omeros as merely an oral/epic poem, or a descendent of the classical epic.
We may see the myth and folklore imbedded in Omeros as re-inscribing fragmented
ancient tribal memories into a locale which has long suffered from a "deep amnesiac blow"
to the head (Collected Poems 88).
The Caribbean has been an important part of Western history for so long that it
would be futile to attempt to detach the various creolized cultures in the Caribbean from
their five-hundred-year-old melding process. We should, rather, more easily accept the
inclusiveness of the diverse elements in Caribbean literature that illustrate this creolization.
Hence, Omeros does not stop with the relationship of the Old World to the New World. It
does not halt with the Mediterranean similitude to the Caribbean. Walcott's epic poem is a
New World Caribbean epic, complete with modem and ancient griots (Seven Seas and
Omeros), Achille's tree-God-given canoe, a modem-day Helen who walks on an ancient
Helen (the island), Hector's metamorphosis from a fisherman into a taxi driver, a
metaphysical connection to the Sioux Indians' Trail of Tears and Ghost Dance, and
Philoctete's wound that is only healed by Ma Kilman's obeah concoction brewed with
leaves from a vine grown from an African seed. What I am suggesting with this
(incomplete) list is the usefulness of Walcott's inclusion of diverse mythologies (especially
the African and Greek), and of ancient elements with modem elements in his tale. Bhabha
suggests that "postcolonial time questions the teleological traditions of past and present,
and the polarized historicist sensibility of the archaic and the modem" (153). The
Caribbean chronotope is therefore represented well with Omeros, where ancient times
reside in a modem space (or equally, where ancient space resides in modem time).
Walcott is fulfilling a self-appointed mission to describe his Caribbean world which
had not been described by a West Indian; and this is the significant point of departure. Just
as CLR James describes the Haitian revolution in The Black Jacobins (1938) for the first
time from the perspective of the Caribbean subject, other Caribbean artists similarly
represent their islands in opposition to or in addition to the West's generalized knowledge
from its previously written histories of the region. Toussaint L'Overture and Dessalines
and Henri Christophe have now become archetypal and mythical folk heroes of Haiti's
and, by extension, the Caribbean's past. Walcott reminds us that "there was only one
noble ruin in the archipelago: Christophe's massive citadel at La Ferriere. It was a
monument to egomania, more than a strategic castle. ... It was all we had" ("What the
Twilight Says" 14). Perhaps because it was "all we had," the Haitian revolution becomes
an important focal point for Caribbean authors. Aim6 C6saire and Walcott have both
written eponymous plays about the Haitian revolution that serve to heighten the myth of
"Henri Christophe." Both James and Glissant did the same for "Monsieur Toussaint."
Alejo Carpentier wrote the novel The Kingdom of this World based on the revolution and
Christophe's reign after the revolution. One wonders why Walcott re-iterates his
seemingly perpetual Caribbean question, "who will teach us a history of which we too are
capable?" (Omeros 197). Omeros itself serves as one answer. It is a literary representation
of St. Lucia's history and cultural heritage. But we also have a variety of pre-existing
"answers" in James', Glissant's, C6saire's, and Carpentier's work.
Orality and myth come together in a quite straightforward way in the Caribbean
chronotope of Carpentier's The Kingdom of This World (1949). The spiritual folk figure
and shape-shifter Macandal tells stories as prophecy and his listeners believe them to such
a degree that what would otherwise be "mere stories" become "true to life" folktales. If
Caribbean artists are looking for distinguished origins, they have found them in Macandal,
a Haitian slave. Since he is a catalyst for the only successful slave rebellion in the history
of our modem world, he lives during the "threshold" of a critical middle moment of
Caribbean (and world) history. First, we hear the "tales Macandal sing-songed in the sugar
mill" (The Kingdom of This World 13) about great kings of Africa and the difference
between African kings and European ones: "in Africa, the king was warrior, hunter, judge,
and priest. ... In France, in Spain, the king sent his generals to fight in his stead, he was
incompetent to decide legal problems, he allowed himself to be scolded by any trumpery
friar" (14). Then, when Macandal's left hand becomes stuck in a cane grinder, he begins
his literal and figurative metamorphosis into folk hero with an amputation (21).
Macandal changes from working hard labor in the fields to overseeing cattle (24),
and it is at this time that he discovers the poison that will beget the downfall of the white
plantocracy (25-26). Macandal then escapes and becomes a living folktale.
The fact was that cows, oxen, steers, horses, and sheep were dying by the
hundreds, filling the whole countryside with the stench of carrion ....
