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ARIELS ETHOS
ON THE MORAL ECONOMY OF CARIBBEAN EXPERIENCE
Holger Henke

Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever,
by any religion, by any sect. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned,
unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized;
nor should any organization be formed to lead or to coerce people
along any particular path.
Jiddu Krishnamurti

ew intellectuals and organic philosophers in the Caribbean


will doubt that the region is in a severe moral and ethical crisis at this
historical juncture. And yet, making this assertion presupposes the
existence of an indigenous moral and ethical matrix against which
such a judgment can be made. More often than not, however, precisely this existence is concealed from the discourse about society
and moral development in the region. The following essay pursues
perhaps too ambitiouslya number of simultaneous objects. First, it
intends to highlight some of the elements of what could perhaps be
called the Caribbean ethic/ethos. In this effort, the initial guiding
questions are: What are the elements that circumscribe Caribbean
thought? What are the motives for action? And what are the ethics
of the people inhabiting the Caribbean? Later, I will read this (reconstructed) ethos/ethic against Shakespeares play The Tempest, in particular against the Wgures of Ariel and (to a lesser extent) Trinculo.
Both texts, the Caribbean ethos and the Shakespearean Wgures,
may (and I choose this word carefully, as I am setting out to explore
subtle connections and discontinuities) put each other into perspective, withdraw each others legitimacy or basic assumptions, or reinforce common premises. Second, I will argue for a view of Ariel that
differs somewhat from the predominant interpretation by postcolonial
Cultural Critique 56Winter 2004Copyright 2004 Regents of the University of Minnesota

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writers. This view will direct the way in which the Shakespearean
Wgures are deployed as a lens through which I choose to consider
issues pertaining to the moral economy of the Caribbean. Third, the
essay is an attempt to utilize differentsometimes deliberately disjointedregisters of writing with which to map the moral landscape
of Caribbean existence. Since Caribbean existence is circumscribed
by a multiplicity of different discourses, themes, and cultural traditionsrationalist-positivist, mythopoetic, Afrocentric, Marxist, and
so on (see, e.g., Trouillot 2002)rather than to settle for any one of
them, I consider it to be methodologically more appropriate to move
back and forth between the epistemological registers implied in these
discourses.
The connection between ethos and ethics throughout this essay is
not arbitrary, but reXects the need to consider Caribbean people as
moral persons.1 This is to say that their actions and parameters of
thought should be regarded as a collective attempt of structuring and
making sense of the world in a culturally speciWc way that facilitates
the emergence of a certain measure of order and predictability.
Unlike the moral agent of Kantian and utilitarian theories, the Caribbean person should be regarded as a culturally embedded individual
and not an abstract ghost acting in a cultural vacuum (Hinman
n.d., 1). I intend to advance themes that, for a long time, have lingered in the discussions about Caribbean culture and identity but
in the past have been centered on demonstrating the commonalities
between African or Asian cultures and those of the Caribbean. While
I Wrmly believe that these were utterly necessary in light of the required reconstruction of self- and peoplehood and the budding processes of nation building, I am equally convinced that we have
reached a point where it is appropriate to expand the parameters of
these debates in order to arrive at a deWnition of the Caribbean persona sui generis, i.e., without constructing parallel universes. This
attempt is neither denying the persistent validity of cultural heritage
nor does it intend at the other extreme to promote a genetic argument.2 However, it is my persuasion that the history, ontological conditions, epistemologies, and cosmologies of Caribbean peoples, in
their process of mutual attraction, rejection, and mixing, have created
a unique intellectual space that has come to inform their habitual
ways of living and moral motivation.

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ARIELS ETHOS

When I speak of philosophical thought, I would therefore like


to emphasize that I primarily refer to the everyday being of the Caribbean subaltern, as opposed to the more educated and literalscriptural discourses of outstanding Caribbean thinkers such as Aim
Csaire, Frantz Fanon, C. L. R. James, and many others.3 As Paget
Henry (2000, 2) pointed out recently, much of what can be regarded
as philosophical statements in the Caribbean context are discursive
practices embedded in nonphilosophical discourses or texts. While,
like all intellectual work, this is work in progress, I was especially
encouraged by Henrys recent fascinating and important book Calibans Reason and his and Wilson Harriss plea for a mythopoetic logic
and the need for Caribbean writers to take greater account of this
logic, or as Henry calls them, gateways (2000, 106, 270). Although I
do not share with Harris the belief in the relative ontological irrelevance of everyday life, I believe that the call for mythopoetic discourses is well placed when we consider the moral-ethical contours
of what I call Caribbean existence. My exploration of the everyday
wells of Caribbean thought, therefore, stands somewhat in contrast to
Henrys groundbreaking book, which focuses on the literary, high
tradition of Caribbean thought. Thus, I do not regard everyday discourses merely as context, but rather as the most profound space of
enacting what it means to be a Caribbean person.
Although I do not consider myself a deconstructionist, I believe that this method has its merits, considering that one important
feature of Caribbean existence is the persistent presence of difference and alterity, which give its discourse(s) an epistemological
gravity that more often than not collapses them into each other (see,
e.g., Bentez-Rojo 1996, 129; Henke 1997, 43). We will return to this
aspect later, but sufWce it to mention here that the intense competition
between different value systems in the region tends to simultaneously validate and devalue all of them. The nature of Caribbean
philosophical thought actually appears to demand that we approach
it as a complex of ideas challenging us persistently to pursueto
borrow Gayatri Spivaks wordsa critique of what one cannot
not want (Landry and MacLean 1996, 28). I will attempt to integrate
this approach into the very language of thought about the elements
of Caribbean moral existence, which may result in a play with words
and, indeed, in seemingly irrational or poetic conclusions about its

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discursive space and limits. Using pun, innuendo, double-edged


irony, and so on, are autochthonous modes of Caribbean everyday
discourse. By appropriating them as tools in the more highfalutin
rationalist and positivistic lingua of academic discourse, we hope to
contribute to a validation of Caribbean thought that will demonstrate
one possible way to more appropriately represent the people of the
region.4 In that, it entails an emancipation of those Caribbean intellectual traditions that have in the past often stood outside of the societal discourse.5 It may then, indeed, become what Csaire in his 1944
essay Poetry and Cognition called poetic knowledgethat is, knowledge in which man spatters the object with all of his mobilized
riches (quoted in Kelley 2000, 18).6
Thus, Ariel is Xying again. As a delimiting force acting in a dense
web of polycultural meanings and moral and intellectual codes, she
or he has proven to represent the elements of Xuidity and centrifugality in Caribbean existence. Ariel as a metatheoretical symbol for an
ongoing discourse about the nature of Caribbean existence shall in
the second half of this essay be the central Wgure through which I attempt to read some of the characterizations developed in the Wrst half.

THE CARIBBEAN AS AN ANTIESSENTIALIST SPACE


When conceptualizing and writing about the Caribbean, one has to
be acutely aware that the complex and violent history of the region,
as well as the diverse peoples that have settled and labored in it,
make it extremely difWcult to arrive at unanimous and universally
valid conclusions and concepts about it. In this sense, the region is
indeed a land in which the truth is wandering off the usual trodden
paths and, to use Krishnamurtis statement in the epigraph, limitless.
However, not only the great diversity of cultures and their modes of
thinking and discourse contribute to this opaqueness, but also the
fact that, in some of the original African, Indian, and Chinese cultures
themselves, binary oppositions and logocentric discourse, Western
notions of progress, the juxtaposition of wo/man and nature, and the
terminality of historyto mention only a few of the hegemonic modes
of thought in the region during the past four or Wve centuriesdo
not constitute the traditional epistemology.

