Caribbean Nationalisms and Community Formation: Violence, Memory, and the Politics of Boundary-Making in Guyana, Haiti, and Trinidad

AHA Session 183
Conference on Latin American History 41
Saturday, January 9, 2016: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Room A706 (Atlanta Marriott Marquis, Atrium Level)
Lauren (Robin) Derby, University of California, Los Angeles
Ramaesh J. Bhagirat, University of Chicago
Winter Schneider, University of California, Los Angeles
Vikram Tamboli, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Lauren (Robin) Derby, University of California, Los Angeles

Session Abstract

This roundtable examines the contested domains in which multiple, overlapping, and competing voices within Guyana, Haiti, and Trinidad vied for inclusion within nation-building projects on a national level as well as through community activism on the ground.  It features a collaborative dialogue between established scholars (Derby) and early-career scholars (Bhagirat-Rivera, Schneider, Tamboli), which crosses linguistic and national borders to interrogate constructions of the “nation,” the principles of community formation, and their multiple meanings. Orality and memory have provided powerful methodological routes to access histories of deprivation, misrepresentation and violence--particularly in relation to structures of authoritarian governance and bureaucracy characteristic of Caribbean states--and have been key research entry points for the roundtable discussants. Foregrounding the politics of historical and personal memory, the panel will critically assess themes of violence, militarization, cultural nationalism, and ethnic folklorization, highlighting the forces that shaped individual and collective senses of belonging across time. Tamboli approaches memory via oral histories to evaluate conflict between Indo- and Afro-Guyanese communities during moments of pitched violence in the twentieth century, while Bhagirat-Rivera looks at Indo-Caribbean communities within the exclusive state-directed processes of crafting cultural nationalism in Trinidad and Guyana during the 1970s. Schneider alternatively uses oral tradition and Kreyòl idiom as a way of accessing rural Haitian counter-national historical narratives across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Derby will provide comparative commentary, analysis, and provide parameters for a wider discussion of community building and conflict in the Caribbean.

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