ENGLISHNESS AND BLACKNESS
Cricket as Discourse on Colonialism
By Manthia Diawara



1. Englishness as a Category of Whiteness

First it is important to propose a working definition of such concepts as Englishness and blackness. Englishness is the privileging of a certain use of language, literature, ideology, and history of one group over populations that it subordinates to itself. As a colonial instrument its mode of existence depends on the construction and main- tenance of dichotomies: England/the West Indies, Prospero/Caliban, religious/idolatrous, good English/broken English, etc. Thus it is a modernist phenomenon which ties the lives of colonized people to industrialization, literacy, Christianity, and individualism only for the ascendancy of England, and for the denial of the rights of these people to enjoy the fruits of modernism. Englishness sets in motion absolute barriers between white and black, England and the West Indies, civilized and primitive, and, in the process, empowers the English subject as original and disempowers the colonized subject as the copy. As George Lamming has shown in the relations between the West Indian writer and the English critic, Englishness cannot register Caribbeanness as a subject for intelligent and thoughtful consideration, "as part of his historic contract, the English critic accepts-for What else can he do?-the privilege so natural and so free of being the child and product and voice of a colonizing civilisation" (30).

As a postcolonial instrument Englishness continues to lay paternity claims to thecategories of modernism and to render invisible or minimize the contribution of blacks to science, literature, art, and philosophy. Today, even as there are second and third generations of blacks living in Britain, normative Englishness continues to reproduce blackness as its other; the image of the black man connotes the mugger, the deviant, the drug-pusher, that which pollutes the purity of Englishness: i.e., the purity of language, race and nation, customs and culture.' Throughout this book I will use Englishness interchangeably with Britishness and whiteness.



2. Blackness

The first manifestation of blackness, on the other hand, took place during the confrontation between European slave drivers and Africans in Africa and in the slave ship as a resistance to the reifying gaze of whiteness:

During the process of their becoming a single people, Yorubas, Akans, Ibos, Angolans and others were present on slave ships to America and experienced a common horror-unearthly moans and piercing shrieks, the smell of filth and the stench of death, all during the violent rhythms and quiet coursing of ships at sea. As such, slaves ships were the first real incubators of slave unity across the cultural lines, cruelly revealing irreducible links from one ethnic group to the other, fostering resistance thousands of miles before the shores of the new land appeared on the horizon-before there was mention of natural rights in North America. (Stucky 1)

Contrary to common belief, I submit that the grounds for the emergence of a self conscious concept of blackness as a humanist alternative to whiteness was not developed first in Africa. As a discourse, it was shaped in the Americas by the performative acts of liberation by black people through Western arts, religion, literature, science, and revolution. Blackness for W. E. B. Du Bois is the function of attaining a better and truer self than the one revealed to black people by whiteness: "the assertion Of the manhood rights of the Negro by himself was the main reliance" (35).

For people of African descent, blackness is therefore a way of being human in the West or in areas under Western domination. It is a compelling performance against the logic of slavery and colonialism by people whose destinies have been inextricably linked to the advancement of the West, and who have therefore to learn the expressive techniques of modernity: writing, music, Christianity, and industrialization in order to become uncolonizable. They have to recuperate the category black from the pathological space reserved for it in the discourse of whiteness, and reinvest it with attributes that are valorized in modern humanism. Blackness insists on a discourse of difference which enables it to combat "the image of the Black as an abberation of Whiteness," and, by undermining white privilege over aesthetics, economics, and law, to posit relativistic aesthetics and the aesthetics of relativity. As a concept, blackness questions the homogenizing desire of modernist theories to reassert the sover-eign subject of whiteness. It insists that categories such as literature, Marxism, Christianity, and cinema in themselves are "not enough," and it holds on to compound words such as black literature, black marxism, black Christianity, and black cinema to reveal the space omitted or silenced by Eurocentric definitions of these categories Blackness is therefore a way of being African in modernity, a way of resisting both exclusion and silence. Thus blackness is, to borrow a concept again from Du Bois in the Souls of Black Folk, an "afterthought" of modernity, "the tangle of thought and afterthought" (63), the reflexive movement of modernity which empowers the elements of freedom, revolution, identity formation, and resistance to tyranny.