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The nature of Caribbean thought is therefore profoundly antiessentialist. This is to say that it tends to hold the view that nature
and objects are not necessarily what they seem, that they do not
readily reveal their true nature (essence), or at least that they may
represent different essences at different times. It tends to Xatly reject monadic constructions that view reality as indivisible. Caribbean
everyday discourse is engaged in an extensive use of multiple logics,
code-switching, and artistic and satiric solution of possibly not resoluble contradictions and paradoxes. To the extent that these shifts
and digressions are at the center of Caribbean existence, it is opposed
to the notion of an essence itself. Let us consider, for example,
Jamaican music icon Lee Scratch Perrys simultaneously idiosyncratic and clarifyingand, in my mind, quintessentially Caribbean
self-description:
Im an artist, a musician, a magician, a writer, a singer; Im everything.
My name is Lee from the African jungle, originally from West Africa.
Im a man from somewhere else, but my origin is from Africa, straight
to Jamaica through reincarnation; reborn in Jamaica. . . . I have been
programmed; many people who born again must come back to learn a
lesson. . . . [H]ave you heard of ET? I am ET, savvy? Savvy? (quoted in
Katz 2000, 1)

This cunning voice from a polyvalent, heteroclitic, hyperhybrid, Chagallian Caribbean cosmological and epistemological heterotopia7
gives a good impression of the rhizomaticas Glissant might put
itdiscourse strategies in these parts.
Any conceptualization of Caribbean thought will consequently
have to take note of this antiessentialism and make it its fundamental
basis. However, the use of terms and concepts of ethics, essentialism
versus antiessentialism, and so on, may in itself very well already be
a (Western) imposition on this space that inherently rejects bipolar
modes of thought, while enabling polyvalent patterns of thought and
enacting multipolar patterns of action.8
Due to its history the region has a number of value systems operating at various levels of societal discourse.9 Historically, and in many
cases still today, the colonial values (i.e., the colonists aesthetics,
their language, their beauty ideals, and so on) have constituted the
privileged discourse and deWned who is in and who is outside

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society. This situation has, for example, created a competing system


of social respectability clashing with a newer system of reputation (Wilson 1973). Increasingly, the colonial and neocolonial discourse has been pushed back, and a revalorization of primarily
African values has come to deWne both social reputation and, to a
lesser extent, respectability. As Rohlehr has put it in another context, Caribbean self-perception hovers between the alternatives of
adamic renewal or return, and existentialist sense of void (1980, 14).
Within this mix, we also Wnd social and philosophical traditions from
India and China.

BRIDGING THE CHASM: THE ROLE OF HUMOR


IN CARIBBEAN DISCOURSE
Whatever the particular mixture of these elements may be, it is
apparent that the earlier described hybridity had one general consequence, which is common to most of Caribbean everyday life. I am
referring to the important function of humor (by innuendo) as a
mechanism to straddle competing value systems. Humor is to Caribbean everyday discourse what music is for Caribbean entertainment.10 Ultimately, neither of the latter can do without the former.
The humor that is typical for the Caribbean is, however, not simply
an empty and vain vessel of communication. Quite to the contrary,
more often than not it embodies important lessons and truths. As a
source of folk wisdom and tradition it does not establish a set of
privileged and hegemonic moral rules, which may be enforced on
any possible dissenters, but it strivesand usually succeedsto
demonstrate its truth by enabling the listener or reader to transcend his or her own frame of reference and values. It does not establish yet another center of discourse, but collapses the existing centers
(Europe, Africa, India, and China) into each other in a way that
allows all to recognize their humanity andat the same timeto see
themselves from the outside. It makes the normal self strange to
itself, or rather it reminds the Caribbean self of its multiple identity
sources and thus fundamentally engenders discursive empathy. In
the process of laughing, the listener engages in a sort of secular transcendental experience from which he or she emerges with a higher

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consciousness of him- or herself. It is the Caribbean subalterns way


to speak and to speak back to the colonialists (and all that followed
them). Humor is the Caribbeans unobtrusive strategy to establish a
synthesis where only the opposition of thesis and antithesis seems to
be imaginable.11
Unlike for other humorous situations, humor in Caribbean
everyday discourse is a constant possibility. In his theory of humor
Veatch (1998) explained that for humor to function it requires three
components: (1) an element of normality (N), (2) the perception of a
subjective moral violation in a situation (V), and (3) both V and N
need to occur simultaneously. If V and N are understood as competing value systems, then it becomes immediately understandable that,
unlike in the theory, humor in the Caribbean is not deliberately constructed. Caribbean everyday discourse does not require the situational spark of a constructed moral violation of what is perceived
as normality in order to collapse or dissolve both elements in a
humorous way. By way of the constant presence, or at least potential
presence, of clashing value systems, the transcendent moment offers
itself to the witty comment at any given time. While the outside
observer often attributes this lifestyle to the easygoing nature of
Caribbean people, for the Caribbean psyche the humorous transgression means a devaluation of the moral absolutes contained in each
value system. In other words, what appears as carefree attitude in
reality carries much more fundamental connotations with it. It is a
relief from a persistently psychological tension that pervades many
Caribbean everyday situations and much of its discourse.
This situation has clear moral implications. Thus, as Veatch
(1998) points out, most individuals have a subjective moral order
vested in N. To the extent that this moral order is challenged, questioned, or humorously violated by V, Ns validity is slightly reduced
or at least temporarily compromised. By invoking and humorously
straddling this ambivalence, however, humor becomes a bridge over
which the individual can traverse the chasm that opens between competing moral systems. Thus, while Fanon (1986, 183) speaks about
a manicheism delirium, and Csaire laments about societies in
whom fear has been cunningly instilled, who have been taught to
have an inferiority complex, to tremble, kneel, despair, and behave
like Xunkeys (2000, 43), we often see the Antillean laughingly shrug

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off the depth of the ontological abyssthe Valley of Non-beingshe


or he is standing on top of, while wondering which side to turn to,
and whether to turn at all.
Now, this role of humor is particularly pervasive in those Caribbean countries that have strong competing value systems (e.g., in
Jamaica, Trinidad, or Guyana), while in more homogeneous Caribbean societies the prevailing traditional African concepts (e.g., in
Haiti) and creolizations thereof tend to reduce the moral tensions that
exist between such concepts by virtue of their ability to be sources of
order and communal peace. These concepts are both of and for the
community, which clearly points to their African origins (see Mbiti
1999, 200). Cultural production (including everyday discourse) in
these societies often tends to de-emphasize the humorous element
observed in the more diverse Caribbean societies, and focuses more
on spiritual, religious, and quasi-religious cultural grammar and
iconography.
One Weld in which the insurgent and transcendental power of
humor in the Caribbean has been mastered is the art of the kaiso.
Among many appropriate lyrics, we may take a closer look at the
Trinidadian calypsonian Mighty Sparrows song Obeah Wedding,
which humorously contrasts two fundamentally different approaches
at securing love.12 While the person, a woman named Melda, is trying
to attain Sparrows love through the use of an Obeah spell (by virtue
of Obeahs Akan and Igbo roots, representing the African value
system), Sparrow points out to her that she does not fulWll more conventional criteria (presumably representing the European value system, as well as more universal preconditions to physical attraction).
In the song Sparrow objects to her use of incense, garlic, and lard to
bewitch him, and to her lack of personal hygiene. His advice to her
is that if she will brush her teeth better and bathe herself regularly
with soap, she will likely Wnd a hubby without having to resort to
love spells and incense-burning rituals.
Interestingly, while Sparrow appears prima facie to reject the
African approach (i.e., the Obeah witchcraft), he does not carry
this criticism all the way through the song. Thus, his suggestions for
a more successful approach might lead a cunumunu to become
Meldas lover.13 The possible West African root of the term is clearly

