Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Jamaica’s Olympics Exploits Reviewed: A National Pride ‘from Below’?

So the Olympics are over, but I did promise 'more later'. Hopefully, this amounts to that even as Hurricane Gustav literally threatens to rain on my parade. Thanks for the overwhelming support of the last entry...

There is a line from Kamau Braithwaite’s poem Negus which reminds me of the exploits of Jamaica’s athletes who, recently, wowed the world with their outstanding achievements in Beijing ‘08. It reads: ‘…we who have known nothing…/ Good earth, God’s earth…’ It chronicles, inter alia, the painful histories of peoples of African descent who, now resident in the ‘New World’ have, in the words of Jamaica’s first National Hero Marcus Mosiah Garvey, ‘accomplished what [they] will[ed]’, despite the seemingly insurmountable odds which they, collectively, faced.

Kamau, who originally hails from the tiny Caribbean island of Barbados, was born Lawson Edward Braithwaite. He lived in Jamaica as well as other parts of the Caribbean and wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on issues related to one of his adopted countries – our beloved ‘JamRock’. Entitled: ‘The Development of Creole Society in Jamaica 1770-1820’, Braithwaite’s tremendous scholarship and value as both poet and Caribbean philosopher are phenomenal. They impact various areas of life in these isles washed by the Caribbean Sea and are instrumental to my reading of the Olympic discourse emanating from Beijing.

There is, however, another agenda here. This blog provides as space in which to work out some ideas in relation to the larger theme of a (trans-) national Jamaican identity which have become as a crucial part of the ‘Beijing experience’, as well as is present in some of the attendant analyses following since, even if not stated explicitly. In my previous post, for instance, I suggested same without necessarily saying so. I wish to do just that today, as well as add a critical rider – these views are, largely, preliminary and reflect, in many ways, my own considerations of the subject. They converge around similar issues in my ongoing academic work as well as my long term interests in the area. Like others before it, this entry is part of an emerging set of ideas about the ‘national’ across a range of disciplines in the popular domain, sports being one of them.

Braithwaite’s work, like those of other scholars including Nettleford and Carolyn Cooper, has helped us scratch the surface and, quite possibly, illuminate the first half (?) of the trajectory of the processes of decolonization and its twin sister nationalism in the Caribbean They have provided an appropriate (?) context through which we may be able to analyse Jamaica’s outstanding achievements and athletic prowess recently demonstrated in Beijing. These cumulative acts of national pride, focus and determination on the part of the Jamaican athletes, then, visually remind that, questions about (trans-) nationalism are not just an intellectual preoccupation which, in the words of Nicholas Laughlin, has become en vogue in recent times in Caribbean cultural and literary studies.

While, it is not my intent to comment fulsomely on the implications of that statement here, what I wish to do; however, is to add the second ‘chapter’ in my focus on Jamaica’s Olympic exploits by way of this entry. Such was promise made earlier on which I am now delivering in fulfillment of that ‘bond’. Indulge me, momentarily, to acknowledge what is, without question, a decidedly academic look at the Olympics, specifically regarding how representations of nationalism which have come out of that experience might be considered.

Indeed, following on my earlier post last week, Annie Paul mentioned in her most recent blog that, these Olympics embody a sort of ‘Patwa power’ in terms of Jamaica’s achievements in Beijing. According to her, the achievements of the young and very talented Jamaican team at the Games of the 29th Olympiad lead by ‘lightning Bolt’ are indicative, in many respects, of a ‘politics from below’ (my emphasis!). Jamaicans of otherwise little renown, as per the society’s class matrix that is, have excelled beyond measure. Showing, in the process, how the traditions of orality out of which most of them have originated are, fundamentally, valued and valuable, despite a traditional Jamaican class politics which would otherwise negate such achievements, locally.

While, I do not wish to address the implications of orality here, it is hard to disagree let alone find fault with Paul’s well reasoned analysis. Still, its substantive value, though important, does not immediately interests me; that is, insofar as she argues in favour an importance which we have always known but which has only now been acknowledged by some within the privileged Jamaican literati. Note, I am not suggesting that Paul is either guilty of this belated recognition nor that she is a member of such an elitist grouping.

Rather, I am contending, as does the famous Jamaican poet, scholar, actor and activist Miss Lou does, in her poem ‘Jamaica Oman’ that, Jamaican people have always embodied the celebratory convictions of character and the audacity of hope (a-la Barrack Obama), to dream big dreams like those witnessed in Beijing. Many were out conquering the world beyond Jamaica’s shores long before 2008. Among others, their quiet struggles have contributed, in part, to one of the more recent ‘wonders of the modern world’ – the Panama Canal during the first decade of the twentieth century.

