Sustainable Art Communities: now also in print

SAC book cover


We are pleased to announce that Issue 5 of the Open Arts Journal has recently been developed for publication as a book.

The Caribbean, with its transnational diaspora stretching to all the shores of the Atlantic and beyond, is one of the liveliest cultural landscapes in the world today. It is also one of the most troubled. A major new anthology of material edited by Leon Wainwright (OU) and Kitty Zijlmans (Leiden), published this year by Manchester University Press, presents the contemporary perspectives on the challenges facing Caribbean communities and shows how the arts can play a crucial role in improving sustainability through a shared ground of experience, enjoyment and understanding.

The book promotes the view that visual art in particular has an important contribution to make in enhancing the Caribbean’s networks and reflecting on the nature of its connections. It addresses a topic that spans the scholarly, artistic, curatorial and professional fields of art and heritage, exploring constructive comparisons between key linguistic regions – namely the Anglophone and the Dutch – and identifying new parallels and contrasts in global-local relations, capital, patronage, morality, sustainability and the benefits of knowledge exchange. Ultimately, it makes the case for social justice in the arts within a complex and little-studied global geography.

Sustainable Art Communities is a landmark collaboration between artists, policymakers, arts organisers, art historians and critics, drawing from such diverse settings as Jamaica, the Bahamas, Barbados, Suriname, Curaçao, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States.

This exciting anthology is the outcome of a recent international project that explored how the understanding and formation of sustainable communities for the English and Dutch-speaking Caribbean and their diasporas may be supported by art practice, curating and museums — in a partnership between the OU and Leiden University, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). You can read more about this project here.


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Sustainable Art Communities: Creativity and Policy in the Transnational Caribbean

We are delighted to announce the publication of Issue 5 of the Open Arts Journal, on the theme ‘Sustainable Art Communities: Creativity and Policy in the Transnational Caribbean’. This brings together academics, artists, curators and policymakers from various countries in the English- and Dutch-speaking Caribbean and their diasporas, the UK and the Netherlands in order to explore how the understanding and formation of sustainable community for the Caribbean and its global diaspora may be supported by art practice, curating and museums. The collection was developed through a two-year international research project (2012-14) led by Leon Wainwright, with Co-Investigator Kitty Zijlmans (Leiden University), focused on major public events in Amsterdam and London. The project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO/Humanities).

Issue 5: Sustainable Art Communities: Creativity and Policy in the Transnational Caribbean


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Materiality and Mobility: Political Geographies of Caribbean Art

Focusing on urban sites including Bridgetown, Barbados; Paramaribo, Suriname; and Rotterdam, the Netherlands, Leon Wainwright contributed to the Spring 2016 Architecture and History, Theory and Criticism Lecture Series (HTC Forum), in the Department of Architecture at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), with support from the Lipstadt-Stieber Fund.

The Caribbean offers a useful vantage point onto current controversies about the materiality of culture and the geography of movement. Where the rhetoric of globalisation has taken hold in the public funding and exhibiting of contemporary art, artists have come to experience a mixed picture of the opportunities that are posed by global flows of money, artworks and the ideas about them.  Dr Wainwright’s presentation shows the impact of ideas of creativity as a means of exchange between urban sites and the terms of art’s contemporaneity, in a pattern of movement that can be illuminated by a political geography of the Caribbean.

Watch the presentation in full here:

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Caribbean Urban Aesthetics research networking event, May 21st and 22nd 2013

On 21st and 22nd May the Department of Art History and Department of Geography (Leon Wainwright and Clare Melhuish) hosted the international meeting ‘Caribbean Urban Aesthetics’, at The Open University’s Walton Hall campus in Milton Keynes. This was a  preliminary workshop to bring together  scholars and professionals from various disciplines and institutions, sharing a mutual interest in this field of studies both within and beyond the Caribbean itself, and to explore the possibilities for future collaborative research. Eight invited speakers presented short papers on their particular fields of interest relating to this topic, drawn across the Anglophone, Francophone, Spanish- and Dutch-speaking areas of the region. These stimulating presentations provided a launching point for wide-ranging discussion across the fields of aesthetics, cultural heritage, memory and belonging, a consideration of how we might define a particular Caribbean urban social imaginary, and what relevance this might have for a broader global perspective on these issues.

See the programme, abstracts, and list of participants below for more information about this event. Click on the links in the programme below to listen to each item.


