v8 i1

All Issues

Interviewing the Caribbean Volume 8 Issue 1

Edited by Opal Palmer Adisa

Purchase a Copy at:

Letter from the Editor

Maroonage has long been a conscious and compulsory cultural resistance journey that some African people in the New World have elected to avoid the cruelty and servitude of slavery. In Jamaica and throughout the New World, there were, and continue to be maroon communities, some small, some large and others of varying sizes, enclaves of people who create communities to avoid engagement with the government or others they consider members of “Babylon,” but mainly to preserve their African culture and have autonomy.

So, it is only appropriate that as we celebrate 60 years of Independence and the publication of Sylvia Wynter’s The Hills of Hebron, we reread and relook at her depiction and presentation of what the future might hold for the dispossessed. Are they still exiled from themselves and society? Are they still seeking redemption and benevolence from a God far removed and who bears no resemblance to themselves? Is there a Hebron – a place of safety, abundance, and refugee for these progeny of enslavers bereft of land and education?

As we look at Jamaica’s development, an 89 per cent literacy rate, a mortality rate of 7.6 per 1000 people, and a murder rate of 49.4 per 100,000, we can infer that not much has changed for those who occupy the lower strata of society. The COVID-19 pandemic further testifies to the vast disparities evident in society. Yet that is only one side of the story, for within these gloomy figures is also glaring evidence of a swelling creative outpouring in all areas of the cultural and performing arts, entrepreneurial resourcefulness in street vendors, and thriving communities, with more attention towards food security and environmental integrity.

For those 20 years and younger The Hills of Hebron, might read like a foreign space or far removed from the present reality. However, there are still enough such spaces in various parts of Jamaican society, and the search for self and meaning is still a quest many are undergoing. Sylvia Wynter’s important text provides a map to travel from the past to the unknown future.

I want to thank Professor Carole Boyce-Davies for suggesting this partnership, and thank Cornell University for supporting this issue.

Walk good.

Purchase the full journal here

Editorial Team

He is a graphic designer and artist. He received his MFA in Graphic Design from the Rhode Island School of Design. His interests focus on African American history and Black icons and their representation in mass media and popular culture; community and public art. He is an Adjunct Professor at the California College of the Arts, and the Principal of plantain studio (Oakland, CA).

She is an assistant professor of English Literature at UAE University. She earned her PhD in English at the University of Kent, and an MA in Literature from the University of Houston, Clear Lake. Dr Alexander’s research interests include Caribbean studies, Black British literature, and third-wave feminism.

She s a former newspaper editor, columnist, and magazine publisher, who credits Caribbean writers for introducing her to the richness of her heritage and language; thus inspiring her to write. Her work has appeared in various publications including, The Globe & Mail, The Caribbean Writer, Small Axe, Moko Caribbean Journal, Poui, IC and All This is Love – A Collection of Virgin Islands Poetry, Art & Prose.


For Sylvia Wynter, Caribbean people reconstituting themselves into new nations had lived “multiple exiles, and one had to do with exile from African tradition[s]”. 1 Thus, her work, as early as 1962 when The Hills of Hebron was published, saw us moving instead towards reclaiming our full humanity and belonging to Caribbean space. To coincide with Jamaica’s independence, she titled her first and now only novel, The End of Exile. According to her conversation with Daryl Dance, included in this collection, what became the title of the novel The Hills of Hebron had a different referential framing for Caribbean countries on the verge of political independence. We can note right away that the theme of exile was current at the time as fellow writer George Lamming (1927-2022) had just published The Pleasures of Exile in 1960. Nevertheless, for her, the task was “a way to retell the past and the present simultaneously. It was the creative side and the creative working of things which led us to the difference in making claims about who we are.” 

The timeliness of the publication of this work to coincide with the Caribbean’s first move towards independence via Jamaica in 1962 was a significant and deliberate conjunction. In her words: “My title had been quite different. It was called The End of Exile. They called it The Hills of Hebron.”