Exasperated with fear, drunk with wine because they no longer dared taste
the water of the wells, the colonists whipped and tortured their slaves,
trying to find an explanation. But the poison went on decimating families
and wiping out grownups and children .... Macandal, the one-armed, now
a houngan of the Rada rite, invested with superhuman powers as the result
of his possession by the major gods on several occasions, was the Lord of
Poison. Endowed with supreme authority by the Rulers of the Other Shore,
he had proclaimed the crusade of extermination, chosen as he was to wipe
out the whites and create a great empire of free Negroes in Santo
Domingo. Thousands of slaves obeyed him blindly. Nobody could halt the
march of poison. (33-36)
Faith in Macandal proves both to free the slaves and condemn the whites. In the minds of
the slaves, Macandal is given abilities to morph into anything such as a green lizard, a
moth, or a dog (41), so that if anything occurred out of the ordinary it could be given
credit as Macandal, who "now ruled the whole island" (42).3 But when Macandal actually
returns four years later in human guise, he is caught and in a public ceremony burned at
the stake (50-52). However, it seems that the plantation owners still could not win the
battle of faith because Macandal gets loose briefly, and apparently no one saw that he had
been "thrust head first into the fire"; "that afternoon the slaves returned to their
plantations laughing all the way. Macandal had kept his word, remaining in the Kingdom
3 There is an uncanny similarity here with the way James describes Toussaint at
one point, who is also seemingly everywhere at once (yet in human form); "he was now
complete master of the whole island" (The Black Jacobins 239).
of This World. Once more the Whites had been outwitted by the Mighty Powers of the
Other Shore" (52). During the twenty years following the "absence" of Macandal, before
the "Call of the Conch Shells," which would bring the slaves to unified rebellion, Ti-Noel
(the protagonist of the novel) "passed on the tales of the Mandingue to his children,
teaching them simple little songs he had made up in Macandal's honor while currying and
brushing the horses" (62-63).
Macandal's honor exists in the eventual fruition of the rebellion. Barbara Webb
says that "the myths, legends, and religious beliefs of the African slaves function in
ideological counterpoint to the philosophic doctrine of the Age of Reason and the
corruption of the ideals of the French Revolution" (35). On the other hand, Christophe's
reign is no better than the Europeans'. He enslaved his own people to build the massive
citadel at Le Ferrier, what would become Haiti's ignoble ruins; "Christophe's obsession
with building monuments of achievement in the European style blinds him to the values
and aspirations of his people just as it did the creole planters and the French" (Webb 35).
Indeed, his ingratitude toward his own people, and his mimicry of European values are
reasons for his downfall.
Many years after the rebellion, and after Christophe's horrendous reign, Ti-Noel
has a metamorphosis of his own. In fear of being put back to work in his old age by the
Mulattos (who were then in charge), Ti-Noel turns into a bird, a stallion, an ant, a goose,
and finally back to human guise before he disappears forever into the sea breeze (184-86).
Thus the myth of Macandal overlaps with the myth of Ti-Noel. Perhaps the only peculiar
construction, once we accept the "magical realism" of this text, is that Carpentier has Ti-
Noel living through the days of the rise and fall ofMacandal, Toussaint L'Overture,
Dessaline, Christophe, and Bouckman. Yet, according to CLR James, "the Mackandal
rebellion never reached fruition and it was the only hint of an organized revolt during the
hundred years preceding the French Revolution" (The Black Jacobins 21). Bouckman
views the French Revolution as a signpost for his people, and indeed, they blow the conch
shells eight days later (The Kingdom of This World 66-68). Perhaps magical realism lends
itself to the expansion and compression of time-space because Ti-Noel has lived a long
and hearty life: before, during, and after critical moments in Caribbean history.
Carpentier's The Lost Steps (1953) is a narrative with a "prehistoric Eden"
concurrent with modernity. Carpentier's protagonist leaves New York to search for an
ancient musical instrument, but becomes caught up in a quest for history itself. He
searches for and finds a secret river-entrance to a path into the heartland of Central
America, which is "undocumented, without knowledge of its past or the preparation of the
written word" (68). He travels into the mythic past where life moves "to a primordial
rhythm" (173). His continued movement up the river is parallel to his journey backward
through time. Eventually, "it is the year 0," and then, "the Paleolithic Age" (179). This
engagement with history ignites a turn in the protagonist from an initial awe of "the
presence of rampant fauna, of the primeval slime, of the green fermentation beneath the
dark waters," to a joyous celebration of Self, feeling "master of the world, the supreme
heir of creation"(160, 163). In essence, this backward glance constitutes an exile of the
present. However, it is a peculiar spatial and temporal moment of exchange in Caribbean
literature through which, paradoxically, exile becomes a solution to exile. This exilic
delving into the past for origins and experience is a "hypermnesic element of Caribbean
poetics, that is, the uncommon compulsion to remember, to look for meaning in the
exploration of past experience" (Torres-Saillant 288). Caribbean authors thus subvert the
exile of the present by looking to the past.