Tuesday May 21st 3-6pm

3.00        welcome and introduction by Leon and Clare Listen again

3.20        Rivke Jaffe: Crime and the politics of aesthetics in urban Jamaica Listen again

3.40        Lucy Evans: Writing Kingston in Kwame Dawes’ A Place to Hide and Other Stories and Alecia McKenzie’s Satellite City and Other Stories Listen again

4.00        tea break

4.20        Christine Chivallon with David Howard: Locating the memory of slavery in Martinique: Landscape versus architecture Listen again

4.40        Kerstin Oloff: Dreaming San Juan: Urban landscape, ecology and irreal aesthetics Listen again

5.00        open discussion

6.00        refreshments followed by dinner

Wednesday May 22nd 10 – 2pm

10.00     Summary of previous day’s discussion by Clare Listen again

10.20     Narmala Halstead: Travelling objects, personhood and belonging in Guyana Listen again

10.40     Markus Balkenhol: Aesthetics of reticence: Urban music, cultural heritage and black subjectivity in Amsterdam Listen again

Q&A with Narmala Halstead and Markus Balkenhol Listen again

11.00     coffee break

11.20     Wendy Knepper: Caribbean cosmopolitanisms: Claude McKay’s avant-garde urban aesthetic Listen again

11.40     Francisco-Javier Hernández Adrián: The visuality of ruination in Caribbean film Listen again

12.00     open discussion Listen again

1.00        lunch

1.50        closing remarks

Abstracts and participants

1. The visuality of ruination in Caribbean film

Francisco-J Hernández Adrián, Durham University

Engaging Ann Laura Stoler’s 2008 essay ‘Imperial Debris: Reflections on Ruins and Ruination’, my presentation explores two broad critical questions:  how do films from and about the Caribbean approach the visuality of ruins and ruination in Caribbean cityscapes? What is the specifically Caribbean formulation of a contemporary visual aesthetic of ruinous urban environments? I suggest that while the ruins of Caribbean filmmaking often evoke or engage economic issues, they also document the sites of historical transformation and trauma as a means to propel a reflection on the future of ruined spaces. These filmic ruins both mourn the passing of a foundational colonial order and reproduce the traces of a repetitious and potentially regressive present-future. I comment, among others, on the following documentary and fiction films: Havana — die neue Kunst Ruinen zu bauen (dir. Florian Borchmeyer, 2006); Life and Debt (dir. Stephanie Black, 2006); and Moloch Tropical (dir. Raoul Peck, 2009).

Francisco-J Hernández Adrián is Lecturer in Hispanic Studies at Durham University. His research interests include visual, gender / queer, and race theories of the Hispanic and Francophone Caribbean, with a particular focus on island studies, post-creolizing processes, and local / global ecologies. He is particularly interested in evolving and longstanding discourses of Atlantic space, encompassing connections between the Caribbean, the Americas, the Canary Islands, Africa, and continental Europe. He is an associate editor of the journal Cultural Dynamics: Insurgent Scholarship on Culture, Politics and Power, and a member of the Race, Space, Place international collective:

2. Aesthetics of reticence. Urban music, cultural heritage, and black subjectivity in Amsterdam.

Markus Balkenhol, Vrije Universiteit/Meertens Institute, Amsterdam

Cultural heritage, embodied in monuments, objects, and practices, has become  increasingly central to binding and belonging in the late modern Atlantic world, but raises questions regarding who belongs to the particular modernity represented in the cultural canons that are developed. These questions are often cast in racialized terms, distinguishing  between white and black histories, but in this presentation I argue that we need to understand these debates as centering on and articulated through aesthetics.

I will focus on kaskawina music as an urban aesthetic that can shed light on how late modern black subjectivities are negotiated in Amsterdam, as well as Suriname and the Caribbean. This Afro-Surinamese popular music has its origins in the slavery past and can now be heard in a range of locations, on both sides of the Atlantic, from intimate family occasions to public festivals. It also features during the annual Keti Koti festival in Amsterdam, which commemorates the abolition of slavery in the Dutch colonies. Kaskawina’s form, both its lyrics and its performance, can be understood as conveying a particular cultural code I refer to as an aesthetics of reticence – a sense that certain things are unspeakable or even an obligation to leave them unsaid. I will revisit the trope of the veil in considering  how these emerging regimes of cultural heritage succeed in accommodating what Paul Gilroy has called a ‘politics of a lower frequency’, or the particular claims to truth that defy words. Since cultural heritage is eminently a public domain, what then are the implications of an aesthetics of reticence for participation in this domain? Can these performances be understood as a form of monumentalization, and if so, how does it relate to other forms of monumentalization, as well as to locality?

Markus Balkenhol holds an M.A. degree in social anthropology from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and a Magister degree in anthropology and German literature from Freie Universität Berlin. Currently he is affiliated with Meertens Instituut and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, where he is working towards a PhD degree as part of the research programme ‘Heritage Dynamics’. In his project, he researches the commemoration of slavery in the Netherlands. In particular, he aims to understand the relationships of public or collective expressions of colonial heritage and their visceral and intimate experience in the formation of political subjectivities in the Netherlands. He is also currently working as a post-doctoral fellow at the Centre for the Humanities at Utrecht University in a project on the post-secular. His main research interests include memory studies, post-colonialism, race, the body, aesthetics, authenticity, cultural heritage, the Caribbean, and diaspora.

