"'Wid mi riddim, wid me rhyme, wid me own sense of time': Cultural Flows in Caribbean and South Asian Diasporic Poetry"

full name / name of organization: 
Dr. Caroline Lusin, Dr. Anne Brüske, University of Heidelberg, Germany

"'Wid mi riddim, wid me rhyme, wid me own sense of time':
Cultural Flows in Caribbean and South Asian Diasporic Poetry"

University of Heidelberg, 12-14 April 2012

In "If I Waz a Tap-Natch Poet" (2002), dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson negotiates his own poetological stance in a way that is representative for poetry and popular music in a post- and/or neo-colonial setting. Questioning reductive, Eurocentric notions like categorization and canonization, Johnson asserts his own, idiosyncratic aesthetic and cultural identity based on working "wid mi riddim/ wid me rime/ […] wid me own sense a time". Thus, he positions himself in a dynamic space between languages and cultures in which the boundaries between "music and poetry, […] 'high' art and popular culture, […] politics and aesthetics" (Robert McGill) have become fluid. This kind of hybrid cultural and aesthetic self-positioning is typical for the flourishing cultural output that migrational processes have inspired within recent decades, especially in the Caribbean and South Asian diasporas in Great Britain and North America. As a result of these processes, new forms of amalgamated cultural and aesthetic identities which defy easy categorization have proliferated.
This conference first of all seeks to explore the significance of cultural flows in contemporary British and North American poetry and other poetic forms written by authors with a Caribbean or a South Asian background. Papers may focus on the innovative connection of formal or structural elements (language, rhythm, rhyme,…) as well as on relevant topics or motifs positioning the lyrical self (and the author's oeuvre) in British or North American society. These may include but are not limited to the following:

  • Ethnicity & Class
  • Tradition & Cultural Memory
  • Generation & Family
  • Space & the Body

In this context, poetic forms at the intersection of poetry, performance and music are of particular interest. Which forms do cultural flows take in the works of authors like Fred D'Aguiar, Grace Nichols, Moniza Alvi, Roshan Doug, Sujata Bhatt, Daljit Nagra, Derek Walcott, Lorna Goodison, Meena Alexander, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Efraín Barradas, Daisy Coco de Filippis, Tomás Urayoán or Miguel Algarín? Which functions do they fulfil? In how far does the shared colonial heritage result in similar or different forms of cultural exchange? To what extent do these poets challenge traditional concepts of 'genre' and 'canon'?
At the same time, the conference aims at re-examining relevant key concepts from both a theoretical and a practical point of view. Literary and cultural theory have devised a range of concepts geared towards theorizing cultural flows and cultural forms influenced by two or more cultures. 'Hybridity' (Bhabha, García Canclini), 'creolization' (Glissant), 'rhizome' (Deleuze/Guattari), 'transculturation' (Ortiz) or the notions of diaspora (Clifford, Hall) and the Black Atlantic (Gilroy) count among the most prominent key concepts in current literary and postcolonial theory. Despite these groundbreaking contributions, however, the question still remains how to adequately conceptualize processes of cultural exchange. How pertinent are these concepts to describing and analyzing poetry and other poetic forms? To what extent do they have to be re-conceptualized?

Abstracts of no more than 300 words for 20-minute papers, plus a short cv, should be sent to Dr. Anne Brüske (anne.brueske@uni-heidelberg.de) and Dr. Caroline Lusin (Caroline.Lusin@as.uni-heidelberg.de) by 15 July 2011.