The University of the West Indies, Open Campus
The University of the West Indies, Five Islands
The Antigua and Barbuda Youth Enlightenment Academy (ABYEA)
The Antigua and Barbuda Studies Association (ABSA)
Call for Papers
16th Annual Conference 2022
October 13–14, 2022
“THE CURRENT STATE OF THE GLOBAL BLACK STRUGGLE”
Greetings one and all—ABSA and ABYEA members and friends, UWI faculty, students and friends at both the Open and the Five Islands Campuses. Yes, it is already time for us to start planning for our 16th annual country conference. Last year, in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, we had a wonderful online meeting, which enabled us to reflect in very personal and scholarly ways on, “Antigua and Barbuda: During and After COVID-19”. So, once again a heartfelt word of thanks to all who contributed to making it the success it turned out to be, particularly our new UWI colleagues, Dr. Curtis Charles and Coleen Letlow, who delivered our keynote addresses. And let us not forget, Rev. Kortright Davis, and Dr. George Roberts, who made it possible for us to honor prayerfully and musically those who the COVID pandemic had taken from us.
Because this pandemic is far from over, during the past year we have been living through the disruptions and changes that its persistence has brought to our everyday lives, our economies, polities, international relations and to our social movements, old and new. In particular, we will focus this year’s conference on, “The Current State of the Global Black Struggle”, including how it has been affected by this pandemic that is still producing new and infective strains. The global Black struggle has been a long and venerable one, which has produced many great leaders, from Frederick Douglass to Marcus Garvey, W.E.B. Du Bois, Claudia Jones, Frantz Fanon, Angela Davis and CLR James—names we are all familiar with. From Antigua and Barbuda, our contributions to this worldwide struggle have been the voices of men and women such as King Court, Mary Prince, George Weston, V.C. Bird, Tim Hector, Jamaica Kincaid, and Baldwin Spencer. This struggle has been a long and hard-fought one in which people of African descent have sought to reclaim their freedom and their African heritage from the ravages of white racism and Western colonial domination. Our Struggle for political independence cannot be separated from this historic global struggle of people of African descent.
Human history is an ever-moving drama with struggles like ours experiencing periods of progression and retrogression. After the period of progression in which we, and several other African and Caribbean colonies regained their political independence and experienced periods of economic growth, it seems that since the mid-1980s we have entered a period of retrogression from which we have not been able to extricate ourselves. It is as though we have been caught in a vortex of multiple but overlapping and increasingly powerful hurricanes.
The first of these hurricanes was the White backlash in Western countries, but particularly the U.S., against the achievements of the Black struggle that culminated with the African American Civil Rights and Black Power Movements. Two events marked the start of this regressive period of white backlash: first, the 1978 Bakke decision of the Supreme Court that ended policies of affirmative action; second, the economic earthquakes of the neoliberal turn of corporate capital that saw affirmative action as inconsistent with neoliberal policies of deregulation and market fundamentalism. In developing countries, like Antigua and Barbuda, and many African countries, the deregulation of financial markets created forms crypto-financialization of economies, the contraction of forms of crypto-industrialization, and aggravated debt problems that resulted in the IMF imposing austerity programs of “structural adjustment”.
In the U.S., this ending of policies of affirmative action led to increasing demands for reparations on the part of African Americans and other people of African descent. In the U.S., the rising levels of unemployment and poverty associated with neoliberal policies gave rise to policies of mass incarceration and a near trebling of the prison population, which disproportionately affected Black and Hispanic communities. This of course led to major deteriorations in relations between these Black and Brown communities and the police, and eventually to the worldwide protests against the death of George Floyd. And more recently, the May 2022 shooting in a predominantly Black grocery store in Buffalo.
Reinforcing and overlapping with the neoliberal turn was the political hurricane of neo-conservativism in the West and a number of developing countries. This turn supported rising levels of religious and nationalist fundamentalisms, which would intensify into rising levels of xenophobia, racism and fascism in both Western and Eastern Europe. These countries saw rising levels of anti-Semitism and anti-Black racism, along with the rise in popularity of neo-Nazi parties
The last of these increasingly anti-Black hurricanes that I will mention here was the intensification of the white backlash that followed the election of President Obama in 2008. This backlash placed the Far Right, first in the form of the Tea Party, then in the form of President Trump, in control of the Republican Party and thus at the center of mainstream American politics. Under the shield of the Trump presidency we have seen pre-civil rights era attacks on Black voting rights and the openly racist statements of these Far Right groups like the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and QAnon. This all came to a head with the January 6th coup attempt to block the legitimate transfer of power to President Joe Biden. The structures of liberal democracy in America barely escaped being overthrown.
As if this was not enough, into this vortex of hurricanes and earthquakes has come this deadly COVID pandemic, which has killed over 15 million people worldwide, and brought lockdowns to economies across our world. These lockdowns have further aggravated already challenged economies, by creating supply chain disruptions, dis-equilibrating labor markets, and initiating cycles of painful wage-eating inflation. It is these overlapping cycles of white backlash, climate change, disruptive neoliberal reforms, regressive neo-conservative politics, attacks on Black voting rights, and eruptions of Far Right fascism that frame the current context of the global Black struggle. In short, it is from the regressive and retarding effects of this expanding chain of climate driven storms, political hurricanes, economic disruptions, continuing COVID-19 variants, and exploding outbreaks of anti-black racism that we now have to rescue and preserve the cherished goals of our global Black struggle.
The primary goals of the struggles here in Antigua and Barbuda, and the wider Caribbean, have been for national independence, liberal democracy or democratic socialism, racial equality, gender equality and the reconstructing of our humanity as an Afro-Caribbean people. This has clearly been and still is a Left of Center projection of our future. Consequently, the challenge before us is that of remaining true to these goals and ideals and their advancement in this very changed context of Right Wing instead of Center Liberal dominance.
For our conference, this means that in addition to the major issues that have come out of earlier conferences, such as insular inequality between Barbuda and Antigua, artificial intelligence, an entrepreneurial university, racial equality, gender equality, Antiguan and Barbudan literature, music, history, politics and economic development, we will now have to deal with these significant shifts in the strategic and ideological forces opposing Black liberation. To respond appropriately to these shifts, we will have to be examining more carefully the nature and goals of the Right in the West and how they differ from the goals of its liberal center. At the same time, we will also have to examine the major alternative solutions to current levels of racial domination that have been proposed by Black leaders and activists inside and outside of our Caribbean region. These suggested alternatives have ranged from revolutionary uprising, through pushing back against this conservative ideological war against our struggle for Black freedom and equality, Black nationalism, Black Marxism, Affirmative Action, Reparations, and on to strategies of Black economic development.
In short, for this year’s conference, we will welcome presentations on these troubling shifts in the international order of which we are a part, along with presentations on some of our longer standing themes. Our keynote speaker will address us on this theme of the current state of the global Black struggle.
To present a paper at this upcoming conference, send us an abstract of about a page including your name, affiliation, the title and a brief description of your presentation. These abstracts will enable us to organize some great panels out of your presentations. We will need to have them from you by August 15th.
Please upload your abstracts in the form of a word document below: