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Interesting piece by Daniel José Older on Sonia Manzano, who played María on Sesame Street. Raised in the Bronx, Manzano—described in the article as “proudly brown and representing Nuyorican excellence in all its glory—was inspired by her Puerto Rican family. She attended the High School of Performing Arts, where she began acting, and was a Carnegie Mellon student when she was hired on Sesame Street. Hats off to Sonia Manzano!

It would be easy to call Sonia Manzano’s upcoming retirement from Sesame Street the end of an era – and in a way it is: Manzano’s semi-autobiographical character Maria has graced public television’s screens for 44 years, brightening the lives of millions of children over several generations and changing television forever. It’s that change that makes this moment feel less like an ending and more like a graceful transition into the next chapter.

Manzano, then a 21-year-old Carnegie Mellon student, walked into the Sesame Street audition in the early 70s, amidst the turmoil and excitement of civil rights and Vietnam war protests. The world was changing and Sesame Street, then only a few years old, was speaking to that change on TV screens across America. “I had never seen people of color on television,” Manzano told CBS last year. “And that was like whoa! This show is really in your face and outrageous.” She went on to become an integral part of the multicultural neighborhood, as well as one of the lead writers, garnering 15 Emmys over the next four decades.

Manzano’s gift to us, the power of her presence, lies in the fullness of Maria’s humanity. While still being proudly brown and representing Nuyorican excellence in all its glory, Maria never became a caricature, never boxed herself into the facile images of Latinos that American television sometimes still offers up. She slipped easily in and out of Spanish and English, celebrated her culture lovingly, became a feminist, worked as a repair woman, got married and had a baby, and, perhaps most importantly, aged – all before our eyes. She doesn’t ham at the camera or condescend to the kids and muppets: theirs is a relationship of mutual respect and admiration.

In a Sesame Street segment from 1994, Oscar the Grouch sprays Maria with Disappear-O, turning her invisible. She shrieks, demanding to be seen again. It takes help from her husband Luis and a blast of water from Oscar’s pet elephant to get her back to normal, but the power of that moment – the fight to be seen – is what Manzano’s career is all about: “I’m Puerto Rican, born in New York, watched a lot of television in 50s, never saw anybody who looked like me on television, and thereby began to feel invisible … and I wondered, how was I going to contribute to a society that didn’t see me?”

The answer to that question came in the form of her decades long career. “Now, my position here on Sesame Street,” Manzano said, “is so that other Hispanic children can watch me and say ‘Oh look, I exist in the world.’” We did see her, millions of us, and saw ourselves in her: a fully formed and emotionally complex human surrounded by a loving community, and because she was who she was, we knew we could be who we were. [. . .]

For full article, see http://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2015/jul/05/sesame-street-maria-latino-kids-identity

Posted by: ivetteromero | July 6, 2015

Institute of Puerto Rican Culture Awards for Literature

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These are excerpts of a recently–published article “ICP entrega sus Premios de Literatura” from 80grados (3 July 2015), announcing the recent literature awards hosted by the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture:

During the celebration of the sixtieth anniversary of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture (ICP) the winners of the National Literary Awards were announced. At the ceremony, which was held at the ICP Library in Old San Juan on Sunday, June 28, 2015, winners were announced for awards in the categories of Poetry, Short Story, and Children’s Literature (leaving the awards for Novel and Essay unassigned).

In the newly minted Children’s Literature category, Sylma García González won the award with the book Consultores de misterios. García González, who teaches at the University of Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras, said that “although I have published a book of criticism, this would be my first publication of a literary text [. . .]. The manuscript El día que tu secreto se hizo mío by Mary Bird Picó earned an honorable mention. Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro was the winner in the Short Story category with a story titled “Menorragia.” [. . .] Joel Feliciano’s “Que todo se conecta” was awarded an honorable mention. In the Poetry category, Alberto Prieto Fernández won with Teoría del inverno in the accounted for winter Theory Award Alberto Fernández Prieto, with an honorable mention for Saber de sed by Anthony Hernández Rivera.

