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 2019 21/08/19 – 3/09/19
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.
Aleema Gray, 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.