This initial theoretical salvo alerts us to a theme central to her subsequent theoretical assertions. In a world in which the Western bourgeois European subjects had installed themselves as the only legitimate humans, the ones with access to and control of all resources emanating from their erected power edifices. Caribbean people had to reconstruct and reclaim their humanity, using the cultural references they had maintained.

Purchase the full journal here


Daryl Dance: In an essay, ‘Reflections on West Indian Writing and Criticism’ back in 1968, you wrote, ‘I write… to attempt to define what is this thing to be — a Jamaican, a West Indian, an American’ [Jamaica Journal, II, Dec. 1968]. Would you elaborate on that a little bit?

Sylvia Wynter: Well, I told the students today when we were speaking here at this seminar that when I was about seventeen I remember being struck for the first time by the extraordinary role that shades of color played in the Caribbean, and the way the degrees of color functioned as a kind of exchange va1ue, just like money. So much so that a professional Black man, for example, would swap [his] education for an uneducated woman of a lighter color. This seemed to work logically, going beyond subjective choice. So questions about identity became insistent, and I remember writing my first letter to the press on this issue. So I think that the question of identity and how you perceive your identity became very central, and then of course growing up in my childhood, the whole eruption of the social movement of 1938 or 1939 had cast a long shadow, a creative one. For out of that eruption, the labor movements and riots and so on, there was suddenly an awakening to a sense of a group identity in Jamaica. My growing up coincided with the region coming to consciousness. And therefore, when I started writing, I never had any hesitation about what were the questions I wanted to answer. It’s always been that in away, and it’s still that to a certain extent.

DD: Is it a kind of progression so that first you do indeed define yourself as a Jamaican; then you see yourself in a larger context as a West Indian; and then as an American?

SW: Yes — as an American on the continent, and of course, now, living in the United States, very much in the larger context, as being Black, you see, as being Black and as a part of the African diaspora; and out of all of these, there is the experience of multiple identities that one responds to.

Purchase the full journal here

Ambrosia Hereticus (after Melville and Wynter)

Stories begin once upon
A diviner’s affliction, this
Initiation rite for Daggoo

Holiday up in Mande-ville (after Wynter)

This child doesn’t know she
Loved him so. He never had
A chance to be Mother-forgotten,
Being converted ‘through the
flesh rather than the spirit’-past

Workers, Folk, Grievous Yoke (after Wynter)

A Moongazer is born of Moonshine
As a full-grown Jumbi Man-baby
Stalking crossroads with moonshined
Limbs long as coconut trees, shadow doll
Stick-figure knocking balls that look
And feel and smell more like limes how
They flash and tickle and fly off quick as the
Fyah-rass stars over bankings into springs of moon
Water. From the blackwater trench lime/ball a-look
For you while you seek them—special things—on
Gilded chains red corals blue beads green jade you
See glimmering below the surface with a look

Purchase the full journal here

In The Hills of Hebron, Sylvia Wynter demonstrates the necessity of breaking away from Western social constructions. The novel is infused with social critique and cultural specificities that allow Wynter to craft a future outside of the Western constructs through Hebron. Her later theorizations are visible in the text, such as the Third Event, Man1 and Man2 constructs, and symbolic life and death. In this paper, I focus on Wynter’s theorizations of the Third Event, Man1 and Man2, and symbolic life and death constructs as they undergird the novel from the characters and the creation of Hebron.

Purchase the full journal here

In The Hills of Hebron, Sylvia Wynter demonstrates the necessity of breaking away from Western social constructions. The novel is infused with social critique and cultural specificities that allow Wynter to craft a future outside of the Western constructs through Hebron. Her later theorizations are visible in the text, such as the Third Event, Man1 and Man2 constructs, and symbolic life and death. In this paper, I focus on Wynter’s theorizations of the Third Event, Man1 and Man2, and symbolic life and death constructs as they undergird the novel from the characters and the creation of Hebron.

