Africana and Latin American Studies Program Hosts Caribbean Week

Bookending the week of events with a Caribbean food cooking event at the ALANA Cultural Center and the cuisine’s feature at Frank dining hall, the annual Africana and Latin American Studies Caribbean Week from April 4-8 also featured a Brown Bag lunch lecture with Kezia Page, Associate Professor of English and Africana & Latin American Studies and Director, Africana & Latin American Studies Program and a keynote from Professor Conrad James, Ph.D. Page’s event centered “her personal research surrounding performance and surveillance in 1970s Jamaica,” according to the Colgate calendar and James’s keynote discussed “Nautical Desires: Stowaways, Tourists, and Travelers in Caribbean Fiction.”

James has dedicated his career to researching and teaching about the Caribbean, with a special emphasis on the cultural production of the Spanish Caribbean. James currently works at the University of Toronto where he teaches comparative literature and Caribbean studies.

 “I examine two Caribbean texts which use 20th-century journeys on passenger ships as opportunities to investigate ways in which colonial anxieties of race and gender are worked out through nautical desires,” James said. “My methodology here is informed by an interest in paying detailed attention to spaces and practices of intimacy in order to see what they suggest about colonial desires to possess and contain, and for what they say about the potential for freedom.”  

During his lecture, James examined Mayra Montero’s “The Last Night I Spent With You” and Claude McKay’s “A Long Way From Home” as texts that can be used to answer some of his key questions regarding race and identity in 20th-century fiction.

“Both novels provide useful examples of the vastly different possibilities that might accrue for the black Caribbean body within Caribbean fiction. As both texts wrestle with the imagined and material consequences of the pervasive anti-blackness, they suggest crucial questions about embodied practices of struggle and flesh-based practices for survival,” James said.

 Sophomore Hugh Zanelli attended the lecture for his CORE Communities and Identities class, ‘The Caribbean,’ with Assistant Professor of LGBTQ Studies Paul Humphrey.

 “It was really eye-opening to hear the actual extent to which the Caribbean people were dehumanized,” Zanelli said.

Sophomore Tess Dunkel also found the lecture relevant to her coursework at Colgate beyond the class. 

“I really enjoyed attending the lecture because not only did it contextualize modern topics I’m learning about in my Caribbean class, but I could also notice similarities in literature I’ve studied in other courses at Colgate,” Dunkel said. 

Emma MacCallum, the programming assistant in the Africana and Latin American Studied Program, organized events for Caribbean Week, including securing Professor James as the keynote speaker. MacCallum discussed the events from the week and what Caribbean Week intends to accomplish. She worked with Professor April Baptiste, Professor of Environmental Studies and Africana and Latin American Studies, to design different engaging events for students. 

 “Together, we aimed to create programming that would honor the culture, scholarship, and community of the diverse cultures of the Caribbean. We wanted to host events that highlighted academic perspectives and shared the research of amazing scholars. We also wanted to organize more casual events that would engage students in community and conversation, ” MacCallum said.  

MacCallum aimed to cultivate a community filled with learning and culture through the week-long celebration. She noted how successful that goal was during the Cooking Around the World event, where students and faculty cooked traditional dishes from Trinidad and Jamaica. 

“It was so wonderful to see students engaging with others, discussing their own cultures, interests, and histories. I hope students made new connections, with both faculty and their peers, that will continue beyond Caribbean Week,” MacCallum concluded.