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Collaborating Across the Divide: Digital Humanities and the Caribbean

September 21, 2017 - September 22, 2017

Digital technology has made the early twenty-first century a critical moment of opportunity by providing access to a wide range of library and archival materials and by offering new means of teaching, analyzing content, and presenting literary scholarship. While digital technologies have the promise of bridging institutional and geographic barriers, they have also continued to reproduce colonial hierarchies and marginalize content from the Caribbean and the Global South. This symposium, “Collaborating Across the Divide: Digital Humanities and the Caribbean,” brings together scholars and artists from the Caribbean and the United States to discuss how to collaborate through digital humanities in ways that decolonize knowledge and empower Caribbean subjects, rather than reaffirm colonial histories of archiving and education.  The project will center on the Digital Library of the Caribbean (www.dloc.com), an international partnership. The objective of the symposium is to produce an action plan for making dLOC a hub for pedagogical, scholarly, and artistic collaboration.


Thursday, 21 September

  • 5-6:45pm: Keynote
    • Introduction, Randi Gill-Sadler
    • Keynote: “Which Medium, Whose Story?” Oonya Kempadoo and Schuyler Esprit

Friday, 22 September

  • 8:45-9am
    • Welcome (Leah Rosenberg and Laurie Taylor)
  • 9:00-10:30am, Digital Humanities and the Historiography of Caribbean Studies (moderator, Crystal Felima)
    • Matthew Smith, “History Special: A Digital Narrative of the History Department at UWI Mona.”
    • Thomas Hale, “The Role of Le Progressiste in the Salvage of Aimé Césaire’s Political Career.”
  • 10:30-10:45am, Break
  • 10:45-12:15pm, Digital and Public Humanities: Caribbean Collaborations (moderator, Holland Hall)
    • Schuyler Esprit, “The Idea of the Institution: Using digital humanities praxis to rethink spaces for learning and community building in the Caribbean.”
    • Sue Ann Barratt, “IGDS Impact: Converging Academia, Activism and the Digital Humanities.”
  • 12:15-1:45pm, Break for Lunch
  • 1:45-3:15pm, International Partnerships, Digital Archives, Collaborative Teaching: Lessons Learned (moderator, Delia Steverson)
    • Rosamond King, “Caribbean Digital Collaborations: Lessons Learned.”
    • Prea Persaud and Leah Rosenberg, “Collaborations in the Digital Library of the Caribbean: Lessons Learned”
  • 3:15-3:30pm, Break
  • 3:30-5:15 pm, Roundtable on Action Plan for Future Collaboration (moderator, Prea Persaud)


OONYA KEMPADOO is author of Buxton Spice (1997), winner of the Tide Running (2001), and All Decent Animals (2013); winner of the Casa de Las Americas Prize (2002), and consultant in the arts and social development, including work with UNICEF, UNAID. She was Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence and Creative Writing Instructor (2013-2014) at two colleges in Connecticut; and serves advisor to Caribbean literacy non-profit “Hands Across the Sea” and co-founder of the Grenada Community Library & Resource Center in St George’s Grenada. An internationally acclaimed novelist, she is a leader in digital arts and educational collaboration in the Caribbean. Kempadoo has initiated two digital projects to support environmental sustainability in the Caribbean. The first, Naniki, is a speculative fiction, multi-media, eco-social project designed to engage students in the Caribbean and other countries in using digital technology and supporting environmental sustainability. The second, Carisealand, is a digital platform for scholars, artists, and the public for sharing projects on sustainability, designed and built by Create Caribbean Research Institute and it’s students (Dominica State College).

SCHUYLER ESPRIT is a scholar of Caribbean literature and cultural studies. Dr. Esprit holds a PhD in English literature from University of Maryland – College Park. She currently serves as dean of Academic Affairs at Dominica State College as well as director of the Create Caribbean Research Institute. She has pioneered Digital Humanities projects and digital technology training at the K-12 and College level in Dominica as well as collaboratively, linking classes at the Dominica State College and classes at colleges in the United States. She is now completing her book manuscript and its digital companion, both entitled Occasions for Caribbean Reading, a historical exploration of reading culture in the Caribbean.

SUE ANN BARRATT is a member of the faculty at the Institute for Gender and Development Studies, University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus.  She is a graduate of the University of the West Indies, holding a BA in Media and Communication Studies with Political Science, MA Communication Studies, and PhD Interdisciplinary Gender Studies.  Her current research areas are interpersonal interaction, social media use, gender and ethnic identities, beauty and body image, and Carnival studies.  She is dedicated to gender awareness and sensitivity training through face-to-face sessions and mass media outreach.

