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Critical Lime: A Caribbean Studies Working Group
To banter without schedule, to be at ease among friends. The Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage offers a playful template for our pursuits, noting “lime is sometimes qualified by the name of the place or the purpose of the [gathering].”1 And this is a Critical Lime. Our title is an organizing principle, gesturing toward a different and rigorous way of producing knowledge on and for the Caribbean. The Working Group will meet regularly in an intimate setting to workshop in progress compositions of various media, forging a space for arts in an effort to reach beyond an enforced boundary between the creative and scholarly. Participants will pair recent publications in the field with both foundational and neglected works, reading across and beyond the limits of the Caribbean Basin.
Convened by doctoral students in the department of African American Studies, Critical Lime situates itself within broader currents of Caribbean research across disciplinary boundaries and methodological traditions. Departing from the archaeological research of Irving Rouse, a specialist in the pre-Columbian Caribbean trained in the anthropology department and later employed as a curator at the Peabody Museum of Natural History, our collective seeks to grapple with the conceptual foundations and institutional legacies of Caribbean scholarship at Yale. Under the leadership of Sidney Mintz, a professor of anthropology from 1951-1974, the university experienced an explosion in research and publications on the Caribbean, including the Yale University Press Caribbean Series, the Yale Antilles Research Program, and the training of numerous undergraduate and graduate students such as Councill Taylor and Drexel Woodson who likewise expanded the scope and depth of Caribbean research in their subsequent careers. Additionally, we maintain the centrality of the Caribbean to the interdisciplinary field of African American Studies, recalling the founding of the then program in Afro-American Studies by Mintz and his colleague Roy Bryce-Laporte, another esteemed scholar of the Caribbean and its migrant communities.
In recent years, Caribbean Studies has experienced what may be considered an institutional renaissance at Yale, carried out under the direction of Prof. Hazel Carby and an expanding critical mass of faculty hires and graduate students with primary commitments to the region. In the spring of 2010, this burgeoning program saw the arrival of Lorraine Nero, West Indiana and Special Collections Librarian at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, as an International Affiliate of the Yale University Library system. During that time, Nero and affiliated faculty sought to build an institutional compendium of resources in Caribbean Studies, through the acquisition and compilation of archival materials and databases. Subsequently, Yale University professors Carby and M. Kamari Clarke, along with graduate students Carlos Miranda and Heather Vermeulen, and Columbia University professor David Scott, convened an international symposium entitled “What is Caribbean Studies: Prisms, Paradigms, Practices,” in April 2011. Rather than foreclosing the question posed in the symposium title, the meeting adopts the potent query as an overture, the opening of a conversation that in the words of Édouard Glissant–pace Deleuze and Guattari–lies neither at beginning nor end, but in “the enjoyment of a relation.”2 Likewise, as an assemblage of graduate students comprising disparate programs of study, disciplinary lenses, and areas of focus, Critical Lime heeds Sidney Mintz in its efforts “to build a Caribbean program without saying so,”3 allowing the concerns of its participants to define the ever shifting conceptual limits and possibilities of Caribbean Studies as a scholarly enterprise.
Critical Lime will nurture the interests of the membership, with attention to the possibilities and challenges of seeking training in and alignment with Caribbean Studies. We aim also to create collaboratively at Yale and elsewhere. Over the next academic year, we intend to compile a list of resources and past courses in the field for the benefit of current Yale students, to plan visits to regional events or other working groups, and to form panels for presentation at annual meetings of Caribbean Studies Association and Society for Caribbean Studies, among others. In the future, with requisite support and identified keywords delineating emergent areas of interest, further plans include a graduate student conference, creative exhibitions, and the publication of a special issue in an academic journal under the supervision of faculty.
-K. Parsard, H. Vermeulen, R. Jobson, 10/2012
1 Richard Allsopp, “Lime,” Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage, illustrated, reprint. (Kingston: University of the West Indies Press, 2003), 349. Print.
2 Édouard Glissant, Poetics of Relation, trans. Betsy Wing. (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997), 19.
3 Charles V. Carnegie, “The Anthropology of Ourselves: An Interview with Sidney W. Mintz,” Small Axe 10, no. 1 (2006): 133.