An ambitious reassessment of the political uses of masking.
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.
Gerard Aching is associate professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at New York University.