Consuming the Caribbean: From Arawaks to Zombies

Consuming the Caribbean: From Arawaks to Zombies

Consuming the Caribbean: From Arawaks to Zombies

Consuming the Caribbean: From Arawaks to Zombies

Synopsis

From sugar to indentured labourers, tobacco to reggae music, Europe and North America have been relentlessly consuming the Caribbean and its assets for the past five hundred years. In this fascinating book, Mimi Sheller explores this troublesome history, investigating the complex mobilities of producers and consumers, of material and cultural commodities, including: *foodstuffs and stimulants - sugar, fruit, coffee and rum *human bodies - slaves, indentured labourers and service workers *cultural and knowledge products - texts, music, scientific collections and ethnology *entire 'natures' and landscapes consumed by tourists as tropical paradise. Consuming the Caribbean demonstrates how colonial exploitation of the Caribbean led directly to contemporary forms of consumption of the region and its products. It calls into question innocent indulgence in the pleasures of thoughtless consumption and calls for a global ethics of consumer responsibility.

Excerpt

Although the Caribbean lies at the heart of the western hemisphere and was historically pivotal in the rise of Europe to world predominance, it has nevertheless been spatially and temporally eviscerated from the imaginary geographies of ‘Western modernity’. the imagined community of the West has no space for the islands that were its origin, the horizon of its self-perception, the source of its wealth. Unmoved by the warm Caribbean waters that course through its Gulf Stream, the ‘North Atlantic’ community of nations turns a cold shoulder to its neighbours to the south. As C. L. R. James once put it, the Caribbean is ‘in but not of the West’ (cited in S. Hall 1996:246). Displaced from the main narratives of modernity, the shores that Columbus first stumbled upon now appear only in tourist brochures, or in occasional disaster tales involving hurricanes, boat-people, drug barons, dictators, or revolutions. Despite its indisputable narrative position at the origin of the plot of Western modernity, history has been edited and the Caribbean left on the cutting-room floor. Having washed its hands of history, the North can now present itself as the hero in the piece, graciously donating democratic tutelage, economic aid, foreign investment, military advisers, and police support to the Caribbean region.

The exclusion of the Caribbean from the imagined time-space of Western modernity occurs not only within popular culture and the media, but also within academic discourse. How has this physical incorporation but symbolic exclusion of the Caribbean from ‘the West’ made certain ideas of Western modernity viable? What kinds of global relations have allowed for this hiatus, this forgetting, this break between Western modernity and the Caribbean? Can we re-think the history of modernity in a way that recognises this double gesture of Caribbean colonisation and expulsion, incorporation and erasure? and how can heretofore marginal colonial histories be reintegrated into foundational studies of ‘the West’, rather than envisioned as perpetually outside its borders?

There has been a serious failing amongst scholars of ‘modernity’, ‘late modernity’, and ‘postmodernity’ to recognise the connections between ‘the centre’ (whether defined as Europe, the us, the West, the North, the metropolis, etc.) and other parts of the world which have been constructed as ‘peripheral’ (Miller 1994). Since its origins in the nineteenth century social theory has continually used non-Western places as counterfoils for Western modernity, ‘backwards’ . . .

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