The Decolonial Ends of Caribbean Ethnography: Notes On Dialectics, Imagination and The State Of Practice
The Decolonial Ends of Caribbean Ethnography: Notes on Dialectics, Imagination and The State of Practice. With Shelene Gomes, in Rhoda Reddock and Encarnacion Gutierrez-Rodriguez (eds) Entangled Global Inequalities, Anthem Press, forthcoming June 2020
20 Pages Posted: 13 Apr 2020
Date Written: March 16, 2020
In this essay we advocate for the emancipatory potential of ethnography to decolonize thought and action in the postcolonial English-speaking Caribbean. Caribbean anthropology contributes significantly to a decolonization agenda that refuses both the ‘hegemonic frame of self-referencing’ and the ‘re-ordering of discriminatory development’ (Crichlow 2012, 131). As we argue, just as ethnographies of the Caribbean challenged the intellectual and disciplinary insularities of anthropology in the mid-twentieth century, so can the dialectical reasoning and social imaginary offered by Black-Radicalism and Rastafari respectively widen emancipatory struggles occurring in the contemporary Caribbean. Drawing upon the work of C.L.R. James and Barry Chevannes, both of whom were attentive to history but not beholden to it, we focus on Caribbean ethnographies that have foregrounded a Black-Radical analysis of racial capitalism as a credible counter-analysis of modernity. We argue this counter-analysis is at the heart of a Caribbean lineage of imaginative acts of self-invention that seek to find new, and arguably more potential for, just social relations. As such, ethnographies documenting these phenomena and associated struggles provide a rich conceptual archive of cosmopolitanism well suited to promoting decolonial thought. For this reason, it is vital that the position of anthropology be strengthened in Caribbean universities.
Keywords: Cosmopolitanism; decolonization; migration; neoliberalism; social imaginary.
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