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This combined practice has proved particularly irksome to writers, critics and theoreticians of "Third World" literature. As Kumkum Sangari [], puts it: Postmodern skepticism is the complex product of a historical conjuncture as both symptom and critique of the contemporary economic and social formation of the West.

But postmodernism does have a tendency to universalize its epistemological preoccupations--a tendency that appears even in the work of critics of radical political persuasion. Such skepticism does not take into account either the fact that the postmodern preoccupation with the crisis of meaning is not everyone's crisis even in the West or that there are different modes of de-essentialization which are socially and politically grounded and mediated by separate perspectives, goals, and strategies for change in other countries.

As Tiffin [], vii puts it: there is a good deal of formal and tropological overlap between "primary" texts variously categorised as "post-modern" or "post-colonial". It is thus in the selection and reading of such "primary" texts, and in the contexts of discussion in which they are placed, that significant divergences between post-colonialism and post-modernism are most often isolated. Instead of defining the relationship between postmodernism and postcolonialism as antagonistic, I prefer to see it as complementary or "supplemental.

Postcolonial works, then, that share the kind of "formal and tropological overlap" with postmodernism that Adam and Tiffin [], viii speak of, in my book would figure under the heading of "counter-postmodernism," a term I have elsewhere D'haen [], 61 defined as follows: Just as. Specifically, and in the terminology that Gayatri Spivak [] and [] and Homi Bhabha [], following Jacques Derrida [], apply to postcolonial literature in its relation to the literature of the mother country, I would maintain that "counter-postmodernism" functions as "supplement" to postmodernism in its "orthodox" definitions--and perhaps here it is useful to insist that every definition only becomes "orthodox" in comparison with its successor.

It "counters" orthodox postmodernism in putting its finger on the latter's complicity with what it purports to subvert or problematize, and thus "rewrites"--in a move favorite to the actual practice of much postcolonial and feminist literature--orthodox postmodernism as one more form of the discourse of modernity, rather than as its transcendence. With the same move, though, counter-postmodernism also "writes" the subjectivity, history, and language of those hitherto suppressed by the discourse of modernity as applied by western bourgeois society. As such, it makes this discourse also accessible to those traditionally excluded or repressed by western modernity.

Ironically, by thus marking the end of modernity as the exclusive instrument of hegemonic western man, and the advent of modernity for the hitherto repressed, counter-postmodernism may well be the only truly "post-modern" reading of postmodernism in that it posits the transcendence of "orthodox" modernity, and the attainment of an-"Other" modernity. Discourses of modernity and of the Caribbean From its very inception, Western discourse pertaining to the Caribbean inscribes itself within the larger discourse of modernity.

For Tzvetan Todorov, , the "discovery" of "America," which is to say the Caribbean, ushers in the modern era. Because of this intimate connection between the discourses of modernity and of the Caribbean, literary instances of the latter have repeatedly served also as catalyst for reflections, whether in the form of rewrites or of critical interventions, upon the former, and this for both Caribbean and non-Caribbean writers, for authors from the center as well as from the periphery.

In what follows, I will primarily be concerned with some rewrites of what Edward Said has termed one of the fables "that stand guard over the imagination of the New World" [], : Shakespeare's The Tempest. Of course, there are innumerable versions, adaptations and interpretations of this play, and it is beyond the scope of the present essay to even attempt to discuss all, or even a fair number, of these--for recent surveys the interested reader is referred to Rob Nixon, , Alden T.

I will strictly limit myself to a few works, and of these I will only discuss those aspects that are immediately relevant to my argument.

Works (25)

Habermas's and Todorov's datings for the birth of modernity find backing in the work of Immanuel Wallerstein, , and , for whom the modern "world system," instituting the hegemony of the West, emerges somewhere around As Habermas, and , has shown, modernity, as the West's hegemonic project, heavily relies upon the ideas of rationalism and progressive history.

The gradual triumph of the system over the next five centuries is intimately tied to that of the bourgeoisie as the carrier of the central ideas of modernity, and to capitalism and imperialism as that class's translations of these ideas in the fields of economics and politics Watt [], Green [], Wolf [], Young []. At the center of the system, these ideas eventually culminate in the Enlightenment discourse of modernity Lyotard defines as superseded in postmodernity: "the dialectics of Spirit, the hermeneutics of meaning, the emancipation of the rational or working subject, or the creation of wealth," [], At the same time, by the systemic process of inversion between center and periphery explored by Wallerstein, those at the periphery, whether geopgraphically or socially, are progressively marginalized.