3. Locating the memory of slavery in Martinique : landscape versus architecture

Christine Chivallon, CNRS/LAM (Les Afriques dans le monde), Sciences Po Bordeaux (Universite de Bordeaux IV)

Taking as my starting-point Derek Walcott’s famous reference to ‘the absence of ruins’, I will consider ways of making visible the historical experience of slavery in Martinique. Cultural heritage practices of ‘recovering the past’ have intensified over the last twenty years, introducing new and multiple memorial narratives into the public domain. Even the silence on slavery seems finally to have been broken, prompting different practices of ‘telling the past’ in which the figure of the slave appears to be central, in particular as a hero of the rebellions preceding the abolition of slavery on May 22nd 1848. However, as Walcott says, there are no traces – no monuments, no ruins, no artefacts – no material presence to which an awareness of the past can be attached. The figure of the slave has disappeared because slavery was a state of total dispossession, and left nothing apart from the plantations where the very idea of the slave as a human being was denied. So how, in the absence of any material heritage, should the figure of the slave be represented and brought to life in the present?

I propose two very different approaches to the material embodiment of memory, following  Maurice Halbwachs’ concepts of ‘historical’ and ‘collective’ memory. The first is constructed by historians to create a representation of the past based on historical fact; while the second is transmitted from one generation to the next to create a continuity of experience which does not even need to be defined as ‘memory’ to exist as such. ‘Historical memory’ is embodied in public sites of memory such as memorial squares, commemorative plaques, street names etc, which are all new creations; while collective memory embodies that experience of the past which has no physical traces — a form of invisible memory, kept alive in clandestine and hidden ways by the descendants of slaves.

This experience is not embodied in architecture or built monuments, but rather in the landscape itself, occupied by the peasantry created after the abolition of slavery. Memorial registers of land holdings localise specific narratives around the names of ancestors. These narratives do not exactly tell the story of slavery but the story of a deep attachment to “patronymic territories” which constituted an identity totally removed from the alienating plantation. These sites embody a loose idea of heritage, except during commemorative walks across the landscape, so powerfully described by Yarimar Bonilla, in which they are deliberately enacted into being as sites of living memory. In both cases, this embodiment of memory questions the content of the past as a trace to be invented, or to be remembered.

Christine Chivallon is an anthropologist and geographer, and Director of Research at CNRS LAM (Les Afriques dans le Monde), BordeauxShe works in the field of space and identity, from a spatial anthropology perspective. Her research is focused on Caribbean culture, particularly the legacies of slavery. She has studied Pentecostalism among Jamaican migrants to the United Kingdom; the memory of slavery in the historic ports of the slave trade in Europe;  and the memorial registers relating to slavery in the French Caribbean. Her work is also concerned with the concept of diaspora as a tool in the representation of the Caribbean as an extension of Africa. In a more epistemological vein, she is interested in the variations of meaning attached to the concepts of postmodernism and postcolonial studies in a comparative perspective between the French and Anglo-American academies.

She is also a co-founder (with Professors Barry Chevannes, Justin Daniel and Robert Lafore) and co-director of the teaching programme “France Caraïbe”, which links  the University of Antilles-Guyane (UAG-Martinique), the University of the West Indies (UWI, Jamaica) and Sciences Po Bordeaux (France).

4. Writing Kingston in Kwame Dawes’ A Place to Hide and Other Stories and Alecia McKenzie’s Satellite City and Other Stories

Lucy Evans, Leicester University

My paper explores the portrayal of urban communities in Alecia McKenzie’s Satellite City and Other Stories (1992) and Kwame Dawes’ A Place to Hide and Other Stories (2003). Set in Kingston of the 1970s, 80s and 90s, Dawes’ and McKenzie’s stories deal with key issues affecting life in Kingston during these decades, such as the effects of neoimperial globalisation on the city, the rise in inner-city crime and violence and the relationship of this to political clientelism. Both writers comment on the uptown/downtown dichotomy which fragments late twentieth century Kingston. I position their fictional accounts of Kingston in relation to the studies of anthropologists and geographers who are similarly concerned with the city’s socio-spatial divisions and hierarchies.