[. . .] Ángel Antonio Ruiz Laboy, Director of ICP Press [. . .] expressed gratitude for the warm welcome with which the awards had been received and he stressed the importance of supporting the work done by our writers. He also announced that ICP Press will start working immediately with the editing and publication of the winning manuscripts for presenting in October during the Festival of the Word, an event sponsored by the ICP. He also announced ICP Press had resumed publication of the Literatura Hoy [Literature Today] series, with six new titles coming out next month. This series of inexpensive paperback editions aims to represent the current pulse of literature in the country. [. . .]

For original article (in Spanish), see http://www.80grados.net/icp-entrega-sus-premios-de-literatura/

optimist-north-american-championship-2015

The St. Croix Source reports on 9 young sailors from the US Virgin Islands who have started an intensive week of competitive sailing in Antigua. The 2015 Optimist North American Championship taking place right now, from July 5 through 12.

USVI Sailors 070615-250x166The nine sailors from St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John are competing in the 2015 North America Championship which has attracted 163 sailors from 23 countries. With a 10-day program that includes training, five days of fleet racing and one day of team racing, these young sailors have a busy schedule from July 3 until July 13.

The USVI Team members ranging between 11 and 15 years of age include Mateo Di Blasi from St John; Victoria Flatley, Mia Nicolosi, Teddy Nicolosi and Julian van den Driessche from St Thomas; Mathieu Dale, Steven Hardee, Rider Odom and Lake Sanford from St. Croix.

Together with their coach Argy Resano, these sailors have competed in a number of local and international events this year. The North American Championship is among one of the top international events for this popular dinghy class.

For original article, see http://stcroixsource.com/content/news/local-sports/2015/07/06/nine-usvi-sailors-compete-2015-optimist-north-america-champions

See more news at http://www.optinam2015.org/ and http://www.sailingscuttlebutt.com/2015/04/04/video-antigua-optimist-north-americans-2015/

Posted by: ivetteromero | July 6, 2015

U.S. Business Schools Seek Cuban Students

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Lindsay Gellman (Wall Street Journal) writes on how recruiters from U.S business schools are eager to “snap up fresh talent from a market that has been off-limits—until now.” A major draw is the reputation of Cuba’s quality, higher-education system in math and sciences, among other factors. [Many thanks to Ariana Hernández Reguant for bringing this item to our attention.] Here are excerpts:

For years, U.S. b-schools have taken academic trips to Cuba so students could study its emerging economy, thanks to a provision in the U.S. trade embargo that allowed for licensed educational travel. But those schools have been reluctant to try recruiting full-time students from the island nation because of the restrictions in both countries.

Now, as relations between the U.S. and Cuba normalize, schools such as the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business say they expect to enroll Cubans as soon as they can clear some administrative challenges.

The Cuban market is attractive in part because the country’s higher-education system has a reputation for developing students who are strong in math and the sciences, especially health care, said Derrick Bolton, director of M.B.A. admissions and assistant dean at Stanford GSB. “They have a strong education around sciences, and you combine that with broader interest in engaging with the world” via newly available opportunities in the U.S., he said.

Logistical hurdles such as the country’s fledgling technological and financial infrastructures remain, admissions officers, professors and test administrators pointed out, making it difficult to pin down timetables or set plans into motion. The Cuban government also is wary of allowing students trained in communist thought to study the ins and outs of capitalism, and might be reluctant to grant students permission to study in the U.S., professors say.

“Wharton would be very interested in recruiting in Cuba,” said Mauro Guillen, director of the school’s Lauder Institute for Management and International Studies. “A year from now it might well be feasible,” added Mr. Guillen, who has led several Wharton student trips to Cuba.

Admissions officers said their timetable for planning recruiting visits to the nation depends on when standardized testing becomes available. So at the urging of schools, entrance-exam administrators are working to establish Cuba test centers.

“We’ve been looking at what it would take to deliver a test” to the Cuban market, said Sangeet Chowfla, president and chief executive of the Graduate Management Admission Council, which administers the GMAT, the main business school admissions test. GMAC is in the process of evaluating candidate demand for the test, and the logistics involved in administration, such as Internet connectivity and security for test centers, he said. A handful of Cuban nationals take the GMAT in other countries each year, according to GMAC.

