18 November 2015

Resisting Paradise -- New Book!

Months have flown by since my last update on the blogsphere... :( and now finally making some time to share updates! In the midst of too many projects, deadlines, teaching, writing, creating, and everything else I'm up to these days... I'm loving it all and immensely invested in all the work. And I'm overjoyed with being in the region (homespace) and working at the Institute for Gender and Development Studies, University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago. There is much to report on and reflect... but for now -- wanting to share on conscious vibration that my book is out!!! :)

Cover Art "Emancipation Boat Cruise" John Beadle (1998)

My first scholarly book Resisting Paradise is ready for launches, readings, and parties! After many years of labour and love, research, writing, revising, and writing some more, I'm thrilled to finally hold my book. Thanks so much to Repeating Islands, ARC Magazine, and Bahamian Art and Culture eMagazine for book launch announcements!

It feels good :) and I'm feeling good... Grateful for the opportunity to share and create... So grateful for the support of friends and family... and even more grateful to all the spirits and ancestors who create through me.

The IGDS hosted a book launch for me on 28th October -- and it was a beautiful event and opportunity to share and discuss my work. Here are some highlights from the launch and promotions for the book.

Cover Art "Emancipation Boat Cruise" John Beadle | Design by Kathryn Chan

 Postcard -- Graphic Design by Kathryn Chan

Featured in the Trinidad & Tobago's Sunday Guardian, WOW Magazine | 25 October 2015
Thanks to Paula Lindo for the interview and promotion!

Giving thanks to all my T&T friends/fam who came out for the IGDS book launch on 28th October! I am so grateful! Special thanks to the entire staff at the Institute for Gender and Development Studies, St. Augustine Unit - especially Sue Ann Barratt for being a fabulous host, Deborah McFee for organizing the event, Kathryn L Chan for all of her hard work in marketing, creating, branding the launch and promo materials for the book (postcards, bookmarks, stickers are all Kathryn's design brilliance!), Gabrielle Hosein for a beautiful vote of thanks, and to all the IGDS graduate students who push and inspire me. Finally -- give thanks to my fierce warrior-kin Lyndon Gill who offered an incredible reflection/review of my book. I am still beaming and feeling so blessed and humble to be in this community and doing this work. Looking forward to years of building and forging resistance. Here are some photos of the evening:

IGDS Book Launch | Photo Credit: Kathryn Chan

IGDS Book Launch | Photo Credit: Kathryn Chan

IGDS Book Launch | Photo Credit: Kathryn Chan

Angelique V. Nixon & Lyndon K. Gill at the IGDS Book Launch | Photo Credit: Kathryn Chan

For more about the book and my process -- here is a published interview with Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday

In Her Words: Angelique V Nixon | James Dupraj, 
WMN magazine, Newsday, 15 November 2015, pp. 6-7

Angelique V Nixon is a Bahamian-born, Trinbago-based writer, artist, teacher, scholar, activist, and poet. Her newest published title, Resisting Paradise: Tourism, Diaspora, and Sexuality in Caribbean Culture was released in October. In the work, Angelique explores notions of Caribbean paradise and how the tourism industry we are all too familiar with can be both exploitative and counter-intuitive to regional mobility.

“The process was long and hard – lots of reading, writing, revising, and more writing,” she says of Resisting Paradise. The author reveals that the book took many years to complete and there were even times she believed it wouldn’t be finished. “But I pushed through and believed in the importance of Caribbean people being at the centre of our knowledge production and research.” Angelique is also a lecturer and researcher at the Institute for Gender and Development Studies (IGDS), UWI St Augustine. Her research, cultural criticism, and poetry have been published widely. She is co-editor of the online multi-media collection Theorising Homophobias in the Caribbean – Complexities of Place, Desire, and Belonging. And she is author of Saltwater Healing: A Myth Memoir & Poems, which is a limited-edition letterpress handbound chapbook of original art and poetry (sold out). This book and selections from it are currently on display at the Alma Jordan Library, UWI St. Augustine campus, as well a display from her newest book.