Rosemary Jackson, in another context, speaks of "the shadow on the edges of bourgeois culture," which is "variously identified as black, mad, primitive, criminal, socially deprived, deviant, crippled, or when sexually assertive female" Jackson [], Heavily gendered and racialized, then, modernity posits as normative Sylvia Winter's, , "figure of man" -- white, male, middle class -- in what Paul Gilroy defines as a "dualistic system that reproduces the dominance of bonded whiteness, masculinity, and rationality," [], As a consequence, "entry into the European terrain of the modern," Simon Gikandi claims, "has often demanded that the colonized peoples be denied their subjectivity, language, and history" [], 2.

For colonized peoples to reclaim all these equals "writing" that "Other" modernity I alluded to earlier, and which, borrowing a term from Gayatri Spivak, [], we might say to be paradoxically "present" in the discourse of modernity as "text-inscribed blankness. This exchange is consigned to the Other of history not as a negation of history but as the recognition that history is a situated discourse.

The Tempest is a favorite locus for such "symbolic exchange" and "radical transformation," because it can be construed as exemplary with regard to the discourse of modernity. Conventional criticism of The Tempest, as conveniently summarized in Frank Kermode's, , introduction to the Arden edition, has concentrated on the figure of Prospero as the protagonist of the play, and on issues of authority, sovereignty, and usurpation within an English Renaissance context. More recent criticism, though, by Barker and Hulme, , Hulme, , Hawkes, , Brown, , Eagleton, , and Greenblatt, , to name only a few of the more obvious names, enables us to re-interpret the play as being about the usurpation of native suzerainty, the commodification of native labor, the de-territorialization of native language and the re-territorialization of the native's use of the colonizer's language as "bad" English, the appropriation and erasure or distortion of native history, the vilification of native science and knowledge as black magic, the disfranchisement of native identity, and the "thingification" of women in terms of exchange rather than intrinsic value.

Of course, traditional Shakespeare criticism has it that his plays are rather about the preservation or restoration of a traditional social order, late medieval or pre-modern in essence. Yet, it is precisely the tension between the overt message the play's plot bodies forth and the covert message that its discourse emits that somebody like Eagleton has most insistently drawn attention to.

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Hunter, orig. Perhaps it is best, then, to suggest, in line with Walter Cohen's Drama of a Nation, , a comparative study of Spanish Golden Age and English Elizabethan theatre, that the English theatre marks the transition from the old feudal order to the new order of the mercantile bourgeoisie, and that The Tempest is a prime example of this. As such, likewise, The Tempest also stands at the beginning of a tradition later to be pursued in the numerous novels in English that, whether extensively or only in passing, represent the Caribbean to us, and some of which like Jane Austen's Mansfield Park, for instance Edward Said discusses in detail in Culture and Imperialism, Said argues that Gilroy's "system" of "bonded whiteness, masculinity, and rationality" reached its apogee in the nineteenth century with the "classic" realist novel, particularly in England and France.

Janmohamed's memorable phrase, opposing "modern" "Europe" and "European" values and attitudes to those of the "rest" of the world. If the way in which the West tried to realize its hegemonic project came under scrutiny around the turn of the twentieth century, as witness King Leopold II's colonial adventures in what was then known as the Belgian Congo in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, this did not immediately or necessarily detract from the value attached to modernity's propositions in general.

After all, Conrad's Marlow in his own person and sanity testifies to the validity of modernity's tenets if correctly applied, and by extension his tale both of and about Marlow functions as moral caution with regard to England's colonial enterprise. Kipling and Conrad are here on a collusion course.

Conrad, however, is often also seen as an early representative of modernism, and this is where the discourse of modernity is coming to be doubted. As a consequence, the middle classes came to perceive the discourse of modernity, instead of as solely or mainly supportive for their own aspirations, as potentially threatening to their recently acquired hegemony.

However, Said argues, "many of the most prominent characteristics of modernist culture, which we have tended to derive from purely internal dynamics in Western society and culture, include a response to the external pressures on culture from the imperium," [], Specifically, Said feels that "the formal dislocations and displacements in modernist culture, and most strikingly its pervasive irony, are influenced by precisely those two disturbing factors Seeley [J.

