Conference Abstracts

[In alphabetical order]

Jossianna Arroyo

University of Texas – Austin
“Mediascapes: Race, Visuality and Representation in the Caribbean”

This paper is an analysis of the intrinsic relationship between media and new media imaginaries and the visualization and representation of race in contemporary insular Caribbean and US contexts. As transnational television and new media circulates black Caribbean bodies as ciphers, or representatives of a folkloric status for tourist consumption, these media sites, either repeat or create a multivalent context where whiteness and blackness locate globalization in the languages of melancholia and affect. In my paper, I will like to complicate this thesis by looking at Deleuze’s notion of facialization and to what Fanon called the triple location of race, the epidermal, the spatial and the historical. As transnational television circulates black Caribbean bodies as ciphers, or representatives of a folkloric status for tourist consumption, these media sites, either repeat or create a multivalent context where whiteness and blackness locate globalization in the languages of melancholia and affect. In all these contexts blackness becomes a visible signifier where performance, gets intertwined with imaginaries of sexuality and gender.

Devyn Spence Benson

Davidson College

“Afro-Cubana Feminisms: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Havana”

Since the beginning of the Cuban republic in 1902, black and mulata women have participated in constructing Cubanidad (Cuban nationalism). However, the largely male-dominated national narrative that has made Che Guevara’s “New Man” famous since 1959 frequently overshadows their interventions. Despite this public silence, Afro-Cubanas (Afro-Cuban women) have consistently challenged narratives of exclusion and contributed to antiracist and antisexist movements in Cuba. As theater critic, Inés María Martiatu Terry explained in 2011 one of the goals of the contemporary Afrocubanas movement is to “feminize negritude and to blacken feminism.” Read more here.

Anke Birkenmaier

Indiana University, Bloomington

“Migration and its discontents: the films of Laura Amelia Guzmán and Israel Cárdenas”

Two films by this director team have depicted the emotional toll of migration in the Dominican Republic, albeit in radically different contexts: Jean Gentil (2010) tells the real-life story of a Haitian man stranded in the Dominican Republic while Dólares de arena (2014) is about the relationship between a French tourist and a Dominican girl. This presentation will study the ways in which these movies counteract dominant narratives of migration to and from the Dominican Republic, using techniques of docufiction and estrangement and visualizing new forms of belonging and longing in Hispaniola.

Jerome Branche

University of Pittsburgh

“Translocal Subjectivities: Maroonage, El Gran Caribe, and the Racial State”

Mare nostrum appropriates an old Euro-centered imperial term to signal and celebrate a process of voicing and signifying from circum-Caribbean (Afro)creole subjects, involved in action-oriented reflection and cultural production around the meaning of diaspora, slavery, and coloniality. Departing from the spirit and letter of the work of such writer-activists as CLR James, Aimé Césaire, George Lamming, Kamau Brathwaite, and Sylvia Wynter, the paper peers into the recuperative imaginary they created around the figure of the slave ship captive in his/her trajectory to marronage, or to a dubious and fraught national “integration,” by way of Emancipation and Independence The paper also highlights the role of the Caribbean Sea as a space of ongoing diasporan movement and historical eventfulness, vis-á-vis terra-centric histories that privilege the landed communities of the state with its constructed orthodoxies. Read more here.

Jane Bryce

University of the West Indies at Cave Hill

“Beyond a Boundary: diaspora connections in contemporary anglophone Caribbean cinema”

Some of the Caribbean’s leading cultural theorists (CLR James, Stuart Hall) have alerted to us the role of cinema in constructing and defining regional identities. A recurring feature of such identities is a multi-directional diasporic relationship that resolves itself in the endless syncretic process of creolization. What does contemporary Anglophone cinema have to say about how this process is working itself out in today’s Caribbean? The paper attends to cinematic representations, in a selection of recent films from Barbados, Trinidad and Jamaica, of diasporic relationships involving deportees, refugees, migrants, and residents who consider themselves ‘at home’ – a state inevitably inflected by the imperatives of elsewhere.