Today, she shares with WMN some of the driving themes behind Resisting Paradise, her personal relationship to the tourism industry, and divulges some of the issues she tackles in her new book.
Author Angelique V. Nixon | Photo Credit: Margot Bethel

Can you tell us a bit more about the book’s title? 
The first part of the title – Resisting Paradise came to me as I was reading poetry by two writers – Bahamian poet Marion Bethel and Trinidadian-Bahamian poet Christian Campbell. They are both very critical of tourism and how it affects Caribbean culture and identity. Their poetry offered much needed counter-narratives to stereotypical ideas of paradise. For me, being born and raised in a tourist economy in the Bahamas, I completely understood why they were so critical of these images of paradise. Also in my studies and research, I found that tourism has serious effects on cultural, racial, sexual, and class identity inside the region and in the Caribbean diaspora. And so I write about these connections between tourism, diaspora, and sexuality in Caribbean culture. And the book focuses on Caribbean cultural producers who resist the powerful production of paradise.
As Caribbean folk, we are often taught to look at tourism as a saviour or to look upon tourism markets as viable and illustrious options as career paths and corporate/economic investment. Do you comment on this in the book, and what are your personal thoughts?

This issue is at the centre of the book! It is exactly why I wrote it. Growing up in a tourist economy forged my consciousness around this issue – the double bind of tourism and the extreme dependency much of the region has on tourism. Further, as I share in the book, I worked in the tourism and banking industry for years in the Bahamas before my career in academia. I discuss how my own social and economic mobility is deeply tied to the tourism industry. One of my goals was to think through and offer alternatives to this double bind and expose the ways that tourism can be incredibly unsustainable and exploitative. I also wanted to show how Caribbean writers, artists, and cultural workers offer alternative models to mass tourism in order to propose more ethical and locally-led models. And I share ideas about investing in ourselves – education, knowing our histories/herstories, and cultural productions that are Caribbean focused – as a way to counter the negative impacts of tourism. I also discuss ways we can be more responsible and ethical Caribbean travelers and forge different relationships to space and the region in particular. We are not immune to the powerful and seductive images of paradise. And so when we as Caribbean people travel, I ask us to think about how we relate to each other and places we visit. For example, when we in Trinidad travel to Tobago – what is that relationship? How do we show up as visitors/tourists or local-foreign? What are our expectations of the space? Do we see Tobago as Trinidad’s paradise? What are the tensions that exist and why? These are the kinds of questions I discuss and explore in the book.

How do you link tourism, diaspora, and sexuality in the work? Why do you feel they need to be examined under the same lens?

I argue that tourism has deeply affected Caribbean cultural and sexual identity. And I also explore how this affects Caribbean people inside and outside the region. I discuss African Diaspora tourism and different kinds of travel and relationship to space. I think deeply about how Caribbean people living abroad and their children return home for visits, for Carnival, for pleasure and to spend time with family and how they participate in the business of tourism. This is why I bring these three together to discuss the complicated relationships among them.

How did growing up in a country heavily reliant on tourism affect the way you view and interact with such? Did your relationship to it change over the years?
When I was growing up in the Bahamas, it was either banking or tourism service industry for job opportunities. I started work in downtown Nassau at 14 with different summer and afterschool jobs; then bartending at night and bank job in the day after high school. My relationship changed over the years as I learned more in college and graduate school about economics, history, and culture across the Caribbean. I became more critical of tourism and wanted to search for better ways for us to survive as a region. But I also experienced and therefore respect the hustle of working in the tourist industry – and so I don’t want to be overtly critical of people who have limited choices either. I started to think about larger structural changes that we needed as a region – and how we could forge resistance together.

When examining Caribbean tourism, as with everything, there are pros and cons - do you agree? Can you elaborate?
Yes, of course – pros and cons. For me working directly in the tourism industry through service jobs (bartending, waiting tables, retail, etc.) as a teenager, I met people from all over the world – and I would say that opened up my mind and perspectives to many things. I grew up really poor in a small place and so getting to meet all different kinds of people was inspiring. During my interviews with people working in the tourism and culture industry, I also found this to be a positive aspect of tourism that people spoke about again and again. As for cons, there are so many -- from being unsustainable and over-reliance on foreign investments to the damaging environmental, social, and cultural effects of tourism. I discuss these in my book throughout but I also share ways that Caribbean cultural producers negotiate tourism. And so I offer ways for us to vision and push against the production of paradise and create new models.

