Wednesday, March 30, 2011

12th Annual SALISES conference: Letter from the Director

Challenges of the Independence Experience in
Small Developing Countries

Dear participants in the 12th Annual SALISES conference ‘Challenges of the Independence Experience in Small Developing Countries’, I want to say on behalf of the entire faculty and staff that it was a pleasure being your hosts at this the first major conference in our Fifty-Fifty project.

As I indicated at the closing ceremony, we don’t see this as an average conference in which you leave and go home, but a recruiting event for Fifty-Fifty. The purpose of Fifty-Fifty is to critically review fifty years of the independence experience in the Anglophone Caribbean and to elaborate proposals for the region’s possible development in the next fifty years. We use the important fiftieth anniversary of Anglo-Caribbean independence as a useful hook, but the purpose is always to move beyond narrow linguistic barriers to look at the region as a whole. Thus, in our recently concluded conference, we had a special plenary on Haiti and there were participants from all the linguistic areas of our Caribbean. We are also intimately concerned with the historical experience and prospects for the non-independent territories that together constitute a significant part of the population and land area of the region.

In terms of the next steps, I elaborate some of the points made at the closing of the conference.

  1. The Fifty-fifty Conference is scheduled to be held in Kingston from August 20-25, 2012. We have not yet fine-tuned whether it will be all of those days, but it would be wise if you are thinking of coming to block them all off now.
  2. We are approaching this event somewhat differently than the typical conference with a call for papers, by establishing clusters far in advance of the event that would focus research around a set of clearly defined areas. The aim would be for the clusters to meet, identify research questions and establish an agenda that might include, seminars, talks, panel discussions between now and 2012, but would culminate with a panel/plenary/workshop at the 2012 conference.
  3. Some sixteen clusters (see list below) have already been established at SALISES Mona; however, a cluster need not be chaired by someone from Mona, nor necessarily from someone from SALISES. Indeed, we encourage the broadest participation of scholars and practitioners in establishing research clusters across the region. All that we ask is that you stick to the thematic lens of Fifty-Fifty, give us information on who is the chair/convenor and who are the members of the cluster, keep us informed as to the progress on your research and come to the conference with a developed panel. We are also open to individual paper proposals, particularly, though not exclusively from scholars outside of the region, who might find it difficult to assemble a cluster.
  4. Clusters might focus on a single territory, a comparative study involving two or more territories, or may be Caribbean-wide in scope. We are open to different lenses.
  5. Please get in touch with us if you have an idea for a cluster or if you wish to join an existing cluster. We would be happy to include you in this exciting project. Write to Arlene Supersad, the overall administrator or or go to our website for further information. Our website is not quite where we want it to be, but we are working on it and also on our Facebook page!
  6. We are still in the process of raising funds for Fifty-fifty. We are therefore asking you to try to be as self-sustaining as possible. To the extent that we are able to secure a major grant, then we will let you know and see how best we can facilitate research and the necessary movement associated with the project.

Existing Clusters and Chairs

  1. Economy: Michael Witter
  2. Governance and Politics: Trevor Munroe
  3. Social Policy: Aldrie Henry-Lee
  4. Health: Helen (Kristin) Fox.
  5. Housing: Jimmy Tindigarukayo
  6. Public Sector: Philip Osei
  7. Education; Maxine Henry-Wilson.
  8. Sustainable Agriculture: Pat Northover.
  9. Caribbean Integration: Patsy Lewis.
  10. Grenada Case Study: Patsy Lewis.
  11. Information Systems: Evan Duggan.
  12. Labour and Employment: Noel Cowell.
  13. Visualizing Independence: Annie Paul.
  14. Law and Justice: Celia Blake.
  15. Gender: Taitu Heron and Judith Wedderburn.
  16. Caribbean Language Policy: Hubert Devonish.

Proposed clusters

  1. Immigration: Jay Mandle.
  2. Growth and Development in the Caribbean: Patrick Watson.
  3. Climate Change in the Caribbean: Patrick Watson

There is also a media plan for Fifty-Fifty that film-maker Esther Figueroa has elaborated for interviewing and archiving critical individuals in politics, academics, the arts etc as well as the production of a film and a number of web-ready audio-visual products out of the deliberations leading up to the conference and the big event itself.

We look forward to hearing from you and to your involvement in this important and literally, once in a lifetime opportunity to critically engage with our situation and make concrete proposals for the future.


Brian Meeks
Director, SALISES, Mona.

Monday, September 20, 2010

What is Fifty-Fifty?

Princess Margaret in Jamaica in 1962 - Independence

August 2012 will mark the fiftieth anniversary of independence in the Commonwealth Caribbean, as in the same month both Jamaica (August 6) and Trinidad and Tobago (August 31) gained their independence from Great Britain. Half a century is a short time in the history of a nation, yet it is sufficiently long to begin stock taking. How successful have the new nations been in improving the quality of life for their respective citizens? To what extent have they been able to forge a new and self-confident national culture? To what extent do the political systems - democratic in form – reflect principles of transparency and genuine accountability? How far have the economies moved away from traditional markers of dependency to become poles of dynamism and development? And for the next fifty years: what changes need to be made to the constitutional and more broadly political systems of government to deepen democracy and popular participation? What new economic models and approaches might be appropriate to confront the environmental and energy challenges that face the entire world, but especially small states? What combination of social, political and economic strategies might most effectively combat, reduce and ultimately eliminate the scourges of drugs, violence and criminality that threaten to engulf the region? What have we learned from the experience with regionalism over the past fifty years and what are the new approaches that might be taken to advance Caribbean integration? These and many other questions need to be asked and answered as we collectively seek to explore the meaning of independence and chart a way forward for the next fifty years.

Picture of 2008's Trinidad Independence Parade courtesy Cafe Moka

Fifty-Fifty is a research project designed and organized by the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES) at UWI Mona. It will include a series of seminars based on sectoral and thematic studies around the central theme of reviewing the past fifty years of independence and looking forward to the next fifty. The Fifty-Fifty project will entertain proposals that focus on any single or combination of the territories of the Caribbean region, though special emphasis will be placed on the Jamaican experience. SALISES will also be harnessing its annual intra regional conference to be held at Mona in 2011 to address themes relevant to the project. Fifty-Fifty will conclude with a grand conference in 2012 that will bring together some of the most important scholars and panels for a comprehensive reflection on the meaning of independence alongside a concerted attempt to chart possible directions for the foreseeable future. Scholars, academics and interested persons in the widest spectrum of fields and interests are invited to participate in Fifty- Fifty, through proposed research projects or attendance at any of the seminars and/or the grand Fifty-Fifty conference in 2012.