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an expression pointing to the creole nature of the society where the


obeah wedding is supposed to occur. By retaining this sympathy for
Africanness, the European value system is denied absolute hegemony.
Ultimately, the informed listener is laughing about the way the simultaneous presence and absence of both value systems converges in this
particular courtship situation. Both end up putting each other in perspective and coexist rather than compete with each other. Humor
transcends the moral divisions of everyday discourse.
Ambivalences in Caribbean discourse are embedded in language
itself, a language that in many instances has been pieced together on
the basis of some European language, but which carries signiWcant
remnants of African, Indian, and other languages. The most prevalent forms of humor in Caribbean discourse therefore are pun and
innuendo, which are both based on linguistic ambiguity. Here humor
is both embodied in and serves as the instrument for the transcendence of ambiguity and multiple codings.

TIME, COMMUNITY, COUNTERTIME


A deep understanding of Caribbean existence cannot escape the fact
that time is conceived differently in the region than in the industrialized West. The well-known soon come and any time is Trinidad
time have actually become distinct selling features for travel agencies offering Caribbean vacations to bag-eyed Americans, Britons, or
Germans. As will be demonstrated later (soon come), this seemingly trivial observation also has moral implications. Again, it is
important to emphasize that there are various concepts of time competing with each other, and the various ways in which time is conceived or produced depend on the particular social and economic
circumstances of an individual or a community. Thus, the perception
of time stands in an intimate relation to the particular mode of production it is engaged in.
However, before we go into this aspect, the role of origin(s) has to
be brought into the picture. Cosmologies and epistemologies profoundly different from the European concepts were invisible travelers of the Middle Passage. A linear concept of time such as in Western

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thought, with an indeWnite past, present, and inWnite future is differently constructed in traditional African society. The traditional
African concept of time is mainly event-driven, concrete, andunlike modern European conceptsnot measured in abstract intervals:
Time has to be experienced to make sense or to become real. A person
experiences time partly in his own individual life, and partly through
society which goes back many generations before his own birth. Since
what is the future has not been experienced, it does not make sense; it
cannot, therefore, constitute part of time, and people do not know how
to think about itunless, of course, it is something which falls within
the rhythm of natural phenomena. (Mbiti 1999, 17)14

Without question, this concept of time is inextricably bound with a


cosmology and religion that values community and, thus, morality
as a social and public affair. Different concepts of time have clashed
in the region. As Birth (1999) has explained in great detail, the previously described prevalent African conception of time was forcibly
replaced by European clock time. The latter stood for the temporal
rigidities and, by implication, the racist hierarchies and ethnocentric
value systems introduced and perpetuated by the colonial plantation
system. But clock time also stood for a moral order that put a premium on the individual rather than on the community as a whole.
In fact, it actually stood for the imposition of temporal ownership
of a largely atomized expatriate group over other peoples labor,
indeed, their bodies and therefore their existence. Of course, with the
persistence of capitalist working arrangements in largely urban environments, technological time continues to be the deWning concept
for the scheduling of many, if not most, signiWcant daily activities
throughout the Caribbean.
In contrast, as Glissant (1989, 93) points out, the Caribbean person intuitively and deWantly rejects any set notion of time, particularly clock time. The ideal becomes a non-deWned understanding
of time, a concept of time that does not measure in Wxed divisions,
but rather according to what in a given context appears to be the natural dynamic or sequence of events. This natural, more Xuid understanding of time is, for example, embodied in Trinidadian liming.
Liming, a contradiction to clock time, is by deWnition a social affair.
An individual alone cannot lime (Eriksen 1990). It requires a group of

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like-minded companionsfamily, perhaps, or friendswho hang


out together and follow the Xow of the groups collective will and
mood(s) in their activities. Clock time is the last thing on their minds.
Thus, while liming actively opposes exogenous ways of rigidly organizing labor and/or leisure, it posits an ethic of community against
the ascetic rationalism inherent in capitalism and Protestantism.15
In liming the primacy of community, understood as a natural and
largely voluntary system of rules, is resurrected or asserted through
the impositionor rather lackof (a sequence of) group action(s).16
It is rather a democratic enterprise than a hierarchically structured
process. Without doubt, liming as an activity ought to be considered
as a Caribbean form of resistance to an ethic for which wasting time
is the Wrst and in principle most serious of all sins:
Loss of time because of conviviality, luxury, even because of more than
the necessary and healthy amount of sleep6 to 8 hours at mostis
morally absolutely detestable. (Weber 1973, 159; my translation)

It is important to note that while both ethics are essential concepts,


the Caribbean ethos is really the movement, the constant negotiation
between the poles deWning the two extremes. Thus, as Birth (1999,
13442) points out correctly, glosses such as jus now, soon come,
or any time is Trinidad time are widely used placeholders that
simultaneously demarcate the conXict of two or more different ethics
(here, temporal concepts) and help to defuse or negotiate this conXict. While they never really resolve the fundamental existing antagonism, they serve as markers that establish a common ground that
most parties to the conXict intuitively recognize as an inalienable
part of their (national) identity. Thus, these markers implicitly say,
This is who we are as Trinidadians, Jamaicans, Caribbeans. Theythe
conXict and the glossesare what make us us. Thus, the Caribbeans unique moral condition oscillates between essentialist positions. In other words, the Caribbean persona tends to reject either/or
dichotomies and prefers to embrace explicitly contextualized and
synergetic concepts of moral valorization as part of its identity. This
impulse is strongest among the ethnic majority in the region, the people of African origin, and it stands in constant contrast to the ofWcial
Eurocentric (political) system.

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It should be obvious that in the earlier sketched Protestantcapitalist (work) ethic, individualism is the basic organizing principle.
The corollary of de-emphasizing community can be found in the
Western tendency to moral abstraction, such as described, for example, in Kants hypothetical imperative. Without doubt, as form(ality)
this ethos is also inscribed in the symbolic landscape (and the mindscape) inhabited by Caribbean people (cf. Abrahams 1983, 140). One
might even go so far as to suggest that liming is a distant echo of aristocratic European concepts of leisurely individualism. However, in
Afro-Caribbean tradition there is a greater emphasis on limiting individualism by the demands of the community (see, e.g., Gbadegesin
1998, 293). These traditions have survived in the Caribbean. Thus,
as Mintz and Trouillot point out, in Haitian vodou the difference
between good and evil is realized in practice rather than through
some essential manicheism as in Christianity (1998, 131). While the
imposed moral value system puts a premium on individualism and
egocentrism, the morality of Caribbean society is characterized by a
fundamental anthropocentrism.17 In this tradition, a person who simply watches while children Wght or when conXict occurs between
adults is not a good person.18
The communal aspect of (several) Caribbean societies is, however,
not simply an African tradition, but also has deep roots in Hindu philosophy and religion.19 Although there is a strong emphasis on community in this tradition, it is important to keep in mind that while
moral concepts such as justice are certainly a part of it, they are somewhat broken through the social divisions implemented through the
caste system. Although the caste system and its pertinent notions of
purity and pollution clearly stand in contrast to the theory of universal justice in European thought, they also show parallels to its classbased praxis.20 There can be no doubt that the rigidity of the caste
system has become seriously undermined in the creolized/creolizing
societies of the Caribbean, but given the original epistemology and
cosmology of African and Hindu philosophy, it has to be noted that
both Africans and East Indians approached the dominant (i.e., European) power structures from a different epistemological basis. Thus,
while African moral concepts were diametrically opposed to European classist (and, of course, racist) rule and its adjacent notion of