Purchase the full journal here

Great novels resonate with new understandings and revelations with each reading—meeting us where we are. Such a work of art is dynamic and sentient, infused with an intelligence which transcends time and space. I experience The Hills of Hebron as one of those works. Sylvia Wynter has said herself that her novel is “about many things.” 1 Returning to it after a number of years, and in the midst of my own reminiscing about what it means to make and remake, one of the “many things” which now strikes me most is the narrative’s concern with creativity and innovation. In The Hills of Hebron, Sylvia Wynter ex-plores an approach to creativity that is connected to a deep reservoir of ancestral memory and human consciousness.

Purchase the full journal here

Images 1. Re-reading 2 & Image 2 : Untitled
These formations in charcoal, shadow-like, trace landscapes, and act as a means to mark the inside/out-side of things. They hold narratives of black female subjectivity, and access historical, mythological and present and future compositions to conjure an errant entrance into the landscape. The line takes up space, is a drawing in space, moves through space. They are expressive and textural messengers. As a signifying form the line re-configures and rewrites perception and ideas.

Purchase the full journal here

As a radically interdisciplinary and creative-theoretical scholar whose expansive, rigorous, and generative work shifts across disciplines, locales, and forms, Sylvia Wynter disrupts colonial knowledge systems and epistemological bifurcations in favor of re-vealing how knowledge and being are interdisciplinary, co-relational, and interhuman. Eschewing biocentricity by pairing biology with story and distilling the difficult overlaps between science and poetics, Wynter examines humans as a biologic-storytelling and scientific-creative species that makes ourselves who and what we are through invention and accompanying narration. With the science of the word acting as analytical site and methodology, creativity and theory are forwarded across her project as being intersecting rather than discrete categories and methods. Correspondingly, through a creative-theoretical approach that moves the science of the word across multiple forms, Wynter embeds linkages across her play Under the Sun, novel The Hills of Hebron, journal article “Jonkonnu in Jamaica: Towards the Interpretation of Folk Dance as a Cultural Process,” and musical Maskarade that allow her to “writ[e] the same poem but advance[e] it technically each time” in a manner that has been largely erased within analyses of her scholarship and methodological practice.2 By tracing the linked contours across these creative texts and their various forms, this analysis thus considers how Wynter bridges the intimate connections across creativity, theory, and imagination through a radically interdisciplinary and creative-theoretical approach, analyzing how she displays and evidences the science of the word while moving us beyond colonial knowledge systems and towards alternative ways of being ecumenically human.

Purchase the full journal here

Talented Woman

The distance from country to uptown is eighty years,
a sixty-year wedding anniversary, two children in wedlock,
a few bastard children and some talent.

First she has to outshine her siblings,
forgive her uncle and out run the village ram.
This takes courage in a rural village where the walk for water is nine miles,
animals must be reared for food and there is a single pit latrine.

Polished Wife

Don’t look. Listen.
I am sleeping inside
a ceiba tree with a ram goat tied to its trunk,
dreaming I am a double skinned drum.

Eager to be the dream catcher
I dare to move up from here.
Drifting through emotional storms and lightening tongues,
I rise.

Purchase the full journal here

I’ve always been intrigued at how pervasive the idea of ‘madness’ is in the Caribbean. At a young age, I learned that being ‘mad’ was not the same as being upset. Rather, ‘mad’ was a word typically used to convey some sort of opposition to a person—a ‘mad’ person could be a beggar, mentally ill, an alcoholic, or anyone with whom I disagreed with. When I was younger, I often played cricket with my older brother. I was a defensive batsman with a good eye for the ball, so whenever he’d claim that he got me out by leg before wicket (LBW) by a ball that was clearly going down my leg stump, I’d ask, “Yuh mad or wah?” On the other hand, I could hear my dad call a relative a ‘madman’ for gambling away all their week’s earnings, or if they had spent all their money on drinking at a ‘rumshop.’ I also learned that the National Psychiatric Hospital in Fort Canje, Guyana was colloquially referred to as the ‘Berbice Madhouse.’

