One of the rewards for reading Caribbean literature widely and over a long period is that the connections you see between books and their contexts build into a map that enriches the reading of each new book. Discover is an attempt to share some of those perceptions by building a web of topics that provides a context for reading. It tries to do this by connecting the books we publish to other literary works and to other forms of discourse about the Caribbean and indeed to the external realities referred to in those discourses. It aims to provide a way of thinking about Caribbean writing from several directions. Discover offers a series of overviews that taken together try to provide a coherent focus for organising the interrelationship of different ways of looking at the Caribbean and making them mutually intelligible. The mapping is both partial and ultimately arbitrary. Its biases are rooted in literature and the humanities. It has nothing much to say about science, technology or even micro-economics, though the increasing literary awareness of ecological issues provides one point of connection. Inevitably there are overlaps: where do you make the division between the social and the individual, between matters of the spirit and matters of culture? Organised under the eight overviews focusing on history, people, place, society, individual being, spirituality, culture and literature, discover maps the way Caribbean literature has dealt with specific topics – for instance childhood, ganja and horse-racing – as different kinds of peep-holes into Caribbean reality.
The relationship between particularly literary works and particular topics is intended to be seen in two directions. Whilst literary works are imaginative, self-referential, formally organised wholes, there can be no denying that they have contributed massively to ‘knowing’ the Caribbean in ways that other forms of discourse have barely caught up with. Indeed, only Caribbean historiography can claim any similar range and maturity. So novels and poems have been tagged as ways of looking at a host of Caribbean natural, social, personal and cultural phenomena. Where else to look for images of Caribbean childhoods? And what is it about horse-racing that makes it such a dynamic image for unity in diversity not only in Cyril Dabydeen’s The Wizard Swami but in several other books? But literature is imaginative and not empirical and it is a mistake to think you can read social realities directly from it, though bad literary sociology sometimes does just that. Indeed for people from outside the region, some knowledge of Caribbean writing or music can lead to misapprehensions about the social reality. For instance, the equation between Jamaica and Rastafarianism is well embedded, despite the fact the only a very small minority of Jamaicans identify themselves as Rastafarians, and various forms of charismatic Christianity have far more adherents and are much faster growing. So while there is no attempt to provide an encyclopaedia of Caribbean knowledge (except perhaps a bizarre and very partial one) Discover does try to offer reference points for identifying from other extra-literary sources what kinds of perspectives Caribbean literature offer on Caribbean realities.
This is self-evidently a publisher’s website, and our duty to our authors and ourselves is to sell books, so the emphasis is firmly, but not exclusively on the books we publish. One unashamed goal of Discover is provide a context for the books we publish that offers frameworks for reading, hooks for attracting interest to other books and stimulus for further study and investigation. But that is by no means Discover’s only goal, and whilst there’s a particular focus on our own books, it does attempt to provide a less-partisan breadth of view and contribute to wider knowledge.
The arbitrary part of the topic web is how the whole field has been segmented. Since the original concept was of a web presented in circular form, none of the elements are supposed to have priority and are intended to be seen as interacting. The segments are organised as follows:
Place: because all Caribbean being begins in a response to geography, nature (indigenous and imported) and the variety of man-made environments, whether staying in the region or migrating from it.
History: because there can be no understanding of the nature of Caribbean cultural forms, social formations, political attitudes and individual lives without grasping the region’s long history of struggle against external dominance.
People: because the uniqueness of the Caribbean as a region derives from the successive waves of migration (enforced and free), the virtual but by no means total wiping out of the indigenous population, and the subsequent interactions between the people who came.
Social Being: because issues of class, race, gender, education, work and politics have been the dominant themes for both literary and non-literary Caribbean discourse.
Personal Being: because although there’s no aspect of personal experience that is not shaped by society and culture, literature above all recognises the centrality of inner, individual, subjective experience (of, for example, childhood, family, love, death, sexual orientation, madness).
Cultural Forms: because it is in the originality and inventiveness in the fields of sport, music, street theatre, food, pastimes, festivals, body adornment and dress that the Caribbean has established its unique identity.
Spirit: because both Caribbean people and Caribbean writers operate in an environment where religious and spiritual belief systems guide daily life, and the unseen has not fled before the spread of secular materialism.
Literary forms: because although these are cultural products, this topic web is part of a discourse devoted to literature.
Discover is very much a work in progress and will take quite some time to complete. Suggestions, corrections and volunteering to make contributions are very much welcomed. You can send your thoughts to us by using the contact form. Scroll down on the about us page.
Essays already completed include: People (the overview), Indian Caribbeans, Madrassis; Time and History (overview), Caribbean and Globalisation; Place (overview), The Plantation, From the Country to the City, Imaginary Caribbeans, Hills and Mountains; Society (overview); Inner Being (overview), Childhood and Youth; Spirit and Spirituality (overview); Cultural Forms (overview), Horse Racing, Food and Cooking. More coming soon...