Both texts highlight the impact of dominant imaginings of Kingston – in particular within media discourse – on social relations, drawing attention to the way that perceptions of a city can inform experiences of urban space. I argue that through their incorporation of a variety of sometimes conflicting narrative voices, alongside their multiple allusions to other modes of cultural expression such as music, art, tabloid journalism and radio, Dawes’ and McKenzie’s texts present Kingston as a site of competing narratives. In addition, I suggest that their stories contribute to the shaping of the city’s urban imaginary. In Dawes’ story cycle, individual stories are drawn together by a ‘reggae aesthetic’ which also enables him to envisage connections between communities in different parts of the city. In a different way, McKenzie’s collection builds up an intricate network of social relations, extending across stories, which complicates the city’s imagined uptown/downtown dichotomy. While Barry Chevannes’ and Rivke Jaffe’s studies of Kingston focus on communal solidarity within inner-city neighbourhoods, McKenzie and Dawes look beyond the micro-community in their attempt to write across the city’s social worlds.

Lucy Evans is Lecturer in Postcolonial Literature at the University of Leicester, UK. She has published articles on Caribbean and black British writing in a range of journals, including the Journal of Commonwealth Literature, Moving Worlds: A Journal of Transcultural Writing, Atlantic Studies, and the Caribbean Quarterly. She co-edited (with Emma Smith and Mark McWatt) a collection of essays, The Caribbean Short Story: Critical Perspectives (Peepal Tree Press, 2011), a symposium (with Mandala White), ‘Crime Narratives and Global Politics’, Journal of Commonwealth Literature, 47:2 (2012), and a special issue (with Mandala White), ‘Crime Across Cultures’, Moving Worlds, 13:1 (forthcoming 2013). Her monograph, Communities in Contemporary Caribbean Short Stories, is forthcoming with Liverpool University Press.

5. Travelling objects, personhood and belonging in Guyana

Narmala Halstead, University of East London

This discussion will consider migration-embedded settings in Guyana to develop understandings of objects which travel with people vis-à-vis changing forms of belonging. The talk will consider both ‘historical objects’ which have become common-place attachments, and new items, as part of different migration histories to explore how objects are part of ‘social biographies’. These interactions allow for particular understandings of personhood and collective identities vis-à-vis traditional ideals and cultural change.

The landscapes which occur are marked by different ‘displays’ where these items might be forgotten, re-invoked, hidden or part of new, dramatic assertion of identities. Examples of the half-forgotten item include the sewing machine, as an immigrant item invariably found in homes or in extended yard kitchens which can appear disused, but is evocative of self-sufficiency and sustainability. More recently, ethnic wear such as saris and shalwar kameez are prevalent displays at weddings as markers of upholding traditions, yet are nevertheless new fashions, attesting to successful global networking and related achievements. Electronic items, in particular, mobile phones are attached to new displays of competent, modern persons to shift or intercede in local settings intertwined in histories of socio-political problems and structural violence. The framing of local lives through these latter problems is a constant re-negotiation by people who seek solutions. I consider how objects appear, ‘disappear’ become part of daily or ceremonial routines as extended ‘change-agents’ and forms of personhood to uncover particular narratives in relation to an ‘everyday’ aesthetics of belonging.

Narmala Halstead is an anthropologist specialising on Guyana, the Caribbean diaspora and migrant localities in North America. Her work explores belonging, migration, cultural change and violence, spanning everyday accounts as well as larger issues on ‘open borders’, global citizenship and the state. Her work has developed insights on people’s encompassment of foreign identities as forms of inhabiting ‘the centre’ which also engage with and shift notions of alternative modernity. She is currently developing a project on digital technologies, material culture, citizenship and movement. Narmala is a Reader in Anthropology at the University of East London and runs an Urban Anthropology programme for student researchers among other research and teaching activities. She has published widely on her research.

Recent publications include:
2012 East Indians as familiars and partial others in New York. History and Anthropology 23(1): 149-169
2012 Undoing Resistance. East Indians beyond the culture bound. South Asian Diaspora 10(2):123-135
2011 Gift practices in the East Indian Diaspora: status, equality and loss through inclusion. Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology 16(2): 278-295
2009 A landscape of respect relations. Television, status, houses. Home Cultures 6(1): 19-41

6. Crime and the politics of aesthetics in urban Jamaica

Rivke Jaffe, Centre for Urban Studies, University of Amsterdam

This presentation discusses the ways in which popular culture reflects and reinforces criminal governance structures in Kingston, Jamaica, where so-called “dons” are central to extra-state forms of political order. I focus on the visual images, texts, sounds and performative practices that accompany these criminal structures of power, and the emotional and ethical work that these popular culture expressions do within specific urban spaces. I combine aesthetic and ethnographic approaches to analyze the ways in which criminal leadership is iconized, and associated criminal power structures are legitimated. The legitimacy of Jamaican dons at the neighborhood level is explained in part by their informal provision of material services that the Jamaican state is not perceived as providing: welfare, employment, security and justice. I argue that to appreciate the ways in which donmanship has developed as an enduring form of political order, attention must also be paid to the imaginative, aesthetic underpinnings of criminal authority. In this presentation I draw on ethnographic research and cultural analysis to discuss how various popular culture expressions – dancehall music, dance events and urban murals – feature in legitimizing donmanship. I examine how these expressions inscribe a sense of community and a form of political order, through the space of the inner-city and through the bodies of those who live there, providing the imaginative, aesthetic foundation for authority.