As early as October Cuban students will be able to take the GRE revised general test, a graduate-school entrance exam accepted in lieu of the GMAT by many top business schools, in their home country, according to the Educational Testing Service, which administers the exam. [. . .]

For full article, see http://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-business-schools-seek-cuban-students-1435781081

obsesión

Negra cubana tenía que ser blog [¡Gracias!] just shared a spectacular song by Supercrónica Obsesión, one of the most recognized rap groups in Cuba. As Sandra Abd’Allah-Alvarez Ramírez writes, this video is fresh out of the oven. The song—“Tú con tu ballet” is from their album entitled El Disco Negro de Obsesión, which received a Cubadisco Award in 2011. The song deals with race relations in an exceptionally witty way, using racist phrases that are often repeated, sometimes inadvertently (“I’m not racist; my best friend is black;” “I’ll pass on the rumba; it’s backward…”) in Cuban everyday life and beyond. I love its mix of rap with traditional Afro-Cuban rhythms.

Here is a little information on Supercrónica Obsesión, written by Abd’Allah-Alvarez Ramírez on 8 April 2014. These are excerpts of her post “Supercrónica Obsesión: cuando la música y el activismo van de la mano” (Supercrónica Obsesión: When Music and Activism Go Hand in Hand) [also see our previous posts Defending Rap in Cuba, Cuban Rap “Straight Outta Havana”, and Obsesión – the conscience of Cuban hip-hop.]:

The group Supercrónica Obsesión was founded on June 25, 1996. Attracted by the warm and renovating influences of rap, its members Alexey Rodríguez (aka “el tipo este”) and Magia López quickly formed the ranks of the vanguard that were protagonists in the process of appropriation and definition of gender in Cuban culture. Since then and still today, its members are loyal and proud representatives of the African heritage present beyond their roots, through their aesthetics and the art that they deliver day to day.

[. . .] Obsesión’s music reflects an interesting balance between gender issues and a stylistic and musical diversity that moves through many elements, from jazz, Cuban music, and a range of currents of African origin present in Cuba and Latin America, to the creation of very different texts, where the message—always in the form of a chronicle—proposes changes in behavior and stereotypical attitudes.

During their long career, Obsesión has combined good art, humor, and a refreshing intention, with activism, community work, and the struggle to build a better world.

Listen to “Tú con tu ballet” here:

For full description of Supercrónica Obsesión, go to http://negracubanateniaqueser.com/2014/04/08/supercronica-obsesion-cuando-la-musica-y-el-activismo-van-de-la-mano/

For her original post on the video, see http://negracubanateniaqueser.com/2015/07/07/obsesion-estrena-el-videoclip-de-tu-con-tu-ballet/

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This article by Sateesh Maharaj appeared in Trinidad’s Express.

When most people think of Haiti, images of the devastating earthquake in 2010 immediately come to mind.

Guy Francois Jr, Consulate General to Haiti in Miami says the country has since been making tremendous progress, even attracting increased foreign investments. Carifesta XII, which will be held in that country from August 21 to 30, is just another manifestition of this positive input. This year’s event will be held in five different cities; Jacmel, known for arts and crafts; Port au Prince with theatres; Gonaives where study sessions and workshops will take place; Les Cayes where a music concert will be held and additional events will take place in Cap Hatien.

Carifesta—the Caribbean Festival of Creative Arts—was first held in 1972 in Guyana from August 25 to September 15. Two successive Conferences of outstanding Caribbean Writers and Artists in 1966 and 1970 recommended to the prime minister of Guyana that they would welcome the invitation to an annual Festival of the Arts.

The prime minister had related his vision of a cultural mecca for the region’s people. It was a vision of peoples with roots deep in Asia, Europe and Africa coming together to share, to perform their art forms. The dream embraced the literature inspired by our peculiar Caribbean temperament, paintings inspired by our tropical jungles and art visualising our forefathers in the distant past.

Francois added: “Carifesta is one of the biggest festivals in the region that gathers Caribbean countries. Non-Caricom countries also attend to share their culture. There are nine different categories of events: gastronomy, theatre cinema literature, dance, music, craft market, fashion and art.”

Haiti is hosting Carifesta for the first time and Francois says that country is very rich in culture and history.