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individualism, East Indian ethicswhile equally opposed to the abuses


and indignities of their indentureshipwere at some level able to
accommodate the rigidities and rituals of a hierarchical social order.
In much of Caribbean and Latin American writing, the conXict
between European and creolized Afro-Asian moralities has been symbolically expressed by the Wgures of Prospero and Caliban in Shakespeares play The Tempest and an entire body of both academic and
creative literature based on or inspired by it. I would like to cast my
following interpretation of the Caribbean moral landscape in this
tradition. However, it is my intention to rehabilitate the Wgure of
Ariel, who can be seen to negotiate between the usually more prominently considered Caliban and Prospero.

ARIELS RETURN
Hegemonic discourse cannot simply conWne itself to establishing a
taxonomy of civilization, i.e., deWning the agents of civilization and
the subjects of subjugation. The social dynamics of oppressive rule
demand a more continuous production of stereotypical civility
and barbarism (Brown 1985, 58). Throughout the Caribbean, intellectual discourse has in the last forty or so years used the ProsperoCaliban antagonism as a metaphor to describe and analyze the colonial and postcolonial relations between the discursive center and its
periphery.21 However, there is also a case to be made for Ariel, the
elusive, ghostlike, creative, spirit-force, whoalbeit being his masters instrumentnevertheless moves the unfolding plot of power,
subordination, and revelation by the way of his otherworldly and
intangible, invisible hand. As I will argue, Ariel appears to personify
the force of ideas that only slowly and incrementally move the course
of history, but, once recognized for what they are, become a resource
that cannot be resisted even by armies.
We recall that Shakespeares Ariel had left the stage to live
under the blossom that hangs on the bough (5.1.94). But let us suppose for a second that he has forgotten something and returns after
all others have left the stage; time may have passed, but as always, an
audience is there:

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enters stage from the left, still. Looking around in wonderment, he doesnt
seem to Wnd himself where he wanted to be. He leaves the stage to mingle with
the audience. Bob Marleys Rastaman Chant is playing from imaginative
loudspeakers between the readers ears. While walking offstage, Ariel clears his
throat, then begins to speak: Anyone here named Pablo? Pablo Picasso? (No
reply from the audience.) Nobody? (Thinking) Well, anybody here who can
explain the origin of Cubism? (Pauses) Oh, perhaps it is too early to ask.
Youre just enjoying 1611, 1838, 1933, 1989, or thereabout! (Loud, impatient) Well, what are you staring at me for, then? Go home, people, the
show is over. Go back to Auschwitz, Bhopal, Chernobyl, Seveso, Soweto,
Gulag, Nagasaki, wherever you come from. (He disappears to the right,
now humming Marleys Redemption Song.)

ARIEL

Is it possible that Ariel, or even Caliban of Shakespeares The Tempest,


could have addressed the audience and in such an irreverent way?
Hardly. And yet, it is certainly imaginable that a new monologue
could be written in a similar way. But new questions need to be
asked: Who is the audience addressed in this manner? Why is Ariel
leaving them? What is the nature of the show that was being played
before this imaginary monologue? Such questions point to the fact
that parameters in the dialogue between hegemon and subaltern
have shifted and are subject to continuous paradigmatic shifts orin
Sylvia Wynters terminologyepistemic change. Thus, as for example Stuart Hall has pointed out in his essay New Ethnicities, there
can be no simple return or recovery of the ancestral past which is
not re-experienced through the categories of the present (2001, 448).
Or, as Scott argues more abstractly, Ariels new monologue could be
understood as an invitation to take up the more difWcult task of
thinking fundamentally against the normalization of the epistemological and institutional forms of our political modernity (1999, 20).
Few Caribbean writers have bothered much with Ariel. One of
them, Edward Kamau Brathwaite, the cornucopian wordsmith from
Barbados, has attempted to bring the ghost into the picture. In his
article Caliban, Ariel, and Unprospero in the ConXict of Creolization: A Study of the Slave Revolt in Jamaica in 183132, Brathwaite
interprets the creolization process by utilizing Shakespeares protagonists as archetypical actors in the colonial drama. Although he is
aware of it, it would appear that his Ariel does not unfold the full
ambivalence Shakespeare had applied to his persona. In Brathwaites

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interpretation, Ariel, usually an educated slave or freedman open


to white creolization and technology (1977, 48), mainly acts as a
go-between, an intermediary, a Hermes, delivering signals and orders
from the colonial Fhrerbunker to the front lines of colonial sugar
plantations in the Caribbean.22
In contrast to Brathwaite, I suggest that Ariel cannot be applied
as an archetype that denotes a particular personality on the colonial
stage. Rather, Ariel has to be read for what he really is, an ethereal
force permeating the sky just around the heads of the colonial intruder but operating well below the radar of his/her sight/consciousness. I argue that Ariel is more appropriately understood as
a metaphor for a set of practices in Caribbean everyday life. Who
is Shakespeares Ariel really? Isnt she or he a creature that has
promised temporary service, but really only exists for the singleminded pursuit of his ultimate day of freedom?23 Is there more toil?
Since thou dost give me pains, / Let me remember thee what thou
hast promisd, / Which is not yet performd me (1.2.24244). There
is nothing ambiguous about this demand. But Ariel knows realpolitik. Prospero is in possession of superior magic: If thou murmurst,
I will rend an oak, / And peg thee in his knotty entrails, till / Thou
hast howld away twelve winters (1.2.29496). The result follows a
clear cost-beneWt analysis:
ariel: Pardon, master:
I will be correspondent to command,
And do my spiriting gently.
prospero: Do so; and after two days
I will discharge thee.
ariel: Thats my noble master!
What shall I do? say what; what shall I do? (1.2.297300)

Ariel may be an ethereal force, but he is no dreamer. He is well aware


of his limits. He temporarily allies himself with his antithesis in pursuit of the promise and ultimate goal. Indeed, where Caliban is deploring his fate, Ariel is taking action.
Rather than Brathwaites Ariel, the Ariel envisioned in this essay
comes closer to Rods emphatic description written in 1900:
He is generous enthusiasm, elevated and unselWsh motivation in all
actions, spirituality in culture, vivacity and grace in intelligence. Ariel is

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the ideal toward which human selection ascends, the force that wields
lifes eternal chisel, effacing from aspiring mankind the clinging vestiges of Caliban, the plays symbol of brutal sensuality. (1988, 31)

