from 22 to 23 April, 2014

Contending Perspectives on the Caribbean. Institutions, States, Cultures, Concepts

Collaborative Research Seminar

Partner institutions of the “Programme France Caraïbe”

This seminar brings together the members of the three Research Centres and institutions participating in the delivery of the “Programme France-Caraïbe” : the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES) and the Department of Government at the University of the West Indies (UWI) ; the CRPLC (Centre for Research on Local Powers in the Caribbean) located in the Université Antilles-Guyane, Martinique ; the LAM (Africas in the World) at Sciences Po Bordeaux, France.

The aim is to engage in a dialogue about ongoing research on the Caribbean by researchers and lecturers who have collaborated for several years in the French/Caribbean teaching programme. Through these workshops, they would like to stimulate the exchanges among these academics, to explore modalities of expanding the cooperation and to include other colleagues who may be interested in collaborating on these themes.

Panel 1 : Small Island States confronting Globalization and the construction of new modes of North-South and South-South relations.
Panel 2: Thoughts on the Caribbean ; Thoughts from the Caribbean
Panel 3 : Africa, Africa-ness, Africanisation
Panel 4 : The “France Caraibe Programme”. Assessment and prospects

Workshop Programme

Panel 1 : Small Island States confronting Globalization and the construction of new modes of North-South and South-South relations

The issue of Small Size has long influenced the academic discourse on the place of the Caribbean island states in the global economy and their capacity to join the ranks of the « emerging countries ». This panel will revisit the question of small island states in regions that remain burdened by complex legacies from their past. What can be learned from the diverse forms of institutional evolution that have been engendered by this legacy about the link between national sovereignty and international economic dependence ? What analyses can one offer today about the dynamics of regional cooperation for small island states in an international context of profound crisis ? What are the current perspectives on the State in the context of these challenges that are being experienced throughout the region ? How are the small island states of the Caribbean tackling the limitations of their institutional capacities, their human and financial resources to respond to contemporary challenges, notably those of sustainable human development ? Has their dependence assumed new forms with the long-standing but ever-growing presence of the IMF, the World Bank and other actors in the region ? Have state borders become more porous, more vulnerable or more solid ? Has cooperation crossed, begun the configuration of new frontiers ? Have transnational criminal networks and illicit  activities altogether transcended national borders ? What are the new significations in the claim for reparations for the slave trade made by members of the CARICOM to the European countries? What does this new political claim tell us about the emerging state of North-South relations ? 

Back to the Future? Shelter, security and ‘new urbanism’ in Jamaica

David Howard, University of Oxford

This paper explores the connections between shelter, security and tenure, reflecting the increasing emphasis on formalising housing tenure in low-income urban neighbourhoods as a means of releasing capital for residents, in principle enabling household access to basic services. Global North-South and South-South relations are also assessed in the context of urban development, particularly in terms of ‘New Urbanism’ and ‘postcolonial urbanisation’, and the uncritical application of concepts such as ‘resilient’ to urban neighbourhoods facing diverse and uneven economic and political conditions. Recent scholarship indicates the emergence of new and flexible structures and sites of citizenship, related to forms of informal and formal, or ‘hybrid’ governance and ideas of postcolonial citizenry. Under this pretext, the paper explores transformations in citizenship connected to the formalisation of housing tenure and the privatization of public services in low-income urban areas. The empirical focus of the paper centres on ethnographic research in Rose Town,  Jamaica during the recent phase of intensive policing to remove established community leaders or ‘dons’ in downtown Kingston; part and parcel of the so-called ‘post-Dudus affair’ or ‘incursion’ of May 2010. In Rose Town, the replacement of the local don, has created a confused network of reshaped power and status relationships that have direct repercussions for the social, physical and economic security and insecurity of residents.

