I watchin’ you. You look like some kinna smart man. I watch at how you movin’ strange.
–the words of a Trinidadian watchman
As this blog’s Watchman I can tell you that I was not born and raised in Trinidad & Tobago, but I owe it everything of any special importance to me in my adult life, including friends, family, an education, insight, and lasting ties that bind. I lived and studied in Trinidad for several years, and I started traveling there from 1988. I acquired Trinidadian permanent residence in 2003. The name, Watchman, was inspired by two Trinidadian sources, one is a saying (see: Words of Wisdom), and by a namesake, a calypsonian who was known for his scathing criticisms of all who were in power or in other high offices. He was unsparing. He always spoke his mind and his words were like lashes against the high and mighty. He usually wore military fatigues on stage, to symbolize his war-like opposition. His nom de guerre was: The Watchman. He appears in a rare online video below:
That I worked on several occasions as a watchman…had no impact whatsoever on my choice of this emblematic figure of vigilance.
What am I doing here?
This blog is an offshoot of two others (this one, and that one), out growing both in a sense, not fitting well into either one, and with many posts imported from both. I have been blogging since 2003, and this particular blog was created in August of 2008.
This is a place where I am free to be militant, to lay down licks like peas against imperialism, colonialism, inequality, and the brutalizing ignorance of the powerful. It may not do much at all, but it is better than total silence and complicity. Here I fight against what I call the norms of intellectual pacification, and the ways that mainstream North American academic discourse is used as counterinsurgency.
It is a place where I can devote myself to the richness of online Caribbean cultures, and to continue writing more generally about indigenous issues and contemporary anti-colonial struggles. Here I can experiment with different forms of writing fiction, poetry, and what I call “jumbie ethnography” (see below).
The key areas of focus on this blog, for now, are:
- radical indigenism and cultural revival
- the international politics of indigenous struggle
- Caribbean cultural identity, creolization, difference, history, and autonomy
- the politics of independence and decolonization
- critique of imperialism, capitalism, and modernity
- politics after the state, the world market, and Western hegemony
- anarchy and autarky
- ways of life based on self-sufficiency
- rethinking human-animal, our impermanence
and the list will grow to be sure.
A jumbie is what Trinidadians call a ghost, or a spirit. The jumbie ethnographer wanders online looking for other spirits to dialogue with. In dryer terms, this is “open source ethnography” — I look to pry nothing from secret places, I do not wish to expose knowledge that is meant to be secret or inaccessible, I just work with what is freely and voluntarily already made available, out there on the Internet, by these other spirits. Sometimes, preferably more often than not, I collaborate either openly or indirectly, with a number of these comrades and partner spirits. The results of my jumbie ethnography can only be seen, openly, on this site primarily. The results will not be hijacked, privatized, and sold.
This jumbie ethnographer, the Watchman, also fancies himself as a spirit blow — a virtual lash in the hands of the late Dr. Roi Kwabena who, as he says in Deep Obeah, wished to be an obeah man, “shining a mauve candle on injustices in the global village…manifesting and distributing spirit blows.” Dr. Kwabena was a Trinidadian public anthropologist, activist, poet, historian, writer, who ended his years in Birmingham (you can read more about him from his sites under Inspirations). I hope to do him honour and to eventually turn over more of this blog to featuring his works and words.
Watch the Language
Elements of this site feature what some Trinidadians might call “native talk” or “local parlance” — Trinidadian Creole English. I do not use elements of the language in an attempt to pass myself off as a native Trinidadian, or as someone who somehow owns part of the culture, and claims to be endorsed by it. I use features of that language in parts of the site as nothing more, and nothing less, than a tribute to a great language that thankfully continues to renew and propagate itself, even in the midst of American media saturation. It is language, as well as art and style, one that appropriates me far better than I can appropriate it. Had I truly been clever and persistent, the entire blog would have been written in Creole, but I hope to help spread fascination with this language outside of Trinidad and to see it gain greater recognition and appreciation.