“We are very excited to showcase that to the Caribbean. I think that it is a great opportunity for us. Uniting the cultures is a big first for us.

Haitian President Michel Martelly is an artist himself and he saw the vision of having such an event in our country. I think it will greatly benefit our country.

Francois said that during the last Carifesta in Suriname in 2013 Haiti was well represented.

“We had Haitian chefs, dance troupes; we were basically represented in each section.”

He said it was going to be very interesting seeing the Haitian and Trinidadian food together during Carifesta.

Francois believes that having Carifesta in Haiti will give the festival a lot of exposure.

“I think it is something new, especially to the Haitians living abroad in the United States. We have about two million Haitians living in the diaspora. We’ve done a roadshow to go into different cities with the Minister of Tourism where we presented Carifesta which was new to a lot of those people. We’re going to have elected officials from different cities in the United States come experience the Carifesta.”

Francois added that hotels will be offering packages for visitors coming in specifically for the event.

He said the entire island was anticipating the event and invited the region to see past differences and acknowledge our similarities.

“It’s like the Olympics of the arts in the Caribbean. The Haitian community both in Haiti and abroad are excited to reunite with the Caribbean. We’ve been lacking that. A lot of people say we don’t speak the same language but we need to put that aside.

“At the end of the day when you go to Haiti most people understand English so they will be able to communicate. So this is not an excuse. We have several things in common—our arts and crafts, and dance and Carnival. There is a lot we can learn from each other and do exchanges. For example steelpan is known in Haiti but we haven’t used it as yet. So having a pan workshop could be a good addition [to the festival]. We also have a lot of instruments that we can share with the Trini delegation.”

Francois predicts that Carifesta will also make a great impact on the economy in giving people jobs.

“As I’m speaking to you, everyone is involved. Culture brings everyone out. Everyone will benefit from the traffic of the delegations.”

And while he did not want to reveal too much of what one could expect at the various locations, he was eager for visitors to see what the island had in store for them.

He said: “We can’t wait for people to see what we’re going to bring. Haitian people are very welcoming. You’ll see the smiles once you land at the airport.”

For the original report go to http://www.trinidadexpress.com/20150705/features/the-olympics-of-the-arts

Posted by: lisaparavisini | July 5, 2015

Cuba and the spirit of revolution

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The Cuban revolution is the fountain of resilience and determination, writes Sihle Zikalala in this opinion piece for South Africa’s Mercury/Independent. Zikalala is the ANC’s KwaZulu-Natal provincial secretary. Our thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.

Any revolution that seeks to transfer power to the people should eventually result in the betterment of the lives of those pursuing such struggle, in particular the motive forces of revolution.

Like a number of revolutions in the world, the Cuban Revolution remains an inspiration to many cadres who believe in the principle of an equal social and economic status of all people.

Like many other revolutions, the Cuban revolution has gone through many sacrifices.

The 1956 struggle against the regime of Batista saw many revolutionaries losing their lives while others ended up in prison, including the former president of Cuba, Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz.

However, the resilience they showed provided determination for the liberation of the Cuban people.

It is such determination which propelled Comrade Castro to face the tyranny without regret.

Even after he was arrested for leading the struggle against the Batista regime, he never backed off but unapologetically presented the vision of their struggle and succinctly outlined the objectives of such struggle.

Presenting his testimony, which was later produced in the book titled History Will Absolve Me, Fidel Castro had this to say: “In terms of struggle, when we talk about people we’re talking about the 600 000 Cubans without work, who want to earn their daily bread honestly without having to emigrate from their homeland in search of a livelihood; the 500 000 farm labourers who live in miserable shacks, who work four months of the year and starve the rest, sharing their misery with their children, who don’t have an inch of land to till and whose existence would move any heart not made of stone; the 400 000 industrial workers and labourers whose retirement funds have been embezzled, whose benefits are being taken away, whose homes are wretched quarters, whose salaries pass from the hands of the boss to those of the moneylender, whose future is a pay reduction and dismissal, whose life is endless work and whose only rest is the tomb; the 100 000 small farmers who live and die working land that is not theirs, looking at it with the sadness of Moses gazing at the promised land, to die without ever owning it, who like feudal serfs have to pay for the use of their parcel of land by giving up a portion of its produce, who cannot love it, improve it, beautify it nor plant a cedar or an orange tree on it because they never know when a sheriff will come with the rural guard to evict them from it …

“These are the people, the ones who know misfortune and, therefore, are capable of fighting with limitless courage!

