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editors' note
1. The CLR James Journal: Volume > 26 > Issue: 1/2
Paget Henry Editor’s Note
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tributes to kamau brathwaite and anani dzidzienyo
2. The CLR James Journal: Volume > 26 > Issue: 1/2
Paget Henry Ban Ban Caliban: A Tribute to Kamau Brathwaite
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3. The CLR James Journal: Volume > 26 > Issue: 1/2
Paget Henry Who Will Pour the Libations? A Tribute to Anani Dzidzienyo
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recalling and remembering rené ménil
4. The CLR James Journal: Volume > 26 > Issue: 1/2
Justin Izzo, H. Adlai Murdoch René Ménil: Philosophy, Aesthetics, and the Antillean Subject
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René Ménil (1907–2004) was a renowned Martinican essayist, critic, and philosopher who, along with Aimé Césaire, Frantz Fanon, and Edouard Glissant, left an indelible mark on the Franco-Caribbean world of letters and intellectual thought. Ménil saw in surrealism a critical framework, a means to the specific end of exploring and expressing the specificities of the Martinican condition. Ménil assessed Martinique’s pre-war psychological condition through the telling metaphor of relative exoticism, pointing clearly to the typically unacknowledged fact that the exotic is a slippery signifier, dependent on perspective, distance and location. If the core of these conditions were to be recognized and contested, it would have to be addressed at its root, and here, there was no question for him but that colonialism was ultimately enabled by capitalism and its corollaries of avarice and accumulation. His editorship of the journal Tropiquesconstituted cultural combat. Ménil’s thought and writing were arguably aimed at achieving universality out of particularity, and so he eventually broke with Césaire—and more specifically with Senghor—over several key tenets in the Negritude platform, arguing for the actual existence of a Martinican culture. Marxism for Ménil offers a corrective to the perceived shortcomings of Negritude’s political aesthetics, namely its historical blind spots and its foregrounding of mythologized black unity at the expense of class struggle.
5. The CLR James Journal: Volume > 26 > Issue: 1/2
René Ménil, Corine Labridy-Stofle The Last Insurrection
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6. The CLR James Journal: Volume > 26 > Issue: 1/2
René Ménil, Daniel Maximin, Rebecca Krasner, Christiane Goldman Dialogue with René Ménil
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7. The CLR James Journal: Volume > 26 > Issue: 1/2
Suzy Cater Uneasy Landscapes: René Ménil, Édouard Glissant, and the Role of Space in Caribbean Poetry
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This article offers an unprecedented close reading of the poetic texts created by the Martinican author René Ménil, whose poetry has been almost entirely neglected by scholars to date and who is better known for his philosophical and political writings than for his verse. I pay particular attention to Ménil’s treatment of geographical and cultural spaces in his published poetry from 1932 to 1950, and place that verse in dialogue with a text by another Martinican author at work around this period: Edouard Glissant, and his first poetry collection, Un champ d’îles (1952). Despite their otherwise dissimilar literary approaches, I show how both Ménil and Glissant created verse in these years where landscapes shift unpredictably, where human subjects are often overwhelmed, and where bewildering, vertiginous contact between Europe and the Caribbean is emphasized. This stands in contrast to more descriptive or directly political depictions of local nature created by other Afro-Caribbean poets during the period, and, I argue, underscores the complexities of the unsettling encounters between places and peoples occurring with increasing frequency in these years of rapid change around the Second World War.
8. The CLR James Journal: Volume > 26 > Issue: 1/2
Corine Labridy-Stofle Reinventing Humor: Politics and Poetics of Laughter in René Ménil’s ‘Humour: Introduction à 1945’
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On the eve of 1945, after the retreat of Admiral Robert but before the end of the war, René Ménil wrote an essay extolling humor as a quintessential literary mode of resistance and predicting that colonial authors would go on to contribute significantly to a literature of humor. This article seeks to clarify what humor means to Ménil by illuminating his engagement with Dada, the surrealist movement, Freud, and the concept of irony. In contemplating both the essay’s poetics and politics, this article suggests that Ménil’s vision not only anticipated the Antillean literature to come, but also offered a precocious illustration of it.
9. The CLR James Journal: Volume > 26 > Issue: 1/2
Anjuli I. Gunaratne The Tracées of René Ménil: Language, Critique, and the Recuperation of History in Literature
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The figure of the tracée is significant for Ménil’s understanding of spatio-temporality, an understanding upon which rest, so this essay argues, his concepts of critique, poetic knowledge, and literary form. The argument takes as its starting point the work Ménil did to conceptualize history as the poesis of recuperation. In doing so, the essay argues for a renewed understanding of Ménil’s contribution to Caribbean philosophy as a whole. One of the most important components of this contribution, the essay claims, is the manner in which Ménil shifts the focus from how linguistic and cultural identity forms in the Antilles to how history appears. What this means is that Ménil works to displace the centrality of folklore and orality to the construction of Antillean identity in order to imagine how Antillean culture comes also to be expressed non-discursively. In Ménil’s work, this displacement occurs primarily by his re-thinking the relationship of architecture to literature. Re-thinking this relationship entails for Ménil recuperating the traces of an Antillean “past passed over,” which unexpectedly appear in both architectural structures and literary works. Paying attention to this particular and peculiar intellectual focus in Ménil’s work, this essay ultimately reconsiders the roles played by both discursive and non-discursive arts in the constitution of a decolonized aesthetics in the Antilles.