Seeley, a late-nineteenth-century historian of English imperialism in The Expansion of England] mentions as a consequence of imperialism: the contending native and the fact of other empires," [], The result, according to Said, was the "new encylopaedic form" [], of the modernist work of art: circular, spatial, and fragmentary in its yoking together of apparent heterogeneities, and as opposed to realism's ideal form of transparency, linearity, temporal progressivism, and homogeneity. As examples of modernists whose works exude the kind of irony, as well as embody the kind of "imperial" pressures he thinks of, Said mentions Conrad, E.

Forster, T. Yet, he also notes that "the impingements of empire on an Irish sensibility are registered in Yeats and Joyce, those on American expatriates in the work of Eliot and Pound" [], And his list of modernist masterpieces bodying forth the concomitant changes in form includes Ulysses, Heart of Darkness, A la recherche [du temps perdu], The Waste Land, [The] Cantos, and To the Lighthouse.

Not only are the works and authors Said mentions as modernists usually read exclusively from a "center" point of view, apparently the only authors that qualify as modernists are of necessity of the West. When colonial subjects enter the lists they are, in a move already familiar to us from the discussion about postmodernism, either recuperated for a supposedly universal modernism by neutralising whatever specific charge their work carries, or they are on the very basis of that specific charge relegated to a special interest category.

Yet, as Said argues, although "most histories of European aesthetic modernism leave [them] out," not only were there "massive infusions of non-European cultures into the metropolitan heartland during the early years of this century" [], , but "the cross- fertilization between African nationalism as represented by George Padmore, Nkrumah, C. Of course, this fact has recently been recognized by for instance Houston A.

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Baker, Jr. Said himself uses the terms "resistance culture" and "the literature of opposition" to refer to the work of these writers. I myself prefer to use the term "counter-modernism" analogous to the term "counter- postmodernism" I coined earlier. I do not want to insist too much upon T. Eliot's The Waste Land, After all, The Tempest is present in Eliot's poem with only a few line references. Still, we can see the poem as a whole as reflecting, via Said's "imperial pressures," on the modernity adumbrated in Shakespeare's play.

It is through the intrusion of the "native," or more generally the oriental "Other," in the figures of the sexually indeterminate Mr Eugenides, the Smyrna merchant, and Mme Sosostris, famous clairvoyante, that the irrational enters the world of the poem. The rational itself, at the same time, has only led to the mechanized zombie world of the "Unreal City" ending section of part I, "The Burial of the Dead. The "fact of other empires," as Said put it, is present throughout The Waste Land. It is a critical commonplace to discuss Eliot's poem in terms of an early twentieth-century perceived loss of order as compared to that prevalent in earlier periods, and--within the context of this essay-- specifically the Elizabethan era, in which England gained entry to modernity and laid the foundations for the colonial empire it would subsequently acquire.

Symptomatic of this loss of order is The Waste Land's degraded sexuality as compared to that sanctioned in The Tempest: in Eliot's poem the union of the sexes does not serve the ordered ideal of the state via a royal and chaste marriage, as projected in the references to Spenser's "Prothalamion," and as prefigured in Miranda and Ferdinand. Finally, both in its circular form, invoking the greatness of past Western civilizations, and its final invocation of Eastern "Shantih," The Waste Land foreswears the idea of progressive history.

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It is customary Vaughan and Vaughan [], to read this work in a psychological vein as postulating the inevitable union of good and evil, Prospero and Caliban, within the compass of the individual. Together, they make up Prospero's mind and body, with the body playing the dominant part: one day, Caliban tells Prospero, you will find Ariel starting to chafe at your commands, and Striding up to Him in fury, you glare into His unblinking eyes and stop dead, transfixed with horror at seeing reflected there, not what you had always expected to see, a conqueror smiling at a conqueror, both promising mountains and marvels, but a gibbering fist-clenched creature with which you are all too unfamiliar, for this is the first time indeed that you have met the only subject that you have, who is not a dream amenable to magic but the all too solid flesh that you must acknowledge as your own; at last you have come face to face with me, and are appalled to learn how far I am from being, in any sense, your dish.

