Mailbox – Antigua-Barbudan Conference, Call for Papers

The details of this call for papers have already been shared in the Opportunities Too page – you can use the search feature to find that page and with it the Conference call for papers and other writerly, artistic, and scholarly deadlines (contests, markets etc.). But I’ll share the full letter from the office of conference organizer Dr. Paget Henry of Brown University, and, before that, Antigua.

Conference organizer, Brown University Professor, Paget Henry of Antigua.

Dr. Paget Henry, pictured here at a past conference at the Enlightenment Academy is one of the chief organizers of this annual August event.

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

Present

Our 12th Annual Conference
and
Distinguished Lecture

“JOURNEYS IN ANTIGUAN/CARIBBEAN THOUGHT AND DEVELOPMENT”

The University of the West Indies Open Campus Antigua
August 10–11, 2017

Greetings All! Yes, it is indeed time for us to start planning for our 2017 meeting. So welcome to the call for papers for the 12th 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).  Last year our theme was “Gender Equality in Antigua and Barbuda”. This year it will be new and rising trends in Antiguan/Caribbean thought and their implications for the new global order in which we are now living.  This focus on our traditions of thought and the new challenges confronting them was in part suggested by the interests and concerns of our keynote speaker, the distinguished Jamaican philosopher, Professor Lewis Gordon.

Prof. Gordon, along with Professors Jane Gordon, Aaron Kamugisha and Neil Roberts, last year edited and published a collection of Paget Henry’s essays that is entitled, Journeys in Caribbean Thought: The Paget Henry Reader. This book, which was launched last year in New York, is the basis for the theme of this year’s conference. As we launch this year’s issue of The Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books, we will also be doing an Antigua and Barbuda launch of this book. Further, serving as the guest editor for this year’s A &B Review of Books, Prof. Jane Gordon has collected many of the essays that were presented at the New York launch and will be joining us for the conference and the launch. Also gracing us with his presence will be the distinguished Ethiopian philosopher, Prof. Teodros Kiros. We hope that you will be interested in presenting a paper at this conference.

By making “Journeys in Antiguan/Caribbean Thought and Development” this year’s conference theme, we are hoping to bring out into the open the new thinking about our future that the changing world is calling forth from us. More specifically, we are hoping that the theme will elicit from you thoughts and concerns about the new paths and policies – economic, political, environmental and cultural – that we should be pursuing now that the era of neoliberal globalization is fast receding. What is likely to take its place? What can we do to shape this emerging order? Will it be better than the neoliberal order for Antigua and the wider Caribbean?

The era of neoliberal globalization, which started in the early 1980s, brought to an end a period of insurgent national development that began in in the late 1930s. This insurgent movement gave us a new collective identity to strive for, a new “We” that was regional and modern in orientation. In the area of culture, we re-affirmed our African heritage, re-valorized our blackness, and linked these cultural changes to the identity of our postcolonial state in the making. In sports, cricket soared to world-class levels as we entered the era of Andy Roberts and Vivian Richards. Calypso and steel band also soared to new heights as we moved to embrace our future.

However, by the late 1970s, this regional development project had entered a period that Guyanese economist, Clive Thomas referred to as one of “permanent crisis”. The regional frame of our nation was severely cracked in 1962, its economic foundations began to be de-stabilized by external events such as rises in oil prices, drops in the price of sugar, and recessions in the advanced Western societies, which were the major sources of demand in our economies. Debt levels began to rise, as well as unemployment, balance of payments and terms of trade problems. Insular party politics became more polarized – the red and the blue in Antigua and Barbuda – leading to rising levels of authoritarianism and corruption. These growing challenges led well-known Antiguan author and politician, Novelle Richards to label these “the locust years”.

The Caribbean and other developing countries had their own answers to these difficulties that were derailing their nationalist projects. These solutions were summed up in the package of reforms that came to be known as the New International Economic Order (NIEO). Then Deputy Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Lester Bird, was a strong supporter of the reforms of the NIEO. At the same time, the Western powers had their own solutions to these growing problems of the developing countries. They were summed up in a set of neoliberal reforms that came to be known as structural adjustment packages (SAPs) or the Washington Consensus.

With bargaining positions severely weakened by their economic difficulties, developing countries were in no position to fight for their NIEO solutions or to resist the imposition of the SAP solutions by the West. Thus by the early 1980s, over 70 developing countries were forced to implement SAPs, which included the opening local commodity and financial markets to international competition, cutting government spending, privatizing state assets, devaluing currencies, and ending of subsidies as conditions for the loans they needed to address debt and other problems.

