Gad Heuman Postgraduate Bursary Reports
Puerto Rico, 2016
My research investigates Caribbean literature in translation and aims at studying how Caribbean literature circulates within, as well as outside, the region. The title of my thesis, ‘The Caribbean in translation: remapping thresholds of dislocation’, invites a reading of translation both as a literary, linguistic practice and as a transnational expression of cross-cultural Caribbean negotiations. Focusing primarily on textual analysis, my research explores the paratextual practices observed in translated Caribbean literature to reassess the so-called "margins" of the text as powerful, disruptive contact zones. To expand the initial premise of my thesis, I undertook a five-month research project in Puerto Rico, during which I was affiliated with the Instituto de Estudios del Caribe. The additional Gad Heuman travel bursary from the YPCCS allowed me to investigate models of alternative, pan-Caribbean publishing initiatives (internship at a local publisher, Isla Negra Editores, San Juan, PR). This field work aimed to examine the role that translation plays in the literary production of the region, in the hope to (re)situate local practices within the wider, global networks of Caribbean literary circulation.
Havana, Cuba June - August 2017
Having been generously awarded the Gad Heuman Travel Bursary, I was able to undertake almost two months of archival research in Havana, Cuba. From June – August 2017, I divided my time between the Biblioteca Nacional de José Martí, and the Archivo Nacional de la República de Cuba.
My project contrasts the manner in which elite slaveholders in South Carolina, and Cuba, discussed the prospect of slave rebellions; the language they used, the emotions they suppressed (or vocalised), and the doubts they were plagued by. Having already undertaken three months of archival research in the U.S. to inform the South Carolinian aspect of my project, followed by three months in Madrid and Seville, my intention was to search the Cuban archives for correspondence specifically among Cubans, to be studied alongside the documents I had found in Spain, which were usually written in Cuba, but with a Metropolitan recipient in mind. It was essential for me to find evidence proving that Cubans wrote among themselves using similarly emotive language as that which they employed when writing to Spain, in order to disprove the suggestion that Cubans only used such theatrical language when writing to Spain in order to gain concessions from the colonial centre.
I was seeking sources containing examples of emotionally descriptive words (‘fear’, ‘anxiety’, ‘dread’, for example,) used in regard to slaves. As such, I consulted correspondence and official documents concerning recent instances of slave unrest; slave codes; the risks and advantages of the slave trade; and the threats that abolitionist activity (whether in Britain, Spain, or the Northern states of the U.S.) were thought to create in Cuba. Each instance of Cubans acknowledging their fear was utterly fascinating to me, as South Carolinian planters were apt to deny that any threat whatsoever was posed by their slaves. The documents I found in Cuba bolstered my hypothesis that enslavers in Cuba and in South Carolina were governed by distinct social systems that tailored the language gentlemen were ‘supposed’ to use when discussing their slaves. I also found that Cubans did indeed write among themselves of their anxiety, just as they did when writing to Spain, thus disproving the claim that Cubans only wrote to Spain in such a manner when seeking greater military protection or more autonomy.
My time in Havana was utterly invaluable to me. The letters I consulted, along with various proslavery tracts published within the timeframe of my project, revealed fascinating admissions of doubt, consternation and often outright terror.
During my time in Havana I also presented a paper entitled: ‘Cuba en el Mundo de la Esclavitud: Diálogos de Confianza y Dudas Entre los Dueños Elites de Cuba, 1820 – 1850’ at the Cuba en el Mundo y el Mundo en Cuba conference, held at the Instituto de Investigación Cultural Juan Marinello, organised by the Cuba Research Forum. It was a fantastic opportunity to meet scholars working on Cuba, and was also my first experience presenting in Spanish, which was daunting but entirely worthwhile.
Puerto Rico July 2018
My research looks at the social and ecological manifestations of oil-culture in Puerto Rican literature, specifically the literary registration of certain cultural and political phenomena in Puerto Rico, such as the manifestations of oil dependency (e.g. mass mobility - or the lack thereof, in some cases - and the automobile) as well as the relationship of Puerto Rico to the US, and the way in which this affects practices and psychologies of oil consumption. I used the Gad Heuman bursary to spend time in Puerto Rico during the summer, in part to use the library facilities at the University of Puerto Rico to access primary texts unavailable in the UK, as well as historical records and newspaper reports pertaining to the history of oil in the island. My thesis benefited from this access to a wide range of secondary literatures and archival materials in both Spanish and English about oil-culture and petro-capitalism, as well as more general ecological theory, in Puerto Rico. Since my thesis is primarily focused on the ecological nature of petro-capitalism, I also met with the Puerto Rican eco-group Fundación Sendero Verde, in order to discuss not only the influence of oil in contemporary Puerto Rico but also learn more general environmental concerns on the island. I also met with Julio Figueroa-Colon, an eco-activist and academic involved with FSV and made contact with Puerto Rican scholars, such as Humberto García Muniz, who runs the Institute of Caribbean Studies at PR University.