The mass exodus to places like Englan’, as noted in the previous post below, decades later (1950s) and after that the United States (US) are other notable examples. Other ‘First World’ nations have received many benefits from Jamaica even at the said Olympic Games. Canadian and British Olympic champions Donovan Bailey and Linford Christie, respectively, are the product of outward Jamaican migration to the so-called ‘First World’, as are our scholars, scientists and performance artists, numbered among them even Miss Lou herself. That latter day acknowledgement has now been awarded does not diminish these unquestionable facts of our collective histories.

Miss Lou’s words mirror a similar admiration, notwithstanding that she classifies it under the gendered rubric of the traditionally perceived cunning of Jamaican womanhood:

Jamaica oman cunny, sah! (Jamaican women are cunning, eh!)
Is how dem jinal so? (How is it that they are so smart?)
Look how long dem liberated (Look how long they have been liberated)
An di man dem never know! (And the men did not know!)

By reading ‘oman’ (woman) in this case for Jamaican people I expand Miss Lou’s original meaning to also represent the imbalanced power relations established between the social and political classes in Jamaica. The Jamaican woman metaphorically becomes the larger and largely, disenfranchised (black) peoples of the society’s under-classes, specifically those who have been feminised and ‘othered’ in the alienating master narratives of patriarchal, anti-colonial, dominance outfitted with all the racialised heritage of Colonial Enlightenment nationalism. Consequently, identity politics in the Jamaican ‘nation-state’ operates with a fair amount of disdain towards the social and political pariahs not ‘naturally’ included in the arrogant definitions of statehood offered through slogans such as ‘Out of Many, One People’, as well as and to a lesser extent, the ubiquitous National Anthem.

Though welcomed, the collective nationalization of the Olympic team is curious and warrants critique in this wider context. Largely, invoked through the technology of media such actions represent, in the main, a chasm in the traditions of hegemony practised by the state. Black people in Jamaica, specifically those of working class, inner-city and the rural ‘peasant’ class origins do not (really) belong. They are not, necessarily, included in the definitions of official authority as sanctioned by the preponderance of ‘brown’ and non-black folk in the several areas of Jamaican politics. ‘Browness’, such as it is, becomes the metaphoric representation of a specific state of being which constructs the ‘nation’ as anything other than what it truly is – an African descended majority whose culture and customs differ significantly from the politics of officialdom. Paul is right, therefore, in making the connections between the Olympians ‘from below’ and Dancehall and Reggae musics even if there are (minor) distinctions between these.

Still, Paul does not go nearly as far in establishing the links between Jamaican folk culture and urban blight, which are, in part, responsible for the production of what she calls ‘pocket rocket[s]’ like Shelly-Ann Fraser and others. Acknowledgement must be duly given to the pioneering scholarship of theorists like Cooper, whose insistent refusal to bow in the face of constant criticisms and pressure have been vindicated, in many ways, by the ‘gold rush’ occasioned by the ‘Olympic fever’ which overtook us this past week. That Cooper and a (limited) number of others have argued in favour of a sort of ascendant (black) trans-nationalism which surpasses the fixed geographical boundaries of the ‘nation’ and which are rooted in Jamaican folk traditions; she has also cleared the way for Paul’s analysis.

Consequently, space has to be created in this conversation to acknowledge the extent to which the ‘folk’ as a counter discourse of grassroots Jamaican nationalism has been, fundamentally, disregarded and disrespected in the ongoing struggles for what Nettleford, in his use of M.G. Smith’s plural society model, calls ‘the battle for space’. The team of Jamaican athletes in Beijing not only displayed the power of the ‘the politics from below’ but also made two other similarly important statements. Jamaica continues to be a very racist society which refuses to acknowledge this blight on the nation’s history, by appearing to ‘apologise’ for the obvious material poverty of many of the athletes who represented us in Beijing, China.

That we focused mostly on the champions rather than the entire team further cements the point. Thus, it may be rightly argued that the only reason Fraser and Walker, especially, are heralded to prominence is because they are gold medalists. ‘Sensitive’ viewers can, therefore, tolerate to some extent the sights and sounds of real life struggles, if even momentarily, and proceed to preface their responses either with an apology/ embarrassment for themselves (the viewers, that is!) – the so-called ‘laughter of madness’ in theater which disguises the audiences’ dis-ease with certain aspects of the unfolding performance.

