Caribbean culture and its productions continue to be critical instruments for imaginatively addressing the on-going imperative for social change and self-fashioning. George Lamming contends that the work of the Artist is to “return the society to itself”  “to its past” and to the “visions of the future” on which the present is constituted. Although such a function was originally directed to a confrontation with colonialism’s systemic erasure or misrepresentation of its others, an engagement that is never quite exhausted, Caribbean nation states must now call themselves to account for the outcomes of their Independence projects. 

The region must engage new questions about the quality of life now available to its citizens. It must confront with urgency the many challenges arising from all spheres of life, from its political culture, economic circumstances, gender politics and family life, marginalised groups, youth culture and entertainment industries, foreign media infiltration, crime and violence. No longer is it acceptable to point the finger at the past or to an external “other” as a source of blame. Nation states must engage the new sites and agents of oppression or negative social conditioning generated from within and beyond its borders in order to ask ourselves more responsibly: what are the requirements of the future?

Equally important to this process is recognising the unique contributions the region’s literature and cultural life have to offer. Caribbean writers have long been engaged in theorizing identity and culture beyond monolithic paradigms that are mired in race and ethnic prejudices and so are a rich resource for ideological and social change that has relevance to the world. These offer fertile methodologies for (re) reading cultures and literatures that have historically read the region as for instance Barbara Lalla has demonstrated in her Caribbean readings of medieval literature.

Indeed debates about the function of literature, from which the practice of criticism can hardly be excluded, are as old as the medium itself. Issues have ranged from literature’s necessary independence from politics of activism and its role in the work of social protest and change. The inescapable politics of textuality remains as pertinent an issue as the concern with the reduction of literature to politics.  For the developing world the stakes are even higher and in a Caribbean where the “culture of reading” remains the practice of the few, Lamming’s longstanding concern with finding more innovative ways to mediate the world of text to larger sections of the population is yet to be effectively addressed.

 Call for Papers