[Marxism] Fwd: H-Net Review [H-Law]: M'Baye on Gulick, 'Literature, Law, and Rhetorical Performance in the Anticolonial Atlantic'

Andrew Stewart hasc.warrior.stew at gmail.com
Mon Oct 8 18:07:14 MDT 2018

Best regards,
Andrew Stewart 

Begin forwarded message:

> From: H-Net Staff <revhelp at mail.h-net.msu.edu>
> Date: October 8, 2018 at 6:30:12 PM EDT
> Subject: H-Net Review [H-Law]:  M'Baye on Gulick, 'Literature, Law, and Rhetorical Performance in the Anticolonial Atlantic'
> Reply-To: H-Net Staff <revhelp at mail.h-net.msu.edu>
> Anne W. Gulick.  Literature, Law, and Rhetorical Performance in the
> Anticolonial Atlantic.  Columbus  Ohio State University Press, 2016.
> xi + 258 pp.  $99.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8142-1302-5; $34.95 (paper),
> ISBN 978-0-8142-5213-0.
> Reviewed by Babacar M'Baye (Kent State University)
> Published on H-Law (October, 2018)
> Commissioned by Michael J. Pfeifer
> Anne W. Gulick's _Literature, Law, and Rhetorical Performance in the
> Anticolonial Atlantic_ is a very important work which explores the
> paradox that Pan-African postcolonial states and intellectuals have
> experienced since the early nineteenth century. The quandary lies in
> the fact that such states and scholars freed themselves from their
> previous colonial oppressors only to become confined by the legal and
> intellectual legacies of their former imperial subjugators. Gulick
> explains one of the main causes of this ambiguity: "The legal texts
> and institutions that helped grant decolonized nations their
> political autonomy were usually crafted by a small elite in
> conjunction with the country's former rulers, and often did little to
> reconfigure colonial economic and political power relations" (p. 1).
> Gulick's thesis statement is pertinent since, whether they are in
> Africa or in the Caribbean, postcolonial nations continue to
> experience both legal duality and contingency. For instance, as
> Gulick points out, "law has served both emancipatory and oppressive
> functions in Africa and the Caribbean, offering newly independent
> states and their citizens the means of asserting political legibility
> while also reinforcing colonial structures of rules and fostering new
> forms of economic and political dependency in a decolonized, but
> hardly postcolonial, world" (pp. 1-2). To understand the seriousness
> of the predicament that Gulick describes, one has to wonder why, for
> example, Haiti is still suffering from dire economic, social, and
> political conflicts although it was the first modern independent
> black nation. Moreover, this is the country that, as Gulick argues,
> provided through its independence movement "an alternative vision of
> the meaning of legal authorship and authority not just for Haiti but
> also for the postcolonial international community yet to come" (p.
> 17). Yet it is shocking to see that Haiti, which is a nation that has
> contributed so much to the fundamental importance of basic democratic
> freedom and modernity, as evidenced in Toussaint L'Ouverture's and
> Jean-Jacques Dessalines's republican victories over French
> imperialism, became after 1804 a postcolonial nation that did not
> completely sever itself from the legal traditions of its previous
> oppressor. As Gulick writes, "the challenge Haiti faces in the
> present is an anticolonial challenge of the sort that Frantz Fanon
> would describe 150 years later in _The Wretched of the Earth _[1961]"
> (pp. 26-27). There lies the strongest part of Gulick's book, which is
> its articulation of a problem that formerly colonized blacks are
> still unable to resolve. This problem is that black liberation
> movements become extremely weakened when they are co-opted by the
> former or current oppressors and when their elites' postcolonial
> visions and minds are modeled after those of the previous imperial
> powers.
> Yet Haiti's past revolutionary movement was and remains relevant
> since it provided the legal and rhetorical performance that has
> empowered anticolonial resistance in black African and Atlantic
> cultures since the 1960s. Yet this revolutionary consciousness was
> often inspired by what Gulick calls "First World law's texts," which
> includes legal or intellectual traditions that Karl Marx, Vladimir
> Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Hannah Arendt, and other thinkers have provided
> in defense of poor and oppressed people (pp. 48-49). According to
> Gulick, these figures' doctrines especially influenced the black
> Trinidadian scholar C. L. R. James to develop and inspire "a romance
> of revolutionary rhetorical performance" that has endured in the
> Atlantic world, enabling blacks to demand their rights in both
> colonial and postcolonial contexts (p. 49). This is an excellent
> argument since it reveals how black transnationalism and the
> Negritude movement to which it gave birth were forms of Atlantic
> revolutions. By perceiving Negritude and especially Aimé Césaire's
> classical book-length poem _Cahier d'un retour au pays natal_
> (_Notebook/Journal of a Return to My Native Land_), as a pivotal
> moment in these revolutions, Gulick writes the Caribbean into a
> history in which it has not been sufficiently studied.
> Yet, as Gulick suggests, black intellectuals such as James and
> Césaire allowed the Caribbean to have a strong presence in the study
> of Atlantic revolutions. First, according to Gulick, James and
> Césaire wanted to help blacks gain a freedom that Western-inspired
> legal traditions were not likely to provide them. Doubting the League
> of Nations' and the United Nations' ability "to address the racial
> and economic violence carried out by empire and capitalism" and "the
