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The CLR James Journal

Volume 23, Issue 1/2, Fall 2017

Lawrence O. Bamikole
Pages 107-133
DOI: 10.5840/clrjames201712446

Agency and Afro-Caribbean Existential Discourse

Paget Henry’s (1997; 2000) narratives about the domains of existence in relation to human/social agency raise interesting issues about the theory and praxis of Afro-Caribbean existential discourse. In it, even when the relationships between agency and the material, social and spiritual domains of existence were thematized differently according to the different phases of Afro-Caribbean philosophical thought, the problematic of agency among the three domains raises similar questions across the different phases of Afro-Caribbean philosophy in relation to the theory and praxis of Afro-Caribbean existential discourse. The problem here relates to the charge whether enslaved and colonized people could be credited with cognitive, ethical and social agency in the face of a structure that presents different existential challenges to the ability of the Caribbean people to realise their personhood and live a worthwhile life. This paper argues that the existential issues raised by causal determinism—whether scientific, social or spiritual, rear their ugly heads across the three domains of existence and also through the historical and analytical phases of Afro-Caribbean philosophical thought. The thesis supported in this paper is that, contrary to western scholarship, the Caribbean people have always possessed agency and have used this to overcome existential challenges at different phases of their history. The question whether they have always succeeded in doing this is a different question.