This essay shows that despite the variegated experience of Black-identified people globally and the unstable and processual nature of Blackness as a category, the meaning of Blackness remains anchored in the geography of the plantation, and the deathliness this produces still haunts the anglophone Caribbean. The focus is on how this haunting is palpable to the criminalized urban poor in Trinidad; yet Black has never simply denoted abjection. From the vantage point of postcolonial Caribbean nation-states founded on anticolonial projects of Black sovereignty, one can see not only the resilience of anti-Blackness that conditions what it feels like to be Black but also what Katherine McKittrick calls the “iterations of Black life that cannot be contained by black death.”
“Trinidad is an unforgiving place.” Charles’s words cut through the sound of dancehall spilling from the dark entryway to a small rum shop one Saturday afternoon in April 2019.1 Though he is in his mid-forties, Charles is considered an elder of a community categorized as a low-income crime hot spot within East Port of Spain. He relates stories of state violence within his community and describes how racialized stigmatization and criminalization of this urban geography produce conditions of poverty that fuel informal economies (mainly the trafficking of illicit goods) and intra-community violence for which residents are lethally punished. Omar, the director of a local nongovernmental organization who arranged this conversation with Charles, and Candace, a social worker newly assigned to the area who works for one of the government’s crime-prevention programs, are present with me. We listen attentively as we sit in front of the bar with Charles. He laments the growing number of young people murdered in his and similar communities annually, either by compatriots or the police, and voices his frustration on the indifference to their deaths demonstrated by the political and economic elite as well as the greater Trinidadian public:
Let me tell you something. It is not to say they not aware of these things, yuh know. They know. But because it affect mainly one race of people, yuh know they just don’t care, and that is a fact. That may sound harsh and this and that, and they will say you playing the race-card but that is the fact; that is the truth; that is just what happening. Because if you watch every day somebody lying down [dead] at the side of the road it is mainly one race so it is not really a bother to the others, so they don’t care and that is just what it is. (emphasis mine)
“So when you say race you mean Black people?” a confused Candace hesitantly asks. Charles, offended by a question whose answer seems so obvious, responds to her indirectly: “Just watch the papers and see who is the people lying down. That don’t take rocket science. Every day you does see it. Every single day.” His utterance prompts her to look and decipher for herself that, yes, he means Black people.
Candace struggles to understand how Charles delineates racial categories. Charles includes the police, state officials, and bourgeois Trinidadians in “the indifferent others” that are distinguished from the Black race from which “somebody lying down at the side of the road” emerges. Yet the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service comprises officers who largely are identified as Black, based on phenotype. People who are identified as Black exist among the political and economic elite in Trinidad, and the political party in power at the time of the conversation is the party known as the Afro-Trinidadian party, the People’s National Movement (PNM). Charles’s statements reveal his understanding that to be Black is to be disproportionately exposed to premature death.2 Thus those who phenotypically resemble him yet normatively do not experience surveillance, policing, and proximity to death Charles racializes differently than himself. He shows that Blackness, and racialization more broadly, are produced relationally through encounter: Blackness, as an abject ontological positioning, materializes and becomes embodied through experiences of violence.3 As Deborah A. Thomas states, “Raciality . . . is built interactively, intersubjectively, and dynamically in relation to other humans, landscapes and objects.”4 Bodies do not carry a race but rather are, according to Sara Ahmed, “the site of racialization itself.”5 It is through performing physical and structural violence against the bodies of Afro-descended urban, poor people—violences undergirded by plantation logics of race and criminality—that the police, the political elite, and the economic elite produce the modern racialized positioning of this group as Black. It is important to note that these differential racialized positions are not fixed; rather, they are in continuous production through a series of relational processes. Thus I do not mean to imply that the political and economic elite Afro-descended populations in Trinidad somehow shed their Blackness. Though they do not experience Blackness as abjection in certain relations, it remains a possibility through other encounters.
