Questions for CSA Past Presidents
Responses by Rita Giacalone
CSA President 1994-1995
How did you come to specialize in Caribbean Studies?
My first job in Venezuela (1979) was as a research assistant in a project about the border question between Venezuela and Guyana.
How did your interest in and commitment to Caribbean Studies evolve?
This way I became interested in domestic aspects of Guyana and I published my first two books: 1) Estudio histórico de la Guayana Británica, 1499-1949 (Mérida: CORPOANDES, 1982) and 2) Guyana Hoy (edited) (Mérida: CORPOANDES, 1982)
When did you first join CSA and what did it mean to you then?
I joined the CSA in 1982 and it meant the opportunity to learn more about the Caribbean.
What were your goals for CSA the year of your presidency?
Besides taking the Annual Convention to the Dutch Caribbean (Curazao) in order to attract more participants from that region to the CSA, I intended to highlight the links among the different cultural and language areas of the Caribbean, as well as with the circum-Caribbean countries.
What did you recognize to be the greatest obstacles facing CSA and Caribbean Studies during your presidency?
The narrowness of research focused in exclusive national and/or cultural areas was then (as it is now) the greatest obstacle to Caribbean Studies. Another one is the lack of original and all inclusive theory(ies) behind Caribbean Studies which leads to the application of theories developed for very different social, political, and economic situations and historical periods. For the CSA the greatest obstacle was getting funds for activities beyond the Annual Convention.
What did you consider to be the greatest accomplishment of CSA that year?
Probably, the greatest accomplishment was that the CSA was able to survive my presidency.
Why did you choose the location you did for the CSA annual conference that year?
Where do you hope to see CSA in the next ten years?
Overcoming the obstacles pointed out before.
What is one of your fondest CSA memories?
All the friends I made and the lively places I got to visit.
What are you doing now in terms of the Caribbean?
Not much; I am presently doing research on regional integration in South America and Latin America, but subjects such as South-South Cooperation (Petrocaribe) and the newly formed CELAC take me back to the Caribbean from time to time.
Where do see the future of Caribbean Studies?
I see its future in the development of theories based on the specificities of the Caribbean, and also linking it to the rest of the region.
What would you recommend to a young scholar starting in Caribbean Studies?
To try to think on his/her own terms, moving aside from academic fads and fashions.