Some may argue that the fa├žade of “paradise”, especially as it relates to the Caribbean, continues to be entrenched in our colonial histories. Please offer your thoughts on this idea of “paradise”, and why do you believe there should be resistance?
Dominant ideas about paradise are absolutely connected deeply to our colonial histories that remain embedded in our education, political, economic, and social fabrics across the region. As other Caribbean scholars have argued, ideas of Caribbean paradise were built and sustained through histories of slavery, colonialism, and indentureship that cultivated structures of racism, class exploitation, sexism, and other oppressive systems. There must be resistance to paradise because those dominant images (myths and metaphors) of paradise continue to define the region globally. There must be resistance to “paradise” because it is part of the region’s legacy of resistance. We must resist, contest, and create new images of ourselves that complicate and explode “paradise” because we exist, we are not metaphors, as Caribbean writer Michelle Cliff so beautiful puts it. My book seeks to answer this question that other Caribbean scholars, writers, and artists have asked and grappled with: what is the cost of producing “paradise” for everyone but ourselves? And I seek answers through various forms of resistance.
Sexuality is a topic that some may not link to tourism overtly, yet recently in Trinidad and Tobago there have been arrests and investigations into allegations of human trafficking. Do you believe tourism and the sex trade are two sides of the same coin?

Tourism and the sex trade are certainly related and connected, but I don’t see them as two sides of the same coin. It’s important to remember that much of human trafficking involves domestic work/trade, which is just as exploitative as sex trafficking. Also the sex trade operates inside and outside of tourism industry. The way I discuss sexuality in relationship to tourism is more about sexual labour and transactional sexual relationships that exist in many ways because of the over-dependence on the tourism economy. And finally, I examine the ways sexuality can be affected by tourism – that is, sexual identity, practices, desires, and behaviors. The book interrogates the sexual-cultural politics of tourism – even when sex or sexuality is not explicit in tourism advertisements or packages, it is always there under the surface. In other words, the Caribbean tourism industry in its selling of Caribbean paradise is always selling sex and culture. What do you hope both every day and academic readers can gain from Resisting Paradise? I hope all readers gain new insights into the ways that Caribbean cultural producers are writing, creating, and asserting Caribbean subjectivity and sense of self. And I hope readers learn more about the brilliant Caribbean writers and artists who push us all to think and expand our consciousness. I would like readers to think about resistance and how we can build community together and fight in the struggle for social justice and equality.

What has the work taught you? The work has taught me patience and perseverance as a writer and scholar. It has also taught me to stand up for my beliefs (being an anti-racist, class conscious, postcolonial feminist, womanist, same-sex loving, revolutionary intellectual). It taught me that I do have a right to theorise/create and be at the center of knowledge production, especially as a black mixedrace Caribbean woman doing Caribbean studies. And the work has reminded me that we must look harder for solutions and do research differently – in open and expansive ways to be more inclusive and fearless in our approaches.

Please tell us some more about your work with IGDS. What is on the horizon?
  I am teaching undergraduate and postgraduate courses in Gender and Development Studies. And I am working on a number of research and outreach projects for the institute, as well as my own writing and research. My current research areas include feminist praxis and discourse, Caribbean sexualities, sexual labour, and social justice movements. I will be working on my next scholarly book soon, and I’m in the process of revising poems and writing new pieces for my second book of poetry.

Where is Resisting Paradise available? It’s available on Amazon.com and through the University Press of Mississippi website. It’s in hardcover right now and so it’s really expensive. But I have copies that I’m selling -- extending my author discount so it’s a bit cheaper. Feel free to get in touch with me via email: angeliquevnixon@gmail.com. The paperback will be out next year or so, and then it will be much cheaper. The e-book is out as well on Kindle.

Any additional information, links, or thoughts you would like to share with our readership? I dedicated my book to “all the cosmic warriors and moon-loving-conjure beings, who create boldly, cause trouble, and fight for justice;” and to “the struggle to be black, woman, human, and free.” This is the center of all my work as a writer, artist, teacher, scholar, activist, and poet. Stay in touch with me Instagram/Twitter @sistellablack, Follow me on Facebook (Angelique V. Nixon), and visit my blog: consciousvibration.blogspot.com.

