By: Annabel We
Every year, ABD students in the program present a working draft chapter of their dissertation to the faculty and their graduate colleagues over food, potluck style.
Enmanuel Martínez (En. Mar.) is a fifth year Ph.D. candidate working on archive theory, Caribbean and diasporic studies, decolonial thought, and queer theory. The title for his dissertation is “The Archipelago and the Archive: Reading Local Archival Practices and Mediums in Insular and Continental Caribbean Literatures.” A 2012 Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellow and a 2015-2016 graduate fellow in the “Archipelagoes” seminar of the Rutgers Center for Cultural Analysis (CCA), En. Mar. also served as the co-organizer of our Program’s spring 2014 biannual graduate student conference.
En. Mar. began his presentation with a genealogical and etymological framework and proposed that we think ‘arche-’ and ‘archons’ of archive and archipelago together. Then En. Mar. mapped the topics of each of his dissertation chapters for us, which include soundbites and diasporic poetry, competing archival sovereignty between the U.S. and the Caribbean, and the specificity of climatic and ecological constructs of the archive in the Caribbean exemplified by the archival ‘mold’ (life) as opposed to ‘dust’ (death).
The chosen chapter of the presentation was “Of Cassette Tape “Letters” and Basement Refrigerators: Housing the Archive of the Caribbean Diaspora,” a project that takes hold of existing debates in archive theory and various thinkers of geographic, transnational, and historical ‘theory,’ including Trouillot, D. Taylor, Hall, Y. Bonilla, Said, and Muñoz. En. Mar.’s reading examined the cassette tape ‘letters’ in Schwarz-Bart’s play Your Handsome Captain (1987) and the refrigerators in Junot Díaz’s novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007) to ask what such archives, of the diaspora from the below, might entail for not only archive theory but also for the diasporic constituency.
En. Mar. focused on mobility, domestic archive, creolization of the archival medium, orality, and ephemera/ the ephemeral. Preliminary conclusions that he shared with us suggested: 1) rethinking the archive as mobile, mirroring diasporic migration and 2) theorizing the non-sovereign archives of the Caribbean that are neither within nor outside the nation.
A lively conversation ensued that returned to the question of domesticity and the archive, on top of various other archives recommended to En. Mar. for his consideration.