Rivke Jaffe is an Assistant Professor at the Centre for Urban Studies at the University of Amsterdam. She previously held teaching and research positions at Leiden University, the University of the West Indies, and the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV). Her research focuses primarily on intersections of the urban and the political, focusing specifically on the spatialization of power, difference and inequality within cities. Her current research, in Jamaica, studies the complicated relationship between the postcolonial state, criminal leaders and the urban poor.

7. Caribbean cosmopolitanisms: Claude McKay’s avant-garde urban aesthetic

Wendy Knepper, Brunel University

Throughout his life, Claude McKay’s encounters with cities – including Kingston, Harlem, London, Moscow, Berlin, Paris, Marseilles, Barcelona, Casablanca, and Marrakesh, to name a few examples – shaped his vision of politics, citizenship and writing. Seen as figure of vagabondage, an avant-garde figure for the Harlem Renaissance, a forerunner of Negritude and a participant in national and international Marxist movements, McKay offers a multifaceted modernist perspective. Rarely, if ever, do critics argue for a unified reading of McKay’s aesthetics, but I propose that we consider the formative and enduring influence of McKay’s highly fractured urban experience in Jamaica as the basis for a uniquely Caribbean cosmopolitan sensibility. Throughout his career, McKay’s reflections on the city reflect an awareness of insights gained through urban transformation in the Caribbean, especially Jamaica, that highlighted the impact of “divergent modernities” (Julio Ramos), contested localities, “uneven and combined development” (Leon Trotsky) and discrepant approaches to citizenship. I propose that a critical Caribbean urban perspective saturates McKay’s cosmopolitan imaginary, enabling the (1) mapping of resistant places/spaces of citizenship and solidarity through alternative urban cartographies, (2) critique of socio-political and economic disenfranchisement in the city/world and (3) challenge to dominant paradigms of citizenship and political philosophy through the city-scape. Although McKay’s avant-garde urban aesthetic anticipates many of the concerns about citizenship and biopolitics that trouble literary critics, human geographers and political philosophers in the twenty-first century, nonetheless, there are limits to his vision for greater equality and recognition, which also merit attention.

Wendy Knepper is a lecturer in transnational modernisms, Caribbean literature and globalizing aesthetics at Brunel University. She has published Patrick Chamoiseau: A Critical Introduction (2012) as well as numerous articles and essays on Caribbean literature, including contributions to Small Axe, PMLA, The Journal of Commonwealth Literature and Journal of Postcolonial Writing. Currently, she is working on the Palgrave critical introduction to Caribbean Literature and a monograph on representations of cataclysmic life in contemporary Caribbean writing.

8. Dreaming San Juan: urban landscape, ecology and irreal aesthetics

Kerstin Oloff, Durham University

‘In Puerto Rico, life is not simply cruel, it is also busy erasing our tracks’, writes Edgardo Rodríguez Juliá in his 2005 memoir about San Juan. Covering a period of urban expansion, his text evokes a San Juan that is ephemeral and disorientating as buildings and neighbourhoods come and go, as they are first produced and then swept away by the ‘torrent of Progress’ (Rodríguez Juliá). This is a city shaped by the events post-1898, including the collapse of the sugar industry during the Depression era and mid-century US-led Operation Bootstrap that transformed rural agricultural labourers into urban industrial workers. In Rodríguez Juliá’s memoir, these external forces and the volatility of the market produce a sense of ‘unreality’.  From Rodríguez Juliá’s memoir, I will move on to other recent literary and visual reflections on the urban experience in Puerto Rico that more fully embrace an irreal aesthetic – be it in a magical real, gothic, cyber-punk or sci-fi mode. For the collaborative project, I would hope to explore further the relation between the urban experience in Puerto Rico and ‘critical irrealism’ (Löwy). From Acevedo’s ‘future San Juan governed by The System’ (Maguire) to Trelles’s Kafkaesque ‘Samsa’ photo art series, contemporary irreal visions of a cityscape speak strongly to the temporal, social and ecological ruptures experienced in this ‘postcolonial colonial’ city.

Kerstin Oloff is a lecturer at Durham University. She teaches on Hispanic Caribbean literary and visual cultures. She is the co-editor of Perspectives on the Other America (Rodopi 2009) and has published book chapters, interviews and articles (including in Revista Hispánica Moderna, La Habana Elegante, Green Letters and Latin American Research Review).