Ed Chamberlain

University of Washington Tacoma

“From Father to Humanitarian: Charting the Intimacies and Discontinuities of Ricky Martin’s Social Media Presence”

In the past several years, the celebrity and musician Ricky Martin has shown a propensity to share postings on social media concerning the events and relationships that shape his personal and intimate experiences. As he shares information on Twitter and Instagram about his family and sons, he also ostensibly aims to raise awareness about social problems such as human trafficking. His social media presence bespeaks a fascination with quotidian experiences of intimacy as well as an interest in challenging human rights violations. In studying these contexts, we see his efforts have several overlaps with human movement and migration, which are shaped by legislation such as the Jones Act and the dominant cultural ideologies of gender, class, ethnicity and race. By building on the research of Frances Negrón-Muntaner, Marisel Moreno, and Lawrence La Fountain Stokes, I explicate how these forces connect to Martin’s humanitarian and fatherly roles online, showing how he attempts to challenge pernicious constraints and socio-political negativities including bigotry against queer Puerto Rican people. In the process, I query how Martin’s efforts reflect cultural myths like the American Dream and the Gran Familia Puertoriqueña—myths that can shore up homonormative structures that often hinder queer expressions and radical politics.

Michel DeGraff

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT-Haiti Initiative

“300+ Years of Exclusion and Resistance: Creole Languages & Creole Studies as Traces of Migration and of (Neo-, Post-, and De-)colonization”

Creole languages and Creole studies can be analyzed as reflexes of the power-knowledge hierarchies at the core of slavery and (neo-)colonization in the Caribbean and much else in the world. My hope in this presentation is to inspire Caribbeanists (including scholars, artists, policy-makers, etc.) to a new sort of scientifically informed activism. I will describe work in linguistics and in education that can help bring about the de-colonization of our school systems and society at large, with Creole languages as indispensable tools for intellectual and socio-political liberation. The MIT-Haiti Initiative will be presented as a case study for such efforts—to take us from centuries of exile to a future of liberation. Read more here.

Arlene J. Díaz

Indiana University, Department of History

“The Insular Cases, the Jones Act and the Legitimization of Coloniality”

Both the Insular Cases (1901-1922) and the 1917 Jones Act gave further legal form to an ambiguous legal space that facilitated and reinforced the implementation of the actual power of the United States in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean region. This brief presentation will analyze the historical context of the Insular Cases and the Jones Act; explain how the colonial status was legitimized in law; and examine some of the lasting consequences of the Jones Act on present-day Puerto Rico. The presentation will also reflect on how the legal concept of Puerto Rico as a territory—that is neither foreign nor domestic—has had broader repercussions in the Caribbean, in particular the case of Guantánamo, Cuba.

Rebecca Dirksen

Indiana University

“Mobility Lessons: Rap Kreyòl, Linguistic Cartography, and Way-Finding in Haiti and the Haitian Diaspora”

Rap kreyòl is arguably the most popular musical genre among Haitian youth, drawing fanatik (fans) from across the socio-economic spectrum. Since its rise in the 1980s, the rap kreyòl movement has helped people in Haiti and in the diaspora define their place in the world—effectively emerging as a musical form of cartography, as rap lyrics map communities, transnational networks, and even emerging ideologies. This presentation contemplates a (partial) history of rap kreyòl, considering especially the commitments selected rap groups have made to community building and social programs that aim to boost the social, economic, geographic, linguistic, and intellectual mobilities of its participants and listeners. In many ways, rap kreyòl has become one avenue to helping younger generations find their way in an increasingly complex environment.

Daylet Domínguez

University of California, Berkeley

“The Caribbean in the US Imagination: Travel Writing, Slavery and Annexation in Samuel Hazard’s Cuba with Pen and Pencil

During the 18th century, the North American readers were familiarized with the Caribbean through a specific genre: natural history. Most of the books associated with this particular knowledge depicted the Caribbean as an extension of the southern states of United States, not only because of the climate and their agricultural products, but also due to the existence of slavery. However, with the democratization of traveling and with a more fluid maritime communications between the USA and Cuba, a different Caribbean emerged in 19th century travel accounts. Read more here.

Jorge Duany

Cuban Research Institute/Florida International University

“The Last Wave: The Cuban Diaspora during the ‘Wet Foot/Dry Foot’ Policy, 1995–2017”

On January 12, 2017, President Barack Obama terminated the preferential treatment of undocumented Cubans who arrived on U.S. soil and were allowed to stay, while those detained at sea were returned to Cuba. This executive decision effectively ended the longest and largest wave of migrants from Cuba since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959. This presentation will analyze the historical evolution of postrevolutionary Cuban migration, review the socioeconomic profile of each migrant wave, examine the similarities and differences between the last and previous waves, and assess the impact of recent immigrants from the Island on Cuban Miami.

