The house smells….
of sorrel & I’m not complaining! :)
Lately I have been feeling like I just want to be working with my hands….creatively, in collaboration with others, in community development efforts….that is not however, what my time is really being taken up with…it is all about this academia right now. Luckily I am working with a topic and methods that I am excited about and that connect me directly with the communities I want to work with.
But since the program I am in is less than engaging…I am just seeing this thesis as writing my own ticket. This is my pass back to being able to use my time in the ways that I want. To use my time to help incubate the powerful, creative energies in Grenada and the broader region towards efforts of empowerment, self-sustainability and laughter. Check out www.3rdward.com and www.urbanartbeat.org for models that reflect some of what I want to set up in Grenada.
…ok time to stop procrastinating and wishing I didn’t just have to sit here and grind out this research proposal…back to work.
I am working in the West Indiana Section of the library. It is the special collection of material on the Caribbean. It is great that UWI makes a effort to archive these things. Anyway I am feeling pretty good about my research proposal. I went to class this evening and the professor said some things (like the proposals for the MA can be shorter than those submitting for MPhils & Phds) that put me at ease. She is also not overly caught up with smaller structural details. My main challenge is to get myself to write my thoughts out. If I write two pages everyday from now until sunday I will have a full length draft and two days to review it before handing it in.
I also have some more reading to do for the literature review…. I have done enough (for now) on memory/history/historical consciousness…though if i can find some studies that deal with these issues in a caribbean context that would be great.
Besides that I am looking for readings on…
*colonial/post colonial education
*other radical movements/revolutions in the caribbean and how they are remembered
Below is the research proposal (max 4pp) that I had to hand in today as part of my application for, The 20th Century: Revolutions and Nationalism Revisited in Peru. The proposal was to show what our research is and what methodology we are employing or considering…This was a great first step, I have to hand in a 15pp proposal to my department on this project in a month.
On May 29th 2009, thirty years after the start of the Grenada Revolution and twenty six years after the U.S. invaded, the island nation’s airport was renamed The Maurice Bishop International Airport. During the official renaming ceremony in his feature address, Ralph Gonsalves Prime Minister of St. Vincent & the Grenadines, stated that “Grenada and Maurice have come home symbolically and in reality … this belated honor to an outstanding Caribbean son will bring closure to a chapter of denial in Grenada’s history.” At the same event Hon. Peter David, Grenada’s Minister of Tourism and Aviation, also declared, “This is neither an exercise to canonise Maurice or gloss over history but is to be a sacred commitment to the accuracy of history put in its proper context.” These very public references to the complexity of history and memory around the Grenada Revolution are anomalies that elicit the following questions: What factors and power dynamics inform decisions about how collective memory is being formulated and official history written? What role did the US invasion and occupation play in informing how people spoke or did not speak about the Revolution? Are contemporary events such as the official renaming of the airport in Grenada part of sustainable shifts in the way that history is being constructed?
Though there is a fair amount of literature that critically investigates the Revolution and U.S. Invasion, there is a paucity of research about the after effects of these major events in Grenada’s history. Similarly, among the Grenadian people there has also been a tangible silence around that epoch as scholar and poet Merle Collins has consistently referenced in her work over the past few decades. In a piece called Shame Bush (2003) she wrote, “ Look is twenty years and the nation still hurting/People playing a waiting game, they just not talking.” In the past few years, particularly in the diaspora, there has been some investigation into the ways that memory functions in relation to these events. At the end of 2008 in Toronto, there were a series of performances, readings and reflections called Memory and Renewal: 25 years After the US Invasion: The Grenada Story. Prior to this, Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism dedicated their February 2007 edition to Grenada with a number of references to the legacy of the Revolution. In this contemporary context, the research I propose is particularly timely, joining the work of Dr. Shalini Puri, a scholar who participated in the above mentioned events in Toronto. Dr. Puri’s lecture entitled Operation Urgent Memory: The Grenada Revolution and the Caribbean Present presents research from her upcoming book (to be published 2012). Her work explores the links between political and cultural memory arguing that these events of the early 1980s in Grenada continue to have consequences for the entire region. Though these debates are beginning outside of the island, there has been a lack of organized discussion in Grenada.
Framing my investigation through the lens of power and silence, positions this proposed research within a larger discussion in which scholars such as Sara Ahmed and Michel-Rolph Trouillot are already engaged. In his recent work, Silencing the Past: Power and Production of History Trouillot states that, “Any historical narrative is a bundle of silences” (27). He complicates the idea that there are only two ways of viewing history: either a positivist or a constructivist approach. He calls for a more dynamic conceptualization of how history is made and remade. Sara Ahmed’s investigation of declarations of diversity in the United Kingdom explores methods of overshadowing voices and producing silences on an institutional level. Ahmed employs a model she calls “non-performatives.” To elaborate on her meaning, she refers to John Austin’s notion of a performative as a class of speech that does what it says contingent upon conditions being in place to facilitate action (2). So non-performatives therefore are acts (spoken words, performance, writing, visual images) that do not manifest the effects that they are naming. This model of performative and non-performative acts provides one possible framework for looking at government declarations and actions such as the ones involved in the renaming of the airport in Grenada. Does the “sacred commitment to the accuracy of history” that Hon Peter David spoke to in his speech at the airport also apply to comprehensive changes such as curriculum revision?
As a Grenadian with an already established network on the island, the four months I spend in Grenada from May to August will be used to take a multi-method approach to this research project. I plan to utilize oral history, interviews, participant observation and non-reactive research. This approach will allow me to access perspectives from both the state and the people on the ground. I will work with roughly ten respondents for the oral histories. In a circumstance such as this, where some of the topics may involve traumatic events, oral history can provide a safe space for respondents to mine their memories over the course of a few sessions. It also allows more room for respondents to set the framework for discussion, which can illuminate what, from their perspective, is important. I intend to use group interviews in the school setting. I plan to work with one secondary school in each of the 6 parishes on the island, and I have already made preliminary contact with 3 schools. The groups will include two students from each of the 5 grade levels. Additionally I will work with two similarly sized groups from the T.A. Marryshow Community College. Participant observation provides the opportunity to get a first hand sense of the events that are taking place and the ways that people are discussing the revolution on a more grassroots level. I have begun to research what events will be happening during my fieldwork, which deal with local history. I also plan to approach relevant groups and NGOs such as the “Maurice Bishop and Oct 19th, 1983 Martyrs Foundation.” Non-reactive research, such as analyzing newspaper archives, recordings of speeches and school curricula will allow me to explore how the discourse around the revolution has been framed through the state. One archival resource available at my institution, The University of the West Indies, is a collection of newspaper clippings, primarily from the Trinidad Guardian and The Trinidad Express, about the Revolution from its downfall (1983) onward. Apart from these the University also has a collection of the Free West Indian, the Grenada government’s newspaper during the Revolution.
The construction of history is informed by perspectives from the present, silences are not simply inherited, they are recreated daily. This research aims to investigate the political and cultural contexts that inform memory and national identity. By using the aftermath of the Grenada Revolution and subsequent US invasion as a case study, I hope to add to this emerging field of exploration and assist in setting the groundwork for more open discussion in Grenada about the impact of these monumental events. From there we, as Grenadians, and Caribbean people broadly, are in a more powerful position to use our history, learn from our mistakes and build on foundations that were started but never finished.