The Black geographic margins produced globally through gendered and racialized political-economic systems are connected through a feeling of disposability. Yet popular and scholarly discourse have repeatedly questioned the positioning of Black-identified anglophone Caribbean people—taken as a homogenous grouping—in the contemporary imagined community of “the Black” that has become largely US-centric. The purported exceptionality of US anti-Blackness and, conjointly, the claim by African diasporic people in the United States of being Black like no other have long been bolstered by an exaggeration of the success of Caribbean sovereignty and its provision of a space of belonging for Blackness. Anti-Blackness then reads as a past condition in a fragile but triumphant narrative of the Caribbean vis-à-vis its management of race. Anglophone Caribbean people have often contributed to this myth by claiming that class rather than race is the dominant organizing frame post-1960s (despite Sylvia Wynter’s demonstration that the two cannot be disentangled) and that the objectification of Blackness is now felt only outside the region—in the United States and Europe, for example.6 This ignores not only the persistence of Whiteness as coloniality in the region’s present but also the porosity of borders whereby ideologies and technologies of racialization continue to circulate even as their presence is denied. While race making has local specificities, it is never simply a local project.
In what follows, I show that despite the variegated experience of Black-identified people globally and the unstable and processual nature of Blackness as a category, the meaning of Blackness remains anchored in the geography of the plantation (along with its tools: the ledger, the ship, the whip, etc.), and the deathliness this produces haunts the anglophone Caribbean as much as anywhere else.7 This haunting is most palpable to the criminalized urban poor. Critically, the plantation not only is central to the subjugation of Black people in relation to White and other non-Black people (particularly Indigenous-, South Asian–, Chinese-, and Syrian Lebanese–descended peoples in the region) but also structures violent relations and racialization among Afro-diasporic people. Yet Black has never simply denoted abjection. Rather, it has always signified a radical potentiality—life otherwise and the fight for it.8 As Katherine McKittrick reminds us, “if the source of Blackness is death and violence, the citation of Blackness—the scholarly stories we tell—calls for the repetition of death and violence”; however, we should “foster a commitment to acknowledging violence and undoing its persistent frame, rather than simply analytically reprising violence.” As I move through the positioning and repositioning of Blackness within Trinidad, I reflect on the contradictions of this racializing category—that is, its simultaneous ontology of capture and flight. From the vantage point of postcolonial Caribbean nation-states founded on anticolonial projects of Black sovereignty, we can see not only the resilience of anti-Blackness that conditions what it feels like to be Black but also the “iterations of black life that cannot be contained by black death.”9
Black = Slave = Criminal = Disposable
When Britain formally secured control of Trinidad via the Treaty of Amiens in 1801, it inherited a quickly expanding plantation economy, and British planters moved to the island to take control of the sugar industry. Upon their arrival, they further restricted the already limited rights that propertied free “colored” and free Black people had held under Spanish rule, then they imported large numbers of enslaved African people for labor. By 1802 the local population of enslaved Africans had more than doubled that of 1797.10 As the plantation economy grew and the racial and class composition became more complex, racialized processes of criminalization, policing, and punishment also became more involved on the island as ways to enforce the color line. The British governor, Thomas Picton, was the first official to pass an edict instituting street patrols at night who were to apprehend “disorderly people” and enslaved people moving about after nine o’clock without a pass.11 Picton was known for his despotic rule by which he often tortured and killed enslaved and free “colored” people. To make this violence permissible and prevent it from contradicting the imaginary of British Whiteness and governance as the pinnacle of humanity and civility, Picton rendered his victims as criminals and a threat to the plantation social order. For example, anxious about Black uprising in the face of the ongoing Haitian Revolution, Picton established a poisoning commission to handle the mysterious deaths of enslaved men and women on several plantations. This resulted in him charging twelve enslaved people with witchcraft, who were then hanged or burned alive.
The production of Black people as the ultimate captive body to which anything could be done through the commodification and the criminalization of Black being continued beyond Picton’s rule into the postemancipation period.12 Existing racial and class tensions during the era of formal enslavement only rose after the purported abolition of slavery in 1834 and the end of apprenticeship in 1838, as planters used a series of legal methods to continue to exploit Black labor and prevent the ways Black people sought to make a life in the face of social and physical death.13 In a set of laws passed in 1835, wandering, stick-playing, gambling in public places, and wrestling were outlawed. Peasant farming and rum shop hours were restricted, taxes were raised, and police were given the legal right to arrest prostitutes “behaving in a riotous and indecent manner,” which targeted Black women who sought to circumvent plantation labor through sex work.14 While the laws served to prevent Black colonial subjects’ independent subsistence and leisure, prosecution for violating these laws served as a legal avenue to perform violence against “emancipated” Black people. The plantocracy thus used the legal system to literally and metaphysically re-anchor Black people to the plantation.