Thus, Rods Ariel is more an invisible hand or an (elusive?) goal to


be aspired to. While we acknowledge the positive spin given to Ariel
in Rods essay, we also need to be mindful of the limits that the
author imposed on this Wgure, which have been criticized by others
such as Carlos Fuentes (in the foreword to the 1988 edition) and
Roberto Fernndez Retamar (1988). His endorsement of European
in particular Frenchculture and complete neglect of American
indigenous cultural contributions have to be noted as unfortunate
shortcomings, even if weas Fuentes doesattempt to understand
it in the context of the essays historical origins.
Similarly (and perhaps yet closer to the central argument pursued here), as J. Michael Dash points out, a more positive reading
of Shakespeares Ariel has also been suggested by Csaire. In the
voice of [Csaires] Ariel, the language of the land Wnds expression
(1986, 57). In Dashs view, Csaires Ariel is directed toward the transcendence of the revolt against Prospero:
His discourse is rooted in the belief that the imagination at its most
intensive strives beyond moral, political, and sexual divisions for an
androgynous wholeness. (56)

In Csaire/Dashs interpretation, Ariel becomes a voice of (nonteleological) nature, of the landscape itself, which thus seems to become
an additional protagonist of the discourse. Ariel, then, is the voice of
a proto-ecological discourse.24 Yet, by virtue of his quasi-supernaturalistic appearance, Ariel seems to point to a higher order. The notion
of ethereal force implies certain powerspowers that cannot be seen,
operating subtly yet with determination, transmitting waves through
the air that may on different occasions either gently direct or announce dread with a thunderous voice. Ariel, imprisoned by Sycorax
into a cloven pine; within which rift, / Imprisond thou didst painfully remain, without doubt is a master of music in Shakespeares
play (1.2.27779). Does it take too much imagination to see him akin
to a skin stretched over a drum? Isnt his ghostly song really the transposed voice of Africa, the voice of the African-Caribbean? Isnt there

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dreadful riddim in his song?: Full fadom Wve thy father lies; / Of his
bones are coral made; / Those are pearls that were his eyes (1.2.399
400). There is even clearer evidence that Ariel has Maroon character:
. . . Then I beat my tabor;
At which, like unbackd colts, they prickd their ears,
Advancd their eyelids, lifted up their noses,
As they smelt music: so I charmd their ears,
That, calf-like, they my lowing followd . . . (4.1.17579)

If Ariel is not dubbing to a dub plate, his pied piper stage presence
still conjures up the cosmology of African peoples. He is clearly not of
the same Xesh and blood as Prospero, Caliban, or Trinculo. Together
with Prospero he both invokes and revokes a different time experience: My charms Ill break, their senses Ill restore, / And they shall
be themselves (5.1.3132; see also 3.3). As indicated above, Ariels
ghostly appearance also carries a morality of its own:
You are three men of sin, whom Destiny,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Hath causd to belch up you; and on this island,
Where man doth not inhabit,you mongst men
Being most unWt to live. I have made you mad. (3.3.5358)

This morality is not only contained in Shakespeares writing, but also


innate in the invocation of African cosmology as it appears through
the Ariel Wgure. Without doubt in the African cosmology and theologies, spirits and spiritual forces are in close contact with humans.
They occupy a somewhat intermediary position between the realm of
human existence and the Supreme Being. There is communication,
indeed interaction, and the well-being of humans depends on their
ability to please spiritual forces. As one prominent African theologian
and philosopher has put it:
Spirits as a group have more power than men, just as in a physical sense
the lions do. Yet, in some ways men are better off, and the right human
specialists can manipulate or control the spirits as they wish. Men paradoxically may fear, or dread, the spirits and yet they can drive the same
spirits away or use them to human advantage. (Mbiti 1999, 78)

This relationship not only seems to describe the Ariel-Prospero

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relationship, but also connotes a moral dimension that is signiWcantly


different from the Christian tradition where no intermediary forces
allow the active manipulation of social relationships or communal well-being. Where Europeans encountered Ariels African spirit
world in the West Indies it may, indeed, have made them mad.

READING ARIEL BACKWARD


So far I have utilized the Shakespearean play in a rather conventional
way, i.e., to help interpret and reinterpret the Prospero-Ariel
dynamic, the colonial encounter, and power relationships between
Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean. But more is possibleand
requiredin order for us to make the fullest use of the Bards
ambiguous dialogues (see also Forbes 2001, 56). I shall therefore turn
around the mirror to see who indeed is the most beautiful around. It
is Ariels time to laugh and lead the conversation.
ariel: Now, youre still here, bewitcher? Hasd somehow missed thy
last boat home? Backra no longer, much smaller thy frame lookd now.
The golden chain around your paunch is gone, cant stop my time no
more. How doest thou feel this day without thy horsemen, bible, cannon, bare now and face to face with me alone?
prospero: Oh Ariel, my good spirit. Thy tone speakd of mistrust, discontent even. Thou didst not doubt my commitment ever, to you, the
fair isle we chose to share. Say I am right! Few moments in time I intended just to borrow, to help you, even now, brighten your days, ours.
ariel: Hush up now, where is your style, the good taste you once pretended? Like sugar it appears to have dissolved to nothing, sweet vanity, foaming on your somersaulting lips. (Frowns) Quite unappetizing!
Speaking of jumps and rolls; did mine eyes not glimpse last night one of
your European companions, jumping on his toes tips, quite obviously
contrary to the drum n basss riddim? Quite a sight, I confess
to you. And thou shouldst tell the fool that, for the most part, he and
his party have not gotten in their veins what some would call a polyrhythm. Not born to be a prodigy to music, the sweetest of all arts;
remember, the waves of air are my domain. Quite obviously, my clumsy
one, no Sly Dunbar, Max Roach, or Elvin Jones yet from your seed
sprang forth.

Thus, or similar, the Bard might have felt compelled to write, had he
been born in the West Indiesand black.

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But perhaps no one has expressed the need to write back and the
determination to reclaim the moral authority over the destiny of the
Caribbean and its peoples more eloquently and forcefully than Monsieur Csaire himself:
Therefore, comrade, you will hold as enemiesloftily, lucidly, consistentlynot only sadistic governors and greedy bankers, not only prefects who torture and colonists who Xog, not only corrupt, check-licking
politicians and subservient judges, but likewise and for the same reason, venomous journalists, goitrous academics, wreathed in dollars and
stupidity, ethnographers who go in for metaphysics, presumptuous Belgian theologians, chattering intellectuals born stinking out of the thigh
of Nietzsche, the paternalists, the embracers, the corrupters, the backslappers, the lovers of exoticism, the dividers, the agrarian sociologists,
the hoodwinkers, the hoaxers, the hot-air artists, the humbugs, and in
general, all those who, performing their functions in the sordid division
of labor for the defense of Western bourgeois society, try in diverse ways
and by infamous diversions to split up the forces of Progresseven if it
means denying the very possibility of Progressall of them tools of
capitalism, all of them, open or secretly, supporters of plundering colonialism, all of them responsible, all hateful, all slave-traders, all henceforth answerable for the violence of revolutionary action. (2000, 5455)

As Lewis Gordon has pointed out, thinking through the periphery,


the underside, the subaltern could as well be characterized as Caliban studies, if we will, where the focus is study through which Prosperos language can be decentered (2000, 3). And yet, writing back
to Shakespeare, or reading Ariel backward, remains in some ways too
much within the given conWnes of European discourse. The rhetorical
tropes and Wgures basically remain the same, if mirrored in a somewhat renegade style.25 Ariel remains mired in an Enlightenment
argument, which prima facie would appear to Wt him well. However,
his adeptness to a polyrhythmic ontology is merely a gesture since it
stays tied to the logic and narrative Xow of the colonizer. Although
this allows for considerable leverage, it also tries to Wght the battle on
a turf that has already been occupied, deWned, and therefore tainted.
Enlightenment morality was class- and race-based, i.e., dependent on
the existence/creation of an Other, and hence is unWt for application
to Caribbean contexts or for the purpose of comprehensive liberation.
However, let us not part with Ariel yet, foras Henry has argued

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incisivelyour engagement with the poeticist tradition in Caribbean


thought is a necessary corrective to the predominance of the historicist school within it (2000, 25760). Ariel now has to remove himself out of the bipolarity that has emerged, stand aside, and read the
voices of both protagonists from the side, that is, by applying a different angle. It is time to shatter, not just turn, the mirror.