But these definitions are not all-encompassing nor are they static. In exploring the wide scope of Caribbean literature, I’ve realized that ‘madness’ appears across many different contexts, and it seems to offer an identity for the afflicted characters. Being ‘mad’ often includes participating in deviant behavior that doesn’t align with established norms, though this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Purchase the full journal here

Born on the Bayou in the eye of the storm,
Co-co had learned when to be calm or afraid
on her family’s land where people of color

had bought their freedom, long before America
knew her name, before the levees that the Army
Corps built, had failed, and New Orleans,

celebrated for carnivals of flesh and debauchery,
became a black spot on a map the sea reclaimed.
For Katrina’s floodwaters defiled the places

Purchase the full journal here

Jamaican writer and cultural theorist Sylvia Wynter published her novel on the colonial logic of madness and its dual regenerative prospects for black subjectivity. The Hills of Hebron is a speculative narrative of how a generation of formerly enslaved black Jamaicans creates community amidst colonial rule to assert autonomy through cultural traditions. Wynter foregrounds Jamaica’s colonial past and its influence since Columbus, who justified black captivity and madness as a “state of nature” for the enslaved black Other to validate the Word of Man (Wynter “Beyond the Word of Man” 645). Her work is provocative because she orients us to the spiritual community of Hebron built by Prophet Moses, who reappropriates Christianity from its European colonial modernity that used religion as an insidious cloak to justify violence; he inflicts “mad” actions such as rape and violence to fulfill his mission. For instance, in The Hills of Hebron, Wynter writes that Prophet Moses raped a female member named Sue, and he justifies it as “necessary to their successful exodus into the promised land of Hebron” (Wynter 11). Prophet Moses’ relationship to madness urges us to explore the rational and irrational order of knowledge that can cause one to emulate his oppressor’s brutality and make his actions seem unquestionable. Moses also adopts the exalted order of knowledge specific to European religious or secular definitions of Man to offer a glimpse towards an empirical power of black male superiority. When he proclaims that God is a black man, he replicates the exact mechanism of othering that stigmatizes women and their role in his spiritual community (Wynter 225). I argue that Wynter meditates on the impact of colonial modernity on black subjects such as Prophet Moses and illuminates how madness can be a self-curative action that can reclaim black autonomy through culture. Specifically, Wynter’s novel engages madness, a source of individual and collective agency that can be direct and creative enough towards a regenerative if we actively undo the systemic colonial logics that validates the “mad” Black Other as the norm.

Purchase the full journal here

In The Hills of Hebron, Wynter showcases how the inhabitants of the town aspired to an anticolonial reality. They do not want a white master to indoctrinate and dictate their livelihoods. Yet, they continue to function and visualize a future under the gaze of the colonial structures existing under English rule. We are introduced to the community as a group of new believers who enter the Hills of Hebron under the guise that a Black God guided their prophet into a “promised land” where they will be protected and thrive.

Purchase the full journal here

The attempted erasure of Black humanity is an integral component of the foundation of white supremacy, but the upholding of Black humanity serves as a sign of revolution and reclamation. Blackness, and the intersections of Black indigeneity and culture, serve as resistance to both the eradication of self and the colonization of consciousness. Deconstructing interior and exterior colonialism through the reclamation of narrative history supports the fluid concept of Black neo-nativity within the Afro-Caribbean. As Wynter states in “Lady Nugent’s Journal” “History does not move in us, nor help to consciously determine our being. We choose to remain deliberately. We choose to remain deliberately unaware of the historical process that has made us what we are.” 

Purchase the full journal here

The rehumanization of humanity in its totality has been an enduring theme throughout Sylvia Wynter’s body of work. In charting the origins of western modernity from the end of the 15th century onwards, Wynter has argued that global expansion of European culture has profoundly reordered the world so that a particular “Western bourgeois genre of the human” has come to be seen if it were the human in its entirety. 1 This “human” has become the measure of all things, the standard bearer of civilization, rights, beauty, and rationality. With the ascendancy of this western bourgeois conception of the human, the rich cultures and cosmologies of Africa, Asia and the Americas, were relegated to status of mere folklore or even savagery. In the order of things, these people were cast outside of “humanity”, becoming the raw underbelly of the western mode of being, what Wynter calls the Symbolic Other. Wynter’s rehumanization project, then, is an attempt to go beyond this discourse to offer a fuller account of what it means to be human.

