High Mas: Carnival and the Poetics of Caribbean Culture (2018)

FB_IMG_1503075388656-07.jpegI’m pleased to announce the publication of High Mas: Carnival and the Poetics of Caribbean Culture by the University Press of Mississippi. High Mas is a book of images and essays inspired by the art of Mas in Trinidad, the practice of Caribbean photography as a rhetoric of seeing, and my own fear of blindness.

Here’s the abstract: High Mas: Carnival and the Poetics of Caribbean Culture is a book of contemporary Caribbean thought and practice. In it, Kevin Adonis Browne combines the arts of photography and the lyric essay to devise a way of seeing the Caribbean, the world, and the self. Responding to the myths and crises of identity, of nation, and of belonging that persist in the region, High Mas complicates assumptions about Trinidad Carnival as an exemplary festival of local freedoms. Instead, Browne explores the spirit of Mas as a deeply generative means of vernacular expression. Using the performance of Mas as a lens for reading the contemporary Caribbean, Browne draws particular inspiration from the performances of Blue Devils, La Diablesse, and Moko Jumbies—all of whom were photographed by the author between 2014 and 2017.

Essays accompany each series and frame the author’s ideas of “Caribbeanist Photography” as a practice that is both reflective and refractive. Beginning with memoir, and moving progressively toward a more extensive treatment of Caribbeanness as performance—as Mas—the book is a celebration of the Caribbean subject. It is, furthermore, a declaration of the agency of ordinary people who take it upon themselves to do extraordinary things, who deconstruct the vagaries of everyday life to construct meaning. Like its overarching theme, High Mas disrupts conventional assumptions of what Mas—and the people who make Mas—can do. Relying simultaneously on aspects of memory, experience, imaging, and inquiry, High Mas is an intricate argument for the relevance of vision to the Caribbean voice.

(Keywords: Caribbean Poetics, Trinidad, Photography, Carnival, Cultural Rhetoric)

Read or download a pdf of Chapter Summaries here.

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