February 20, 2017
Dear Caribbean Philosophical Association Members:
I write you now near the beginning of my three-year term as President of our organization. I am delighted to share this leadership period with the new Vice-President, Doug Ficek. Doug formerly served as the Secretary of Fanon Studies and Chair of Social Media, Communications and Design from 2013-16, and he’s a longtime member whose acumen, collegiality, and unwavering dedication to the CPA will be an extraordinary benefit to us all.
Doug and I, along with the association Board and Secretariat, stand on the shoulders of previous leaders. We thank our outstanding predecessors Jane Gordon and Rosario Torres-Guevara for advancing in concrete structural terms the underlying ethos of the CPA encapsulated in our motto: “shifting the geography of reason.”
We are living in unprecedented times. The articulation of ideas and mobility of peoples within and across borders are under heightened scrutiny. Fear of repression understandably worries many. Ideas, however, have always travelled. And it is those ideas that allow us not only to combat fear and agents of repression, but also to cultivate important existing institutions and create new ones. Our present moment is no exception.
In the wake of current global geopolitics, the CPA reaffirms its ongoing commitment, per its mission statement, “to support the free exchange of ideas and foster an intellectual community that is truly representative of the diversity of voices and perspectives that is paradigmatic of, but not limited to, the Caribbean.” Our reaffirmation reflects the yearnings of our membership, a heterogeneous collective comprised of students, teachers, activists, and scholars both institutionally affiliated and independent.
Three goals comprise the core of my vision as President and they aim to further our organizational mission over the next few years.
First, I plan to increase scholarly venues for the publication and circulation of ideas integral to the association. In that spirit, I’m delighted to announce that the CPA will launch in August 2017 an exciting new online peer-reviewed journal entitled “Reasonings.” The inaugural coeditors are: Anastasia Valecce (Spelman College & CPA Secretary), Carolyn Cusick, (California State University Fresno), and Chike Jeffers (Dalhousie University & former CPA Secretary). Anastasia, Carolyn, and Chike are an excellent editorship team with broad-ranging intellectual interests and specializations that will help to ensure a breadth to the journal’s content.
The thirst for knowledge surrounding ideas generated by the CPA community is growing widely and positively. The C.L.R. James Journal—the CPA’s hitherto official periodical edited by Paget Henry and published in print form with e-access for subscribers—has and shall continue to have a vital role in capturing the intellectual work of the organization. We hope Reasonings will enable heightened accessibility of the intellectual work undergirding the CPA to a Caribbean regional as well as global audience. We’re imagining it to be a digital commons: an e-platform for the latest path-breaking single-piece works on designated themes, a space to feature forums on recent leading articles and books with replies by the authors to commentaries, a site to publish select CPA prize-winning essays, and a venue to publish other related scholarship.
I look forward to reading the scholarship the editors of both Reasonings and The C.L.R. James Journal have planned.
Additionally, we’re fortunate to continue our partnership with Rowman & Littlefield International (RLI) in order to publish groundbreaking new books. We encourage you to read books published in the Creolizing the Canon series, which I co-edit with Jane Gordon, and the Global Critical Caribbean Thought series co-edited by Jane Gordon, Lewis Gordon, and Nelson Maldonado-Torres. The series editors also welcome proposals for book projects.
The second main area I seek to devote programmatic attention to is translations. The topic of translations is multifaceted, and it’s been the object of informal discussions the last several years at annual meetings, the summer school, and correspondences between members.
I seek to formalize these conversations. One way to accomplish this is implementation of the translation of key works across a range of languages pertinent to Caribbean thought and shifting the geography of reason. This will include translating a selection of books and articles as well as translating CPA prize-winning essays. Such an endeavor must reject the idea that works in English are the baseline texts requiring translation.
The biggest challenges are funding and acquisition of translators. Our Board is assisting me in the former. Please feel free to contact me if you have expertise in translation or recommendations for translators and funding sources.
Moreover, by the end of my term, I wish for the CPA annual meetings to have interpreters present at various panel and roundtable sessions to facilitate comprehension by audience members of the presentations. This will be a longer-range goal, and we shall continue to encourage multilingualism among members. Nevertheless, I believe interpreters will be useful at this stage in our organization’s history.
Third, I aim to pluralize our membership and events. This will entail introducing, in addition to our annual meetings and summer school, a select number of small international gatherings each year. These events would include thematic workshops and book launches, and they would have markedly less attendees than the annual conferences. At the same time, they would be opportunities for members to reason together, in person, in an intimate setting outside our major annual event. Furthermore, these smaller events are intended to be in locations we’re not holding annual conferences, thereby enabling the participation of some members who aren’t able to make it to our larger meetings.
Strengthening our current partnerships with other professional organizations and forging new ones also contributes to pluralization. I shall continue our collaborations with the Afro-Jewish Studies Association, American Society for Aesthetics, Center for Caribbean Thought, The C.L.R. James Society, Collegium of Black Women Philosophers, Merleau-Ponty Circle, North American Sartre Society, PhiloSOPHIA, Philosophy Born of Struggle, Roundtable on Latina Feminism, Simone de Beauvoir Society, and Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy. I aspire for us to foster future collaborations that will enrich our intellectual work and discourses.
Our social media presence on Facebook and Twitter (@caribphil) has been an invaluable medium to pluralize our membership and interact with persons who aren’t necessarily members but follow us nonetheless because of the topics we share and address. This is crucial for us to continue in an era of enhanced via media.
Before closing, let me remind everyone that the upcoming 2017 annual conference is in New York City, June 22-24, at the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC). Thanks to all of you who submitted proposals. Decision letters on proposals will be sent out later this week.
Finally, in case you have not yet read the CPA statement on the US Immigration Executive Order, please see it at the following link and share it widely:
I am honored to be your emissary and don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or feedback. I look forward to our important mutual interactions in the weeks, months, and years ahead!
Neil Roberts, CPA President, 2016-2019