Alternatively, there is the feeling that the athletes may be ‘embarrassed’, almost as a way of explaining away (?) the privation and lack so starkly told in the contradictory discourse of championship occasioned by the focus of the Olympics in Beijing. Getting to the world stage and dominating it is part and parcel of having to compete, fight and struggle regularly in one’s daily existence. It might well be argued then, that it this particular (?) kind of viewer who is shamed rather than the athletes, who incidentally, have not (yet) seen the reports themselves as they have not yet landed in Jamaica since their departure for Beijing.

Presumably, already more accustomed (?) to the familiarity of their constantly challenging contexts all that is left for most of the Jamaica’s athletes featured is win gold medals, set records and create upsets on the world stage. The Jamaicans’ exploits in Beijing could hardly be considered a surprise, in this context, as the grim realities under which many have lived and continue to live are a necessary part of their success story turned inside out, at least from my vantage point. It is completely disingenuous for our local media to project, as a result, an image of the athletes that does not meaningfully correspond with a respectful awareness of this consciousness.

In fact, the media, themselves, contribute to this unhealthy state of affairs by refusing to help forward an appropriate understanding of the material culture of lack and privation which are instrumental to creating our (world) stars. Often no connection is made with the struggles of other Jamaicans in previous decades. As Channer notes in the Wall Street Journal, many have had to flee the harsh conditions of a contradictory ‘paradise’ which accords status and privilege only (?) insofar as one is felt to appropriately embody the high (emphasis added!) nationalist and elitist virtues/ ideals embedded in slogans like ‘Out of Many, One People’! The extent to which most of these athletes are, rightly, the children and products of the Jamaican under-classes foreground, then, the long history of struggle and the traditions of greatness from which they have descended.

Resistance is genetically encoded in our DNA. Not surprisingly, plots to overthrow slavery marked by such famous revolts like the ‘Christmas Rebellion’ of 1865 in the eastern parish of St. Thomas resulted in the execution of National Heroes, Sam Sharpe, a Baptist minister and the mulatoe politician George William Gordon a day after each other. Examples like these occupy a crucial space in shaping modern Jamaican history and are a key part of our tremendous athletic and other abilities. Any effort to suggest otherwise is to miss the singular importance of a collective national (?) resistance, deeply rooted in Jamaica’s conflicted history of race (class and gender) relations. This is indelibly marked by and onto our bodies, including those of our athletes.

That the Beijing performances so wowed the world, specifically during the period between August 15 and 24, potently testifies to our transcendent abilities to rise above material circumstances to the pinnacles of greatness. This is not a fluke, nor is it happenstance. No, there is real talent here – a talent that is, fundamentally, part of who we are. It makes us a strong, confident people who know how to win, laugh, cry and expect the best even when all else suggests otherwise; when to do the opposite of the ordinary and how to adamantly refuse to do nothing at all because the deck seems stacked against us.

Our courage in the face of great adversity and the burning desire that knows that regardless of outcomes we gave it our best is crucial to what makes us Jamaican. The slew of jokes which circulated across the Internet in the aftermath of Jennifer Bolt’s comments that she fed Usain on the good ole yam (and bananas), as well coco and the much vaunted cassava of recent vintage, a-la Agriculture Minister Dr. Christopher Tufton, masks a larger point. Not only is this the staple we had to eat, many times it was all that there was available. ‘We who have known nothing… [but the] Good earth, [that] God [gave us]…!’ were sustained even in the most challenging of times by Jamaica’s ‘coarse cuisine’. It nurtured our dreams simultaneously watered by a fair amount of tears, laughter, disappointments and joy! This is but part of the other half of the story which, controversial (?) Dancehall deejay Buju Banton reminds ‘has never been told!’

Thanks to Jennifer, Wellesley and Usain Bolt, we are a little nearer to setting the record straight!

PS: Pictures above courtesy of the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) website: www.iaaf.org.

Veronica Campbell-Brown of Jamaica reacts after winning the Women's 200M Final in Beijing, China;

Usain Bolt wrapped in Jamaica Flag after the finals of the Men's 200M in Beijing, China; and,

Asafa Powell anchors Jamaica to victory in the Men's 400M Relay Final.


Annie Paul said...

I would resist seeing the Jamaican athletic team's Olympic exploits as mere "resistance"...they went out and conquered the world, they didn't merely resist.

