Through a critical interpretation of “Caribe insular: Exclusión, fragmentación y paraíso,” one of the major Caribbean art exhibitions showcased in the 1990s, this essay examines the spatial politics of Caribbean art curatorship taking place abroad. It argues that any understanding of the spatial politics regulating the display of Caribbean art outside the region has to be approached from an ambivalent point of view. In this case, this implies recognizing how “Caribe insular” was inscribed within two different logics: one linked to the regional panorama of democratic Spain, marked by the anxiety of reframing a “postcolonial” image of the country within an European context, and other attentive to the distance from essentialist and “identity-oriented” views of artistic practice that Caribbean creators were developing at the end of the decade. Being burdened by the first conditioning, “Caribe insular” sketched, nevertheless, a new conceptualization for the large-scale Caribbean art shows of the 2000s.
Carlos Garrido Castellano works at the Center for Comparative Studies of Lisbon University. His research interests focus on Caribbean visual culture, critical theory, and collaborative artistic practices. He has done long-term fieldwork research in Jamaica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Trinidad and Tobago, Puerto Rico, and the United States. He is the author of two books on Caribbean art and curatorial politics. Currently he coordinates the research project “Comparing We’s: Collectivism, Emancipation, Postcoloniality.”
This essay introduces the special section “The Idea of Hispanophone Caribbean Studies” with a focus on hispanopone Caribbean literature and how it is situated in the region and in the diaspora. The essay suggests the need for creating spaces of dialogue and communication, translation and multilingualism, that are interdisciplinary and intertextual, if we are to deepen our critical frames of reference and complicate and invigorate new creative and analytic discourses.
Vanessa Pérez-Rosario is the managing editor of Small Axe and an associate professor in the Department of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies at Brooklyn College, City University of New York. She is the editor of Hispanic Caribbean Literature of Migration: Narratives of Displacement (2010) and the author of Becoming Julia de Burgos: The Making of a Puerto Rican Icon (2014). She has received awards from the Woodrow Wilson and Mellon foundations, the American Association of University Women, and the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University.
This essay sustains that to earn credibility as a field seeking academic identity de lege, Hispanic Caribbean studies must address the legacy of the colonial past that keeps people in the Antillean world from communicating productively across national borders and language blocs. The field needs to help us address the following problems: relying on the insular metaphor to name a region whose population in large part inhabits continental land masses; making pan-Caribbean claims based on the knowledge (often partial) of only one linguistic zone; uncritically embracing transnationalism to explain the Antillean person's mobility across polities; and conflating the tellurian geography of the region with the diasporic locales of Caribbean-descended citizens of Western metropolises. The essay advises the humble recognition of the Caribbean as a not easily learned culture area, one rife with internal diversity and a checkered history, and urges serious consideration of the interlaced human landscape pervading the region.
Silvio Torres-Saillant is a professor of English at Syracuse University. He has lectured lately in Barranquilla, Santiago (Chile), Heidelberg, Potsdam, Birmingham (UK), and Coventry. He delivered the 2013 Walter Rodney Memorial Lecture (University of Warwick), and during 2016 he served the History and Philosophy Department of the University of the West Indies–Barbados as a PhD external examiner. In 2015 he gave the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Address in Geneva, New York, and judged the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature in Port of Spain, Trinidad.
While Caribbean studies appears to be an established domain of inquiry, it often fails to fully incorporate the islands of the Hispanic Caribbean. Studies of the Hispanic Caribbean, meanwhile, are generally dominated by island-specific work. This essay considers the appeal and limits of the idea of Hispanic Caribbean studies for the historical study of the region. Historically, the Hispanic Caribbean at times included islands and colonies such as Jamaica, Trinidad, and Saint-Domingue. Patterns of migration further complicate the boundaries of the Hispanic Caribbean, as diaspora renders places physically outside the region central to island realities, from economic to affective ones. The essay argues that given the historical impermeability of imperial and national boundaries in the region, a transnational and transimperial approach to the Hispanic Caribbean is required. Finally, it suggests that going beyond national perspectives also includes the study of local histories, reconceived as spaces linked to but not always bound by national narratives.