In Palace of the Peacock (1960), Wilson Harris answers Walcott's question about
history as he envisions the creation of mankind as malleable and traceable to a Caribbean
moment in ancient history. The Caribbean "local" and the West's "global" intersect just as
the present and the past intersect in a mythical locale called "the palace of the peacock."
Harris' historical inversion shows a momentous journey from present into past as the
colonialist Donne and the local Guyanese narrator climb a rock-face ladder in a utopian
past to find God and themselves. Donne's journey also may be understood as a re-creation
of the search for El Dorado, the mythical land of the gold mother-lode. But along the way,
Donne and his crew seem to be transformed by their search as the farther they travel into
the heartland, down a river, and finally upwards on the ladder of creation, the farther they
travel into a mythic past. This "golden" palace of the peacock is better described by the
narrator as a "palace of the universe" where "the windows of the soul looked out and in"
(146). Hence, this journey is about the narrator's and Donne's inward glance at
themselves and outward view of the world.
In Palace of the Peacock, Harris attempts to change our structural understanding
of the world, which is key to understanding his lore of the folk pathways of his narrative.
He shows various structures both in place and being displaced. This displacement may be
viewed as a kind of deconstruction of the western grasp on Guyana's heart and heartland.
For example, Donne speaks about himself as the landlord of the village called
Mariella-also the name of the crucial Aruac woman in the story who serves as a
guide-where everything is "primitive"; "every boundary line is a myth. No-man's land,
understand?" (17). The boundary lines that connote property and ownership in Mariella
are an obvious construction of the western mind. We may view that Donne's general
success stems from his overt colonizing attitude of "rule the land .. and you rule the
world" (19). Barbara Webb suggests that Harris' "El Dorado is emblematic of the first
encounter of the European and the Amerindian, the Old and the New World. Furthermore,
this nexus of myth and history reveals how vision-the idealism of the quest-was corrupted
by the realism of the present" (64). The present finds itself engaging the past when
Donne's crew, upon their arrival in Mariella, realize that "their living names matched the
names of a famous dead crew that had sunk in the rapids and been drowned to a man,
leaving their names inscribed at Sorrow Hill which stood at the foot of the falls" (Palace
23). Fearful of the prophetic nature of the dead names, the narrating "I" ponders the
difficulty of his journey; "how could I escape the enormous ancestral and twin fantasy of
death-in-life and life-in-death? It was impossible to turn back now and leave the crew in
the world inverse stream of beginning to live again in a hot and mad pursuit in the midst of
imprisoning land and water and ambushing forest and wood" (25-26). But it is already too
late to escape. The narrator has one dead eye that sees into the past when he dreams, and
one live eye that views the future when he wakes. Webb says, "in Palace of the Peacock,
the reader is immediately plunged into the hallucinatory world of the subconscious
imagination. Time, place, character, and event are caught up in the flux of duality and
metamorphosis .... Through the language of the text itself Harris achieves a fusion of
past, present, and future, the simultaneity of dreamtime" (66-67). The narrator's opposing
monocular vision suggests that he has added abilities concerning his vision into the past
and future; however, he also has a lack of vision or understanding of his present
circumstances. He represents a schizophrenic Caribbean chronotope.
Harris uses as a tool the myth of the creation as it is told in the Bible. Harris
revises this myth to suit his characters and plot. Once the crew reach Mariella, and begin
their search for El Dorado, the remainder of the story takes place over the course of seven
days and nights. Each major occasion in the story occurs in this fashion: a death on day
one, another death and the travel up river on day two and three, etc, until they reach the
top of the ladder on day six, and enlightenment on day seven. On the fourth day, at the
base of the ladder, the narrator "rested against the wall and cliff of heaven as against an
indestructible mirror and soul in which he saw the blind dream of creation crumble as it
was re-enacted" (124). It should be noted that this view from the wall occurs while the
narrator is resting, in a moment of non-movement, and he sees history unfolding. Once he
moves farther up the ladder, he sees history enfolded, which is a reversal of time
simultaneous to his movement through space. This horizontal movement (through the
river and the land) and then vertical movement through space (up the ladder) in the search
for Self is an act of subverting the symbolic exile of the present; it is tantamount to a
search for "the mythical paradise of union with the cosmos-a timeless place of supreme
liberation" (Webb 79). But we should ask, for whom is this a liberation, and from what,
especially since the narrator travels to a place where "time had no meaning" (Palace 133).
