The book argues that the frontier, usually associated with the era of colonial conquest, has great, continuing and under explored relevance to the Caribbean region. Identifying the frontier as a moral, ideational and physical boundary between what is imagined as civilization and wilderness, the book seeks to extend frontier analysis by focusing on the Eastern Caribbean multi island state of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The continuing relevance of the concept of frontier, and allied notions of civilization and wilderness, are illuminated through an analysis of the ways in which SVG is perceived and experienced by both outsiders to the society and its insiders. Using literary sources, biographies and autobiography, the book shows how St. Vincent is imagined and made sense of as a modern frontier; a society in the balance between an imposed civilized order and an untameable wild that always encroaches, whether in the form of social dislocation, the urban presence of the ‘Wilderness people’ or illegal marijuana farming in the northern St. Vincent hills. The frontier as examined here has historically been and remains very much a global production. Simultaneously, it is argued that contemporary processes of globalization shape the development of tourism and finance sectors, as well as patterns of migration, they connect to shifting conceptions of the civilized and the wild, and have implications for the role of the state and politics in frontier societies.
Contestations of modernity cover the historical and cultural origins of the phenomenon while questioning understandings of “the modern condition” itself. This erudite and beautifully argued book encompasses both elements in its carefully crafted prose and analysis. Subjects of Modernity takes modernity as its subject and also enables those subject to modernity to be heard. This should not come as a surprise, however, as the author, Saurabh Dube, is himself located at the intersections of critical historical scholarship and an engaged anthropological tradition sensitive to the voices in need of amplification.
Subjects of Modernity takes on the disciplinary mappings of this key concept through a fresh consideration of the times and spaces of modernity, as well as examining the marginalized intimacies that inhabit its various forms. Drawing on the traditions of postcolonial thought, subaltern studies, and historical anthropology – and the artistic reflections of Savindra Sawarkar – Dube develops a nuanced deliberation of the academic and aesthetic trajectories of modernity. At the same time, he opens up new considerations of identities formed by and through such movements.
The broader empirical terrain covered by the book extends the scope for the reinvigoration and renewal of the associated concepts, categories, and paradigms of modernity. This is a renewal that enables us to rethink what we understand of, and with, modernity and ideas of the modern (subject). In this way, the book clearly illuminates one of the key concerns of the Theory for a Global Age series, that is, the call for the concurrent engagement of deep analysis with theoretical reconstruction. Dube not only presents a lucid account of the “subjects of modernity,” but accounts for those subjects in diverse and innovative ways. It is powerful, politically engaged scholarship at its best.
Gurminder K. Bhambra
University of Warwick