When blackness is conceived as a humanist discourse on the conditions of black people in the West and in areas under Western domination, it becomes easier to see how people in Africa take it from the West under its different manifestations as "Negritude" or "black consciousness" in order to sing their right to independence. Formations of blackness in the West also empower themselves with "Africanism," i.e.African traditions, history, languages, and nomenclatures. Clearly, therefore, blackness and Africanism depend on each other, feed on each other, but are not always interchangeable.

The view of blackness as a modernist discourse of the West with revolutionary and liberating potential is also enabling as a model to other repressed discourses such as feminism, gay and lesbian rights, and minority discourses in totalitarian systems. The struggles and artistic creations of black people serve as a model for world liberation and life-affirmation: for example, the Chinese students and workers in Tianaman Square, sang "We Shall Overcome," a black signifying on Christianity, to challenge the logic of authoritarianism. Blackness itself is challenged in the hands of its postcolonial and postmodern subjects to account for its totalizing effects on women, gays, and lesbians. By focusing on such zones of ambivalence as identity formation, sexual politics, and hybridization, the postmodern subjects of blackness attempt to prevent it from falling into the same essentialist trap as whiteness.



3. Film Theory and Blackness


a). The Classical Narrative

It is possible to understand the positioning of blacks in Englishness through an examination of the assumptions that support the positioning of spectators in classical Hollywood cinema. Furthermore, an application of certain aspects of the concept of suture, which puts the spectator into relation with the discursive field of the film, promises to yield some understanding of contemporary discourses of blackness and their articulation with Englishness. According to David Bordwell, the classical Hollywood narrative proceeds by concealment of artifice and cheat cuts, as it elaborates and reproduces the spatial and temporal precepts of post-Renaissance bourgeois theater. The Hollywood narrative gives itself "naturally" to the spectator by invisibilizing its own forms of presentation, and by providing the viewer with a totalizing sense of closure.

Like the world out there, the Hollywood narrative is a story without a narrator; a story created, as it were, by God the omniscient narrator himself. For Bordwell, the "ideal spectator" in Hollywood narratives is not a passive subject, but an active reader of hypothetical expectations placed within the text: "Narration is fundamentally reliable, allowing hypotheses to be ranked in order of probability and narrowed to a few distinct alternatives" (40).

In other words, the classical narrative rewards those who make the best guesses among the normative hypotheses and punishes those who refuse to play the game by denying them a sense of pleasure. The concealments of artifice and cheat cuts leave unsaid the assumption that the ideal spectator constitutes a unifying power across race, gender, sexuality, and class. As Bordwell puts it, "shots will be filmed and cut together so as to position the spectator always on the same side of the story action" (56). Clearly a case can be made against the classical narrative for the way it homogenizes all the spectators by putting them on the same side of the action. Similarly one can fault Englishness for naturalizing its local customs as normative behavior for all.


b). The Concept of Suture

For film theory, the concept of suture gained currency in the early seventies as a reception theory which turned the seemingly neutral classical narration into a problem of representation. Problems surrounding the definition of the suturing process and a its distinction from the already established shot/reverse shot theory impeded further investigation of the way in which the concept of suture exposed the assumptions behind the classical narratives I am interested, here, in the deconstructive power in the concept of suture to reveal the hitherto invisible elements of classical narrative. The concept of suture makes visible the "fourth wall" of the frame which reveals the distance between the image on the screen and the camera that filmed it. Crucially, for Jean-Pierre Oudart, an awareness of the "fourth wall" marks the end of jubilation, and the beginning of the spectator's construction of the film as a discourse, and his/her own position in it ("Suture 2" 51). The suturing of the spectator in a single shot involves the articulation of the following three elements: first there is what Oudart calls the "Absent One," or the presence hiding behind the fourth wall; the images in the shot which "fill in" the void left by the "Absent One"; and finally the imagination of the spectator which activates the images on the screen into a cinematic discourse.

I am attracted to the way in which the suturing process includes categories that question representational devices at the site of the screening. In other words, the concept of suture shows that there is no guarantee of narrative pleasure that circulates with the film, unlike the assumptions behind the construction of the classical narrative which, in Bordwell's vvords, depends on conventional 180 degree editing and the shot/ reverse shot schema to position the spectator: "Conventional 180 degree editing assumes that the establishing shot and the eyeline match cut and directorial continuity of movement and the shot/reverse shot schema vvill all be present to 'overdetermine' the scenographic space" (58).