In Her Words, Trinidad and Tobago Newsday WMN, 15 Nov 2015

Graphic Design by Kathryn Chan

And finally, I'm thrilled to be going home to Nassau for a Book Launch and Panel Discussion hosted by the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas (NAGB) on 20th November! I will give a book presentation and then engage in a discussion with artist John Cox, activist Erin Greene, and COB lecturers Keithley Woolward and Nicolette Bethel. We will be discussing these questions and more that I grapple with in the book:
How do we Live & Imagine in “Paradise”? What is the relationship between tourism and culture? How do gender, race, and sexual labour intersect in this relationship? What are the (social and economic) costs of producing “paradise”? How does tourism affect our identity? Can “Art Tourism” (locally led) be a viable and more ethical model of tourism? What are sites of rebellion and freedom?
The Bahamas is featured prominently in the book: The cover features Bahamian artist John Beadle's "Emancipation Boat Cruise" (1998) which is housed in the NAGB's permanent collection. I discuss Bahamian art throughout -- investigating Junkanoo as both tourist product and form of resistance, my interview with Arlene Nash Ferguson about Junkanoo and EduCulture, analysis of Bahamian artwork by Dionne Benjamin Smith, Veronica Dorsett and Piaget Moss, as well as my interview with John Cox about The Current and Art Tourism. The book also offers readings of several Caribbean writers, including Bahamian poet Marion Bethel and Bahamian-Trinidadian poet Christian Campbell. One of my chapters "Living and Imagining in Paradise: The Culture of a Tourist Economy" is a case study of the Bahamas, in which I discuss several interviews I conducted with workers in the tourism and culture industries. 

So for me, it is vital to have a discussion about the book in the Bahamas -- and to share my work there in a public forum. Since academic work is too often limited in accessibility -- I hope this event and others that I will organize around the book can work against that. I am driven by a feminist praxis and research ethic, which is how I approached the writing and research of the book. I plan to engage the sharing of the work in the same way. (Though the book is very expensive because the first printing is in hardcover, but it will be in paperback soon and much cheaper hopefully by next year! I work to balance that by extending my author discount at book launches/events -- and also giving books to my graduate students I'm working with in Trinidad and giving to friends and family as I can). Still working out the best practices while also promoting and selling the book -- so that it will go to second printing and paperback. 

The Nassau Guardian ran a feature on the launch and discussion "The Way Forward" on 14 November 2015. More on this event soon!  

I am getting ready for deep reasonings in what I know will be a vibrant, rich and necessary discussion. 

with conscious vibration
peace love blessings,
Angelique (sistella black) 

30 July 2015

Reflections on my Fulbright Year

After a very long break from sharing on my blog, I am finally back -- and going to do a recap and highlights of the last seven months! I'm wrapping up my Fulbright year in Trinidad and the Institute for Gender and Development Studies, St. Augustine UWI. 

And I'm thrilled to announce that I will be staying on as a Lecturer (full time post) for the foreseeable future! I feel incredibly honored and blessed with this opportunity and what the last year has brought me. It's been amazing!!! And so here are some highlights -- as I continue to use my blog space as a way to share and recap. One day soon I may get back into a more regular routine of blogging... but I make no promises ;-)

These days I'm mostly on Instagram sharing my art/poetry and on the Facebook to keep in touch with my peeps and share news and work-related events.

So let's start end of last year / beginning of the year and work to most recent -- focusing on my writing, art, and speaking engagements:

1) In late December, my review of Trinidadian artist Shalini Seereeram's new and beautiful collection was featured in ARC Magazine. The article is titled "Terrains of Female Desire: Women-loving Women and Radical Acts of Self Care in Shalini Seereeram's Intimate Moments."

2) For International Women's Day (6 March 2015), Krystal Ghisyawan and I launched the three parts of our Artivist Project -- Sixteen Days: Art and Reflection on Ending Gender-based Violence -- as the final outcome of a three-part collaborative project of reflections and original artwork produced in commemoration of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence Campaign (from Nov 25, 2014 the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women to Dec 10, 2014 Human Rights Day).

The project's three parts, Outrage, Body Power, and Change are all combined in this video presentation here, narrated by our voices as we SPEAK UP!

3) My artwork, Troubling Identities, a short art film / new media was on exhibit at the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas for the 7th Annual Exhibition, Antillean: An Ecology (Dec 2014 through May 2015). And I am thrilled to announce that my work will be included in an exhibit in Austria, "Nassau Calling -- Art in The Bahamas [Re]-visited" (Sept - Nov 2015). For a short time, I have my film available on Vimeo (low res quality). (In the exhibits, it is/will be a much higher video quality.) Feel free to check it out!

