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Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert

Lizabeth Paravisini-GebertLizabeth Paravisini-Gebert: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Caribbean Culture

Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert is a Professor of Hispanic and Environmental Studies at Vassar College (New York), where she holds the Sarah Tod Fitz Randolph Distinguished Professor Chair. She also teaches in other interdisciplinary programs including Latin American Studies, International Studies, and Women’s Studies. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Professor Paravisini-Gebert received a B.A. in comparative literature from the University of Puerto Rico in Río Piedras. She continued her training at New York University, from which she received an M.A., M. Phil., and Ph.D. in comparative literature.

Prof. Paravisini-Gebert’s scholarly and teaching work has mirrored the trajectory of the field of Caribbean literary and cultural studies since its emergence in the mid-1980s. It can be roughly divided into original scholarship (books, articles, and anthologized essays) that seeks to contribute to our understanding of the cultural, literary, religious and environmental history of the Caribbean, and editorial work (literary anthologies, critical editions, translations, introductory monographs, and our ongoing blog, Repeating Islands) intended as tools to facilitate study and future scholarship. Collections like Green Cane and Juicy Flotsam (1991) helped frame the study of women’s writing throughout the region, while anthologies like Sacred Possessions: Vodou, Santería, Obeah and the Caribbean (1997; rpt. 1998, 2000) invited scholars to read Caribbean literature within the context of the region’s Creole religions.

Although a significant portion of her scholarship has been devoted to Anglophone Caribbean literature (with books, for example, on Jamaica Kincaid and Phyllis Allfrey), most of her scholarly work can best be described as comparative and multidisciplinary. Its broad range has encompassed Creole religions, Caribbean women as travelers, cross-cultural and cross-linguistic connections across the region, art and religious practices, environmental literature and art, and volcanic disasters. This interdisciplinary work includes collaborative volumes such as Healing Cultures: Art and Religion as Curative Practices in the Caribbean and Its Diaspora (2001), Women at Sea: Travel Writing and the Margins of Caribbean Discourse (2001), and Displacements and Transformations in Caribbean Literature and Culture (2009), among others. This year, she served as guest curator for the exhibition entitled Fluid Ecologies: Hispanic Caribbean Art from the Permanent Collection, for which she wrote the eponymous exhibition catalogue. The exhibition, which opened on January 26, is currently on view until May 8, 2016, at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College.

As a whole, her work can be seen as working towards uncovering and analyzing regional connections that are the result of shared historical experiences and institutions, vital cultural links to the African (and subsequent) Diasporas, and comparable economic and social quandaries. Her scholarship has invariably been grounded in the theoretical and methodological approaches of post-colonialism, post-modernism, cultural studies and, most recently, postcolonial ecologies.

In recent years, her scholarship has been devoted to post-colonial eco-criticism and to exploring the interrelations between literature, culture, and art (particularly painting). A forthcoming book explores fauna extinctions in the Caribbean as linked to the process of colonization and the plantation, while her current project looks at how artists and writers have addressed the ways in which the region is preparing for the impact of climate change. She has devoted considerable attention to translation throughout her career and we have several joint translation projects in the pipeline. She also has pursued a keen interest in the digital humanities and in the dissemination of Caribbean scholarship through technology-based media. We have collaborated for the past seven years on Repeating Islands—a blog on Caribbean culture, literature, and the arts (http://repeatingislands.com/).

Prof. Paravisini-Gebert has spent most of her teaching career at two liberal arts institutions (Lehman College/CUNY and Vassar College) that have valued the multidisciplinary theories and approaches necessary for teaching and scholarship centered on comparative work and have supported and encouraged projects that sometimes fell outside strict disciplinary and departmental bounds—a support that has made comparative multidisciplinarity the hallmark of her work.

Link to online biography:  http://hispanicstudies.vassar.edu/bios/liparavisini.html

Publications:  http://lizabethparavisinigebert.com/

Contributed by Ivette Romero-Cesareo

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