9. ‘Dismantling the Statue of Liberty’: reflections on the 11th Havana Biennial.

Elaine Speight, University of Central Lancashire (unable to attend in person)

An encounter with an ‘unofficial’ artwork at last year’s Havana Biennial raises questions surrounding public art, urban space and the international biennial model. The artwork in question – a ramshackle effigy of the Statue of Liberty – was by a local, self-taught artist, who managed to infiltrate the launch of Detras del muro, (Behind the wall), a curated programme of temporary public artworks along the city’s Malecon seafront.

Presenting a video of the subsequent and systematic destruction of the artwork by a local official, I will discuss how the ambiguity of the situation, which was initially read by many Biennial visitors as a choreographed part of the programme, destabilised the narrative of Detras del muro as an ‘intervention’ into public space. Moreover, I will suggest that it simultaneously belied and fulfilled the Biennial’s curatorial theme of the ‘social imaginary’ as ‘the place where form is given to the notions of what is public, of citizen space and of the different aspects that make communicative interaction possible’ (Havana Biennial, 2012).

The paradoxical nature of this situation, whereby the critical power of the artwork was activated by its enforced exclusion from Detras del muro, will provide a starting point for discussions about the relationship between international biennials and the politics of place. Specifically, I will question to what extent, whilst arguably enforcing local and international agendas, the increasing role of public space in biennial programmes might also provide opportunities for urban critique and dissent.

Elaine Speight is a curator and researcher, whose practice explores the politics of place. During the last ten years, she has initiated and delivered a number of projects, which have examined the complex relationship between art and urban change. Since 2005 she has curated In Certain Places ( – a curatorial partnership between the University of Central Lancashire and The Harris Museum & Art Gallery, which was established in response to the planned regeneration of Preston. Through this, she has commissioned a number of artworks – most recently Shezad Dawood’s science fiction film ‘Piercing Brightness’ – and runs an ongoing series of talks, debates and symposia, which explore issues of art, architecture and the urban. She also teaches Arts Management and Urban Renewal at Birkbeck, University of London.

Participant biographies

Anne Brüske , Heidelberg University, Germany

Dr Anne Brüske has been a research group leader at the department for Transcultural Studies at Heidelberg since October 2010. She holds a PhD in Romance literature from Heidelberg University (2008) and has studied and taught in Basel, Lyon and Heidelberg.  Her research group, From the Caribbean to North America and Back. Transculturation Processes in Literature, Popular Culture and New Media, focusses on cultural exchange in the transnational space comprised of the Caribbean, the Caribbean ‘Diasporas’ and North America, for instance in Caribbean literature written in urban Canada and the USA, in Jamaican dancehall culture or Indo-Guyanese clothing traditions. Her personal research project studies the construction of social space, migration/diaspora and meta-fiction in the narrative literature written by US Dominican, mainland Puerto Rican, Cuban American and Haitian American authors. Further research interests include interdisciplinary approaches (sociology, gender studies, postcolonial studies) to French enlightenment literature and to fiction from the Hispanic and Francophone Caribbean.

Anne recently organized two international conferences on Caribbean research topics at Heidelberg University (Wid me riddim, wid me rime. South Asian and Caribbean Diaspora Poetry, Lyrics and Performance, April 2012; Caribbean Food Cultures, Septembre 2012).  She is co-editor (with herle-Christine Jessen) of the forthcoming volume Dialogues transculturels dans les Amériques. Nouvelles littératures romanes à Montréal et à New York / Diálogos transculturales en las Américas. Nuevas literaturas románicas en Montreal y en Nueva York (May 2013).

Anjalie Dalal-Clayton, Liverpool John Moores University

Anjalie Dalal-Clayton is a doctoral researcher at Liverpool John Moores University, working in collaboration with the Bluecoat. Her research explores current practices of exhibiting black British artists in British art museums/galleries, particularly the ways in which black artists are both critically and historically positioned in contemporary exhibitions. She completed her MA in the arts of the African diaspora at the School of Oriental and African Studies in 2006, and she has held several posts in the arts and cultural sector, including at Tate Modern, where she curated exhibitions and events designed to create understanding about Tate Modern’s recent capital project.

