Sat | Oct 20, 2018

Boyne embodied intellectual scholarship

Published:Wednesday | January 10, 2018 | 12:04 AM
Ian Boyne


I value the considerable intellectual effort that the late Ian Boyne put into his writing, the breadth of his reading, and grasp of the constellation of contradictory interests around the issues he analysed. He had a very good grasp of the psychology of many of the persons he profiled trying to understand their inner lives by taking us, through his questions, beyond what the guest being interviewed wanted to present to the world.

During the past few days I have reread the collection Ideas Matter: Selected Articles from Ian Boyne's In Focus Column 2002-2013. Boyne's analytical capabilities are well represented in his essays. He engaged critical issues from the standpoint of philosophical thinking, interrogating assumptions and their logical consequences. He coupled this with a strong Christian faith. To do this on a weekly basis required much reading, thinking and discipline for someone who wore many hats.

Ian Boyne worked consciously out of a tradition of decolonial academic scholarship that saw fresh perspectives on West Indian history, social sciences, medical science, and literary texts from the 1960s. Among some examples are the historical writings of Elsa Goveia and Roy Augier, the economic writings of Arthur Lewis, the anthropological writings of M.G. Smith, the demographic scholarship of George Roberts, and the flowering of West Indian poetry and fiction.

This intellectual environment shaped the outlook of the two individuals who exerted decisive influences on Ian Boyne's work. His two mentors were the scholar, choreographer, dancer, educator, public intellectual Rex Nettleford and the journalist, early talk-show host and pioneer environmentalist John Maxwell.

The difference between an academic and public intellectual is that the academic can stick with specialised research topics and pursue their ramifications ad infinitum; the public intellectual has to address the matters of the day and prepare quick responses. Boyne valued both fields of intellectual endeavour and emulated practitioners in scholarship and journalism.

Politically, Ian Boyne came to reflect and embody the uncommitted positions of a large number of Jamaicans who were not adherents of either of the dominant parties. His profile essays on Michael Manley and Edward Seaga reflect his capacity to be fair in his judgements. He skilfully navigated the political worlds of their successors and maintained his independence and integrity.

Boyne's reading and analyses set his columns apart from the far too many self-indulgent and banal commentaries in the newspapers. Respect, my friend.


Emeritus Professor, UWI