As a reception theory, there are three issues at stake in suture: first the concept of suture raises the problem of the "Absent One" that seems to determine the image on the screen, and to be determined by them. Who is the "Absent One?" A narrator, the author, the camera, an ideology, a discourse in the Foucaldian sense, or whiteness in the classical narrative? For Stephen Heath it is the "mother" in the mirror phase where the subject's desire is first constructed in her discourse (83). For Bordwell, it is narration which is always already absent from the frame: "I have treated the 'Absent One' entailed by the image as the narration, not another character in the fiction" (421,note 48). For Oudart, the discovery of the "fourth wall" eclipses our relation to film as pure pleasure into film as discourse, and makes visible the imaginary field of the film as well as the image that it represents. For my part, I will use the "Absent One interchangeably with such categories as Englishness, or as discourse, in the analysis of the work that will follow. The pursuit of the "Absent One" in the text constitutes what Heath describes as a pseudo-identification, "suture names not just a structure of lack but also an availability of the subject a certain closure" (85).

In the second place, the concept of suture brings up the possibility of differentiated spectator positions. The spectator is the index of suture, he/she is essential to the activation of the film's narration. It is in this sense that Oudart refers to the spectator as the "filmic subject" for whom and by whom the operation of suture takes place ("Suture 1" 38). The view of the spectator as subject of the signifying chain of the film amplifies the moment of reception and the "floating" quality of the signifiers on the screen. Contrary to the hegemonizing position implied in the notion of ideal spectator, there is a move in suture toward every spectator articulating his/her relation to the image. One needs only to look at feminist film criticism to be aware of the multiple subject positions in film. In Spike Lee's films, the sign is deliberately endowed with a floating quality so as to position several contradictory spectators: the black nationalist, the feminist, and the antiblack nationalist spectators.

Finally, the concept of suture considers the formal disposition of objects on the screen. Oudart often uses the book analogy to describe the image on the screen as "lettre figee," a stiffed sign. Every single object on the screen enters in relation vvith the "Absent One" first, and the filmic subject, before forming a relational whole with the other objects. This means that the objects on the screen represent an absence, a hiding place for the "Absent One." The screen is the site where the ghost of the "Ab- sent One" and the imagination of the spectator meet. The screen is a "stand in" place for both of them, in a sense that the spectator, too, engenders him/herself in the text through his/her activation of its discursive chain. The screen is the site of envy and resistance: i.e., the character on the screen is not the same as the "Absent One," and the character is not the spectator, and yet he/she/it invisibilizes the one by taking its place, and causes the other to perform an act of reading that modifies its own identity. The spectator both envies the images on the screen and resists being totally constructed by the discourse of the Other," the "Absent One." It is possible for every image to create two discursive subjects: one for the "Absent One" and one for the spectator. It is also possible for the subject positions to be exchangeable at some places, to exclude each other at others, or completely to repress each other's mode of existence. This reduces to a shambles the notion of ideal spectator position which presumes a closed subject position where the determination of the spectator by the "Absent One" "would have reached its ultimate consequences and would have, therefore, managed to identify itself with the transparency of a closed symbolic order" (Laclau and Mouffe 88). It is interesting to look at Englishness as the "Absent One" and to examine the ways in which it reproduces itself as the subject in every humanist representation.


4. Englishness Beyond the Boundary


The articulation of the three elements of suture, the "Absent One," the spectator,and the formal field can also be analyzed in discourses on colonialism. It is fascinating,for example, to use the concept of suture to look at the relation of the West Indian to the game of cricket in C. L. R. James's classic, Beyond a Boundary. Like a film on the screen cricket games are suturing in so far as their operation places the spectator..........




James's analogy of the cricket field with the stage helps to reveal the "fourth wall" , behind which Englishness hides to create an identification between itself and the game. In a chapter entitled "What Is Art?" James elevates cricket over all the British games by comparing its mimetic effect to painting, the stage, and the movie screen, where characters play roles that move spectators to laughter, terror and piety. If the cricket game tells a story, it must be that it plots Englishness and its Other in the narrative structure. Logically, there will also be an identification with Englishness in i the same manner that characters take the place of the "Absent One" in film. The formal to disposition of the players in the field creates, therefore, a sense of anticipation that,according to the assumptions of classical narrative, is supposed to cement the spectator in the text. To put it in James's own words, cricket "is so organized that at all times it is compelled to reproduce the central action which characterizes all good drama from the days of the Greeks to our own: two individuals are pitted against each other in a conflict that is strictly personal but no less representative of a social order" (192). For James the cultural significance of cricket is such that "Victorians made it compulsory for their children, and all the evidence points to the fact that they valued competence in it and respect for what it came to signify more than they did intellectual accomplishment of any kind" (164). It is this Victorian validation of moral excellence and character building that the game is supposed to teach in the West Indies, too. In the book, James talks about his own positioning by this Victorian sense of manner and virtue in order to explain his outrage, in the U.S., at people who fix basketball and baseball games: "The British tradition soaked deep into me was that when youentered the sporting arena you left behind you the sordid compromises of everyday existence" (72).