READING ARIEL SIDEWAYS


If we can read Shakespeare backward, there must also be a way to
read the text of The Tempest or some of the characters sideways. But
what can that possibly mean, and how can we read sideways? Obviously, reading backward implied a certain critique of the original
text. However, by doing so, the backward-read text runs the risk of
becoming a new orthodoxy. Reading sideways then must presumably provide us with an interpretation that does not easily run the
risk of transforming itself into such a Wxed positionality or hegemonic interpretation. In fact, it has itself to exhibit transforming properties, i.e., it has to be open to interpretation while shedding light on
the existing text and countertext. Thus, it has to be a sort of guiding
light without actually being a beacon.
In attempting to outline the contours of such a discourse, I hope
that my application of Shakespearean characters against themselves,
as well as against the ambiguous moral economy of Caribbean existence, may be a very modest attempt to contribute to Scotts much
larger project of refusing history its subjectivity, its constancy, its
eternity; to think it otherwise than as the pasts hold over the present,
to interrupt its seemingly irrepressible succession, causality, its sovereign claim to determinacy (1999, 105). For our effort of mapping
the moral economy of Caribbean existence, this refusal would then
translate into a text that equally questions hegemonic and counterhegemonic value-system discourses in the region. It would have
to achieve this by steering clear of both universalism and cultural relativism. The question is: Can it be done and has it been done in
the region?
The second part of this question is easy to answer. There can be
no doubt that many aspects of the ongoing creolization experience(s)

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in the region show how the peoples of this region have both used and
refused elements of both their autochthonous value coordinates
and those imposed by the colonial project. If, as I believe it has, the
imposed colonial moral economyperpetuated in numerous differing ways in the postcolonial Caribbeanwas a conscious attempt
to confuse and corrupt the moral stage on which the colonial and
postcolonial dramas were acted out, a reconWgured moral economy
cannot be gained by choosing between African, Anglo-European,
andto a lesser extentIndo-Asian values. Instead, the way forward
appears to be in attempts to normalize a deeply creolized economy
of emotions and values.26
In many instances the popular imagination in the region has
moved in this direction, especially in the realms of magico-religious
practices, for example, in Haitian vodou. Beauvoir-Dominique (1998),
among others, describes the early rise of Freemason societies and the
continuing widespread use of wizard spell books (grimoires) in Haiti.
These underground realms of being, as she calls it, are to my mind
the most obvious attempts to create order, a new order, out of
reconWgured elements inherited from ancestral and acquired occult
spaces of we (see also Hurbon 1995, 14649):
Imagine fumes of sulfur, lashing of whips, echoing forth to present-day
Petwo ritual. Following centuries of bricolage, the Creoles needed direction and synthesis: a shredding down to impose order through hierarchy and command. Radically new ritual arrangement guided them
throughout their war, under the obedience of Petwo (sou lobedyans
Petwo). (Beauvoir-Dominique 1998, 162)

And yes, there are deWnite attempts to unlearn the bi- and tripolarities imposed on the people of the region. Some of these attempts
go beyond the simple use of language, text, and spoken word, and
make their statements in the realm of music and the creative arts
(see also Forbes 2001, 66). Othersimportant for a social science
analysisstay dedicated to the use of words and language, but at the
same time attempt to transcend the inherited materials and re-create
an original language and discourse about Caribbean ethics/ethos.
Foremost, in my mind, is the poetic work of Brathwaite who has
developed, as Bobb puts it, a style and form that transform the marginality of the past into a centralizing force (1998, 46). The key word

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here is transform. Brathwaites writing style, indeed, has surpassed


many conventions, and with the materials offered by history and contemporary affairs, his entire oeuvre is a re-creation of an authentic
Caribbean voice, a re-indigenization and reoccupation of the moral
and ethical space held by Caribbean indigenous and African peoples before the arrival of the colonialists. Thus, when he describes
the view from the location where he lived in Jamaica, overlooking
Kingston:
Kin
gston Harbour the sea from Old Harbour, Spanish
Town, Caymanas, right rou
nd to Bull Bay, Pharoah S
anders sun-ship and vall
ey-mist, the huge huge all day sky and the distan
(t) sea-sky where Cuba an
(d) Hispaniola would be,
except that we are lookin
south tho feelin north (Brathwaite 1999, 124)

he does not simply depict a geographic, but attempts to characterize


also the torn and fragmented historicity of the intellectual space
inhabited by modern Caribbean woman/man.
In fact, however, the authentic, organic voice of the Caribbean is
evident in many different locations and efforts of artistic (re)creation.
Can this be done on a larger, and more sustained scale, one that
even infects the (academic) discourse about Caribbean existence? The
answer to this question will dependamong other thingson the
historical process and distribution of class power. The uneasy coexistence of different registers of existence in the region allows us, however, to take the Shakespearean markers and emblems and reorder
them for the exploration of a mindscape that has dramatically altered
from the time when he fantasized about the New World. The raw
material is there. The seeds of a fundamental discursive displacement
in the Caribbean exist at the margins of (ofWcial) society and will
always represent a potential option indicating that the ofWcial moral
economy in the region could and ought to be stacked in ways that

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ARIELS ETHOS

decenter legitimacy claims of universal, homogenous, privileged,


monadic, and positivist markers and signiWers. The result, however,
will not be another Wxed point, a deWnite and deWning narrative, but,
as Bentez-Rojo reminds us aptly, the goal . . . lies always at an
unreachable point, at the edge of the inWnite, there, in a space that
shifts continually from the possible to the impossible (1996, 182):
ariel: So, could it be done?
prospero: Why you always asking me? Havent I given all the wrong
answers yet? Go Wnd your own. Leave me out of this.
ariel: Well, I take your word. This is the last you see of me.
prospero, now seemingly wrapped in deep thought: Yeah, yeah. Thats Wne.
I dont have all your answers, why are you even asking me? (Sucking his
teeth; then, as if suddenly reminding himself of something) I do share your . . .
(Pauses) No, lets not start again.
trinculo: Are you ready to leave already? You cant quit now. (Both just
stare at him.) I mean, its just not the time yet.
ariel: Why dat? Is yo mumma tell yuh? Or de nex one. What im name
again? Aloysius Gossamer Longshoreman . . . somting somting . . .?
trinculo: Just wait. Its not the right time yet.
prospero: Im not going anywhere anyhow. Im down with you.
trinculo: Well, as I say, this is not the right time yet. This is the age
where you go dot-com. But, you dont want to go down there, do you?
ariel: Why not, ah feel ready long time, man.
trinculo: Yeah, yeah, you feel ready long time and that old fart next to
you doesnt even remember what time is. So, what are you telling me
about long time? Time longer than rope. I say you have to wait. You
wait, itll be here soon enough.
prospero, protests: Hey, hey, hey; I remember why were here. I brought
you here after all. (Falling back into thoughtfulness/forgetfulness) But wait,
isnt it all over now? What are we waiting for?
trinculo, with attitude: You didnt hear what I said, old man. I say you
have to stick around. You have to wait for 2Dog. Hell question your
answers, your doubts, and your questions.
ariel, imitating a British accent: Well, then, why dont we all enjoy a cup
of tea in the meantime? I have here the Wnest of the Wnest. A rather
exquisite mixture imported from Ceylonpardon me, Sri Lanka.

