Contemporary Third World Thought Lecture Series I: Aaron Kamugisha (Part 2)

  • 2016-05-05
  • Hui-Yu Tang

Contemporary Third World Thought Lecture Series I: Aaron Kamugisha(Part 2)

Post-independence Caribbean Social and Political Thought
Aaron Kamugisha (University of West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados)
March 22, 2016 14:00-17:00

In his second lecture, Dr. Kamugisha focused on 5 Caribbean writers, whose seminal work reflects diverse aspects of post-independence Caribbean social and political thought. The prominent Guyanese historian, political activist and scholar Walter Rodney laments in ‘Contemporary Political Trends in the English-Speaking Caribbean’ petty bourgeoisie domination throughout post-independence Anglophone Caribbean countries. Profoundly influenced by and involved in the development of pan-African socialism, Rodney, who wrote the article in the 1970s, argues the increased gap between the petty bourgeoisie and the working people thwarted not only political democracy but also economic growth in those countries. Lucille Mathurin-Mair’s ‘Reluctant Matriarchs’, written as well in the ‘70s, contests the stereotypical assumption of ‘authoritative’ black matriarchs. She contends instead that although one-third of Jamaica’s adult women headed their households in the ‘70s, these were sexually and economically vulnerable single women who might easily fall prey to the new paterfamilias and the state just because they lacked control of relevant social resources.  As new diasporic communities with origins in Asia (i.e. China), the Middle East (i.e. Syria and Lebanon), and in the indigenous population of the region have become immersed into Caribbean reality, Percy Hintzen in ‘Race and Creole Ethnicity in the Caribbean’ observes that a White-Black polarity based on skin color has replaced Europe and Africa at opposite ends of the Creole continuum. Unfortunately, according to Hintzen, white supremacy remains in this post-colonial situation imposed upon Caribbean nationalism to hinder challenges to North Atlantic power. Obika Gray’s ‘Predation Politics and the Political Impasse in Jamaica’ concerns the prevalence of violence, which Dr. Kamugisha believes has featured prominently in Jamaican/Caribbean politics as a result of class struggle, drug problems and irregulate arm trade. To elaborate on the issue, Dr. Kamugisha foregrounded the entanglement of what he termed ‘popular democratic culture’ with the so-called ‘social control’. In Caribbean countries that tend to be territorially tiny, he said, the results of elections are usually determined by as less as dozens of votes. Under the circumstances, either candidates are pressurised to serve their constituencies carefully (with or without social justice being fulfilled), or voters get constantly coerced into supporting particular politicians. Lastly, Kamala Kempadoo’s ‘Theorizing Sexual Relations in the Caribbean’ problematises ‘sex tourism’ in the Caribbean as a means through which the tourist (male or female) constructs Caribbean men and women as racialised sexual subjects/objects to attain a sense of control over his or her sexuality while reassuring (the tourist) himself or herself of racial and/or cultural privilege.

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Sylvia Wynter's Black Metamorphosis and the World We Live in
Aaron Kamugisha (University of West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados)
March 23, 2016 14:00-17:00
Dr. Kamugisha’s 3rd and final lecture brought the audience’s attention to the Jamaican writer Sylvia Wynter and her over 900 page long unpublished manuscript Black Metamorphosis. Described by Kamugisha as ‘the quest of the human after Western man’, the project Wynter had pursued with Black Metamorphosis concerns at once the delineation of ‘the Black experience’ (first as the colonised or the slave, and later as the dominated, the to-be-decolonised), the analysis of racism rather as a social purpose in itself than a means of economic exploitation, and the reinvention of the very concept of ‘the human’, which ‘in the world we live in’ remains very limitedly equated with the concept/existence of middle-class white men. A social mechanism, Kamugisha thus read Wynter, racism operates not merely to abuse colored bodies and consequentially to condemn the colored races to alienation. But more significantly it functions to colonise consciousness and to regularise desires, so (most of) those who exist feel impelled to (western) bourgeoisie form. To reformulate the theory of the human, and to restructure the world as ‘a new experience’, Wynter therefore calls on the colored to decolonise/radicalise desires, wherein, as Kamugisha understands it, lies the key to the decolonisation of consciousness and to the legitimacy of the colonised/colored body.

(The articles were originally published on the Inter-Asia School website)