I teach Caribbean literature and culture in the English Department of the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
I was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica. Despite living in many places since, I continue to think of Kingston as home, and to think of myself as a Caribbean Caribbeanist – that is, the Caribbean is both the object of my study, and the ground of my identity.
In addition to being primarily interested in the cultural production of Caribbean people, I am also an ongoing student of pedagogy, especially as it pertains to writing instruction and the use of instructional technologies.
Current and upcoming projects (fall 2018):
Continuing work on my new monograph, a study of Caribbean family sagas; have gotten to the exciting stage of hashing out potential chapter outlines (this feels like play to me, as it did when I was planning my dissertation and again when revising the dissertation into my first book). Had the privilege of presenting work towards that project at the Caribbean Studies Association conference in Havana in June – a paper entitled “Genealogy and Epistemological Uncertainty in Caribbean Family Sagas”, about family-tree diagrams (or their equivalents) and the symbolic and epistemological work they do in the family saga. I then spent a week after the conference experiencing Havana’s streets, museums, archives, and hotel lobbies (I learned a lot in hotel lobbies).
That Bold Venture article (on a 1950s US radio serial set in the Caribbean) is still percolating, but now there is an actual revision/expansion plan, which feels like progress. My goal is to have that under consideration by the end of this semester; I’ve even picked a target journal.
Next spring I will teach my graduate course in Caribbean Cultural Theory – it seems that I overhaul it every time I teach it, and this time will be no exception. My other course will be Caribbean Revolutions and Their Afterlives, an undergraduate course which I pitched as follows:
The vision for this course is to introduce students to narratives (across multiple genres) about Cuba and Haiti that will encourage them to think about the ways these two (post-)revolutionary Caribbean nations circulate in contemporary imaginaries in the Caribbean and the USA. Cuba and Haiti have long served as both inspirational and cautionary tales in the realm of politics, and sites of/fodder for fears and fantasies in pop-culture constructions of racialized, sexualized Caribbean “others”. These (mis-) representations of the historical and contemporary conditions experienced, and intervened in, by Haitian and Cuban people have had long lives and been broadly consumed. They therefore complicate – even impede – our understandings of Cuban and Haitian literary and cultural texts, and also of contemporary realities such as the 2010 Haitian earthquake, the death of Fidel Castro, the (relative, and perhaps temporary) normalizing of US-Cuban relations, and Haitians currently seeking refugee status in the US and Canada. This course aims to facilitate students’ engaging anew with what they know, and think they know, about Cuba and Haiti, through careful examination of the aesthetic and rhetorical choices made in texts from and about those nations.
My ramblings around Havana, and up-close exposure to how the Cuban Revolution is narrativized and memorialized, will necessarily inform how I teach that class; I’m so curious about how it will turn out!
Other parts of my brain are taken up with the new project on text and textile in Caribbean and African-diaspora lit. It’s still unclear to me what form(s) it will ultimately take, but I presented an initial foray in October at the West Indian Literature Conference in Miami; you can read that paper here. I’m also (less formally) writing on texts and textiles here and here. Stay tuned.
And – for a little personal news – my father Martin Mordecai’s brilliant historical novel, Free, appeared this fall from University of the West Indies Press. It was a long time in coming, and is very much worth the wait.