Tuesday, June 15, 2010

CSA - Creative and Stimulating Associations (Reflecting on the Annual Conference) by Yaari

Sugar and spice,
ehan' all dem nice puppy dog tails
dat's what CSA is made of
Arriving in Barbados stirred all of my Caribbean memories. As the plane dipped toward the island and tiny lights blinked into view, my anticipation increased.

The touchdown excitement had nothing to do with the conference and all to do with the bitter sweet memories that come with the life of an immigrant. Memories, like thick bright colored paintings portraying vague images, lingered as the old me and the newer version collided. Childhood images and sensory memories crowded in and pushing on them were the memories of life in the US. The questions always intrude... Am I happier? Can I come back? Who am I in the US? In the midst of black and brown people, I became someone.

Leaving the plane, I stepped on to the slightly shaky metal stairs and welcomed the warm breezy kiss of the Caribbean. "Home" now is anywhere the accent sings, the people smile, and the colors vary from chocolate smooth black, mingled with caramel brown, repeatedly touched by golden sun kissed sugar, and creamy warm butterscotch.

Routine becomes reminiscing; I have patience in lines; it gives me time to eye mingle with the crowd. I watch shapes of faces, inclines of bodies; I wonder where they go. I recognize with casual acceptance the two customs officers at work and the seven or eight empty booths of promise. For a minute you stewups your teeth and ask yourself, "why dese people goffa do dis, eh. Dey does wait till deh got a big crowd den dey does disappear." The anxiety creeps into my belly when the bags start to jump out of the hole. It's the bags; will they arrive I wonder. I hold back and wait. Nervous tummy jumpin' all over deh place. And, wuh yuh know, deh damn bag nah show up.

I walked over to the airline counter and started to fill out papers. In the meantime, the thought of being in Barbados without clothes did not excite me. (Even though, the heat waiting for me outside might have changed my mind.) Runnin' tru meh min' was nuff nuff money spendin' again.

At the counter my mounting irritability was distracted by the pleasant smile and helpful attitude of the customer service officer. Sche look up at meh an' smile - yuh kno'... dat eye crinkle way we West Indians does flirt wid friendly. She brought me back home immediately. A warm smile goes a long way to sustain the endurance needed for such matters. Then the forms came and threatened my calm. I managed to breathe in and finish all the blank lines.

Outside the airport my eyes skimmed the crowd and there she was - old friend and colleague from UCB - with a frantic look on her face. Eventually, after hugs and laughter we climbed in the SUV and hit the road. The blast of air through the open window brushed tired away for a while; I leaned back and emptied my mind.

Next morning we ate breakfast and each other's experiences at the same time. We sat on the verandah with the cool breeze circling and the fowl cocks crowing. Dat didn't last too long doh. Soon it was swimsuit, sandals and bodies answering the call of the sun and the crash of the waves. Ahh ... the warm blue green ocean cradled my body and offered me to the sun. Then I knew that I was a member of the CSA cult - addict to my senses, an intellectual and sensual junkie - always hunting for that information high and selling my body to the sun goddess.

Next day seriousness stepped in and took over. Out the car I jumped; into the hotel lobby I moved among a bustling crowd of orange tagged academics rushing to and fro trying to register, check in and find panels - madness in the making. Keeping it all together was the nervous energy of greedy curiosity - who to see? What to hear? Where's the bar.. maybe some food too and, don't forget; ah wonder how meh presentation gon go? Five days jam packed with intellectual stimulation - all about violence. Crisscrossing tiled patios and grassy walkways people moved in all manner of walk and wear - hair up down and dreadlock long.

Violence centered subjects hit the airwaves - lectures, Powerpoint presentations, videos - dance, stage.. all engaging the audience and sending them rushing from one to the other. There was the constant surge of crowded conversations stretching across spaces over food and drink and in between emails to folk back home - other expectations and obligations.

What jumped out at me was the women focused conversations and presentations. The air was charged with necks stretched to see and the uuummm huummms of patient agreement and the hand clapping to control the frustrated excitement of the shared lived experiences of perpetual endurance and the longing for change. Pride straightened my back and stretched out my chest and made it worthwhile to have crossed ocean and the guilty spendin' of lill' plastic money. In my head I heard .. yeah yeah yeah, I am woman hear me roar.

Special to me is the chance that CSA gives me to explore and get to know the local folk and hear the lore of oral histories so often ignored. This time it was Mrs. R - 99 years old - born 1911. Laud, the woman could tell a story; she circled me with laughter and in the midst gave me understandings of how race was experienced and community used to heal and endure. She revealed to me lessons of life and secrets of survival that might be useful to us if we listened well and listened more.

Too was the chance to ride the island with a dreadlock man of serious contemplation. He raised for me more questions of CSA leanings. As we circled the island, he brought to my attention that more and more walls were going up and he could not longer, "see" in. Dat there were people buying up deh island and, for me there was a little confusion, is who buyin' up deh island so? And if the buyers are foreigners what den will become of Bajan identity as people get squeezed into deh middle? The Rasta is a farmer and he let me know that he must sell to dem - is a relationship full a caution for him.

