The beginnings of the anti-colonial struggle in Jamaica coincided with the childhood and early adolescence of Sylvia Wynter, providing the motivation for this, the first phase of her important body of work. The essays and articles collected here go beyond making an argument against colonialism, but set out to decolonize the nature of the discourse that legitimated the imperial order. At the time of their writing, Wynter was a practicing novelist, an innovative playwright, a scholar of Spanish Caribbean history, and an incisive literary critic with a gift for the liveliest kind of polemics. This intellectual virtuosity is evident in these wide-ranging essays that include an exploration of C.L.R. James's writings on cricket, Bob Marley and the counter-cosmogony of the Rastafari, and the Spanish epoch of Jamaican history (including a pioneering examination of Bernado de Balbuena, epic poet and Abbot of Jamaica 1562-1627).
Across this varied range of topics, a coherent thread of argument emerges. In the vein of C. L. R. James, the imperative of her work has always been to reconceptualize the history of the region, and therefore of the modern world, from a world-systemic perspective; that is, no longer from the normative European perspective, but rather more inclusively, from the "gaze from below" of the neo-serf (i.e. Indian) and the ex-slave (i.e. Negro), which is "the ultimate underside of modernity."
Strongly influenced by Marx, together with Black thinkers such as Aimé Césaire, Jean Price-Mars, W.E.B. Du Bois and Frantz Fanon, and with an appreciation of the insights brought by the New Studies of the Sixties (including that of Black feminism), Wynter's work has sought, from its beginnings, to find a comprehensive explanatory system able to integrate these knowledges born of struggle.