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Reviewed by:
  • Transatlantic Solidarities: Irish Nationalism and Caribbean Poetics
  • Kerry L. Johnson (bio)
Transatlantic Solidarities: Irish Nationalism and Caribbean Poetics. By Michael G. Malouf. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009. 280 pp. Cloth $55.00, paper $22.50.

In this compelling and original book, Michael Malouf explores the various ways three important Caribbean figures—Marcus Garvey, Claude McKay, [End Page 103] and Derek Walcott—express "solidarity" with Irish nationalism. Examining what he calls Garvey's "tactical politics of solidarity" with Eamon de Valera, McKay's "discursive solidarity" with George Bernard Shaw, and Walcott's "negative practice of solidarity" with James Joyce, Malouf carefully maps a strategy for cross-cultural affiliations and processes that bypasses or deemphasizes the metropolitan centers of empire and instead refocuses our attention on the ways colonial and postcolonial intellectuals and writers inspire and influence one another on the politics of race, nationhood, and citizenship. Malouf also raises important questions about area and literary studies and argues that by focusing on solidarity, or "active modes of affiliation" (10), literary scholars can begin to see "the agency of actors in shaping their participation in any particular literary formation" (10). This emphasis on solidarity is especially apposite at a time when questions about the determination of national literatures and their boundaries, as well as about literary movements such as modernism, postmodernism, and even postcolonialism, threaten to subsume a variety of writers from the margins of empire in what can often be a homogenizing gesture. Networks of solidarity allow writers to determine their own "multiple literary identities" (10), thus confounding the totalizing or exclusive categories of national literatures or global literary movements.

Malouf is extremely attentive to the nuances and differences of Irish and Caribbean nationalisms, avoiding the dangers of forced connections while carefully detailing the ways Caribbean thinkers and writers have utilized Irish nationalism for their own political movements and aesthetic innovations. One of his main points, for example, is that there can be "difference within unity," or solidarity, at the same time that the "homogenizing colonial discourse" of the imperial center can be "redeployed for other purposes" (22), such as forging an alternative politics to imperialism and colonialism. To lay the groundwork for this argument, however, he first traces important analogies that nineteenth-century imperial discourse drew between Ireland and Jamaica. In his first chapter, through readings of texts by Carlyle, Trollope, Mill, and Froude, Malouf investigates how comparisons between Ireland and Jamaica inform anxieties of empire over race, revolution, and land reform. Malouf points out how a writer such as Mill, on the one hand, makes comparisons and draws analogies at times between the two and how Carlyle, on the other, comments on the differences between Jamaican slavery and Irish poverty and famine, the former being, in his view, a horrific example of an institutionalized practice and the latter being simply a case of " misgovernance" (25). The essential claim that emerges from these comparisons is that these writers all posit a racial hierarchy wherein [End Page 104] the white Irish are distinguished from the black Jamaicans. They saw this distinction as being necessary if Ireland was to be a member of the Union and they appealed to it to keep significant racial difference across the Atlantic. Malouf 's examination of Froude is especially informative. Froude, Malouf suggests, reveals his anxieties about Ireland and home rule through his writings on the West Indies, where he feared Irish self-governance would become a model. Malouf goes on to examine the critical stance taken by the Young Ireland Movement regarding Jamaica's Morant Bay Rebellion of 1865, analogies made by the British and French press between Fenian activity in America and the Jamaican rebellion, and land reform debates in Ireland and Jamaica to show how parallels and connections were being drawn between the two colonies. All of the analogies are made in the name of British rule, yet Malouf argues that reading analogies between the two colonies according to Ricoeur's definition of the analogous as relational allows for "an enabling means of critique" from the colonial margins that focuses on "social and economic conditions" (41) rather than on consolidated and separate identities.

In subsequent chapters, Malouf looks specifically at...