Of course, Time has great meaning in the context of the story. For the narrator, his travel
to this place is a liberation of the soul from the absence of history. In essence, he has
thrown bridges across chasms" of time ("Creoleness" 25). His bringing together of
history and a Caribbean Self can now be inscribed together through time because the
narrator must ultimately leave the ladder of creation; in doing so, he will "transform his
beginnings" (Palace 130) and he will come back to the present, and in this return, he will
bring history with him-just as Achille does after his sunstroke in Omeros.
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., in The Signifying Monkey (1988), says that "the most
fundamental absolute of the Yoruba is that there exist, simultaneously, three stages of
existence: the past, the present, and the unborn (37). Although unstated as such, this part
of the Yoruba faith is at work in Walcott's folktale, "Ti-Jean and His Brothers" (in Dream
on Monkey Mountain and Other Plays 1970). The play is a good representative of a
Caribbean chronotope, as we view the past, the present, and even a physical manifestation
of the Caribbean's unborn future in this story. "Ti-Jean and his Brothers" is rooted in
mankind's age-old struggle with the devil, which is depicted in a variety of narratives,
from Goethe's Faust to Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown," for example.
Walcott's play inscribes the "devil in the forest" legend with a Caribbean allegorical twist.
It includes the Bolom character as an unborn child, also sometimes referred to as Foetus,
who is in limbo; "I am neither living nor dead" (98). The Bolom, while a representative of
the unborn future, is also a messenger of the devil. The Bolom brings the challenge. If Ti-
Jean or his brothers can make the devil feel any human emotion, then they will receive for
themselves and their mother "fulfillment, wealth, peace" (100). If they lose their patience
with the devil, they will lose their lives, but (oddly) not their souls. More importantly for
the Bolom, his motive for participating in this game is that "once they are dead, woman, I
too shall feel life" (100).
The three brothers meet with the devil, not unlike the "Three Little Pigs" who
meet individually with the Big Bad Wolf. They each meet the devil in a chronotopic
repetition of time and space with only the slightest, but critical, differences. The oldest
brother, Gros-Jean, as his name implies is the biggest; "his arm was hard as iron, / but he
was very stupid" (86). His hubris about his strength allows him to become worn out in his
tasks for the devil-such as tying up a goat that perpetually gets loose-and he loses his
patience, and is taken and eaten by the devil. The second brother, Mi-Jean, represents the
middle child, "so only half as stupid" (87) and yet he is somehow philosophical. But the
devil beats him and eats him too, when he loses his patience with the devil in a debate. But
finally Ti-Jean beats the devil at his own game by using deception, and by enlisting the
help of his community: his mother, Frog, Cricket, Bird, and the cane-field workers.
Instead of following the Devil's requests like his brothers did, Ti-Jean first castrates the
goat and then kills it; he bums the fields, and the devil's house for good measure. Indeed,
the moral of the story seems to be, to beat the devil, you have to play his game; but you
not only have to play it, you have to understand the rules, and you have to break them.
For example, Ti-Jean's last task set by the devil was to count all the leaves of every stalk
of cane in the cane-field before the next day began (147). But Ti-Jean understands, "the
one way to annoy you is rank disobedience" (153). To annoy the devil would create
human emotions in the devil and Ti-Jean would win the game. Ti-Jean, therefore,
surmounts his problem by getting the field-workers to bum the cane-field overnight (148-
149): "I'm the new foreman! Listen to this: / The Devil say you must bum everything,
now. / Bum the cane, bum the cotton! Bum everything now!" (149). When Ti-Jean says
"Devil" it is the same as saying "Planter" (who is the owner of the fields) to the workers.
The significance of this conflation is important in understanding Caribbean history, and
why the workers so readily and unquestioningly follow the new foreman's commands
when they bum the fields.
The past in this story is represented in the obvious historical connections to slavery
and colonialism. The past is also represented by the Devil's eternal quest for human
emotion because of his damnation from God: "He spoiled me you know, when I was his
bright starry lieutenant. Gave me everything I desired. I was God's spoiled son. Result:
ingratitude" (155). The present is represented as the moment in time in which the story
takes place. It is a chronotopic middle moment in time that will forever-after change the
characters' lives. The moral is explained by Ti-Jean: "who with the Devil tries to play fair,
/ weaves the net of his own despair" (156-57). Oddly, the moral is not "don't play games
with the devil." It seems that the game must be played. The Devil of course still attempts
to make his own rules, even after he is beaten by Ti-Jean. It is the Bolom, a representative
of the unborn future, who demands and somehow gets through to the Devil that he has
gotten what he wished. The Bolom says, "master, be fair!" and "Master, you have lost.
Pay him! Reward him!" (157, 160). Ti-Jean asks that his gift is given to the Bolom, life for
the Bolom, and he receives it.
