Internationally-attended symposium will help College of Bahamas in efforts to secure university status
As the College of The Bahamas continues in their efforts to earn University status, two instructors at the institution are helping things along with their new bold symposium that will be internationally attended, The College of the Bahamas Fanon Symposium 2011: 50 Years Later: Fanon’s Legacy and the Caribbean/ Bahamas, scheduled for December 2, as Sonia Farmer reports in The Nassau Guardian.
English professor Craig Smith and French professor Keithley Woolward are reaching across disciplines at the institution in an exciting new symposium on the life and work of Frantz Fanon that has implications beyond its one-day span.
The idea for such a symposium began when Smith realized that by the end of this year, fifty years would have passed since the death of the Martiniquo-Algerian psychiatrist, philosopher and writer Frantz Fanon. Approaching Woolward, whose dissertation focused on Fanon, the pair set about making an event to commemorate this figure who they considered to be important to people in the Caribbean today.
Nothing less than a revolutionary figure, Fanon’s books such as “Black Skin, White Masks” and “The Wretched of the Earth” tap into critical theory and post-colonial studies. Such work and his revolutionary life choices—such as becoming a member of the Algerian National Liberation Front during Algeria’s struggle for Independence—incited and inspired many post-colonial struggles for independence around the world. “We want to anchor the work of Fanon in the Caribbean region,” says Woolward.
Fanon, they agreed, was too influential of a figure to ignore this milestone—especially to Bahamians. As one of the most well-known theorists from the Caribbean, it was surprising how many students—and indeed how many Bahamians—did not know much about it.
Yet having knowledge about Fanons’ life and work is important when thinking about colonialism and understanding social constructs and attitudes that exist today—and it’s something the both of them want for their students and any student at COB eager to come out and learn more. “We want to really think about his significance and remind students about his significance for us, for the way we think about ourselves,” adds Smith. “‘Black Skin, White masks’ is really important in terms of Caribbean people of color, specifically—thinking about colonialism and the lasting effect of it. “We run into a lot of our students who think that stuff is in the past and I think it’s good to engage in the discussion of whether it is or it’s not, and to use Fanon in engaging those kinds of conversations.”
Indeed the events at the one-day symposium—which will include locally and internationally-renowned scholars—cover such subjects as “Fanon’s Politics and the Circum Caribbean” (9 a.m.), “The Violence of National Development” (1:15 p.m.) and “Dis We Ting Too: Fanon and Contemporary Bahamian Experience” (2:45 p.m.), all of which will take place in the new auditorium at the Harry C. Moore Library on the college campus.
In addition, an art show with pieces influenced by Fanon’s work will be on display in the atrium of the library. It’s the result of a presentation made to an art classes by Smith and Woolward, keeping in line with their desire to educate its students across disciplines. They also plan to work with the College’s publication, Lucayos, to share the discussions and papers presented during the symposium with those long after the day has passed.
“Building bridges I think is something that is really important,” points out Smith. “I think one can feel isolated at COB so it’s important for us to build bridges between departments so we don’t all feel like we’re working alone, and to build a community that people who return home can join and feel part of in helping them work out some of their theories and ideas.”
The day will close with a roundtable discussion on the second floor of Chapter One bookstore at 4:15 p.m., which will attempt to synthesize the theories and ideas put forth during the day while keeping in mind “50 Years later: Fanon’s Legacy and/in the Caribbean.”
The highlight commencing at 10:30 a.m. will include a lecture from the symposium’s Keynote Speaker, Nigel Gibson, from London, UK, who is the leading scholar on Frantz Fanon in the world.
Such a caliber of speaker reflects the pair’s underlying hope for the event—that it will expand into “The Critical Caribbean Symposium Series”, an event that is internationally known, respected and attended by scholars of the highest caliber worldwide. Such an event would help in elevating the College’s status to University level as they have been trying to do for some time.
“Franz Fanon outside of the Caribbean region is perhaps the best known theorist that the Caribbean region has produced,” points out Woolward. “This is the only commemoration of his death that is going on in the Caribbean region. Strategically, the College of the Bahamas is being placed as a major player in these kinds of debates.”
“If we organize this symposium and have it happen here, it means that we are then creating a voice for ourselves as an institution within the larger economy of knowledge production,” he continues. “Our institutional recognition beyond the boundaries of the Bahamas automatically increases—people will be looking towards us as a place where we have an important event. Using Fanon as a springboard, we hope we can create that situation.”
Indeed, it became apparent to the pair that this is bigger than Frantz Fanon—such an event like CCSS could happen two or even three times a year, exploring different figures and subjects as prompts to bring worldwide cultural and critical theorists together to exchange exciting ideas. Student participation would also be encouraged. Indeed, their overall hope to have good honest conversations that boldly go into difficult subject territory, allowing participants to be enriched by ideas and theories put forth. In the end, way down the line, they hope this inspires a Center for Caribbean Studies in the institution.
“This way we’re really tapping into the community, and it’s important to remember that the College of the Bahamas is the national university of this country,” points out Woolward. “These kinds of discussions don’t involve us academics in isolation; we’re trying to make it so that the walls of the college and the doors of the college are open to the community—you can come in and engage.”
Every time they have a symposium, they hope to keep the event free and open to the public like this time, so CCSS could become an invaluable contribution not only to the college but to elevating the consciousness and creative and critical thinking of the public.
“This is a cultural project. I think it’s important for us in the Caribbean to understand we are more than sun, sand, sea and carnival and Junkanoo—the Caribbean also produces thinkers and someone like Fanon is important because he gives us a way to think about who we are,” points out Smith.
“I think too often we depend upon Europeans to tell us who we are in the world,” he continues. “What we want to do with this CCSS series is to reintroduce some of those really important key figures from the Caribbean to our students and to the Bahamian public at large to bring them back and talk through whether their theories are still relevant today.”
To find out more and for a full schedule of events on the December 2 symposium, visit http://www.cobses.info/Fanon/index.html.
For the original report go to http://www.thenassauguardian.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=17584:the-legacy-of-great-caribbean-thinkers&catid=38:arts-a-culture&Itemid=59
Image of Fanon from http://www.frantzfanoninternational.org/IMG/jpg/
2 thoughts on “The legacy of great Caribbean thinkers”
Dear College of the Bahamas : Your intentions are laudable and I hope sincere, but according to your comunique as I read it in the Repeating Islands website you mention the students as an after thought. The reason you want to reach your status and the way that you keep that status is through the academic quality of the students, especially as reflected in their advocacy, STRONG COMMITTEED STUDENT ADVOCACY on this IMPORTANT ISSUE : REACHING AND OBTAINING AN STATUS FOR THEIR INSTITUTION. SHUOLDN’T THEY BE IN THE FOREFRONT OF THIS DISCUSSION AS LEADERS AND PROMOTERS. IM SURE DR. FRAN FANNON WOULD AGREE WITH US ALL! CARINOSAMENTE, COLINAZO (PEDRO PEREZ-ORTIZ)