Conference: The Caribbean: Aesthetics, Ecology, Politics
The Aesthetics, Ecology, Politics conference took place on the 23rd-25th September 2011 at the University of Warwick. It formed part of a Leverhulme Trust-funded research project currently being undertaken at the Yesu Persaud Centre for Caribbean Studies. Building on an event held in Georgetown, Guyana in 2010, the conference featured speakers and performers from the Caribbean, the UK, the US, and elsewhere.
The aim of the conference was to explore the relationship between Caribbean environments, literature and the arts, and issues of political and socio-economic justice. Today, the twin spectres of economic and ecological crisis haunt the globe. While the world-system has been convulsed by the fallout from financial meltdown, the logic of capital continues to drive relentlessly towards the degradation of human and extra-human nature. Despite the planetary scope of many ecological problems, the intensity of their impact tends to be registered unevenly, with the poor – especially those in peripheral nation-states – suffering most. In the Caribbean, natural disasters such as hurricanes and the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti in January 2010 already pose enormous challenges for the region. The intensification of, for example, extreme weather conditions with global warming will only exacerbate these difficulties. Their effects, moreover, cannot be disentangled from the long history of ecological and social exploitation imposed on the region by capitalist imperialism – from the environmental transformations brought about by early colonization to the contemporary problems wrought by tourism and penetration by multinationals.
Examining how these and a range of related issues have impacted upon cultural production in the Caribbean, the conference featured talks on: the aesthetics of waste and dirt; the issues surrounding Guyana’s low carbon development strategy and carbon credit trading; the literary representation of natural disasters; the impact of tourism in the region; the role the writer or artist might play in addressing environmental issues; the role of the arts in creative education and the issue of aesthetics as praxis; extinctions of fauna in the Caribbean; the history and impact of environmental movements in the region; the relationship between the environment, history, and memory; eroticism and ecopoetics; the ecology of the cityscape; ecological struggles in Puerto Rico; and the environmental aesthetics of a variety of writers from the region. Keynote addresses were given by Elizabeth DeLoughrey (UCLA), novelist Oonya Kempadoo (winner of the Casa de las Americas Prize, 2001), Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert (Vassar), Janette Bulkan (ECCo Field Museum, Chicago), playwright Paloma Mohamed (winner of the Cacique Caribbean Award, 2005), and Vonnie Roudette (activist and artist from St. Vincent). On Friday 23rd, a literary evening featured performances by Oonya Kempadoo, Paloma Mohamed, and Shivani Sivagurunathan. On Saturday night, Paloma Mohamed introduced CineGuyana 2011, a series of short films from Guyana.
The following webpages not only host pictures and audio recordings from the conference, but will also – in the spirit of disseminating research more widely and without cost – make available papers read at the event. We hope this will contribute to furthering the many debates and ideas that arose at the conference, helping to encourage both original thinking and practical action on urgent environmental issues.