Category Archives: Martinique

Find out more about Postgraduate study at UoB in Modern Languages

As Easter approaches, many people are considering undertaking postgraduate studies in the future, whether they are moving straight from Undergraduate studies or have had some time away from the University environment and are considering a return.

My PhD student Antonia Wimbush runs an online PG Open Day page, where she answers your questions about graduate study in the Modern Languages Department, and I wanted to make that fantastic initiative the main focus of today’s post.

Antonia’s page can be found here: http://pg.bham.ac.uk/mentor/antonia-wimbush/

She is currently in her third year, and is fully funded through the AHRC Midlands 3 Cities consortium, a doctoral training programme. Antonia is co-supervised between the University of Birmingham (where she is based for 80% of her time) and the University of Nottingham (20% of her time).

Last but not least, a photo which is a throwback to my fieldwork in Martinique over Easter 2015. Antonia accompanied me on my work with schools, libraries, local interest groups and in the archives. The image is of Sainte-Luce – however, our trip there was not in our itinerary at all…

At the end of our fieldwork, when we arrived at the airport to leave, as I checked in, I looked across to the next desk and saw Antonia was being told the flight was full and she had been bumped off it! Luckily, I was able to persuade them to take me off the flight, and to put us both on the next flight home, the following afternoon! So we had a few extra hours in the beautiful town of Sainte-Luce, which after the frenetic pace of the fieldwork offered a welcome chance to relax and appreciate Martinique’s natural beauty.

beach kids 01

 

BBC Who Do You Think You Are? ft Liz Bonnin

Last night, the popular BBC show Who Do You Think You Are? featured the science presenter Liz Bonnin. I was particularly excited about the programme, because behind the scenes, I had helped the researchers to prepare her episode!

In the spring, I received an email out of the blue asking if I could help with the programme because it was going to include a celebrity with links in Martinique. The researchers had found me online, which was a great surprise, and reminds me of the importance of keeping my staff profile page up to date…!

At that stage, I wasn’t allowed to know who the celebrity was, so my mind went into overdrive 🙂

The emails duly arrived… I helped the team look at some archival documents – birth, marriage and death records – mainly providing contextual advice on the French Caribbean, and also adding some specific comments on the information the researchers had already compiled, to help them deepen their understanding. They had questions about Martinican history, language and culture, as well as specific questions about the documents that they had found.

When I saw the name Gros-Désormeaux, I knew it rang a bell… there is a Martinican publishing house, Désormeaux, whose books I cite in my own research, so I mentioned this to the team… in the end, it turned out to be the same family!

We had a couple of long phone conversations, and I was really impressed by the quality of the research that the WDYTYA? team had carried out – they had clearly used online databases which I use in the course of my academic research.

I was able to use my language skills and knowledge to help the team understand that in the French Caribbean context, the French word ‘l’habitation’ is not translated by ‘habitation’, as it is the word used for a plantation.

They then sent me a further batch of documents, which included the celebrity’s surname, so at that point, I had to sign a disclaimer to acknowledge that I would not spill the beans before the programme was scheduled! This was all new to me, and an exiting development! I was delighted to see it was Liz Bonnin, whose work I really admire.

Last night, when the documents that I had looked at popped up on TV, I was jumping up and down on my sofa! And then the word ‘habitation’ was subtitled as ‘plantation’, which was a bonus 🙂

Liz Bonnin’s thought-provoking story really captures the complexity of societies in Martinique & Trinidad. I am so pleased to have made a contribution to helping her fascinating story reach the UK public!

And I think it’s going to become required viewing for my students… 🙂

Missed it? View at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08501cj

Charity placement with Small Woods Association

It has been a very busy autumn/winter period!

A write-up of my charity placement with the Small Woods Association, which was part of my activities as an EU Climate-KIC ‘Pioneer into Practice’, has now gone live on the University of Birmingham Website.

http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/lcahm/departments/languages/sections/french/news/2016/hardwick-charity-placement-small-woods-association.aspx

I’ve reproduced a slightly longer version below!

