Tag Archives: archipelagoes

Caribbean and Pacific Studies: Archipelagic Thinking Beyond Area Studies

By: Gabriel Bamgbose

The Teleconference Lecture Hall of Alexander Library was the space for the intellectual discussions on “Caribbean and Pacific Studies: Archipelagic Thinking Beyond Area Studies” on November 10 hosted by the Center for Cultural Analysis as part of the Archipelagoes Seminar Series. The seminar was moderated by Prof. Yolanda Martinez-San Miguel who introduced the two presentations by Profs. Elizabeth DeLoughrey (Department of English, University of California, Los Angeles) and Koichi Hagimoto (Department of Spanish, Wellesley College), an opening that set the stage for the discussions on the tension between area studies and archipelagic thinking.

The first presentation titled “‘Moments in Passing:’ Maritime Future of the Anthropocene” by Elizabeth DeLoughrey situates the archipelago as an epistemic force. The crux of the presentation is the problematic relationship between human and nature (non-human). DeLoughrey marks the shift in the oceanic imaginary in the 21st century which pushes from the surface to the submarine, a space of transformation where the idea of a unitary species is erased. Moreover, the shift to “what happens beneath the surface” aims for an understanding of the human that challenges the anthropocene discourses that imagine the human as a singular species. The presentation rethinks the boundary between the anthropocene and the oceanic within the crucible of “sea ontologies” and “the oceanic uncannies.” Just as the ocean is an archive of memory and history “outside and below the official archive,” the human is “a bit planet of ocean.” DeLoughrey argues that the future of the anthropocene lies in what she calls “multi-species relations or alliances” through an engaged discussion of submerged arts/water sculptures (see Jason deCaires Taylor’s works: http://www.underwatersculpture.com/) that rematerialize the oceanic space to showcase multi-species collaboration.

The other presentation for the day by Koichi Hagimoto is titled “Dimension of Archipelagic Culture in the Writing of Jose Rizal and Jose Marti.” The presentation centers on the argument that it would be reductive to see the writing of Rizal and Marti as necessarily nationalistic because the articulation of archipelagic culture in their work offers a model that transcends the nation-state imagination and deconstructs imperial history. Through the lens of archipelagic studies, geopolitical perspective, and island studies, Hagimoto examines the unique relationship of the islands to the world through the “oceanic spatial turn in area studies.” This framework allows for the conversation between the Philippines and Latin American studies with critical focus not only on national and colonial narratives but also historical and cultural narratives that interrogate Western epistemologies of “islands without culture.”  Island studies provides a model beyond area studies and allows for intercultural relations. The comparative reading of Rizal, the Filipino writer, and Marti, the Cuban solider-poet, shows that both writers celebrate tropical culture with references to the cuisine, nature, and language as they symbolize anticolonial gestures. Rizal emphasizes that the Philippines as “ocean of islands” (7000 islands) are not isolated, but their fluidity and cultural relationality undermine the notion of fixed identity. Marti’s representation of the Antillean confederation engages the Caribbean landscape and inhabitants, as well as relations between land and sea, human and nature, war and death. Hagimoto concludes that Rizal and Marti present transoceanic ideas in the late 19th century. Archipelagic culture is more open and diverse than the static, fixed models of the nation-state.

The seminar received generous support from the School of Arts and Sciences, as well as multiple departments, programs, and research centers and institutes.

Archipelagoes Seminar Gallery Show: “From Island to Ocean: Caribbean and Pacific Dialogues”

By: Maria Elizabeth Rodríguez Beltrán

The Archipelagoes Seminar of the Center for Cultural Analysis hosted a gallery show and panel discussion on October 20. The first part of the seminar opened by analyzing sculptures and ceramics by artist Juana Valdes and paintings/collages by Fidalis Buehler. This seminar provided the space for Professor Valdes’s work, which is represented on the right of this picture, to intertwine with professor Fidalis Buehler’s work, featured on the left side. In this way, the seminar developed a conversation about archipelagoes in the Caribbean and the Pacific and their commonalities and differences, not only between the islands but also between the oceans.

In the second part of the seminar, Brian Russell Roberts from Brigham Young University analyzed some of the artifacts presented by both artists through the lens of Barbara Christian’s essay “The Race for Theory.” Dr. Roberts explained that these pieces allow us to have “an archipelagic approach to geography, to human culture. An approach that recognizes the different prominences to the islands”.

This was followed by English professor Mary Eyring, also from Brigham Young University, who called the audience to look at transnational cultural exchanges through the lens of Ocean Studies. We were challenged to start thinking about the “ocean as positive space,” which means that instead of only focusing on the islands when thinking about archipelagoes, we must also think about the waters that surround these islands, how the sea changes the way we think about people within the islands, and how the ocean shapes people’s identities. She spoke about how the ocean transforms the lives of those who go into it and those who come back, those that never make it back, and those that live surrounded by it.

Professor Eyring encouraged us to see the archipelagoes from the “fish-eye view”—the view from the water— instead of the “bird’s eye” view: a horizontal view, closer to the people of the island, instead of the vertical and dominant view of the distant observer, the colonial one. This made me think about Teresa Goddu’s Essay “The Panoramic Perspective of Anti-Slavery” and her concept of the scopic power.

Professor Eyring closed her talk by challenging us to think beyond the ship as an extension of land-based power, and rather about the “power of the sea” outside and inside of the naval, the sea as a space of re-identification.

In conclusion, this seminar allowed the audience to speak about archipelagoes in new forms by looking at them from the perspective of cultural, literary, and ocean studies.