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Open Access The politics of representing the African diaspora in the Caribbean

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The politics of representing the African diaspora in the Caribbean

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image of New West Indian Guide / Nieuwe West-Indische Gids

[First paragraph]Roots of Jamaican Culture. MERVYN C. ALLEYNE. London: Pluto Press, 1988. xii + 186 pp. (Paper US$ 15.95)Guinea's Other Suns: The African Dynamic in Trinidad Culture. MAUREEN WARNER-LEWIS. Foreword by Rex Nettleford. Dover MA: The Majority Press, 1991. xxii + 207 pp. (Paper US$ 9.95)A recent trend in anthropology is defined by the interest in the role of historical and political configurations in the constitution of local cultural practices. Unfortunately, with some notable individual exceptions, this is the same anthropology which has largely ignored the Caribbean and its "Islands of History."1 Of course, this says much, much more about the way in which anthropology constructs its subject than it says about the merits of the Caribbean case and the fundamental essence of these societies, born as they were in the unforgiving and defining moment of pervasive, persuasive, and pernicious European construction of "Otherness." As Trouillot (1992:22) writes, "Whereas anthropology prefers 'pre-contact' situations - or creates 'no-contact' situations - the Caribbean is nothing but contact." If the anthropological fiction of pristine societies, uninfluenced and uncontaminated by "outside" and more powerful structures and cultures cannot be supported for the Caribbean, then many anthropologists do one or both of the two anthropologically next best things: they take us on a journey that finds us exploding the "no-contact" myth over and over (I think it is called "strawpersonism"), suddenly discovering political economy, history, and colonialism, and/or they end up constructing the "pristine" anyway by emphasizing those parts of a diaspora group's pre-Caribbean culture that are thought to remain as cultural "survivals."

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