One side belongs to those who believe colonialism is over. They are, for example, represented by Dutch government officials on European soil who refer to the Dutch Caribbean as autonomous states and public entities (formerly, special municipalities). There is no talk of the colonial in present context within this rhetoric. I also include here historically infused scholarly works and academic courses on the Dutch Caribbean. I remember a statement by one of my course lectures that slavery and colonialism have ended and the discussion about its current effects should no longer be deemed sufficient. At that time, I lacked the vocabulary to confidently critique it, partially as it left me indignant for weeks to come.
The other side of this discourse believes that colonialism is as present as it has ever been, it simply changed form. To them, the slogans from the anti-colonial movements of the 1960’s are perfectly copy-pastable. They appear to have a specific interpretation of the meaning of what counts as decolonial. These interpretations are ofcourse varied, but tend to have a reading of Marxism that does not include the humanist Marxism of Trinidadian C.L.R James. The attentive listener may note that the speakers on this side will emphasize modernity thinking, linear thought and showcase elitist dynamics.
As a lecturer myself, I currently have the task to help my students navigate the debates among and between these sides, and help them make sense of it. How do I explain these politically infused entanglements that have informed their very understanding of society, international relations, economics and in many ways, their understanding of self? Perhaps it is to see(k) another question, elsewhere. Perhaps, it is continue to build on James Baldwin in this exploration and suggest that the question of colonialism hides the graver questions that continue to legitimize ‘difference thinking’, or what Glissant coined thought of the Other. As long as the discussion circles around estimating what is true, it is not accepting the lack of truth in that which is already always there. It then lacks to pave the way for a question of what may be. I see this lacking as a threat to the quality of the world and a denial of the pragmatic optimism implicit in every living being. My wish for this new year is therefore that we may find newness in the exploration of our thoughts about our selves, all others and we way we relate.
__ Baldwin, J. (1962). The creative process. In: Creative America. Ridge Press.
__ Derrida, J. (2012). Specters of Marx: The state of the debt, the work of
mourning and the new international. Routledge.
__Glissant, É. (1997). Poetics of relation. University of Michigan Press.
__ James, C. L. R. (1980). Notes on Dialectics: Hegel, Marx, Lenin. London: Allison & Busby.
A version of this post was previously featured in the january 2019 issue of the Caribbean Studies Association Newsletter.