Cuban and Caribbean Studies Institute

Tulane University

Radical Caribbeans Conference convenes diverse group of scholars, artists, and activists

November 6th, 2013

From October 3rd through the 5th, researchers from across the US with diverse interests in the Caribbean attended the Radical Caribbeans Conference in downtown New Orleans. The conference was organized by the Cuban and Caribbean Studies Institute at Tulane University. In addition to the diversity of disciplines and research interests represented by the 75 participants, the conference hosted multiple film screenings and cultural performances. Through myriad forms, Radical Caribbeans decentered the analytical prisms through which we view the Caribbean, asking conference participants to radically reframe the region in the geographical, ideological, and cultural spaces that remain in the shadows and on the periphery.

Conference participants included academics from disciplines as diverse as Comparative Literature, History, Anthropology, as well as independent scholars, fiction writers and journalists. The diversity of the backgrounds of conference participants strengthened the intentions and mission of the conference to explore the roots of Caribbean life and culture through a “radical perspective” that disconnects, reconnects and electrocutes how the region has traditionally been framed.

Conference panels included “Departures and Returns” chaired by Ana María Serra, Associate Professor at American University; “Dislocations of Race and Power” chaired by Annie Gibson, Professor of Practice at Tulane University; “The ‘Northern’ Caribbean: Louisiana Connections” chaired by Supriya Nair, Associate Professor of English at Tulane; “Mobilities and Dislocations” chaired by Bridgette W. Gunnels, Visiting Assistant Professor of Spanish at Emory University; and “Peripheral Subjectivities” chaired by April Shemak, Associate Professor of English at Sam Houston State University.

The keynote speaker was Professor José Quiroga, Professor of Spanish and Comparative Literature at Emory University. Quiroga’s talk, “Undercover Caribbean Wars, 1976-1981”, explored the connections between Puerto Rican nationalism and radical Cuban politics of the 1960s and 1970s. In his talk, Quiroga reframed violence, political ideology and gender politics within a regional perspective while reinscribing the Caribbean islands as undercover proxies for political interventions.

Running concurrently with the conference was the traveling film festival “Submerged: Alternative Cuban Cinema Festival”. This unique series, sponsored in collaboration with Florida Atlantic University, Tulane University, Rice University and Princeton University, screened films made independently of the Cuban state run film institute el ICAIC, thereby offering an alternative to institutionally sanctioned or sponsored media. These films challenge conventional topics and forms and, by contesting expectations and cinematic traditions, they function subversively to defy norms and redefine Cuban film.

For a list and synopses of these films and for more information about “Submerged: Alternative Cuban Cinema Festival”, click here.

On the last day of the conference, Raul Moarquech Ferrera-Balanquet performed “Mariposa Ancestral Memory” at the New Movement Theater. Ferrera-Balanquet is an interdisciplinary artist who grew up in revolutionary Cuba and went into exile through Mariel in 1980. “Mariposa Ancestral Memory” integrated a multimedia installation, digital video, and performance to connect resonating historical, cultural, and social events, including African Caribbean writing, US Latina/o migration, the Mariel Exodus, the Black Panther Movement, the imprisonment of Angela Davis, Maya and Afro-Caribbean Queer spiritualities, along with the artists’ own life experiences.

“The Radical Caribbeans Conference gathered an impressive group of scholars, artists, and activists who took on the challenge of reframing our knowledge and experience of the Caribbean region. Their rhizomatic explorations of Caribbean art, culture and life resonated deeply within and across panels and produced a generative space for ongoing work in the region,” says Ana López, Director of the Cuban and Caribbean Studies Institute and Associate Professor of Communications at Tulane.

For more information on the conference participants, click here.


José Quiroga delivering his plenary talk.


From left to right: Cesar Salgado (UT Austin), Odette Casamayor (University of Connecticut), and Antonio Ponte (NYU).


Keynote speaker José Quiroga (right) with Omar Granados from University of Wisconsin at LaCrosse.


Marcelo Fajardo-Cárdenas (left) from Mary Washington and Anne Garland Mahler from the University of Arizona.

The Radical Caribbeans Conference was organized by the Cuban and Caribbean Studies Institute and generously sponsored by Tulane University and the Stone Center for Latin American Studies.