The Questioning Generation: Rights, Representations and Cultural Fractions in the 1980s and 1990s: Alison Donnell
If we generally take the task of criticism to be one of questioning and unsettling established norms, then the very idea of a questioning generation within a critical tradition may seem both obvious and puzzling at once. In a Caribbean context, the habits of criticism are less allied with the tradition of debating in which views are politely exchanged and scrutinized against each other, as if they are inert gases – rare and rarified, and unlikely to permeate the air we breathe. Rather, Caribbean criticism mines an often explosive vein to uncover the highly reactive elements of vernacular and demotic cultures, the volatile interface between rights and representation and the potentially emancipatory and revolutionary agendas of new social imaginaries. It is a critical tradition animated by struggle and contestation, most fundamentally against the authorizing paradigms of colonial culture. My discussion here is of a moment in literary criticism in the late 1980s and 1990s when the shape, security and continued relevance of the seemingly robust agenda of cultural nationalism began to be questioned. It is a moment in which cultural fractions begin to make more demands for representation and in which ideas of liberation and empowerment take on different, and sometimes competing, agendas.