Questions for CSA Past Presidents
Responses by Carolle Charles
CSA President 2011-2012
How did you come to specialize in Caribbean Studies?
I made that choice when I went to Graduate school but I was already involved in doing participant research as I was involved in community activism, particularly working with women and feminist groups.
How did your interest in and commitment to Caribbean Studies evolve?
I cannot really point to any specific moment of evolution in my interest to the field since there was always that political commitment to the area, in particular to Haiti.
When did you first join CSA and what did it mean to you then?
I join CSA in the early 1990’s and I found home. Since then, this is the only organization that meets better my cultural, political and academic needs.
What were your goals for CSA the year of your presidency?
Being President implied an engagement to a multilayered realm of tasks and demands. But I will not refrain myself from being extremely appreciative for holding the position during my 12 months tenure. One of my priorities was to renew ties with old members of the organization and at the same time to welcome new members particularly from the French and Creole speaking Caribbean societies. To that vein, this 37thAnnual Conference in Guadeloupe really represented my own commitment toward a greater and diverse representation of the”many” that make the Caribbean a unique multi-cultural and multi-lingual place. A second goal was to continue our process of re-structuring and re-organizing. In particular, I aimed to begin to change some of the very engrained “ad hoc and informal” ways of doing things. This results in a situation where there is weak institutionalization or formalization of practices, no codification or standardization of activities or of tasks. The prevalence of these patterns of the “informel” makes it more difficult for transmission of information
What did you recognize to be the greatest obstacles facing CSA and Caribbean Studies during your presidency?
We need to institutionalize and standardize. We need to secure more financial resources.
What did you consider to be the greatest accomplishment of CSA that year?
We finally were able to get our status as a non-profit organization in the United States and most likely we will also complete the process next year in Trinidad. The nonprofit status in the United States [501C) not only give us tax exemption status but also will allow us to get access to grants in the United States. Another achievement was also the formation of the new Trans-lingual Working Group. Likewise, there has been an effort to start translating our Constitution in at least three of the dominant languages in the Caribbean.
Why did you choose the location you did for the CSA annual conference that year?
To that vein, this 37th Annual Conference in Guadeloupe will really represent my own commitment toward a greater and diverse representation of the many that make the Caribbean a unique multi-cultural and multi-lingual place.
Where do you hope to see CSA in the next ten years?
I really want to see CSA becoming a stronger organization both financially and professionally. Thus, CSA needs to start organizing a serious grant writing working group. Likewise, we really need to become a more Caribbean representative organization. This must also be constructed through a concerted and serious effort to recruit new members and to nominate potential candidates for leadership positions from a more diversified pool. I also hope that we will be more involved in the development of Caribbean Societies. Moreover, I want CSA to be a real multilingual organization
What is one of your fondest CSA memories?
Surely, I must refer to the conference I organized in Guadeloupe. I think it was one of the best. I really enjoyed the community meeting and the CSA night. I also have fun memories in San Martin, San Andres and Panama.
What are you doing now in terms of the Caribbean?
I am personally quite involved with Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Where do see the future of Caribbean Studies?
A very interesting aspect of CSA is that our definition of Caribbean Studies encompasses researches in and about the Caribbean area and its many diaspora. I do hope that we move more in the fields of social and natural sciences.
What would you recommend to a young scholar starting in Caribbean Studies?
Do get involved in the field. This means doing research in particular in the Caribbean. Also advocate the field as an important area of knowledge.