I get the rejoinder that “Jamaica is a Black nation” in response to creole multiracial nationalism’s call of “out of many one people,” but I wonder if it takes for granted how the island becomes articulated as Black in multiple ways that are about enclosure as much as liberation.
Especially in the wake of mid to late 19th century civilizing projects to make Jamaica less “African” so as to make it a tourist destination for white American and British people although it is blackness that makes that island utopia possible.
And it is the absence-presence of blackness that makes tourism on the island sustainable today. Blackness as a state of commodity and as a commodity of the state, as an apprehension of the radical possibility of rupture and abolition. We mistake representation for liberation.
So Jamaica was never not understood as a Black nation. In fact, a white person born in the colony was known as a creole because of their proximity to blackness. And this survives in the economy of sun, sand, sea, and sex. The danger and the fantasy of a black island.
So I think there’s a failure at the level of the political to contend with how representation is not redress. In fact, the work of Deborah Thomas, Shani Roper, and others show us how a black radical tradition is marginalized by state celebration of the depoliticized
material culture of the black peasantry — everything from folk songs to ritual dances to patwa.
Even the way that moments of rebellion are imagined pre-1960s as a righteous fight against the violence of coloniality that culminated in the supposedly rightful and inevitable establishment of the nation-state obscures the ongoing civil management of blackness.
In other words, we imagine that Nanny and Sam Sharpe and Paul Bogle fought for the founding of the nation-state which is quite teleological. Meanwhile the post-1962 government of blackness falls out of vision: Coral Gardens massacre, the surveillance of Walter Rodney, and the
many, many upheavals of the long 1970s, the Tivoli Gardens massacre, etc, all moments with political energies that should not be conflated but should still be read alongside each other as moments that scandalize the postcolonial state’s depoliticized representations of blackness.
I don’t think it is unimportant that, chronologically speaking, Bustamante and Manley are the last national heroes. To me, that mirrors the technologies of management that the postcolonial state deploys.
Not to mention the way this list collapses the ideological uneasiness with which each hero sits alongside the other. The latter two function as a kind of enclosure of a black radical genealogy that, within the postcolonial state, must be managed nationally and globally.
People are engaging this post so I just want to say that what initiated this thread was reading too many otherwise sharp scholars that I admire very much slipping into a binary of white racist global north and the Caribbean where the weight of blackness is supposedly unfelt.
There’s almost the assumption of the Caribbean as a reprieve from antiblackness. Almost.
And I have been seeing it in some readings of Fanon and, dare I say, in Fanon himself in BSWM, a middle-class Martinican who, if we take Stuart Hall’s assertion that “race is the modality through which class is lived” seriously, could not be expected to recognize himself given
the racialized disavowals of Caribbean class formation. But what do we make of a figure like Marcus Garvey who, at a very young age, was called a nigger by his white playmate? Or of the general distance that brown and black middle class folks implicitly and explicitly performed?
We have to be more attentive to the creative energies of antiblackness in the Caribbean especially as performed through disavowal. Somebody bears the burden which is where I disagree with Sylvia Wynter. It isn’t just a shifting signifier of abjection. Somebody bears the burden.
Over and over, at various moments in time, somebody comes to bear its absolute burden.
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