After receiving the Nicolas Guillén Prize for Philosophical Literature, Junot Diaz, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and University graduate, said speaking on campus about the Caribbean this weekend felt like home the dailytargum.com site reports.
Diaz, who was present with other scholars and activists at the eighth annual conference, “Shifting the Geography of Reason,” signified recognition of the Caribbean’s growing influence upon the University community, said Nelson Maldonado-Torres, Caribbean Philosophical Association (CPA) president.
The conference, which alternates its meeting location between the Caribbean and the United States, focused on a central theme and motto, “Shifting the Geography of Reason,” which challenges the how people think about where reason and rationality are found, said Maldonado-Torres, an associate professor in the department of Latino and Hispanic Caribbean studies.
“Usually we are trained to conceive of reason as something emanating or coming out of the west or Europe only,” he said. “So that Europe or the United States have reason and theory and the rest of the world has experience or culture.”
Diaz expressed positive attitudes towards the conference and its efforts to establish a global conversation that for him hits home.
“It’s an extraordinary time and an extraordinary honor,” he said when he received his award.
Having the conference at the University acknowledged the effort for Caribbean studies initiatives, including an increase of hiring specialists on campus, he said.
“By bringing new blood there is a new energy and a new set of questions,” said Yolanda Martinez-San Miguel, professor in the department of Latino and Hispanic Caribbean studies.
The Caribbean Studies Initiative is an effort of the Office of the President, Vice President of Academic Affairs and the Executive Dean of Arts and Sciences, she said.
So far six faculty members have been hired in the last two to three years because of the cluster hiring initiative, which was designed to bring growth to the Latino and Hispanic Studies department as research on campus, Martinez-San Miguel said.
These hires went to various departments, such as Women’s and Gender Studies and History, and a Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow in Africana Studies was hired as well, said Michelle Stephens, a Caribbean Philosophical Association member.
Martinez-San Miguel hopes the result of the additions will keep the department and the University on the forefront of any questions and debates that help to find new boundaries to make Caribbean Studies more provocative.
The conference included performances, panel discussions and guest speakers. The panels focused on topics such as education, epistemology, shifting geographical imaginaries and social change.
Stephens, an associate professor in the department of Latino and Hispanic Caribbean studies, served as a panelist who spoke about the theme, “Rethinking the Caribbean from Archipelago Studies.”
“The panel was about the geographic structure of the island and how it can be a kind of metaphor and grounds for a broader way of thinking about questions of nationalism and sovereignty,” she said.
One segment of the conference included the distribution of awards.
The CPA presented the Frantz Fanon Lifetime Achievement Award to Molefi Kete Asante, a professor in the department of African American Studies at Temple University, and Michel-Rolph Trouillot, a professor of anthropology at University of Chicago.
The CPA, which was founded in Mona, Jamaica, also takes other initiatives to convey its message and start dialogues with others across the globe, such as publishing the CLR James Journal, named for a theorist from Trinidad, said Maldonado-Torres who has been with the CPA since its beginning.
The CLR James Journal, which they publish twice a year, features essays by scholars, special issues on Caribbean thinkers, key ideas or problems in the region as well as poetry, he said.