MATTHEW J. SMITH is Professor in History and Head, Department of History and Archaeology, The UWI, Mona. His areas of research include Haitian politics, society, and migration. He is the author of the books Liberty, Fraternity, Exile: Haiti and Jamaica After Emancipation (University of North Carolina Press, 2014), winner of the Haiti Illumination Project Book Prize from the Haitian Studies Association and Red and Black in Haiti: Radicalism, Conflict, and Political Change, 1934-1957 (University of North Carolina Press, 2009) which was a winner of the Gordon K and Sybil Lewis prize for best book in Caribbean History from the Caribbean Studies Association. He had contributed significantly to dLOC’s teacher training program and to its edited collection Haiti: An Island Luminous; his service work utilizes the digital for critical needs, including as Director of UWI-Mona’s Haiti Initiative following the 2010 earthquake providing assistance to Haitian university students and the Haitian national library, his work serving as Director of the UWI’s Social History Project, and as member of the Board of Museums and Archives of the Institute of Jamaica.

ROSAMOND KING (Associate Professor of English, Brooklyn College, CUNY) is a critical and creative writer and artist, whose work focuses on the Caribbean and sexuality. Her book Island Bodies: Transgressive Sexualities in the Caribbean Imagination won the 2015 Caribbean Studies Association Gordon K. and Sybil Lewis Prize for the best Caribbean Studies Book. She is also a poet, artist, and performer with an extensive record of publications and performances. She is also a leader in digitizing LBGTQ archival materials from the Caribbean for dLOC and has collaboratively developed and taught with Dr. Angelique Nixon, a distributed online collaborative course (DOCC) in the US and Caribbean on sexualities.

THOMAS HALE is Sparks Professor Emeritus of African, French, and Comparative Literature at Penn State.  He has devoted several decades to research on both oral traditions in West Africa and Aimé Césaire.  He is best known for Griots and Griottes: Masters of Words and Music.  In 2013, Kora Véron and he published Les Ecrits d’Aimé Césaire: bio-bibliographie commentée, 1913-2008.  It offers a chronological collection of excerpts from and analyses of nearly 1,000 texts by Césaire–poems, plays, essays, speeches, interviews, prefaces, editorials, etc.).  It also includes 500 citations of historical events marking his life and times. Two outcomes of the book are the digitization by the University of Florida Library of 1,172 copies of Le Progressiste, the newspaper founded by Césaire in 1958, and a web site for disseminating information about recently-discovered texts by the writer and listings of current research on him: http://lesecritscesaire.libraries.psu.edu/

Leah Rosenberg is associate professor of English at the University of she is the author of Nationalism and the Formation of Caribbean Literature and co-editor with J. Dillon Brown of Beyond Windrush: Rethinking Postwar West Indian Literature. She is co-chair of the dLOC advisory board and graduate coordinator for the English department here at UF.

Prea Persaud is doctoral candidate in the Religion Department at the University of Florida.  Her research focuses on Hinduism in the Caribbean and the intersection between religion, identity, and nationhood.  She has been an intern at the Digital Library of the Caribbean since 2016.

Laurie N. Taylor is Digital Scholarship Librarian at UF, where her work focuses on socio-technical (people, policies, technologies, communities) needs for scholarly cyberinfrastructure. Her work activities are geared towards enabling a culture of radical collaboration that values and supports diversity and inclusivity, including as the Digital Scholarship Director for the Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC) and as the Editor-in-Chief for the LibraryPress@UF.


Oonya Kempadoo. “Which Medium, Whose Story?”
Each story has its calling in a particular form but don’t we think, imagine and remember in an interdisciplinary and multimedia way? Following the development of my new work, Naniki, the journey from analog to digital and multimedia reveals a navigation of gaps, challenges, leaps and bounds which includes collaborative research and educational tools. It also reflects how the arts/artist and storytelling is valued (or not) today in the Caribbean, particularly in science and sustainability concerns, within aid-dependent resources, a colonial education system and inherited relationships with ‘modernization’.

Schuyler K Esprit. “The Idea of the Institution: Using digital humanities praxis to rethink spaces for learning and community building in the Caribbean”
The presentation will use the short history of Create Caribbean’s mission and platform to illustrate the inherent paradoxes in developing Caribbean institutions. I focus on the ways that renaming and redefining digital humanities has been critical to establishing of the digital humanities center in the Caribbean and to its application across a number of research and policy projects that the center has successfully completed. The term “institution” is loaded in the context of the region’s history but also, more directly, in the emergence of digital humanities as a field of study and work. In many ways, how we perceive the institutions to which we belong or the ones with which we want to collaborate. This presentation will present and respond to some key questions about the relationship between academic, historical and intellectual institutions community organizations or entities and the people who do the work within these structures. Among the questions addressed in the presentation are, “What do we gain or lose by continuing to frame higher education as a primary conduit for progress in Caribbean heritage preservation and Caribbean sustainability? What new forms can collaborations take to create or improve community accountability to the Caribbean people who this work should serve? How do we reshape the spaces for teaching and learning within and across Caribbean communities to facilitate academic and intellectual exploration as well as community and social justice? What role does the “institution” of the “digital” play in resolving or complicating each of these questions? The talk aims to call to the forefront the challenges of the Caribbean intellectual and sociopolitical frameworks that digital humanities praxis attempts to highlight, while simultaneously uncovering the limitations of the praxis in doing this work.