Ada Ferrer is a professor of history and Latin American and Caribbean studies at New York University. She is the author of two award-winning books, Insurgent Cuba: Race, Nation, and Revolution, 1868–1898 (1999) and Freedom’s Mirror: Cuba and Haiti in the Age of Revolution (2014). She is also the author of the prize-winning essay “Haiti, Free Soil, and Atlantic Antislavery,” which appeared in American Historical Review 117 (February 2012).
This essay reflects on the colonial Spanish Caribbean as a heuristic that enriches Caribbean studies. First, it meditates on the usefulness and limitations of applying the category of the Spanish Caribbean to the analysis of some pre- and post-seventeenth-century texts. Then it focuses on the meaning of the nineteenth century in the Spanish Caribbean, with particular attention to the Caribbean confederation and 1898 as key moments in the colonial and decolonial process of this region. Then the essay turns to the notion of criollismo in the Spanish Caribbean and its dialectic relationship with creole and creoleness as two different fictive ethnicities that are signified differently in Latin America and the French and Anglo-Caribbean, respectively. The essay concludes with a proposal for the Spanish Caribbean as a heuristic that reconnects Spanish, Anglo-, and French Caribbean literatures in a comparative Caribbbean studies framework.
Yolanda Martínez-San Miguel is a professor of Latino and Caribbean studies and comparative literature at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick. She is the author of Saberes americanos: Subalternidad y epistemología en los escritos de Sor Juana (1999); Caribe Two Ways: Cultura de la migración en el Caribe insular hispánico (2003); From Lack to Excess: “Minor” Readings of Colonial Latin American Literature (2008); and Coloniality of Diasporas: Rethinking Intra-colonial Migrations in a Pan-Caribbean Context (2014).
This essay argues for an archipelagic approach to the twenty-first-century visual arts of the insular Caribbean. While it is common for scholars to stress the region's heterogeneity, the authors seek out thematic continuities in the art of the Caribbean islands through the trope of the archipelago, challenging the understanding of the Caribbean as discontinuous, isolated, hermetic, and beyond comprehension. Analyzing contemporary art of the hispanophone islands and their diasporas, they reveal shared concerns within the Caribbean archipelago and posit that visual art is uniquely equipped to bridge the region's language and cultural divides to offer a hemispheric discourse inclusive of the experience of the islands and their diasporic communities.
Tatiana Flores is an associate professor in the Department of Art History, with a joint appointment in the Department of Latino and Caribbean Studies, at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick. She is the author of Mexico’s Revolutionary Avant-Gardes: From Estridentismo to ¡30–30! (2013), which won the 2014 Latin America Studies Association, Mexico Section, Humanities Book Prize.
Michelle Stephens teaches in the Departments of English and Latino and Caribbean Studies at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, and is the current chair of the Department of English. Originally from Jamaica, she graduated from Yale University with a PhD in American studies and is the author of Black Empire: The Masculine Global Imaginary of Caribbean Intellectuals in the United States, 1914 to 1962 (2005) and Skin Acts: Race, Psychoanalysis, and the Black Male Performer (2014).
This essay considers how the myth of la ciguapa—an “indigenous,” usually female creature with backward pointing feet—both suggests a metaphor for the contradictory coherence of Hispanic Caribbean history and society and becomes a method for contestatory movements. Beginning with a brief historicization of the myth's development in Santo Domingo, the author goes on to consider how the most recent decade of anti-Haitianism, negrophobia, misogyny, and homophobia in the Dominican Republic have inspired ciguapeo as an authoctonous method deployed by queer, black-identified, anti-racist, feminist movements.
Ginetta E.B. Candelario is a Brooklyn-born, New Jersey-raised transnational Dominican antiracist feminist mother. She received her PhD in sociology from the Graduate Center, City University of New York, and has taught at Smith College since 1999. Her teaching and scholarship focus on race, gender, class, and belonging in the Hispanic Caribbean and the United States. She is currently working on a history of Dominican feminist thought and activism, tentatively titled “Voices Echoing beyond the Seas: Dominican Feminisms, from Transatlantic to Transnational, 1882–1942.”
On the forty-fifth anniversary of the publication of Cuban writer Roberto Fernández Retamar's influential polemic Calibán, this essay revisits the circumstances in which Fernández Retamar wrote the piece and assesses its continuing significance for the Caribbean as a region. Attention is paid to how Fernández Retamar inserts his argument into the long-running debate about Latin American identity but then relocates the central figure of Caliban to the Caribbean, where other writers such as Aimé Césaire and George Lamming had already begun to address the nature of colonialism via the relationship between the Shakespearean figures of Prospero and Caliban. Also underlined is the importance to Calibán of Fernández Retamar's quotations from José Martí and Che Guevara.