At the cultural and social level, though, and via the kind of contrapuntal reading advocated by Said, this passage can at the same time be interpreted as a very accurate description of the West's shock of recognition upon grasping the true condition of empire. In both cases, the realization leads to the discrediting of the play being enacted, that is to say, to the suspension of the discourse of modernity: "There is nothing to say.

There never has been, --and our wills chuck in their hands--There is no way out. There never was," Auden [], The fact that Caliban, who in Auden's poem comes to take on some of the characteristics of the Saviour, ends with a re-affirmation of the vitality of Mercy does not detract from my reading of The Sea and The Mirror as a modernist cry of despair as to the continuing viability of the discourse of modernity: Auden's final move implies a clear return to an anterior discourse.

Caliban's "lubricity" in The Tempest aims to demonstrate to us his incurably depraved "Nature," immune to any kind of "Nurture," and preludes upon the essentialist racial theories that under modernity will increasingly come to legitimize empire and colonialism Young [ ]. In the same breath, though, he tells Caliban, who of necessity has been practising precisely these virtues, and who has gotten nowhere, to assume Ferdinand's burdens. This only underscores the point Caliban himself is quick to make: the language he has been taught has not been employed to his benefit but only to ensure that he will be able to obey commands.

Prospero, as was to be expected, speaks the language of rationalism, the discursive language of science and command.

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Caliban's speech is the poetry of rebellion. As Joan Dayan puts it: "the real break with Shakespeare's text occurs in the continuing dialogue between Prospero and Caliban. Toi et moi! Mais qu'est-ce qu'il fout? Hurlant Caliban! For A. For Dayan, on the contrary, "the French fragment of Caliban's song that ends the Tempest is.

Whereas Caliban has repeatedly uttered "Uhuru," the Swahili word for "independence" or "freedom," throughout the play, he now concludes on its French equivalent, and thereby reverts to the language of the master. The answer, I think, is both and neither; that is to say, we should look upon him as a counter-modernist. This he does by showing up the West's rationalism and science as instances of "situated discourse" McGee [], , as in the scene at the beginning of the play where Prospero is exiled by the Inquisition because of sorcery.

What is science in one context is sorcery in another, and this applies to Prospero as well as Sycorax, to Western as well as native practices. Once this is recognized and accepted, the reclamation of the "language, history, subjectivity" Gikandi [], 4 of colonized peoples, and of Western modernity's repressed in general, becomes not a matter of the recovery of some form of ethnic or gender essentialism, but rather of the conditions under which modernity came to be written. As Dayan puts it at the end of her essay: "No easy assumption of a glorious--and ultimately mystifying--negritude.

And, we might add, a transfer of the Enlightenment discourse of emancipation from Winter's "figure of man" to the "Others" of modernity. In a recent article A. James Arnold, , recognizes the existence of two distinct and strongly gendered literary cultures in presentday francophone Caribbean literature.

Almost exclusively concerned with imaginatively repositioning black or mixed-blood male Caribbeans in the various historical contexts pertinent to Caribbean history, this male tradition, in Arnold's view, has become increasingly narrow even to the point of what he calls an "ideological overdetermination to conform to the same teleological project": a certain locale is required, whereas others are no longer legitimate; a certain use of Creole is mandated, whereas the creolization of the text by writers who do not belong to their [i.

By the same token, if the male line fits the paradigm of postcolonial literature as it has come to be defined over the last decade or so, the female line again does so once over. Typically, and as is also the case with other postcolonial literatures, the double bond imposed upon female writing paradoxically leads this writing to seek to reconnect itself to more universal concerns in its effort to bypass the more immediate bond imposed by its male counterpart, and thus to link up with like-minded groups of writers abroad, both in other postcolonial cultures and in the mother culture, searching for a common "sisterhood of woman.

With my last statement I have already advanced beyond what Arnold himself is willing to concede. In fact, we could enlarge Arnold's argument and say that the female francophone Caribbean writers implicitly critique all previous male recipes for Caribbean identity or nationhood. Rather than duplicate Arnold's findings, though, I would like to enlarge the argument to English-language Caribbean literature. Here too, the theoretical articulation of any specific Caribbean or West Indian identity has been almost exclusively the province of male writers.

Naipaul Nor have things changed with the advent of independence for the English-language Caribbean.