Political autonomy as an abjuration ? The reconfiguration of governance models in the French territories of the Caribbean


The paper explores the development of the social views that the French territories of the Caribbean (FTCs) and the French State have of their relationship. The latter is based on a dialectics, deeply rooted in the historical experience of colonization, between proximity and distance. Thus, the last decades show the shift from a conception of political autonomy seen as the “domiciliation” of a strong local power to the mere assertion of a territorial anchorage of public policies and/or the construction of new proximities in the name of efficiency and through identification with the Caribbean.

Comparative perspectives on the political categorization “Outre-Mer”. Administrative arrangements and construction of meaning on three research fields of the French Overseas Territories.

Aurélie Roger, Université Antilles-Guyane

The Communication deals with a recent joint research I worked out with a political scientist colleague, Audrey Celestine. It aims at engaging the political categorization "Outre-Mer" -- usually  used to designate French Overseas Territories -- through the use of three distinct research fields we previously investigated : the first one is the collective mobilization of French citizens originally from these territories (the migrants and their descendants); the second one is the relationship between local right-wing political parties in Martinique and the national UMP (the main right-wing political party in France); the last one is on the role of interest groups in shaping claims and issues revolving around the "Outre-Mer" during presidential campaigns. The communication analyzes the administrative dimension of the category "Outre-Mer", and try and understand the practical dimensions of the French state relationship to these territories. One finding is that despite the legal and administrative definitions, the frontiers of such category are actually shifting and unsettled. Then, one moves to an analyzis of the ways the social actors on the various fields of research appropriate or reject the notion. Both dimensions seem  unavoidable and reveal that the category "Outre-Mer" is not simply a top-down category imposed to social actors. Instead, the study reveals its very appropriations and their sometimes strategic dimension.

Panel 2: Thoughts on the Caribbean ; Thoughts from the Caribbean 

The understanding of various cultural phenomena in the Caribbean and in the entire area of the Americas where slavery was practised, has produced various original interpretations which show all the singular expressions of cultures which emerged in the matrix of slavery. The concepts of « creolisation » (Brathwaite, Glissant), of the « Black Atlantic » (Gilroy) and of « hybridity » (Hall) have, for example, all profoundly influenced the social sciences. Likewise, questions of “memory” have also modified the discourse on cultures by proposing very destabilizing notions as “collective amnesia” ; “absence of ruins”, “obscured memory”, “pastlessness” ; “non-history” (Walcott,  Patterson, Glissant). These approaches may also have influenced the political/academic discourse in that they have deconstructed and detached the concepts from their claims to rationality and have convincingly integrated them into political postures. For example, Glissant’s creolisation is not the same as that of Ulf Hannerz. What can we say today about Caribbean philosophical/political thoughts, about their evolution, about their political commitment which has shaped them ? Are there new directions in these thoughts ? Has the intellectual/academic space retained its links with political activism or distanced itself from that ? What has become of the heritage of the political thinkers of the 20th century ? Does the work of the Caribbean “social scientists” continue to emphasize a strong intellectual tradition which analyzes domination and challenges this domination ? Do original concepts and approaches still underpin Caribbean thoughts ?

Transculturation in dialogue: Towards a Transnational, Multilinguistic and Cross-Cultural Perspective on and from the Caribbean

Fabienne Viala - University of Warwick

This paper will bring into dialogue the major theories that questioned the limits of nationalism in the Caribbean in the late 1990s and fostered new ways of thinking the Caribbean as a Cultural region with extended frontiers in the 21rst century: precisely, I will look at Kamau Brathwaite's creolisation (and the resulting paradigm of "missile and capsule"); Edouard Glissant's Antillanité (and the multiple usages of the notion of "relation" in his works); and Antonio Benitez Rojo's idea of the meta-archipelago (based on the image of the "feedback machine to conjure violence"). Those three theories have adapted and transferred to the post Cold War and globalised age of capitalism the principles of neoculturation that the anthropologist Fernando Ortiz identified in his works on race and citizenship in Cuba in the 1940s. I contend that Brathwaite, Glissant and Benitez Rojo, if read together and from alternative linguistic heritages, offer a set of theoretical frameworks useful nowadays to foster inter-Caribbean and trans-regional links in the region. They are particularly useful when it comes to articulate questions of memory, legitimacy and justice, for example in the case of claiming reparations for the colonial damages and their ongoing postcolonial consequences. My main case studies will therefore focus on the question of the reparations for slavery in the Caribbean since the late 1990s and how the post-Ortiz's texts of Brathwaite, Glissant and Benitez Rojo can facilitate a better understanding of the dilemmas and unresolved traumas at stake in this debate at the moment. 

