28 April 2011

Sharing Knowledge about Caribbean Sexualities

As part of my work with the Caribbean Region of the IRN (International Resource Network), I have organized events and been working on several projects that bring together activists, artists, scholars, and writers who engage with the lives and concerns of sexual minorities in the region and in its diaspora. I have had the great opportunity to build with and support the amazing organizing happening in the region. And I have had the honor to help bring awareness to the complexity of our lives at home and abroad. I have the pleasure of being on the board of the Caribbean IRN since 2008, and I co-chair with my friend and colleague Rosamond King - and we are on the board with Colin Robinson and Natalie Bennett - and our coordination consultant is Vidyaratha Kissoon. This has been some of the most rewarding community work I have been a part of -- work that challenges the divide between academia and community, work that consistently challenges us in the diaspora to ground ourselves in the local/regional, work that reminds us of the common and different struggles we face as sexual minorities -- lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, questioning, queer, and all the names/unnames we give ourselves.

I wanted to spend some time on conscious vibration sharing two of the exciting projects we are in the process of building and bringing to fruition.

1) Open Source (free access) Digital Archive Collection with Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC) - in the past two years of collecting resources and sharing information among our networks, the Caribbean IRN has been building a general collection of information, reports, resources, data, creative, and scholarly work on issues related to diverse genders and sexualities in the Caribbean. We are also digitizing and preserving a beautiful collection of materials from the Gay Freedom Movement (GFM) in Jamaica (active from 1974-1983). The general collection is up and available for review on our page on the dLOC website. And the GFM Collection will be available sometime late June. We are also hosting an event to launch the GFM collection on July 21st that will be hosted in Brooklyn and also broadcast on the web with hubs in the region. I will post more details on this important event soon! In the meantime, PLEASE check out and spread the news about these important collections we are building on dLOC.

2) Theorizing Homophobia(s) in the Caribbean Project - articles, essays, non-fiction, fiction, stories, poetry, activist reports, visual art, music, interviews, and other works that will reflect on the complexities of homophobia(s) in the Caribbean and to expand awareness about Caribbean LGBT lives, experiences, and activism in the region and its diaspora. (Deadline for proposals is April 30th!!! - an abstract/description and a bio - see details below.)

Background for this project: During the first Caribbean Sexualities Gathering in Kingston, Jamaica sponsored by the Caribbean IRN in June 2009, we brought together over 30 activists, scholars, and community workers from inside and outside the region. One of the issues raised during our workshop meeting was the need for a defining and re-defining of homophobia in the Caribbean from a variety of perspectives, and more specifically, the need for theorizing about the different kinds of homophobia(s) across the region. A year later, the Caribbean IRN facilitated a workshop on Strategies to Confront Homophobia at the annual Caribbean Studies Association conference. We expanded upon this issue by highlighting the realities of sexual minority organizing, offering possible sites and contexts for exploring this issue, and creating space for scholars, artists, writers, and activists to exchange.

Call for Submissions
The Caribbean Region of the International Resource Network (IRN) seeks to connect academic and community-based researchers, artists, and activists around the Caribbean and in the diaspora in areas related to diverse sexualities and genders. The IRN is housed at the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at the City University of New York, funded through the Ford Foundation, and located on the web at http://www.irnweb.org.

Homophobia in the Caribbean has received a lot of given international attention recently. Certain Caribbean countries have been targeted by international organizations because of publicized violence committed against LGBT people and the apparent absence of public condemnation. However, the public and international human rights discourse that describes Caribbean homophobia rarely includes the larger contexts of poverty, structural adjustment, neocolonialism, and violence in general within the region. It has been accepted that homophobia in the Caribbean has its roots in laws, religion, and social perceptions of gendered identity. But LGBT activists and others living in the Caribbean have also recognised that there is a complex range of viewpoints and attitudes that must be accounted for in our defining of homophobia. Some scholars and activists have argued that what we need is a new set of theories, writings, and understandings of the kinds of homophobia(s) that exist across the region, and clear distinctions among Caribbean island-nations in terms of the work being done on the ground and the various cultural landscapes and shifts regarding LGBT identities. These theories, writings, and understandings should necessarily include discussions about gender performance, hetero-sexism, and transphobia that encompass homophobia(s), as well as the economic and social contexts mentioned above.