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In this predominantly male tradition we can recognize a number of features that Arnold also brought out with regard to its francophone counterpart, although in the anglophone version these are less dogmatically theorised and put into practice: the "aggressive heterosexual eroticism," Arnold [], 17 , the prominent role of the male narrator, the countryside or the town slum as preferred settings.

Over against this male tradition, there is also a female anglophone tradition, less prominently profiled in or by literary history and criticism, and which I think to a large degree shares the characteristics of its francophone counterpart: greater sexual freedom, greater openness to the wider world, the insistence on the female narrator as the repository of the family's, the group's, the race's, and the gender's memoried experience. Amongst the authors whose work allows itself to be read as in this tradition I would count Jean Rhys and Jamaica Kincaid.

But I would also include Marina Warner, Paule Marshall, and Gloria Naylor, authors who, although they are not, or are only partly, Caribbean, still inscribe themselves in what I have earlier called the discourse of the Caribbean. In the narrative economy of Warner's novel Indigo, a novel that is prefaced by the author's explicit acknowledgements to those critics, foremost among them Hulme, , who have most consistently analyzed The Tempest as a colonialist text and exemplary of the advent of modernity, the issues that particularize female West Indian writing, and specifically the double bondage to the established and canonised literature of the mother country as well as to the hegemonic male native Caribbean or West Indian strain, function as shorthand for the predicament of female writing in general.

Indigo is a long novel that is set concurrently in the early seventeenth century, the time of The Tempest, and in the twentieth century. It involves the histories of a Caribbean island and of the Everard family, descendants of the original English conqueror and first settler of the island. One of the most conspicuous differences with The Tempest is the virtual absence of a Prospero figure. The original Everard hardly fits the character, and in the contemporary part of the novel the patriarchal role of Prospero is divided over two figures of dwindling authority.

The first of these is Sir "Ant" Everard, a once famous player of "Flinders" which is obviously meant to stand for cricket , who gradually declines into senility and obsolescence, while he also progressively fades from the book narratively. For the figure of Sir "Ant," by the way, Warner partly inspired herself upon her own grandfather, the famous cricketer Sir Pelham Warner Todd [].

Miranda's role is also divided over two characters, one called Miranda and the other called Xanthe. Miranda is the daughter of Kit, and Xanthe of Ant by a second marriage, but they are actually of almost equal age, and throughout the novel move as sisters. As far as looks and money are concerned, Xanthe is the typical English "golden girl," and in adult life she actually prefers to be called "Goldie. Her life, though, comes to nothing: she remains childless, and drowns in her mid-thirties off the Caribbean island that once belonged to her family.

The other Miranda spends her life in a search for her own identity or subjectivity. This involves a period of sexual philandering. Caliban too reappears in various guises and under various names. He is a descendant of the first African slaves that the Europeans brought to the Caribbean, and he is not the real, but rather an adoptive child of Sycorax, who here is a native Carib woman who has been rejected by her husband. The final avatar Caliban assumes in Indigo is that of George Felix, a black actor "marooned" Warner [], in London, playing the role of Caliban in a s staging of The Tempest.

He is the man Miranda finally marries, and whom she has a child with when she is already well into her forties. At the same time, "maroon" also refers to runaway or truant slaves, and hence to the freedom from Prospero's authority that is finally achieved for this novel's Caliban and Miranda. The "white" line of descent, Xanthe's, comes to nothing. The union of Miranda and George Felix, then, will only reinforce the "colored" element. The threatened "miscegenation" of The Tempest in Indigo is sanctified by marriage.

The element of both "female" and "native" emancipation is further reinforced by three brief sections featuring Serafine or Feeny, a loyal black Caribbean maidservant to the Everard family.

The repeating island: the Caribbean and the postmodern perspective

Serafine's most important function in the novel is to tell stories about the island and about the Everard family. These stories reverse Prospero's retelling of Caliban's hi story in The Tempest: they provide a corrective to the official stories put out by the white male chroniclers of the island, and thus reappropriate "language" and "truth" as female and native.

This is especially important with regard to a crucial issue of The Tempest, viz. Prospero's rule in Shakespeare's play is, from the point of view of modernity, ultimately justified by his superior reason, which he proves by his final abjuration of magic. By the same token, the subjection of the "Others" continuing to use magic is legitimized. Indigo portrays the magic of Sycorax and of the island as no more than the product of native skills, knowledge of herbs, and experience.

