From the civilizing mission of apocalypse to a decolonial praxis of sustainable innovation: Caribbean as capitalist and post-capitalist crucible


 Presenter (s) Hakim Mohandas Amani Williams, Gettysburg College

In this poster, I present the Caribbean as a historic site for the development of Capitalism and now–in the face of intense climate change–as a decolonial site for necessarily post-capitalist envisioning, which will require a very different Caribbean education system from the present one.

The Caribbean was once a centerpiece of European economic experimentation and expansion, with colonialism, slavery and indentureship serving as the engines of capitalism (Williams, 1946). During the colonialial era in the Caribbean, substantive education was generally denied to slaves. Any sparse educational provisions revolved around missionary-based education, aimed at conversion to Christianity. I posit that violence as disciplinary technology (Foucault, 1975) was the main form of ‘education’: education for inferiorization and subservience. This internalized ‘education’, which engendered psychic intra- and inter-personal splintering among the enslaved (Fanon, 1967), gave way to incoherent post-slavery, independent nation-building projects.
Capitalism has wreaked havoc in and on the Caribbean. Its guarantors–in the form of IMF and World Bank structural adjustment programs–are a neocolonial elaboration of what I call the civilizing mission of apocalypse. Europe aimed to ‘civilize’ the Caribbean (and the non-West), but the violent logics and practices of exploitation and peripheralization caused and entrenched infrastructures and ontologies of apocalypse. I characterize apocalypse here as a systemic cycle of ruination (Stoler, 2013).

Colonialism and neocolonialism also entrenched particular educational formations that were not Caribbean-centric thus, contemporaneous educational structures (including pedagogies and school discipline) are outmoded and not fit for a 21st century global society. 21st century global society is partially demarcated by constant economic disruption; some of it welcome and some of it devastating to marginalized communities. For example, industrialization in the West has been a leading cause of climate change but small island developing states (like many of those in the Caribbean) suffer the brunt of the impacts, such as increasingly dangerous hurricanes, rising sea levels and bleached coral reefs, which in turn imperil the bedrock of many Caribbean economies: the tourism industry.

In the face of these dramatic climate events and the further economic exploitation of marginalized communities, some entrepreneurs have argued for compassionate disruption (Jackson, 2018) which is about using innovation to drive growth while committing to sustainable corporate sustainability while also mitigating the negative impacts of the disruption. In my presentation, I aver that the educational system in the Caribbean needs a major overhaul–one premised on disruptive innovation (Christensen, 1995)–to provide the Caribbean body politic with the capacities to creatively tackle climate change adaptation and a forecast of increasing numbers of climate refugees. In other words, I offer a sketch of a model anchored in a Caribbean post-capitalist and decolonial praxis.

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