Questions we hope to address in this project include: How is homophobia perpetrated and experienced in different Caribbean communities? What have been the strategies for organizing against homophobia and homophobic violence? What are the successes and challenges in this work? What new strategies do we need? How is the Caribbean shifting in terms of tolerance and acceptance of diverse genders and sexualities? And why? How do we bridge the gap between theory and practice, home and abroad/diaspora, policies/law and cultural norms?

To that end, we propose a collection of articles, essays, non-fiction, fiction, stories, poetry, activist reports, visual art, music, interviews, and other works that will reflect on the complexities of homophobia(s) in the Caribbean and to expand awareness about Caribbean LGBT lives, experiences, and activism in the region and its diaspora. We seek to disrupt the divide between academia and community, while locating theories and knowledge in multiple sites and discourses.

This collection will be edited by the Caribbean IRN coordination consultant Vidyaratha Kissoon and its board members Natalie Bennett, Rosamond King, Angelique Nixon, and Colin Robinson.

Themes that may be addressed in the collection include:

  • Caribbean Sexual Minorities, Citizenship and the State (Island-Nation)
  • Religion and LGBT citizens in the Caribbean: Condemning the Sin or the Sinner
  • Contextualizing Caribbean Homophobia: Religion, Colonialism, Neocolonialism, Poverty, and/or Structural Violence
  • The Impact of Global LGBTQ Movements on Homophobia and LGBT activism in the Caribbean
  • The Language of Homophobia: Caribbean Nuances, Silences, & Stigmas
  • Politics of “coming out” and being publicly LGBT: concerning safety and visibility inside the Caribbean and its diaspora (Can we be safe and visible?)
  • Symptoms of Homophobia: violence within institutions and popular culture (ex. music specifically Dancehall as scapegoat, often seen as cause of violence itself, without nuance or discussion of other aspects of Caribbean culture, particularly outside the region - i.e. “murder music” campaign)
  • Costs of homophobia in the region: violence, gender-based violence, hyper-masculinity, heterosexism, transphobia, bi-phobia, lesbophobia, etc.
  • Caribbean LGBT anti-violence work, community organizing, and human rights discourse
  • Migration and Diaspora: Politics of Asylum Discourse inside and outside the Caribbean
  • Intersectional Analysis of Caribbean LGBT Violence (relationships among various kinds of violence - patriarchal violence, youth violence, child abuse, sexual abuse, LGBT violence, bullying, etc.)
  • (Emerging) Queer Caribbean Diaspora(s) and its relationship to home
  • Imported Homophobia: how non-Caribbean movements against homophobia are targeting the region
Works can be accepted in digital text format, digital audio (mp3 or OGG format), digital image format or digital video. Abstracts of no more than 500 words should be submitted in MS Word or Open Document Format by April 30th with a short bio of the authors/producers. For those submitting creative work (visual, literary, audio, etc,), please send a short description of the creative piece(s) you plan to submit along with a bio. If you have completed pieces, feel free to submit those on April 30th. Please submit proposals via email to caribbeanirn@gmail.com. If accepted for detailed review, the completed work will be due by July 1st and it will be shared/published through our Internet platform in the Fall 2011. Eventually, we plan to approach a journal and/or publisher for a print publication.

IMPORTANT NOTE: We would like to represent as much of the region as possible. We acknowledge the limitations in asking for proposals in English, yet we seek to be inclusive and representative. While the primary language for the collection will be English, we plan to translate the collection into Spanish, Dutch, and French. And we are specifically looking not only for pieces that engage the English speaking Caribbean, but also the Spanish, Dutch, and French speaking. To that end, we are accepting proposal is these languages. Also, we are working on translating this call for submissions into Spanish, French, and Dutch, and we are looking for translators for the final submissions.


Please share & spread the word! 
with peace, light & conscious vibes!

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