The CSA in me wondered about this "trade." Is this the "free market" experience that is repeating itself in many a Caribbean place? If we are getting pushed to the center of the land; if we are being circled by others; if the dependency grows, what will that mean for the future?

Creative and stimulating associations are necessary. CSA in my pocket; CSA as my compass; CSA as lens; CSA explorations and explanations. I look forward to the opportunity to hear; like Trinidad, Brazil, San Andres, Jamaica, and Barbados, I look forward to going deeper into community, to opening myself again and again to knowing family in the Diaspora.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Transportation from the Airport to Hotel for CSA Meeting 2010

Hello everyone!

We're looking forward to seeing you at the CSA 2010 meeting next week.

If you have not had a chance to arrange transportation from the airport to the conference hotel, please note that a taxi from Grantley Adams Airport to the Almond Beach Hotel costs about US$60.00 for two persons. If 4-6 persons share a vehicle from the airport, the cost will be roughly USD$80.00

You can go to the Caribbean Studies Association's group page on Facebook to contact other CSA members to see if they would like to share a taxi.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Islam and the Atlantic World - Call for Contributions


Islam and the Atlantic World: New Paradigms from Latin America and the Caribbean, edited by Aisha Khan

In scholarly and popular approaches, Islam has been imagined primarily as an “East” that is counter to, rather than a counterpart of “the West.” However, processes of globalization, notably diasporas of Muslims outside “typical” homelands of the Old World, have long linked East and West, and “old” and “new,” troubling these oppositional categories. Yet dominant discourse continues to focus on Muslim populations either as historical communities in original homelands or as contemporary, transitional communities adjusting (or not) to their new destinations. Muslims have been a part of Latin America and the Caribbean for over four centuries, yet in the Americas attention to them has been relatively sparse compared to other areas of research, and for the past decade predominantly reflects a U.S.—9/11 perspective.

Considering broader histories and destinations, Islam and the Atlantic World asks how “American” can be qualified, in order to produce a hemispheric perspective on Muslims that challenges both the notion of U.S. exceptionalism and the depiction of Islam as homogeneous, timeless, and thus incongruous with certain (i.e., Western) worldviews and value systems. Islam and the Atlantic World inquires into the ways that Islam becomes vernacular forms of belief and practice in the Americas, a process of translation by which Muslims are both sustained and created.

Another key question Islam and the Atlantic World asks is how to imagine, articulate, and analyze discourses of diversity and discourses of similarity. It is this volume’s premise that cross-cultural, pan-American comparisons based on close historical and ethnographic examination of the experiences of Muslim populations challenges stereotypes and opens the way for new paradigms in the study of regional and global Islam. Other considerations include:

*How might we be able to know Muslims in territories where they have not been a salient point of reference in the cultural imagination, or where their representation has been one-dimensional?
*What have the conditions, crises, and traditions been for Muslims in the Caribbean and Latin America?
*What can the lens of Muslim experience reveal about articulations between global North and South in the constitution of an American hemisphere?
*What does the concept of umma mean in historical and cultural regions which have their own relationship to the forces of global capitalism (not the least of which being slavery and indenture), nationalism, and anti-colonial movements?
*How might the familiar question about what Islam means for Muslims in the “modern world” change when considering Muslims and Islam in the region where, as some scholars have argued, modernity began?

Islam and the Atlantic World gathers together interdisciplinary contributions on historical and contemporary Muslim populations and communities in Latin America and the Caribbean. Submissions will not be limited to scholarly articles (which should be approximately 6000 words), and may include personal reflections, interviews with key individuals, or fiction (short stories or poems). Given that the Anglophone Caribbean is presently well-covered, particularly welcome are discussions from Portuguese- and Spanish-speaking Latin America and the French-, Dutch-, and Spanish-speaking Caribbean, as well as European and North American sites where there is a direct and on-going relationship with a Latin American or Caribbean country. Please submit your title and 300-350 word abstract by July 1, 2010 to: Aisha Khan, ak105@nyu.edu. Once all chapter contributions have been confirmed, final negotiations with the university press publishing the volume will move forward. All relevant topics
are welcome for consideration.

Aisha Khan
Associate Professor
Department of Anthropology
New York University
Telephone: (212) 998-3751
Fax: (212) 995-4014

Monday, May 3, 2010

CSA Conference Program Now Available

Hello everyone!

