The Indo-Caribbean Studies Association emerged from the Conference on Indo-Caribbean Literature and Culture held at the University of Warwick in the summer of 2008. The event brought together a cohort of international speakers and a thriving specialist community, resulting in a series of intellectual debates, and a commitment to create a permanent organisation aimed at consolidating the work done and carrying it forward.
The ICSA represents a supplementary platform for developing the field, bringing a diverse and widely distributed group of people together. It offers the facility to share ideas and insights, ask questions, discuss publications, and stimulate debate on new research and methodologies. The guiding principle of the ICSA is to create a resource for academics and experts within the discipline, forming networks which will enhance scholarship on the Indo-Caribbean diaspora.
The University of Warwick has pioneered the study of Indo-Caribbean history and culture, having organised the first Conference in Europe on the subject, in 1988, to mark the 150th Anniversary of the arrival of Indians to the region. It has hosted several doctoral dissertations in the field, and published many relevant titles in the Warwick University Macmillan Caribbean Studies Series.
Poet and playwright Derek Walcott was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Warwick in 1998. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992. In his Nobel Lecture, a suggestive outline of the themes that have informed his poetry, Walcott deals extensively with the Indian presence in the region; he draws on the experience of witnessing an epic dramatisation of the Ramayana in Trinidad in order to reflect on the cultural diversity of the Caribbean and on its complex liaisons with the past. Walcott’s sense of Caribbean culture as a hybrid and vital space of creativity is best exemplified by the image of the broken vase:
“Break a vase, and the love that reassembles the fragments is stronger than that love which took its symmetry for granted when it was whole. The glue that fits the pieces is the sealing of its original shape. It is such a love that reassembles our African and Asiatic fragments, the cracked heirlooms whose restoration shows its white scars. […] Antillean art is this restoration of our shattered histories, our shards of vocabulary, our archipelago becoming a synonym for pieces broken off from the original continent.” (Walcott, “The Antilles: Fragments of Epic Memory”, 2)
Yesu Persaud is one of Guyana's leading businessmen and philanthropists, renowned for his support of human rights and outstanding contributions to the promotion of Indian history and culture. He is the founding member of the Indian Commemoration Trust and he was instrumental in creating the Indian Monument Gardens that proudly host the replica of HMS Whitby, the ship which brought the first batch of Indian indentured labourers to Guyana in 1838. He has been awarded the Gandhi Organization Plaque for his contribution to promoting Indian culture in Guyana. In 2006 Mr Persaud was bestowed with the prestigious Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award by Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam for his outstanding contribution in the field of business; PBS is India's highest award for Persons of Indian Origin (PIO). In 2008 he received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Warwick in recognition of his “most significant contribution to the development of business in Guyana.” He will shortly be awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of the West Indies.
Prof. David Dabydeen is Director of the Centre for Caribbean Studies (University of Warwick). He has co-edited The Oxford Companion to Black British History (2007) and published in 2008 his sixth novel, Molly and the Muslim Stick (Macmillan). In 2007, he was awarded the Raja Rao Award for his contribution to the literature and the intellectual life of the Indian Diaspora. He is Guyana's Ambassador and Permanent Delegate to UNESCO. His research interests are 18th-century black British writing and contemporary Caribbean literature.
Dr. Letizia Gramaglia is an Associate Fellow in the Centre for Caribbean Studies (University of Warwick). She read English Literature at the Istituto Universitario Orientale in Naples, Italy. In 2001 she was awarded a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship and moved to England where she completed her Masters degree in Colonial and Postcolonial Literature. She has obtained her PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Warwick with a thesis focusing on representations of madness in Indo-Caribbean writing. Her research interests include colonial and post-colonial literature, women’s writing, Indian diaspora, and colonial psychiatry.
Mr. Mark Tumbridge read English at Brunel University, graduating in 2005 with a first class honours degree. He spent two years teaching in London and Poland, before returning to complete his MA in Contemporary Literature and Culture. Having won the David Nicholls Memorial Trust Scholarship (http://www.dnmt.org.uk) in July 2008, he is currently reading for his PhD in Comparative Cultural Studies at the University of Warwick. The working title of his dissertation is Representations of Indentured Labour and Asian Presence in Caribbean Cultural Texts from the 19th Century to the Present.