Call for Papers: “Guantánamo and the Empire of Freedom”


Guantánamo and the Empire of Freedom is the working title for an edited volume that will be edited by Don E. Walicek and Jessica Adams. The deadline for abstracts is August 1, 2014. The deadline for full articles is December 1, 2014.

Description: America’s “founding father” Thomas Jefferson championed a vision of economic prosperity and moral virtue that was dependent upon an expansive “Empire of Liberty” with Guantánamo, Cuba as one of its key sites.  The haunting paradox of his words alludes to the many layers and contradictions that cluster around the Caribbean site known today as the Guantánamo Bay Naval Station.

Guantánamo was a site of Taíno resistance to conquest, providing ground for an indigenous response to physical violence, forced conversion to Christianity—and ultimately, decimation. Later, during the Ten Years War, Creoles and Africans formed alliances here against Spanish colonialism.  Soon thereafter, it figured in negotiations concerning a US lease, and the autonomy that the Republic of Cuba would enjoy as a free state.  In the years that followed, Guantánamo became deeply symbolic of the socialist state’s opposition to US imperialism. Guantánamo has also served as a staging ground for the US invasions of Puerto Rico, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. It served as a US detention center for people fleeing their homelands in fear of persecution, including thousands of HIV-positive Haitian refugees and political asylum seekers.

In its current incarnation as “Gitmo,” a US military prison and base of operations in the “Global War on Terror,” it is deeply implicated in the redefinition of human rights, freedom of expression, international laws and treaties, and understandings of universal democracy.

Guantánamo has thus consistently been at the center of changes in individual identities, as well as how powerful groups reconfigure not only their relations with each other, but entire epistemologies.

Guantánamo’s contemporary legacy compels us to reflect on the concept of freedom in Western capitalist democracies—a freedom that is founded on, and still struggling with, restrictions dating back to the onset of modernity: early experiments in colonization and plantation slavery; achievements of emancipation and national liberation; and devotion to commercial and military expansion.  In so doing, it points to connections between the enslavement of millions of people of African ancestry in the “New World” and the war on terror stemming from the events of 9/11.

The proposed volume, to consist of an introduction and 7–8 essays, will examine Guantánamo as a node of global contact and conflict in the Caribbean using lenses traditionally associated with the Humanities. [. . .] The editors welcome contributions from scholars in the fields of American Studies, Cultural Studies, Performance Studies, Caribbean Studies, Social Anthropology, Critical Discourse Analysis, and related areas. The editors also welcome contributions and input from former refugees, detainees, base employees, military personnel, and others personally linked to Guantánamo. They encourage nontraditional and creative scholarly approaches, such as those associated with fictocriticism, ethnopoetics, historical ethnography, and related modes of interdisciplinary analysis.

Suggestions: Essays might consider links between Guantánamo and: Jefferson’s “Empire of Liberty” and the Atlantic world; people as property (e.g., the enslaved, the indentured, soldiers, prisoners, detainees); the politics of subject formation (e.g., independentistas, patriots, refugees, terrorists, the unlawfully incarcerated, detainees); contemporary fiction and literatures of confinement (e.g., detainee poetry and art, testimony, legal narratives); Cuban responses to the US military base, including those of writers, artists, labor groups, and politicians; US invasions of Haiti and policies toward Haitian refugees; post 9/11 realities in societies in the circum-Caribbean (e.g., restrictions on freedom, movement, dissent, trade, debt); the War on Terror and Barack Obama’s promise to close “Gitmo”; ideologies of resistance, solidarity, and sacrifice in the Middle East and “Global South”; performance and protest (e.g., Mos Def’s response to force feeding, hunger strikes, and peaceful protests); new media, surveillance, and technologies of power; specific awareness-raising academic initiatives (e.g., Columbia University’s Guantánamo Public Memory Project, the UC Davis Guantánamo Testimonials Project); Caribbean Studies as a political project; commemoration, remembrance, reconciliation, and restorative justice.

Submissions: Please send one-page abstracts to project editors Jessica Adams and Don E. Walicek at  by August 1, 2014. Abstracts should identify what is new and helpful about the proposed contribution. The deadline for full articles is December 1, 2014. Potential contributors should feel free to write with any comments or questions.

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