After a series of failed labor experiments, the plantocracy began the importation of South Asian indentured workers in 1845 to further devalue the selling price of the labor of the formerly enslaved. In contradistinction to how the planters, other capitalists, and colonial officials framed the Black laborers as lazy, fickle, and morally lax to defend exploitative legislative, social, and labor practices, they presented South Asian laborers as docile and industrious contributors to the society as part of a planters’ campaign across the region to maintain this cheap labor stream to prop up the sugar economy. However, when in reality Indian laborers proved to not be docile, they were disciplined harshly.
The structure of indentureship was such that Indian immigrants had the legal status of worker rather than property. This meant that explicit physical violence by their employers was never de jure, though this type of violence frequently occurred in plantation geographies because it had legal precedence in and was thereby de facto sanctioned by the brutal order of plantation life organized to control enslaved Africans.15 Outside of floggings and other forms of direct physical violence, just as in their governance of Black people employers used the criminal legal system—court fines and jail sentences tied to indenture laws—to maintain control over indentured Indian people. As non-White peoples were propagandized and pitted against each other yet were violently controlled through technologies of the plantation in the interest of maintaining the coconstituted capitalist economy and colonial racial order, among the Afro- and Indo-Trinidadians the grounds were cultivated for both tensions and alliances.
Colonial working-class subjects fiercely fought against legal restrictions, poor working conditions, social neglect, and abuse at the turn of the century with a series of worker strikes and rioting that erupted in Trinidad and across the British Caribbean in the 1930s. This period spurred political mobilization to combat British governance, and Black labor political parties quickly consolidated their bases. It was the Slave Emancipation Act of 1835 that first promised humanity and freedom for the enslaved. When the predatory economic conditions, increased criminalization, and violence against formerly enslaved Black people revealed that the colonial structure would never entitle Black Trinidadians, especially those without property, to full personhood, independence and Black political leadership moved to hold that promise. Black Atlantic writers, thinkers, and politicians worked together to make Black rule possible during this era through political organizing and by attempting to refashion the onto-epistemological structuring of Blackness so that Black/Negro would no longer be a metonym for the dispossessed, the criminal, les damnés, the dysselected, but rather would signify a rational and self-determined collective fit to forge independent nations.16 However, national sovereignty, if only symbolic, proved easier to realize in the anglophone Caribbean than the radical reformulation of the meaning of Blackness and actual Black liberation.
Black = Criminal = Slave = Disposable
It is the summer of 2016, and I am sitting on the large breezy veranda of the home of a relative of my interlocutor, Jason. We are with a group of young men and in another community labeled as a crime hot spot by the state. One of the men, Brian, says to me, “If you going to write something you need to talk about what the police and them doing to us! We doh even study warring gangs no more. The enemy is the police. . . . They pull me aside one day and they say, ‘The ropelong and it cutting down short.’” He reads the confusion in my face. “They mean they will kill me. I say what is this! They supposed to protect and serve and look what they telling me.” His voice is heavy with anger. “They target we as poor Black people. They say we is criminals. We is nothing. The police, them have no respect. We ’fraid them. We here trying to make a living, and why we should live so in a country with money? You see we born into slavery.”
As Brian describes his encounters with police and the economic neglect of the state that necessitates his informal means of subsistence that the public condemns and the law prohibits, he shows how criminalization works to produce a particular devalued positioning of Blackness where slavery feels ever proximate. As Brian understands himself to be rendered criminally Black and poor, and therefore an object on which violence can be inflicted with no recourse, he does not experience the freedom from bondage and social mobility promised by emancipation and later by nation-state sovereignty. Instead, “time seems to stand still.”17 For Brian the fungibility and extraction of Black being are felt as both a past and a present condition as the police, in service of the postcolonial nation-state, enact forms of violence that reify his social positioning as a captive body to which anything can be done. How did independence fail to liberate Blackness from its conflation with criminality that substantiates the meaning of the Black as the thing that can be killed with impunity? We must look at how the nation-state project was actually configured in the mid-twentieth century and how that configuration conditioned the varied experiences of Blackness of Afro-descended people postindependence.
