As many of you here know, some years ago I published a paper which discussed the various meanings and definitions that are attached to the term ‘Caribbean’. In these reflections, I want to explore how far the on-going project of constructing the Caribbean may usefully be looked at through the optic of the opposing forces of empire and resistance.
I note with interest that although this Conference is titled “Beyond Caricom”, the Caribbean that lies beyond has been the subject of somewhat deliberate ambiguity; leaving participants free to give their own interpretation. It is good to see that a significant number of non-English speaking scholars – several of them are friends of long standing -- have answered the call. I am heartened by this, and the statements of the Vice Chancellor and others, showing commitment to reaching out to the other language zones of the region.
There is a sense in which the divisions of language are part of a larger picture that we could call the ‘legacy of empire’ in our region; and it is a useful point of departure. In these reflections, I want to explore how far the on-going project of constructing the Caribbean may usefully be looked at through the optic of the opposing forces of empire and resistance. After a brief tour of the imperial project I will invite you to consider with me some of the principal resistance projects—by which I mean regional projects of indigenous construction—which have impacted our ideas of region and their political and institutional expressions.
The projects I look at are Pan-Africanism, West Indian nationalism -regional and insular-; revolutionary Pan-Caribbeanism; Plantation Pan-Caribbeanism, and Greater Caribbean. (Some of these are invented labels). I will suggest that these different projects have been conditioned by factors such of language and colonial heritage, ethnicity and referential identity, class and ideology, and national state interest.