LAWRENCE — This week, the University of Kansas will host a series of events that celebrate the surprising interplay between Caribbean cultures and people and the rest of the world. Far from being exotic and isolated islands suitable only as tourist destinations or the site of natural disasters, epidemiological crises and charity work, Caribbean societies have long been integral to U.S. history, economies and cultural production. The symposium will offer Kansans the opportunity to explore the diversity of the Caribbean through a variety of lenses, including through the eyes of Lawrence’s acclaimed native son, Langston Hughes.
The Unexpected Caribbean Symposium will take place Oct. 18-20 with events and activities held at various venues at KU and around Lawrence. Events are free and open to the public.
“Through the various interactions and dialogues this week we invite everyone, but especially students and Lawrence community members, to come and explore the Caribbean in unexpected ways,” said Cécile Accilien, professor of African and African-American studies.
Through keynote lectures, panel discussions, the art exhibition, film screenings and literature readings, the symposium will permit an open and critical discourse about Caribbean communities from Port-au-Prince to Puerto Rico to Port of Spain; from Chicago to St. Croix; from Tobago to Toronto. A humanist perspective will inspire participants to consider issues of social justice by interrogating how individuals from marginalized identities fit into their families, communities, nations and world.
Giselle Anatol, professor of English and symposium organizer, stressed the importance of the unexpected aspect of the symposium.
"So often, when people from outside of the Caribbean region think of the area, the first things that pop to mind are sandy beaches, reggae music and tourism, or hurricanes, devastation and abject poverty,” she said. "We want to introduce people to other important, and perhaps surprising, aspects of Caribbean history and culture — hence the title of the symposium: The Unexpected Caribbean."
The symposium will take place in conjunction with “The Ties that Bind: Haiti, the United States, and the Art of Ulrick Jean-Pierre in Comparative Perspective,” an art exhibition running at the Spencer Museum of Art through Jan. 7, 2019. The exhibition features approximately 12 paintings created by Haitian-born, New Orleans–based painter Ulrick Jean-Pierre. As a culmination of a multiyear collaboration supported by the Spencer’s Integrated Arts Research Initiative, this exhibition marks the first time in more than a decade that a significant display of Haitian paintings has occurred at the Spencer Museum of Art, or in Kansas.
The Unexpected Caribbean Symposium is a collaborative venture among the Association of Caribbean Women Writers & Scholars (ACWWS), Humanities Kansas, KU’s Institute of Haitian Studies, the Department of African & African American Studies, the Department of English and the Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies, a newly designated National Resource Center by a Title VI grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
“We are absolutely delighted to be partnering in hosting this conference, which seeks to strengthen connections across the Americas and comes at a vital moment in the national public conversation,” said Marta Caminero-Santangelo, professor and CLACS director. "Our new Title VI funding and designation as a National Resource Center for Latin American and Caribbean studies enables us to play a crucial role in promoting understanding about the Caribbean in the U.S. heartland; so often it is just assumed that the U.S. Midwest and the Caribbean have nothing to do with each other, and that is simply not the case.”
As part of the Unexpected Caribbean Symposium, CLACS will host “Teaching the Unexpected Caribbean,” a one-day professional development workshop open to all K-16 school professionals that will challenge educators to learn about the unexpected effects of Caribbean cultures and people on the rest of the world, both past and present. In particular, the workshop will foster a deeper comprehension of how the Caribbean connects to the Midwest and how Caribbean art and literature can be incorporated across the disciplines. It will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20, in the Kansas Room, located on the sixth floor in the Kansas Memorial Union.
For more information, please visit the symposium website.
Inset photo: “Tropical Bird” by Adam Leontus.