> political and economic structures these institutions were of course
> designed to uphold," James, Gulick argues, "was deeply invested in
> imagining alternative modes of political organization and
> participation, and how new political communities might form and
> assert their authority through revolutionary means" (pp. 48-49).
> Césaire echoed a similar weariness toward Western-based legal
> institutions since he found strength in Negritude as a means to
> provide alienated communities of African descent the global human
> rights traditions to which L'Ouverture and other black
> revolutionaries had contributed. In this sense, Gulick interprets
> Césaire's _Cahier_ "as a radical supplement to the Universal
> Declaration, a necessary mode of imagining--and performatively
> iterating--global justice through an engaged internationalist
> politics at the moment of the birth of a universal human rights
> movement riddled with conservative and depoliticizing tendencies" (p.
> 79).
> Another strength of Gulick's book is its comparisons of African forms
> of decolonization movements. Without delving into the whole history
> of such forms, Gulick, however, reveals that constitutions of a few
> African nations were similar in their urgent needs to be different
> from those of their colonial oppressors. Gulick shows the independent
> nations' constant efforts to make their foundational and legal texts
> be free from the ideologies of their former imperial hegemonies.
> Citing examples of Kenya and Algeria where "postcolonial
> constitutions were discarded and replaced with new, dramatically
> different constitutions within a short period of time," Gulick
> writes: "Africa did not take long after independence to start looking
> for constitutional forms better suited to the continent" (pp.
> 153-154).
> The plight of blacks in South Africa was not dissimilar to the plight
> of other formerly colonized people. First, during and after their
> fights against apartheid, South African blacks and other oppressed
> people had to consider accommodating the democratic conception of
> resistance as a movement necessitating cross-racial alliances. The
> Freedom Charter provided oppressed South Africans the legal and
> ideological framework that made such alliances possible. According to
> Gulick, "the Charter--and the Congress of the People, the mass
> meeting at which the document was formally approved and endorsed in
> 1955--solidified the anti-apartheid movement as a mass resistance
> struggle dependent on solidarity across racial, ethnic, and
> ideological lines." It might be possible to see this cross-racial and
> ethnic solidarity as limited since, as Gulick points out, "the text's
> profession of racial inclusivity alienated some of the ANC's [African
> National Congress] more committed Africanists, who would go on in
> 1958 to form the Pan Africanist Congress" (p. 122). Yet cross-racial
> and cross-ethnic alliances remained vital in the anti-apartheid
> struggles, since, as evidenced in 1994, they were part of the
> democratic and universalist ideologies that allowed Nelson Mandela
> and his supporters to positively change the course of South Africa's
> history. As Gulick also suggests, South Africa's experiment confirms
> that "revolution's end goal, as the work of James and Césaire
> attests, cannot be reduced to the constitution of a new legal regime;
> the real work of revolution lies in the cultivation of a dynamic and
> radically democratic political community, one equipped to continually
> reconstitute the nation in the present" (p. 123).
> Additionally, Gulick's book examines connections that most scholars
> of black studies assume exist but often fail to explore. These links
> include those between the Kenyan writer and critic Ngūgī wa
> Thiong'o and the Martinican poet, novelist, and essayist Edouard
> Glissant. First, Gulick opens up new avenues for scholarship in black
> Atlantic studies by lamenting the limited work on the relations
> between such kinds of black Anglophone and Francophone intellectuals.
> She states: "The long-standing and quite formidable disciplinary
> divide between francophone and anglophone literature means that as of
> Glissant's death in 2011 these two writers had never been in contact,
> nor had they ever referenced one another in their work." Breaking
> tradition, Gulick establishes strong connections between Ngūgī and
> Glissant, emphasizing that "both set out to interrogate the depths of
> the impact of colonialism on culture. Both are prominent theorists of
> language in postcolonial contexts, heavily influenced by an earlier
> generation of black internationalist anticolonial thinkers such as
> Césaire and Fanon.... Most importantly, both champion what I am
> calling radical multilingualism, a politics of linguistic diversity
> for the postcolonial world that is also an aesthetics" (p. 189).
> Through such powerful linkages and assertions, Gulick opens us space
> for further studies of the relationships between black Anglophone and
> Francophone intellectuals. Such inquiries will invigorate black
> Atlantic studies and show the pivotal role that Africa and its
> parental cultures in the New World have played in the development of
> ideas of universal freedom that are often perceived as mainly white,
> Western, and European.
> Citation: Babacar M'Baye. Review of Gulick, Anne W., _Literature,
> Law, and Rhetorical Performance in the Anticolonial Atlantic_. H-Law,
> H-Net Reviews. October, 2018.
> URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=50348
> This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
> Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States
> License.
> --

More information about the Marxism mailing list