 

Charity Placement with Small Woods Association

Dr Louise Hardwick has recently completed a four-week placement with the Small Woods Association in Ironbridge. The charity is the national organisation for woodland owners, workers and supporters. Louise, an AHRC Early Career Leadership Fellow, undertook the placement as part of her EU-funded activities with Climate-KIC, the EU’s main climate innovation initiative. Through the award of a funded place on the Climate-KIC ‘Pioneers into Practice’ scheme, Louise has able to develop the practical applications of her research in Ecocriticism through a specific training programme (workshops, online exercises, and a dedicated coach). Most importantly, through Climate-KIC, Louise applied her knowledge in a real-world situation with Small Woods Association (SWA).

The placement was also part of Louise’s cross-College activities at BIFoR (Birmingham Institute of Forest Research), where she is the Interdisciplinary Leadership Fellow for Ecocriticism. Louise explored the connections between the important knowledge base at Small Woods Association and BIFoR’s ground-breaking FACE facility which uses state-of-the-art science to address the impact of climate and environmental change on woodlands.

Louise at the Green Wood Centre site, part of SWA’s national headquarters.

 

At SWA’s working centre in Coalbrookdale, located in a stunning natural environment, Louise learned about ‘the story of wood’, from the local heritage of coracles to wood’s fascinating role in the construction of the Ironbridge itself. She also enjoyed a number of practical demonstrations of wood craft! During her placement, Louise met with SWA team members to discuss the connections between their work and her research on Caribbean authors whose literature raises urgent questions about human relationships with the land. She developed training and presentation materials to support the centre, and was profiled in the SWA members’ newsletter.

Louise’s placement has established a significant new working relationship between BIFoR and SWA with great future potential. Further collaborative activities such as internships and Scholars in Residence schemes can offer new ways to connect her research and the wider research conducted at BIFoR with important non-academic partners.

 

 

 

Joyeux anniversaire Joseph Zobel!

Today would have been Joseph Zobel’s 101th birthday! Thanks for stopping by to learn more about his work and legacy. For a quick introduction, you might enjoy the pages on Martinique’s history and the media links page.

Hard to believe it’s one whole year since we celebrated the centenary in Martinique! Below is a photo of me with some of the fantastic team that made it all happen. Bonjour aux Saleens! Hello to Riviere-Salee!

Today I’m in sunny Cardiff to give an invited seminar paper about Zobel’s  work.

The paper was part of a panel of talks which compared black consciousness movements across Francophone and Lusophone contexts in Africa and the Americas.

I’ve been tweeting about events @zobelproject and will add more once I’m back in my office!me and centre cult

 

French Film Screenings…

It has been a busy end to the term! Once Easter is over, we’ll be straight into our examining and strategic planning phase. The post-Easter meetings are already stacking up, as are the research deadlines… but before then, there’s time to reflect on last week’s AHRC-supported free film screenings which took place as part of the University of Birmingham Arts and Science Festival.

These events were free and arose from partnerships between the Modern Languages Department at the University of Birmingham and local arts and cultural organisations.

The events are led by my colleague Dr Claire Peters, a Teaching Fellow in French and Francophone Studies, who was awarded funding from the AHRC Cultural Engagement fund to carry them out. Claire recently completed an AHRC thesis on Francophone Postcolonial culture.

I’m her mentor, which is a very worthwhile experience for me and allows me to share lessons learned from my own public engagement events in the UK, metropolitan France and Martinique.

My AHRC Midlands3Cities PhD student Antonia Wimbush is also part of the team as an assistant at the events, as part of her own training in public engagement.

The screening of Sugar Cane Alley / Rue Cases-Nègres [dir. Euzhan Palcy, 1983] took place on Wednesday 16th March 2016 at 4-6.30pm MAC Birmingham. We knew that the afternoon timeslot might be tough, but as this event is part of a wider University of Birmingham Arts and Science Festival, we had limited choice over the timing. That said, being part of the Festival was a wonderful opportunity, and ensured that the event was widely publicised.