The battles around independence and national identity raged in the 1950s in Trinidad. By this time, the working-class political factions of the early twentieth century were largely overtaken by middle-class, “high-colored” politicians who used the established bases of the labor parties to advance their political careers. Many of these middle-strata politicians, such as Arthur Andrew Cipriani and Albert Gomes, loyal to their class position, sought a conservative reformist rather than radical agenda. White supremacists and colonial ideologies of respectability dictated the imaginary of the suitable political subject fit to rule, and the globally circulating anticommunist sentiment of the era, driven by the United States, worked to further suppress socialist-leaning politics of the time.18 The United States embarked on an aggressive campaign against radical and progressive leaders and directly supported nationalist leaders who expressed an explicit commitment to anticommunism and pro-Western ideals. In this way, the United States shaped the limits of nationalist politics in the region.19 Rather than dismantling racial and capitalist logics progressively, “nationalist ideology and aspirations produced a governing elite whose position of power came to be legitimized increasingly by its qualifications as ‘modernizers.’”20
The negation of working-class politics and socialist traditions by the petit bourgeois in Trinidad and Tobago in exchange for a Creole nationalism—in which Creole was conceived as a hybrid of European and African descent that was “not White but certainly not African”21—was solidified by Eric Williams and the rise of the PNM in the mid-1950s.22 The party critiqued the White managerial sect and drew heavily on cultural iconography associated with the Black lower classes (styles of speech, dress, and worship, for example) to promote the party as having a Black identity particularly in distinction to a rising Indo-Trinidadian collective identity. Yet at that time it fashioned itself to appeal to the educated, bureaucratic, multiracial professional elite.23 Under Williams’s leadership, the PNM took a strong anticommunist, procapitalist development, pro-West stance as dictated by the United States.24 The overarching promise of economic improvement under its leadership allowed the PNM to gain the aggregate support of the Black and “colored” professional class, the Trinidadian White business class, and increasingly the Black working class for a creole nationalism. PNM took the country into independence in 1962.
The mixed and contradictory alignments of the PNM—simultaneously condemning colonial domination while upholding racial, class, and gender logics that elevate proximity to Whiteness and masculinity—represented the larger political reality that would continue to plague the Anglo-Caribbean. As Deborah A. Thomas elucidates in Modern Blackness, although these nationalist projects drew on formerly spurned and criminalized African cultural heritage to consolidate a national identity, they failed to improve the structural position of most Black people.25 Furthermore, these nationalist projects valorized a singular mediated performance of Blackness in the national space and marginalized alternative forms of Blackness deemed as unrespectable, sexually transgressive, or divergent from “tradition.” As anticolonialism lost correspondence with anticapitalism, antipatriarchy, and anti–White supremacy, it became clear that Caribbean independence would not deliver on its promise of reconfiguring the racial position of Blackness so that Black would no longer signify criminality and proximity to death.26 Colonial constructions of Blackness as deviant, infantile, criminal, and irrationally violent were not dismantled by the “postcolonial” project. Instead, they were reconstructed so that the threatening nature of Blackness could be mediated by proximity to Whiteness, through coloration (racial mixture), the acquisition of material and social capital, geography, and comportment. This has meant that despite the normative occurrence of political leadership and widespread economic success among people who could be identified as Black and the continuous use of Afro-descended cultural production to craft Caribbean national identities, the figure of the Black continues to trouble Caribbean nation-states.
This failure of the independence project to reorder the limits of personhood and liberate Black being was made evident in the Black Power political uprisings and Caribbean leftist movements of the second half of the twentieth century.27 In Trinidad in the late 1960s and 1970s the Black Power movement railed against the leadership of Williams and the People’s National Movement party. As Gordon Rohlehr states, “The 1970 ‘revolution’ . . . signaled the presence of a gulf within Creole society that was as profound as the parallel gulf that separated Creole from what came to be termed the ‘alienated and marginalized’ Indo-Trinidadian.”28 Bolstered by the circulating Pan-Africanist ideology of the likes of Walter Rodney, Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael), and Charles V. Hamilton, people took to the streets. They protested the government’s continued use of racial ideologies and a political-economic model heavily reliant on foreign capital and management that was little more than a modification of the monoculture plantation system. By the late 1960s, oil production had dropped, public spending was down, and inflation and unemployment were up.29 This led many working-class Black people to feel that they had not advanced despite independence and fueled calls for structural change in conjunction with transnational Black Power movements of the time that sought to refashion the social positioning and meaning of Blackness. If Black/Negro up until then signified abjection, objectification, and an imposed status rooted in the plantation, in its rebirth Black was to signify a conscious transnational collective rooted in (the idea of) Africa and organized in a transnational fight against capitalism and the domination of Whiteness. The local mobilization did not, however, successfully overturn the social order. The mass protests were neutralized by police harassment of protesters and increased government patronage in working-class communities, methods that were sustained by state wealth from the oil boom that lasted from 1974 to 1978.30 Though a more radical arm of the movement, the National United Freedom Fighters (NUFF), emerged seeking the overthrow of the Williams government and the establishment of a Pan-Caribbean, socialist, and presumably antisexist nation through guerrilla warfare, it was decimated by the “Flying Squad,” a specialized police task force led by Randolph Burroughs.
