“Tropic Tendencies: Rhetoric, Popular Culture, and the Anglophone Caribbean by Kevin Adonis Browne”
Reviewer: Angeletta Kim Marie Gourdine | LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY
Caribbean Rasanblaj. Vol. 12, Issue 1, 2015
Tropic Tendencies forecasts its queries immediately, as the pronunciation of the title’s initial vowel epitomizes Browne’s analysis of tropical people’s troping strategies. Building on at least a half century of African diaspora discourse analysis, Browne aims in this study to answer two central questions: is there a discernible Caribbean rhetoric? Assured that there is, he asks: how is this rhetoric used in Caribbean popular culture? In an introduction, five chapters, and a conclusion, Browne reads Caribbean rhetorical performance(s) through a matrix he names the “Caribbean carnivalesque” (7). The “Caribbean” with which Browne is concerned is an ethos, a “subscription to a characteristic way of framing the world and making meaning within it” (5). Consequently, the “carnivalesque” is “an embedded practice…a definitive method for understanding and enacting” the ethos. An adept rhetor, Browne reorganizes these familiar, over-determined concepts into a new structure.
“Browne’s Tropic Tendencies”
Reviewer: Josephine Walwema | OAKLAND UNIVERSITY
Present Tense. Vol. 3, Issue 5, 2016
Using what he calls the “Caribbean Carnivalesque” as a rhetorical trope that defines the essence of being Caribbean, Browne grounds his analysis in Kenneth Burke’s Rhetoric of Motives and the concept of human beings as symbol-using animals. Those symbols—identifiably Caribbean and emblematic of the Caribbean experience—center on the Carnival and associated accouterments, namely masque, performance, and vernacular language. Browne acknowledges that speaking for the Caribbean, given its geographic territory, is inherently problematic because of its geographic size and heterogeneous populace. And yet he manages to forge a collective identity among those who identify as Caribbean by capturing their shared fear of marginalization.
Browne’s contribution is a welcome addition to rhetorical scholarship, which has expanded to instruction in various rhetorics. Given the increased climate of globalization, students need the opportunity to learn concrete strategies for communicating with and understanding others around the globe. And, in Tropic Tendencies, with the Carnivalesque form as content, they have an opening salvo. Before it can set the terms for its own debate, Tropic Tendencies, as a single work, must work closely with the rhetorical tradition to be recognizable as rhetoric; at the same time, the work attempts to maintain autonomy from the rhetorical tradition to be studied seriously.
“Kevin Adonis Browne’s Tropic Tendencies”
Reviewer: Candia Mitchell-Hall | UNIVERSITY OF THE WEST INDIES-MONA
Caribbean Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Vol. 40, Issue 3, 2015
The final chapter, in my opinion the most original and captivating, presents an account of how Caribbean users inhabit the Internet—YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Google, and LinkedIn—using their Caribbean vernacular and rhetoric. Browne evaluates three genres employed by these Internet users: chatting, blogging, and video sharing. He finds that Caribbean users employ the same rhetoric offline as online. Hence, these technologies do not change Caribbean users; they facilitate their Caribbean consciousness, identity, and activism.
All in all, the book succeeds in achieving its mission of illustrating how critical Caribbean culture is to the existence of its peoples within the region and diaspora. I take an issue with the images of the text that, to my mind, are better suited for a study of poor people’s dwellings or material culture than a study of expressive culture. What would have been more relevant are images of revelers, Jamettes, bad Johns, dancers, and Calenda or stick-fighting duels, among others. That said, Browne’s work cements itself as a strong scholarly work on Caribbean rhetoric and culture which will probably be consulted by many academics of cultural, literary, and Caribbean studies.