If we view this folktale as a Caribbean allegory, then we may better understand the
exilic condition of the Caribbean "local" and its struggle for agency against the Western
"global" as represented respectively by Ti-Jean and his brothers, and the Devil. This
folktale reminds us that there was never a choice whether or not to interact with the West
in the first place. The Caribbean must interact with the West, and generally on the West's
terms. Viewing the folktale as Caribbean allegory, we may better understand the pressures
which the colonial Planter places on the field-worker, and how quickly the workers burned
the fields without questioning the "new foreman," and how the devil comes in various
guises throughout the story-Devil, Old Man, Planter-and how the collective unborn
identities wait for life, even while they remain strangled in their waiting. The Bolom
rejoices when finally given life, "I am bor! I shall die! I am bor! I shall die!" (163). The
Bolom celebrates the joy of independence from the Devil. He represents the possibilities
for a New World Caribbean life; he becomes "the foetus of Caribbean aspirations who
chooses the pain of selfhood rather than continue to be the Devil's emissary" (Coke 122).
The play's various allegorical incarnations revolve around redemption and possibilities for
the Caribbean future. Yet one point must not be overlooked. The Devil says to Ti-Jean
after he admits he has been beaten, "we shall meet again, Ti-Jean. You, and your new
brother! / The features will change, but the fight is still on" (164). The changing of the
features is evident in the changing paradigmatic chronicles of the interactions between the
West and the Caribbean; what was once colonialism becomes neocolonialism and is now
called globalization (Harvey 53). We should note that only the external features have
changed. In the modem Caribbean, the fight has always-already been "on." In recent years,
what was once a fight for independence has become a continuing struggle for national
sovereignty and regional comradeship in the Caribbean. Indeed, we may view the various
Caribbean islands fighting to maintain their righteous lives while playing the game of
globalization with rules dictated by the IMF and the World Bank. But when it defeats the
New World Devils, the Caribbean cannot again afford to give away its gift to the Bolom,
unless the Bolom is indeed its own unborn future. Of course, it may be understood that Ti-
Jean's act is not only one of life-giving for another, but Ti-Jean benefits just as much, for
the Bolom is now his "brother" and they may comfort and aid each other in the future.
We should remember that "Ti-Jean and His Brothers" is a fable, and that it is Frog
telling this story to us. The final words, like the first words, are his.
And so it was that Ti-Jean, a fool like all heroes, passed through the
tangled opinions of this life, loosening the rotting faggots of knowledge
from old men to bear them safely on his shoulder, brother met brother on
his way, that God made him the clarity of the moon to lighten the doubt of
all travellers through the shadowy wood of life. And Bird, the rain is over,
the moon is rising through the leaves. Messiers, creek. Crack. (166)
Frog ends with the same oral device by which he began the story: "Greek-croak. Greek-
croak" (85). "Crick-crack" is a Caribbean story-telling device in which (it seems to vary)
either the story-teller or the audience makes a request (Crick?), and if the response is
heard (Crack!), then a story will commence. Walcott's literary play on words not
withstanding (Greek for Crick), Cricket's answer using the same words allows Frog to
begin the story. We are therefore reminded at the beginning and at the finale of "Ti-Jean
and His Brothers" that this is indeed an oral tale.
"Crick Crack" can also be used as a negation or usurping device to imply that a liar
or "story teller" exists. In Merle Hodge's Crick-Crack Monkey (1970), a child playing
with Tee and other friends says "crick crack" at the end of a long adventure tale about the
"stateside" exploits of Manhatt'n, whose name is an obvious sign of worldly travel and
knowledge (Hodge 7). The statement upsets Manhatt'n so much that he forgets his
"perfect western drawl" when he says "crick crack yu mother! Is true whe ah tell yu-yu
only jealous it ain't you!" (7). Although he is seen little after this encounter, his name
reverts back to "Fresh-water," which was previously reserved for behind-his-back usage
only (7). In "Ti-Jean and His Brothers," therefore, we may view the entry and exit usage
of "crick-crack" as a fun and culturally significant way to bring the audience into and back
out of the story. It serves as reminder, and cathartic relief: it is "just" a folktale.
One character who exemplifies metropolitan experience and knowledge is Clare
Savage in Michelle Cliffs No Telephone To Heaven (1987). The story is a continuation of
Clare's life from Abeng (1984). In No Telephone To Heaven Clare travels with her family
as they leave Jamaica for New York, and then on her own to England for college, and
finally back to Jamaica to stay. Clare's problematic search for her personal identity and
place in the world is parallel to Jamaica's own coming of age in the 1960s-1980s. In this
novel, Cliff brings up two (among other) notable mythological resistance motifs; one is
Nanny of the Maroons, which by the end of the story Clare embodies, and the other is the
peculiar Sasabonsam jungle god, which the character Christopher eventually embodies.
