Lesbian & Gay Studies Project Hosts First Conference on “Queer Caribbean”
The University of Chicago News Office
March 29, 2005 Press Contact: Josh Schonwald
(773) 702-6421

Lesbian & Gay Studies Project Hosts First Conference on “Queer Caribbean”

The University of Chicago Lesbian & Gay Studies Project is holding a two-day symposium on April 15 and 16 to explore the art and activism of queer Caribbean writers and artists. The symposium, entitled “Queer Islands?,” is the first academic gathering devoted entirely to gay and lesbian literature from the region and will include gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender poets and authors from Jamaica, Trinidad, Cuba, Haiti, Puerto Rico and Suriname.

The conference is motivated by the unprecedented blossoming of queer Caribbean literature over the past decade, said conference organizer Natasha Tinsley, a postdoctoral scholar at Chicago’s Lesbian & Gay Studies Project, who earned her Ph.D. in comparative literature from the University of California, Berkeley. “This should open conversation between novelists, spoken word artists, activists and singers who consider how their art and activism bring together Caribbean, queer and community identities.”

Among the artists presenting are:

Makeda Silvera, an award-winning essayist, novelist and short story writer from Jamaica who founded Sister Vision: Black Women and Women of Colour Press, where she has edited numerous anthologies, including the groundbreaking Piece of My Heart, the first lesbian-of-color anthology in North America.

Thomas Glave, one of the founding members of Jamaican Forum of Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays, whose short story collection Whose Song? And Other Stories was named a Notable Book of 2000 by the Lambda Book Report. An English professor at the State University of New York, Binghamton, Glave won the O. Henry Prize in 1997 and was a Fulbright Scholar in 1998 and 1999.

Emanuel Xavier, a queer Puerto Rican spoken word artist whose performance and published poetry reflect a crossroads of experiences as a Latino and gay man coming up and coming out in Brooklyn. Winner of the Nuyorican Poet's Cafe Grand Slam Championship and the Marsha A. Gomez Cultural Heritage Award, his published poetry and fiction includes Pier Queen, Christlike and Americano.

Matt Richardson, a writer and activist from St. Maarten who is former associate publisher at Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, and whose fiction has been widely anthologized and whose non-fiction has appeared in journals and magazines nationwide.

Cheryl Boyce Taylor, a poet and artist born in Trinidad who has been a leading figure in the queer and women-of-color performance poetry scene in New York. Boyce Taylor is the author of two collections of poetry, Raw Air and Night When Moon Follows .

David Murray, a professor of anthropology at York University in Toronto and author of the groundbreaking study Opacity: Gender, Sexuality, Race and the ‘Problem’ of Identity in Martinique. Murray's work looks at how performative genres like theatrical plays, dance and Carnival (Mardi Gras) are fertile sites in which to investigate gender and sexuality in the postcolonial world.

Iya Ta’Shia Asanti, an award-winning writer, poet, filmmaker and activist who is also the founder and executive director of the International African Pride Organization and STAIRS, the Society of Two-Spirited African Indigenous Research & Spirituality.

The symposium will open Friday, April 15, from 7:30 to 9 p.m. with a literary reading and book signing at Women & Children First, 5233 N. Clark St.

“Queer Islands?” will continue Saturday, April 16, from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the University of Chicago campus in the Social Science Research Building, Room 122, 1126 E. 59th St. Panels will take place on subjects such as “The Words for It: Queer Identity, History, Language, Art and Activism;” “Art and Activism: Writing Gay/Human Rights;” and “Acting Gay: Performance and Popular Culture.”

The Lesbian & Gay Studies Project at the University of Chicago is an interdisciplinary program for faculty and graduate students who study the historical, cultural and textual construction of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other queer identities, cultures and politics. Students involved with the Lesbian & Gay Studies Project conduct original archival research, fieldwork and critical textual analysis that will produce fundamental new knowledge and insights into contemporary debates over homosexuality and the historical development of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other queer identities, cultures and politics in a variety of cultural settings and historical periods.

All of the symposium events are free and open to the public. For more information about the conference or the Lesbian & Gay Studies Project, visit http://humanities.uchicago.edu/orgs/cgs/lgsp.html, call (773) 834-4509 or e-mail lgsp@uchicago.edu.


Last modified at 10:39 AM CST on Thursday, March 31, 2005.

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