Guadeloupe and Puerto Rico, August - September 2019
I spent two weeks in Guadeloupe and Puerto Rico in order to undertake archival research and fieldwork, looking at plantations as an extractive type of agriculture in the first instance and the evolution of this in cultural productions into contemporary neoliberal practices of extractivism. I undertook archival research in specific institutions and visited old plantations (habitations in Guadeloupe).
When in Guadeloupe, I was welcomed by the wonderful curatorial teams of two archives . I spent some time working at the Mémorial ACTe Museum archives in Pointe-à-Pitre, after visiting the museum itself. The museum’s exhibition is invaluable both historically and artistically. In the archive, I was guided and helped by Raïssa Gaza and was able to access resources in multiple languages and on a wide array of subjects pertaining to the slave trade. Notably, the rich collection contains texts that were very helpful for my research on plantations and plantation agriculture including works on the habitations sucrières in Guadeloupe and Martinique, but also on the plantation structures across the Americas. I was also able to access the new Maryse Condé’s archive on the Pointe-à-Pitre campus of l’Université des Antilles with the help of Isabelle Mette. These archives contain unpublished manuscripts versions of some of Condé’s works, this allowed me an important insight in her work, which is central to my thesis.
When I was in Puerto Rico, I spent some time working in the library of the University of San Juan, in the Río Piedras Campus. The library has a rich collection of useful and unique resources both in primary and secondary literature. The archival work I undertook there was extremely crucial for the writing of my thesis and I was able to gather several important documents, including critical primary sources. Moreover, this experience was very important in considering critical issues when it comes to climate change emergency on the island.
Jamaica, August - October 2021
This research trip to Jamaica was fundamental to me completing my PhD as it provided me with an opportunity to situate my research within a wider historical context. The bursary allowed me to access important archival material, critically engage with Rastafari grassroots organisations and consult with leading Rastafari Studies scholars.
Liz Egan, 2022
Jamaica, May - June, 2022
The Gad Heuman Postgraduate Bursary kindly allowed me the opportunity to spend a month in Jamaica conducting archival research for my PhD thesis at the National Library of Jamaica (NLJ), the Jamaica Archives and Records Department (JARD), and the University of the West Indies Special Collections.
My project focuses on whiteness in Jamaica between the Morant Bay Rebellion in 1865, and the labour unrest of the 1930s. Doing so, it seeks to understand how representations and practices of whiteness continued to be marked by the legacies of slavery while responding to local and global developments. Moving across different spaces, my thesis interrogates how far local, creole articulations of whiteness corresponded and interacted with those formed in Britain and the wider British empire. Research during the last three years of pandemic has meant looking largely at printed materials available online, including newspapers, magazines, and published books. However, visiting archives in Jamaica has enriched my understanding by allowing me to access personal collections that included diaries, correspondence, and family photographs. These sources, not necessarily designed for public consumption, evoke the more private and intimate ways in which whiteness was negotiated. How families wrote to each other, how they represented themselves in photographs, and detailed their daily lives in journals, offers insight into how whiteness was constructed on a more intimate scale. Additionally, the NLJ and JARD housed printed pamphlets and books that are not available elsewhere, such as souvenir programmes and booklets relating to Jamaican churches and social clubs. Together these materials offer the opportunity to trace social networks and consider how spaces like the church or cricket club were shaped by class/colour codes. As well as contributing to my thesis, these materials also formed part of papers for the Society for Caribbean Studies Conference, July 2022, and the forthcoming North American Conference of British Studies, November 2022, from which I also hope to develop articles for publication.
Spending time in Jamaica itself was also invaluable for me to learn more about the island today and the impact of the history I am studying. While in Jamaica, I was fortunate enough to also attend the University of the West Indies and University of Leicester International Summer School, attending lectures on the theme of ‘Cultures and Politics of Protest’. This was a wonderful opportunity to meet fellow PhD and ECR researchers from across the Caribbean, UK, and beyond with similar research interests.