10. The CLR James Journal: Volume > 26 > Issue: 1/2
Celia Britton “Double Consciousness,” Cultural Identity and Literary Style in the Work of René Ménil
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The notion of double consciousness, as a characterization of black subjectivity, is basic to Ménil’s critique of the alienated “mythologies” of Antillean life and its self-exoticizing literature. Double consciousness renders cultural identity deeply problematic. But it has other, more positive, manifestations, closer to a Bakhtinian idea of dialogism. Thus he praises Césaire’s use of irony as a dual voice. Ménil’s valorization of complexity and ambiguity in literature, against the simple naturalism favoured by the Communist Party but which he insists is not a truly Marxist position, is thus linked to his view of the necessary “doubleness” of Antillean consciousness. Conversely, the simplicity of folklore can offer a basis for cultural identity, but not for good literature. Although Ménil emphasizes the importance of Antilleans reclaiming their history, this is less about discovering one’s roots than providing a dynamic grasp of one’s ever-changing place in a social reality governed by the Marxist dialectic. “Double consciousness” precludes the comforts of fixed identities, but it is a dialectical, not a tragic condition.
11. The CLR James Journal: Volume > 26 > Issue: 1/2
Annette Joseph-Gabriel René Ménil’s Myths of Origin and Labor Activism in the French Antilles
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Between January and February 2009, the longest general strike in French history took place in Guadeloupe and Martinique. The labor movement had far reaching implications for the relationship between France and its overseas departments. In particular, they brought to the fore France’s colonial history in the Antilles, with attendant questions of race, citizenship and sovereignty that highlighted once again the cracks in the image of Antilleans as full French citizens. René Ménil’s essays provide a unique lens through which to read the philosophical underpinnings of the 2009 labor movements in the Antilles. Ménil’s articulation of “a non-mythological elsewhere” posits a three-fold process of excavating history in order to articulate a myth of origin that in turn allows for the possibility of reclaiming a non-colonized identity.
reflections of two young scholars on édouard glissant
12. The CLR James Journal: Volume > 26 > Issue: 1/2
Miranda Luiz A Poetics of Reimagining: The Radical Epistemologies of Wynter and Glissant
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Sylvia Wynter and Édouard Glissant are twentieth-century cultural theorists from Jamaica and Martinique, respectively. Their literary work critiques western knowledge production and the ways in which colonial modes of thinking have negatively impacted Caribbean subjectivity. This essay explores the counter-hegemonic poetics of Wynter’s essay “The Ceremony Must Be Found: After Humanism” and Glissant’s book “Poetics of Relation,” comparing their epistemologies and methods of literary production. To understand the philosophical resonances of these texts, they are situated in a framework of western critical theory and analyzed alongside the structural anthropology of Levi-Strauss and the poststructuralist theory of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. This essay aims to illustrate how Wynter and Glissant conceptualize historic, social, and epistemic relationality, and in doing so point us towards a decolonial future.
13. The CLR James Journal: Volume > 26 > Issue: 1/2
Isabel Astrachan Language and Being(s): Édouard Glissant and Martin Heidegger
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In the mid-twentieth century, many philosophers took up as their aim the destruction of Western metaphysics. Martinican philosopher, novelist, poet, and playwright Édouard Glissant and German philosopher Martin Heidegger were two such authors. Driven by a profound dissatisfaction with the logocentrism of Western metaphysics and concerns over what the tradition excluded—for Glissant, the experience of the creolized and post-colonial subject, and for Heidegger, the “Question of Being”—both advocated for more creative engagement with language and advanced particular views about the link between language and Being. Through a comparative examination of the two authors’ poetics, I aim to “unconceal” an implicit dialogue between their views. I conclude by considering the implications of a key exchange in this proposed dialogue: Glissant’s substitution of Relation for Heideggerean Being. I suggest that this exchange and Glissant’s substitution make plain the problematic tendency in Western philosophy to promote an exclusionary view under the guise of universal truth, that it provides Caribbean philosophy with a greater vocabulary through which to further “produce” itself, and that it is better suited to allow for a process of unceasing transformation and creolization, in contrast to a Western philosophical emphasis on fixity.