James also credits the cricket field for meeting the mass demand for entertainment since 1860, and puts it in the same category as such instruments of modernization as popular democracy in Europe, the post-Civil War Reconstruction in America, and the creation of the First Communist International. The British used cricket and football as their national sports at a time when the modernist imperative made a movement away from small and elitist forms of production and entertainment, and put the emphasis on satisfying the needs of the masses. To put it again in James's words, "if the industrial revolution organized into a concerted whole the particular movements of the artisans who practised a trade, cricket organized into a whole the elementary tensions and stresses of back-swording, wrestling, racing and the other games of the 'beast' "(166).

Before proceeding to a description of the articulation of Caribbeanness on and off the cricket field, it is important, at this point, to pause for a moment to go over some of the devices which enable Englishness to emerge in cricket. From the brief description of cricket above, it is possible to distinguish at least three constitutive elements of Englishness: i.e., England as origin of the game, cricket as purveyor of Victorian virtue and manners, and cricket as the national sport of the modern United Kingdom.

The theme of England as originator of the game casts the West Indian as the copier,the unauthentic player who will never fully understand cricket because he is not born as into it. Through the notion of originality, British cricket constructs its own identity by deploying a geographical as well as a historical distance between itself and West Indian cricket which it condemns to mimicry. Such a logic maintains first of all that the true cricket games are those played a long time ago between Oxford and Cambridge, and that other games imitate them in a rescinding manner from England to the West Indies. Like all claims that rest on notions of origin, Englishness, too, insists on maintaining a filiative rapport between England and cricket, a necessary blood relation which guarantees the reproduction of the sovereign British subject in the game's formal field. In the West Indies, the colonizers used the tautological statement that true cricket is cre- ated by true Englishness in order to reserve the captaincy of the West Indies team only to white men (James 225). I will return to the issue of captaincy later to discuss black spectatorship in cricket. The notions of origin and originality also come into play in the West Indies to differentiate cricket teams along skin color and class lines. In Trinidad, the team at the top of the list "was the Queen's Park Club. It was the boss of the island's cricket relations with other islands and visiting international teams. All big matches were played on their private ground, the Queen's Park Oval. They were for the most part white and often wealthy. There were a few coloured men among them, chiefly members of the old well-established mulatto families" (James 55-56).

The Victorian categories of moral excellence and strong character were also maintained as participatory discourses in cricket as a way to anchor Englishness in the game and set it above other constructions of humanism. According to James, such sentences as "A straight bat," and "It isn't cricket," in Victorian England "became the watchwords of manners and virtue and the guardians of freedom and power" (163). A good cricket player is also an all-round Englishman "with positive virtues-loyalty and self sacrifice, unselfishness, co-operation and esprit de cords, a sense of honour, the capacity to be a 'good loser' or 'to take it' " (162). For James, this Puritan ideal in the game is used to unite the British Working class and the aristocracy around the same moral principal. In other words, the image of the cricket player as heroic on and off the field becomes, for post-Victorian England, a guarantor of the Englishness of the middle class. The moral taught by the game does not belong to any one class because it positions all the spectators to admire the ideal cricket player, one Who has character and manner.
However, when the game comes to the West Indies, its moral excellence becomes the moral of the colonizer, and is used to set a barrierr between civilized and primitive.Thus cricket is tied to other colonialist discourses to teach Englishness to an elite group of West Indians, and to breed contempt for the rest. James discovers his own Englishness while watching baseball with fellow Marxists in the U.S.: "I didn't know how deeply the early attitudes had been ingrained in me and how foreign they were to other peoples until I sat at baseball matches with friends, some of them university men, and saw and heard the howls of anger and rage and denunciation which they hurled at the players as a matter of course. I could not understand them and they could not understand me either-they asked anxiously if I were enjoying the game"(51-52).

