Metaphors and Creolization: Reading J. Michael Dash’s “Bateaux-Prisons”

by Alessandra Benedicty, Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, The City College of New York

In keeping with the intention of this seminar in which we are considering, interrogating and creating new epistemologies about the Caribbean, I’d like to mention that some of the ideas that I am including have come out of conversations that I’ve had with several persons here—Professor Dash, Kaiama L. Glover, Robert Baron, Maja Horn, Rose Réjouis, Robert Baron and Jarrettia Adams. It’s also a great honor to be able to discourse so directly and in such a venue with J. Michael Dash.

Binaries offer scholars, if not a productive tool, at least a point of departure, with which to consider and reconsider one or more epistemological spaces. A binary that I think might inform our discussion in this seminar is that in which creolization appears as one of the terms, and which I think might serve as a point of contact with J. Michael Dash’s work here today. Before going further, I am not bringing this up to be polemical, although what I describe is provocative. I think that Dash’s notion of the “bateau-prison” is exciting precisely because it opens up a space within which the polemics of creolization become less significant. Continue reading Metaphors and Creolization: Reading J. Michael Dash’s “Bateaux-Prisons”

Comments on J. Michael Dash’s “Hemispheric Horizons”

by Kaiama Glover, French, Barnard College

Michael Dash’s article explicitly states its concern with the “anxieties of place and belonging” that lead to a certain “spatial emphasis in postcolonial criticism” and the concomitant reliance on a series of increasingly unhelpful binaries: either a “homogenizing, ahistorical wholeness” or an “emphasis on displacement and diaspora;” either a call for attachment to place à la Peter Hallward or the devaluation of territoriality à la Chris Bongie; either a Césairean affirmation of the local and specific or a Glissantian emphasis on wandering and deterritorialization; etc.

Dash proposes an elegant approach to negotiating these binaries in his thoughtful mobilization of the chronotope of the ship. He offers a convincing articulation of the ship – or bateau-prison – as a metaphorical space that can hold in tension the unique combination of movement and immobility that is the Afro-Atlantic experience. From C.L.R. James, Aimé Césaire, and Edouard Glissant’s configuration of Toussaint as both imprisoned within and liberated from Fort Joux, to James’ reading of Melville’s “mariners, renegades, and castaways” as the proper heros of Moby Dick, to Césaire’s multiple accounts of “contained openness,” the Caribbean literary tradition is marked profoundly, Dash argues, by iterations of this central marine trope. Dash reads the portraits of various men on boats, as it were, in Caribbean literature as so many exemplars of the “true citizens of the hemisphere” who, via what he dubs their “renegade subjectivity,” issue a challenge to the concept of privileged, hegemonic national or cultural identity. Continue reading Comments on J. Michael Dash’s “Hemispheric Horizons”

Conference on Caribbean Women Writers

The Departments of Foreign Languages, English, and The Center for Women’s Development at Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York invite participants for the 1st Annual Conference on Caribbean Women Writers,

“Transforming Silence: Memory, Remembrance, and Resistance in the Narratives of Caribbean Women Writers”

to be held on Thursday, March 31, 2011. The conference will take place at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, New York. Continue reading Conference on Caribbean Women Writers

sx salon: a small axe literary platform

The Small Axe Project has recently launched sx salon: a small axe literary platform, a new electronic publication dedicated to literary discussions, interviews with Caribbean literary figures, reviews of new publications (creative and scholarly) related to the Caribbean, and short fiction and poetry by emerging and established Caribbean writers. sx salon also houses the Small Axe Literary Competition, launched in 2009.

sx salon represents both a new project and a continuation of the Small Axe Project’s ongoing affirmation of the literary as a critical component of Caribbean cultural production. We envision this space as an open source, easily accessible, online resource for students, teachers and scholars, as well as a forum for academics in the field to consult for announcements related to Caribbean literary studies.

sx salon publishes a new issue every two months and invites year-round submissions of:

  • Literary Discussions that engage issues relevant to Caribbean literary studies: 2,000 – 2,500 words
  • Book Reviews of recent (published no more than two years preceding the date of submission) creative literary works by Caribbean authors or scholarly works related to Caribbean literary studies: 1,000 – 1,200 words
  • Interviews with Caribbean literary figures: 2,000 – 2,500 words
  • Poetry and Short Fiction that engage regional and diasporic Caribbean themes and concerns: up to 2 poems or fiction of up to 4,000 words

Submissions must be accompanied by a short bio approximately 50 words, which should include information about the author’s location (institutional, geographical, etc.), and publications. Manuscripts should not contain any information about the author. Please include name, email address, phone number and, if applicable, institutional affiliation with the accompanying bio

Please visit for more detailed guidelines for submissions.