A police war against the NUFF; the assassination of Walter Rodney in Guyana; the decline of the Black Panther Party after years of destabilization through the covert operations of the US government’s counterintelligence program COINTELPRO; the US invasion of Grenada and the dismantling of the New Jewel Movement; criminalization of radical forms of Blackness; and the assassination of pro-Black leaders in the 1970s and 1980s reconfirmed the Black as that which could be killed with impunity. One’s right to life as an Afro-descended person, then, would be contingent on one’s capacity to continuously perform appropriate colonial subjecthood configured around Whiteness. To move outside this script would be to appear “too Black,” criminal, a threat to the nation, disposable. Yet growing national death burdens, unemployment, and income inequality toward the end of the twentieth century would leave poor urban Black communities dependent on government welfare and informal economies for subsistence that in turn would often push them out of the script of appropriate colonial subjecthood that offers limited protection from disciplinary violence.
Black = Life beyond Death
On 25 July 2019, an elite unit of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service entered a neighboring community to Charles’s and fatally shot Akanni “Dole” Adams. The police claimed they went to arrest him for his alleged involvement in the robbery and murder of a group of fishermen and ended up in a shoot-out; residents assert that it was an assassination. Shortly after Adams’s murder, a video started circulating of one night at his wake when his friends and kin held a party with his body present. I was introduced to the video through Omar, who knew Adams through his community work. Appalled at the video of young Black people showering Adams with money and offering him alcohol “as if he were alive,” Omar condemned the event—“Necromancy!”—as communing with the dead. Omar’s reaction reflects the ways the colonial criminalization and governance of African or “nonnormative” mortuary culture still conditions what the public understands as appropriate.31 The intentional transgression of colonial orthodox spirituality and ritualistic practice in the video struck me, but what stays with me is the way Adams’s familial network refused the police force’s sovereign power over Adams by even in his apparent death giving him life. They made music, they danced, and they refused the state’s condemnation of Adams to nothingness. Despite the deathliness that particularly urban poor Black people continue to experience in the anglophone Caribbean and beyond, Black continues to denote a determination to live—an aliveness even when presumably dead—and within that living rests the potentiality of a radically different liberated world coming to fruition.
The persistence of anti-Black violence even in territories that once saw political independence and Black sovereignty on the horizon can be taken to bolster Afropessimists’ theory: “Blackness is coterminous with Slaveness. Blackness is social death.”32 However, grounded analyses of Black people’s quotidian experience (the type of knowing ethnography rooted in care attempts) always reveal that though death may endure, so does life. Against, through, and alongside systems that construct Black being only to seek to extinguish it, Black people have continued not only to survive but to live in ways that reject the status quo of liberal humanism and the overdeterminacy of Black negation. Or put differently, they continue to reject this world as it is and touch other ones. Rastafari, dancehall, calypso, Obeah, Kumina, Ifá, mas’, and jab are just a few examples of the ways Caribbean Black people in the margins, alongside other Black people in the African diaspora, have led wayward lives, engaged in beautiful experiments, and employed the spiritual and the erotic to transgress normative racial, class, gender, and sexual boundaries, invoke alternative realities, and circumvent death.33 These Black Caribbean practices not only refuse the hegemonic erasure of Black being but take Black subjectivity and aliveness as a given, not something to be denied or proven. Black life is that which refuses our current world order and limits to humanity because it is that which cannot be extinguished even though it is continuously pushed to its extreme edge. It is that which always evades capture through flight. Although to be Black is to be disproportionately exposed to premature death, to be Black is to live.