If waiting for 2Dog, hybridity, ambivalence, code-switching, irony,


and moral dualities are a hallmark of Caribbean moral existence, the
socioeconomic everyday realities on the ground also force themselves back into the foreground to prevent a pure poetics of Caribbean

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existence. This shift in perspective seems to be implied, for example,


in George Lammings work, particularly when he raises the issue of
a sovereignty beyond the narrowly conceived political sovereignty
of new Caribbean nations and invokes a notion of sovereignty conceived as the capacity you have for choosing and making and remaking that self which you discover is you, is distinctly you (2002, 147).
Due to the immense technological capabilities of our times and
because of the movement nature of Caribbean existence, our mythopoetic perspective of the Caribbean moral economy can and indeed
has to turn back to a more positivist evaluation. Thus, using Lammings shift as a starting point, the question may be posed where the
Caribbean stands in regard to the current transformation of the
humanist ethos.
Although ethic and moral philosophy have for some time lagged
behind the new developments in technology, we are currently in
a transition that at its end maywhether we like it or noteven
make the old humanistic moral economy obsolete.27 Since the dawn
of human consciousness and certainly since the European Enlightenment, individuals could at best hope to be a sub-ject (i.e., attainment
of independence under a preexisting and encompassing conceptual
frame, such as God, human rights, and so on). Due to advances with
the Human Genome Project, advances in cloning, and stem cell technology, new horizons are looming under which humanity has the
possibility to move from being a subject to becoming a project.
As far as I can see, the debate about ethical and moral questions emerging from these possibilities has been considerably more
nuanced, philosophically rigorous, and intense in Europe than in the
more pragmatic U.S. public.28 In the Caribbean, however, I do not
yet see the emerging contours of the Caribbean perspective on these
issues. In the past we have witnessed concern about young black
girls in the region using skin bleaching substances, but what if U.S.
companies were to offer genetic manipulation that would promise
to achieve Michael Jacksonlike or Jennifer Lopeztype features
without the use of a scalpel? What would be the social implications
for the region if there were doctors offering phenotypically black parents an affordable option to have their child become a browning
Xowing hair, straight elongated nose, thin lips, and all?
Perhaps regional intellectuals and decision makers implicitly

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believe that these issues can be avoided, since they may be able to
code-switch through the new options that are evolving. And perhaps
that might even work. But, as mentioned before, something else is
also eroding; the (imperfect) fundamentals of humanism such as
human dignity, inviolability of life, the integrity of the person, and so
on are quite possibly Wghting a lost battle against the overwhelming
tyranny of the possible implicit in these new life-changing technologies. Like it or not, these humanist fundamentals have affected
the Caribbeana creation of European, African, and Asian cultures
to a great extent. If we are indeed on the verge of becoming our
own project, how will the Caribbean elect to shape itself and its
future? How will its moral economy evolve if humanisms lure is
fading? If hitherto the Caribbean was a hybrid of Europe and Africa
(and, to a lesser extent, parts of Asia and the Near East), what will
be the long-term effects of the possible disappearance of the arguably most substantial inXuence, the European humanistic system? In
whose image will the Caribbean create itself following these epochal
changes? Will we witness a showdown betweento analogize with
Aristotles classiWcation of knowledgean Afro-/Indo-centric mythic
poiesis (as the basis of a new thrust of Caribbean nationalisms) and
a U.S.-inspired quick-buck praxis (i.e., globalization), while the Eurohumanistic rationalist theoria falls by the wayside? Ariel will have to
be on the move again and can no longer afford the same degree of
philosophical liming as in the past.29

Notes
For their numerous comments that helped me to disentangle some of my ideas,
I am grateful to John Bewaji, J. A. George Irish, Karl-Heinz Magister, Trevor
Purcell, Jennifer Sparrow, Deborah Thomas, as well as two anonymous reviewers.
They, however, are not to be blamed for the remaining mess.
1. In an earlier article I attempted to discuss Caribbean existence outside
of the parameters of morality and without an involvement in the potentially
treacherous discussions about binaries such as right and wrong, good and evil
(Henke 1997). In Aristotle, ethos is the character produced by moral habits. Similarly, both the words conscience and consciousness derive from the Latin
conscire (to know, be aware of; from con, with, together, plus scire, to know).
Because Caribbean moral space(s) involve constant shifts and trade-offs, the term
economy was introduced in this context.

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2. Important arguments along the same line have been suggested by


important Caribbean writers such as Wilson Harris, Edouard Glissant, Patrick
Chamoiseau, Derek Walcott, and others. In the following I will refer to some of
this work.
3. By using the term subaltern I do not wish to invoke Spivaks misinterpreted essay Can the Subaltern Speak? from which, in any case, she has
distanced herself (see, e.g., Landry and McLean 1996). Rather, it is used in the
Gramscian sense that Meeks (2000, 2224) seems to propose.
4. This statement may be regarded as problematic and requiring some
explanation. In my view, there does already exist a Caribbean cultural discourse
that is largely embodied in the cultural practices, traditions, and everyday actions
of Caribbean peoples. To my mind, Caribbean scholars have not yet sufWciently
recognized and thematized these mostly performative and nonscriptural expressions of Caribbean thought. It is hoped this modest attempt at integrating them
into scholarly work will achieve some of the still missing recognition.
5. Among the notable exceptions to this tendency are intellectuals such as
Rex Nettleford, George Lamming, and Antonio Bentez-Rojo.
6. And for a moment we will overlook Csaires gendered concept of the
rationalizing human being.
7. In his essay Of Other Spaces, Foucault deWnes the term the following
way: There are probably in every culture, in every civilization, real places
places that do exist and that are formed in the very founding of societywhich
are something like counter-sites, a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which the
real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted. Places of this kind are outside of all
places, even though it may be possible to indicate their location in reality. Because
these places are absolutely different from all the sites that they reXect and speak
about, I shall call them by way of contrast to utopias, heterotopias (1986, 27).
8. The situation here is similar to the dilemma of deconstructive thinking,
described by Gayatri Spivak: Operating necessarily from the inside, she writes,
borrowing all the strategic and economic resources of subversion from the old
structure, borrowing them structurally, that is to say, without being able to isolate
their elements and atoms, the enterprise of deconstruction always in a certain
way falls prey to its own work (quoted in Landry and MacLean 1996, 7).
9. Thus, while in the Christian tradition current Jamaican moral values
certainly are perceived as being ordained by God, traditional Ashanti beliefs hold
that God has no inXuence on peoples moral values (Mbiti 1999, 202). However,
Ashanti was one of the main ethnic groups from which people were brought as
slaves to Jamaica (Alleyne 1989, 44; Craton 1982, 125). The connection certainly
needs a more systematic exploration, but the question arises whether Jamaicas
current moral crisis does not also Wnd an explanation in these competing perceptions of Gods role in the determination of human moral values.
10. This is not to argue that rational thought does not play the same role
in Caribbean discourse as it does for any other culture. My argument is simply

