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Caribbean Carnival and the Production of Transcultural Memory

Caribbean Carnival and the Production of Transcultural Memory: Literature, Media, Performances (jarula Wegner)

This PhD project is part of the project Migration and Transcultural Memory: Literature, Film and the Social Life of Media which includes Astrid Erll, Erin Högerle and me.

My PhD project is entitled “Caribbean Carnival and the Production of Transcultural Memory: Literature, Media, Performances”. The project analyses representations of carnival in literature (poems, plays, novels, but also essays and academic literature), music, and performances, as well as the realisation of the most important Caribbean carnival itself in Port-of-Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago.

The hypothesis is that the Caribbean carnival, due to its long and complex history, is an outstanding example for the production of transcultural memories. The analysis focuses not only on the travels of carnival from Roman festivities through Europe, to its establishment in the Caribbean by French colonisers. These elements are only one aspect of this cultural practice, which is fundamentally influenced by African, Asian and, of course, also American memories. Due to its central position in the emergence of a modern world market, the Caribbean archipelago paradigmatically exhibits the early effects of global integration and transnational migration. Considering the numerous historical layers of this contact zone—from the murder and enslavement of pre-Columbian societies, the African slave trade, Chinese and Indian indentured labourers and postcolonial migration, to the development as popular holiday destination—the emergence of the social and creative carnival practice is a transcultural memory practice, that deserves particular attention.

The focus on the production of transcultural memories takes into account the numerous, diverse and often violent pasts that are remembered through carnival practices. Against tourist or popular depiction, this event is not only an expression of a lust for life, exuberance and abandon, but also an important site of negotiating the past in the present. In the light of these considerations the following questions arise: How is the Caribbean carnival produced and reproduced each time anew as an act of transcultural memory? How do different media, such as literature, music and the annual carnival itself, contribute to this production? How are these transcultural memories narrated? In other words, the research project focuses on the emergence of transcultural memories, the function of media as memory carriers and its narration as meaning creation.

Consequently, the research project is fundamentally based on theories based on memory studies, media studies and narratology. Furthermore the analysis of the topic also necessitates the inclusion of crucial and recent developments in the areas of carnival theories, postcolonial theory and migration as well as diaspora research.

You can find my profile here.