And that is not to discredit all the earlier heroes whom you claim as great resisters but to interrogate the concept of resistance itself; surely by now it has become too much of an academic cliche for us to reduce the heroic exploits of freedom fighters and Olympians merely to such a passive act.

finally is it too much to ask that if you're going to engage in a lengthy commentary on my blog/post that you at least place a link to it in your post? That is one of the most basic protocols of blogging you know.

but thanks i'm honoured by the attention...

Raw Politics....Jamaica Style! said...

Thanks for your comments, Annie. Apologies for not placing a link in the post to yours. However, I confess that I have not yet figured that out just yet! A crying shame, I know, but I promise I will get to it in short order.

As for resistance being a passive act, I would have to disagree with you. In fact, it is not my intention to suggest that the efforts of our heroes (national or otherwise) or those of our Olympians are, necessarilly, passive.

Rather, that there is a real way in which these kinds of efforts have been overlooked and, often, misrepresented in some of the analyses which emanate from such discussions.

I would gain say that it is largely because people would prefer not to engage with some of the issues that go with that why there is a sense that a linkage of this kind might not seem appropriate. In fact, I wonder just how many of those stories which are told place in appropriate context the kinds of histories which preceded these efforts?

Please note also, that it is not merely the question of the Olympics which is at issue, necessarilly, but anything that falls outside of the context of the narrowly defined boundaries of a sort of 'insiderist' elitism that passes for official identity in Jamaica.

Raw Politics....Jamaica Style! said...

...One other point.

It is not me who is making the claim that, these many unsung heroes gestured to in the above post are, as you claim, "mere resisters".

In fact, I am arguing that this is precisely the point. There is an effort in some quarters to diminish these achievements under what you claim is a sort of 'passive' demarcation, almost as a way of othering these achievements - a fundamental part of the racism that operates here.

Further, that Mrs. Simpson Miller makes the point is important, however, I rather suspect that it is very odd that these comments would and should come at this juncture in our history. That says so much about how we feel about ourselves as a people. No effort to include, so that 'ordinary' Jamaicans achieving what they have always done in the past is considered astounding here - a classic case of the prophet who is without honour in his own country, if you ask me.

Further, I am stating for the recording that there is an effort to deny according full respect where it is due to all the others who have come before us. We did not just start these things in 2008 or, for that matter, Beijing. There is a long and colourful, if not proud history/ heritage that precedes these achievements. The full story has to be told.

That WADA has been taking the issue of drug testing so seriously this year and, hopefully, years to come, the efforts of the Jamaicans as well as other people who have been labouring in the fields for sometime now must naturally come to light.

Annie Paul said...

Perhaps you should invest a little time in learning how to use the various features blogs offer...consult the help manual, that's how i learnt. failing that, stop by my office sometime and i'll show you--

is it deliberate that despite numerous references to my blog i'm not named in your list of labels?

oh but of course, as Beenie Man said, who am I?

Raw Politics....Jamaica Style! said...

I would be more than happy to stop by and get a lesson in! Surely, you were told - if I could be so previous as to use this forum to say that, that I did come by recently. I shall place it very (very) high on my agenda...after Gustav! LOL!

...And, no my dear, it is not at all deliberate that you were not placed in the labels to this post. Indeed, you might appreciate that this was posted very late last night. As a result, this minor detail completely escaped me in the checking and double checking and all the anxieties which go with putting out information of this kind into the public domain!

...Let us see to correcting this oversight, posthaste! LOL!

PS: Beenie Man might well be right in his creative use of self deprecation. However, it would be extremely foolish for any us to make such a dreadful gaffe and ask this unpardonable question in our relations with one of your magnanimous stature in this conversation!

Raw Politics....Jamaica Style! said...

...Oh, and as for "investing a little time", rest assured, I learned how to put the pictures in. Just can't seem to find how to caption them, though I did notice that you have take to using 'photo credits'.

For what it is worth, I decided against this. I hope that the audience is familiar, at the very least mildly aware, of who the people in the picture are. LOL! But, that might not be such a bad idea!

Annie Paul said...

Well, this is becoming a two-way dialogue isn't it?

It's not about whether the audience is familiar with the subjects of the photographs which of course can't be assumed if you're catering to an international readership but also about giving the photographer credit. that's the important thing. i seem to remember discussing this with you in relation to a photo of mine you once used with no mention whatsoever of source! Trust me if you don't mention source and give due credit you could be accused of just lifting people's work and using it for your benefit.

Raw Politics....Jamaica Style! said...

Thanks for your insights, Annie.

Duly noted in reference to the use of photographs, which I was careful to remove, as per your comments above. But, in all seriousness, this was really a (very bad) joke, as I was more speaking the question of how to caption the photographs.

