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Caribbean Literary Conference Explores Nationhood And Identity

By JEFFARAH GIBSON

Tribune Features Writer

jgibson@tribunemedia.net

IDEAS of nationalism were explored during the West Indian Literature Conference last week at the College of the Bahamas.

The 32nd annual meeting was hosted by the School of English Studies under the theme “Multiple Textualities: Imagining the Caribbean Nation”.

The WILC draws together many people within and outside of the Caribbean region to explore the literature, arts and cultures of the region. According to organisers, this year’s conference welcomed a critical discourse on West Indian literature, art, and nationalism.
Dr Ian Bennett Bethel said the conference is significant in that it exposes people to a myriad of writers and literary pieces.

“This is a very big conference because it brings the regions together. We are part of it through the University of the West Indies so every year it moves and the themes changes. This year is slightly different with the financial crisis and the problems with academia internationally. It is a very important regional conference that is also international at the same time,” he said.

“It is beneficial because it brings a lot of people to the local arena and they share a lot with the students. Everybody together share ideas and we are developing discourses around some of the ideas. Usually it is very political so it really transforms what is West Indian and Caribbean literature. As the writers grow and develop, ideas of what Caribbean literature is, also grows and develop,” he said. 
All of the papers shared in the conference this year focused on nations, said Dr Mayuri Deka, coordinator and COB faculty member.

“It is beneficial because the Bahamas is in the process of defining what it means to be Bahamian, and creating a nation that has a sort of coherent idea of identity. So when you come to conferences like this and hear from academics all over the world talk about the different ways we negotiate with the concept of nation, the concept of citizenship, it gives people critical ideas of defining themselves,” she said.

Dr Bethel added: “ Here we have our own problems with nationalism. It is exclusive. If you don’t look like this then you are not Bahamian, if you are born here and you do not have both parents who are Bahamian, then you are not Bahamian. And so the idea of the nation or nationalism being bigger than that is important to the region,” he said.

The School of English Studies prepares students for communication within the changing cultural and social landscapes. English majors are exposed to a broad intellectual foundation in language, literature and cultural studies.

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