Campus News

Saunders Wins Ford Foundation Grant to Fund Caribbean Studies

Story posted October 04, 2002

Patricia J. Saunders, assistant professor of English at Bowdoin College, has been awarded a $42,000 grant from the Ford Foundation to develop the Caribbean studies component of the College's Latin American Studies Program.

The grant is funded through the Ford Foundation's Emerging Voices, New Directions program, which brings attention to cultures that have been marginalized or stereotyped in the developing world order.

"There is an especially urgent need to support Area Studies because interdisciplinary scholarship that challenges the boundaries of knowledge construction will go a long way to challenge the popular sentiment that globalization has produced a 'global village' that operates from a unified system of values," explains Saunders in the grant. "Caribbean Studies offers us a unique occasion to examine the fissures in the narrative of globalization, particularly with respect to cultural values."

Saunders's project is titled "Swimming Against the Tides: Caribbean Culture and Market Values in the Age of Globalization," and will include a yearlong series of lectures, workshops, faculty reading groups and student presentations. The project will support two courses taught by Saunders: Caribbean Popular Culture and Literature, Culture, and Value in the Age of Globalization.

"The grant will allow students to interact with scholars, artists and activist who are engaged in redefining our understanding of globalization, value and culture," said Saunders. "Moreover, the interactive component of the course will function as a 'living reader' which will require students to engage the speakers in class discussions, lectures and workshops. My aim is to demystify some of the processes of thought and political action that inform debates about culture and globalization. By involving students in these processes, I hope to expose students to the complex machinations that are masked under the rubric of the 'global village'."

The public lecture series will offer a forum for the exchange of ideas among community members and faculty from a variety of disciplines, institutions and cultures. Participants throughout the year will include faculty and administrators from the University of the West Indies (UWI)-St. Augustine, The Trinidad and Tobago Institute of the West Indies, The Centre for Gender and Development Studies (UWI, Barbados), United Nations Economic Development for Latin America and the Caribbean, University of Toronto, and Bates College, among others.

Student presentations will explore value and culture in the context of economic, political, cultural and technological world trends. In addition to working with Bowdoin faculty, students will work via the Internet with advisor Marjorie Thorpe. Thorpe is the former Trinidad and Tobago Ambassador to the United Nations and academic coordinator for the Trinidad and Tobago Institute of the West Indies.

The project also involves faculty reading groups designed to create more discussion among faculty members within the various disciplines, and assist faculty in Latin American, Caribbean, and Africana studies to develop curriculum and teaching strategies.

Saunders also hopes the program will serve as the groundwork for eventually establishing off-campus study opportunities for Bowdoin students at the University of the West Indies. Currently, the grant will fund fellowships for three students and one faculty member to do summer research in the Caribbean.

Patricia Saunders graduated from the University of Maryland with a B.S. in agriculture, and earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in English literature at the University of Pittsburgh. She joined the Bowdoin faculty in 1999, and teaches courses on Anglophone Caribbean writing, literature of the African diaspora, and gender and nationalism in postcolonial narrative. Her research includes work on Caribbean popular culture and nationalist politics in festival arts, dance and music in the Americas. She is currently completing her manuscript titled Disciplining Discourse, Re(in)forming Fiction: Caribbean Literature and the Task of Translating Identity.

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