In fact, a lot of the magic of Sycorax is attributed to her "job" as a manufacturer of indigo. This dye, ironically, would become one of the first and foremost commercial products of the Caribbean a role later taken over by sugar and would contribute to the appropriation of the Caribbean by modernity and colonialism. Sycorax, who in The Tempest is practically "submerged" as a character, powerfully surfaces in Indigo: instead of the maleficent but already absent witch of Shakespeare, she becomes a benevolent mother figure with Warner.

She is the first victim of the conquering English, and after death she becomes a potent nature spirit, and the original source of oral tradition on the island. She is also literally Feeny's ancestress. As such, both Ariel and Feeny fit Gikandi's "basic premise," when examining the work of Caribbean women authors, and specifically Merle Hodge's Crick Crack, Monkey and Zee Edgell's Beka Lamb, "that the unveiling of the lives of Caribbean women not only recenters them in history as custodians of an oral tradition, but also functions as an indicator of sources of domination that might have been lost or repressed in both the colonial text and male-dominated nationalist discourse" Gikandi [], Whereas Feeny's stories figure as prologue and epilogue to the novel as a whole, and also as a marker dividing the seventeenth- and twentieth-century parts, her versions, framing the rest of the narrative, carry final authority.

Instead of constituting a mere discourse of "alterity," they amount to a truly alter-native Zabus [] discourse. That this discourse will also prevail is ensured by Miranda and George baptizing their child likewise Serafine, thus predestining her as a future story teller. That this amounts to a "revers[ion] and revis[ion] of both the colonial and black male texts even as [it] tr[ies] to validate the oral tradition" Gikandi [], becomes clear when we realize that Feeny, the symbolical story-mother as well as substitute grandmother to little Serafine, is also the real grandmother to Atala Seacole, who becomes the black woman political leader on the island after the failure of a male-led black Muslim revolution, and whom we hear voice a radical womanist program near the end of the novel.

The discourses of both Feeny's grandchildren, then, are those of post-modernism and postcolonialism D'haen [] , with all the political, economic, social, and even ecological displacements this ultimately implies or prefigures. With Indigo, then, a novel about the Caribbean but also about discourse on the Caribbean, by an author who herself is partly Caribbean but who first gained prominence with a number of fictions solely related to her English or at least European experiences and background, and exclusively perceived as functioning within a strictly English literary frame of reference, "Caribbean" literature truly becomes two- or perhaps even triple-faced, looking both to Europe and the Caribbean itself, as well as to the international sisterhood of woman.

Displacements comparable to those of Indigo are to be noted in works by two other women writers who likewise respond to the discourse of the Caribbean as articulated in The Tempest: Paule Marshall's Praisesong for the Widow, , and Gloria Naylor's Mama Day, Both novels are set on magical or semi-magical islands, Marshall's who herself is of Barbadian descent in the Caribbean, Naylor's who is African-American off the coast of the U. In both novels the importance of story-telling as a female business, and specifically as something to be passed on from grandmother to grandchild, is foregrounded.


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Though both novels focus on the lives of individuals, they also convey a strong sense of community, and on the "rememorying" to use Toni Morrison's term of the community's past by the women. On a cruise to the Caribbean, Avey Johnson, the protagonist of Praisesong for the Widow, suddenly feels out of touch with herself.

However, she finds herself temporarily stuck on the island. At night, alone in her room, she comes to realize that she herself, and especially her dead husband Jay, had fallen prey to the white man's modernity: the work ethic, greed, the denial of one's inner self. The racial discrimination to which she and Jay were subjected had repressed them into becoming replicas of white people, thereby sacrificing "the most vivid, the most valuable part of themselves" Marshall [], Specifically, it had induced Jay to give up the jazz music he used to be so fond of. Avey first notices the transformation in Jay: "on occasion, glancing at him, she would surprise what almost looked like the vague, pale outline of another face superimposed on his, as in double exposure" [], But now, on the island, she wonders whether "at her funeral, when [her children] were led forward to view her body for the last time, they might sense, they might even glimpse, gazing down at her, the pale outline of another face superimposed upon hers like a second skin, a tight-lipped stranger's face" [], It is on Carriacou, a small island adjoining Grenada, and serving the function of ancestral place of ritual recovery of their authentic selves during an annual pilgrimage there by the island's emigrants, that Avey, cleansed by the sea-journey, and liberated in mind and body by the drum music played at the ancestral dance orchestrated by the very black Joseph Lebert, fully recovers her own personal and communal past on her own ancestral island of Tatem, off the coast of South Carolina, and that she fully enters into her own name and identity again: "Avey, short for Avatara" [], Avey will return not to White Plains, but to Tatem, to pass on to her grandchildren the stories her own grandmother Cuney told her about the African-Americans who walked back to Africa from Ibo Landing, the place in Tatem where they had been unloaded as slaves.

