2023 GKSL Award Winners:
The Blackest Thing in Slavery was not the Black Man: the last testament of Eric Williams
Ed. Brinsley Samaroo (2022)
The University of the West Indies Press: Jamaica, Barbados & Trinidad & Tobago
This text is an important contribution to the social and political thinking of the Caribbean and the Americas today. The author carefully crafts key historical arguments, connecting various touch points of forced and volunteer migration with the global political climate. Readers can appreciate how each chapter eloquently flows together that is both logical and accessible only benefiting a wider audience. This book’s fresh take on the African/Afro-Caribbean experiences is unique. The book moves beyond the former system of African enslavement, illustrating how other systems of oppression, including those of Indigenous Peoples, Japanese, Chinese and Indians, remain entangled with the ideologies of enslavement. Erick Williams historical reflections digs deep, demonstrating that the past is not so distant from the present, making this piece of work a remarkable contribution with obvious relevance, for readers and thinkers today.
Crossing Waters: Undocumented migration in Hispanophone Caribbean and Latinx Literature & Art
Marisel C. Moreno
University of Texas Press, 2022
In this compelling work, Marisel C. Moreno’s Crossing Waters: Undocumented Migration in Hispanophone Caribbean and Latinx Literature & Art brings border and archipelago studies into conversation by examining representations of unauthorized maritime migration in the Hispanophone Caribbean. Analyzing insular and diasporic literary (novels, stories, poetry, theater) and artistic (visual arts and aesthetics) cultural productions, Moreno pushes back against the erasure of liquid borders in studies of migration and brings the Spanish-speaking world into sea-focused Anglophone engagements of the Black Atlantic. The book focuses on intra-Caribbean migration between Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and Haiti while also addressing island migration to the Global North, illustrating how conditions of in-betweenness at sea connect the past and present and reveal complex experiences of gender, race, ethnicity, class, and migration. The “turn to water” approach employed by Moreno draws on rich traditions of Caribbean Studies while making important interventions into Latinx Studies from a distinctly Caribbean perspective.
GKSL Honorable Mention 2023:
Panama in Black: Afro-Caribbean World Making in the Twentieth Century
by Kaysha Corinealdi
Duke University Press 2022, 275 pages
Panama in Black: Afro-Caribbean World Making in the Twentieth Century by Kaysha Corinealdi is part of an emerging field in the English- and Spanish-speaking Caribbean that recovers intra-regional Caribbean histories of and connections in Central and South America.
Corinealdi describes the political history of Afro-Antillean labor and activism in early twentieth-century, newly-independent Panama, in which international, U.S.-led neocolonial construction projects for the Panama Canal and Panamanian infrastructure attracted a large number of migrant workers from the island Caribbean. The research focuses on the perspective of English-speaking Caribbean migrants and their efforts to attain citizenship rights in Panama since the 1930s. Cultural and linguistic barriers and racism had to be confronted intersectionally, and the text presents a fascinating study of the conflict between Panamanian nationalist ideals of mestizaje and politicized, subsumed Blackness.
The author emphasizes the efficient organization of post-1950s transnational, English-speaking African diasporic migrant alliances in New York and in the United States that support and influence their communities back home. The book thoroughly lays out the impact of conferences, workshops, education, literary writings, and press media on Black Panamanians, allowing readers to identify with and understand the community them in different legislative periods and countries.
Panama in Black is well-organized, presents convincing arguments that connect Panama—an understudied Caribbean region—to Diaspora Studies in general, and makes use of diverse primary sources, including photographs, personal and press writings, and oral interviews. Corinealdi also attends to gender issues and class differences in a way that honors the political and social contributions of Black Panamanian women to the nation and community. The Gordon K. and Sybil Lewis Book Award Committee was therefore unanimous in awarding this fine book a 2023 honorable mention.
Las ciudades del deseo: Las políticas de género, sexualidad y espacio urbano en el Caribe hispano.
Purdue University Press, 2022
In Las ciudades del deseo: Las políticas de género, sexualidad y espacio urbano en el Caribe hispano, Elena Valdez analyzes contemporary narrative texts (2000-2010) to explore the intersections of urban space, sexuality, and nationalism in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic, tracing the role of literature in making visible the demands and desires of queer subjectivities in relation to urban spaces in the Hispanophone Caribbean. Valdez’s textual analysis illustrates the city as a battleground against hegemonic, heteronormative political projects of the nation-state through the ways that queer subjectivities express disenchantment with unfulfilled promises while undoing foundational nation-building myths of whiteness, coloniality, and heteropatriarchy in the region. Reading texts for ambiguities, silences, and invisibilities, Valdez strives to reveal the instability and unrepresentability of queer desire as it combats, transforms, and subverts normative discourses of politics and identity.
GKSL Exceptional Press Recognition Award 2023:
University of the West Indies Press
This year, the University of the West Indies Press presented fourteen books, more than ever before, for the Gordon K. and Sybil Lewis Book Award. Many of the entries were remarkable. Together the books present a comprehensive snapshot of the diverse and innovative qualitative and quantitative work being done by scholars in the Anglophone Caribbean in the humanities and social sciences. The University of the West Indies Press stands out for promoting carefully edited volumes with serious scholarly work not just this year, but in the last few decades. The Committee of the Gordon K. and Sybil Award wishes to bring this continuous effort to the consideration of the Caribbean Studies Association community, and has therefore created this Exceptional Press Recognition Award for 2023.
Several texts stood out among this year’s University of the West Indies Press entries. The committee is particularly struck by the innovativeness and detailed analysis off two texts on Jamaica: Alexander Bedward, the Prophet of August Town: Race, Religion, and Colonialism, by Dave St Aubyn Gosse, and World War II Camps in Jamaica: Evacuees, Refugees, Interness, Prisoners of War, by Suzanne Francis-Brown. The UWI Press book that shares the GKSL Award this year, The Blackest Thing in Slavery Was Not the Black Man: The Last Testament of Eric Williams, a volume of the writings of the late Caribbean and Trinidadian statesman edited by Brinsley Samaroo is both a trenchant study of Caribbean colonization and an important historical document in its own right. These books point to the key sociopolitical function of Caribbean religious communities, the impact of international politics, and the place of Caribbean regional philosophy within the global world.
The Gordon K. and Sybil Lewis Book Award Committee also appreciates the attention paid to ongoing challenges faced by educational systems in the Anglophone Caribbean as documented in four more University of the West Indies Press books, and recognizes another text on CARICOM and Caribbean integration that clarifies the efforts of the Caribbean communities to develop regional economic and social politics.
We congratulate the University of the West Indies Press on their achievements and contributions to knowledge on behalf of the Caribbean community. We hope that this Exceptional Press Recognition Award from the Caribbean Studies Association serves as an important testament to the work and impact of the Press in and outside of the Caribbean.