Saturday, 10 September 2011





12th October, 5pm
Venue: TBC
Amanda Smyth and Monique Roffey

Trinidadian-born writers Amanda Smyth and Monique Roffey will speak about and read from their recent novels, Black Rock (Serpent’s Tail, 2010) and The White Woman on the Green Bicycle (Simon & Schuster, 2009).

Amanda Smyth is Irish/Trinidadian. She completed an MA in Creative Writing at UEA in 2000. Her short stories have been published in New Writing, London Magazine and broadcast on Radio 4 as part of a series called Love and Loss. She was awarded an Arts Council Grant for Black Rock, her first novel. For more on the author and her work see:

Monique Roffey was born in Trinidad and is based in London. She has published two novels and a memoir and is editor of an anthology of short stories The Global Village (Peepal Tree, 2009). Her second novel, The White Woman on the Green Bicycle (2010) was shortlisted for the Orange Prize in 2010. Her work has been hailed as ‘a major contribution to the New Wave of Caribbean writing…[breaking] entirely new ground’ (Olive Senior). For more on the author and her work see:

26th October, 5pm

Rosemarijn Hoefte, KITLV
Suriname: Moving from the Netherlands to Venezuela?

In August 2010 former dictator Desi Bouterse was elected president of Suriname. He immediately announced that the country’s foreign policy as of now would focus on the Caribbean and Latin America rather than on the former metropole, the Netherlands. In the year after his election, the influence of Venezuela and Hugo Chávez are noticeable in Paramaribo, where a parallel state without parliamentary control is being created. This is generally presented as a new phenomenon in Suriname. In this presentation, I will explore whether this development does not have deeper roots in the history of independent Suriname.

Rosemarijn Hoefte (KITLV/Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies) is currently working on a social history of twentieth-century Suriname. Her other project is a biography of the first Surinamese female politician and social activist Grace Schneiders-Howard (1869-1968). In 2010 she coordinated a one-year project collecting life stories of Javanese migrants in Suriname, Indonesia, and the Netherlands.

9th November, 5pm

Leah Gordon, film-maker and photographer
Kanaval: A People’s History of Haiti

For the last 15 years Leah Gordon has been documenting a carnival in Jacmel, Southern Haiti using photography and the collection of oral histories. This work has recently been published in the book Kanaval: Vodou, Politics and Revolution on the Streets of Haiti (Soul Jazz Publishing, 2010). Each year, Jacmel holds pre-Lenten Mardi Gras festivities. Troupes of performers act out mythological and political tales in a whorish theatre of the absurd that courses the streets, rarely shackled by traditional parade. Whatever the Carnival lacks in glitz and spectacle, it makes up for in home-grown surrealism and poetic metaphor. The characters and costume partially betray their roots in medieval European carnival, but the Jacmellien masquerades are also a fusion of clandestine Vodou, ancestral memory, political satire and personal revelation. The lives of the indigenous Taino Indians, the slaves’ revolt and more recently state corruption are all played out using drama and costume on Jacmel’s streets. This is people taking history into their own hands and moulding it into whatever they decide. So within this Historical retelling we find mask after mask, but rather than concealing, they are revealing, story after story, through disguise, gesture and roadside pantomime.

A selection from over 150 photographs will play on a loop whilst Leah discusses the importance of documenting the carnival, the role of folk history in Haiti and the many different mediums used by Haitian people to retell history, the implicit complexities of the visual representation of Haiti (in terms of two centuries of post-revolution Western demonisation), the on-going struggle between spectacle and narrative in a photographic project, the role of oral histories in restoring narrative to the visual and the link between the technical process, analogue photography and historic narrative. Leah will finish by reading one or two of the oral histories.