Belize, September 2022
My research interrogates trafficking in person efforts in the Anglophone Caribbean. A critical portion of this work is deconstructing specific campaigns in each of my three case study countries to assess how various social, cultural and historical factors affect their levels of effectiveness. For Belize, I selected a number of large anti-trafficking billboards as my main points of analysis. These billboards, created mostly through a partnership between the Office of the Special Envoy on Women and Children and the government-led ATIPs Council were posted along the highway and at various border entry points. While residing in Belize during 2019 and 2020, prior to the start of my PhD, I noticed these signs along routes that I frequented. However, as is often the case with scholars from the Global South it is a challenge to gather accurate, recent and realistic data without physically being present. Thus, the Gad Heuman Travel Bursary allowed me to ‘chase’ my billboards. Tracking them in a systematic way for the purposes of research noting their exact locations, images and messages was an eye-opening experience.
Before entering the country, I assumed that the billboards would still be standing and in relatively good condition allowing me to adequately use them for analysis. This notion was quickly dispelled, and even relevant stakeholders were unable to provide conclusive information. This finding in itself is interesting which will contribute to my analysis about the sustainability and longevity of certain anti-trafficking approaches. Additional factors about the process of acquiring billboard space, ownership and maintenance also enhanced my data.
Moreover, given the sensitivity of my research topic, establishing a cross-sector network of resource people is the only way to ensure a variety of perspectives. This fieldwork facilitated follow-up conversations with participants who I had previously interviewed virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic and initial engagements with other new partners. In some instances, my meetings revealed that work which had commenced at the start of my research, was postponed or ended due to other projects but now had new developments which I was not aware of.
Furthermore, in a country like Belize with such a small population, my previous connections led to unexpected ‘leads’ while sitting on the bus or having a meal in a restaurant. This informality is an integral part of doing ‘business’ in the Caribbean and was one of the ways that I mitigated difficulties such as geographical terrain and inconvenient meeting times when I was on this trip.
With the data gathered during this research period I have crafted new perspectives on some of my previous findings as well as additional highlights to support some ideas which I could not substantiate before. Above all, my time in Belize re-affirmed the importance of this research.
Martinique and Guadeloupe- September 2023
My research examines the intersection between place, displacement and gender in French Caribbean Literature, analysing the works of four authors- Patrick Chamoiseau, Gisèle Pineau, Fabienne Kanor and Alfred Alexandre. Given the spatial nature of the thesis and the desire to talk to some of the authors in my corpus, it was important to spend some time in both Martinique and Guadeloupe.
The research trip had three aims. Firstly, I wished to interview three authors (Chamoiseau, Alexandre and Pineau) who resided either in Martinque or Guadeloupe. I was able to interview two out of three authors (Alexandre and Pineau) and it was fascinating to sit beside them and listen to their thoughts on themes such as exile, errance and the process of writing more generally. These interviews were recorded and saved for later transcription which I can then use to quote from in the body of my thesis.
The second aim was to visit two places of interest: Tropiques Atrium (Martinique) and Memorial ACTe (Guadeloupe). Though I was able to visit Tropiques, there were no events at the time as it was the beginning of new season for them. I was, however, able to meet a visual arts practitioner, Henri Tauliaut there who was able to tell me about his work and Martinican culture more generally. I was unable to visit Memorial ACTe due to its closure. However, certain contacts that I had made explained the history of MACTe’s conception and the controversy surrounding its past and present. Even though I could not enter, I learnt much from the experience of visiting the building from the outside and the information.
Finally, I had wanted to use the time to make some sort of contact with l’Université des Antilles et de la Guyane (UAG). I had the pleasure of meeting Professor Malik-Noël Ferdinand and share the outline of my research with him as well as hear about his own interests in Caribbean poetry. He was also able to provide many useful contacts both in Martinique and in Guadeloupe which enriched my experience in both islands. I was also able to attend a conference were Professor Ferdinand presented his most recent research on Aimé Césaire and the Vikings.
Overall, my experiences in both Martinique and Guadeloupe were very positive. I had the opportunity to walk around both Fort-de-France and Pointe-à-Pitre which was really beneficial in order to experience something of spatiality that I am trying to address in my research. It was also great to visit Marie-Galante, the chosen home of Gisèle Pineau, and note the major differences between that island and mainland Guadeloupe. It was also interesting to listen about Martinican and Guadeloupean culture more generally and discover the distinct ‘Caribbeanness’ of each of these islands. French cultures and Caribbean cultures seemed overlaid on top of one another within the urban centres of both islands, displaying their dual identities.
To conclude, I found personal pleasure in visiting places that I had hitherto only read in books. Seeing the road leading to Texaco in Martinique or La Place de la Victoire in Guadeloupe or even Pineau’s ‘jardin creole’ that seemed so emblematic of her grandmother’s garden in L’Exil selon Julia are all experiences that bring the stories I read to life.