“To these people whose desperate roads through life have been paved with the bricks of betrayal and false promises, we were not going to say: ‘We will give you …’ but rather: ‘Here it is, now fight for it with everything you have, so that liberty and happiness may be yours.’”

While knowing the brutality of the tyrant Batista regime Comrade Fidel never pleaded for the mercy of the judge but was rather prepared to suffer for the cause of the struggle hence he concluded his testimony by saying: “I know that imprisonment will be harder for me than it has ever been for anyone, filled with cowardly threats and hideous cruelty.

“But I do not fear prison, as I do not fear the fury of the miserable tyrant who took the lives of 70 of my comrades. Condemn me. It does not matter. History will absolve me.”

Such testimony was not the last to be seen in this world, it resonates with former president Nelson Mandela when he faced the apartheid judge in the famous Rivonia trial.

Mandela never apologised for ideas he stood for during the trial, not even during the 1985 efforts of the regime to release him only if he was to denounce the struggle.

The Cuban revolution is the fountain of resilience and determination.

Such determination has kept the Cubans together for many years facing the aggressive imperial onslaught of the American government right on their doorstep.

The arrest of the Cuban Five is one such vicious evil perpetrated by the Americans against the Cubans. Yet this was not the last, the illegitimate blockade imposed by America against Cuba is the last prolonged effort that seeks to break the Cuban Revolution.

While we appreciate the release of the Cuban Five, the fight against the blockade against Cuba must continue.

Equally the fight against imperialism that loots economies of many African states and other parts of the world must continue.

The Cuban Revolution is also the epitome of internationalism.

This spirit of internationalism is informed by the desire to ensure fair trade among and between different countries of the world without self-imposed domination.

This spirit is derived from an understanding that the revolution knows no boundaries but supports the struggle against injustice irrespective of where it prevails.

This is a spirit which propelled Che Guevara when he left his position of being a minister to pursue the revolution in Bolivia.

“I have always been identified with the foreign policy of our revolution, and I continue to be.

“Wherever I am, I will feel the responsibility of being a Cuban revolutionary, and I shall behave as such. I am not sorry that I leave nothing material to my wife and children; I am happy it is that way. I ask nothing for them, as the state will provide them with enough to live on and receive an education.”

Surely it is this spirit that propelled many Cuban soldiers to participate in the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale, which saw in 1987/1988 the South West African People’s Organisation (Swapo) of Nambia and Armed Forces for the Liberation of Angola (Fapla) confront the South African Defence Force (SADF) and the guerrillas of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (Unita) who supported the oppressive regime of Namibia.

Three of the Cuban Five directly participated.

It is this spirit of internationalism which continues to drive the political perspectives of Cuba in relation to other countries.

The support of the medical professionals based in South Africa is informed by such spirit.

While Cuba is not recognised among those of economic influence in the current world order it was one of the countries that sent the largest number of doctors to fight Ebola which has recent engulfed some of the northern parts of Africa.

Unlike globalisation which is underpinned by an imperial agenda, the spirit of internationalism is based on fair trade, solidarity and mutual developmental initiatives between countries to ensure we attain a world order enjoying humanity, peace and prosperity.

For the original report go to http://www.iol.co.za/mercury/cuba-and-the-spirit-of-revolution-1.1879498#.VZX1RPlViko

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Now that the U.S. and Cuba have confirmed the official opening of their respective embassies this month, interest in Cuba continues to mount, not just among U.S. filmmakers, but also amongproducers from Latin America and Europe.

“Ever since both countries announced the thaw in their relations, more film and TV producers from the U.S., Latin America and Europe have been making inquiries and visiting Havana to explore and, in some cases, begin developing their projects here,” said Lia Rodriguez, the Havana Film Festival’s industry department head. A Spanish-German miniseries, “Vientos de Cuaresma,” is currently shooting in Havana.