Creolisation as a “migrant concept” configuring specific territories of meaning

Christine Chivallon, LAM, Sciences Po Bordeaux

In this talk, I hope to show how the general idea of “creolization” extends to some very different meanings, in spite of its apparent semantic consistency, often involving the ideas of intermixing and blending. Starting with a review of various texts which have given different interpretations of the term “creolization”, I shall try to pick out four major fields of meaning. Those fields are defined by the way in which the authors envisage creolization in relation to two pairs of notions. The first pairing sets the cultural process against the cultural product, whilst the second concerns temporality, with creolization either seen as an “original” (or starting) phenomenon or as constantly moving (or in  becoming). The ideas which have been forged out of the perception of these pairings “divide up” knowledge of creolization across well-characterised regions, regions which this work will try to describe. In doing so, it will be a question of looking at the notion of diaspora that these different meanings involve.  This approach will conclude with some thoughts concerning the universality of the creolization phenomenon, to suggest that it remains dependent upon historical contexts.

Panel 3 : Africa, African-ness, Africanisation

The conceptualisation of the cultures of the Caribbean and more generally of the Black Atlantic has always been linked to the triptych of « Creoleness » « alienation » and « African-ness » given way to highly controversial debates. What can be said today about the african/creole duality which finally gained the upperhand in this debate ? What are the implications of the recent attempts to re-africanise cultural practices, the re-emergence of Pan-African ideas ? What is the place of these practices – beside or within the uncertain cultural belonging that Raymond Masse has referred to in the case of Martinique as « the Creole distress » ? Does Africanisation belong in the urban evolution of the 21st century, in the violence and urban survival strategies or rather in the manifestations of distinction of the privileged groups in society ? Or is Africaness situated in practices that exist but are not named as such by those who live it, as certain currents of classical anthropology wanted to state it by speaking about African centrality in Caribbean cultures ? Is the reparations movement a key part of Pan-Caribbean networks inspired by the Pan-African idea as it is perceived as today in Martinique ? What are the indications of a renewal of the idea of African identity, if indeed there is such a renewal ? And, on the contrary, has the idea of Africaness and the African identity been abandoned ?

The Caribbean in the cosmopolitan Pan-African movement

Jean-Pierre Dozon, FMSH, Paris

My presentation will underline the weight of the Caribbean in the construction of Pan-Africanism and in the diversity of trends (christian, messianic, marxist) in the movement by discussing several of its great figures. It will emphasize the way that the Caribbean, via United States, played an important role in the emergence of the “great modern moment of Africa”, that is to say the moment when intellectuals on both sides of the Atlantic, by connecting theory and practice, were not only the vanguard of the emancipation movements, but also among the first to attempt to give Africa its rightful place in the world

Pan-Africanism in the Academia : John Henrik Clarke and the African Heritage Studies Association

Pauline Guedj, Université Lyon 2, CREA (France); CIRHUS (UNY, US)

