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201. The CLR James Journal: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1/2
Alyssa Adamson C.L.R. James’s Decolonial Humanism in Theory and Practice
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This paper argues for the concept of a decolonial humanism at the heart of C.L.R. James’s theoretical and political engagements. In exploring the concept of decolonial humanism, the paper moves through three major sections dealing with some of the definitive epistemic and political aspects of James’s work: (i) a critique of Enlightenment Humanism and European Marxism without disavowing the aspirations of universal human emancipation; (ii) James’s work with the Johnson-Forest Tendency, the Pan-Africanist movement, and his attempts at labor organizing in Trinidad first alongside Eric Williams in the People’s National Movement (PNM) and later in his own Workers and Farmer’s Party (WFP); and (iii) the practicality of decolonial humanism in terms of its adoption by Tim Hector and the Antigua Caribbean Liberation Movement (ACLM).
202. The CLR James Journal: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1/2
Victor Peterson II Black Not
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The Afro-Pessimist contends the impossibility of building a movement from “absolutely nothing.” This assumption comes from a misreading of Franz Fanon’s proposition in Black Skin, White Masks, “The Negro is not. Any more than the white man.” This paper analyzes the structure of Fanon’s proposition by considering ‘not’ as an operator while challenging and setting limits to the function of Identity utilized by the Pessimist. The way in which Fanon puts to use the elements of his proposition functions as that statement’s meaning, rather than assuming a dictionary definition for each word whose sum presupposes a definition of the sentence. Where the Afro-Pessimist treats the period in Fanon’s assertion as a full stop, intending Black Identity’s interchangeability with “absolutely nothing,” I take the logical structure of Fanon’s assertion as a conditional, illustrating the fallacy inherent to the Pessimist position. In all, the structure of a proposition begets its expressive capacity.
203. The CLR James Journal: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1/2
Kathleen Gyssels Bit in the Mouth, Death in the Soul: Remembering the Poetry of Léon-Gontran Damas
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Sixty years after the famous ‘Conférence des écrivains et artistes noirs at the Sorbonne’, and sixty years after Black-Label, the third collection of poetry by French Guianese Leon-Gontran Damas, the word “nègre” and “nigger” remain offensive words all too much used in postcolonial Europe today. Even after the short lived Obamamania, Damas’s poetry remains actual as it expresses the censorship all too many times endured by the lyrical voice who cannot speak out loud against those violent verbal, physical, and thus psychological assaults. Consequently, his “mors dans la bouche”, or “bit in the mouth” is incoporated in his less wellknown work which testifies to the “mort dans l’âme”, it is the constant feeling of depression and blues lurking on the Black or coloured citizen of France and the West Indies. Standing in the shadow of the cofounders, and quite neglected by the leading Martinicans of the post-Négritude era, Damas nevertheless understood the urgency of transcontinental and transcultural solidarities in this battle and wrote against the dichotomies of race, class, and gender. Damas (b. 1912) and James (b. 1901) knew each other for over forty years. Damas read James’s novel, Minty Alley (published in 1936) before they met in Paris when James was doing the research for The Black Jacobins (published in 1938), his landmark history of Tousssaint L’Ouverture and the revolution in the French colony of Saint-Domingue. Damas helped James with translations and discovering documents at the Bibliothèque Nationale. On one occasion, Damas brought James to the home of Robert Desnos. Both lived in Washington, DC, in the 1970s when Damas was at Howard University and James taught at Federal City College/University of the District of Columbia.
204. The CLR James Journal: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1/2
Johman Carvajal Godoy Well Chosen White Blood: About the Illusion of Racial Equality in Colombia
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This paper examines the discourse of white supremacy in the intellectual history and socio-historical development in the nation of Colombia. In particular, it focuses on the period after the gaining of political independence from Spain in 1819. Further, the paper focuses on the texts of two writers who spanned late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These writers are Miguel Jiménez López and Luis López de Mesa. The paper develops in detail the white supremacist discourses of these two writers, along with their views of the indigenous people of Colombia, the mestizos, and the Africans who were imported as slaves and racialized as Blacks. Finally, the paper examines the pro-white immigration policies of the authors, which they believed would improve the intelligence, the entrepreneurial capability and beauty of Colombia, and thus its prospects for development.
205. The CLR James Journal: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1/2
Shawn Gonzalez Ethics of Opacity in Harold Sonny Ladoo’s No Pain Like This Body
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Harold Sonny Ladoo’s 1972 novel No Pain Like This Body has been analyzed for its seminal representation of the traumas experienced by a formerly indentured Indo-Trinidadian family in the early twentieth century. However, relatively little attention has been given to Ladoo’s experimentation with multiple languages, particularly English, Trinidadian Creole, and Hindi. This article argues that Ladoo’s multilingualism offers a guide for approaching the traumatic experiences he represents. While some aspects of the novel, such as its glossary, make the characters’ language more comprehensible, others, such as the orthography Ladoo chooses to represent Creole speech, deliberately distance the reader. Using decolonial theorists of language, particularly Édouard Glissant's writing on multi­lingualism and opacity, this article considers Ladoo’s use of multilingualism both as a limit to readers’ understanding as well as an invitation to continued engagement with those aspects of the text that are resistant to easy comprehension. This article contrasts opacity as a reading methodology with some of the dominant paradigms for understanding linguistic difference in the field of comparative literature, which rely on linguistic and textual mastery. Ultimately, the article proposes reading multilingual texts through opacity as a model for decolonial reading in which creative, active engagement with the text can produce solidarity without requiring complete transparency.
206. The CLR James Journal: Volume > 26 > Issue: 1/2
Paget Henry Editor’s Note
207. 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.
208. 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.
209. 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.
210. 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.
211. 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.
212. 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.
213. 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.
214. 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.
215. 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.
216. 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.
217. 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.
218. 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.
219. The CLR James Journal: Volume > 16 > Issue: 1
Myriam J.A. Chancy Nostalgie D'Amour: A Migratory Childhood
220. The CLR James Journal: Volume > 16 > Issue: 1
Ana Margarida Esteves CLR James and the Rise of Solidarity Economy in Brazil