To turn now to the notion of cricket as national sport in modernizing Britain, James points out that the game has become part of the general mobilization for industrialization and national unity above class differences. The cricket field, unlike the arena of primitive sports which are class bound, is the center of the embodiment of a collective British will, a consciousness of Englishness which distinguishes it from humanist systems such as Germanness, Frenchness, or blackness. For James, cricket and soccer are an improvement over class-based games that are unable to create a senseof national spectatorship. For modernizing and colonial Britain, which was in the business to conquer more territories and raw material, cricket is another way of introducing Englishness to the rest of the world. The very introduction of cricket to new places is a way of asserting the British cultural presence, a way of linking sports and politics. In fact, for James,it is impossible to separate politics and sports, for sports are a nonviolent way of conquering other people: "The Greeks believed that an athlete who had represented his community at a national competition, and won, had thereby conferred a notable distinction on his city, his victory was a testament to the quality of the citizens city which could produce such citizens had no need of walls to defend it" (154). Surely,in the postcolonial era, an analogy can be made for the way in which American music and film have universally positioned listeners and spectators.

I want now to consider more closely the game of cricket in the West Indies, and delineate the modes of articulating Caribbeanness into a new series of relations with the game that baffle its cultural disposition by Englishness. To say that Englishness constitutes cricket in order to be constituted by its formal field is, to use Oudart's analogy of the screen as "lettre figee," to conceive of the players as stiffed signs that are there only to stand in the place of Englishness. Clearly, cricket and other reproductive apparatuses of Englishness use a process of disciplination which banishes the resurgence of all kinds of heresies. Normative Englishness, which operates in cricket through the game's reproduction of Victorian ethics, a national ethos, and England as an originary sign, not only constructs the Caribbean as the Other of the "Absent One," but also tries to stand in the way of all creativity. Englishness is like a closed symbolic order, self-referential and transparent, with the beginning, the middle and the end announced beforehand. Cricket is introduced in the West Indies only as a way of converting a small minority to Englishness. Ironically, school and cricket, which are democratically deployed in Britain to prepare and organize the masses for the industrial revolution, have been used in the West Indies to anchor and maintain hierarchies based on skin color and class.

The birth of Caribbean cricket took place, therefore, in marginal spaces, outside the Queen's Park Oval where the whites play. Crucially, the question rises, concerning the implications of a cricket born outside the logic of Englishness, a modernism that eclipses the circle of modernity and flies above it in spite of the normative process of Englishness


5. Shannonism and the Eclipsing of Englishness


The first chapter of Beyond a Boundary describes the young James at his grandmother's window overlooking the recreation ground where the local people played cricket. James was fascinated by the batting of a man called Matthew Bondsman, but, at the same time, he was puzzled by the man's behavior off the field: "He was generally dirty. He would not work. His eyes were fierce, his language was violent and his voice was loud. His lips curled back naturally and he intensified it by an almost perpetual snarl. My grandmother and my aunts detested him" (14). It is clear that we are dealing with an Africanist discourse here, and that Matthew Bondsman is the African upon whom the discourse projects monstrosities. James and his family represent the Puritan aesthetic which defines its Anglican religious and class belonging by repressing the Africanism represented by Matthew Bondsman.

In the cricket field, however, Matthew Bondsman's performance redeemed him; his ability to bat with a particular style brought surprise and joy to the hearts of onlookers,and humanized him for the moment:

Matthew could bat. More than that, Matthew so crude and vulgar in every aspect of life, with a bat in his hand was all grace and style. When he practiced on an afternoon with the local club people stayed to watch and walked away when he was finished.He had one particular stroke that he played by going down low on one knee. It may have been a slash through the covers or a sweep to leg. But, whatever it was, whenever Matthew sank down and made it, a long, love "Ah!" came from many a spectator, and my own little soul thrilled with recognition and delight. (14)

James is, of course, describing the sublime here. Matthew Bondsman's performance creates a sense of an other-worldness that is indescribable, it makes the spectator teeter as if he/she is on the brink of an abyss. The "Ah!" that the spectator utters at Matthew Bondsman's stroke is the same as the "je ne sais quoi!" that we experience today during the "Michael Air Jordan" flight, or "the Magic Johnson 360 degree" move in basketball. In other words, it is a sense of jubilation that Roland Barthes calls jouissance

