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Issues of Governmentality.

Globalization has been the focus of social scientists in general. Economists, sociologists, historians, political scientists have investigated the material, social and political consequences of globalization for the Caribbean. The general scholarship about this topic has been wide and extensive. Yet, this literature still fails to connect the dots between its diverse aspects. An important merit of Fleeing the Plantation is to take the path of bringing together the key aspects of this phenomenon, as it pertains to the Caribbean region. Globalization has exposed the marginality of the Caribbean, like other developing regions. In fact, as the authors acknowledge, most Caribbean scholars have followed the plantation society approach to underscore how globalization brings nothing new to the Caribbean story of oppression and subordination to the global centers of power (p.74).

Crichlow and Northover recognize most of the literature that celebrates globalization, and take a critical approach (p.35). In this sense, they follow the path taken by other students of globalization as they point out globalization's inequities and taming expectations. However, this study goes beyond the examination of the inclusive and exclusionary aspects of globalization. It points out the way in which global capital "creates novel configurations" (p.37). They provide the basis for socio-cultural practices that demand new concepts to understand them.

A key contribution of this book is to take the Caribbean region's social and cultural practices as a point of departure, providing a fresh approach. And where others see just a reaffirmation of the same, the authors see the construction of a novel space. They see a "politics of accommodation" by Caribbean populations, which can be considered a way of recreating "home" and dealing with difference in transnational spaces (p.74). Yet, they do not deny the Caribbean region's historical path of forced openness to the global markets and metropolitan influences. What they try to do is to show how from the harsh realities of marginalization in global processes, Caribbean populations maneuver toward full citizenship (p.79). Crichlow and Northover suggest a dialectics of resistance and absorption that is complex and contradictory (p.95). Caribbean populations have designed strategies to deal with global developments in their quest for citizenship (p.105).

By placing a renewed emphasis on culture, the authors point out how Caribbean cultures in the globalization age have elements serving an emancipatory goal. In spite of the fact that plantation society has defined anti-democratic and oppressive practices, the authors see cultural relationships, identities and freedom aspirations generated by relationships within Caribbean populations. Creolization is the concept assigned to those sociocultural practices. And creolization provides the habitants of the region, paradoxically, with a ticket to flee the plantation.

Throughout their endeavors, Caribbean people define their spaces. The authors characterize them as "multispaced, multitemporal ... transcultural and multitraditional" (p.30). It becomes the center of "values, meanings, interpretations and practices" (p.33). These practices provide the feeling of "homing", of belonging that delineates the contours of a regional culture. They can be restrictive, no equivocation about that, but also contains the seeds of resistance that can lead to libertarian strategies for these populations. In this sense, Crichlow and Northover recognize that these traditions have been always part of the Caribbean, and globalization channels a new way in which they can re-emerge.

It is really interesting how Crichlow and Northover tackle the issue of governmentality. A traditional understanding would leave it at the sovereign nation-state level. Globalization complicates this issue, as aptly underlined by the authors. Designing a model of creolization called "politics of the cross", they deconstruct the exercise of power to make it a fluid torrent from top to bottom and vice versa. The authors go on to describe practices of resistance that shape, and are shaped, by the relationship with the imperial powers. More importantly, they take it beyond the nation-state level to contend that Caribbean spaces are redesigned by the "dynamic relationships" provided by globalization (p.70). As they point out in their discussion of Lucians' representation of the political, "[p]romises of national and individual redemption have been unmasked, reinterpreted, and represented ludicrously" ... the neoliberal globalization project has added fuel to the fire ... even as it excludes and as much resembles an imperial project ... it has provided many disenchanted Caribbeans with the spaces that they craved" (p.133).

This is an important statement, because it contains an essential element of the emancipation project viewed as feasible by the authors. Creolization as rearticulated by the Caribbean populations generates new spaces along global lines. In this sense, diasporic populations have a crucial role in transcending traditional understandings of national communities gathered around nation-states. As some globalization theorists would point out emphatically, they do not disarticulate nation-states but put them in a new mould. For Caribbeans, it means new conceptions of the national that bring novel views of political citizenship like double nationalities. Traveling back and forth from a metropolitan country, sending remittances to those left behind, recreating "home" within the new environment, are processes that have consequences in "remaking the national" or "reworking the nation". They do not exaggerate when they give salience to this transnational experience. It provides a crucial reference in contrast to the place they came from; a possibility of redefining "Caribbeanity" through new lenses (p.167).

In this context, "fleeing the plantation" becomes not an escape from a troubled and limited space but the possibility of restructuring the plantation experience. In fact, it is the design of an emancipation project that can be labeled as a "post-plantation" one along the lines of creolization. The global and the local are vectors that generate an alternative space, where the best tradition of resistance and democratic aspirations meet. Crichlow and Northover state the following about Caribbean nationals and their region: "the region, inequality notwithstanding, has ... a story of consuming other places in order, ironically, to reassert their presence through acts of creativity" (p.181). The authors invite their readers to imagine the post-plantation space as one composed by plural and sometimes unstable identities, but bringing new possibilities of "new traditions" (p.189). They would be negotiated by Caribbean subjects, both individual and collective, through their accommodation and resistance to the neoliberal globalization. In this regard, the Caribbean region would be a "modern transnational space" as discussed by other scholars and reaffirmed by the authors.

Crichlow and Northover contend that concepts and ideas long held about the Caribbean region need to be reevaluated. This is a key contribution made with the book. However, the authors also owe their readers a possible vision of a post-plantation Caribbean region. In which way could the collective identity of such a diverse region go? Would it be defined along the lines of anti-imperialist thinkers, who were emphatic in making the contraposition between the external metropolitan centers and the internal nation-states? Would it follow the metropolitan designs that juxtapose political, social and cultural divisions for their administrative convenience? Or will it be a synthesis of these two visions, providing another space of negotiation to keep open the "Creole line of escape" (p.219)? Future research along these lines may explain how this vision of creolization may subvert Manichean traditional understandings of Caribbean regional identity options in this globalization era.

Angel L. Viera-Tirado

Associate Professor

Department of Social Sciences

University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez
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Author:Viera-Tirado, Angel L.
Publication:Social and Economic Studies
Date:Dec 1, 2012
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