I would like to thank Deborah A. Thomas, Sara Rendell, Davarian L. Baldwin, and the Small Axe editors for their thoughtful feedback in the process of developing this essay. I would also like to thank Charles and Brian for sharing their stories and theories with me that I used to develop this essay. The ethnographic research this essay is based on was made possible by support from the Social Science Research Council’s International Research Fellowship and the Wenner-Gren Dissertation Fieldwork Grant.
All names used in the ethnographic vignettes throughout the text are pseudonyms. These stories were collected during eighteen months of dissertation fieldwork researching the production and mobilization of the racialized, gendered, and spatialized figure of the “violent criminal” in Trinidad.
See Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007).
Anthropologists Christen Smith and Deborah A. Thomas working on state violence in Brazil and Jamaica, respectively, have discussed this at length. See Christen A. Smith, Afro-Paradise: Blackness, Violence, and Performance in Brazil (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2016); and Deborah A. Thomas, Political Life in the Wake of the Plantation: Sovereignty, Witnessing, Repair (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2019).
Thomas, Political Life in the Wake of the Plantation, 42. Here Thomas uses John Jackson’s term “raciality” to unsettle the ontological assumptions the more normative term race carries. For more on raciality, see John L. Jackson, Real Black: Adventures in Racial Sincerity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).
Sara Ahmed, “Racialized Bodies,” in Mary Evans and Ellie Lee, eds., Real Bodies: A Sociological Introduction (New York: Palgrave, 2002), 46 (italics in original).
Sylvia Wynter, “Unsettling the Coloniality of Being/Power/Truth/Freedom: Towards the Human, after Man, Its Overrepresentation—An Argument,” CR 3, no. 3 (2003): 257–337.
Katherine McKittrick, “Plantation Futures,” Small Axe, no. 42 (November 2013): 1–15.
See discussions in Cedric J. Robinson, Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1983); Hortense J. Spillers, “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book,” Diacritics 17, no. 2 (1987): 65–81; C. L. R. James, The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution, 2nd ed., rev. (New York: Vintage, 1989); David Scott, “The Re-enchantment of Humanism: An Interview with Sylvia Wynter,” Small Axe, no. 8 (September 2000): 173–211.
Katherine McKittrick, “Mathematics Black Life,” The Black Scholar 44, no. 2 (2014): 18.
See David V. Trotman, Crime in Trinidad: Conflict and Control in a Plantation Society, 1838–1900 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1986).
See Carlton Robert Ottley, A Historical Account of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, 2nd ed. (Eastern Main Road, Trinidad: Syncreators, 1972).
See Jared Sexton, “The Vel of Slavery: Tracking the Figure of the Unsovereign,” Critical Sociology 42, nos. 4–5 (2016): 583–97.
See James Millette, “The Wage Problem in Trinidad and Tobago, 1838–1938,” in Bridget Brereton and Kevin A. Yelvington, eds., The Colonial Caribbean in Transition: Essays on Postemancipation Social and Cultural History (Mona: University of the West Indies Press, 1999), 55–76.
Ottley, A Historical Account, 22; see also Trotman, Crime in Trinidad.
See Bridget Brereton, “The Historical Background to the Culture of Violence in Trinidad and Tobago,” Caribbean Review of Gender Studies, no. 4 (2010): 1–16.
See, for example, C. L. R. James’s pamphlet The Case for West-Indian Self Government (London: Hogarth, 1933). Les damnés references Frantz Fanon’s 1961 Les damnés de la terre (The Wretched of the Earth); “the dysselected,” Sylvia Wynter’s “Unsettling the Coloniality.”
Deborah A. Thomas, “Time and the Otherwise: Plantations, Garrisons, and Being Human in the Caribbean,” Anthropological Theory 16, nos. 2–3 (2016): 182.
See Percy C. Hintzen, “Afro-Creole Nationalism as Elite Domination: The English-Speaking West Indies,” in Charles P. Henry, ed., Foreign Policy and the Black (Inter)National Interest (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2000), 185–215.
The US-driven anticommunism within the region propelled significant interventions in Guyana, Hispaniola, and elsewhere. For the Jamaican case, see Thomas, Political Life in the Wake of the Plantation.