Purchase the full journal here

The arrival of cinema to Africa is consequential of the 1884 Berlin conference: Cinema arrived to elevate the plot of European colonialism and to anchor the colonized person’s subjectivity to this type of control. In “The Cinematic Text After Man”, Sylvia Wynter (2000, 28) draws our attention to these facts when she emphasizes the dates that correspond with such Western hegemony: In 1444, the Portuguese arrived at the Gorée Island in Senegal to organise the slave trade; In 1884, the Berlin Conference was held to determine how African colonies would be split among colonialists; and finally, 1895 ushered the birth of the cinematic technology by the Lumiere brothers in France. The nature of these progressions reinforced one another, in that, not long after the discovery of cinema, it was used to restrain the images of people of African descent; first, by depicting a stereotyped imaginary of black people on the screen and, secondly, by the contact that they had with these overrepresentations of stereotypes as audiences of the medium. In tracing back to these dates, Sylvia Wynter finds that Western innovation, or the imminent hunger to ‘discover’ what already existed differently for people of African descent, arose from the need to establish Western superiority through all-technologies that could emerge to this effect (2000, 29).

Purchase the full journal here

selflessness comes easy
when you’re self less
than self, beside yourself
(dis)possessed and (re)possessed
so often it just makes sense
to give your only self. this time maybe towards different ends—
maybe the body bends anew,

Purchase the full journal here

blue mountains peak high
shielding the burdens
carried on lush taino lands

i stopped to smell you
ancient nyabinghi grounds
burning, acrid, pasts

Purchase the full journal here

Through symbolic artifacts and powerful character arcs, Sylvia Wynter’s The Hills of Hebron prioritizes speculation and imagination as radical practices of community building. By imagining new ways of being in relation with one another and speculating themselves into otherwise absent archival spaces, the characters in The Hills of Hebron embody anticolonial worldmaking practices that reach beyond what is materially legible. In this paper, I attend to the communal, historical, and epistemological significances of what becomes a community symbol for the New Believers in The Hills of Hebron: a hand-crafted jar discovered in nature’s grip.

Purchase the full journal here

I have a long and committed interest in the intersection of the practice of art making, art history and contemporary critical discussion. As an artist, I have been fortunate to receive several grants that allowed me to travel extensively to Brazil, Columbia, West Africa, Turkey, Japan and China, and Europe to engage in international discourse regarding art history, art production and criticism. My engagement with the arts is also an intellectual endeavor. At every point, I have sought not simply to create art, but to understand the implications and possibilities for art within art history, criticism and philosophy as an intrinsic part of travel for art production.

Purchase the full journal here

The following is a creolized mapping of the 2010 Haiti cholera outbreak. Drawing from Sylvia Wynter’s notion of humanness as praxis, this Kreyòl-essay deploys an undoing of land masses, archipelagoes, rivers, salt waters, vibriyo, memories, continents, times, peoples, languages—bodies of all kinds—fl owing into each other across various borders.

Nou la toujou nou la pi rèd

Thou went out conquering and to conquer
They were called revolutionaries
And they were slaveholders and they were aristocrats and they were french
And they were black and mulattoes
Clearheadedly she wasn’t them.

She was never that revolution
Grenadier! À l’assaut!
Sa ki mouri zafèra yo never contained her
Her time belongs to the times before all that.

Imagine this woman, who is madness, who is vacuum.
neither male, nor a tree, nor a geography line, nor a queerindefinition;
who confuses electrons deemed un-mattering;
who breathes in remains, scraps, bruises, deaths.

