Welcome to the first international and multidisciplinary symposium being sponsored jointly by the University of the West Indies and Duke University. This joint venture is framed by a timely signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the University of the West Indies and Duke University in 2009, which intends to : strengthen the UWI partnership with Duke University; foster productive intellectual exchanges; sharpen our academic research agenda and support possible future faculty and student exchanges.
The grounding of our symposium however emerged out of conversations between Caribbeanists in the region and Caribbeanist faculty at Duke. Caribbeanists housed in different departments at Duke have been meeting over the years, for talks, seminars, and symposia. More recently, the 2007 symposium on ‘Race, Space, Place: The Making and Unmaking of Freedoms and Unfreedoms in the Atlantic World and Beyond,’ supported by the Provost Common Fund Award, brought Caribbeanists into conversation with other scholars to begin the creation of collaborations around broader themes, in order to stress the relationality of places and their social, cultural, economic, and political histories in modern ‘world systems.’
The motivation behind the overarching theme of this symposium, States of Freedom: Freedom of States, stems not thus only from a concern to think about questions of freedom in Caribbean studies from within the region, but also from a desire to consider these issues against the background of different understandings of freedom, and in light of paradoxical trends in the experience of such freedoms given complex historical, economical, political and cultural forces affecting the region. The historical encounter and fusion of cultures in the Caribbean known as “creolization,” is considered to be the genesis of the particular orientations through which both enslaved and indentured, citizens and subjects, reconstituted their place, selves, or cultural bodies, and articulated and re-imagined particular notions of freedom. Under these ‘creolized’ but non-cosmopolitan conditions, Caribbean placed diasporas achieved many historical “firsts,” including the first ‘free’ black republic, in Haiti in 1804.This symposium will explore Haiti’s efforts, and the tragic dilemmas encountered in seeking to claim its place, not just as a local zone of triumph over colonial order, but also internationally.
In general the symposium will engage with the following areas of inquiry: How are notions of governance practiced and contested within and across national spaces in relationship to slavery and plantation (and post-plantation) economies? How are states of freedoms and unfreedoms being imagined, performed and represented in politics, the visual and cultural arts, as well as in literature, and how are these indicative of of the particular ways that knowledge, places, power, people, and ideas have been creolized/kreyòlized?
We wish to acknowledge with deep gratitude the sponsors of this historic venture. In particular, the office of the Provost, Duke University, the Duke University Center for International Studies (DUCIS), the Duke Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, (DCLAS), the Office of the Principal, Mona, the Vice Chancellor’s Office at the University of the West Indies, and the Deans of the Faculties of the Social Sciences and Humanities, as well as the Director of the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES), Mona. The symposium’s organizing committee is composed of : Duke University, Michaeline Crichlow (AAAS and Sociology), Deborah Jenson (Romance Studies); UWI-Mona, Patricia Northover (SALISES, Mona), Matthew Smith (Department of History & Archaeology), and Sonjah Stanley-Niaah (Institute of Caribbean Studies).
We have a strong balance of scholars engaging in discussions on mutual research and academic interests over the course of the symposium. And we expect that this project will help to establish the goals of the MOU, and act as a platform for longer term collaborations that would enhance the flow of ideas on the critical issues of sovereignty, freedom, citizenship and governance within the Caribbean. Your participation in this symposium will help us realize this goal.