In 1969, in Montreal, during the African Studies Association annual meeting, a group of Black intellectuals, soon referred to as the « Black caucus », challenged what they described as the neo-colonial functioning of the organization and pressed for greater Black representation within its leadership. Their claims reflected the marginalization of scholars of African descent within US africanist circles and were deeply influenced by the overall context of Black students’ and Black scholars’ fight for representation in Academia during the post-civil right era. The conflict at Montreal, as well as the unfruitful dialogues between ASA members and Black caucus proponents that it created, gave rise to the African Heritage Studies Association. Under the leadership of John Henrik Clarke and James Turner, the association organized annual meetings and transnational networks of Black studies scholars.  Its members were all scholars of African descent, specialized in the study of the African continent and its diaspora. Community activists as well as public intellectuals, they believed that Black studies should be connected to the day-to-day realities of Black communities and saw their academic involvment as part of a global fight against imperial powers. In the 1990’s, the creation of the AHSA has been analyzed by a few scholars studying (and often condemning) the rise of Academic Afrocentrism. For these scholars, (Howe, 1998 ; Walker, 2000 for example), the 1969 founding of the AHSA was to be be seen as one of the first manifesto of Afrocentrism within North American academic circles. It was thought of as one of the first attempt by a group of African American activists to consciously racialize social sciences and to claim for the reconstruction of African history along what John Henrik Clarke already called « afrocentric » lines. Based on an ongoing archival research on African American academic activism in the late 1960’s, this presentation, however, will argue that beyond Afrocentrism, what the members of the AHSA were trying to create in Montreal was a Pan-African organization grounded in politics and anticolonial struggles.  In their view, the rewriting of African history was a first step toward a broader revolution that could affect power relations in the United States and help build a strongly united Pan-African community.

Power and History: Applying Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s Approach to Anti-Haitianism. A Case Study on Guadeloupe

Sébastien Nicolas, LAM, Sciences Po Bordeaux (Phd student of the French/Caribbean teaching programme)

In his classic work, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History, Michel-Rolph Trouillot emphasizes that history is a particularly ambiguous notion as it is characterized by two closely intertwined events: the historical process and its narration. Basing his approach on the narration of the Haitian revolution, the anthropologist shows that the production of historical narratives is subjected to power plays which determine what is noted and what is not, what is highlighted and what is silenced. From Trouillot’s analysis I propose to examine the anti-Haitian discourses that were produced in Guadeloupe during the early 2000s and observe to what extent they constitute a legacy of the power plays which prevailed during the colonial period. This presentation first aims at exposing the most striking manifestations of anti-Haitianism in Guadeloupe during the last decade, focusing on the reactions of politicians faced with local Haitian immigration. Secondly we shall observe the connection between discourses produced about Haitians during colonial times, dominated by denigration and silencing, and speeches present in contemporary Guadeloupe. Finally this contribution will emphasize the existence of alternative narratives in the Guadeloupean political space aimed at rehabilitating Haitians and their history. Consequently, anti-Haitianism in Guadeloupe seems to show how, in the Caribbean, narratives produced in the aftermath of the Haitian revolution still remain effective and subjected to renegotiated power plays.

Panel 4 : The France-Caraibe Programme

This final panel is an opportunity to review and reflect upon the experiences that have emerged around the PFC. It will be based upon the testimonials of the students present in Jamaica and by those who have completed their programmes and found professional integration in Jamaica. This session could possibly also include other participants by Skype.

Likewise it will involve the team of lecturers and researchers who have participated in the development and implementation of this programme. It has functioned now for seven years and will try to review the development of the learning experience and professional preparation of the students and the development of the research exchanges among the three institutions. It will also analyse the shortfalls of this experience and compare its evolution with its original objectives among which were the ideas of developing intercultural competences, allowing for greater mobility for the graduates, creating research reciprocities and shifting where possible the asymmetrical relations between the universities of the North and the South.

With (to be completed) : Jessica Byron , Department of Government, UWI ; Christine Chivallon, LAM, Sciences Po Bordeaux ; Justin Daniel, UAG, CRPLC, Martinique ; Jean-Pierre Dozon, FMSH-Paris ; Florence Gaillet, Sciences Po Bordeaux ; Olivier Giron, DREIC, French Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research ; Patsy Lewis, SALISES, UWI ; Sébastien Nicolas, LAM, Sciences Po Bordeaux ; Marie-Jose Nzengou-Tayo ; Aurélie Roger, UAG, CRPLC, Martinique.


Localisation : University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, Jamaica
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