Leah Gordon is from the UK and has worked as a photographer, film-maker and curator. She visited Haiti for the first time in 1991, and has continued to have a relationship with the country to this day. As a reportage photographer Gordon covered the coup in the early nineties and then began to make work inspired more by the culture and religion than the politics. In 2006 she commissioned the Grand Rue Sculptors from Haiti to make 'Freedom Sculpture', a permanent exhibit for the International Museum of Slavery in Liverpool. In 2008 she completed a film about the artists called Atis-Rezistans: the Sculptors of Grand Rue. Continuing her relationship with the Grand Rue artists, Gordon organized and co-curated the Ghetto Biennale in Port-au-Prince in December 2009. She has recently been involved in a range of projects as film-maker and photographer including a film documenting the colonial legacy and the museum in Maputo and a meditation on the Slave Trade and the River Thames; her photography book Kanaval: Vodou, Politics and Revolution on the Streets of Haiti was published in June 2010. Gordon is currently on the curatorial teams for the first Haitian Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale (2011), 'In Extremis' at the Fowler Museum, UCLA, Los Angeles (2012) and co-curator, with Alex Farquharson of an exhibition based on the Haitian Revolution at the Nottingham Contemporary (2012). Leah Gordon is represented by Riflemaker Gallery and is film tutor on the BA in Digital, Film and Screen Arts at University of the Creative Arts, Farnham.

23rd November, 5pm

Peter Clegg, UWE
The Turks and Caicos Islands: Can the cloud be banished?

The Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) is one of 14 Overseas Territories (OTs) still overseen by the United Kingdom (UK). Underpinned by tourism, property development and financial services, its economy experienced growth amongst the highest in the world during the early to mid-2000s. However, it now appears that this economic success was built on a political, economic and social system that was seriously compromised, and which created ‘a national emergency’ that potentially threatened the very future of the territory. The paper considers the report of the 2009 UK government-appointed Commission of Inquiry into alleged corruption in the TCI, and draws comparisons with a similar Commission of Inquiry undertaken in 1986. Indeed the title of the article derives from a quotation from the first inquiry overseen by Louis Blom-Cooper which said ‘… I am driven to the conclusion that the time has come to disperse the cloud that hangs like a brooding omnipresence in a Grand Turkan Sky’. It is clear that this did not happen, and the paper investigates why. The paper considers the UK government’s system of oversight and the characteristics of the TCI, and whether these help to explain recent events and those in the mid-1980s. A final assessment is then made as to whether the TCI is particularly prone to breakdowns in good governance, what is being done to repair the territory’s reputation, and whether the cloud hanging over the TCI can be banished.

Dr Peter Clegg is a Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of the West of England in Bristol, and in 2009/2010 he was a Visiting Research Fellow at the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES) at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica. He has published widely on the Caribbean, and teaches a range of courses on Latin American and Caribbean Politics.

7th December, 5pm

Anyaa Anim-Addo, Royal Holloway
Slavery, Emancipation and the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company

The Royal Mail Steam Packet Company (RMSPC) began full operations between Britain and the Caribbean in 1842, with the Company’s vessels transporting mail, people and goods between European and Caribbean ports-of-call throughout the second half of the nineteenth century. James MacQueen, one of the Company’s key advocates and founders, had gained personal experience of the Caribbean as an employee on a sugar estate in Grenada at the end of the eighteenth century. This paper revises existing historiography of the RMSPC and insists that the Company’s operations be interpreted in the context of Caribbean slavery and emancipation. Three perspectives on the Company are used to advance this argument. The first part of the paper interrogates the personal networks and interest groups involved in the Company during its first decade of service. The second part of the paper examines the Company’s attempts to establish labour arrangements in Grenada, St Thomas and Bermuda, and argues that the RMSPC’s infrastructural operations were characterised by complex geographies of bondage and freedom. The final part of the paper relates steamship travel to circulating debates on emancipation and free labour during the late nineteenth century. In this way, the paper argues that the RMSPC was equally shaped by geographies of slavery and emancipation.

Anyaa Anim-Addo is soon to take up a research fellowship at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. Her doctoral research focused on the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company in the post-emancipation Caribbean.

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