Luis Fuentes-Rohwer

Indiana University, Bloomington (Maurer School of Law)

“The Jones Act”

The Jones Act of 1917 conferred US citizenship on the people of Puerto Rico, and in so doing it signaled a strengthening of this colonial relationship. But in 1922, a unanimous US Supreme Court concluded in Balzac v. Porto Rico that the extension of citizenship to the island did not signal the incorporation of Puerto Rico into the United States. This paper examines the Jones Act and the intentions of the 64th Congress. But more importantly, this paper examines the period from 1917 and 1922, and up to Balzac. Why was the Court so reticent to read the Jones Act in accordance to its natural reading? That is, can we make sense of both the conferral of citizenship in 1917 and the Court’s understanding of this conferral in 1922? Why was the natural, historical reading of the Act so revolutionary, and thus a reading the Court could not adopt? What are the repercussions of this cabined reading for us today?

Vivian N. Halloran

Indiana University, Bloomington

“Competing June Agendas: Pride, Diaspora, Immigration”

Using the 1 year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida as its organizing principle, this presentation considers how three overlapping interest groups with ties to the Caribbean region–the broad Caribbean diaspora, the immigration lobby, and the LGBTQ community–have all sought official recognition from the U.S. Congress via official resolutions that set aside the same month, June, as the proper time to acknowledge and reflect upon each group’s contribution to the American project. This impulse to elevate regional observances into national cultural heritage can be mutually supporting and serve to highlight intersectionality, but the sheer multiplication of official observances during one 30-day period also gives rise to tensions as groups compete for media attention to assert their individuality. And, because legitimation is equated with official governmental support, both in passing the resolutions and in the expected presidential proclamation to accompany each, the rhetorical ritual associated with kicking off these observances becomes subject to political gamesmanship, such as the recent “snubbing” of both PRIDE month and Immigrant Heritage month by President Trump who said nothing about either but then made a point of issuing a proclamation for Caribbean Heritage Month. What the anniversary of the Pulse tragedy highlights is that all three of these groups are subjected to the twin social evils of homophobia and xenophobia. June, then, acknowledges the international dimensions of American cultural heritage since PRIDE festivities take place across the globe in June, and Caribbean Heritage Month and Immigrant Heritage Month both highlight how indelibly connected the history and fate of the United States is to the conditions of other countries from whence it draws new citizens.

Iraida H. López

Ramapo College

“Returning to Cuba, a Work in Progress: The One-and-a-Half Generation and Beyond”

Gradually, a growing Cuban diaspora has asserted its rights to return to Cuba. While there were many restrictions in place in the 60s and 70s, these were eased, for the most part, around the beginning of the new millennium. Drawing from interviews and written testimonies, this presentation will provide an overview of the topic, focusing on both brief and lengthy returns by the so-called one-and-a-half generation, the second generation, and an array of Cubans from an increasingly diverse diaspora. Rather than positing going back as the culmination of a migratory journey, it approaches returning as a step in a cyclical process that shortens the distance between nations.

Emily Maguire

Northwestern University

“New Points of the Rhizome: Rethinking Caribbean Relation in U.S. Latino Poetry”

For the Martinican poet and philosopher Éduoard Glissant, Relation is a dynamic mode of circulation, dialogue and exchange that replaces the static concept of universalism. It is a way of being, an existence in the midst of multiple nodes of cultural contact. Glissant recognizes the Caribbean as a paradigmatic space of Relation: “What took place in the Caribbean… is not merely an encounter, a shock…, a métissage, but a new and original dimension allowing each person to be there and elsewhere, rooted and open, lost in the mountains and free beneath the sea, in harmony and in errantry. (34) For Glissant, Caribbean history, marked by European colonization, slavery and the Middle Passage, and the subsequent interweaving of numerous exilic and errant journeys, has produced a space that is fundamentally Relational in nature. Read more here.

