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Research + Work

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Research + Work

Tidalectic

Mark Harris

The Caribbean is the site of hybrid and innovative subversions of European/North American conceptual models. The postcolonial impact of legacies of slavery on island economics, language, and culture engenders a resourcefulness that may be sonically intoxicating or defiant. One such subversion is Kamau Brathwaite’s neologism ‘tidalectic’ that mischievously borrows from, and eludes, Hegel’s philosophy with marine concepts concerning the ebb and flow of Caribbean thought along diasporic routes and everyday practices of island life. The tidalectic is developed in Brathwaite’s 1997 book ConVERSations with Nathaniel Mackey “Why is our psychology not dialectical … in the way that Western philosophy has assumed people’s lives should be, but tidalectic, like our grandmother’s—our nanna’s—action, like the movement of the ocean she’s walking on …?” This differs from European avant-garde models of artistic defiance that reference the incursive political/aesthetic radicalities of Baudelaire’s Flowers of Evil, Mallarmé’s artistic withdrawal, or Duchamp’s institutional subversion. Is there anything about Brathwaite’s tidalectic that can overflow from the spheres of island resilience into cultures of resistance? And how might tidalectics expand and diversify concepts of temporality and memory, central as they are to contemporary art practices?