Purchase the full journal here

Course Description:
Theories and texts of the African Diaspora have become critically important in intellectual, media and popular communities. Among them, Sylvia Wynter is today considered to be one of the leading theorists of the Black experience. As this applies in general to African Diaspora Studies, her work has “revitalized philosophical debates across Black Studies, critical ethnic studies, postcolonial criticism and black feminist theory around both the historical project of decolonization and the ontological status of blackness in the modern world.” (Cunningham, 119). This semester’s course in African Diaspora Texts and Theories will study all the available works of Wynter (early and late essays, novel, plays, interviews) in relation to a selection of the writers of the Caribbean and larger Black radical intellectual tradition with whom she is in conversation. We will begin with a general discussion of African Diaspora theoretical positions and then read her novel and available plays as we move through the various stages of her critical opus, and end by examining some of the critical responses emanating from her work as well as some of the recently uncovered texts like “Black Metamorphosis.”

Purchase the full journal here

The essays and articles by Sylvia Wynter collected in this book, We Must Learn to Sit Down Together and Talk about a Little Culture: Decolonizing Essays, 1976-1984 Sylvia Wynter, set out to decolonise the nature of the discourse that legitimated the imperial order of Western Europe. The wide-ranging contributions include literary and critical reviews, an exploration of C.L.R. James’s writings on cricket, an analysis of Bob Marley and the counter-cosmogony of the Rastafari, and a pioneering examination of the Spanish epoch of Jamaican history via the life and work of Bernardo de Balbuena (1562-1627), epic poet and Abbot of Jamaica.

Purchase the full journal here

Sylvia Wynter’s The Hills of Hebron, published in 1962, like Jamaica, is celebrating 60 years. I regard this novel as a pre-independence salute to Jamaica, specifically the plight of the masses of Jamaicans.

After completing secondary school, Sylvia Wynter spent 10 years in London studying, then working as a writer and playwright before she returned to Jamaica in 1963 and taught at the then-University College of the West Indies, where she founded, Jamaica Journal.

She gained tenure in 1970 and was made supervisor of a new Caribbean Interdisciplinary Studies research project, which she helped to formulate and taught until her departure in 1973.

Wynter’s service and commitment to Jamaica were evident: as a member of the selection committee for the student-inspired and National Heroes Advisory Committee of Jamaica from 1969 to 1972; a member of the board of The Institute of Jamaica from 1965 to 1972; a Board of Governors, Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation, 1964 to 1970, a member of Jamaica’s National Committee for Quincentennial Commission, 1984 to 1989 and a member of the Provisional Steering Committee Technology In Cultural Transformation, 1999.

Sylvia Wynter migrated and moved around in the United States from 1973-1977 before being appointed professor of African & Afro American Studies, dually appointed in the Department of Spanish & Portuguese at Stanford University, from where she retired, but her focus and commitment to Jamaica, and the Caribbean, never waned.

Before teaching the above novel, I read two of Wynter’s epoch-making essays, written while she was teaching at The University of the West Indies, “We Must Learn to Sit Down Together and Talk About a Little Culture,” (published in Jamaica Journal, 1968) and “Rethinking Aesthetics” Wynter’s second essay, that is still ground-breaking, and explores the novel as a form and the role of the imagination.

The following is an excerpt from an interview I conducted for a conference presentation with Sylvia Wynter, on September 28, 1993, in Palo Alto, California.

Purchase the full journal here

Advisory Board

Merle Collins
Professor, Department of English
University of Maryland

Marion Bethel

Sonia BasSheva Mañjon, PhD
Executive Director, LeaderSpring,
Oakland, CA

Évelyne Trouillot

Devorah Major
Writer, Former Poet Laureate,
San Francisco, CA

Jacqueline Bishop
Writer/Assistant Professor Liberal Studies
New York University

Albert Chong
Professor, Department of Art and Art History
University of Colorado, Boulder

David Soutar
Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication
Faculty of Humanities and Education
University of the West Indies, Mona Campus

Lucien Downes
Artist, President of St. Croix Artist Guild

Kendal Henry
Director of the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs’ Percent for Art Program