Notes on Scott and Walcott

by Kelly Baker Josephs, English, York College

The following were discussion points for the Caribbean Epistemologies seminar meeting on 29 October 2010.
Readings: “Chapter 3: Conscripts of Modernity” by David Scott and “The Antilles: Fragments of Epic Memory” by Derek Walcott

1) Connections. In considering connections between the two texts, it is especially difficult in this case to avoid instituting the common relationship of theory to be laid upon creative.  But, I chose to follow what some may feel is perhaps a more objectionable connective route, that of the similarity in criticisms often levied upon both James and Walcott, which Scott notes (in relation to James) in order to do away with: “elitism and Eurocentrism” (101). While Scott provides solid reasons to turn away from these criticisms at this critical moment, I am not so sure that I am ready to do so. Not so much because I feel that the pertinent question (or problem-space) of the present is “about the autonomous moral value of Africa in the New World,” but more so because I frequently rely on these two writers for critical ideas that help me to think through Caribbean questions (Scott 105). For me (and for others who similarly rely on James’ and Walcott’s writings), there is a danger disregarding such criticisms as “beside the point” because silence denotes tacit agreement. Yes, the two writers can easily be labeled elite and Eurocentric – take, for instance, both James’ and Walcott’s frequent turns, in various writings, to Athens as model for the Caribbean – but there is much in their work that is useful in theorizing the contemporary Caribbean and one must pay at least enough mind to the bathwater if only to distinguish it from the baby. Continue reading Notes on Scott and Walcott

MELUS 2011

From Rafe Dalleo at FAU: 

Proposals for the MELUS conference to be held at Florida Atlantic University in April 2011 are due by November 15th. The theme of the conference is “Ethnic Canons in Global Contexts,” and there should be a strong Caribbean studies component to the conference since the Association of Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies is co-sponsoring the event. 250-word abstracts can be sent to  melus2011@gmail.com.

The full CFP: MELUS Call For Papers 2011-2

Second Seminar Meeting

The second session for Caribbean Epistemologies Seminar will be on Friday, Oct 29th, 2-4pm in Room 8301 at the Graduate Center.

The readings for this meeting are (links to readings will be removed after 10/29):

Reading 1: “Chapter 3” from David Scott’s Conscripts of Modernity
Reading 2: “The Antilles: Fragments of Epic Memory” by Derek Walcott

Also suggested: The “Appendix” to C.L.R. James’ The Black Jacobins and “Lectures on the Black Jacobins” by C.L.R. James.

Lunch will be served.

Save the Date: Nov 23, Tuesday, 2-4PM, Room 7314: speaker Richard Turits, Professor of History at University of Michigan and author of Foundations of Despotism: Peasants, the Trujillo Regime and Modernity in Dominican History

First Seminar Session

Judging by the turnout for our introductory Seminar session (and by the scholars who could not make the first meeting but registered for the Seminar), there is quite a lot of interest in Caribbean Studies at CUNY and surrounding institutions. There is a demand for this type of intellectual space from faculty and graduate students across various disciplines. 

After some discussion, we chose the following readings for our next meetings:

  • “Conscripts of Modernity” David Scott (Chapter 3 in Conscripts of Modernity [Duke UP, 2004])
  • “The Antilles: Fragments of Epic Memory” Derek Walcott (The Nobel Lecture)

Registered Seminar participants may download the readings from the Center for Humanities’ website.  We look forward to a stimulating discussion of these texts on October 29, from 2-4p in room 8301 at the Graduate Center.

Still in set-up mode

Hello. Thanks for visiting, but I’m still setting up.  Please do come back in the near future to see what’s happening with the “Caribbean Epistemologies” seminar described below.



Faculty co-chairs: Herman Bennett, Kelly Baker Josephs
Graduate Student co-chairs: Nicole Burrowes, Ryan Mann-Hamilton
How, in the post-colonial present, do we conceptualize the societies in the Caribbean? While explicitly a formulation about meaning in the post-colonial present, this question has a deep history concerning how writers, scholars and artists conceive of the Caribbean. The Caribbean, of course, is a subjective category for its inhabitants and interlocutors, representing distinct and at times contested categories of analysis. By bringing these meanings and their genealogies into relief and into conversation with one another, the organizers of the seminar point to a generative opportunity for advancing work on the Caribbean in general but in particular at The Graduate Center, CUNY. Invited participants for the fall include: Stephan Palmie, (Anthropology and of Social Sciences, U of Chicago) and Richard Turits (Latin American and Caribbean studies program, U of Michigan).


Seminar meets several times a semester, primarily on Fridays; for a detailed schedule of meeting times and guests, please visit the CUNY Center for the Humanities website (which may also still be in set-up mode for the Fall)