In Antigua and other Caribbean territories, this neoliberal order not only ended the period of insurgent nationalist transformation, but forced major shifts in strategies of economic survival. Our industrial sectors collapsed, internet-gaming arose, and financial sectors liberalized and expanded, driven by off-shore banking. In Antigua and Barbuda, all of the economic possibilities and risks that came with this turn to finance and its global liberalization were embodied in the figure of Allen Stanford. He made exceptionally clear the type of investors that international capital markets were allocating to places like Antigua and Barbuda.

In spite of economic life being subjected more firmly to the logic and profit imperatives of capital markets, this was a period that saw significant developments in our cultural life. There were profound changes in gender relations as Antiguan and Barbudan women became more energized and organized. Antiguan and Barbudan writing soared to new heights with the works of Jamaica Kincaid, Edgar Lake and Joanne C. Hillhouse. At the same time significant advances were being made in the localizing of church music. But in spite of these important developments in the cultural arena, that earlier sense of an emerging nationalist “We” continued to fragment as centrifugal and divisive forces continued to overwhelm centripetal and unifying forces.

Then, in surprising and spectacular fashion, the neoliberal order with its SAPs and self-regulating markets came crashing down in the financial hurricane of 2008. As the developing countries watched the Western countries spend trillions of dollars and trillions of Euros rescuing their economies and not the SAPs they prescribed for us, the legitimacy of the neoliberal order began to dissolve. It place has been taken by a confusing and disturbing dissensus, as far Right voices have moved to the centers of Western political life. The new leader of the United States is a type of person that Antiguans and Barbudans should know very well after living through the spectacular rise and fall of our financial sector. The similarities between the personality of Donald Trump and that of Allen Stanford are inescapable. Their approaches to both wealth and power are very similar, and provide us with valuable clues for understanding the world that we are now in.

The primary purpose of our conference is to assess where we are today with this “permanent crisis” which has overtaken our nationalist project since the late 1970s. Thus we need to examine carefully the impact of the neoliberal era on those “years that the locust hath eaten”. Has the SAPs of this era been food or antidote for the locusts of debt, unemployment and rising levels of state authoritarianism? Where are we with the rescuing of our financial sector after its major collapse? After the record of investors allocated to us by international capital markets – Robert Vesco, Stanley Siegal, Bruce Rappaport, Dato Tan, and Allen Stanford, isn’t it time for a new approach to meeting our investments needs? Where are we with the long-standing locusts of party polarization, patronage, and political victimization? What of gender relations? Race relations? What is going on in our worlds of sports and culture? Are we on the rise or decline? What is the likely impact of the Donald Trump presidency on these long-standing issues? Will it make the next few years a time of plenty or years of lean? Given these issues and concerns, some of the topics you should consider for your presentation are the following:
What is the present state of our nationalist project, that project of building a new postcolonial collective “We” after our first 36 years of independence?

How are we doing with our knowledge using and producing sectors? Are they growing or contracting? How connected are they to the main engines our economy?

What are the prospects for our main engine of economic growth, the tourist sector? Is progress being made by our government on proposals that have been made for programs in edu-tourism? That is, mutually beneficial linkages between our educational and tourist sectors.

What can or what have our tertiary institutions been doing to establish or expand programs in edu-tourism?

Is Prime Minister Gaston Browne’s pursuit of a Yida deal different from deals with Stanford, Dato Tan, Bruce Rappaport and others?

After our very mixed record of attracting quality foreign capitalists, what can we do to strengthen our local entrepreneurs, improve the local capital market, and so reduce our dependence on foreign capital imports?

Are foreign capitalist likely to be even more of the rapacious, profiting without producing type in the Trump era?

With the collapse of neoliberal economics, where or to whom should we, in ABSA and our local policy establishment, turn for economic guidance? Where shall we look for guidance in political theory and the practice of re-organizing states?

We survived the neoliberal era by moving our Labour Parties closer to the Center as Tony Blair did with the British Labour Party. Is it time to return to the Black democratic socialist roots of our nationalist movement and rethink them in our own image and interests?

As we observe China, the U.S., Latin America, and now Africa begin to pull themselves out of the financial collapse of 2008 by various strategies, what should be the strategy by which we navigate our way back to economic growth?

What are the prospects for the Antiguan and Barbudan working class in the years ahead? What are the prospects for race relations?

How will our working class survive the new rounds of automation that are on their way, and the coming shifts in the geography of industrialization as China changes its developmental strategies?

What are the prospects for gender relations? Will women continue to be energized and organized, while men continue to underperform and stay disorganized?

Are sports less effective creative outlets for young men or are they in need of better and more effective organization?

What is our literature or our music saying about all or some of these issues?

What new books on Antigua/Caribbean have come out lately that you would like to write about?

If you are interested in presenting a paper at this 2017 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 20, 2017. 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
President
ABSA

Ian Benn
Head
UWI (Antigua)

Janet Lofgren
Editorial Assistant
A&B Review of Books

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