Peter Hulme is an emeritus professor of literature at the University of Essex. His most recent books are Cuba’s Wild East: A Literary Geography of Oriente (2011) and an edition of These Many Years: The Autobiography of W. Adolphe Roberts (2015).
This essay examines Roberto Fernández Retamar's groundbreaking Calibán (1971) and his revision “Calibán revisitado” (1986), within their historical, political, and literary contexts. A few months before the publication of Calibán, the arrest of Cuban poet Heberto Padilla produced dissention among European and Latin American intellectual supporters of Cuba's revolution. Castro's condemnation of “bourgeois intellectuals” became the basis of Fernández Retamar's essay, and Shakespeare's The Tempestbest addressed the relationship between the oppressor and the oppressed in Cuba and Latin America. Fernández Retamar traced the main characters from their inception in Shakespeare's play to his own essay; for him, the United States exemplifies Prospero and Cuba is Caliban. Fifteen years later, Fernández Retamar revisited his essay—he attacks certain Latin American intellectuals but is conciliatory toward others. Ongoing events in the Cuban Revolution—in particular, the 1980 Mariel boatlift and subsequent efforts by Cuba's youth to abandon the island—provide a framework for understanding why Fernández Retamar revised a position that made him one of the leading critics of Cuba and Latin America's intellectual world.
William Luis is the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of Spanish at Vanderbilt University, where he also directs Latino and Latina studies and edits Afro-Hispanic Review. His books include Literary Bondage: Slavery in Cuban Narrative (1991); Dance between Two Cultures(1997); Juan Francisco Manzano: Autobiografía del esclavo poeta y otros escritos (2007); Lunes de Revolución: Literatura y cultura en los primeros años de la Revolución Cubana (2003); Bibliografía y antología crítica de las vanguardias literarias del Caribe: Cuba, Puerto Rico, República Dominicana (2010); Looking Out, Looking In: Anthology of Latino Poetry (2013); and The AmeRícan Poet: Essays on the Works of Tato Laviera (2014). He was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship for 2012.
Kamau Brathwaite, a distinguished poet and a friend of Roberto Fernández Retamar’s, was born in Barbados in 1930. After a long career teaching at the University of the West Indies, Mona, he taught for many years at New York University. A founder of the Caribbean Artists Movement and founding editor of Savacou, he is the author of a number of important recent books, including Ancestors (2001), MR (Magical Realism) (2002), Words Need Love Too (2004), Born to Slow Horses (2005), and Elegguas (2010). In 1994 he received the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, and in 2015 he was awarded the Poetry Society of America’s Frost Medal for distinguished lifetime achievement in poetry.
Nancy Morejón is one of Cuba’s foremost poets. She was born in 1944 and grew up in an old neighborhood of Havana. A graduate of the University of Havana with a degree in French language and literature, she has published translations of French- and English-speaking Caribbean writers. She is best known in the United States through her first bilingual anthology Where the Island Sleeps Like a Wing (1985), published by the Black Scholar Press. In 1999 she became a member of the Academia Cubana de la Lengua (a Cuban division of the Royal Academy of Spanish Language). She has received, among others, the Cuban National Literary Award (2001), Yari-Yari (2004), and the Golden Wreath (Macedonia, 2006). Her most recent books of poems are Querencias / Homing Instincts (2014; translated by Pamela Carmell) and Persona y otros poemas (Antología personal) (2015). She is an advisor at Casa de las Américas in Havana.
Firelei Báez was born in the Dominican Republic and currently lives and works in New York. She makes large-scale, intricate works that explore the humor and fantasy involved in self-making within diasporas. She studied at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and received a BFA from Cooper Union and an MFA from Hunter College. She has had solo exhibitions at the Pérez Art Museum, Miami, and Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, Salt Lake City. She has held residencies at Headlands, Fine Arts Work Center, LES Print Shop, and LMCC Workspace. Her work has been written about in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Art in America, Art Forum, and Studio Museum Magazine and is featured in Phaidon’s drawing anthology Vitamin D2 (2013). She has been the recipient of the Joan Mitchell Painters and Sculptors Award, the Gelman Award in Painting, the Catherine Doctorow Prize, and the Chiaro Award. In 2015 the Pérez Museum published Firelei Báez: Bloodlines.
