Reflections on Nyak—A Tribute to Norman Girvan
By Michael Witter
“Nyak” is what GBeck called Norman Girvan, and I followed suit in all the years that I enjoyed his friendship and shared the many projects on which we collaborated.
I had met his ideas on multinational corporations as mechanisms of underdeveloping the Caribbean and the wider Third World, in my first attempt at a doctoral thesis on the growth of multinational corporations. This work led me to the wider world of dependency economics and structuralist thought on economic development, and back through the writings of the New World thinkers of the 1960s in the Caribbean. This was one path.
The other path led me from George Beckford’s Persistent Poverty back to the same core of critical thinking that distinguished Norman and the Caribbean scholars of his generation.
Till the painful imprisonment of his fertile and extremely active mind in the broken body that led to his untimely passing, Norman was a beacon of scholarship in the service of the Caribbean people. To be sure, he was heir to the work of his father, D. T. M. Girvan, and the other pioneers of community development as a strategy for national development of the 1940s and 1950s in anti-colonial, pre-Independence Jamaica.
In addition, he was profoundly influenced by the remarkable minds of the New World scholars, and their counterparts in Latin America immediately, and the wider world of radical critique with which he was always engaged. But, to my certain knowledge, he brought to those with whom he exchanged ideas, an unshakeable abhorrence of injustice, an instinct for service to, and respect for, his fellow human beings, an openness to learning, a mind of exceptional critical capacities, a boundless energy for disciplined work, commitment to principled positions that allowed for compromise but never betrayal, and the courage to stand up to the abuse of authority and power.
In the last five or so years, Nyak seemed to acquire a new flow of intellectual energy that he creatively shared through his remarkable web site that became a major research source for contemporary issues of Caribbean development, especially as they were shaped by the unfolding of global capitalism through its various crises.
He was one of the few intellectuals from the Anglo-Caribbean who engaged fully with the rest of the Caribbean, and particularly the Hispanic Caribbean, on a consistent and comprehensive basis. I recall being profoundly moved by the citation and his response in Spanish, at a ceremony in Havana at which he received one of Cuba’s highest honours. Many were the compliments paid to his intellectual leadership by English-, Spanish-, French-, and Dutch-speaking scholars for his leadership of the Association of Caribbean Economists.
His leadership as secretary-general of the Association of Caribbean States and most recently his appointment by the UN secretary-general to mediate the border disagreements between Venezuela and Guyana are just two of many instances of international recognition for his intellectual work, his personal integrity and his leadership.
Even his critics from both the right and the left who cast slurs on the positions he took in what he believed was in the interest of the people of the Caribbean, acknowledged his profound contribution to critical thought in their own back foremost ways. For some, he was out of touch with the narrowing concerns of mainstream economics, and for others, he was propagating out-dated radical nationalism. Both views had to engage his intellectual campaigns, and in so doing, recognize the import of his ideas.
Nyak has left a body of work that will support research for many years to come. Too few of his students have become academic partisans like him in the cause of social and economic development for the Caribbean people, but these few will live the values of critical thought, courage, and social justice that he espoused. The older ones of us will give thanks to Norman, each in his or her own way. But, it is the younger ones who will stand on his shoulders, and see further, that will keep his memory alive in the academic journals and the popular mind.
There are two projects that the older and the younger generations can collaborate in to give Norman a sense of intellectual closure. He wanted a critical review of the struggles over development policy in Jamaica in the 1970s, properly situated in the global context, the history of the Caribbean, and the class struggles of Jamaica. And he wanted the volumes of the New World Journal to be re-published for the benefit of the young. Academics can honour his memory with these two publications.
