Thursday, December 13, 2007

torres-saillant, pt 2

Having finished Torres-Saillant, what I can say is that I do not feel that the book is a performance of what it says ought to be done. That is, it does not, to me, demonstrate any remarkable degree of ‘epistemological independence’ from Western paradigms. Perhaps the problem is that I don’t know what these books usually look like. But it seems to me that Torres-Saillant, in the name of a practical, useful history, ties Caribbean thought entirely into reaction to European happenings. The metaphor he wishes above all the resuscitate is the link between Caliban and the ‘Caribbean mind.’ Torres-Saillant himself is tied deeply into standard Western academic discourse—even insisting on things like epistemology and ontology is already, I should think, committing oneself in this regard. Throughout he talks about the material well-being of people, economic and political dependency, this kind of thing. Yet he’s deeply concerned about what, whose, words one uses. He doesn’t, as far as I can tell, really discuss how the words fit into the material world, which is always the problem, after all.

His analysis of the fate of Caribbean-specific discourse in the academy, its subsumption into postcolonial theory, is quite interesting. But I can help finding it impressionistic and partial—in a word, under-theorized. I don’t think it’s wrong, but I would love to see a more concrete sociological analysis.

This book as anyway had the effect of getting me to sit down and start to read A Thousand Plateaus. (Torres-Saillant uses variants of ‘rhizome,’ including the hideous ‘rhizomatically’ repeatedly, despite his attacks on Deleuzianism). Having worked at ‘contemporary theory’ for a semester, I must say that at least the first chapter of A Thousand Plateaus reads brilliantly. It makes Badiou seem like a dried-up old prune. I can see why so many blogs are names after deleuzianisms. Perhaps more on this later.

At any rate, An Intellectual History of the Caribbean, which ought to have been called a historiography, was frustrating and therefore stimulating. I’ll work backwards now and see what else is on offer.

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