Caribbean History

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Caribbean History

I. A Note on Historical Methodology:

The conventional method of studying history consists of a chronological process. For example, the history of the ‘New World,’ or in particular the history of the Caribbean seems to originate in 1492, the year Columbus mistakenly landed upon Hispanola. Not long after the discovery of the New World, the age of European colonialism in the Americas emerges. This condensed version of the first several decades of European influence in the New World are the common historical accounts rendered about early Caribbean history. How effective and accurate is this seemingly Eurocentric rendition of Caribbean History?

There may not be one specific right or wrong answer to this inquiry. However, there are alternative methods of unveiling or unmasking a history lesson by simply starting in media res (in the middle of things) or even in the present times. This methodology of studying history is indeed a retracting and unmasking process in which society and culture convey the history of a particular country or region as the Caribbean. In order to fully grasp the intricacies and complexities of Caribbean one must scrutinize and in a sense deconstruct the social and cultural fibers of the Caribbean.

The remnants of colonialism in the Caribbean have created a history manifested in the imagery of society and culture. History in the Caribbean can be unveiled in skin tones and rumbas. The history of the Caribbean lives in architecture as well as behind church doors. Thus, in order to learn about the Caribbean, one must ‘unlearn’ or deviate from the Eurocentric rendition of history in the Caribbean. In the Caribbean, the present (culture and society) tells many truths about the past.

II. Methodology in Practice:

Michelle Cliff’s novel Abeng and her essay "If I Could Write this in Fire" personify the historical process in the Caribbean. Cliff’s works portray the images of the political, social, cultural, and economic issues discussed by Sidney Mintz and Antonio Benitez-Rojo. Cliff’s literary works depict the contemporary social and cultural constructs of Jamaican society. In this process of interpretation and devolution of Michelle Cliff’s portraits of Jamaican society the remnants of colonialism truly become apparent. Consequently, Cliff’s desire to make sense of the current deplorable conditions of racial inequality has prompted her to ‘look back’ and as she states in her essay:

To try and locate the vanishing point: where lines of perspective converge and disappear. Lines of color and class.

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