Revolutionary Papers

Revolutionary Papers is a transnational research collaboration exploring 20th century periodicals of Leftanti-imperial and anti-colonial critical production. Read More


Given the importance of literature to various forms of social cohesion, it is not surprising that the European and U.S. empires that have dominated the geopolitical existence of the insular Caribbean have not readily invested in literary infrastructure throughout the archipelago. The impact of empire on infrastructure for the production of Caribbean literatures remains underexamined at large, however. Accounting for the political and economic dimensions of the literary power produced by empire would contribute to the denaturalization of such power, and, I argue, decolonize the terms of literary value. In the presentation I propose I will examine the material dimensions of imperial literary power and posit 1940s Caribbean magazines as anti-imperial weapons in the guerilla warfare for literary and geopolitical visibility.

The literary magazine, however fragile and limited as infrastructure, offered Caribbean writers a way to publish at home and to be circulated both at home and abroad. They made the careers of writers such as George Lamming, Derek Walcott, and Suzanne and Aimé Césaire, Alejo Carpentier, Nicolás Guillén, and many others. They made these careers by alternating between aesthetically launching the Caribbean into literary and geopolitical visibility and facilitating circulation to larger scale infrastructures in literary centers in Paris, London, Madrid, New York, and Mexico City.

Although my research is broader, I draw specifically on the following literary periodicals:

1. Tropiques (Fort de France, Martinique, 1941-1945)

Language: French (and some Kreyol)

Type: quarterly, no advertisements, subject to Vichy censorship for half-run, mostly literary publication including French literary works alongside local work and scattered work in translation from Spanish, includes literary and social theory fomenting black consciousness and increasingly evincing a Marxist political perspective, especially in second half  of run

Circulation: French Antilles, Haiti, Cuba, Curaçao, Mexico, New York, Alexandria, Chile, Venezuela

Editorial Collective: Aimé Césaire, Suzanne Césaire, René Ménil

2. BIM (Bridgetown, Barbados, 1942-1972)

Language: English (and various local dialects)

Type: semi-annual exclusively literary and programmatically apolitical periodical, financed by advertisements, demonstrating colonial self-censorship, dedicated to local literary production and becoming increasingly regional in scope in the late 1940s

Circulation: British West Indies and England

Editorial Collective: Frank Collymore & W. Therold Barnes with scouting work by George Lamming

3. Gaceta del Caribe (Habana, Cuba 1944)

Language: Spanish

Type: monthly, popular front literary critical and political periodical secretly financed by Cuban CP

Circulation: Haiti, Curaçao, Mexico, U.S., Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay

Editorial Collective: Nicolás Guillén, Mirta Aguirre, Jose Antonio Portuondo, Angel Augier

Katerina Gonzalez Seligmann

Katerina Gonzalez Seligmann is Assistant Professor in the Department of Writing, Literature, & Publishing at Emerson College. She is a scholar of Caribbean and Caribbean diaspora literature, history, and social theory. Her research focuses on intertextual forms including translation, literary periodicals, and adaptations and the decolonization of literary theory. She is completing a book about […]