Keynote Speakers


Born in Jamaica, Professor John H. Rashford is a distinguished scholar in the field of ethnobotany, reaching beyond the Caribbean to embrace the wider world. His undergraduate studies at Friends World College included Music as well as Anthropology, but his doctoral research at The City University of New York saw him focus on ethnobotany, with a dissertation titled Roots and Fruits: Social Class and Intercropping in Jamaica.

John now holds the position of Professor of Anthropology at the College of Charleston. Much of his published work is located in Jamaica and the Caribbean, combining close observation with historical research in a diasporic context. In 2013, with, R. Voeks, he published African Ethnobotany in the Americas (Springer). Many plants have been drawn into his field, with particular focus on the ackee and, most recently, the baobab and its global story.


Perspectives on the Baobab’s Guinea Tamarind Name in Tobago

There is an inner and outer dimension to explaining the Caribbean way of life as there is to explaining the way of life of all cultures. Since inner and outer are related halves of a complete explanation, any attempt to account for Caribbean life by merely an inner or an outer perspective is by definition onesided. The reality of Caribbean life is the outcome of the correlation of the inner and outer and this unifying approach is explored in relation to explanations for the baobab’s common name in Tobago where the tree is called Guinea tamarind. The African baobab (Adansonia digitata) is the most well-known member of the genus Adansonia which includes six species native to Madagascar and one to Australia.

There are now excellent studies of its distribution and cultural significance in Africa and the Indian Ocean and the need for similar studies in the Americas has long been recognized. With respect to the tree’s common name in Tobago, there are those who argue the outsider view that Guinea tamarind is only a place-of-origin name indicating that the baobab was brought to Tobago from African and spread from there through the Eastern Caribbean. This explanation overlooks the insider’s view of the peoples of the Caribbean that the baobab’s Guinea tamarind name also includes recognition that it is a kind of tamarind. And girth/age profiles for the baobabs of the Americas do not support the idea that Tobago is the source of the baobabs of the Eastern Caribbean. The only adequate explanation for the baobab’s Guinea tamarind name is a complete explanation and in this talk I will give a unifying insider/outsider explanation for the baobab being called Guinea tamarind in Tobago.



Don E. Walicek is Associate Professor of English and Linguistics in the College of Humanities at the University of Puerto Rico’s main campus in Río Piedras. Walicek holds a BA in Cultural Anthropology and an MA in Latin American Studies, both from the University of Texas at Austin. His graduate studies in linguistics included coursework in Germany and the Netherlands. He earned his PhD in English at the University of Puerto Rico’s Río Piedras Campus in 2009.

Walicek has academic interests in the areas of sociohistorical linguistics, language and power, and Caribbean history. He is the author of more than a dozen articles and chapters and the editor of numerous volumes. He has served as Editor of the Caribbean Studies journal Sargasso since 2009. His publications include “Chinese Spanish in Nineteenth-Century Cuba: Documenting Sociohistorical Context” in Synchronic and Diachronic Perspectives on Contact Languages (John Benjamins 2007); “The Founder Principle and Anguilla’s Homestead Society” in Gradual Creolization: Studies Celebrating Jacques Arends,” (John Benjamins 2009); Thomas Russell’s Grammar of ‘A Stubborn and Expressive Corruption’” in European Creolists in the 19th Century (Buske 2014); and “The Anguilla Revolution and Operation Sheepskin” in Caribbean Military Encounters (Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming in 2017).

He and Jessica Adams are co-editors of the forthcoming edited volume Guantánamo and the Empire of Freedom, Politics and the Humanities at a Global Crossroads. In addition, Walicek is the local coordinator for Puerto Rico’s International Corpus of English (ICE) project. Currently he is the Director of his institution’s Graduate Program in Linguistics.


Captivity and Freedom in Guantánamo Bay, a Caribbean Site of Conscience

The tensions between traditions of captivity and calls for justice that have consistently clustered around Guantánamo Bay since the early period of Spanish colonialism compel Caribbeanists to reflect on the discursive construction of freedom in Western capitalist democracies—a freedom that is founded on, and still struggling with, restrictions dating back to the onset of modernity: early experiments in colonization and plantation slavery; achievements of emancipation and national liberation; and devotion to commercial and military expansion. With this in mind, this presentation, which consists of three main parts, approaches the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba as a Caribbean “site of conscience,” positioning it in dialogue with the history of the space before its occupation; examples of artistic and literature production by Cuban, Haitian, and Middle Eastern detainees who have been held there; and humanities practitioners’ critical engagement with controversies and abuses associated with the base. The presenter’s observations from recent visits to the Cuban side of la cerca and the detention camps run by the U.S. military will be used to construct a narrative that navigates the multiple incarnations of “Guantánamo” — the military prison, the base, Guantánamo Province, and “new Guantánamos” in other parts of the world.