The conference program for the Caribbean Studies Association's 35th Annual meeting is now available at the CSA website at www.caribbeanstudiesassociation.org . CSA Program Chair Alissa Trotz has announced that there are "three plenaries on climate change in the Caribbean; on the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake; and on Women, Memory, Politics and Violence in the Caribbean." In addition to the regular program, there will also be films, performances, and readings from poets. Please join us in Barbados May 24-28, 2010 and enjoy all that CSA has to offer.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Cubanist Reflects on Reformed US Health Care

The day is still hazy in my mind. I was sick and could barely walk. I hadn't gotten out of bed in almost a week. Finally my (now former) mother-in-law came over and let me lean on her shoulder as we walked to the neighborhood clinic. I hadn't gone before because I wasn't sure I could. As a foreigner, I was supposed to use the expensive tourist hospitals, but I doubted I could afford to go there since I hadn't bought tourist insurance. With my U.S.-based understanding that cost is part of care, I fumbled for the US$10 bill -- about half a Cuban's monthly salary -- that was tucked in my wallet as we walked out of my apartment.

In contrast to previous visits with my (then) husband, there was barely a wait at all to see the doctor. Mami explained to her that I was foreign, but sick: "Won't you help her, please?" The doctor began to ask me about my symptoms and examined me. She determined that I had strep throat and gave me a prescription for an antibiotic. I tried to pay her with the $10 I had brought but she refused. Mami then took me around the corner to the pharmacy (featuring herbs, Chinese medicines, and Western medicines) where I paid about CU$5 (less than US$0.50) for the antibiotics. The last thing I remember was taking my medicine and falling asleep until the next day.

To be clear, I do not suggest that Cuba's system is without flaws: it generally features long lines, the equipment is frequently antiquated, and foreign tourists can pay for the kinds of services they may be accustomed to in their home countries. Likewise, the reforms to the U.S. health care system will not be perfect when they are ultimately enacted in the months and years ahead. But, at long last, we are on the right track to everyone having access to affordable health care.

I share my experience with the Cuban health care system in celebration of the reforms just made law in the United States.

Contributed by L. Kaifa Roland

Monday, March 8, 2010

Advice for People Doing Research in the Caribbean? (Repost)

Do you remember the best piece of advice you received while planning to do research in the Caribbean?

For the past few years, I have collected the “words of wisdom” concerned colleagues, researchers, elders in my discipline, “everyday experts,”* friends, and family members have graciously given me before, and during, my multiple research trips to Jamaica. In a recent volume of Transforming Anthropology**, I wrote about the five themes that connected these pearls of wisdom in a piece titled, "'Don't Ride the Bus': and Other Warnings that Women Anthropologists Are Given During Fieldwork." Although the individuals giving me advice seemed dedicated to thinking up ways to help me navigate unfamiliar territory, and genuinely wanted to make me feel comfortable in this space, in reality, much of their advice and warnings only worked to remind me of three things: (1) I was traveling alone; (2) I was a foreigner; and (3) I was a woman. For almost all of my advice givers, the gendered fact of Number 3 somehow exacerbated their anxiety and concern around the first two sentiments. It seemed that being a foreign woman alone in Jamaica, and the Caribbean more broadly, was somehow dangerous and problematic. Subsequently, these well-meaning American tourists, business travelers, African diasporic researchers, and Jamaican residents called, emailed, and whispered strategies to help me deal with the obstacles I would undoubtedly face.

In my article, I conclude that the advice people gave me during my research did not necessarily help me figure out how to get around Jamaica, or do my fieldwork research more efficiently. However, their advice did tell me a great deal about the ways Jamaica, and the Caribbean more broadly, are read through racialized, nationalized, gendered, sexualized, and classed lenses. Additionally, I realized that there were not enough spaces available for those completing research in the Caribbean, (particularly women), to talk about and discuss their experiences—the daily ins and outs of “doing research,” while navigating bustling city streets, crowded beaches, lively taxi car parks, jam-packed buses, and peaceful mountain towns. The silencing of these stories does not prepare our graduate students to do better research. And the revisionist histories that we often include in the texts that we write, erasing the highs and lows of our experiences, often downplay the significance of our identities and how these social markers affect our interactions with, and research about, the Caribbean.

Therefore I ask you: How was your experience of doing research in the Caribbean? What advice would you give current and future researchers working in the diverse locations that make up the Caribbean?

*I use the term “everyday experts” to describe the individuals anthropologists have traditionally called “informants.”

**Volume 17, issue 2, October 2009.

Contributed by Bianca C. Williams

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Tale of Two Earthquakes

In the recent days following the second largest earthquake to hit the southern region of the Western hemisphere, one may notice the stark contrast in global media and public international reaction. The responses to the Jan. 12th Haitian earthquake has spawned unprecedented levels of international support and financial aid and many wonder will the commitment to Chile do the same and if not, why or why not? United States based Associated Press reporters offer a media perspective on how the impacts of the two earthquakes in Haiti and Chile are being compared, which works to influence the varied international public responses to both countries still very much in need. Are such media reactions rooted in racialized, internationally political, and economic agendas? Or, is it genuinely "A Tale of Two Quakes"?

Click here to read the full article http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,587604,00.html