Monthly Archives: November 2015

World War 1 and Caribbean

To mark 11th November, I blogged about the connections between French Caribbean author Joseph Zobel, from the island of Martinique, and WW1.

Today, I’ve updated my WW1 page (see pages, above, or click here) with information about a new online resource launched in the UK.

The Caribbean’s Great War is a Heritage Lottery funded project to highlight the involvement of the Caribbean and her people in the First World War. The West India Committee was the heart of the Caribbean’s war effort in Britain and in 1915 established the West Indian Contingent Committee in response to the British Government’s decision to raise a West Indian army. The records held by the Committee provide a rare insight into the Caribbean’s role in the First World War, and much of what is now available has not been seen for a century.

It is a great tool for exploring more about the Caribbean’s involvement in WW1. The focus is mainly Anglophone, so it provides an important comparative perspective.

See: http://westindiacommittee.org/caribbeansgreatwar/

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Sugar Cane Alley screening in Leeds this Sat

In today’s blog post, I’ve included excerpts from a blog post by Dr Emily Marshall, Senior Lecturer in Postcolonial Literature in the School of Cultural Studies at Leeds Beckett University, with Emily’s kind permission.

Emily and I first met by pure coincidence at a postcolonial literature conference in 2006 here in the UK. It’s a day I remember well, and it was such a pleasure to talk to Emily about her grandfather’s work! Through Emily, I met her mother Jenny, and I have been honoured to be their ‘virtual’ colleague throughout the centenary year – we’ve exchanged lots of emails and electronic messages to keep each other updated on our activities.

Emily and Jenny will give a special introduction before screening the film Sugar Cane Alley at Leeds Town Hall on Saturday night. I’m sure it will be a very special event! I’ve been tweeting details (@zobelproject) for a couple of weeks, and you can buy tickets here: http://www.leedsfilm.com/films/sugar-cane-alley/

In a blog post which originally appeared on the Leeds Beckett University “Media Centre” blog, Emily reflects on the forthcoming screening of a film based on her grandfather Joseph Zobel’s novel, La Rue Cases-Nègres.

Emily writes:

“It is a hundred years since the birth of my grandfather, Martinican writer Joseph Zobel. While celebrations and events (in the form of conferences, workshops, commissioned art pieces and museum exhibitions) have been taking place across France, the Francophone Caribbean and French-speaking West Africa, Joseph and his novels are less well known in the UK. I wanted to contribute to the international centenary celebrations here in Leeds with the screening of an exceptional film based on his most famous semi-autobiographical novel, La Rue Cases-Nègres (1950), translated as Black Shack Alley or Sugar Cane Alley.

Sugar Cane Alley (1983) was directed by Martinican-born Euzhan Palcy when she was just 25 years old. The film won the Silver Lion award for Best First Film at the 1983 Venice International Film Festival and a César Award for Best First Feature Film in France. Palcy went on to become the first black female director of a Hollywood film for A Dry White Season (1989). With the support of the Center for Culture and the Arts at Leeds Beckett University, I worked in partnership with event organiser and film programmer for Leeds Film Festival, Laura Ager, to organise the screening. We also submitted a successful bid for the screening to be added to the ‘Being Human National Festival of the Humanities’ calendar of events.

I have only recently introduced Joseph’s novel, Black Shack Alley, alongside Palcy’s film, to my students. We examined the text on my third-year ‘Literatures of the African Diaspora’ module at Leeds Beckett – I had long been worried that my relationship to Joseph would not allow me enough critical distance to analyse his work. I was surprised by how objective I could be and also by the many positive responses and insights from my students, who enabled me to look at the novel and film from a fresh perspecive.

I am very excited about the screening of Sugar Cane Alley in Leeds as part of Leeds Film Festival and I hope it will promote debates about the impact of colonialism and colonial education, resistance to oppression, Creole culture and the effects of Empire in the postcolonial world. I also hope it will raise awareness of the impact and relevance of film and narrative on reflecting on our shared histories and influencing the way we understand our past and visualise our futures.”

You can read Emily’s longer post here: http://mediacentre.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/post/a-caribbean-childhood-sugar-cane-alley-comes-to-leeds/

I’m excited to hear more about this really important event!

11th November Armistice Day

Tomorrow is 11th November, Armistice Day, which marks the end of the First World War, and is an important time to highlight my project’s humble, but I hope insightful, contribution to WW1 commemorations.

In January 2015, I attended an event on Britain’s Black Community and the Great War, which was organised by colleages at Birmingham and Nottingham’s WW1 Engagement Centres (funded through the AHRC) for researchers and members of the wider community.

The event was held at the Library of Birmingham, one of the city’s flagship buildings and a really important community space.

It was fantastic to meet a range of speakers from community groups in the Midlands area and to learn more about figures such as the footballer Walter Tull  who fought and died in the First World War. I discussed my work on Zobel, and the event has spurred me on to think about Joseph Zobel, the French Caribbean and WW1.

As a result of this activity, I created a new blog page reflecting on WW1 and the French Caribbean. This seemed particularly important given that this project is running at a moment when across the world, commemorations are taking place to mark WW1.

I discuss the soldiers who fought from Martinique and Guadeloupe, and the references to WW1 in Zobel’s famous novel La Rue Cases-Nègres Black Shack Alley (1950):

https://josephzobel.wordpress.com/world-war-1-and-the-french-caribbean/ 

Back from the USA

I have just arrived back from Atlanta, and then went to Swindon last week to be filmed by the AHRC for a video on research funding  which is aimed at Early Career Researchers. It’s always nervewracking being filmed, particularly when it’s about subjects such as ‘the application process’, so I hope my answers will be honest and helpful guidelines for others. More on that when the film is ready…

I’ve also been busy Tweeting (@zobelproject) my support for a very exciting UK Zobel event – a film screening of Sugar Cane Alley which will be held at Leeds Town Hall on Saturday 14th November, with a special introduction by the author’s daughter, Jenny, and granddaughter, Emily! Here’s the link: http://www.leedsfilm.com/films/sugar-cane-alley/

Jenny and Emily have been very supportive of my own research, and I encourage anyone in the Leeds area next Saturday to head to the screening! I’ll blog about that a little more in the coming days!

And then I’ve been reading and writing! I have produced this account of my activities for the University of Birmingham online news pages, so I’ll leave you with this:

Dr Louise Hardwick has just returned from a Visiting Fellowship at Emory University, Atlanta, as part of her AHRC-funded research project into Joseph Zobel.

The Visiting Fellowship was crucial to Louise’s reframing of Zobel as an author whose importance transcends the Caribbean region: the issues of race, diversity and post-slavery identity which are central to his work find particular resonance in the American South.

Emory University is recognized internationally for its outstanding liberal arts colleges, graduate and professional schools, and its scholars and experts generate more than $572 million in research funding annually, while also maintaining a traditional emphasis on teaching. The city of Atlanta is itself an important location for the study of civil and human rights, and is the birthplace of Martin Luther King.

At Emory, Louise worked alongside experts in African American Studies and Caribbean Studies. She met with graduate students, and taught classes on Joseph Zobel and Francophone Caribbean literature. Louise also gave a research seminar on Zobel’s publication Laghia de la mort, and continued to draft her forthcoming monograph on Zobel.

While in Atlanta, Louise also collaborated with colleagues at Georgia Institute of Technology, a leading research and teaching institute, where she was invited to give classes and a research seminar at the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts which had just celebrated its 125th Anniversary.