Matthew Bondsman performed and invented himself and West Indian cricket outside the discursive space of the Queen's Park Oval. Even though his career did not extend beyond the recreation ground in front of James's window, he left behind a legacy that challenged the tautological notion that true cricket was English cricket. Matthew Bondsman's experience is noteworthy because it echoes other moments of blacks seizing upon the instruments of modernity to define their humanism in defiance of whiteness. Matthew Bondsman's stroke was subversive because it showed that the cricket in the Queen's Park Oval was no better than his cricket

In terms of performance as self-invention, James writes into the same chapter another scene, about his maternal grandfather, Josh Rudler, that parallels the episode of Matthew Bondsman. Josh was an empirically self-trained engineer who claimed to have been the first black man to conduct a train for the Trinidad Government Railway.There was one story that rendered Josh as legendary as Matthew Bondsman in James's memory. Years after his retirement, Josh, who never attended a school, let alone earned an engineering degree, was still sought by the manager of the sugar factory whenever the white engineers were unable to repair an engine. James remembers one particular day, at the turn of the century, when his grandfather was called in to look at an engine that the other engineers spent hours trying in vain to fix. James explains that on his way to the factory, "Josh may have dug up from his tenacious memory some half-forgotten incident of an engine which would not go, or he may have come to the conclusion that if all of these highly trained and practised engineers were unable to discover what was wrong the probability was that they were overlooking some very simple matter that was under their very noses" (24).

It is possible to emphasize several strands of the discourse of blackness from this complex quote. Crucially, the notion of memory is important, because it is that which enables blacks to resist dehumanization in the West, and the main reliance for survival for people who do not know how to read. But it is the Du Boisian notion of after- thought, which is echoed in the statement: "they were overlooking some very simple matter that was under their noses," that I want to "signify upon" here. Literally the concept of "overlooking" denotes some part of the engine that is passed over by the engineers, either as insignificant or buried under other parts. It is a part that is not a nodal point in the discursive chain of scientific inquiry. Connotatively speaking, however, that part is also Josh, whose life has been linked to the engine to increase the productivity of sugar in the factory, but who is overlooked and/or excluded by the scientific circle of white engineers. Josh, thus, understood something about the engineers and their science that those who were not endowed with reflexivity, because they could not put themselves in the place of things objectified, could not understand.

When Josh entered the engine room, surrounded by skeptical looks from the engineers, to everyone's surprise he asked to be left alone with the machine: "No one will ever know exactly what Josh did in there, but within two minutes he was out again and he said to the astonished manager, 'I can't guarantee anything, sir, but try and see if she will go now' " (25). The point I am making here is that men like Josh and Matthew Bondsman, through their performance and signifyin' with/on objects originally perfected for the ascendency of Englishness, created the conditions of blackand white equality.

James talks about others who have contributed to the development of the West Indian style in cricket as well. He mentions Arthur Jones's stroke which is unsurpassed: "How he used to cut! I have watched county cricket for weeks on end and seen whole test matches without seeing one such as Jones used to make, and for years whenever I saw one I murmured to myself, 'Arthur Jones' " (15). There was also James's uncle Cudjoe whose style was to hold up his bat and shake it at reputed fast bowlers before they threw the ball. Finally, there was Piggie Piggot who "never or rarely wore a white shirt, but played usually in a shirt with coloured stripes without any collar attached. He did it purposely for all his colleagues wore white shirts Piggot was one of the world's great wicket keepers of the period between the wars" (973)

By the 1920s, as the number of local players increased, a distinct West Indian cricket was engendered, forming an alternative spectatorship to the positions reserved for spectators in English cricket. The appropriation of cricket at the margins of Englishness will liberate modernization in the West Indies, too, and do for Caribbeanness what it did for Englishness: i.e., it will create a collective West Indian will which traversed race and class belongings. It was a will that was made up of the desire to be as different and equal to English pcople, at least on the cncket field James describes it as the first seeds of a creole identity and the formation of a West Indian nationalism (116.)

The local cricket united the merchants who were usually of Chinese background, the black and Indian working class, and the upper middle class. Only the white West Indians, who stayed loyal to Englishness, resisted being positioned by this new and nationalist game. James recounts the story of a Chinese shopkeeper who, like many merchants on the island, was only interested in exploiting the local population: "But this man, after about fifteen years, would be seized with a passion for cricket. He did not play himself but he sponsored the local village team. He would buy a matting for them and supply them with bats and balls" (70).

