The CARISCC Research Network’s 4th International Postgraduate Conference on Caribbean In/Securities and Creativity took place in the Netherlands at the University of Amsterdam on Wednesday 13th June 2018.
Convened by CARISCC’s Principal Investigator, Patricia Noxolo (Senior Lecturer in Human Geography, University of Birmingham), and hosted by Rivke Jaffe (Professor of Cities, Politics and Culture, University of Amsterdam) the event featured keynote presentations by two distinguished guest speakers – Professor Faith Smith (Brandeis University, Boston, MA) and Dr Lucy Evans (University of Leicester, UK) – followed by two thematic panel sessions addressing ‘Moving in/securities’ and ‘Gendered in/securities.’
Professor Faith Smith’s opening presentation “Policing the Crisis? Stories of Intimacy and Power in Early Twentieth Century Jamaica” centred around two texts, each one written by men who were residents on the island in the years following the earthquake of 1907. These texts were: the colonialist autobiography of white Jamaican policeman Herbert Thomas; and the poem “A Midnight Woman to the Bobby” (1912), written by internationally renowned black Jamaican poet and novelist Claude McKay (1889-1948). Both texts were used to convey aspects of Jamaica’s complex colonial history and articulate how the political and cultural dynamics of Kingston – including levels of access to social justice under the law – were heavily influenced by intersected issues of race, gender, class, colourism, perceived levels of respectability and social standing at the turn of the 20th century.
The literary analysis and archival research undertaken by Faith Smith to contextualise the social interactions of key characters discussed in these texts (both real and imagined) became the foundation for introducing what she termed “the catastrophe of social mobility.” In particular, her foregrounding of what could be uncovered and interpreted about black women’s levels of personal agency and their capacities for social mobility during this period – including her deconstruction of women’s interactions (and intimate relations) with members of the constabulary – was an important element of this interesting and nuanced presentation. Professor Smith’s keynote lecture generated a number of questions and comments during the Q&A session concerning black female corporeality, and also women’s use of rhetorical devices such as “tracing” (i.e. the “verbal dressing down” of someone in public) when negotiating and contesting the unequal positions of power between individuals as well as the broader structural inequalities operating at the level of the nation-state.
Dr Lucy Evans presented a keynote on “The Political Thriller, State Crime and Harischandra Khemraj’s Cosmic Dance.” The paper focused on what this fictional narrative (written in 1994, and set in the imagined state of Aritya) revealed about the social, economic and political history of Guyana during the regime of Forbes Burnham. Lucy’s presentation raised a number of layered issues about power relations – presented through the characters and operational activities surrounding a fictional food processing company (Binday Coconut Enterprises). These hierarchically gendered and raced relations served as a metaphor through which Khemraj articulated his views about the real-life corporate “organisational deviance” and environmental state crime in Guyana throughout the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s. Continue reading “A Review of CARISCC 4th International Conference on Caribbean In/Securities and Creativity – University of Amsterdam, Netherlands, 13 June 2018”