The Initiative on Race, Gender & Globalization (IRGG) was established at the beginning of the 2004-2005 academic year with the support of the Office of the Provost. Throughout its existence the IRGG has sought to internationalize undergraduate and graduate curricula by creating scholarly spaces that foster intellectual exchange across geographic borders and political perspectives.
Both in his speech “The Internationalization of the University” and in his Baccalaureate Address “Life on a Small Planet,” former President Richard Levin spoke about the global university and the importance of working across political and geographic boundaries in our contemporary world. He noted in his Baccalaureate Address that, “this nation has suffered through much of its history from isolation and insularity.” Too often,” he said, “our leaders have been insufficiently mindful of how America is perceived throughout the world.”
For the past nine years the IRGG has committed itself to organizing and sponsoring colloquia, conferences, events, and visitors in order to not only address issues around national “isolation and insularity,” but also to challenge the Yale University community to think transnationally and cross- culturally about politics, the arts, economics, and history.
During the 2013-2014 Academic Year the IRGG continued to build on its transdisciplinary, cosmopolitan vision. We invited noted guests from around the world, collaborated with existing Yale institutions, and created conversations that were not happening anywhere else on campus.
SUMAK KAWSAY, GOOD LIVING; VISIONS FOR ACHIEVING ENVIRONMENTAL & SOCIAL JUSTICE IN ECUADOR AND THE U.S.
The fall saw one of the Initiative’s most ambitious projects to date: the conference ”Sumak Kawsay, Good Living: Visions for Achieving Environmental & Social Justice in Ecuador and the US” (program attached). Many years in the making, the conference was inspired by recent popular movements and constitutional innovations in Ecuador. Connecticut (and New Haven, in particular) has one of the largest Ecuadorian expatriate communities in the country, so it was only fitting that the conference take place here. Guests from the academy, public policy, and the world of diplomacy gathered on September 27 at the Greenberg Conference Center to explore the themes, resonances, histories, and consequences of Ecuadorian policy on marginalized and indigenous groups, the nation’s political economy, and ecosystem.
The conference was specifically organized around the Quechua concept of “Sumak Kawsay” or “good living” enshrined in Ecuador’s new constitution. This visionary and unusual framing of a governing document inspired questions: In what ways can the country’s National Plan for Good Living (2009-2013) provide an alternative way to orient political society and political economy in a globalizing South America? In what ways can the National Plan exemplify an alternative for nations in the Global North?
These questions were tackled by conference speakers from multiples disciplines and (thanks to simultaneous translation) multiple languages.
Panels were organized around a few salient themes:
Plurnationalism; Environmental & Social Justice; and Solidarity Economies.
The opening by Professor Hazel V. Carby set the stage for the conversation to follow, and introductions by Nathalie Cely Suarez, Ecuador’s Ambassador to the United States, and Raul Velarde, Ecuador’s General Counsel of Connecticut, forged new links between the country and Yale University.
Speakers included other notables from the administration of Ecuadorian President, Rafael Correa, Rene Ramriez, Ecuador’s Chair of Higher Education (Senescyt), as well as prominent Ecuadorian scholars, Jhon Anton Sanchez, Professor at the Instituto de Altos Estudios Nacionales.
Speakers from Yale included Professors Vesla Weaver, Stephen Pitti, Ned Blackhawk, Alicia Schmidt Camacho, and Michael Denning. They were joined by Professors Mabel Wilson (Columbia University) and David Pellow (University of Minnesota).
“Sumak Kawsay” broke new ground for the Initiative, which for the first time brought together scholars and diplomats, theorists and policy-makers, to collaborate in a conversation about the political history and political future of nations in both the Global South and North. Attendants included dignitaries, graduate students, faculty, visiting scholars, and representatives from multiple departments.
The event also brought together multiple parts of the University who co-sponsored it: The Council on Latin American and Iberian Studies; the Ethnicity, Race & Migration Program; the African-American Studies Department; and the Initiative on Labor and Culture. In an age of both economic and environmental precarity, the Conference was a space for activists and academics to work together and study Ecuador’s example.
DAVID SCOTT: OMENS OF ADVERSITY
On April 23, the IRGG welcomed Professor David Scott for the launch of his new book Omens of Adversity: Tragedy, Time, Memory Justice (Duke University Press) at the Yale Bookstore. Scott, a Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University and founding editor of the journal small axe is one of the most exciting and influential scholars of the Caribbean and of post-colonial theory.
Omens of Adversity draws upon the case study of the Grenada Revolution (1979-1983) and the repercussions of its collapse to address concerns about enduring issues of political action and tragedy, generations and memory, liberalism and transitional justice, and the possibility of forgiveness. Faculty and graduate students from across the University joined Scott for a conversation that began at the Yale Bookstore and continued over dinner at The Study Hotel.
CRITICAL LIME COLLOQUIA: “WE HAVE NEVER BEEN HUMAN”
Throughout the year, the IRGG co-sponsored colloquia, lectures, and symposia in collaboration with other departments and programs on campus. This year, ongoing graduate student reading group and workshop Critical Lime inaugurated a series they called “We Have Never Been Human,” considering the status of the “modern” and the “human” in Caribbean history and contemporary theory. Critical Lime, in association with the IRGG, brought a number of leading scholars to situate a conversation from multiple disciplines and perspectives.
On February 18, the British-Gayanese novelist Oonya Kempadoo visited to deliver a talk on “Stories and Survivability” and read from her newest novel, All Decent Animals.
She also presented work from current project, Naniki, a media and genre-bending narrative approach to thinking about climates, ecosystems, and Caribbean histories that involves data collection, online education modules, graphic novel forms, and enhanced e-books. In an interdisciplinary workshop with graduate students and faculty, Kempadoo led a discussion about “sustainability” and “survivability” in the Caribbean.
On March 25, Duke University Professor Michaeline Crichlow and University of the West Indies Professor Patricia Northover visited for a public lecture entitled “Journey Towards the Future: Abject Blackness, Negritude, and the Emancipatory Force of Spectrality.”
Professors Crichlow and Northover also took part in an interdisciplinary workshop aligned with Critical Lime’s yearly theme: “We Have Never Been Human: Spectral Fault Lines and the Post-Creole Imagination.” Their wideranging talks covered authors and subjects from Frantz Fanon and Sylvia Winter to Touissant L’Ouverture.
On April 3-4, the third event in the Critical Lime series brought Haitian artist Barbara Prézeau-Stephenson for a performance and conversation about subjectivity, gender, and the Caribbean experience.