In a number of ways, Praisesong for the Widow reverses The Tempest. Instead of a story about Nurture triumphing over Nature, Marshall's novel is about Nature having to be liberated from Nurture. White Prospero and black Caliban are conflated in Joseph Lebert. Magic has a positive, not a negative influence.

The real story is woman's, even in the case of Lebert, who has the same oral link to his island's history as Cuney has to hers, and who during the dance that Avey witnesses becomes androgynous. Joseph's stories about the vestiges of black empires and civilizations in Africa give the lie to Prospero's denigrating history of Caliban's ancestry. And the noises Marshall's isle is full of are, to mis-quote T. Eliot, "rag" rather than "Shakespeherian. The former individual identity that the same character, and others in the novel with her, had struggled for and sometimes achieved in her their own perception, is in hindsight revealed to have been no more than a spiritual and ideological interiorization of that white Western modernity that enslaved her their community's members' bodies to begin with.

If we know that two of the characters in Gloria Naylor's Mama Day are called Miranda and Ophelia, respectively, Shakespeare cannot be far around the corner! Indeed, this novel, though not explicitly set in what today we think of as the Caribbean though historically speaking Savannah and Charleston, the major U.

Again, though, some adjustments and reversals need to be noted. The role of Prospero is played by the "Mama Day" of the book's title, whose real name is Miranda. The role of Miranda falls to Mama Day's great-niece Cocoa. George, a black civil engineer whom Cocoa comes to know in New York, where she too lives, and whom she marries, combines the roles of Caliban and Ferdinand. As with Marshall, so with Naylor too an opposition shapes up between the modern, white world of New York or the city in general and the magic environment of Willow Springs.

Once again, the island community's past, as well as that of the story's protagonists, need to be "rememoried. Mama Day, slowly and painfully, rememories her family's history on the island, down to the mythical first black woman on the island, the slave girl Sapphira. Sapphira was a sorceress, who bore her white master seven sons, and had him divide the island between his slaves upon his death. Apart from the intimate nuances of this text, it is interesting to see how Labat, an astute observer, sets out, at the end of the seventeenth century, the hypothesis of a common Caribbean culture—expressed through music, song, dance, and rhythm—unbounded by the linguistic and political frontiers imposed by the various colonial powers.

That is, while Froude directs himself to the differences, Labat lets himself be overtaken by the similarities. We have to recognize, though, that—in addition to the constricting violence that any binary focus imposes—the scarcity of comparative studies that transcend a single linguistic zone, and also of investigations that could be termed interdisciplinary or encompassing, renders any more or less objective judgment of this matter difficult to make. Further, the presence in the past of strong plantation economies in the Brazilian northeast and the southern United States does not make it any easier to delimit the area clearly.

Nor should we skip lightly over the difficulty presented by the staggered exploitation of the region, an obstacle that has suggested a comparative method that relies on a nonsynchronic comparison of socioeconomic data. In this way one could compare Cuban society of the nineteenth century, by then dominated by a plantation economy, with that of Saint-Domingue in the eighteenth century, and either one of the two with that of Barbados at the end of the seventeenth century, when the expulsion of the Dutch from Brazil spread to that region the era's most advanced sugar production technology.

The fact that this method has been proposed and confirmed in the heart of the community of specialists who study the region is very significant. They propose the Plantation as the parameter for analyzing the Caribbean, while at the same time speaking of the contradictory effects or voids that its proliferation has imposed upon the whole area. Thus, if we may venture a leap of the imagination, the Caribbean could be seen as well as a loosely bounded figure combining straight lines and curves, let's say, a spiral galaxy tending outward—to the universe—that bends and folds over its own history, its own inwardness.