Rosamond King: “Caribbean Digital Collaborations: Lessons Learned”
This presentation will focus on Caribbean International Resource Network’s  collaborations to create an open-access graduate course on Caribbean Sexualities and to publish print and on-line collections. King will discuss the challenges and lessons learned from almost ten years of the IRN work across the Caribbean and its diaspora, working with both within and beyond universities.

Matthew Smith: “History Special: A Digital Narrative of the History Department at UWI Mona”
The Department of History and Archaeology at the University of the West Indies, Mona is one of the oldest departments at this seventy year old institution. In 1948 the Irvine Commission which developed the blueprint for the university insisted that Caribbean history be a central focus in its undergraduate training. This was a pioneering move as Caribbean History was then and for several decades after considered marginal to the epic of imperial history. With this mandate, the History department at Mona built a remarkable reputation as the centre for Caribbean history teaching, research, and writing in the 1950s. The founders of the department included the esteemed Guyanese historian, Elsa Goveia, Jamaican Douglas Hall, and St. Lucian Fitroy Augier. Through their guidance the department rose to great prominence over the next three generations. Later students and faculty included the celebrated historians Walter Rodney, Lucille Mathurin Mair and Kamau Brathwaite. Since 2016 the department has been developing a digital humanities project that uses twenty-first century technology to tell the important story of its foundations. The project will be launched in 2018 on the 70th anniversary of the UWI. This presentation will discuss the project, its aims, expected outcomes, and directions.

Thomas Hale: “The Role of Le Progressiste in the Salvage of Aimé Césaire’s Political Career”

Sue Ann Barratt: “IGDS Impact: Converging Academia, Activism and the Digital Humanities.”

The Institute for Gender and Development Studies, both as a regional Institute and through the St. Augustine Campus Unit, has long  engaged multiple resources to reach and impact our partners in the region and internationally.  These tools have facilitated our teaching, research and outreach, establishing us as brand and resource within our stakeholder community and beyond.  It is this experience that informs our discussion with our colleagues as we all contemplate “Collaborations Across the Divide”.  Our presentation focuses on our application and evaluation of digital tools to enhance our engagement with our publics.  In focus too is the necessity to persist with such integration in a context where sustained reach and impact ignites and reignites the ‘Spark’ within our communities to engage with gender justice and feminist scholarship.

Additional Information

For additional information, please contact Laurie Taylor (laurien@ufl.edu).

  • All events in the Smathers Library, room 100.
  • All events are free and open to the public.
  • Sponsored by the Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere with support from the Rothman Endowment.
  • Co-Sponsored by the Creative Campus Program, Center for Latin American Studies, the Interdisciplinary Working Group on Caribbean Arts and Humanities, the Science Fiction Working Group, and Imagining Climate Change, the George A. Smathers Libraries, the Center for Gender, Sexualities, and Women’s Studies Research, the Department of English,  the Department of History, the UF Informatics Institute, France-Florida Research Institute, and the Languages, Literatures, and Cultures Department.
  • Program Team Members: Leah Rosenberg, Randi Gill-Sadler, Prea Persaud; Chelsea Dinsmore, Crystal Felima, Holland Hall, Tace Hedrick, Emily Hind, Hélène Huet, Maria Rogal,  Malini Johar Schueller, Maya Stanfield-Mazzi, Delia Steverson, Dhanashree Thorat, Laurie Taylor

Travel to Gainesville

Please see the campus map for getting around UF’s enormous campus. All events will take place in the Smathers Library (formerly Library East).


Parking on campus is extremely difficult. Please see:


Information on many options is  available through the Alachua County Visitors and Convention Bureau


  • Gainesville (GNV) Airport
  • Jacksonville and Orlando airports: both are approximately a 1.5-2 hour drive from Gainesville (the Jacksonville airport is closer; the drive from Orlando includes toll roads)

Local Transit

Other Visitor Information Resources


September 21, 2017
September 22, 2017


Smathers Library
1508 Union Road
Gainesville, FL 32611 United States