Some American filmmakers have managed to make their feature films in Cuba, despite current restrictions, by including documentary footage and reenactments to qualify. To date, only U.S. docs are allowed to shoot in Cuba.

The first such U.S. film to hit the bigscreen is Rhode Islander Ben Chace’s “Sin Alas” (“Without Wings”), which had its world premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival in June, preempting Bob Yari’s English-language Hemingway biopic “Papa,” which was shot roughly at the same time in Cuba, and is also seeking U.S. distribution.

Elias Axume of Premiere Entertainment Group started international sales of “Papa” in Cannes this year, where it sold to Latin America, the Middle East and China, among others. Both movies are seeking more film festival berths.

“To me the line between fiction and documentary is a bit arbitrary,” said Chace. “My film is a narrative attempt to make an honest document of Cuba.”

Shot in 16mm, “Sin Alas” tracks an aging Cuban scribe who seeks to reconcile the love and idealism of his youth with the reality of modern Havana. Based on his own Spanish-language screenplay, Chace helmed the romantic drama entirely in Cuba with a local cast and crew. Given his micro-budget, Chace used a more “guerrilla” approach to filmmaking, which took his Cuban crew by surprise.

“They didn’t get it initially,” Chace recalls. “They wanted to block traffic and light everything, do takes and repeat things until everything went according to script.”

“I joked that they were more Hollywood than me,” he said, but they told him their training harked back to Soviet-influenced early revolutionary filmmaking. “Most of the crew were experienced middle-aged people, and had come up through the ICAIC (Cuban Film Institute) whose shooting protocol went back that far, to the ’60s.”

In other respects, Chace went by the book, securing shooting permits and script approval from ICAIC.

The “De Nuestra America” (“Our America”) program on Cuban national television will be airing “Sin Alas” in September. Bill Strauss of BGP Film is handling domestic sales.

For the original report go to http://variety.com/2015/film/global/us-filmmaking-cuba-1201533084/

Stuart Hall

A post by Peter Jordens.

Call for Papers

Conference: ‘Wrestling with the Angels: Exploring Stuart Hall’s Theoretical Legacy’

TU (Technische Universität) Dortmund, IBZ (Internationales Begegnungszentrum), Germany

February 25-27, 2016

Stuart Hall, who passed away in February 2014, was one of the founding figures of what is known today as ‘Cultural Studies’ and long-time director of the renowned Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at the University of Birmingham. Besides that, he was a central figure of the British New Left, founding editor of the journal New Left Review, and one of England’s most charismatic public intellectuals.

Crucially, for Hall, intellectual practice was a politics, and questions of culture were political questions. His was a thinking that was questioning, flexible and open-ended, regularly moving across disciplinary boundaries and synthesizing different theoretical outlooks. It was rigorously contextual, extremely attentive to complexity, dedicated to the concrete, activist, committed and practical, and driven by a curiosity that constantly led unto new (and frequently largely uncharted) theoretical terrain. The subjects covered by Hall’s work include topics as diverse as popular culture and mass media, representation and signifying practices, subcultures, questions of power, ideology and resistance, ‘race’ and ethnicity, globalisation, multiculturalism and diaspora, cultural and personal identity, Thatcherism, New Labour, and neoliberalism.

This conference takes Hall’s recent death as an occasion to explore the legacy of his highly influential and multi-faceted work. For this, it takes its cue from Hall himself, who once said that theoretical work meant ‘wrestling with the angels’ and that the only theory worth having was the one one had to fight and struggle with. This, precisely, is what this conference aims to do: to engage with, examine, use, question, criticise, develop and transform Hall’s many concepts and ideas. We thus invite contributions that:

  • reread his texts in innovative ways, pursue hitherto overlooked or neglected aspects and dimensions, open up entirely new lines of inquiry, etc.;
  • utilise Hall’s work for the analysis of contemporary cultural and political phenomena;
  • investigate the range, and, possibly, the limits, of his thought, particularly with regards to more recent developments such as the rise of new technologies, emerging or shifting forms of power, new discourses and movements, etc.;
  • read Hall’s work in relation to other thinkers and theories;
  • discuss the implications of his thinking – both in terms of its content and its distinct form or ‘mode’ – (as well as his teaching/pedagogy) for the future of Cultural Studies as an academic discipline and political project.