Yolanda Martínez-San Miguel

Rutgers University/University of Miami

“Terripelagoes: Archipelagic Thinking in Culebra (Puerto Rico) and Guam”

Using as a point of departure Craig Santos Perez’s notion of terripelago (2015), I compare the notion of a colonial territory proposed by Walter Mignolo (“La letra, la lengua, el territorio…”1986) with the notion of territory as defined in the U.S. through the Insular Cases and the territorial clause in the U.S. Constitution. After linking territoriality and colonialism, I analyze Culebra’s contemporary military imaginary in the visual work of Jorge Acevedo Rivera and Craig Santos-Pérez notion of territoriality in his poetry book series From Unincorporated Territory (Hacha, 2008; Saina, 2010; Guma, 2014). Both Acevedo Rivera and Santos Pérez are artivists who inform their work through the intersection of their own intracolonial migrations within different possessions of the United States located in the Caribbean, the continental U.S. and the Pacific. The presentation concludes with a discussion of the ways in which archipelagic thinking can interrupt and transform traditional conceptualizations of colonial overseas possessions.

Carmen L. Medina

Indiana University, School of Education

“The Subtle and Not So Subtle Domestication of Puerto Ricans through Education and the Emerging Alternatives of Socially Engaged Pedagogical Spaces”

While ongoing debates about the ambivalence of Puerto Ricans’ citizenship and status take place, the consistent and historical project of an imposed USA educational law has had both material and ideological consequences for those who go through the local public school system. This presentation reflects on some of these effects while considering the role of alternative models of socially engaged pedagogical spaces informed by local and transnational perspectives on activism.

Edgardo Melendez

Hunter College

“Puerto Rican Postwar Migration to the United States and the Colonial State”

This paper will examine the role played by the Puerto Rican government in the migration process of its people to the United States in the postwar period. The massive migration of islanders at this time had a tremendous impact in the emergence and growth of Puerto Rican communities in the United States, as well as in the socio-economic development of the island. The Puerto Rican migration experience has been compared to other Latin American and Caribbean migrations to the United States. Although it shares many similarities to these other experiences, it has one distinctive characteristic that separates it from them: it is a colonial migration, that is, a migration of US citizens from a US colonial territory. One similarity that the Puerto Rican case has with other migrations from Latin America and the Caribbean is the role played by the government in the migration process of its people. Nowadays many governments in Latin America and the Caribbean have engaged in organizing the migration and incorporation of its citizens in more advanced economic areas of the world like the United States. Read more here.

Manuel Orozco

Inter-American Dialogue/Harvard University

“Transnationally Integrated or Not? Migrants from the Caribbean and Their Struggles to Belong”

The paper will stress that despite its economic contributions to their ‘homes’, the Latin American and Caribbean communities are faced with tremendous challenges both in the places where they live and the homeland. While their material circumstances shape global economies, they remain a weak player in their transnational context. These realities are observed both among Haitians, Cubans, Jamaicans as well as other communities from Central America.

Alejandro Portes

Princeton University

“Bifurcated Immigration and the End of Compassion”

Rafael Rojas

CIDE, Mexico/Princeton University

“The Floating Generation: Today’s Cuban Artists and Writers”

The Cuban culture of the years that followed the period of economic crisis of the 1990s has continued to see the rise of artistic and literary creation, beyond the tourist zones of Havana and Veradero, but well connected internationally. Plastic artists like Aimé García, Yoan Capote, Rafael Domenech and Wilfredo Prieto, all born in the 1980s, live between the island and various cities in Europe, the United States and Latin America. Likewise, the writers Jorge Enrique Lage and Legna Rodríguez Iglesias have cultivated ties in Cuba and abroad, virtual and through travel. What do the plastic art and literature of this “floating generation” tell us about ways to escape nationality? What is the relationship between art and literature in today’s Cuba? And what new futures does the so-called “Generation 0” imagine in the years of Raulism?

Carlos Vargas-Ramos

Hunter College

“The Role of State Actors in Puerto Rico’s Long Century of Migration (1899-2015)”

The presence of Puerto Ricans in the United States precedes the U.S. invasion of Puerto Rico in 1898. Yet, their presence and growth as a distinct group in the United States are marked not simply by its take over of the island, but by the policies of its federal and colonial governmental institutions. While theoretical approaches recognize the importance of “country context” in explaining large, sustained movements of people across borders, the role of the state as a critical actor in creating such contexts remains largely diminished or marginal. Puerto Rico, however, presents an instructive case for the roles of different state actors at the local and federal levels in the promotion and sustenance of a longstanding migration stream between Puerto Rico and the United States, and migration as a cultural practice.



Title art:
Robert Colescott. Lightening Lipstick, 1994. IU Eskenazi Museum of Art.