ALL inquiries and submissions must to be sent electronically to the following addresses:

HAITI IN:SIGHT – A Soulful Benefit for Healing in Haiti

From: Ayiti Resurrect


As the one-year anniversary of the earthquake approaches, let’s continue to raise our awareness and keep HAITI IN SIGHT! This benefit will raise money for a grassroots healing project led by the people of Haiti and supported by a community of delegates from the Caribbean and African Diaspora. Join us for an enlightening evening of performances, dancing, and multi-media art — all providing a lens through which the beauty and power of Haiti will be experienced and honored. We will take the opportunity to learn more about the aftermath of this unnatural disaster from our partners on the ground. And we will contribute to the healing and sustainability of Haiti.

December 11, 2010 || 7:00pm – 1:00am
Red Bull Space, 40 Thompson Street (at Watts St.) SoHo, New York
OPEN BAR All Night

Continue reading HAITI IN:SIGHT – A Soulful Benefit for Healing in Haiti

Divine Horsemen, Art Exhibition

Seminar participant, Simone Leigh, will exhibit work in a two-person show with Chitra Ganesh at the Mason Gross Galleries, Rutgers University. The work on exhibit is inspired by the Maya Deren film, Divine Horsemen.

November 19th –  January 11th


Chitra Ganesh and Simone Leigh

Curated by LaToya Ruby Frazier

Mason Gross Galleries

Rutgers University

New Brunswick, New Jersey

Catalog includes writing from Rashida Bumbray, Christopher Lew and Dean Daderko

35th Annual Conference of the Society of Caribbean Studies

International Slavery Museum, Albert Dock, Liverpool
Wednesday 29th June – Friday 1st July 2011

The Society for Caribbean Studies invites submissions of short abstracts of 250 to 400 words for research papers on the Hispanic, Francophone, Dutch and Anglophone Caribbean and their diasporas for this annual international conference. Papers are welcomed from all disciplines and can address the themes outlined below. We also welcome abstracts for papers that fall outside this list of topics, and we particularly welcome proposals for complete panels, which should consist of three papers. Continue reading 35th Annual Conference of the Society of Caribbean Studies

Fourth Session: J. Michael Dash

The fourth session of the Caribbean Epistemologies seminar will be:

Friday, December 10, 4-6pm, Room 5111

 Our guest will be: J. Michael Dash, Professor of French at New York University. He is the author of Literature and Ideology in Haiti, Haiti and the United States, The Other America, and Culture and Customs of Haiti, and has translated a number of Edouard Glissant’s works, including The Ripening, Caribbean Discourse, and Monsieur Toussaint.

 We will be discussing Professor Dash’s paper:

“Hemispheric Horizons: Confinement, Mobility and the “bateaux-prisons” of the French Caribbean Imaginary”

Our discussants for the paper will be Professor Alessandra Benedicty, City College, and Professor Kaiama Glover, Barnard College. 

Note: This paper will be available via the link above through the end of December, but it will remain on the Center For Humanities’ website for the duration of the seminar.

Comments on Richard Turits’s draft

by Ryan Mann-Hamilton, Anthropology, CUNY Graduate Center

These comments preceded the discussion of Richard Turits’s paper, “New World of Color: Slavery, Freedom, and the Making of Race in Dominican History,” at the Caribbean Epistemologies seminar meeting on 23 November 2010.

As Mintz states throughout his work, Caribbean cultures should be viewed by their particular histories and include analyses of power (Mintz 1995). Without the specificities of history, one’s understanding of current processes operating in the Caribbean is highly incomplete. This paper places the Dominican Republic at the center of the history of the Caribbean and the Americas as a microcosm and a precursor of similar processes operating in those spaces. It is a much-needed addition to the existing scholarship that has tended to privilege the narratives of the Anglophone Caribbean, Cuba and Puerto Rico. Continue reading Comments on Richard Turits’s draft

The Caribbean Epistemologies Symposium, April 15, CUNY Graduate Center, NY


The Caribbean Epistemologies seminar at the CUNY Graduate Center will be holding a one-day symposium on April 15, 2011.  We invite submissions of paper presentations from seminar registrants and CUNY faculty and graduate students working on projects related to Caribbean Studies.  Continue reading The Caribbean Epistemologies Symposium, April 15, CUNY Graduate Center, NY

Comments on David Scott’s Conscripts of Modernity (Chapter 3)

by Marcela Echeverri, History, College of Staten Island

The following were discussion points for the Caribbean Epistemologies seminar meeting on 29 October 2010.


In Chapter 3 of Conscripts of Modernity David Scott tells us he wants to find a strategic point of criticism from which to write “a new history of the postcolonial present” (p. 119). For this he proposes to displace what he finds are prevalent romantic narrative tropes for tragedy. What does it mean to displace a romantic trope? “To move away from the humanist assumption of a pre-constituted will to resist or will to freedom that studies of slavery and slave revolt are obliged to affirm or illustrate” (p. 122). More specifically, Scott suggests that we should go beyond the prevailing emphasis on cultural autonomy, the predominant focus on Africa and resistance, or the very normative expectations of resistance or overcoming. Continue reading Comments on David Scott’s Conscripts of Modernity (Chapter 3)

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