In terms of acknowledging the photographers who took the shots for the Olympics, these were all made available to the public from various news sites.

That being said, your point is duly noted and cannot be argued with, at all.

Raw Politics....Jamaica Style! said...

...Incidentally, wordpress allows for easier manipulations this way! Hence, the twinned entries.

Long said...

A lot to digest here.

1. Yes, a link to Annie's blogpost would be good; I had to go back and read it based on the comments you made.

2. I didn't read Annie's comment as overly concerned with orality per se, but of the social and cultural locations of the athletes, which includes the much-maligned language they cry, laugh, celebrate and cuss in, at the Olympics and beyond.

There is a way that patwa (its roots and various forms of embodiment as reflected in dancehall moves) is often made to 'disappear' once we reach foreign shores or the international stage; in a way, that is part of the power being celebrated here. Usain - if not the entire contingent of Jacns at the games - made it present and visible.

3. Somehow, it seems entirely 'natural' to use 'women' as a metaphor for the disenfranchised, and the 'state' as the site of patriarchal dominance. However, what if you flipped the script: what if the state were the woman/mother wrangling her unruly, defiant sons and daughters into place? By point is this: What if we didn't reify certain concepts like 'gender', 'underclasses', 'elite' etc. but used this opportunity to rethink them?

4. Olympic teams are "national" entities for the short and limited time period that they do exist. And for that time period, the "person" is far less important than the "athlete", and painstaking efforts are made to de-emphasize the person and to focus on the emergence and the durability of the athlete-self. Just because we (brown and non-brown) celebrate these athletes, doesn't mean we think differently about the persons in terms of where they came from and how they came to be.

The unintended consequences of mass media circulating Jennifer Bolt's yam comment, the exposure of [some of] the athletes' living situations, and Shelly-Ann's mom unselfconsciously making her livelihood part of Shelly-Ann's success story, are that we have not been able to splinter the 'person' from the 'athlete' so easily during these olympics. Indeed, the earliest discussions about how to properly celebrate the athletes have focused on symbolic efforts such as addressing the road conditions, etc. but not much else in terms of respecting the persons who, as it turns out, are the majority of the athletes who compete internationally, whether or not they win gold medals. The visible, palpable contradictions between the status of the athletes and the status of the persons in Jamaica is indeed an embarassment to the national government and to all of us; we have become far too comfortable with such disgusting inequality and injustice and find all kinds of fancy terms to explain it away. They don't need to be embarassed, although of course, if they are status conscious as say our Usain (vis a vis the BMW), they will feel that they should have had more, or that they unintentionally exposed themselves in ways that make others feel sorry for them. Of course, this moment - when the possibility of the national government giving these athletes material rewards is going to raise other questions - can be exploited by those of us who are looking for some new opening to redress longstanding issues of social inequality. But, just by listening to all the chatter - including yours, by the way - it is much harder to make the argument that overall conditions need to be ameliorated and changed so radically that we no longer have ghettos, when others are busy arguing that ghettoes are essential ingredients to the making of these athletes, and therefore should be harnessed (as factories??) to make more superstar athletes. I prefer to see the existence of ghettoes as a temporary condition, rather than what we need.

5. What do you mean by "establishing the links between folk culture and urban blight"? I don't understand how you are using those terms.

6. I forgot to tell Annie that when she first mentioned "pocket rocket" in her post, I was taken aback: I associate that term with a vibrator/sex toy! Using that as an analogy works even better, actually.

Raw Politics....Jamaica Style! said...

Thanks for your insights, Long. Useful as always!

First off, that last comment in relation to 'pocket rocket' is funny, in truth!

In terms of the point about establishing a link between the folk and urban blight, I am really attempting to say that there are deep rooted links, often not considered, between the stories of those who live in urban inner city communities and the abandoned elements of the 'folk' which did not pass the grade and were, therefore, deemed 'cultural'. I think here of the dancing of 'folk' in 'national' spaces like the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC) and others.

By which means, I am actually making a case for the argument that there is an endemic elitism about how we 'see'. Only those considered 'important enough' in the larger political frameworks of the society are actually constructed as 'useful' to that project. However, where such usefulness cannot be determined, immediately, or where one is felt to represent views which do not sit well with the 'official society', then, there is almost a deliberate effort to alienate such individuals, cultures and customs. (The violence is also rooted, in part, in some of these unresolved issues between the social classes, I am sure!)