All Jamaicans know who Nanny is, because Nanny is one of Jamaica's official
National Heroes. Also, Nanny's image is on the Jamaican five-hundred dollar bill.
Currently, the Jamaican five-hundred dollar bill is approximate to ten US dollars and in
frequent use. Nanny's narrative inscribes the Jamaican ideal heroics of resistance against
oppression and an organic sensibility toward the landscape as Nanny escaped the slave
plantation to live in the hills of the Blue Mountains. It is said that Nanny could receive
bullets into her bosom (and other places) and fire them back at her oppressors. The
Maroon heritage is significant to such a great degree that some people who live in
Accompong (St. Elizabeth parish) and Moore Town (Portland parish) claim to be direct
descendants of the original Maroons. Laura Tanna has collected some of these claims in
Jamaican Folk Tales and Oral Histories (1984). Mann Rowe of Accompong refers to
Nanny as "my tird great granmada" (18). Although, Col. C.L.G. Harris of Moore Town
notes that the Moore Town usage of "Grandy Nanny" is "a term of endearment" (19).
Cliffs use of Nanny beside her constructions of Clare seem relevant as an allegory
of resistance to oppression, as Cliff connects Jamaica's past with Jamaica's present.
Before Clare has made up her mind who she wants to be, Cliff inserts the short chapter,
"Magnanimous Warrior" significantly just before the chapter "Homebound" which is
where (back in Jamaica) Clare will find her calling. The Warrior chapter is two pages of
folklore about Nanny.
She writes in her own blood across the drumhead. Obeah-woman. Myal-
woman. She can cure. She can kill. She can give jobs. She is foy-eyed. The
bearer of second sight. Mother who goes forth emitting flames from her
eyes. Nose. Mouth. Ears. Vulva. Anus. She bites the evildoers that they
become full of sores. She treats cholera with bitterbush. She bums the
canefields. She is River Mother. Sky Mother .... What has become of this
warrior? Now that we need her more than ever. (163-64)
The answer to the question is given, "we have forgotten her" (164). But this is not the
case after all, because Clare has joined the revolution. It is Clare, who is the unnamed
person at the beginning of the novel joining the crew in the back of the truck with the
painted side which reads "No Telephone to Heaven"; "a light-skinned woman, daughter of
landowners, native-born slaves, emigres, Carib, Ashanti, English, has taken her place on
this truck, alongside people who easily could have hated her" (5). Clare's distinction as a
part of this group is quite significant because she "had once witnessed for Babylon" (87).
The truck and the crew are headed up the mountain to re-claim and make use of Clare's
grandmother's land, which lies in ruinatee" (a Jamaican term for the land re-claiming a
once agriculturally maintained area). Clare's reason for joining this crew is summed up by
one of the crew members, "it is no mystery / we making history" (5). We thus have a
double re-claiming here, as Clare helps to reclaim the island (through the revolution) as
well as her personal repossession of her grandmother's land in the countryside which she
shares with the insurgents. Clare has become a Nanny figure. At the end of the novel, she
lies in the bitterbush, and-it is implied-she is killed in the crossfire when it seems the
revolution is squashed, and "shots found the bitterbush" (208).
The "ruination" of Clare's grandmother's land is described at one point: "there was
no forgiveness in this disorder. Sasabonsam, fire-eyed forest monster, dangled his legs
from the height of a silk-cotton tree" (9). The silk-cotton tree has special significance for
Jamaica; for instance, Tom Cringle's Cotton Tree is known as one landmark used for
hanging slaves.4 But to have Sasabonsam dangling his legs from it makes great use of this
symbol, since Sasabonsam is an African jungle god who is being used by Cliff to re-claim
this tree in his forest away from home. The Dictionary of the Asante and Fante Language
gives a definition for "Sasabonsam" as "an imaginary monstrous being, conceived as
having a huge body of human shape, but of a red colour, and with very long hair, living in
the deepest recess of the forest, where an immense silk-cotton tree is his abode; inimicable
to man, especially to the priests but the friend and chief of the sorcerers and witches"
(429). We should take into account that the Rev. J.G. Christaller compiled these English
translations in 1881, and they were revised in 1933. It should be easy to see how what is
known to the Asante and their descendants as an African jungle god can become for an
English Reverend "an imaginary monstrous being." In No Telephone To Heaven,
Christopher embodies these definitions in full.
