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Going Beyond the Literary II: Caribbean Interdisciplinarity

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Organizer: Kavita Singh

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This seminar follows on a previous ACLA seminar where Caribbean studies scholars presented work that went beyond traditional literary analyses to engage ethnographic, linguistic, historical, artistic, performance, or spiritual methods and objects of study.

Caribbean literature has long exceeded disciplinary and generic limitations as writers explore present, historical, and future intertexts to both represent and imagine the Caribbean. With formal inspiration in hurricanes, per Kamau Brathwaite, the lens of a visual artist, in Derek Walcott, and the chaos and rhizomatic logics invoked by Edouard Glissant writings, these have been firmly established within the canon. Such transformations continue with Rita Indiana’s lyricism and rhythm in creating textual momentum, Nalo Hopkinson’s transferal of Carnival play and spiritual concepts into speculative form, or Roger Bonair-Agard’s poetic transformation of cricket into an embodied history. Whether responding to an imperative to engage the Caribbean environment, invent forms for political activism and dissent, or draw on local and ancestral spiritual forms, the literary scholar of the Caribbean must often demonstrate (inter)disciplinary agility in criticism that can engage the ubiquitous extra-literary aspects of Caribbean writing.  

Literature from the Global South is frequently received as ethnographic exposés into the “other” of the Western discursive center, and its aesthetic value denied. Scholars writing in postcolonial contexts must thus devise and describe new epistemologies, new language, new methodologies, and new models in order to account for the interdisciplinarity essential to a robust Caribbean studies, all while doing justice to the aesthetics of the Caribbean literary. Developing new interdisciplinary vocabularies is essential for thinkers whose critical lens must go beyond the textual (to the oral, the embodied, the visual, the historical, the spiritual, and sensual) or beyond the literary, to local modes of historiography, philosophy, theology, linguistics, or theory.

To that end, this seminar seeks submissions from literary scholars who have sought new ways to talk about Caribbean discourse as the tools of the literary are brought to bear in Caribbean art history, sociolinguistics, performance studies, ethnography, theology, and as yet undiscovered ways of thinking. 

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