In any case one has to conclude that, in spite of the array of difficulties facing any study of the region, one can always resort to one of the three general types of reading that the Caribbean now offers, that is, Labat's unified and unifying, Froude's entirely severalized, and one we call here the reading of Chaos, of the Milky Way, where we detect dynamic regularities—not results—within the dis order that exists beyond the world of predictable pathways.

I think that each of the three points of view is valid, and that each one constitutes the most viable course for examining one or another aspect of the Caribbean discourse. Here, in this book, the underlined attitude is that of the reader typed as Chaos, but without any desire to deny or to repress the validity of other readings. If I should be reproached for taking a too-eclectic position in this matter, I will answer that this is probably the case, but I am not the only one to hold to this position, and I would refer the critic to Chapter 4 , where there is a discussion of Fernando Ortiz and his typically Caribbean position in the face of modern scientific thought.

The complexity that the multiplication of the Plantation—each case a different one—brought to the Caribbean was such that the Caribbean peoples themselves, in referring to the ethnological processes that derived from the extraordinary collision of races and cultures thus produced, speak of syncretism, acculturation, transculturation, assimilation, deculturation, indigenization, creolization, cultural mestizaje, cultural cimarronaje, cultural miscegenation, cultural resistance, etc.

Which illustrates not just that these processes occurred again and again, but also, and above all, that there are different positions or readings from which they may be examined. Here, in this chapter, I do not propose a model kit for constructing the Caribbean.

Lecture 01 - Introduction: What is Postcolonialism?

My only aim is to undertake a kind of voyage of revisitation, or better yet, of scrutinization, toward points which, because they lie within the Caribbean discourse, tend to be of interest to those who enjoy reading the region's cultural codes. Among the latter we find the historian Frank Moya Pons, who says the following about particularity:. For the majority of the population of the area, to speak of the Caribbean has meaning only as a convenience in geography classes; for most of its people the Caribbean as a living community, with common interests and aspirations, just does not exist.

Practically, it seems more sensible to think of several Caribbeans coexisting alongside one another. Although it is frequently said that the local economies follow a similar pattern, in fact the cultures and social structures of the region vary considerably, and consequently, lifestyles and political behavior vary as well. I think that there is a good deal of truth in what Moya Pons says. Further, it is evident to me that the cultural panorama of the Caribbean is supremely heterogeneous. How then can one be sure that a Caribbean culture even exists?

Although it may seem contradictory, I think that the quickest route toward defining a substantial form of Caribbeanness is not the cultural one. Perhaps it would be more productive to take first, for example, the way that Sidney W. Mintz proposes:. To begin with, it is inaccurate to refer to the Caribbean as a "cultural area," if by "culture" is meant a common body of historical tradition. The very diverse origins of Caribbean populations; the complicated history of European cultural impositions; and the absence in most societies of any firm continuity of the culture of the colonial power have resulted in a very heterogeneous cultural picture.

And yet the societies of the Caribbean—taking the word "society" to refer here to forms of social structure and social organization—exhibit similarities that cannot possibly be attributed to mere coincidence. It probably would be more accurate though stylistically unwieldy to refer to the Caribbean as a "societal area," since its component societies probably share many more social-structural features than they do cultural features.

Following this, Mintz presents an essay that has come to be a classic text in the historiography of the Caribbean, not so much for its innovation as for its articulation. After considering the differences that he sees within the area, Mintz reaches the conclusion that the great majority of Caribbean nations present parallel socioeconomic structures, which were determined by the same concurrent phenomenon: the plantation.

Which is to say, apart from the fact that the plantation economy existed in other zones of the American continent, it is only in the Caribbean region that its dynamics produce a kind of socioeconomic instability whose morphology is repeated, becoming more or less ascendant from colonial times until the present. Hence the Caribbean, by virtue of this judgment, may be defined as a societal area.

Without beginning here to argue the details of this way of seeing the Caribbean, I think that one must agree with Mintz that the plantation seems indispensable to studying the societies of the area. In my opinion, nonetheless, the plantation could turn out to be an even more useful parameter; it could serve as a telescope for observing the changes and the continuities of the Caribbean galaxy through the lenses of multifold disciplines, namely, economics, history, sociology, political science, anthropology, ethnology, demography, as well as through innumerable practices, which range from the commercial to the military, from the religious to the literary.