This essay argues that the short-lived West Indies Federation (1958–62) was not only undermined by the failure of the regional intelligentsia to comprehensively communicate a narrative of regionalism to the majority of the archipelago’s peoples but also further compromised by the BBC Caribbean Voices literary radio program broadcast to the region between 1943 and 1958. During this fifteen-year period leading up to federation, Caribbean Voices broadcast West Indian literature, as well as critical commentary by the program’s longest serving editor, Henry Swanzy, that generally emphasized territorial rather than regional nationalism. Consequently, the program’s content had the inadvertent effect of undermining the narrative of regionalism, at the popular level, that BBC officialdom and the region’s intelligentsia seemed to have taken for granted. The essay therefore concludes that the narrative failure of federation was prefigured in the widely and more persuasively articulated story of territorial nationalism that was presented in much of the literature and editorial commentary broadcast to the region via Caribbean Voices in the decade and a half leading up to federation.
Caribbean Voices and the Communicative Failure of the West Indies Federation
Glyne Griffith is a professor of English at the University at Albany, State University of New York. He is the author, most recently, of The BBC and the Development of Anglophone Caribbean Literature, 1943–1958 (2016), and he serves on the editorial team of the Journal of West Indian Literature.
Glyne Griffith; Caribbean Voices and the Communicative Failure of the West Indies Federation. Small Axe 1 March 2020; 24 (1 (61)): 87–95. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/07990537-8190613
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