What's My Name? Black Vernacular Intellectuals

By Grant Farred | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
C. L. R. James, Marginal Intellectual

This closeness to the lives of ordinary men and women was something James consciously developed; but he never shook off his sense of being an outsider, of looking on rather than being a participant in the vibrancy of the barrackyard communities.

—Anna Grimshaw, The C. L. R. James Reader


The Maple Man: The Crisis of Shannon

It is not unusual for a single ideological crisis to constitute the most formative political event in an intellectual's life. It is rare, however, that such a moment should arrange itself around the choice of a sporting institution. This was exactly the case for Cyril Lionel Robert James when he was a young man trying to make a decision about which cricket club in Trinidad he would join: “This, apparently simple [decision], plunged me into a social and moral crisis which had a profound effect on my whole future life.” 1 James was in a crisis because, in choosing between Maple and Shannon cricket clubs, he was negotiating directly between his middle-class background and his as-yet barely conceptualized attempts to situate himself as a spokesperson for the experience of working-class Trinidadians.

The Caribbean island's cricketing structure emblematized the entire society, James wrote in Beyond a Boundary, as the “various firstclass clubs represented the different social strata in the island within clearly defined boundaries”; by joining a club James was deciding about far more than for whom he would bat, bowl, and field on a Saturday afternoon (55). By affiliating himself with either Maple or Shannon, who represented very “different social strata, ” James was making a political gesture that favored one West Indian constituency over another. Maple was the “club of the brown-skinned middle class. Class did not matter to them as much as colour. They had founded themselves on the

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What's My Name? Black Vernacular Intellectuals
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction - Thinking in the Vernacular 1
  • Chapter 1 - Muhammad Ali, Third World Contender 27
  • Chapter 2 - C. L. R. James, Marginal Intellectual 95
  • Chapter 3 - Stuart Hall, the Scholarship Boy 149
  • Chapter 4 - Bob Marley, Postcolonial Sufferer 215
  • Notes 275
  • Permissions 297
  • Index 299
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