This review essay asserts that Aaron Kamugisha’s 2019 Beyond Coloniality: Citizenship and Freedom in the Caribbean Intellectual Tradition, for all its brilliance, does not do justice to the thought of C. L. R. James, especially in relation to gender. After claiming that Kamugisha mostly misses the emancipatory and at times radical aspects of James’s feminist thinking, which was developed most fully during his years in the United States (1938–52), the author allows that the omission appears to be not deliberate but an unintended consequence of Kamugisha’s faithful following of the dominant North Atlantic interpretation of the “American James.” In particular, the author sees Kamugisha as seeming to accept without question the hegemonic Americanist assumption that James took a romantic excursion in the United States, and thus Beyond Coloniality neglects the deeply gendered analysis at the heart of James’s 1950 manuscript that eventually found publication in 1993 as American Civilization. Although James certainly never got out of “gender jail” in his lifetime, American Civilization betrayed his hopeful vision of escape. This essay proposes to Kamugisha that a careful and independent reading of this text could have revealed James as a far more sophisticated failure than the virtually helpless figure drawn in Beyond Coloniality.
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Book Review| July 01 2021
Gender and the Americanist James
H. Reuben Neptune
H. Reuben Neptune
H. Reuben Neptune is an associate professor in the Department of History at Temple University. He is the author of several published articles and of Caliban and the Yankees: Trinidad and the US Occupation (2007). His current book project, “The Big Lie in US History-Writing: The Making of the ‘Consensus School,’” reconsiders the politics of US historiography in the postwar decades.
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Small Axe (2021) 25 (2 (65)): 171–181.
H. Reuben Neptune; Gender and the Americanist James. Small Axe 1 July 2021; 25 (2 (65)): 171–181. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/07990537-9384374
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