Scholars of Caribbean and translation studies alike are indebted to Cuban anthropologist Fernando Ortiz for bringing into focus the multidirectional vectors of influence in the wake of colonization in his Contrapunteo de tabaco y azucar (Cuban Counterpoint: Tobacco and Sugar). Cultural and linguistic interaction in contact zones or in borderlands of empire like the Caribbean include innovative translators, poets, and theorists of the hispanophone Caribbean diaspora who articulate in-between subjectivity, bilingual poetic forms, and the constant work of cultural translation that transpires in Hispanic Caribbean New York.
Laura Lomas teaches in English and American studies at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, Newark. She is the author of a number of essays and the book Translating Empire: José Martí, Migrant Latino Subjects, and American Modernities (2008) and the coeditor of the forthcoming Cambridge History of Latina/o Literature. She is currently working on a new monograph on Lourdes Casal and interdisciplinarity.
In this essay, Decena follows Maja Horn's invitation to move historical and literary analysis of Dominican literature away from the masculine ideation mapped in her pioneering Masculinity after Trujillo: The Politics of Gender in Dominican Literature(2014). Through an engagement with the operations of silence in the work of Hilma Contreras and of racialized gender identity formation in the novel Erzulie's Skirt by Ana-Maurine Lara, Decena considers more horizons made possible by the opening in the study of Dominican literature that Horn traces. In addition to registering the contradictory effects of the Rafael Trujillo dictatorship on social and identity formations past and present, Decena echoes Horn in proposing that artistic production by Dominican women during the dictatorship and in the contemporary moment offers alternative and productive theoretical models of sociality and identity formation.
Carlos Ulises Decena is an interdisciplinary social scientist and cultural critic, working at the nexus of Latino, Caribbean, women’s and gender, and queer of color critique. He teaches in Latino and Caribbean studies and women’s and gender studies at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick. He is the author of Tacit Subjects: Belonging and Same-Sex Desire among Dominican Immigrant Men (2011) and is currently working on a manuscript titled “Circuits of the Sacred.”
This essay amplifies some of Maja Horn's arguments in Masculinity after Trujillo: The Politics of Gender in Dominican Literature (2014). First, the essay adds texture to Horn's assessment of the Trujillo regime in relation to race by arguing that what Horn discerns as the Trujillato's “emptying” of racial difference has a long historical precedent in the Dominican territory. Second, it deepens Horn's remarks on the nineteenth century to suggest that it is difficult to limit the frame of Caribbean or hemispheric American scholarship to the twentieth century.
Dixa Ramírez is an assistant professor in the Department of American Studies and the Department of Ethnicity, Race, and Migration at Yale University. Her first book, At the Navel of the Americas: Transnational Dominican Narratives of Belonging and Refusal (forthcoming), argues that dominant Western discourses have ghosted Santo Domingo/the Dominican Republicdespite its central place in the architecture of the Americas. Her essays have appeared in Atlantic Studies, The Black Scholar, and Comparative Literature and in the Dominican media.
This essay is a response to Carlos Ulises Decena's and Dixa Ramírez's reading of Masculinity after Trujillo: The Politics of Gender in Dominican Literature (2014). As both discussants note, the study emphasizes the important task of multiplying the archives of Dominican literature and history. Engaging with Ramírez's essay, Horn critically revisits her historical argument about how the Trujillo dictatorship (1930–61) and the preceding US occupation (1916–24) reshaped Dominican gender formations and masculinity in particular. In dialogue with Decena's essay, Horn discusses how entrenched relations between gender, postdictatorship politics, and the Dominican intellectual culture call for conventional political responses as well as an embrace of political potentialities that lie beyond these. The essay emphasizes that postcolonial contexts invariably require grappling with questions of justice and political redress in multiple ways because of how longstanding histories of colonialism, imperialism, and unequal global power structures always already refract these across places and borders.
Maja Horn is an associate professor in the Department of Spanish and Latin American Cultures at Barnard College. She specializes in contemporary hispanophone Caribbean literature, visual and performance art, gender and sexuality, and political culture. She is the author of Masculinity after Trujillo: The Politics of Gender in Dominican Literature (2014) and is completing a second monograph on queer Dominican literature and visual and performance art.