Deliberative Daemonic: Carnival and the Imaging of Emancipatory Practice

Deliberative Daemonic: Carnival and the Imaging of Emancipatory Practice is an exploration of Caribbean rhetorical activity that focuses on three original photographic series (color and black & white) that were shot in Trinidad over the past two years as part of my ongoing research on Caribbean culture and the composition of the vernacular self. The accompanying essays continue the discussion of portraiture, performance, visual rhetoric, symbolic action, and the material possibilities for social change in Caribbean society that was broached in my first book, Tropic Tendencies

The first series, “Seeing Blue,” consists of 30 portraits of Paramin Blue Devils in 2014, whose iconic blue-paint signified an important revision of post-emancipatory tradition. The second, “Erzulie in Black and White,” consists of 40 photographs of the 2015 performances of La Diablesse, the first such performances in a generation that reintroduced the macabre narrative of the Caribbean femme fatale to a new audience. The third series, “Walking Stick,” consists of 40 photographs of Moko Jumbies, traditional stilt-walkers from San Fernando. Each of these performances featured a major character in the pantheon of Caribbean folklore and carnival—Diables Molassie (molasses devils), La Diablesse (the deviless), and Moko Jumbies—to which I was granted exclusive access as photographer, participant, and performer. The resulting intimacy of these series therefore makes this project a deeply personal reflection on my roles and responsibilities as a practitioner and as a curator of vernacular experience.

Deliberative Daemonic can be seen both as an outgrowth of some of the ideas raised in my first book, Tropic Tendencies, but also as a discrete inquiry. That is to say, in Tropic Tendencies, I suggest that the Caribbean Carnivalesque is overarching, that it in fact encompasses every aspect of Caribbean expression. Naturally, this includes the various displays we have at our disposal—available to engage in, observe, experience, and so on. The Blue Devils’ performance is an example of the range of ingenuity I highlight in the book, and one that is particularly relevant in our considerations of the everyday and the Caribbean imaginary–the aspects of a Caribbean life imagined. In other words:

[Y]ou show me a set ah dutty mas, man eating raw shark and pulling fig tree up from the root, woman spitting blood, and I will show you makers of magic, forgers of weapons held beneath the skin. I will show you yourselves and ask you to do the asking of a culture that is far too open for the taking and to which we are sometimes slow in giving. And what of the contemporary performer… of glitter and bottlecaps, brand names and crucifixes? If we turned one eye from history and looked forward from present to future, what are we to make of what we see and of what this tradition, mixed, remixed, and renewed for our time can actually do? At what point, after realizing these men and women are who they say they are that we identify with them, seeing our reflection in their faces, in their bodies bending low to the ground for money they have danced for and earned, but which will never be enough to compensate for scorn and misunderstanding?

Here are some (low-res) versions of the images that will be included. 

Please Note: the images are copyrighted. They are not included in the Creative Commons licensing that covers most of the content of this web site.


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