Caribbean Cultural Identities
This edition of the Bucknell Review is devoted to analyses of Caribbean cultural identities. It is important to draw attention to the idea of Caribbean identity as pluralized, that is, as Caribbean "identities" rather than Caribbean "identity" because quite often, inside and outside the region, there is a tendency in some quarters to oversimplify the cultural heterogeneity of the Caribbean. Within the region, this attraction towards a sense of some single, definitive Caribbean "identity" is typically rooted in the idea of the region's shared history of struggle against the homogenizing force and brutishness of European conquest, slavery, indentureship, colonialism, and empire. As such, the desire and indeed the need to emphasize unity and oneness is an important and necessary part of the region's survival in the presence of latter-day challenges such as neoliberalism and globalization. Outside the region, the distillation of Caribbean cultural identities into homogenized unity, into Caribbean cultural identity, is often the consequence of an oversimplification of Caribbean reality. Frequently, such oversimplification is but one aspect of a geopolitical discourse which is not disconnected from the region's modern (ie., 500-year-old) history, and more recently such oversimplification may be linked to important strategies of commodification and marketing which are concerned with representing much of the Caribbean region as a tourist's paradise regained. The eight essays in this edition analyze Caribbean culture less as commodity to be consumed than as ontological device and discursive tool/weapon. George Lamming's puzzlement at the extraordinary reliance on statistics to the detriment of cultural critique in typical Caribbean social-science analysis leads off a general discussion of disciplinary method which is, to some extent, evident in all the essays. Lamming then goes on to map an autographical and historical journey through the fractured landscape of Indo and Afro-Caribbean relations in the Caribbean. Richard Allsopp's analysis begins with a genealogical examination of the term "Caribbean" and develops into a critique of Indo and Afro-Guyanese relations in the Caribbean which runs counter to Lamming's proposition that the Indo-Trinidadian presence undergirds Afro-Trinidadian labor in that nation. Gordon Rohlehr's essay examines Caribbean identity constructions in the context of calypso, and Evelyn O'Callaghan analyzes selected Caribbean literature published since 1987 to argue that literary renderings of home, exile, and identity have become more expansive even as they have remained distinctly Caribbean. Eddy Souffrant argues against what he calls negative identity constructions, often imposed or superimposed on Caribbean peoples, and argues for the idea of transitional or diasporic identity. Mike Alleyne focuses on the image in popular music culture in the Caribbean. Patricia Saunders analyzes the deformation and reformation of language and discourse in selected Caribbean women's literature, and Glyne Griffith examines the tension between discourse and agency in two narratives of Caribbean resistance.
Contributors: George Lamming, Richard Allsopp, Gordon Rohlher, Evelyn O'Callaghan, Eddy Souffrant, Mike Alleyne, Patricia Saunders, and Glyne Griffith.
About the editor:
Glyne Griffith is an Associate Professor of English and Caribbean Studies at the State University of New York at Albany.
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