Christopher is a killer, a brutal murderer. Some may say he is a "victim of the
system," since his rage and the murder of his employer's whole family are to some degree
4See Rebecca Tortello, "The Fall of a Gentle Giant: The Collapse of Tom Cringle's
Cotton Tree," http://www.jamaica-gleaner.com/pages/history/story0020.html.
results of his dire living conditions in "the Dungle" (a Jamaican conflation of "dung-heap-
jungle," and quite literally, the worst part of the inner-city of west Kingston). After his
grandmother dies Christopher slowly goes insane. He eventually hears his grandmother
calling for a decent burial, even though her body could never be found since the
government had taken her dead body away from him thirteen years ago. How does one
bury an absent body? Christopher's dire circumstances are summed up by the narrator;
"there was not one single smaddy in the world who cared if he lived or died. His death
would cause inconvenience to no one-unless him dead on dem property. In this loneliness
he longed for his grandmother" (44). His grandmother's duppy, her spirit, speaks to him in
the moment of truth to kill the employer who ridicules Christopher for asking for help to
bury his dead grandmother; "'be quick of hand.' She spoke to him. He let go. A force
passed through him. He had no past. He had no future. He was phosphorus. Light-bearing.
He was light igniting the air around him. The source of all danger. He was the carrier of
fire" (47). In this chronotope of the "threshold," Christopher changes forever. He is no
longer compared to "Likkle Jesus" in the novel. Simultaneous to Christopher's murderous
act, the revolutionaries are charging up the hill to retake Clare's grandmother's land, and
we hear a Rastafari-type resistance mantra (albeit on the extremist militant edge), which
represents both Clare's group and Christopher's metamorphosis into Sasabonsam. "NO
TELEPHONE TO HEAVEN. No miracles. .. .Cyaan tun back now. Capture the I in I.
Then say Bless me Ja/Shango/Yemanja/Jehovah/Oshun/Jesus/Nanny/Marcus/Oshun. I am
about to kill one of your creatures. Some of your children" (50).
Christopher, now known as "De Watchman" of the night, is aptly hired by an
American film company to play the role of Sasabonsam. A cultural dialogue occurs
between the indifferent movie director, who yells "action," and Christopher's response.
The joke is on the director when he says to Christopher, "Howl! Howl! I want you to
bellow as loud as you can. Try to wake the dead. Remember, you're not human.
Action!" (207). At this point, Christopher can hardly be deemed human. He is the
embodiment of Sasabonsam, even without the fake red lenses on his eyes and "suit of long
red hair" (207). We hear the noise factor-which Brathwaite explains in History of the
Voice (1983) as indicative to the Caribbean-in Christopher's primal howl; it is reminiscent
of the call of the conch shell. At the moment of his howl, the helicopters arrive, the lights
go out, the actors run and hide, and shots are fired, "spraying the breadfruit tree.
Sasabonsam fell, silent (208). By all appearances, the revolution is squashed. The sadness
of this story ending in the violent death of Christopher, Clare, and others infuses the novel
with realism, even while the folklore imbedded in the resistance narrative maintains its
force as it answers Glissant's quest to define "Who are we?" (Caribbean Discourse 86).
I have only one question for Cliffs use of Sasabonsam, the jungle god. While the
creature makes complete sense in the context of the story, Sasabonsam is virtually
unknown to the Jamaican populace. With the exception of Cliffs use of it in the novel, I
had not read about Sasabonsam before my visit to Jamaica; therefore, this was one of my
special interests and goals during my visit. I asked around. I asked the students on campus
at UWI, I asked the professors on campus, I did keyword searches in the library, I asked
people who came to visit the family where I lived in Kingston, and I asked the friends I
had made in the farming community in Crofts Hill. Nobody had ever heard of Sasabonsam.
The general response was, and I quote, "Sasa-what?" How does one re-inscribe something
into a Caribbean psyche that does not exist in the first place? Finally, Carolyn Cooper
found Sasabonsam living peacefully in the cotton-tree leaves of a Jamaican dictionary,
which described it as a jungle god, of Akan origin. My initial question was, why make use
of a god no one has heard of? But the answer is obvious to me now. The re-inscription of
Sasabonsam into the Jamaican/Caribbean psyche serves this heritage to the same degree as
CLR James' The Black Jacobins (1938) does for the history of Haiti's-and outwardly the
Caribbean's-struggle for independence, history, and "ruins." Sasabonsam is part of the
Afro-Caribbean heritage. His place in the Caribbean pantheon should not be questioned.
Cliff, along with other Caribbean authors, is attempting to represent an important,
though also difficult, Caribbean chronotope, which brings the fragmented and otherwise
lost Caribbean history into a present Caribbean psyche. Indeed, the authors are fulfilling
Glissant's quest, as he states, "this time that was never ours, we must now possess"
(Caribbean Discourse 161). Through the possession of their Caribbean past and present-a
possession of their own "cultural artefacts" (Anderson 4)-Glissant's community can
develop a positive national identity. It is perhaps a sad fact that my initial lack of
knowledge on the Sasabonsam subject led me to such a dismal response in Jamaica. But
this only underscores the importance of Cliffs task. Discussing her novels, Cliff has stated
in an interview, "I'm interested in history that hasn't been written. The history that's not
recorded" (Zacharias "Michelle Cliff'), which is quite an understatement for the
significance of her work to her Caribbean heritage.
