Contemporary Third World Thought Lecture Series I: Aaron Kamugisha

  • 2016-04-21
  • Yu-Yeh Lin

Caribbean Anti-colonial thought: Jean Jacques Dessalines, Aimé Césaire, Frantz Fanon, George Beckford
Aaron Kamugisha (University of West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados)
March 15, 2016 14:00-17:00

As the first lecture of three, Dr. Kamugisha first took us through his intellectual trajectory, about how he had found the issue of intellectual decolonization an important task confronting Caribbean scholars, and to do that, one must first goes back to intellectual resources born in the Caribbean area, which lead to the lecture this time.

As indicated by the title, he first introduce the article “Liberty or Death, Proclamation” by Jean Jacques Dessalines, a key figure in the 1805 Haiti revolution against colonialism. The revolution is not a bourgeoisie revolution, but the one representing an “unthinkable” history, that is, slaved people on the once most prosperous colony defeated the strongest forces/colonizers in the world at that time. Dessalines in the article depicted the dire situation of slavery, and call for a termination and liberation of all slaves – a task realized in the Haiti Constitution.

After the preliminary task was done, there comes the second text “Discourse on Colonialism” by Aimé Césaire, in which he made ground-breaking observation on the features and characteristics of colonialism. His acute analysis of the notion of colonialization and civilization, the relation between colonialism and fascism, as well as the myth of colonialization have been inspiring for many of the thinkers, including Franz Fanon, his student and the author of the next text “Racism and Culture.”

By situation this essay as the transforming conjuncture for Fanon between Black Skin, White Masks (1952) and The Wretched of the Earth (1961), Dr. Kamugisha highlighted Fanon’s key arguments in the essay, including how racism has moved from a biological racism to a cultural one, and is culturally functioned and enforced, and how the memory of Nazism and colonization has “deeply modified the problem and the manner of approaching it.” Fanon depicted the psycho-dynamic of the race, and his key concern about the relation between racism and oppression. In the fourth text, “Plantation Society: Toward a General Theory of Caribbean Society,” George Beckford endeavor to delineate the key features of Caribbean society through the experience of being colonized. By stating that “the traditional plantation is a total economic institution,” as well as “a total social institution,” Beckford provided detailed analysis of the formation, development, function and so on of the plantation as an institution. Albeit some of his arguments remain controversial, the issue of plantation indeed provide a solid point of departure to grasp the impact and effect of colonization on Caribbean society for more in-depth analysis of this area.

(The article was originally published on the Inter-Asia School website.)