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Masking and Power

Carnival and Popular Culture in the Caribbean

2002
Author:

Gerard Aching

Masking and Power

An ambitious reassessment of the political uses of masking.

Focusing on masking as a socially significant practice in Caribbean cultures, Gerard Aching’s analysis articulates masking, mimicry, and misrecognition as a means of describing and interrogating strategies of visibility and invisibility in Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, Martinique, and beyond.

Cultural Studies of the Americas Series, volume 8

This book offers a useful account of how visual and verbal masks in Caribbean societies both conceal and reveal identities and social relations. Perhaps the greatest strength is that it cuts across three of the linguistic divisions of the region.

New West Indian Guide

Does the mask reveal more than it conceals? What, this book asks, becomes visible and invisible in the masking practiced in Caribbean cultures-not only in the familiar milieu of the carnival but in political language, social conduct, and cultural expressions that mimic, misrepresent, and mislead? Focusing on masking as a socially significant practice in Caribbean cultures, Gerard Aching’s analysis articulates masking, mimicry, and misrecognition as a means of describing and interrogating strategies of visibility and invisibility in Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, Martinique, and beyond.

Masking and Power uses ethnographic fieldwork, psychoanalysis, and close literary readings to examine encounters between cultural insiders as these locals mask themselves and one another either to counter the social invisibility imposed on them or to maintain their socioeconomic privileges. Aching exposes the ways in which strategies of masking and mimicry, once employed to negotiate subjectivities within colonial regimes, have been appropriated for state purposes and have become, with the arrival of self-government in the islands, the means by which certain privileged locals make a show of national and cultural unity even as they engage in the privatization of popular culture and its public performances.

Masking and Power

Gerard Aching is associate professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at New York University.

Masking and Power

This book offers a useful account of how visual and verbal masks in Caribbean societies both conceal and reveal identities and social relations. Perhaps the greatest strength is that it cuts across three of the linguistic divisions of the region.

New West Indian Guide

Masking and Power

Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction: Masking, Misrecognition, Mimicry

PART I Undisguised Masking

ONE Dispossession,Nonpossession,and Self-Possession: Postindependence Masking in Lovelace’s The Dragon Can’t Dance
TWO The New Visibilities:Middle-Class Cosmopolitanism in the Street

PART II Masking through Language

THREE Specularity and the Language of Corpulence: Estrella’s Body in Cabrera Infante’s Tres tristes tigres
FOUR Turning a Blind Eye in the Name of the Law: Cultural Alienation in Chamoiseau’s Solibo Magnifique

Notes
Works Cited

Index