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that Caribbean thought is at different times and for different groups inXuenced by
a variety of contending cosmologies, ontologies, and epistemologies. Any constructive in-depth and prolonged communication between these systems is likely
to encounter implicit or explicit deWnitional boundaries at which point the discourse inherently tends toward a resolution in irony and humor.
11. Yet another important, and often underappreciated, strategy in the
Caribbean context is the marginality suffered by nonconforming individualism
and eccentricity or the more or less real escape of (post)colonial madness. See,
for example, Henke 1996, 6971; and Price 1998, 157217.
12. Despite several attempts to secure a copyright permission for the few
lines that the original version of this article intended to quote from his song, Sparrow was not willing to produce this permission. The reader is therefore asked to
read the lyrics of the song on-line, where it can be found reproduced at a variety
of locations, e.g., at socanews.com/music/lyrics/melda(obeahwedding).shtml or
at arts.yorku.ca/english/creet/ lyrics.html.
13. Cunumunu is a Trinidadian term for a stupid person. The word is also
known in Jamaica (and possibly other Caribbean countries) and is therefore probably of West African origin. In Sparrows song, the term is pronounced with an
l in place of the second n in cunumunu (koo-noo-mooloo).
14. Mbitis claim that African society does not know future (1999, 16) has
been proven wrong by a number of authors and subsequently intense debates
have developed over the nature of the African concept of time. See, for example,
Beyaraza 2000.
15. The notion of ascetic rationalism was, of course, introduced by Weber
(1973, 380). Since Protestant asceticism is fundamentally opposed to the danger of
a free and hedonistic enjoyment of wealth, the subversive power of liming is easily discernible. Despite the impression given by Weber, however, we also have
to note that both privacy and the concomitant concept of individualism originated in the aristocratic classes of feudal Europe. Only gradually, and with the triumph of capitalism, did these concepts become public goods in Europe.
16. Although Birth (1999, 130) mentions this aspect, his treatment of it does
not get adequate coverage and is not sufWciently emphasized.
17. Exceptions support this general rule; in the case of Nevis, Abrahams
(1968) mentions that there is very little community activity or feeling.
18. Other important instances of Caribbean communalism are child shifting, rotating savings and credit associations (partner or susu), family land,
day-for-day labor, conviviality, and so on.
19. While community plays a strong role in Hinduism, there seems to be a
stronger emphasis on individualism than in traditional African culture and philosophy (see Khan 1996, 6). Community in Hinduism, moreover, seems to transcend anthropocentrism and to suggest a communion with the universe, a less
concrete and more abstract or transcendental form of community.
20. For the aspects of universality and particularity in East Indian communities in Trinidad, see Schwartz 1964.

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21. See, for instance, Csaires A Tempest (1999), Retamars Calban y otros
ensayos (1979), Toumsons Trois Calibans (1981), or the creative oeuvre of George
Lamming, which centers on The Tempest.
22. It is important to note at this point that Brathwaite introduces what he
calls the Aerial persona. Aerial functions in his argument as a kind of prototype
Ariel, an Ariel who aspires to, but cannot achieve, becoming his full self. Only in
exceptional cases and for exceptional individuals (e.g., Jamaicas national hero
Sam Sharpe) was the successful entrance into the Euro-creolizing or ac/culturative process made possible (Brathwaite 1977, 59/60). Still, the relationship
Ariel/Aerial is not applied consistently throughout Brathwaites text. In his Conversations with Nathaniel Mackey, Brathwaite describes Ariel as Prosperos spying
eyes, his communication apparat, police and television aerials (1999, 188). Ariel
has a similarly (potentially) reactionary role in Retamars (1988) interpretation.
23. This seems also to be the way Csaire reads Ariel (see 1999, 2023).
24. Edouard Glissant has consciously and brilliantly incorporated this aspect into his oeuvre. Consider, for example, Glissants thoughts about the land:
I am struck by the fate of Xowers. The shapeless yielding to the shapely. As if the
land had rejected its essence to concentrate everything in appearance. It can be
seen but not smelt. Also these thoughts on Xowers are not a matter of lamenting
a vanished idyll in the past. But it is true that the fragile and fragrant Xower
demanded in the past daily care from the community that acted on its own. The
Xower without fragrance endures today, is maintained in form only. Perhaps that
is the emblem of our wait? We dream of what we will cultivate in the future, and
we wonder vaguely what the new hybrid that is already being prepared for us
will look like, since in any case we will not rediscover them as they were, the
magnolias of former times (1989, 52). While in the context of the hybrid, ambiguous moral situation of the Caribbean the dream for the Xowers fragrance
becomes the dominant register of thought and action, the rampant materialism of
much of the rest of the world appears to rush in a pseudoteleological frenzy from
one invention to the next, from one record to the next, from growth to more
growth, with inner and external peace of woman/man with herself and between
woman/man and nature being as remote as ever before. While much of the
Caribbean is certainly infected by the same bug, it nevertheless seems to run
against its deep inner being. If Novaliss mythic Blue Flower was ever to be
found, it would grow somewhere in the rainforest or along the seashores of the
Caribbean islands.
25. This is also an obvious concern of Scott. See, for example, his introduction to Refashioning Futures (1999).
26. Creole and creolization are by no means clear and unambiguous
concepts. Space considerations prevent a problematization of these terms, and
I am using them here simply in order to point to the fundamentally hybrid, intermediary, and multilayered nature of Caribbean social systems. For a more
comprehensive treatment, see Shepherd and Richards (2002), in particular the
excellent chapters by Nigel Bolland and Carolyn Allen.

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27. The operative word here is may. Obviously the debate about whether
what is technologically possible shall also be what is morally allowed is currently
in full swing.
28. I am thinking here in particular about a highly controversial speech in
1998 by the German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk (his Elmau Lecture), replies by
Jrgen Habermas, Robert Spaemann, and subsequent interventions by the German chancellor and Bundesprsident, among others (see also Jongen 2001). As far
as I can see, the Sloterdijk lecture is not yet available in English, at least not on the
Internet; however, one source that includes debate about his ideas and more
recent texts can be found at http://www.goethe.de/uk/los/symp/enindex.htm.
29. I am well aware that there are exciting new developments under way
with regard to the development of a Caribbean philosophy, some of which were
alluded to in this text.

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111 Rita Raley eEmpires


151 Cesare Casarino and Antonio Negri Its a Powerful Life:

A Conversation on Contemporary Philosophy


Book Reviews
187 Spectral Evidence:The Photography of Trauma by

Ulrich Baer
Jakki Spicer
191 Marxism, Modernity, and Postcolonial Studies edited by

Crystal Bartolovich and Neil Lazarus


Stephen Groening
195 Books Received
201 Contributors

Correction: The title of Holger Henkes essay in Cultural Critique 56 contains an


error. The correct title should be Ariels Ethos: On the Moral Economy of
Caribbean Existence. Cultural Critique regrets the error.