STATES OF FREEDOMS: FREEDOMS OF STATES
JUNE 17 -18, 2010
Prof. Michaeline A. Crichow (African and African American Studies/Sociology)
Prof. Deborah Jenson (Romance Studies)
UWI- Mona Co-organizers
Dr. Patricia Northover – SALISES
Dr. Sonjah Stanley-Niaah- Institute of Caribbean Studies
Dr. Matthew Smith- Department of History
This project emerged out of an initiative taken by Duke University’s Caribbean Studies group and is being spearheaded by Professors Deborah Jenson and Michaeline Crichlow, in collaboration with University lecturers, Drs. Patricia Northover, Matthew Smith and Sonjah Stanley-Niaah. The aim of the proposal is to develop synergistic work that would integrate and exchange knowledge and practice across the disciplines. The collaboration also aims to further develop an existing strength in Caribbean studies at Duke University and the University of the West Indies-Mona, as well as develop regional research projects. The symposium plans to bring together our partners from Haiti and those residing in Jamaica. It would provide a critical space for the exchange of ideas, as well as historical and contemporary research related to freedom, citizenship, governance, ‘Kreyòlization’ and the state of Caribbean studies generally.
It is conversations between Caribbeanists in the region and Caribbeanist faculty at Duke, that form the basis of our symposium. 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 Common Fund, 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.’ These ‘relational histories’ make it necessary to interrogate the intersections between, for example, forms of ‘unfree’ and ‘free’ labor, and between citizens and subjects that are ongoing in the Caribbean, as seen most dramatically in the island of Hispaniola between Haitians as stateless workers in the Dominican Republic, between Dominicans as undocumented workers in Puerto Rico, and between air commuters and boat people. These themes are taken up seriously in the work of Duke scholars and in their organization of various symposia and events, such as the ongoing exhibition, ‘The Sea is History,’ at Perkins library, Duke University, co-directed by Latin American librarian Holly Ackerman with Professors Jenson and Crichlow. This current initiative extends and seeks to deepen these reflections and exchanges amongst scholars interested in Freedoms and Unfreedoms in the Caribbean region and beyond.
States of Freedom/Freedom of States – Tropes of Citizenship, Sovereignty and Governance
The motivation behind the overarching theme stems not 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 from within the perspectives of particular notions of freedom, and in light of paradoxical trends in the experience of such freedoms, as determined by complex historical, economical, political and cultural forces affecting the region. The Caribbean is unique to the post-Columbus New World in that its discrete island territories were exploited for economic activity, regional influence, and military advantage by many of the major European metropoles—France, England, Spain (Iberia), and the Netherlands, in close proximity to one another. The importation of millions of Africans from many cultures of sub-Saharan Africa created a significant African diasporan population demographic in the Caribbean, overlaying the dwindling presence of longstanding Amerindian cultures. After the abolitions of slavery in the region, the importation of laborers from India and other parts of Asia added further demographic layers to Caribbean world cultural hybridity. In short, the Caribbean has always been a unique zone of multiculturalism.
The historical encounter and fusion of cultures in the Caribbean is known as “creolization,” and 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.
The fact that the birth of Caribbean independences have often been followed by extremely difficult conditions of political and economic autonomy has created significant flows of immigration from the Caribbean to the U.S., (including a U.S. Haitian population estimated in 2004 to exceed 1 million) Canada, and between the islands. Thus, at the same time that migrants from places including Jamaica, Haiti, Trinidad, Cuba, and Puerto Rico are having an increasing impact on U.S. culture, crises of ecological, economic, medical and other orders have made the Caribbean into something of a laboratory of international NGO activity and other aid initiatives, and a fundamentally transcultural and global space. Study of these island and coastal microcosms of hybrid African diasporan, European, Amerindian, Southeast Asian cultures, has however presented many disciplinary challenges. In the 19th century, university disciplines in the humanities were often formed according to models of national histories, languages, and print cultures, but these studies were framed by imperial concerns and the colonial gaze. Since the mid 1960s, area studies departments, centers, and programs have stepped in to address the exclusions rendered by this gaze, but the linguistic diversity of the Caribbean resists capture in any monolingual net. The historical diversity of a plethora of European metropoles, African cultures, Amerindian precedents, likewise complicates disciplinary offerings in Caribbean Studies. In this context then, as Michaeline Crichlow has formulated the problem in her recent book (with Patricia Northover) Globalization and the Post-Creole Imagination: “How can cultural practices be reassessed through a global analytic, in a way which does not neglect the myriad ways that incorporate the imaginary attachments to national maps and the spaces that they conjure? How can a concept like creolization, whose deployment now connotes universal availability, even accessibility via transnational transfers, be used productively to generate new theoretical paradigms highlighting sociocultural echoes and similarities across territories, whilst foregrounding the ways in which power shapes what is received, and how it is consumed by the world’s diverse populations, who, more or less, inhabit different but related modern temporalities and spatialities in a neoliberal economic, globalized era?”( 2009:40).