Part one provides a sociohistorical overview of trends in the U.S. military’s response to Cuban and Haitian emigration between WWII and 2000, paying special attention to highly controversial changes in the government’s treatment of Haitian asylum-seekers in the 1990s (e.g., the establishment of interdiction with screening and the subversion of the obligation of non-refoulement). It also documents the representation of the plight of migrants and refugees by artists, musicians, activists, and writers in communities of the Caribbean diaspora, positioning these as part of the legacy of the 1970s Haitian artistic movement known as kilti libète (“freedom culture”).

Part two, which pays special attention to writings chronicling the experiences of the Middle Eastern “enemy combatants” incarcerated in the base since 2002 (e.g., Begg 2006, Slahi 2015), argues that U.S. policies towards migrants detained there in the 1990s were used as a blueprint for the practice of indefinite detention in the twenty-first century. U.S. presidential candidate Bill Clinton’s promise “to close Guantánamo” is considered alongside President Barack Obama’s failure to comply with his 2009 mandate to close the detention facility within a year, an order that he signed on his second day in office. The discussion presents examples of how writers, artists, performers, and academics have responded to abuses in the base during both periods.

Part three invokes humanism to critique the replication of policies, laws, and procedures developed for detainees at Guantánamo Bay by the governments of the U.S. and other countries. In addition, it describes the base’s Migrant Operations Center, which at the time of this writing continues to process and employee relatively small numbers of Caribbean migrants. “Freedom culture” and creative artistic engagements with the politics of memory are presented as useful for responding to the base’s controversial history.


AVNixon Profile.png

Angelique V. Nixon is writer, artist, teacher, scholar, activist, and poet—born and raised in Nassau, The Bahamas and currently based in Trinidad and Tobago. She identifies as an Afro-Caribbean woman, multi-racial Black, queer and sex-positive being, rooted in working-class struggle.

Angelique earned her Ph.D. in English specializing in Caribbean literature, postcolonial studies, and women and gender studies at the University of Florida, and she completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Africana Studies at New York University. She is author of the poetry and art collection Saltwater Healing – A Myth Memoir and Poems (Poinciana Paper Press, 2013). Her scholarly book Resisting Paradise: Tourism, Diaspora, and Sexuality in Caribbean Culture (University Press of Mississippi, 2015) won the Caribbean Studies Association 2016 Barbara T. Christian Literary Award for Best Book in the Humanities.

Her research, cultural criticism, and poetry have been published widely; and her artwork has been featured at several exhibitions. Angelique strives through her activism, writing, and art to disrupt silences, challenge systems of oppression, and carve spaces for resistance and desire. She is a Lecturer at the Institute for Gender and Development Studies at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago.


Saltwater Trouble

Dr Angelique V. Nixon has planned a performance based on poetry focused on issues experienced by women in the Caribbean. Her poetry and performance art presentation, “Saltwater Trouble,” will focus around two pieces of work by the Afro-Caribbean queer woman writer, who works to disrupt silences, write resistance, and create Black, queer, and woman loving spaces.

She will share her short art film — “Troubling Identities,” which is about mixed race identities in the Caribbean and seeks to unsilence troubling histories/herstories about racial mixing and migration in Caribbean families using the family stories – centered on the stories of her grandmothers and great-grandmothers. Although the Caribbean is celebrated as a creolised “mix-up” space, there is much silence around race and Blackness in particular that simplify ancestry and celebrate a mixed-race utopia. But the system of colourism remains in place, yet it ruptures within sites of families that are mixed race and working class, who resist silence. “Troubling Identities” represents these issues at the intersections of race, colour, gender, class, and sexuality in The Bahamas specifically and the Caribbean more broadly. Through family photographs and myth memories weaved through vibrant pastel and poetic landscapes, this art film seeks to make visible the submerged and vexed sexual-racial relationships that make up the Caribbean family — focusing on the stories of Caribbean women and Black women in particular and lives too often bound by gender.

Angelique will also perform pieces from her collection Saltwater Healing — A Myth Memoir & Poems. In this collection of collage and poetry, Angelique finds the path to healing and empowerment lies in both language and image. In eighteen snapshots, she collages photographs, drawings, and actual pieces from the Bahamian landscape—silk cotton, woman’s tongue pods, dried leaves and seeds—and uses them alongside handwritten poetry to explore and understand difficult stories through the lens of the natural world. She focuses on her experiences engaging home as a Black mixed-race queer Bahamian woman living abroad. The poetry and myth memoir represents troubled women’s stories (herstories) too often left out of our “history” books. It represents the messiness—the stuff we don’t often speak about–poverty, domestic violence, drug abuse, disease, mental health, sexual trauma, sexuality, race and color, class and privilege, and environmental crisis. The pieces are grounded in stories her grandmother told her as a young child – many which centered on the healing powers of land and seascape.

A sample of a poetry-based performance by Dr Nixon can be found here:

A poetry reading from Saltwater Healing:

Similar relevant websites are Dr Nixon’s academic website:

and blog (includes her art and activism):