01 Antonia intro Sugar Cane Alley

Antonia did a great job of introducing the film (see photo above!), and afterwards Claire hosted a Q&A session with me on my own research into Zobel. I was delighted to have so many brilliant questions from the public, which included questions on adapting the novel into a film, Palcy’s career, Zobel’s wider works (and whether there were other film adaptations… not yet…!), the influence of Fanon and wider influences such as Negritude and the Harlem Renaissance. Our colleagues at the MAC had to politely but firmly eject us from the room at the end, as the next screening was due to begin!

The following night, Thursday 17th March 2016 from 7pm-9.30pm,  Claire gave a fantastic introduction to the film Black Skin, White Mask [dir. Isaac Julien, 1996] at The Drum. The film was followed by a lively comments session with the public audience, which gave rise to some excellent reflections on issues such as race, gender, identity, intersectionality and Negritude.03 drum audience

 

The overall feedback tells us that for many people in Birmingham, this was their first encounter with the French Caribbean, and that there is a real appetite for more Francophone events like this… so (shameless plug!) watch this space for the third screening in the series, which will take place in the cinema at The Mockingbird Theatre and Bar… more details to follow after Easter!

MLA at Austin, Texas

Happy New Year!

The Zobel project is on the move once again. I’m in Texas to present a research paper at the major research conference in my field, the Modern Language Association of America annual convention.

Thousands will attend this conference, which is held this year in Austin, Texas.

I’ll be speaking in a special panel on Caribbean Women, which will present four Francophone Caribbean case-studies. My fellow panellists and I will be exploring the role of women as novelists and cultural figures, as well as the representation of women in Francophone Caribbean literature and culture.

My own paper is entitled “Zobel’s Women” and I’ll argue that the depiction of women characters in Zobel’s literature is far more complex and interesting than has previously been acknowledged.

The MLA will be the biggest conference I have ever attended. Thousands register for it every year!

To prepare for it, I’ve been reading this Guest Blog by Natalie M. Houston, which is a great “Survival Guide” to academic conferences in general, and the MLA specifically! You might enjoy it too:

https://convention.commons.mla.org/guest-post/surviving-and-thriving-at-the-mla-convention?shareadraft=baba335_5682f9fa5936e

 

 

 

 

End of 2015 Round-Up

The Joseph Zobel centenary year is drawing to a close.

Looking back on the past 12 months, it is incredible to think of all the different activities that have taken place all over the world to celebrate the life and work of Joseph Zobel!

If you scroll down and click through the month-by-month archives for this blog, you’ll see spring activities such as March’s Paris Book Fair talks on Zobel where Roland Monpierre’s new graphic novel adaptation of Diab’-là was launched thanks to a crowd-funding initiative, with Patricia Thiéry’s excellent organisational skills…

… then it was on to April’s centenary events in Zobel’s place of birth, Rivière-Salée, in Martinique, and even me popping up on the Martinican evening news in May, and on ZoukTV with Raphaëlle Bouville, Frantz Edouard and Rodolf Etienne…

…in June and July, there are a couple of reports, including one published with the Guardian Higher Education Network website, about the discovery of a watercolour with a mystery link to Zobel at the British Library in London…

…followed by autumn or, as the Americans say, Fall, when I made an extended visit to Emory University, Atlanta. This was a chance to reflect on some of the continuities between the American Deep South and the Caribbean, and to give research talks about the laghia combat dance, as well as having great fun teaching La Rue Cases-Nègres to Undergraduates…

…then in November, three generations of Zobels – including Joseph’s daughter, Jenny, and granddaughter, Emily, organised a sell-out special filming of Rue Cases-Nègres at Leeds Town Hall… And I reflected on the role of French Caribbean soldiers in WW1 in Zobel’s works, and an event held earlier in the year at the Library of Birmingham…

Alongside all these activities, the traditional academic research continues, as I’ve been drafting conference papers and a book on the work of Joseph Zobel…

As the year draws to a close, it’s time to reflect on the fantastic work achieved by so many different groups who came together to celebrate the author’s legacy. And as my Martinican colleagues have commented, now it’s time to think about our next moves – or, as they say in French, l’après-centenaire!

 

 

 

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/

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/