Globalectics Beyond Postcoloniality
Carole Boyce Davies
“Nation language” as defined by Kamau Brathwaite,[iv] was a similar attempt by the Caribbean historian and writer to account for the specificities of Caribbean language forms as spoken and understood by the various local populations. He defines it as not “broken English” but syntactically, lexically and vocabularly combinations and reinterpretations of a variety of languages (African, European, native). Thus, in Jamaican poet and folklorist Louise Bennett’s[v] words, Jamaican language, as was English before it, also “derived” from earlier forms. One can see Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s “decolonizing ” discourse at work here as these writers and thinkers from across the colonial world end up in conversation with each other as they attempt to advance at the public level some of the contradictions of working with inherited languages and thereby creating decolonial space.
This attempt to find decolonial space similarly defined the new academic incarnation of African Diaspora Studies which began again in the late 1990’s. The version that this writer worked with saw this field as challenging the general Eurocentric bases of knowledge and so titled the collection that came out of a conference on this subject, Decolonizing the Academy. African Diaspora Studies.[vi] In the introductory essay written I asserted that the academy “is a site for the production and re-production of a variety of discourses which keep in place certain colonial structures which have as their intent the maintenance of Euro-American hegemonies at the level of thinking and therefore in the larger material world” (ix). But the academy can also be “liberatory space, a site of transformation and knowledge production” (ix). Further, if we are able to accept a range of ideas from a variety of locations we can continue the practice of the advancement of the epistemological assumptions of institutions of higher learning.
One of the most poignant manifestations of this ongoing challenge to Western epistemologies has been the poetry following Kamau Brathwaite’s practical examples of applying the structures of nation language in his trilogy The Arrivants (1967) for Kamau had provided both the theoretical language and the poetic versions of this approach and thereby influenced a number of succeeding writers. Nourbese Philip’s poem “Discourse on the Logic of Language” with its extensive argument on language acquisition and use, with its famous conclusion on mother tongue, and the line, “English is a foreign anguish” is a good example.[vii] But Nourbese too had written about language in her “The Absence of Writing or How I Almost Became a Spy” [viii] to account for the ways in which what she calls the i-mage was separated from the sense-making apparata that one has from one’s own culture and thus the images one creates and/or provides meaning to on an ongoing basis. Thus “Once the i-mage making power of the African had been removed or damaged by denial of language and speech, the African was then forced back upon the raw experience without the linguistic resources to integrate and eventually transcend it” (15)….The only way the African artist could be in this world, this is the New World, was to give voice to this split i-mage of voiced silence” (16). The rest of the essay offers an important reasoned Caribbean counterpoint to the Ngugi’s discourse on decolonizing language.
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[iv] Kamau Brathwaite, History of the Voice. The Development of Nation Language in Anglophone Caribbean Poetry (London, New Beacon, 1979).
[v] Denise deCaires Narain, “Wordy, Worldly Women Poets. Louise Bennett, Lorna Goodison and Olive Senior,” The Routledge Companion to Anglophone Caribbean Literature. Eds. Michael A. Bucknor and Alison Donnell (Abingdon& New York: Routledge, 2011), 199-208.
[vi] Eds. Carole Boyce Davies et al, Trenton, New Jersey: Africa world Press, 2003).
[vii] Marlene Nourbese Philip, She Tries Her Tongue. Her Silence Softly Breaks (Charlottetown, Ragweed Press, 1989), 55-59.
[viii] Carole Boyce Davies and Elaine Fido, eds. Out of the Kumbla. Caribbean Women and Literature (Africa World Press, 1990), also available in She Tries Her Tongue, 10-25.
Essays in this Forum
Break out of the Prison House of Hierarchy!
by Mukoma Wa Ngugi
A Globalectical Imagination
by Ngugi wa Thiong'o
World Literature and the Postcolonial: Ngugi's Globalectics and Glissant's Poetics
by Duncan McEachern Yoon
“You Are the Prisoner, the Discoverer, the Founder, the Liberator”: Contextualizing Decolonial Paths of Afro-Hispanic Literature in Latin America, Equatorial Guinea and Spain
by Elisa Rizo
Globalectics Beyond Postcoloniality
by Carole Boyce Davies