". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Remembering Aimé Césaire

From Democracy Now:

[ "Aime Cesaire, 1913-2008: Remembering the Life and Legacy of the Black Pride Poet and Anti-Colonial Activist"

Aime Cesaire, the esteemed poet, writer, politician and anti-colonial activist from Martinique died on Thursday at the age of ninety-four. Cesaire is revered in the Francophone world as a leading figure in the movement for black consciousness and pride, which he called “Negritude.” His use of culture to fight colonialism and racism influenced generations of activists and writers around the world. ]

It was his ex-daughter-in-law who was instrumental in bringing us down to the French Caribbean last summer, that visit that was so revelatory in so many ways for us both. He's the last of that great Caribbeanist generation.

From the interview Goodman conducted with Robin Kelly:

[ Cesaire, among other things, was probably one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century. He was an activist, a revolutionary ,who really demolished the maxim that poets make bad politicians. He’s someone who, throughout his life—of course, you mentioned he was one of the founders of, if not the founder of, the Negritude movement, beginning in 1935, when he wrote an essay coining that phrase.
On the one hand, Negritude, for him, was a recognition that Africa had value. And he had been reading Leo Frobenius’s book, History of African Civilization. But for him, you know, Africa having value and celebrating black pride wasn’t enough. He had a forward-looking vision, a post-colonial vision. And when he returned to Martinique with his wife, Suzanne Cesaire, who’s one of the greatest intellectuals of that era, as well, they edited a journal called Tropiques, which was a truly anti- colonial manifesto, in some ways, that combined surrealism, Pan-Africanism and Marxism to pretty much propose a very modernist vision of society that would transcend Europe.
And remember what happened after the end of World War II, you know, Europe was in shambles, philosophically, politically. And it was Cesaire, when he wrote “Discourse on Colonialism,” that kind of made the argument that, you know, the brutality and barbarism that defined colonialism came back to roost in some ways and can explain fascism in Europe. And if any group of people have the wherewithal or vision to recreate modern society, it is colonial peoples. ]

It seems that in the shambles the world is again, this argument is worth re-examining. Indeed, as the sun of U.S. economic ruling power sets, it may be an argument that we have no choice but to re-examine.


Renegade Eye said...

Very interesting post.

Cultural nationalism has always been cooptable. It doesn't substitute for a revolutionary program. Ultimately he was a reformist.

Foxessa said...

Ren -- Are you saying that Césaire's work was -- what? neglible? to be dismissed? I'm sorry that I don't know what to make of your comment on this man's life.

It comes across as negative, but I'm not at all sure that's your intent.

Love, C.

Foxessa said...

However, if your take on this work is that it finally is unproductive, it would be educational for me to know why you have made that judgment.

If THAT made sense.

Love, C.

Graeme said...

wonderful. I missed this episode.