Through keynote lectures, panel discussions, the art exhibition, film screenings, and literature readings, the symposium will permit an open and critical discourse about Caribbean communities from Port-au-Prince to Puerto Rico to Port of Spain; from Chicago to St. Croix; from Tobago to Toronto. A humanist perspective will inspire participants to consider issues of social justice by interrogating how individuals from marginalized identities fit into their families, communities, nations, and world. 

The Unexpected Caribbean Symposium will be open and accessible to the public, completely free of charge. Six public events will take place in locations on KU's campus and around Lawrence. Events include:

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

"The Unexpected Caribbean in Film" Screening of The Agronomist

Forum A, Burge Union @ 4:00-6:00 p.m.

This 2008 documentary, directed by Jonathan Demme (Stop Making SenseThe Silence of the LambsPhiladelphia), details the life and death of Jean Dominique, a Haitian journalist and human rights activist. Dominique is discussed in Edwidge Danticat’s Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work, the 2018-2019 KU Common Book. The Q & A panel following the film includes KU faculty Cécile Accilien (Department of African & African American Studies), Giselle Anatol (Department of English), and Tamara Falicov (Department of Film & Media Studies). Accilien teaches Haitian Studies and Global Feminisms; Anatol teaches Caribbean literature and African Diaspora literatures at KU; Falicov teaches Latin American film, with emphases on Cuba and Argentina..

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Welcome & Opening Remarks

Spencer Museum of Art Auditorium @ 5:30 p.m.

Opening Keynote I (Ulrick Jean-Pierre)

Spencer Museum of Art Auditorium @ 5:45-6:30 p.m.

Join us for an opening keynote lecture by Ulrick Jean-Pierre, a Haitian-born, New Orleans–based painter who portrays striking historic figures and narrate influential events on a monumental scale. The exhibition Ties that Bind: The Art of Ulrick Jean-Pierre from a Comparative Perspective will feature approximately 12 paintings created by Jean-Pierre. Currently the subject of a documentary film, Jean-Pierre is not only a respected painter but also a storyteller and social commentator whose work serves to bring about political and social change, as well as critical awareness and consciousness.

Jean-Pierre will be joined by art curator Cassandra Messick Bruan and American Studies Professor Randal Jelks for a Q&A session to highlight select paintings from the Spencer Museum’s collection of influential 20th-century Haitian art, including pieces by Haitian contemporary artists such as Rigaud Benoît, Wilson Bigaud, Charles Ermistral (Thialy), Max Gerbier, and Edith Stephane, most of which was generously donated by Mary Lou Vansant Hughes in 2011.

Opening Reception

Spencer Museum of Art Auditorium @ 6:45-8:00 p.m.

Vin Pi Pre/Come Closer

Spencer Museum of Art Auditorium @ 6:45-8:00 p.m.

The Institute of Haitian Studies and the Spencer Museum of Art have commissioned “Vini Pi Pre/Come Closer,” a contemporary dance theatre work, from choreographer Michelle Heffner Hayes. Set to work by Daniel Bernard Roumain and Emeline Michel, members of the University Dance Company perform postures, shapes, lines, and concepts from the paintings and their subjects, as well as African diaspora dance traditions, through a contemporary frame of reference. The piece will also be performed at the University Dance Company Fall Concert on Thursday and Friday, November 15-16, 7:30 p.m. at the Lied Center of Kansas.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Registration (continental breakfast is provided)

Malott Room, Kansas Memorial Union @ 8:30-9:00 a.m.

Keynote II (Krista Thompson)

Malott Room, Kansas Memorial Union @ 9:00-9:45 a.m.

Join us for a keynote lecture by Krista Thompson, art historian and curator, whose scholarship has brought crucial recognition to art production in the region. Her books, such as An Eye for the Tropics (2006), Developing Blackness (2008), and Shine: The Visual Economy of Light in African Diasporic Aesthetic Practice (2015), have been acknowledged for their scholarly merit as well for their engagement with popular culture forms like music videos and photographs.

Panel 1: Rethinking Identities: Caribbean, Afro-Latin@, Latinx?

Malott Room, Kansas Memorial Union @ 10:00-11:15 a.m.

Chair: Yomaira Figueroa


  • José I. Fusté, “Neither ‘Afro’ nor ‘Latino’: Early 20th Century Cuban Racial Subaltern Entanglements with Discourses of Race, Nation, and Black Diasporicity"
  • Dawn Duke, “Poetry As Performance and Vindication: Presenting La Almanegra, María Teresa Ramírez”
  • Omaris Zamora, “Cigüapa Unbound: AfroLatina Feminist Fugitivities”

Panel 2: Music, Dance, and Resistance

Malott Room, Kansas Memorial Union @ 11:30-12:45 p.m.

Chair: Rachel Denney


  • Omar Ruiz Vega, “James Reese Europe and early Puerto Rico-New York musical relations (1898-1919)”
  • Juan Rodríguez Cepero, “Silvio Rodríguez, Roy Brown, and Nueva Trova”
  • Alessandra Jacobo, Celia Cruz: Queen of Salsa, Queen of Afro-Latinidad
  • Michelle Heffner-Hayes, “Lo que queda/That which remains: Dancing Bodies, Historical Erasure and Cultural Transmission”

Lunch Buffet

Malott Room, Kansas Memorial Union @ 1:00-2:00 p.m.

Panel 3: Place, Space, Protest, and Poetics

Malott Room, Kansas Memorial Union @ 2:00-3:15 p.m.

