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Amanda M. Smith’s Twitter residency on approaching Caribbean cartographies via indigenous traditions (July 17-July 24, 2023)

Join us from July 17-24, 2023 for our next JWIL Twitter residency when Amanda M. Smith (@amandanzas) will be sharing her research. She writes, “The geographic expanse that we call the Caribbean after the Carib peoples straddles islands, seas, and continents and has always been a pluricultural and plurilinguistic region. These qualities, which make the Caribbean fascinating to study, also make it challenging to navigate as students and scholars. How do we demarcate the necessary limits of our areas of focus as literary and cultural critics? Colonially? Nationally? Linguistically? What kinds of cartographies inform our studies and how can we think beyond them? As a Latin Americanist who came to the Caribbean via the Amazon, and then up the Orinoco with Rómulo Gallegos, in this Twitter residency with the Journal of West Indian Literature, I explore the fluidity of regional divisions. Specifically, I will focus on how attention to Indigenous traditions, even those appropriated by national literary and artistic traditions, offer one way of charting new maps of the Caribbean. My examination of how the pan-Indigenous shamanic practice of kanaima informs literary and artistic production across Venezuela and Guyana (two countries rarely considered together in literary and cultural studies) offers a lens through which to reimagine the region, but other areas of study as well. I will highlight the work of Wilson Harris, Mark McWatt, Pauline Melville, George Simon, Rómulo Gallegos, and Lino Figueroa, among others.”

Amanda M. Smith (@amandanzas) is associate professor of Latin American literature and culture at UC Santa Cruz. Her book, Mapping the Amazon: Literary Geography after the Rubber Boom (Liverpool University Press, 2021), examines how stories told about the Amazon in canonical twentieth-century novels have shaped the way people across the globe understand and use the region. She serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies and is PI on a Modern Endangered Archives Program grant to digitize the Biblioteca Amazónica of Iquitos, Peru.

You can read Prof. Smith’s essay “From Indigenous Practice to Trope: Kanaima in the Literary Geography of the Guiana Shield” in JWIL Vol 31 No 1 (Nov 2022).