[Blackstudies-l] Re-Launching the Caribbean’s New World Journal

Maria Lima lima at geneseo.edu
Tue Jul 4 17:07:04 EDT 2017

lisaparavisini posted: " A report by Amílcar Sanatan for TeleSur. The New
World Quarterly and the intellectual developments that followed the journal
left an indelible mark on Caribbean intellectual thought. The Caribbean and
the developing world were places of high intellect"
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New post on *Repeating Islands*
<http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/> Re-Launching the
Caribbean’s New World Journal
lisaparavisini <http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/>

[image: new.png]

A report by Amílcar Sanatan for *TeleSur*.
The New World Quarterly and the intellectual developments that followed the
journal left an indelible mark on Caribbean intellectual thought.

The Caribbean and the developing world were places of high intellectual and
political excitement by the late 1950s. Political leadership in the
Caribbean was occupied by the likes of Norman Manley, Eric Williams, Cheddi
Jagan and others.

The debate of the British West Indies Federation initiated a popular
conversation on “West Indian nationhood.” Intellectually, CLR James from
Trinidad and Tobago emerged as a major Marxist theorist, while culturally a
distinct "West Indian literature" and a sporting excellence via West Indies
cricket helped bolster a “Caribbean consciousness.”

Internationally, Africa was on the rise, socialist Cuba was an inspiration
and “the ghost of Marcus Garvey," according to Norman Girvan, enriched the
racial consciousness of the Black masses. While these events unfolded, the
Faculty of Social Sciences was being established at the University of the
West Indies in Jamaica. It was against this backdrop that students at the
UWI were articulating their political aspirations. By 1960-61, progressive
faculty and students at the Mona Campus established the West Indian Society
for the Study of Social Issues, the forerunner to the New World Group.

The New World group was formed in Georgetown, Guyana in 1962. In the same
year, the first edition of the New World Quarterly was published. The group
and its quarterly journal engaged in challenging imported and imposed
conceptualizations of the economy, society, culture and politics and turn
“epistemic dependency” on its head. The New World Group in many ways was
the “gold standard of Caribbean intellectual development,” according to
James Millette. The Pan-Caribbean approach of the membership and journal
proposed regional solutions to regional problems. “Every Caribbean scholar
should be a regionalist,” Gordon Lewis made clear in simple words. “Mental
*insularismo”* undercuts the regional integration project and purpose.
Pan-Caribbean approaches are inter-disciplinary, they cross linguistic
boundaries, and grounds analyses in the context of hemisphere and not just
the realities of a particular island or nation state.

The New World Quarterly and the intellectual developments that followed the
journal left an indelible mark on Caribbean intellectual thought,
especially in the field of economics. For example, the plantation thesis of
society that examines the relationship between the mass of the population
to land, the role of extractive industries and historical economic
transitions fervently built on the potential of dependency thought. This
interdisciplinary perspective draws on sociology, economics, history and
anthropology to help explain the Caribbean economic dependence within the
international capitalist system, the racial and class formations of the
social structures within the region and the "Americas." The intellectual
movement also represented a challenge to the economic orthodoxy of the then
ruling political class and the status quo of "foreign white academics" and
European knowledge at the university.

Policy formation, the question of political activism and organizational
weaknesses accelerated the decline of the New World group by the early
New World proposals for land reform, nationalization and state-led
development backfired on the group as the examples of Jamaica and Guyana in
the 1970s exposed the severe limitations of these approaches when
unmanaged. Caribbean paternalistic political culture and shortcomings in
the technical capacity of the state at the time undermined the forecasted
dividends of "radical" reform and greater state control of the economy.
Girvan observed, “It is a moot point whether the policies followed by the
Burnham and Manley administrations in the 1970s were those that were
actually advocated, or intended, by the New World Group. What mattered is
the perception that they were. The status of ideas became linked to the
status of regimes that were perceived to be putting them into practice.”

Lloyd Best’s assertion that “Thought is the action for us,” has been
popularly misinterpreted as an expression of disengagement with movements
of the time. Rather, the statement affirms the role of ideas in the process
of social change and transformation, and the labor to produce ideas
relevant to the Caribbean context was both a political act and worthy of
pursuing. However, this posture did not accommodate the rapid changes that
the late 1960s and 1970s created, especially in Trinidad and Tobago’s Black
Power Revolution.

The New World group was recognized for its stellar contribution to the
intellectual development of the region. But the focus on the
historical-structural formations of society did not take up issues of
personal, collective and systemic empowerment as the feminist movement
would have done in the decade to follow after. Empowering people through
organizations are central to the sustenance of movement building.

Gita Sen and Caren Grown wrote, “Empowerment of organizations, individuals
and movements has certain requisites. These include resources (finance,
knowledge, technology), skills training, and leadership formation on the
one side; and democratic processes, dialogue, participation in policy and
decision-making, and techniques for conflict resolution on the other.”

Organizing skills, when taken up seriously, develop the long-term viability
of movements and grows the potential for radical change beyond a moment,
phase or historical opportunity.

Ultimately, there was a split in the group. These views helped solidify
Trevor Munroe’s Marxist critique of the New World as a group of bourgeois
idealists. Girvan identifies the split in the group as a conflict between
the decision of members to be involved in direct political action or
intellectualism. The question of political action was also tied to the
question of "independent thought" in the Caribbean. Marxist responses to
the New World poked at its rejection of "foreign ideologies" contending
that social conditions are not exclusively unique to the region and
cultural comparisons from “outside” provide frameworks of interpreting the

The political utility and intellectual credentials of the New World were
ultimately in question. While neither the Marxists nor the New World
proponents were completely right or wrong in their assertions, a major cost
of this breakdown was the decline in the radical search for Caribbean
solutions engineered for Caribbean problems. Dogmatism and ideological
certitude on both sides were unproductive to each of their causes in the
eyes of history.

The shortcomings of the New World group do not outweigh the valuable impact
the movement made to Caribbean transformation. The volunteer effort of the
young academics, transnational distribution of journals via suitcase and
"friend-of-a-friend" marketing and the influencing of state policy and
course curricula in the university for at least two decades are no small
order. Many young people of my generation do not know a thing about the New
World and many do not share their sense of purpose now. For these reasons,
the effort of the Girvan family to launch an open-access web-based platform
for the New World Journals <http://www.newworldjournal.org/> on June 23,
2017, was promising. Lloyd Best, George Beckford, Kari Levitt, Norman
Girvan, James Millette, Alister McIntyre, and the many others now have a
better chance to be taken up by Caribbean youth today.

I felt disheartened that one of the most prolific intellectual movements in
the Caribbean let itself go into obsolescence at the launch of the website.
Apart from the external and sociological conditions that impair its
abilities, personality conflicts and posturing served the final blows. The
dissolution of the British West Indies Federation, the achievement of
independence and the birth of a higher level of intellectual and popular
consciousness should not have signaled the demise of groups such as the New

The failures of a generation before me are also our inheritance. We must
learn, if not remember, that stepping forward in history includes looking
back. The launch of the New World Journal is not a debt we are paying to
those who came before, it is an investment in our future.
*lisaparavisini <http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/>* |
July 4, 2017 at 4:59 pm | Categories: News
<http://repeatingislands.com/category/news/> | URL: http://wp.me/psnTa-w38

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