I am arguing that in the context of our disarticulated race (ist) consciousness, we 'naturally' assume that these reasons are solely based on 'relative importance', as a term to mean 'official'. So that, the affairs of poor, often black, largely disenfranchised Jamaicans are never important unless it is in relation to certain specific political projects. This, while the Page Twos of this world feel no pains in broadcasting just about every minute detail of the lives of the 'privileged/ elite'.

Note, I have nothing against Page Two and other such publications, necessarilly, as I would take the promotion if I got it, in truth. However, it is really to make the point of how expendable black, working class and inner city bodies are in the overall projects of the state. In that regard, your point about constructing the state as a 'mother' and her unruly son seems like a useful fit, so long as it makes the point about the castrating importance of that relationship, etc.

Insofar as Olympic teams go, I accept that they must be 'national' in some ways. However, I am trying to rethink, as you say, 'the national' as a project in the larger context of the relations of power between internal communities and the state. In that regard, it is at one level an effort to invite self criticism in terms of our collectivised interests in naming all of these people on the Olympic Team Jamaicans, who we would otherwise not have seen or cared about in regular relations of power.

I am sure it could be said there is no 'regularity' here, however, bear in mind that the athletes are really men and women who would, in a real way, be working in some of the lowest, if not unimportant sectors of the society; that is, if they would even be employed, had it not been for sports. There is something to be said for how we choose to forget these efforts are rendering people of these groupings invisible and silent in the alienating discourse of 'official Jamaica' in our efforts at celebrating these 'great achievements'. We were always great! Make no mistakes about that - just never afforded as dramatic a platform on which to shine in the way they did in Beijing as well as elsewhere!

However, some would wish to pretend that this is not so and hence try and diminish the historical connectivity to these realities. Note, this is not an advocacy for maintaining ghettoes or keeping people in poverty. Rather, it is to argue that the domestic and weekly waged labourers, etc. have in them (also) all of these seeds of greatness and excellence, just never afforded the opportunities in many instances. Hence, Maxine Simpson's comments are so profound!

These are things for us to think about in the aftermath of the obvious hero worship that the occassion of the Olympics and the celebrations bring with them! That is all I am saying. Where better to start that than with media?

Raw Politics....Jamaica Style! said...

...PS: No arguments with the 'link'!

Annie Paul said...

by the way the photo of Usain draped in the flags (second from top i think) is fabulous. makes him look like an Obeah priest, like a young Kapo...who took that photo?

I don't think you understand the importance of attribution yet. From your response it sounds as if you wouldn't mind if someone say took two paragraphs out of your blog and stuck it in theirs without mentioning where they got it, who it was by etc

that's the point--

i think the category of 'folk' created and overused by a previous generation of cultural analysts has little valence anymore. for one thing those who valorize the folk have a difficulty fitting the ebullient urban version into the traditional folk model. their culture is not recognized as contemporary 'folk' culture. The notion of 'folk' is a romanticized one and inextricably linked to a notion of 'rural others'which Usain for example is an eloquent deconstruction of--

Raw Politics....Jamaica Style! said...

Thanks for your comments, Annie.

I want to disagree, however, with what you have said insofar as the comments in relation to use of the 'folk' as well as attribution.

Let's address the latter first. Whereas, I conceded that, as you say there are certain basic rules of protocol in the blogosphere, which I would not disagree with, I would not agree that I lack an understanding of the 'importance of attribution'.

Indeed, it is precisely for these reasons why I confess my ignorance of the technology and the oversight which you clearly drew attention to insofar as the 'link' issue noted above. As I indicated, in the hurry (?) to post and with all (?) considerations, overlooked to place your name in the labels, originally. This was not intentional but, certainly, compounds the original issue. Now, does that mean that I am keen on having someone lift complete sections of this blog and use them as their own ideas/ post? No, it does not. However, it is a risk we take by posting, even discussing our ideas with others, as I have come to learn.

For the simple reason that part of the creation of this blog, as noted in the post, was intended to 'work out' a set of issues in relation to ongoing academic interests of mine, further underlines my very keen awareness of this issue. My acknowleged 'hesitation' about this post, therefore, had more to do with this very awareness insofar as people could possibly 'conveniently' re-read my ideas as their own, without acknowledging their source. Worse still, misread them and then make all sorts of contrary claims about their origins and validity. I have seen this happen before.

Whereas, I do not see blogs as equivalent to academic journals, I still value their importance. It is my sincere wish that greater respect were accorded to how we treated with each other's ideas, as a result and that mine or even yours or someone else's would not be plagiarised by unscrupulous person(s).

