Dr. Lisa Outar is an independent scholar whose research explores post-indentureship feminism, Indianness and cosmopolitanism in Caribbean literature and culture. From Port Mourant, Guyana, she has a B.A. in English from Princeton University and a M.A. and Ph.D. from the Department of English Language and Literature from The University of Chicago. Her doctoral project explored representations of Indianness in twentieth and twenty-first century Caribbean literature and popular culture, showing the fraught and paradoxical positions that Caribbean Indians occupied in colonial and nationalist imaginations in the region. After serving for five years as an Assistant Professor of postcolonial literature in the undergraduate and graduate English programs at St. John’s University in New York, she left her institutional affiliation behind to focus on her young family and on research. Since then, she has consistently published in the areas of Indo-Caribbean literature, feminist writing and the connections between the Caribbean and other sites of the indentureship diaspora, as well as conducted and published interviews with Caribbean artists, activist organizations and early Indo-Caribbean women writers. Having started off her journey in Caribbean literary studies with an interest in Caribbean autobiography, her work has progressed through examinations of the limitations of creolization discourses for representing the ethnic complexity of the Caribbean, to comparative examinations of the literature of the Francophone and Anglophone Caribbean, and the multiple and multivalent forms of feminist writing and praxis in the region. She is committed to crossing several boundaries in conventional approaches to Caribbean literature – the linguistic and national divides that bifurcate Caribbean studies, ones that fail to acknowledge the cross-racial solidarities and interrelationships in the region, the perceived divide between scholarship and activism and the divide between work that is being done in the region and in the diaspora. In the interest of the latter goal, she has sustained collaboration with Dr. Gabrielle Hosein and the Institute for Gender and Development Studies at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine campus. With Dr. Hosein, she coedited a 2012 special issue of The Caribbean Review of Gender Studies that focused on Indo-Caribbean feminisms and the book collection Indo-Caribbean Feminist Thought: Genealogies, Theories, Enactments that she co-edited with Dr. Hosein was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2016 and features work that not only crosses generations, but also various spaces and languages that contain the legacies of slavery and indentureship. Her reflections on some of these approaches to the field and on the complex journey that she and so many other CSA members are on of balancing diasporic identity with academic lives and fraught understandings of home and belonging are published in the latest issue of Cultural Dynamics.
Her current work is about continuing to trace the contours of post-indentureship feminism across the broad indentureship diaspora, putting into conversation voices that are less commonly connected to the Caribbean, and continuing to excavate Caribbean literary archives for early examples of writing that challenge conventional understandings of the evolution of the field. She is at work on archival research for a manuscript about early twentieth-century Indo-Caribbean female writers and the versions of feminist cosmopolitanism that they represented. In her path through the profession, she is deeply committed to mentoring and supporting work by newer scholars in the field.
Her work has appeared in the journals Small Axe, Cultural Dynamics, South Asian Review, Caribbean Journal of Education, South Asian History and Culture, Caribbean Review of Gender Studies, South Asian Diaspora, in Stabroek News and in the edited book collections South Asian Transnationalisms (Routledge, 2012) and Beyond Windrush: Rethinking Postwar Anglophone Caribbean Literature (University Press of Mississippi, 2015). She serves as a senior editor of the Journal of West Indian Literature where she was the editor of the April 2018 and April 2017 issues. The latter featured a special section on constructions of Indo-Caribbean femininities and masculinities.
She has had a long and deep commitment to CSA since 2005, serving, among other roles, on the Executive Council from 2010-2012, the Translation Committee from 2010-2014 and the Literary Salon Committee from 2012-2013. She has served on several of CSA’s Program Committees over the years and was a Book Launch and Book Exhibit Coordinator from 2006-2009.