Still shot from "Troubling Identities"

Still shot from "Troubling Identities"

4) In March, I presented my new research project at the Institute for Gender and Development, St. Augustine, UWI, as a Lunchtime Seminar. The title of my presentation was "The Problem of ‘Rights’: Movements for Gender and Sexual Justice in the Caribbean" -- and here is short description of my talk:

Public discourse around movements to reform and enact gender policies across the Caribbean has led to tenuous debates regarding issues of sexual and LGBT rights. These debates reveal anxieties about ‘rights’ and who should have access to protection. This presentation will offer a comparative analysis of these issues through an examination of public discourse, with a particular focus on The Bahamas and Trinidad and Tobago. My project investigates the ways sexual minorities and migrant communities (in certain cases) have been scapegoated as “the problem” in public debates regarding the expansion of rights, especially for women, thereby pitting women’s rights against sexual and LGBT rights. The larger contexts of gender-based violence and opposition to abortion and reproductive rights will be considered alongside fears regarding a so-called gay lobby and the use of religion and anti-imperial rhetoric. Overall, my research reveals how movements for gender and sexual justice in the region continue to be deeply affected by limited discourses on rights, equality, gender, sex, and sexuality; hence, I suggest new strategies for social change.

And here is a video of my presentation:

5) In April, I continued my work in Haiti for the 5th Delegation of Ayiti Resurrect – a grassroots collective focused on healing and community resilience. Ayiti Resurrect is a collaboration of visionary artists, community builders, holistic healers, and sustainable farmers from Komye (rural community in Leogane, Haiti) and the Haitian and African Diasporas. They have been working on the ground in Haiti since 2010 in unique partnership and local diasporic exchange and solidarity. I have been part of the core collective team since its inception and directly involved in the delegation coordination, fundraising, activities and community-led initiatives. The delegation included an intensive week of programming focused on women's empowerment, sustainable agriculture, education, art, and natural wellness. I co-facilitated workshops on African diaspora storytelling and Black Haitian pride for primary school children. Also, I co-facilitated skill shares for women on computers, creating herbal value-added products, micro-business enterprise, sexual rights/agency, and sexual education/health. One of the goals for this delegation was to support women's leadership among the Komye community partners, which will foster community development overall. It was an amazing and incredibly productive delegation, and as usual we learned more with each journey and each activity. 

For more info, check out our Report Back  & see the Photo Album

Skill Share Workshop on Value-added Herbal Products led by local herbalists and AR delegates
African Diaspora Storytelling with primary school children

6) In May, I wrote and published a review of Trinidadian artist Brianna McCarthy's new collection that celebrates Blackness and femininity for ARC Magazine. I had the great opportunity to interview the artist as well. The title of my article "Black Futures and Spirit Guardians in Brianna McCarthy's Vetiver Night Women."

6) I also participated in a really exciting new project by Small Axe called Caribbean Queer Visualities in April, which included a dialogue between artists and writers. I was paired with Nadia Huggins, and we both interrogated the use of queer and grounded our conversation in the local (space and place). All participants have been commissioned to produce new work for an upcoming special issue of Small Axe Journal; hence, this work continues and will be out sometimes next year.

7) And I attended the CSA (Caribbean Studies Association) conference in New Orleans end of May and presented two papers of new research projects, and also participated in a roundtable on Barbara Christian's legacy. The conference was incredibly busy and intense for me as I officially began my new volunteer (appointed) position with CSA as the 2016 Program Co-Chair of the 41st annual conference, which will be held in Haiti for the first time. As we plan for Haiti, I have worked on many many things (too numerous to list), but one that I am particularly proud of is working on the official CSA statement against the deportation and denaturalization of Dominicans of Haitian Descent, as well as developing the Call for Papers and Proposals and visioning/planning for the conference, which will be held in June 2016.

8) I co-wrote an article with Alissa Trotz about the situation in the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas regarding new immigration policies. The piece was featured on Groundation Grenada, "Where is the Outrage? -- Tenuous Relations of Human Rights and Migration". Also a shorter version appeared in the Stabroek News.

9) There is so much more -- from Jouvay and Carnival to honoring the life and legacy of Claudia Jones; and a few community building projects that I'm working on (developing workshops for young people who are considered "at risk" using poetry, music, and stick fighting -- soon launch the pilot program in September!)... and teaching undergraduates at UWI and also continuing my work with graduate students has restored my love of teaching! much to share... and to say... But for now, making this offering on my blog of reflections and highlights of the past few months as I wrap up my very successful Fulbright year in Trinidad and Tobago. 

I'm blessed and filled with gratitude to be here and continuing my work throughout the region. I visioned and manifested to stay in the region and create homespace here in Trinidad. And the universe has granted this wish for me. As I do -- grasping opportunities and making the best of it all. Living each moment as fiercely and defiantly as my ancestors and community.

with peace, love & conscious vibes dem