Paul Goodwin, independent curator; Chelsea College of Art and Design; CUCR, Goldsmiths, University of London

Paul Goodwin is an independent curator, lecturer and urban theorist based in London. Paul’s curatorial and research interests span the fields of cross cultural global art exchanges, migration, urbanism and critical curation. His ongoing interdisciplinary research project Re-Visioning Black Urbanism explores the contribution of black and migrant communities to new modes of inhabiting, imagining and making cities within the context of the UK and Europe (Lisbon and Paris) through a programme of exhibitions, screenings, e-books, publications and seminars based at the Centre for Urban and Community Research, Goldsmiths, University of London (

As a curator at Tate Britain from 2008-2012 he directed the pioneering Cross Cultural Programme, exploring the impact of globalisation on contemporary art in Britain. He has curated and co-curated a number of internationally significant exhibitions including: Migrations: Journeys Into British Art (Tate Britain 2012); Thin Black Line(s) (Tate Britain, 2011); Go Tell It On The Mountain: Towards A New Monumentalism, (2011) and Ways of Seeing (2012; 3-D Foundation Sculpture Park in Verbier, Switzerland); Coming Ashore, (Berardo Collection Museum in Lisbon, Portugal, 2011), Afro Modern: Journeys Through the Black Atlantic, (Tate Liverpool, 2010); Underconstruction (Hospital Julius De Matos, Lisbon, Portugal, 2009).

David Howard, University of Oxford, CNRS/LAM, Sciences Po Bordeaux (Universite de Bordeaux IV)

Dr David Howard is a University Lecturer in Sustainable Urban Development, and a Fellow of Kellogg College, at the University of Oxford. He is Course Director for the Sustainable Urban Development MSc and DPhil programmes in the Department for Continuing Education at Oxford. He is also CNRS Associate at the Centre Afriques dans le Monde, Université de Bordeaux IV, and the Co-ordinating Editor for the Bulletin of Latin American Research and the associated Wiley-Blackwell book series. He was Chair of the Society for Caribbean Studies (2006-2010), and co-directed the Joint Initiative for the Study of Latin America and the Caribbean (JISLAC) which supported multidisciplinary seminar networks and seed grants for new research. He is a member of the Latin America and Caribbean Panel at the British Academy, and recently a visiting researcher at EMMA (Etudes Montpelliéraines du Monde Anglophone), Université Paul-Valéry, Montpellier III, and at the Department of Geography and Geology, University of the West Indies, Kingston. He has researched in a number of areas relating to the Jamaican context including the contemporary societies of the Caribbean and Latin America, with a specific focus on urban geography, social sustainability and development in the Global South. Recent research projects have centred on urban violence, urban governance, land rights, housing and tenure, multicultural policy, development and social change.

Michael Niblett, Yesu Persaud Centre for Caribbean Studies, University of Warwick

Michael Niblett is the author of The Caribbean Novel since 1945 (University Press of Mississippi, 2012) and co-editor of Perspectives on the ‘Other America’: Comparative Approaches to Caribbean and Latin American Culture (Rodopi, 2009). He has written a number of articles on Caribbean and World literature, and is co-editor of a recent special edition of the Journal of Postcolonial Writing, titled Postcolonial Studies and World Literature.

His current research focuses on the literary encoding of the world-ecology and the commodity frontiers and ecological revolutions through which it has developed. The research draws its theoretical coordinates from new materialist approaches to world literature, on the one hand, and, on the other, from the emerging field of ecologically-orientated world history, especially the work of environmental historian Jason W. Moore. Moore contends that the capitalist world-system must be grasped simultaneously as a world-ecology. If (as a number of critics have argued) world literature is to be understood as the literature of the capitalist world-system – that is, if the capitalist world-system is to be grasped as the “interpretative horizon” of world literature – then it must also be understood as the literature of the capitalist world-ecology. Building on this framework, the research considers how the shared experience of the global, periodic reorganizations of human and extra-human nature constitutive of the world-system might provide a basis for new forms of literary comparativism. Focusing on the way the commodity frontiers of sugar, opium, tea, rubber, guano, and labour knit together the political ecologies of the Caribbean and Latin America, the British Archipelago, and Southeast Asia, it examines the literary registration of transformations in agro-ecological formations, food regimes, urban environments, energy regimes, and bodily dispositions.

Sarah Thomas

Sarah Thomas has lectured widely in Australia and the UK, and held various curatorial positions in Australian art museums. Her research interests include the art history and museology of the British empire, the role and particularities of the itinerant artist, and the iconography of slavery. Recent publications include ‘Slaves and the spectacle of torture: British artists in the New World, 1800-1834’ (Daniel Rycroft ed., World art and the Legacies of Colonial Violence, Ashgate, 2013) and ‘‘“On the Spot”: Travelling Artists and Abolitionism, 1770-1830’ (Atlantic Studies, June 2011, pp. 213-232). Last year she completed her doctoral thesis, Witnessing Slavery: Travelling Artists in an Age of Abolition. She was recently Cultural Engagement Fellow (Ruskin School, University of Oxford), and has been working with curators at Tate Britain on a forthcoming exhibition on the subject of art and the British empire.