Still, there is little that can be done to prevent this, in a very real way. I, therefore, trust in good faith, that having placed in a very obvious way some of the 'shortcomings' of these views; that is, being part of a larger academic project as well as that they are 'preliminary' that I am underlining the importance of their source. And also, that that source is me.

To the extent that this position may also apply to the photographs used, my earlier point about publishing both at wordpress and blogspot was intended to compensate for the seeming inability to use captions/ attributions in the latter. I have subsequently posted captions at the foot of those posts in blogspot where photos appear in the blogs as well as acknowledge their sources. In that regard, I would have to disagree with you on the point about attribution, notwithstanding apparent initial 'hiccups' on my part in relation to the question of photography.

Further, I also wish to disagree with your comments in relation to 'folk', not so much because I do not agree that characters like Usain Bolt as well as others may well be disrupting some of the 'traditionally' received notions of 'folk', as orginally conceived (by Cooper and others), I still maintain that his is part of the complexities of 'life in Jamaica', currently. Ideas like 'folk' regardless of their political baggage continue to be disregarded in official and ongoing narratives about 'nation' in Jamaica, even today. That I think is curious, not so much because the 'folk' has any more uniqueness in explaining Jamaica in the full range of its genealogy but, rather because by not according it credence we 're-write' history by overlooking to include an important part of the story.

Whether the meanings of 'folk' have and should change are no different for that concept than for most others, where people shift away from original conceptions to incorporate, if even incrementally, altered meanings and ideas to explain their own consciousness and, therefore, use of the term. This is similar, in a way, to my reading of Miss Lou as more than a woman/activist/poet writing about 'women's lib' and stretching to incorporate peoples' lib (whatever that is!). That these people are black, disenfranchised (for the most part) and, mostly, working class makes the point all the more useful for my purposes - meanings are constantly shifting, moving and overlapping each other. It would be remiss of any theory making/ revising project not to acknowlege that. Had I not done so, it was my sincere hope that it was implied to full advantage.

I would also submit that the effort to suggest that the definition of 'folk' is, somehow, fixed and therefore cannot be re-read in terms of my post is to also miss the point I was attempting to make - the full truth (whatever that is!) is a complex and complicating story that requires 'new' and creative lenses through which to see as well as theorise its own meanings. I, therefore, engage with Cooper's work not so much because I see it as 'the gospel' but because I find it interesting that, even with all of what else we know further to original criticisms of her scholarship, there seems an abiding reluctance to acknowlege the value of what she could also be saying for us in the postmodern (?) constructions of twenty-first century Jamaican/ Caribbean cultural/ literary studies.

I embrace key elements of her work, then, which allows me that latitude as well as use it as a way of self referencing. The extent to which there seems an uneasiness and an unwillingness to create space in the dialogue for some of the ideas I spoke to in the post is also indicative of the race-class-gendered tensions currently in the society. Some 'theorists' have currency, others do not! Cooper is relevant, in other words, to herself but no one else. I disagree!

What is the big deal with acknowledging, even critiquing her work? Is there a refusal to theoretically engage with scholarship of this kind because we feel an inherrent prejudice (?)/ bias (?) against 'local' theory making possibilities? That is the 'valence' that Cooper's work have for my own. Not a substitute or a glorification, almost as hero-worship, which might (also) be inferred from your comments above.

Thanks for the comment on the Usain photograph!

Annie Paul said...

You know Agostinho you really must stop this heroic but completely delusional jousting on behalf of Carolyn Cooper and using me as a target to boot.

Why should you jump to the conclusion that when i critique the concept of 'folk' i have CC in mind? She is in fact the last person i have in mind, since i hardly know her to use the term 'folk' in the unreflexive way i am critical of. I find it alarming and even mischievous the way in which you insist on projecting your own misreadings of my writing onto my work and then take me to task in a torrent of words that one can hardly plough through let alone make sense of. Notice that even Long Bench said her reading of my post was not the way you chose to interpret it.

This is particularly ironic since CC is someone who has been cited, quoted and defended in much of my writing, both the more academic variety and the Herald columns. I agree with almost everything she has to say about popular culture, indeed i'd be hard put to find anything i disagree with her about except her position on theory. Carolyn's work is groundbreaking; she is a major influence on me as are Nadi Edwards, David Scott, Stuart Hall and others. So what?
and where in any of my writing do i refuse to acknowledge any of these influences?