Perhaps it is true, as Bob Marley sings, that "half the story has never been told"
("Get Up Stand Up"). But the quest for cultural agency in the Caribbean is being
represented through Caribbean folklore's engagement with its heritage in the flux of the
chronotope. Through the chronotope of the threshold, Caribbean folkloric narratives
illustrate and participate in the development of Caribbean national identities and Caribbean
cultural agency. The agency of the local appears in both oral and literary referents. The
agency rooted in an exile of the present, through historical inversion, aids the reclamation
of local histories, myth, and folklore. The fluctuation of Caribbean time-space is also a
useful tool in representing the local Caribbean interaction with the wider world. Harris'
use of the West's search for El Dorado, as well as his use of the Christian heritage brought
by the colonizers, suggests this very interaction. Walcott's "Ti-Jean" confronts the West's
devil, and to some degree the Caribbean's own continuing "mental slavery" to this devil.
Carpentier and Walcott both use folktales to represent the local subversion of external
forces; they use not only folk tales, but folk figures, such as Ti-Noel and Achille. Cliff and
Carpentier make great use of the African heritage in the Caribbean. Sasabonsam and
Macandal live in the Caribbean today just as spiritedly as their ancestors did in Africa.
CARIBBEAN EXILE: INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL FRAMES OF BEING
Whatever the island each may have come from, one thing is crystal clear.
Everyone is in flight and no one knows what he's fleeing to. A better
break. A better break. (Lamming, The Emigrants 50)
"I has grands and great-grands bor in that place I has never seen." It was
a bitter outburst. "Josephs who has never gone on the excursion! Who has
never been to a Big Drum! Who don' know nothing 'bout the nation
dance!" (Marshall, Praisesongfor the Widow 168)
Exile, as a thematic resource for Caribbean writers, emerges in such a formidable
way that it becomes pervasive in Caribbean literature. The use of this theme by Caribbean
writers makes exile itself a tool of resistance to the forces of globalization. But what has
happened in the years between George Lamming's narration and Paule Marshall's? While
the "better break" is attempted and often achieved by going overseas, a loss
simultaneously occurs. In Marshall's terms, it is a loss of connections with one's ancestry
and present cultural community. Exile in Caribbean literature manifests itself in two main
forms that I wish to explore: external and internal. External exile is a physical movement
away from home, while internal exile is either an intellectual turn away from home or an
emotional turn inward to the Self. Within these two main spheres exist great possibilities
for variation and movement. Indeed, Caribbean exile actively engages and creates
movements of people, cultures, ideas, social norms, and gods. Exile in Caribbean literature
not only engages various forces of modem globalization; it also engages its heritage
rooted in imperialism. The stories may be viewed as part of a greater postcolonial
discourse, and may be useful (comparatively) in understanding other Third World
postcolonial narratives, especially in terms of the movements of the postcolonial migrant
on which many of the Caribbean stories focus. This discussion will explore variations of
exilic narratives from three authors who are only a fragment, yet fairly representative, of
the Anglophone Caribbean canon. I will utilize Lamming's The Emigrants (1954) and In
the Castle of My SAki (1953) to show prototypical Caribbean exilic narratives. Also,
Naipaul's A House for Mister Biswas (1960) contains a highly-celebrated yet
uncharacteristic representation of Caribbean exile in the persona of Mr Biswas, while
Naipaul's The Enigma ofArrival (1987) maintains paradigmatic characteristics of exile in
the autobiographical narrator. Caribbean exile appears in similar formations to Lamming's
work in Paule Marshall's The Clil,,,, Place, The Timeless People (1969), and it has a
more pan-African diasporic context in Praisesongfor the Widow (1983).
Lamming's The Emigrants demonstrates the interactions of the Caribbean local
with the West, and it explains well the reasons the locals give for their participation in
their exilic movement. A portion of the plot takes place in literal movement, on the ship to
London. The narrator of The Emigrants describes his situation and that of his fellow
travelers: "whatever the island each may have come from, one thing is crystal clear.
Everyone is in flight and no one knows what he's fleeing to. A better break. A better
break" (50). The anxious desire for a "better break" creates one type of exile when an
islander leaves home, and as an ironic result, this physical exile furthers the distress which
stems from the desire for a better break when "no one knows what he's fleeing to." The
emigrants' active engagement with the West allows for the possibilities of a "better
break." The quest for a "better break" is, mostly, a quest for financial sovereignty; as part