Abstracts of 300 words for 30-minute papers should be submitted by July 31, 2015 to:

Gerold Sedlmayr, gerold.sedlmayr@tu-dortmund.de

Florian Cord, florian.cord@uni-wuerzburg.de

Marie Hologa, marie.hologa@tu-dortmund.de

Source: https://call-for-papers.sas.upenn.edu/node/62223

Posted by: lisaparavisini | July 5, 2015

Dominican Plan to Expel Haitians Tests Close Ties

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This article by Azam Ahmed and Sandra E. García appeared in The New York Times.

For decades, the people of Barrio Cementerio, a neighborhood divided evenly between Dominicans and Haitians, have shared a peaceful coexistence. Proximity smothered prejudice: Working side by side and raising families together helped keep tensions in check.

That is changing now. A government plan that could deport tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people of Haitian descent from the Dominican Republic has started to tear at the unity that once bound this place, forcing residents to pick a side.

A bitter landlord stopped renting to a Haitian tenant. The head of the local Red Cross says the deportations are long overdue, while a gang leader promises to hide his Haitian friends from the authorities. A Dominican husband fears losing his wife and their children, who have no papers. A police officer agonizes over the prospect of having to deport his best friend, who came to this country illegally from Haiti.

“I have no choice,” said John Tapia Thomas, the police officer, outside his friend’s makeshift Internet cafe. “It saddens me to think about being ordered to detain someone I really care about. It will be hard not to make exceptions, but I have to go about my job as professionally as I can.”

Like much of the country, Barrio Cementerio is split, creating a patchwork of sympathy, prejudice and resentment born of crowded schools, competition for jobs and a beleaguered health care system. Locals note that the Dominican Republic is a poor country that can ill afford the strain.

But the Dominican Republic, which is also trying to tighten its borders in a separate effort called Operation Shield, is hardly alone in dealing with migrants with policies that rights groups challenge. The surge in migration from conflict and economic hardship has rattled nations the world over, from Australia to the United States.

After threatening to breach European law by kicking out migrants,Hungary announced plans last month to build a 109-mile fence to keep out those hoping to enter the European Union from Serbia — unleashing protests from Serbia’s prime minister, who said it would turn his country into an Auschwitz.

Bulgaria announced plans in April to stretch its border fence with Turkey another 80 miles, as part of its “containment plan.” Australia stops migrants arriving by sea and sends them to Papua New Guinea.

Long before that, the United States was deporting hundreds of thousandsof people and building walls to keep out migrants. Now, the front line is moving south. Under pressure from American authorities, Mexico deported almost twice as many Central American migrants through April of this year than in the first four months of 2014.

“It’s a period of unprecedented human mobility, the greatest on record with one billion people on the move,” said William L. Swing, the director general of the International Organization for Migration, which helped the Dominican government register nearly 300,000 immigrants who were in the country illegally, out of an estimated 524,000.

“There is a resurgence of antimigrant sentiment driven by fear: fear of a loss of jobs, fear of the post 9/11 security syndrome, and then mostly the fear of a loss of identity,” he added.

The Dominican government’s threat to deport Haitians has been popular domestically, playing on the frustrations many Dominicans feel toward their poorer neighbors on the island of Hispaniola.

The politics are pretty straightforward. President Danilo Medina recently announced his campaign for re-election next year. Many praise his efforts to register migrants and expel those in the country illegally.

Sporadic deportations have happened, but so far, with the world watching, the Dominican government has not carried out the mass expulsions many Haitians fear.

Still, the threat of being seized has led more than 31,000 Haitians to leave on their own, according to government figures, opting to cart their belongings across the border rather than risk losing everything in a sudden deportation.

Others say that not all of these departures are voluntary.

“People returning are telling me that the police are working with street gangs to force out immigrants in the big cities,” said one Haitian border guard, clutching a clipboard with the names of Haitians who had crossed that day. “Strangers are going door to door late at night and threatening to burn people’s houses down.”

Near the city of Puerto Plata, Haitians said that unknown Dominican men had arrived at their doors in the middle of the night, yelling threats to return home.