Cho, tek weh yuself! Go find someone else to pick an argument with. And put a link to my blog post in your commentary on it or remove any references to my blog from your post--


Annie Paul said...

and incidentally unless you took that photo of Usain yourself i don't understand your thanking me for my comment on it. I wish to compliment the author of the photograph but you provide no information on him or her. THAT is the problem of overlooking attribution!

Raw Politics....Jamaica Style! said...

Hi Annie.

Beyond the offense in your words, it would perhaps be useful to remind that you were the one who said that I neither understood attribution, nor the use of the term 'folk'. Upon explaining my meaning, I am dismissed. So, I will accept that we will end the discussion here because it would be really pointless to continue.

However, for the record, please note that my intention was to explain my particular (?) usage of 'folk' in the post earlier even while acknowledging its shortcomings. It is a little sad to me though that you feel l jousting on Carolyn's behalf and using you as a target. Nothing could be further from the truth!

And, I shall certainly put a link in, rest assured.

Raw Politics....Jamaica Style! said...

Incidentally, I mentioned CC because she was the name I mentioned in the post, as you will recall.

Raw Politics....Jamaica Style! said...

I just came across your last comment in relation to the photograph and am publishing it. However, please note where I indicated that the photographs were taken from the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) site. This, I stated much earlier in my comments...Over to you!

longbench said...

So, I'm hoping that now that the mini-tempest in a teapot has blown over, I can say something about your comment above, which suggests that questioning your usage and appropriation of the term "folk" is akin to attacking and dismissing "local theorists."

I find this to be a specious remark, to say the least.

In my opinion, the only worthy defense and response at this time is for you to acknowledge that one can't simply lift terms from one theorist/type of analysis/ political context and transplant it to another, without dealing with all the baggage.

Some concepts don't "travel" so well, and "folk" has its own history that you cannot ignore just because it seemed to be convenient for your intentions on the blog (a parenthetical comment would make your intentions clear).

I know that I asked about the relationship that you were alluding to between "folk" and "urban blight" because I started to think of ways in which some of the analytics being used to understand the "ghetto"/"gully people" etc. bears some resemblance to the ways in which "folk" has been used. But, there are some important issues to be taken into consideration, including how our understanding of "power" and "culture" has changed significantly since terms like "folk" first came into currency in academia. I think Annie raised legitimate points.

So, where to next?

If YOU are going to offer up these connections as part of your intervention, then it would make for far better conversation if YOU started doing the hard work of teasing out the connections that you DO see. IMHO, this has nothing to do with CC, and everything to do with you, so stop hiding behind her voluminous linen frocktails and step up already! There's nothing to be afraid of, except that you might discover that you don't always agree with yourself. All of us have that experience, so welcome to the club.

Alright, me done! I stepping down off the soapbox.

One love,

Long Bench

Raw Politics....Jamaica Style! said...

Hi Long. Thanks for your comments.

Certainly, I take the value of the point insofar as the question of the intellectual and historical baggage that concepts like 'folk' raise, in a more general way.

Without disagreeing with the legitimacy of your points above, I am actually hoping that, by way of implication, my points about the 'folk' might have been clear (er)?). The link between the generally devalued spaces of the 'urban' and those of the 'folk' in their curious relationship with (Jamaican) hegemony are constantly overlapping and inter-changing, even while they shift away from each other in many ways (You will note that I made that point above, also).

That I never bothered (?) to expound on this point is part of my desire not to discuss some of the more substantive issues in relation to my critique/ discussion of this concept through the use of the term 'preliminary'.
In fact, it is for this very reason that I am 'taking time off' to write/ edit (In real terms that could just be one post every two-three weeks. LOL!).

I refuse to share that depth of insight here, not so much because I cannot defend (?) my use of the term and what I mean by it but that these are not always the most useful (?) spaces in which to engage in such a discussion.

My interest in concepts like 'folk', in the post above, is strictly (?)for the purposes of how I wish to 'see' in the darkness of this 'debate'. Beyond the obvious reasons why I might take issue, as per the above, the 'mini tempest' as you call it, is less about the merit to the claims made but more with the intimation that I was defending the 'folk' and the implications of that for what I discussed. I am not sure what investments I would have in such a vocation/ project.

I am no more a defender of 'folk' than I am of 'Jamaica', or even 'black', 'male', etc. From where I sit, these are mostly convenient (?) terms which, for my purposes (blogging), allows me to establish a set of meanings, albeit preliminary, for such purposes.

I would, therefore, readily agree with you that we can almost certainly disagree with ourselves, though, hopefully, not so much as to warrant a complete about turn in all/ most instances.

Raw Politics....Jamaica Style! said...
This comment has been removed by the author.


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