clr james and ‘world revolution’
14. The CLR James Journal: Volume > 26 > Issue: 1/2
Christian Høgsbjerg The Red and the Black: C.L.R. James and the Historical Idea of World Revolution
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This paper seeks to situate the idea and intellectual narrative of “world revolution” in its modern historical context, tracing it back to the age of democratic revolution in the late eighteenth century, and then developed by great revolutionary thinkers like Marx and Engels. It examines the possible limitations of Marx and Engels’s vision of world revolution with respect to the Third World as a result of their European intellectual formation in the tradition of the Enlightenment, and examines the charge of “Eurocentrism” advanced by post-colonialist theorists among others against classical Marxism. It then explores the inspiration of the Russian Revolution for those fighting racism and imperialism, and how black radicals brought their revolutionary narratives of black liberation into communist narratives for the first time in its aftermath. The essay then discusses C.L.R. James’s pioneering 1937 history of the Comintern, World Revolution, among other things a theoretical intervention into the debates raging among socialist black radicals during the 1930s, and critically examines the charge of “Eurocentrism” often levelled at World Revolution.
15. The CLR James Journal: Volume > 26 > Issue: 1/2
Candace Sobers Peril and Possibility: C.L.R. James, World Revolution, and International History
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In a 2012 review article, Anthony P. Maingot made a case for each generation rewriting history according to its own needs and preoccupations. Everyone, he suggested, has their own C.L.R. James. Everyone, perhaps, except students of international relations (IR) and international history, where references to James’s copious and critical body of work are less common. In the spirit of finding one’s own James, this article employs The Black Jacobins and James’s other magnum opus, World Revolution,1917–1936: The Rise and Fall of the Communist International, to think historically about two interrelated processes of the twentieth century: the rise of the state, and the relationship between nationalisms and internationalisms. Along with encounters with revolutionary Marxism and pan-Africanism, James bore witness to the challenges of the state, and the tensions between nationalism and internationalism that were so central to understanding the twentieth century.
16. The CLR James Journal: Volume > 26 > Issue: 1/2
William Clare Roberts Centralism is a Dangerous Tool: Leadership in C.L.R. James’s History of Principles
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This essay seeks to bring into focus the latent political theory of CLR James’s World Revolution, 1917-1936, and to show, on this basis, how World Revolution explains certain difficult aspects of The Black Jacobins. The core of James’s theory is the thesis that social classes are organically and internally identified, and that each has a preformed and unitary interest, which can be articulated as a set of political principles. A class is called to act by the voice that expresses the class’s interest in the terms of its political principles. Once these points are made clear, several problems regarding the interpretation of The Black Jacobins disappear. First, James’s claim that the slaves of San Domingo were “closer to a modern proletariat than any group of workers in existence at the time” follows from his organic concept of the proletariat. Second, James’s revision of his account of the Haitian Revolution over the decades does not signify a move in the direction of “history from below” but a changed estimation of the conditions under which the mirroring operation he assigned to political leadership might take place. What seems to be James’s inordinate interest in the individual leader, finally, is more properly understood to be his antipathy to institutions and organizations.
jamaica kincaid and web dubois
17. The CLR James Journal: Volume > 26 > Issue: 1/2
Anique John Annie John: Analysis of Becoming a Woman and The Caribbean Mother-Daughter Relationship
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The dynamic mother-daughter relationship can be loving and supportive at best as well as contentious and tragic. It is a relationship predicated on maternal instinct which can provide direction and support for deep insight into notions of womanhood, personal and political philosophies. However, in providing this guidance, ironically this same maternal guidance can act to stifle the growth of an adolescent daughter as she transitions into womanhood. Jamaica Kincaid’s ‘Annie John’ can be seen as an exemplar of this transition. Annie has to contend with not only her mother’s maternal pressure on her to conform, but she must also adhere to cultural expectations of a creolized culture predicated on both Africana and British understandings of femininity, social expectations, womanhood, and etiquette. This challenges Annie’s own emerging philosophy and desire for independence and self-definition. As discussed in this paper, success can be achieved outside and beyond the mother-daughter dynamic once a daughter has had the opportunity to consider, realize, (and if necessary) defy the hypocrisy of being encouraged to be independent whilst being forced to follow one’s mother’s notion of womanhood. In a valiant attempt to avoid the tragedy of replicating her mother’s own flaws, Annie John’s personal growth was no easy feat and created at times a contentious dynamic. However, this journey not only facilitated her success and independence so that she could travel beyond the shores of Antigua, it demonstrated an independence of thought that African Caribbean creolized women must experience in order to realize their own success.
18. The CLR James Journal: Volume > 26 > Issue: 1/2
Paget Henry, George Danns W.E.B. DuBois, Racial Capitalism and Black Economic Development in the United States
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book discussion
19. The CLR James Journal: Volume > 26 > Issue: 1/2
DJ Hatfield A Review of Teodros Kiros’s Self Definition: A Philosophical Inquiry from the Global South and Global North
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20. The CLR James Journal: Volume > 26 > Issue: 1/2
Paget Henry Self, Language and Metaphysics: A Review of Teodros Kiros’s Self-definition: A Philosophical Inquiry from the Global South and Global North
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