The Organization of American States said last week that it would send a delegation to the Dominican Republic to examine the migration situation, including whether or not Haitian migrants have been forced out.

In the border town of Dajabón, trucks loaded with furniture and tattered mattresses trundled through crowds passing over the battered Friendship Bridge, which stretches across a river where in 1937 a Dominican dictator, Rafael Trujillo, ordered the massacre of more than 10,000 Haitians.

Twice a week, thousands of Haitian merchants are allowed to cross over to buy and sell everything from used clothes to crockery. In one market stall, a throng of Haitian men collected mounds of used T-shirts, stuffing them into plastic bags for a Dominican shop owner, Juan Liriano, who says he is conflicted about the deportations.

He pays Haitian workers about $3.50 a day, and food. He must pay Dominicans nearly $11, not including transportation. But he says people must follow the immigration law.

“If I went to America without papers, I would be deported,” he said. “What’s the difference?”

Joseph Vilno, one of his Haitian workers, supports a wife and four children back home.

Mr. Vilno paid a smuggler $65 to ferry him over the border, a small fortune for him. Now he wonders if he will be deported, and if he can sneak back again.

“I have no choice,” Mr. Vilno said as Mr. Liano placed a hand on his shoulder, warm yet paternalistic. “There is nothing for me in Haiti.”

In the capital, Santo Domingo, the plan to register — or deport — Haitians has gone over well with many Dominicans, who often complain that illegal migration is a drag on the public system.

“I think they should deport them,” said Fiorela Olivero, 26, walking with her husband and two children. “Haitians are invading our country. There is a Haitian on every corner.”

Felis Rosario, 54, is Dominican, but with his dark skin, he says he is often mistaken for Haitian. The other day, he recalled, an immigration truck stopped him in the street and ordered him to get in.

“I told him, ‘I am more Dominican than you because you are from a hill and I’m from the capital,’ ” he said he yelled back at the officer.

In Barrio Cementerio, a neighborhood in the small town of Sabaneta, everyone knows everyone.

Some stand behind their Haitian friends, refusing to be baited by the political winds in Santo Domingo. Others say that, friendships aside, it is time for migrants here illegally to leave.

“If I’m living in this or any country as an immigrant, then I should get a job and work to make enough money to legalize myself,” said Francisco Peguero, the president of the local Red Cross, who counts Haitians here illegally among his friends.

Just down the street, Fibian, a young Dominican gang leader, refused to yield.

“If the police sends a patrol to my neighborhood looking for my friends, I am going to hide them in my house,” he said, standing inside his tin shack. “I don’t understand why you would even ask me that.”

Roberto, a Dominican who works at a souvenir shop in the nearby town of Cabarete, is married to Yoseline, a woman of Haitian descent.

She has no documentation, though not for lack of trying. She obtained an affidavit with seven witnesses testifying that she was born in the Dominican Republic. Two days before the government’s registration deadline last month, the family received a letter stating that the paperwork was insufficient.

“Imagine if your wife was born here but faces deportation to a country she knows nothing about,” said Roberto, who spoke on the condition that his family not be identified by last name. “She would be taken away, and our marriage and lives would be torn apart.”

Their children, ages 3 and 1, would be forced to go with her, he fears. They, too, have no documents.

Nearby, two Johns sat together in a lip of shade cast by the awning of the local Internet cafe. One, John Presime, is the Haitian owner of the cafe, who sneaked into the country a decade ago at 14. The other is John Tapia Thomas, the police officer.

For the last year, Mr. Tapia has tried to persuade his Haitian friends to register, passing them advice about which notary was cheapest, which registration centers had the shortest lines and which lawyers were honest.

But many could not complete the steps, because of bureaucratic or financial hurdles.

“A lot of the Haitians who have paid fees but keep having to pay more and submit more documents feel like they are being robbed,” the police officer said.

That, it seems, is what happened to Mr. Presime. Though he has a receipt, he has no formal documentation to prevent deportation. And Mr. Tapia is left with an impossible choice, between his job and his friend.

“Now, we are close to the end,” he said.

For the original report go to http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/05/world/americas/dominican-plan-to-expel-haitians-tests-close-ties.html?emc=edit_th_20150705&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=41473240&_r=0

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