According to James, among all the clubs of that time, Shannon was the most representative of the way Trinidadians felt about themselves. The Shannon Club constituted a middle ground between Maple and Stingo, two black clubs on the opposite ends of the color and class stratum according to which club memberships were formed. Stingo was at the bottom of the list with plebeian players: "the butcher, the tailor, the candlestick maker, the casual labourer, with a sprinkling of unemployed. Totally black and no social status whatever" (56) . The young James could neither lower himself by taking a membership with Stingo, nor aspire to be part of the Queen's Park Club or Shamrock which only included whites and the elite mulatto class. His real choices were therefore between Shannon, which represented men of the same skin complexion as himself, and Maple, which represented his class belonging, but was made up of lighter skin members. Thus he played for Maple for reasons of social mobility, and identified with Shannon because its members played with the character and emotion that reflected the sociocultural and political situation on the island. As James puts it, "Shannonism symbolized the dynamic forces of the West Indies yesterday" (64). "They played as if they knew that their club represented the great mass of Black people on the island. The crowd did not look at Stingo in the same way. Stingo did not have status enough. Stingo did not show the pride and impersonal ambitionwhich distinguished Shannon" (61).

The Shannon Club stimulated the social desires and passions of people in Trinidad by performing cricket in a way that eclipsed the subordinated position reserved for them off the field. In James's words, "[a]s clearly as if it was written across the sky, their play said: Here, on the cricket field if nowhere else, all men in the island are equal, and we are the best men in the island" (61). Shannonism wrested cricket away from Englishness and made it pliable enough to serve the needs of people in Trinidad. Such a capturing of the game, which destabilized the monolithic structure of Englishness, constituted the mode of weaving a Caribbean identity in modernist instruments which had hitherto made the colonized subject into an object. The Caribbean appropriation of modernization, i.e., cricket, literacy, Christianity, and industrialization, demonstrated that there was more than one way, the English way, of apprehending modernity. The performance of such Shannon players as St. Hill and Constanti positioned spectators with the view that West Indian cricket was equal to British cricket, and that the West Indies did not need to be subjugated to Britain

With Shannon, cricket now echoed Caribbeanness. Furthermore, the Shannon players' performance made a shamble of the notion that "cricket would fall into chaos and anarchy if a black man were appointed captain" (76).3 According to James, the players were disciplined on and off the field. They acquired their sense of moral excellence and strong character through a road different from the Puritanism which prevailed in the cricket of the Queen's Park Oval. Nonetheless they were the winningest team in Trinidad, and, in national and international tournaments, they defended their country's flag with determination and dignity.

Spectator identification with the Shannon Club and other black players led to the challenge of Englishness around two issues: first the exclusion of black players from the West Indian National team to accommodate less talented white players. In chapter 5 of Beyond a Boundary, entitled "Patient Merit," James describes the exclusions of Telemaque, Piggot, and St. Hill, and the anger of spectators: "men and women stood in the street and wept" (76). The other issue concerned the captaincy of the team which I have already discussed. The spectators felt that the black players were as good as the white players, and that the captain should be the best all-round player in the West Indies. For James this was not a mere application of democracy and justice, it "was a slogan and a banner. It was politics, the politics of nationalism" (117). Cricket anchored and nourished pride and hope in the spectators, giving them black performers of the game that atoned for the pervading humiliation and objectification which were the effect of Englishness off the field. The Shannon Club took cricket away from the Queen's Park Oval, and played it with spirit and relentlessness: "The crowd expected it from them, and if they lapsed let them know" (62).


6. Provisional Essentialism

"I wanna take you higher." Sly and the Family Stone

My reading of Shannonism and West Indian nationalism may be construed as a form of closure, a new essentialism to replace the essentialism I criticized in Englishness. Inevitably, such a totality, like all totalizing discourses, will leave some people in its shadow, or construct them as its inferior pole. It is also possible to read my celebration of Shannonism as a manichean construction of blackness and whiteness, and to fault me for not allowing some room for ambivalent subject positions. James's oven position is clear. Not only did he see himself as a Westerner, but he also believed that "the captain should be not a black man but the best man" (137). I will argue, however that Shannonism was, for James, a way of constructing West Indian humanism in modernity which had only seen the West Indian as an object. Rene dePestre uses the concept of "codification, (coverting a man into a thing)" to describe the way in which Africans lost their identity during slavery: "The problem of identity is closely linked to a central fact in Caribbean history-Slavery. And what was slavery but anti-identity by definition? Slavery 'depersonalized' the African man who was shipped to the West Indies. The principal object of this means of production was to extract from slave labour the energy to create material riches. The black man was in that way, converted into a coal-man, combustible-man, a nothing-man" (61)

