Small Axe 10.1 (2006) 218-229
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After the Fact:
A Response to My Critics
I am honored that the editors of Small Axe invited a discussion of my book The Caribbean Postcolonial, and I thank Timothy Chin, Marc Brudzinski, and Eleni Coundouriotis for the depth and generosity of their engagement with it. They have illuminated my text in ways that escaped me, and have written eloquently about their sense of the strengths of the book. I will focus my response here on areas of disagreement, and am grateful for the chance to revisit my claims and reconsider my choices.
Common to all three of my critics is some version of a desire for greater attention in The Caribbean Postcolonial to globalization and transnationalism. In Chin's reading, this takes the form of urging a fuller engagement with Caribbean migration. Thus, he poses the productive question: "How would a more substantial engagement with questions of diaspora and migration (both intra- and extra-Caribbean) affect Puri's analysis of Caribbean hybridities in The Caribbean Postcolonial?" (194), and suggests that such engagement "might also allow other potential hybridities to come into view" (194). Building on numerous recent critiques of Area Studies, Chin also suggests that my Area Studies model might be part of the problem rather than the solution. In his opinion, the Caribbean appears in my book as an "impermeable" area. In contrast, Brudzinski values my practice of and solidarity with a Caribbean regionalism, but wishes for a fuller theorization of the category, raising the question: "Does the category of the 'Caribbean' . . . limit the potential of transnational inquiry, . . . or does it . . . prompt us to distinguish between different types of transnationalism?" (216). Coundouriotis wishes for more cross-linguistic intertextual readings of novels, such as Erna Brodber's Myal against Maryse Condé's La Traversée de la mangrove—to counter what she calls a "narrowing of focus" towards the anglophone Caribbean in the last two chapters of the book. [End Page 218]
These criticisms are interesting to me in themselves, in the differences of emphasis among them, and in their contrast to the only other review of The Caribbean Postcolonial I have read, which notes approvingly that my work "acknowledg[es] the limitations of nationalist movements rooted in modernist master narratives and streamlined constructions of 'the people' or 'the folk' as a political subject," and understands my formulation to be that "postcolonialism's failure has been its inability to develop a notion of politics beyond nation-state sovereignty."1 The range of responses to The Caribbean Postcolonial makes an illuminating comment not only on live debates on the status of the nation within postcolonial and Caribbean studies, but also on the gaps between authorial intention and reader reception. My response below will touch upon both.
In response to Chin, Brudzinski, and Coundouriotis, let me say first that nearly 20 percent of my book (the introduction and first chapter; notes excluded) is explicitly and centrally concerned with our current moment of globalization and migration/diaspora theory, drawing on economic data and on the literary-theoretical work of Ramón Grosfoguel and Frances Negrón-Muntaner, Paul Gilroy, Gloria Anzaldúa, and Homi Bhabha.2 I would not consider that negligible attention. Although for Chin my treatment of mestizaje, douglarization, and creolization, which occupy much of the rest of the book, are only perfunctorily about globalization, for me these chapters are fundamentally about globalization and about inter-diasporic discourse. Indeed, they were an integral part of trying to think about an earlier phase of globalization than our own. Hence, for example, my interest in the reconfigurations of the word "dougla" (a term that is used in Trinidad to refer to the mixed descendants of Afro- and Indo-Caribbean), as it traveled from pre-colonial India to present-day Trinidad. Hence also my analysis of the "Caribbeanization" of Hosay, its successive transformations from Shia to Pan-Muslim, its influences by Hinduism in India, its relationship to different national theatrical traditions, its creolization in Trinidad and Guyana, its role in racialized global labor politics, and...