Nadia Bartolini, Open University (Geography)

Elizabeth McKellar, Open University (Art History)

Susie West, Open University (Art History)

Research event correspondents

Jean Besson, Goldsmiths

Monica Degen, Brunel University

Karen Fog Olwig, University of Copenhagen

Conrad James, Birmingham University

Carlos Garrido Castellano, University of Granada

Diana Paton, Newcastle University

Pedro Perez Sarduy, Afrocubaweb

Gillian Rose, The Open University

Mimi Sheller, Drexel University USA

Jean Stubbs, SAS London

Carol Tulloch, University of the Arts (Chelsea)

Huon Wardle, University of St Andrews

About the organisers

Leon Wainwright is Lecturer in Art History at The Open University, Editor-in-Chief of the Open Arts Journal, and from 2005 to 2012 was a member of the editorial board of the journal Third Text. He was OU Principal Investigator for one of the four projects in the consortium ‘Creativity and Innovation in a World of Movement’ (CIM, European Science Foundation, HERA), and is Principal Investigator for two internationally funded projects: ‘Disturbing Pasts: Memories, Controversies and Creativity’ (2011-2013, HERA), and ‘Sustainable Art Communities: Creativity and Policy in the Transnational Caribbean’ (2012-2013, AHRC and the Netherlands Scientific Organisation, NWO, Co-I Prof. Kitty Zijlmans at the University of Leiden). His publications include Timed Out: Art and the Transnational Caribbean (Manchester University Press, 2011) and numerous writings on art history, curating and cultural policy and he is co-editor, with Charles Harrison and Paul Wood, of the forthcoming volume in the series ‘Art in Theory: An Anthology of Changing Ideas’ (Wiley Blackwell). He was recently awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize in the History of Art.

Clare Melhuish is Research Associate at the University College London Urban Laboratory: following her move in autumn 2013 from The Open University where she was Research Associate on the ESRC-funded research project ‘Architectural atmospheres: the impact of digital visualising technologies on contemporary architectural practice’, a collaboration between Geography at The Open University and Sociology at Brunel University (ESRC-funded project 2011-2013; Grant No. RES-062-23-3305). ‘Architectural atmospheres’ explored the role and agency of digital image production and visualization on a large-scale urban redevelopment project in Doha, Qatar, designed by British architects. Clare is also a Visiting Research Fellow in Anthropology at Brunel University, and has worked on a range of research projects applying ethnographic approaches and anthropological perspectives to issues around architecture, spatial and visual culture, and social life. She has been developing the framework for a research project ‘Aesthetics of social identity: re-framing and evaluating Modernist architecture as cultural heritage in Martinique’, which would examine the role of French Modernist architecture in the emergence of a specific and contested aesthetics of Antillean urban and cultural identity in Martinique since its re-classification as a DOM in 1946. She is interested in the global circulation of visual and spatial aesthetic codes and the process of their translation and re-working in specific social and cultural local contexts within the larger framework of ‘postcolonial urbanism’.

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This project will bring together a research grouping of academics in history of art and architecture, geography, social anthropology, and postcolonial literature, from several EU countries, to work on a set of focused, comparative studies on urban place, aesthetics and identity in the Caribbean region.

We wish to explore, across linguistic boundaries (Anglophone, Francophone, Hispanophone, and Dutch-speaking), how art and architecture in urban settings have contributed to the expression or formation of particular, and contested, cultural identities and notions of postcolonial heritage in the Caribbean. We will examine how a set of urban spaces, interconnected by maritime links, but differentiated by contrasting colonial histories and continuing relationships with the metropoles, have been shaped through politicised aesthetic strategies, perceived and appropriated by inhabitants, and re-framed as heritage in a postcolonial context. We will test the premise of a history ‘made by art’ (Pinney 2004), by studying the forms that urban aesthetics have assumed in Caribbean colonial and postcolonial space, the power relationships which they inscribed, and the role they played in transforming local and translocal cultural identities within a context of modernisation.

Why the Caribbean? The region is one of the most highly urbanised in the world, but the aesthetic history of its cities and urban culture is not extensively documented, and certainly not within a comparative regional context.  As Gilroy, Sheller and others have argued, the experience of the Caribbean should be recognized as central to the history of modernity, understood as emerging from a two-way exchange with the metropole, rather than as an export from Europe to the rest of the world. The Caribbean region as a whole is an important precursor, often considered the embodiment par excellence, of current notions of cultural hybridity or ‘creolisation’ deployed in the understanding, indeed legitimation, of contemporary globalisation and its effects on cosmopolitan urban centres around the world.

We maintain that a comparative investigation of the development of urban aesthetics and social identities in the Caribbean offers an invaluable resource for examination of the ways in which ‘theories of hybridity move between the space of political representation and the space of aesthetic representation’ and ‘cultural forms participate in politics’ (Puri, S., 2004: 1), contributing to an emerging body of scholarship on critical concepts of postcolonial heritage.

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