List of Tributes to Professor Norman Paul Girvan (1941 – 2014)
Baldwin Spencer (Prime Minister of Antigua) laments loss of Caribbean intellectual Norman Girvan
Caribarena Antigua, April 16, 2014
Norman Girvan: Pragmatic economist
Caribbean Intelligence, April 2014 [exact date not clear]
Real Caribbean man
Anton Allahar, Samuel Furé-Davis and Haven Allahar, Trinidad Express, April 15, 2014
Also appears as “Norman Girvan—a special Caribbean man” in the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian on April 16, 2014, at http://www.guardian.co.tt/letters/2014-04-16/norman-girvan%E2%80%94-special-caribbean-man
An economist with a difference: Norman Girvan – an appreciation
Anton L. Allahar, Counterpunch, April 14, 2014
We salute Norman Girvan
Ian Boyne, Jamaica Gleaner, April 14, 2014
A luta continua: Tribute to Norman Girvan / The passing of a Caribbean patriot
David Abdulah (Movement for Social Justice), Stabroek News (Guyana), April 14, 2014
Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Guyana): Girvan was one of the Caribbean’s ‘finest minds’
Stabroek News (Guyana), April 14, 2014
Donald Ramotar (President of Guyana): Girvan’s death an immense loss
Stabroek News (Guyana), April 13, 2014
Why Norman Girvan matters
Claude Robinson, Jamaica Observer, April 13, 2014
Dr Norman Girvan, intellectual warrior
Editorial, Jamaica Observer, April 13, 2014
OAS Statement on the Death of Professor Norman Girvan
José Miguel Insulza (Secretary General, Organization of American States), April 13, 2014
Caribbean loses valuable steward with passing of Professor Norman Girvan
Matthew Hunte, Global Voices, April 12, 2014
The engaged academic
SunityMaharaj, Trinidad Express, April 12, 2014
A reflection on Dr Norman Girvan
Tony Seed, April 12, 2014
UWI professors mourn Girvan
Jamaica Gleaner, April 12, 2014
The UWI St Augustine mourns the passing of Professor Emeritus Norman Girvan, CD
Clement Sankat, Campus Principal and Pro Vice-Chancellor, The UWI St Augustine, April 11, 2014
The value of Norman Girvan
Editorial, Jamaica Gleaner, April 11, 2014
Girvan: A true Caribbean man
Miranda La Rose, Trinidad and Tobago Newsday, April 11 2014
Norman Girvan — The true Caribbean man
The Cropper Foundation, Jamaica Observer, April 11, 2014
Norman Girvan: luchador caribeño y latinoamericano
ANEC (National Association of Economists and Accountants of Cuba), El Economista, April 11, 2014
Portia Simpson Miller (Prime Minister, Jamaica): Girvan leaves a legacy of excellence
Jamaica Observer, April 11, 2014
Kenny Anthony (Prime Minister of St Lucia): Passing of Professor Norman Girvan an “immeasurable loss”
St Lucia News Online, April 11, 2014
Venezuela lamenta fallecimiento de Norman Girvan
Nicolas Maduro Moros (President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela), Agencia Venezolana de Noticias (AVN), April 11, 2014
Caribbean Court of Justice statement on the passing of Professor Emeritus Norman Girvan
CCJ, WINN FM (St Kitts and Nevis), April 11, 2014
CARICOM indebted to Professor Girvan
CARICOM, April 11, 2014
Girvan’s ideas and ideals placed him in the upper echelons of Caribbean intellectuals
Irwin LaRocque (Secretary General, CARICOM), April 10, 2014
Tribute on the passing of Professor Emeritus Norman Girvan, CD
Brian Meeks (Professor and University Director, SALISES, The UWI Mona), April 10, 2014
UN chief saddened by death of Caribbean scholar Norman Girvan
Ban Ki-moon (Secretary General, United Nations Organization), April 10, 2014
In Memoriam Dr. Norman Girvan [photo gallery]
Association of Caribbean States, April 10, 2014
Resolution of mourning
Association of Caribbean States, April 10, 2014
Passing of Dr. Norman Girvan – 2nd Secretary General of the ACS
Association of Caribbean States, April 9, 2014