Hintzen, “Afro-Creole Nationalism,” 199.
Don Robotham, review of Callaloo or Tossed Salad: East Indians and the Cultural Politics of Identity in Trinidad, by Viranjini Munasinghe, Transforming Anthropology 11, no. 2 (2003): 69.
See Rhoda Reddock, Women, Labour, and Politics in Trinidad and Tobago: History (London: Zed, 1994); Robert Carr, Black Nationalism in the New World: Reading the African American and West Indian Experience (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002).
See Percy C. Hintzen, “Trinidad and Tobago: Democracy, Nationalism, and the Construction of Racial Identity,” in Carlene J. Edie, ed., Democracy in the Caribbean: Myths and Realities (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1994), 59–74.
Initially the PNM came into conflict with the United States as Eric Williams tried to renegotiate a ninety-nine-year lease the United States had over bases in Chaguaramas, Trinidad. For more on this deal and the effects of the US presence in Trinidad, see Harvey R. Neptune, Caliban and the Yankees: Trinidad and the United States Occupation (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007). Williams sought the site on the northwestern peninsula for the future capital of the West Indian Federation. The United States read Williams’s stance as anti-American, and the British eventually intervened in the battle. Williams reached a compromise, exchanging US aid and British support for independence and the United States’ continued use of the base. C. L. R. James publicly criticized Williams’s handling of the Chaguaramas issue. Williams expelled the radical arm of the PNM party, including James, as a show of his anticommunist pro-Western alignment. For more on this, see Spencer Mawby, “‘Uncle Sam, We Want Back We Land’: Eric Williams and the Anglo-American Controversy over the Chaguaramas Base, 1957–1961,” Diplomatic History 36, no. 1 (2012): 119–45.
See Deborah A. Thomas, Modern Blackness: Nationalism, Globalization, and the Politics of Culture in Jamaica (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004), esp. chap. 2, 58–91.
While Black male anticolonial leaders centered their own disenfranchisement and produced heteropatriarchal imaginings of the new nation, Black Atlantic women revolutionaries who were their coconspirators (though underrecognized in the archive) launched vehement critiques against the machinations not only of Whiteness but of gender to ensure that Black sovereignty movements also sought to dismantle patriarchy. See Reddock, Women, Labour, and Politics; Carole Boyce Davies, Left of Karl Marx: The Political Life of Black Communist Claudia Jones (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007); and Claudia Jones, “An End to the Neglect of the Negro Woman!,” in Beverly Guy-Sheftall, ed., Words of Fire: An Anthology of African-American Feminist Thought (New York: New Press, 2018), 108–24.
For further discussion, see Kate Quinn, Black Power in the Caribbean (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2014).
Gordon Rohlehr, quoted in N. Fadeke Castor, Spiritual Citizenship: Transnational Pathways from Black Power to Ifá in Trinidad (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017), 36–37.
See Richard Auty and Alan Gelb, “Oil Windfalls in a Small Parliamentary Democracy: Their Impact on Trinidad and Tobago,” World Development 14, no. 9 (1986): 1161–75.
See Castor, Spiritual Citizenship; and Auty and Gelb, “Oil Windfalls.”
See Maarit Forde, “Governing Death in Trinidad and Tobago,” in Maarit Forde and Yanique Hume, eds., Passages and Afterworlds: Anthropological Perspectives on Death in the Caribbean (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2018), 176–98.
Frank B. Wilderson III, “Afro-Pessimism and the End of Redemption,” Humanities Futures: Franklin Humanities Institute, papers, 27 May 2017, humanitiesfutures.org/papers/afro-pessimism-end-redemption (italics in original).
Both Saidiya Hartman and Lyndon K. Gill, working in the United States and the Caribbean, respectively, challenge the over-representation of Black suffering and center the ways Black women and Black queer people more broadly have built community, fed their desires, and chosen to live otherwise in environments where others have only seen darkness and lack. It is important to note that though aspects of many of the practices I mentioned as examples have been co-opted by the higher social classes, at their core the practices are transgressive movements cultivated predominantly by disenfranchised Black people. See Saidiya Hartman, Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women, and Queer Radicals (New York: W. W. Norton, 2019); and Lyndon K. Gill, Erotic Islands: Art and Activism in the Queer Caribbean (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2018).