Every performance by a Shannon player was, therefore, a humanizing act which denied the inferiorizing construction of blackness by Englishness. The Shannon play- ers freed themselves on the cricket field, and positioned the spectators to taste their freedom. Crucially, therefore, Shannonism was not an oppositional discourse which turns the white man into an object; it was rather the discourse of the new man in the Fanonian sense; in other words, it was discourse that transformed the negative sign of blackness into a positive sign, in order to go beyond binary constructions of civilized and primitive, religious and idolatrous, English and West Indian. In other words, again, blackness is uplifting. Thus Shannonism is a necessary provisional essentialism which, because it combats the concrete reproduction of blacks as inferiors to whites in every humanist sphere, creates a new human space of difference and equality.

Shannonism and similar performative acts by blacks seeking their freedom constitute what I will call a black structure of feeling. Thus, blackness, too, becomes an "Absent One," the place of which may be filled by freedom and equality seeking peo- ples. It is in this sense that one can say of blackness that it invisibilizes itself by creating an envy: i.e., the envy to be black which is signified by the desire for freedom. For example, the Jesse Jackson presidential campaign would be meaningless if divorced from the desire to be free and equal in the American brand of democracy. The same notion of desire gives significance to the television scene of Mandela walking out of the apartheid jail. The scene is powerful in terms of spectatorship because Mandela, by filling in the place of the "Absent One," and standing in the ground of liberty, puts the spectator in relation with his/her desire: i.e., blackness. The scene is primarily an articulation of the black structure of feeling. Crucially, however, the linking of the discourse of blackness to the categories of freedom and liberty prevents it from reaching closure and fixity. Freedom and equality are never fully captured, they are endlessly moving toward zones of oppression. This is the reason Why other repressed discourses-feminism, gay and lesbian liberation, Chicano and Native American liberation movements-have used blackness as their model. Blackness posits the con- ditions of possibility for the fulfillment of freedom.

To paraphrase Du Bois again, black and white issues constitute the most complex issues of the twentieth century. They are also deceptive because their solution is not found in the simplicity that is implied by the cliche of "black and white" in the English language. Surely, if the issues were simple, they would have disappeared with the abolition of slavery, or the Civil Rights Amendment, or the independence of the African states. They are not confined to one country either. Blackness as a pole inferior to whiteness is everywhere and in the reproduction of styles, stories, fashions, religion and language.

Notes
1. Hall et al, see also Gilroy on Enoch Powell and Lord Scarman.

2. For the controversy surrounding the concept of suture, see Rothman.

3. Those who feel that such ideas belong to the past would do well to pay attention to the controversy surrounding the selection of quarterbacks in American football today.


Works Cited


Bordwell, David, Janet Staiger, Kristen Thompson. The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to 1960. London: Routledge and Keegan Paul, 1985.

Depestre, Rene. "Problems of Identity for the Black Man in the Caribbean." Canfesta Foruln: An Anthology of 20 Caribbean Voices. Ed. John Hearne. [Kingston ?]: Carifesta 76, [1976].

Du Bois W. E. B. The Souls of Black Folk. New York: Random House, 1989

Gilroy Paul. There Ain't No Black in the Union Jack. London: Hutchinson, 1987

Hall Stuart et al. Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the State, and Law and Order. London: Macmillan, 1978.

Heath, Stephen. Questions of Cinema. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1981.

James, C. L. R. Beyond a Boundary. New York: Pantheon Books, 1984.

Laclau, Ernesto, Chantal Mouffe. Hegemony and Socialist Strategy. London: Verso, 1985.

Lamming, George. The Pleasures of Exile. London: Allison and Busby, 1984.

Oudart, Jean-Pierre. "Suture." Part 1. Cahiers do cinema 211 (April 1969): 36-39. "Suture." Part 2. Cahiers do cinema 212 (May 1969): 50-55.

Stuckey, Sterling. Slave Culture: Nationalist Theory and the Foundations of Black America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.

Rothman, William. "Against the System of Suture." Film Quarterly 29 (Fall 1975): 45-50.


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