Omens of Adversity

Tragedy, Time, Memory, Justice

Omens of Adversity

Book Pages: 232 Illustrations: Published: January 2014

Author: David Scott

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Caribbean Studies, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

Omens of Adversity is a profound critique of the experience of postcolonial, postsocialist temporality. The case study at its core is the demise of the Grenada Revolution (1979–1983), and the repercussions of its collapse. In the Anglophone Caribbean, the Grenada Revolution represented both the possibility of a break from colonial and neocolonial oppression, and hope for egalitarian change and social and political justice. The Revolution's collapse in 1983 was devastating to a revolutionary generation. In hindsight, its demise signaled the end of an era of revolutionary socialist possibility. Omens of Adversity is not a history of the Revolution or its fallout. Instead, by examining related texts and phenomena, David Scott engages with broader, enduring issues of political action and tragedy, generations and memory, liberalism and transitional justice, and the possibility of forgiveness. Ultimately, Scott argues that the palpable sense of the neoliberal present as time stalled, without hope for emancipatory futures, has had far-reaching effects on how we think about the nature of political action and justice.


"The strength of Omens of Adversity lies in its ability to productively and persuasively move across interpretive practices, weaving together a diverse array of sources.... The work has deep implications for thinking about imaginations of the future" — Stephen McIssac, TOPIA

"Scholars struggling with similar questions and concepts will find here food for thought." — Mark Thurner, American Historical Review

"David Scott has written a third installment of his innovative project to historicize our political present. Like Refashioning Futures (1999) and Conscripts of Modernity (2004), Omens of Adversity models new ways of writing history and producing theory through an engagement with the futures past, and pasts present, of Caribbean politics." — Gary Wilder, Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology

Omens of Adversity is a grim, sobering, and tragic book that should be required for all graduate and advanced undergraduate courses in postcolonial theory, Caribbean history, cultural anthropology, and others dealing with the “end of history” or political transition theory. Scholars with those interests should consider it a must read. It is not only a cautionary tale to constantly take stock of the past lest we live in a recurring catastrophic present but also one of the most intellectually gratifying and adventurous books of recent years.”   — Suzanne Simon, American Ethnologist

“This conceptually very dense book is surely pioneering in the way that it redefines temporality and political action and gives a language and method to study past and/or failed revolutionary actions.” — Charlotte Loris-Rodinoff, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

"In examining tragedy, memory, time, and justice through the prism of the Grenada Revolution, Scott achieves what many theorists fail to do, namely, to draw universal lessons out of the particular experiences of the Caribbean, in this case Grenada’s political history." — David Austin, Ethnohistory

"Omens of Adversity will be of interest to students and scholars of Caribbean and postcolonial studies, political theory, Marxism and Revolution, Trauma and Memory Studies." — Shalini Puri, New West Indian Guide

"Omens of Adversity is a thought-provoking and thoroughly inspiring book. Particularly illuminating is the notion of the contemporary neoliberal predicament as a stagnant, stranded present, devoid of promises of a better future." — Carl Rommel, Social Anthropology

"With his analysis of the enduring character of the collective pain caused by the collapse of the New Jewel Movement and the subsequent American invasion of Grenada, Scott shows us why, at a fundamental level, the Grenada revolution remains a distinctly challenging topic for historians to write about. Scott’s analysis of memory in the wake of trauma also speaks to the practical political dimensions of dealing with painful pasts." — Paul Hebert, African American Intellectual History Society

"In many ways, Omens of Adversity is a continuation and deepening of a line of thought that social and cultural theorist David Scott has been developing for years. . . . Scott’s larger project is marked by a progressively more strident analysis, a darkening view of what he sees as our increasingly strangulated set of political possibilities. As such, Omens demands serious engagement by social and political theorists." — Robert Nichols, Political Theory

Omens of Adversity brings to the fore the political work that silences perform in post-revolutionary societies and provides conceptually potent models for anthropologists, historians, political scientists, and others interested in probing such questions further.” — Maarit Forde, PoLAR

"Omens of Adversity is a deeply impressive and critical meditation on temporality, political action, memory, and history. It is a significant contribution to multiple fields, particularly Caribbean studies, and to ongoing theoretical debates about colonialism, postcolonial studies, and temporality." — Laurent Dubois, author of Haiti: The Aftershocks of History


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

David Scott is Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. He is the author of Conscripts of Modernity: The Tragedy of Colonial Enlightenment and the editor of Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism, both also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Prologue. Aftermaths 1

Part I. Tragedy, Time

1. Revolution's Tragic Ends: Temporal Dimensions of Political Action 33

2. Stranded in the Present: The Ruins of Time 67

Part II. Memory, Justice

3. Generations of Memory: The Work of Mourning 99

4. Evading Truths: The Rhetoric of Transitional Justice 127

Epilogue. The Temporality of Forgiving 165

Acknowledgments 173

Notes 177

Index 215
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5621-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5606-6
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