Conference to explore the role of the Naipaul family

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Our thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item by Vijay Maharaj to our attention.

Countless studies have been done on the work of the Naipaul family, especially on that of the oldest son V. S. Naipaul, and many of these have been shared via the forum of academic conferences. The studies and the conferences at which they are presented are by no means limited to literary ones or those focussed on particular geographic areas and one may well find a paper on the Naipaulian oeuvre being delivered across a broad range of areas including politics, economics, critical race theory, liberty, civilization, religion, development studies and many, many others.

This should suggest the breadth and the depth of the work done by the Naipauls. It would probably also indicate that this wealth of intellectual production has never been concentrated in any one place. A conference has therefore been organised to channel it home.

The Friends of Mr Biswas in conjunction with the Department of Literary, Cultural and Communication Studies will be hosting “Seepersad & Sons: Naipaulian Creative Synergies,” from September 6-8, 2015. As the title implies, this conference seeks to uncover the layers of ideas across the works of Seepersad Naipaul, Shiva Naipaul and V.S. Naipaul, which in effect will produce a vivid moving documentary of critical issues in Caribbean life.

Seepersad was born in 1906 and his writing both as a journalist and short story writer engages with the settlement in the Caribbean of indentured labourers from the Indian sub-continent and with the political, religious, sociocultural and consequent psychological issues in which the process occurred. His sons’ work on the other hand continued to track developments in these areas as they apply to all the people of the Caribbean. As the call for papers states, the conference hopes to gather these ideas as well as ideas on a variety of topics including the Naipaulian contribution to the genres of journalism and travel writing as well as to innovations in other genres. It also hopes to elicit the Naipauls’ perspectives on India and things Indian as well as the Indian responses to these perspectives. The conference anticipates that participants will deliberate on the Naipauls’ views of democracy and freedom and of the limitations and constraints they have articulated in the achievement of these ideals as a result of the social contexts in which their realisation is envisioned. Importantly as well, the conference looks forward to reflections of the Naipauls’ representation of gender and ethnic relations, particularly as they pertain to the Caribbean but also in relation to Africa, India and the Islamic world. The Naipauls have also contributed immensely to our understanding of childhood and its legacies in the adult’s ability to take responsibility for his/her life, especially as this relates to the creation of the artist.

The Naipauls’ work also provides readers with a unique glimpse into the religious self, most significantly into the religious subjectivity of the Indian – Hindus and Muslims, but also converts to Christianity – who can forget for example Mrs Bholai and her children in The Chip Chip Gatherers. In addition, however, the Naipauls’ experiences, which they have all shared in their writing, provide invaluable insight into the reconfiguration of Hindu caste in the Caribbean by the powers of class and status. In fact, the family’s location in relation to one of the most important Brahmin families in Trinidad and Tobago, the Capildeos, provided them with an angle on Hindu religious development in the Caribbean, which it is practically impossible to reproduce. Furthermore these are facets of the Indian diaspora that have scarcely been scratched in academia. Moreover, the Naipauls have also had an immense impact on the debates on hybridity and creolization in the Caribbean. To date there has been reaction to their thoughts but less consideration of the issues they have raised.

The conference is the current outcome of the tireless efforts of a group of persons who have come to be known as the Friends of Mr Biswas. Their projects, chaired by Professor Kenneth Ramchand, can be liked and followed at: https://www.facebook.com/FriendsOfMrBiswas and at http://www.friendsofmrbiswas.org/pages/the-naipaul-house. The conference will also be highlighted at these sites. Their work can be seen as beginning with the purchase of the family home of Seepersad and Droapatie Naipaul at 26 Nepaul Street, St James, as a heritage building by the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago in 1996. Almost twenty years later, the work continues in this conference. In the coming months, in these pages, we will keep you abreast of conference developments and remind you of some of the treasured heritage we have received via the work of the Naipauls.

For the original repot go to https://sta.uwi.edu/uwitoday/archive/may_2015/article17.asp

See our previous post Conference: “Seepersad & Sons: Naipaulian Creative Synergies”

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