Chair: Omaris Zamora


  • Jessica Adams & Evelyn Dean-Olmsted, “Dispatches from the Edge of Empire”
  • Ande Davis, “Detection and the Communist Subject in Padura’s Havana Quartet”
  • Patrick Klinger, “Manufacturing the Unexpected: Scotland, Panama, and the Union of 1707”
  • Dahlia Nduom, “Complexity and Diversity of Housing in Jamaica: Perception vs Reality”

Panel 4: Embodied Knowledge, Decolonizing Knowledge

Malott Room, Kansas Memorial Union @ 3:30-4:45 p.m.

Chair: Gibette Encarnacion


  • Beaudelaine Pierre, “Rethinking Inter/disciplinarity through Bodily Ecologies”
  • Michelle V. Rowley, “Exploring the Queer Im/possibilities of Respectability Narratives”
  • Jacqueline Retalis, “Fukú vs. Zafa: The Legacies of the Plantation System in Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao”

Bus leaves for Lawrence Public Library

Film Screening: Murder in Pacot (followed by a Q&A session with Apricot Irving and Rachel Denney)

Lawrence Public Library @ 5:30-8:15 p.m.

Murder in Pacot is a feature film by Haitian film director Raoul Peck. The film stars Joy Olasunmibo Ogunmakin, Alex Descas, Thibault Vinçon, and Lovely Kermonde Fifi in the wake of the 2010 earthquake and subsequent infusion of international attention and humanitarian aid. A roundtable discussion with author Apricot Irving and KU doctoral student Rachel Denney will bring together a cross-section of speakers exploring Haitian history, politics, and culture in ways that challenge the common discourse of dependency and failure, fear and governmental repression.

Dinner on your own

Downtown Lawrence @ 8:30 p.m.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Keynote III (Apricot Irving)

Malott Room, Kansas Memorial Union @ 9:00-9:45 a.m.

Join us for a keynote lecture and public reading by Apricot Irving, author of The Gospel of Trees. Irving is the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Writer’s Award and an Oregon Literary Arts Fellowship.  Her work has appeared in Granta, This American LifeMORE MagazineOregon Humanities and the anthology Best Women’s Travel Writing. A public reading of The Gospel of Trees (2018) and Q&A session with the author shine a spotlight on the challenges of well-meaning missionaries who don’t contemplate the nuanced implications of “help” in the Caribbean.

Panel 5: Education and "Assistance"

Malott Room, Kansas Memorial Union @ 10:00-11:15 a.m.

Chair: Alessandra Jacobo


  • Rachel Denney, “INGOs and the Jamaican State: Education in the Postcolonial Context”
  • Irica R. Dunkley, “Jamaican Creole Perceptions and Academic Performance of Preadolescents in Chicago, Fort Lauderdale and New York City”
  • Jeanne M. Essame, “A Different Kind of Black: Haitians in the Congo”
  • Valerie Kaussen, “‘Passing Through the Orphan Portal’:  Technology and Orphan Care in US faith-based Organizations”

Special Lecture: Crystal Felima on Digital Humanities

Malott Room, Kansas Memorial Union @ 11:30-12:15 p.m.

Special Lecture: Daryl Dance on Caribbean Biography 

Malott Room, Kansas Memorial Union @ 12:30-1:15 p.m.

Lunch Buffet

Malott Room, Kansas Memorial Union @ 1:15-2:00 p.m.

Panel 6: Memory & Monuments

Malott Room, Kansas Memorial Union @ 2:15-3:30 p.m.

Chair: Aundrea Davis


  • Odile Ferly, “May ’67, or the Genesis of a Militant Memory in Guadeloupe”
  • Hadley Galbraith, “Tracking the body, re-tracing memory: Archive and/or Repertoire across works by Fabienne Kanor”
  • Viviana Pezzullo, “Imagination and Identity in L’Exil selon Julia by Gisèle Pineau”

Panel 7: Religion and Spirituality, and Culture in Caribbean Spaces

Malott Room, Kansas Memorial Union @ 3:45-5:00 p.m.

Chair: Christopher Peace


  • Alexandra Cenatus, “Haitian Vodou’s Epistemology: Using a Decolonial Approach to Explore How Social Issues are Examined”
  • D.A. Dunkley, “Rastafari and the World: Race and Spirituality”
  • N. André Siamundele, “Caribbean Discourse and African Identity”
  • Alexis Tate, “Colonialism: A Catalyst for the Hybridity of Cultural Identities of the Caribbean and Africa”

Roundtable Discussion: Creating Dangerously 

Malott Room, Kansas Memorial Union @ 5:30-6:45 p.m.

Inspired by Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work, by Edwidge Danticat (the 2018-2019 KU Common Book)

Symposium Dinner

Bay Leaf @ 7:30 p.m.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Marathon reading of Popo and FifinaChildren of Haiti, by Langston Hughes and Arna Bontemps

The Watkins Museum of History, 1047 Massachusetts St. @ 1:00-4:00 p.m.

The novel, a collaboration between two of the most influential figures of the Harlem Renaissance, serves as a milestone in the history of children’s literature, but is one of Hughes’ least discussed publications. In the course of the narrative, Popo and Fifina depart from home in the hills of Haiti to move with their parents to a seaside village, where they encounter numerous adventures. When first published in 1932, Popo and Fifina was praised by The New York Times as a delightful book with its “simple home-like atmosphere”; The Times remarked that all works for children “should be written by poets.”

Reading of Selected Caribbean Children's Books

The Raven Bookstore, 6 E. 7th St. @ 4:00-5:00 p.m.