Humanity beyond the Regime of Labor: Antiblackness, Indigeneity, and the Legacies of Colonialism in the Caribbean

Decolonization

In 1970, the late Caribbean historian Elsa Goveia wrote that what unifies Caribbean society and culture is the subordination of blacks. It is a claim that has been roundly ignored within contemporary political and cultural work that seeks to frame Caribbean cultures in terms of survival, continuity, transformation, and the embrace of blackness. Goveia’s words, however, are as true today as they were then. Blacks were brought in to work on Dutch, French, British and other plantations because they were seen as the absolute lowest point of humanity. They could not be redeemed, even as Gentiles, as the Dominican friar Bartolomé de Las Casas strove to do for Indigenous peoples within the Spanish territories in the 16th century. This anti-blackness became foundational for the societies that ultimately emerged from colonialism.

However, this anti-blackness cannot be understood apart from the subordination of Indigenous peoples in early Empire, under colonialism, and ultimately…

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