The current era of globalization witnesses an array of mechanisms that both state elites and the populace employ to maneuver within globally produced local spaces. This has led to the remaking of state and civil society, where the two are blurred given the active presence of non-governmental organizations, embodying what Mitchell (1999) has called ‘state effects’. Given this context, we will discuss the ways that both political elites and citizens seek to rehabilitate and reshape these relationships forged within an earlier era of nation-building, according to new notions of ‘good governance’ and individual freedoms, the watch words of the current moment. We will investigate state formation as an ongoing project, and ‘citizenship’ as a malleable historically contingent status, linked to state (re)formations, but not determined by them. The concept of ‘citizenship’ as used here, goes beyond the liberal notion of the citizen as simply a holder of ‘rights’ protected by the state, to encompass the constructed standing of ‘citizenship,’ in the way Mamood Mamdani (1996) and Saskia Sassen (2006) especially addressed it. This construal of ‘citizenship,’ is largely expressive of a ‘politics of (un) making place,’ as Crichlow and Northover (2009) suggest, tethered to a normative ideal, that the governed should be “full and equal participants in the political process.”
For Caribbean peoples seemingly ‘conscripted within modernity,’ as David Scott (1999) argues, there has always been occasion to question and challenge their particular ‘place’ or ‘subject’ status. Indeed, the struggle for citizenship and national development in the Caribbean, has continuously expressed the many struggles with, and against hegemony, and its spaces of diverse violence, for a “place on the map, a place in history” and a sustainable place of one’s own. Under the contemporary global crises and the contingent states of ‘unfreedom,’ and its threats to human well-being, we expect to grapple with questions that investigate the processes for constituting our entangled freedoms, spaces and places and that also address the idea of community attached to ‘national’ culture, politics and even ‘national’ dreams. However, the ‘national’ increasingly finds itself operating in the shadows of what Gupta and Ferguson (2002) refer to as ‘transnational governmentality,’ with the latter referring to, not the expansion of the state, but the parallel existence of institutions and practices of governance, that seem unplaced and denationalized.
The particular practices and struggles that we will explore extend also to linguistic and performative worlds as well. Over the two days of the symposium we thus intend to examine how the Caribbean’s states of freedom, and felt unfreedoms, are being imagined, performed and represented politically, visually, literarily, and musically, and with what effects for the particular ways academic disciplines have been, or are being, creolized/kreyòlized? Invited scholars and graduate students are anticipated to form the base for the exchange of ideas over this period. The symposium is expected to be built around 5 panels, one roundtable and 2 keynote speakers over the period.
Through this venture, it is hoped that we will be able to ensure the MOU’s vision for the development of cooperative programmes of education and research, and the promotion of faculty and student exchanges. We also anticipate that this effort will yield the publication of the proceedings of the symposium. Importantly, the project will also help to establish the University as an attractive site for overseas study and research by students and faculty at Duke, 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. These themes are reflected in the proposed panels below.
- Times of Entanglement: Historical struggles for Caribbean Freedoms
- Postcolonial Sovereignties: Citizenship, Statehood, and the Politics of Freedom
- Liminal Acts of Freedom: Interrogating freedom through literature, ‘culture,’ movement and performance
- The Political Economy of (Un)Freedoms in the Caribbean
- The Arts of Creolization: Visual politics and expressions for freedom
- Kreyólizing place, space, image and power in the Caribbean- Roundtable discussion
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