“Gender Equality in Antigua and Barbuda” – Call for Papers

The University of the West Indies Open Campus Antigua and Barbuda
and
The Antigua and Barbuda Studies Association

Present

Our 11th Annual Conference
and
Distinguished Lecture

“GENDER EQUALITY IN ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA”

The University of the West Indies Open Campus Antigua

August 11–12, 2016
Greetings All! Welcome to the call for papers for the 11th in the series of annual conferences on Antigua and Barbuda that have been jointly organized by the University of the West Indies Open Campus Antigua and Barbuda (UWI) and the Antigua and Barbuda Studies Association (ABSA). Many of the papers from last year’s historic 10th Anniversary conference will be published in this year’s issue of The Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books. For 2016, the theme of our conference will be “Gender Equality in Antigua and Barbuda”. Our keynote speaker will be Professor Natasha Lightfoot, author of the recently published book, Troubling Freedom: Antigua and the Aftermath of British Emancipation. It is our hope that you will be interested in presenting a paper at this important conference.

The changing relations between men and women in Antigua and Barbuda have been for some time now an intensely debated social issue. It is the theme of this year’s conference as a result of overwhelming demand. No other suggested topic came close. Clearly the time to take up this issue in the context of this particular forum has come.

Like many of the other societies of our region and across the globe, Antigua and Barbuda has been going through major changes in gender relations. These changes have been both structural and cultural in nature. That is, they are taking place at the levels of organizations and institutions as well as in the areas of identity construction and the narratives that legitimate our changing male and female identities. These significant changes in gender relations have been driven by the power of four historically reinforcing social movements aimed at changing or reforming the dominant capitalist social order. The first was the Pan African Movement of the early decades of the 20th century, which re-ignited the struggle against colonialism and anti-black racism in Antigua and Barbuda. The second was the international Workers Movement of the 1930s, which gave rise to the trade union movement in Antigua and Barbuda. Third, were the nationalist and civil rights movements across the Caribbean, Africa and Black America, which brought political independence to Antigua and Barbuda.

The fourth social movement contributing to current changes in gender relations in Antigua and Barbuda is the international Women’s Movement. This movement and its issues of gender equality were present but definitely submerged in the three previous social movements. Consequently, all four can be seen as a continuing chorus of different voices calling for change in the European-dominated social order of the early 20th century. The revolutionary and activist practices of the first three movements together with their failure to address the issues of gender equality within their own ranks and in the larger society set the stage for the rise of a global Women’s Movement, which has had very strong responses of support from the women of Antigua and Barbuda.

Gender inequality in Antigua and Barbuda has a long history, as long as the history of our country. It has African foundations, which established men as political leaders and dominant figures, at the same time that women were restricted primarily to the domestic sphere with only limited roles outside of the home in agriculture, marketing and the public life of lineage groups.

On these African foundations were imposed the gender relations of the period of colonization and slavery. As a result, these were centuries of colonial de-gendering – the masculinization of African women and the feminization of African men. The subjectivities of both were radically dehumanized – niggerized – as their labor was brutally exploited to generate profits for the sugar plantations. Added to this already extreme level of oppression was the sexual exploitation of Afro-Antiguan and Barbudan women.

In the post-slavery period, colonial policies of re-gendering according to European patriarchal norms were introduced. This was the era in which the Christian nuclear family was more systematically imposed the structures of the African family that survived the previous period of de-gendering and family disruption. Along with these new policies came the classes in home economics for teaching Afro-Antiguan and Barbudan women how to be good Victorian wives. Outside of the home, much later the fields of teaching and nursing opened as areas of employment for women along with dressmaking, which was done largely in the home. These post-slavery initiatives reached only a tiny percentage of the population. Thus the majority of men and women occupied creole or bicultural constructions of family life that left Afro-Antiguan and Barbudan women without the specific female protections that were enshrined in either the African or European kinship system.

This was the particularly disadvantaged position in which the failure of the post-slavery family reforms left Afro-Antiguan and Barbudan women. They were without the protections of African kinship institutions such as the lineage group and bride wealth, and without those that went with the legal status of a European wife. If we add to these the limited opportunities for employment issues such as spousal abuse, we can easily understand why Antiguan and Barbudan women have responded so positively to the feminist appeals and promises of the Women’s Movement.

The primary purpose of our conference is to assess where we are today with this project of gender equality in the postcolonial period. What have been the new policies adopted by the V.C. Bird, the Lester Bird, Baldwin Spencer and now Gaston Browne Administrations to address the status of women and improve family life for the majority of the population? We can point to obvious areas such as primary, secondary and tertiary education as well as the opening of many new areas of employment for Antiguan and Barbudan women. At the same time, we want to know what are the remaining areas of social life in which Antiguan and Barbudan women still experience gender discrimination. What of pay differentials? What of access to the arena of politics? What of spousal abuse? What of gendered occupations?

In 1997, in her keynote address to the recently opened Centre for Gender and Development at the University of the West Indies (Mona), Johnetta Cole told her audience: “It is we women who are the major participants in the churches, the backbones they call us, frying the chicken, making the roti, but it is the brothers who are almost always the heads, the leaders. It is we women who take the notes at the meetings, organize the buses for the rallies, go door-to-door to get the votes, but the it is always the brothers who are the Prime Ministers”. Is this where we still are today? And if so, what are we doing about it?

To address questions like these we suggest the following themes as guides in deciding the exact topic on which you will present:
Women and the structure of the Contemporary Antiguan and Barbudan Family

Gender policies of postcolonial administrations from Bird to Browne

Gender discrimination in Antigua and Barbuda

Gender and Sexuality in Antigua and Barbuda

Race and Gender in Antigua and Barbuda

Antiguan and Barbudan Women in Party Politics

Women and Education in Antigua and Barbuda

Antiguan and Barbudan women in the media

Growing up female in Antigua and Barbuda

Women in Antiguan and Barbudan music

Women and the Arts in Antigua and Barbuda

Antiguan and Barbudan women in carnival

Women and economic development in Antigua and Barbuda

Recent books by Antiguan and Barbudan women

Women and Calypso in Antigua and Barbuda

If you are interested in presenting a paper at this 2016 conference, please send us a brief abstract that includes your title, your name, and a brief description of the theme of your paper. These abstracts must be received by May 15, 2016. They will enable us to put you on the right panel. Your abstract, in a word document, should be emailed to: paget_henry@brown.edu and to janetlofgren@gmail.com .

Paget Henry Ian Benn Janet Lofgren
President Head Editorial Assistant
ABSA UWI (Antigua) A&B Review of Books

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