Dreaming of a New World (Movement²)

Previously I outlined briefly the meaning of “new world knowledge” and its Caribbean roots in the New World Movement. Since the late 1960s, a number of new schools of theory, research, and anaylsis have developed and taken root, in a ways that furthered, added to, or otherwise amended the research and activist orientations of the New World Movement. Among these we can include world-systems analysis, practice theory, Third World feminism, some form or variant of what some call post-modernism, post-colonialism, and critiques of Orientalism and Eurocentrism.

Perhaps it is due to the plethora of voices, of shades and inflections of tendencies, of overlaps and sometimes very abstract dividing lines, of a massive literature, endless conferences, and so forth, that I personally have lost a sense of the ‘crispness’, the sharp orientations that produced statements in bold relief that for me characterized so much of what was produced by the New World Movement, where “nuance” would have sounded like compromise, where compromise sounded like a call to more of the same old collaboration. Even in my relatively short life experience, nuance and negotiation, as academic buzz words are still relatively new, definitely post-1980s in my case.

More importantly, I have lost sense of locally rooted scholarship with clearly defined political orientations. I wonder if there are scholars “out there”, especially those with some connection to the Caribbean, who have had the same dream of “reviving” the New World Movement, with the aim of reexamining and building upon some of its central tenets:

  • bringing the promises of independence and decolonization to life;
  • achieving the development of local economic self-sufficiency;
  • popular democracy;
  • cultural autochthony; and,
  • social transformation

With the exception of perhaps a few holdouts, such as Latin American Perspectives and The Monthly Review, I can’t think of when the last time was that I reencountered such goals being openly espoused in scholarly writing, despite the mass-mediated notions that universities are bastions of some kind of socialist radicalism.

Principles, such as those listed above in rather un-nuanced form, in my mind become pertinent and valuable once again, if one sees the world as not having outlived and overcome colonial legacies; a renewal of imperialist projects (i.e., the “Project for a New American Century”); the revitalization of old discourses of civilization vs. savagery; the undermining of national independence; the hegemonic grasp of a capitalist world market that can be seen at its worst in bleeding nations that became dependent on imported foods rather than putting their faith in unfashionable ideas (for free marketeers and technocrats) of food sovereignty; the spread of a Western consumer culture and the expanded projection of Western tastes and values, with consequences for the environment, political independence, and sustainable lifeways.

The Caribbean, for those who live there, were raised there, or have developed personal connections to the region, stands out as one of the regions on earth that is most vulnerable to all of these changes. It would be fitting if a new, New World Movement were to emerge for what is, arguably, a region of world historic importance. This idea was well expressed most recently by Junot Diaz, the Dominican winner of this year’s Pulitzer Prize for fiction, in an interview with Newsweek:

The Caribbean generally and the island of Hispaniola specifically is the linchpin, the pivot point where the old world swung into the new world. If you want the transformation point, if you want the ground zero where the Old World died and the New World began, it’s there. I mean, nothing is more quintessentially American-in the entire span of that description-than the Caribbean and more specifically the Dominican Republic. If you want to be incredibly grandiose, the entire world, we’re all the children of what happened in the Caribbean, whether we know it or not. I mean, the extermination of indigenous people, the conquest of the New World, slavery and in some ways the rise of this form of capitalism that we all live under. I mean really the modern world was given rise by what began in the Caribbean.

 If anyone “out there” is also dreaming of a New World Movement², let’s collaborate.