In honor of Trinidad and Tobago’s Independence Day, we’re pleased to present a selection of books that delve into the rich history and culture of the nation.
Circles and Circuits, a richly illustrated exhibition catalog edited by Alexandra Chang, examines artistic production in Cuba, Trinidad, Jamaica, and Panama, where large immigrant populations and political, economic, and socio-cultural conditions enabled the development of rich art practices in the Chinese diasporic community. This catalog accompanied an exhibition of the same name, presented at the California African American Museum and at the Chinese American Museum in Los Angeles.
Demonstrating how spirituality is inextricable from the political project of black liberation, in Spiritual Citizenship N. Fadeke Castor illustrates the ways in which Ifá/Orisha beliefs and practices offer Trinidadians the means to strengthen belonging throughout the diaspora, access past generations, heal historical wounds, and envision a decolonial future.
In Erotic Islands, Lyndon K. Gill foregrounds the queer histories of Carnival, calypso, and HIV/AIDS in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, mapping a long queer presence in the Caribbean.
David McDermott Hughes, in Energy without Conscience, investigates why climate change has yet to be seen as a moral issue, examining the forces that render the use of fossil fuels ordinary and therefore exempt from ethical evaluation. Hughes centers his analysis on Trinidad and Tobago, drawing parallels between Trinidad’s eighteenth- and nineteenth-century slave labor energy economy and its contemporary oil industry.
Roy Cape, a Trinidadian saxophonist, is known throughout the islands and the Caribbean diaspora in North America and Europe. Part ethnography, part biography, and part Caribbean music history, Roy Cape is about the making of reputation and circulation, and about the meaning of labor and work ethics. An experiment in storytelling, it joins Roy’s voice with that of ethnomusicologist Jocelyne Guilbault.
In Thiefing Sugar, Omise’eke Natasha Tinsley explores the poetry and prose of Caribbean women writers, revealing in their imagery a rich tradition of erotic relations between women. Tinsley is also author of the new book Ezili’s Mirrors, which theorizes black Atlantic sexuality by tracing how contemporary queer Caribbean and African American writers and performers evoke the Ezili pantheon of Vodoun spirits, which represent the divine forces of love, sexuality, prosperity, pleasure, maternity, creativity, and fertility.
We’ve published several works by and about Trinidadian writer C. L. R. James, one of the most significant historians and Marxist theorists of the twentieth century. The Life of Captain Cipriani, James’s earliest full-length work of nonfiction, is based on his interviews with Arthur Andrew Cipriani, a captain with the British West Indies Regiment during the First World War who later became a Trinidadian political leader and advocate for West Indian self-government. Christian Høgsbjerg’s C. L. R. James in Imperial Britain chronicles James’s life and work during his first extended stay in Britain, revealing the radicalizing effect of this critical period on James’s intellectual and political trajectory. C. L. R. James’s Caribbean, edited by Paget Henry and Paul Buhle, examine the roots of both James’s life and oeuvre in connection with the economic, social, and political environment of the West Indies. For more on this important figure, explore our series The C. L. R. James Archives.
Mixing—whether referred to as mestizaje, callaloo, hybridity, creolization, or multiculturalism—is a foundational cultural trope in Caribbean and Latin American societies. As Aisha Khan shows in Callaloo Nation, ideas about mixing reveal the tension that exists between identity as a source of equality and identity as an instrument through which social and cultural hierarchies are reinforced. Focusing on the Indian diaspora in the Caribbean, Khan examines this paradox as it is expressed in key dimensions of Hindu and Muslim cultural history and social relationships in southern Trinidad.
In Bacchanalian Sentiments, Kevin K. Birth argues that Trinidadian musical genres and traditions such as soca, parang, and chutney not only provide a soundtrack to daily life on the southern Caribbean island; they are central to the ways that Trinidadians experience and navigate their social lives and interpret political events.
Our Caribbean is an anthology of lesbian and gay writing from across the Antilles, gathering outstanding fiction, nonfiction, memoir, and poetry by little-known writers together with selections by internationally celebrated figures such as José Alcántara Almánzar, Reinaldo Arenas, Dionne Brand, Michelle Cliff, Audre Lorde, Achy Obejas, and Assotto Saint.
Offering an innovative analysis of how ideas of Indian identity negotiated within the Indian diaspora in Trinidad affect cultural identities “back home,” in Mobilizing India Tejaswini Niranjana draws on nineteenth-century travel narratives, anthropological and historical studies of Trinidad, Hindi film music, and the lyrics, performance, and reception of chutney-soca and calypso songs to argue that perceptions of Indian female sexuality in Trinidad have long been central to the formation and disruption of dominant narratives of nationhood, modernity, and normative sexuality in India.