Monday, September 13, 2010

"From the Borders of History to the Global Imagination"

University Writing Professor Randi Kristensen crosses disciplines and cultures at a conference in Jamaica.

From June 20-23, Prof. Randi Kristensen attended “Meet Me in the Circle: The Second International Maroon Conference,” in the Maroon village of Charles Town, Portland. The conference was hosted by the Charles Town Maroons and featured two days of academic and cultural events, culminating in the annual Quao Day celebration on June 23.

The Charles Town Maroons are descendants of Quao’s band of the Windward Maroons, who waged war against the British from 1655-1739. The British sued for peace in 1739, and the Maroons signed a treaty recognizing their freedom and land rights a hundred years before emancipation in Jamaica. This history of resistance, in Jamaica and throughout the Americas, is slowly entering the academic and popular record. Prof. Kristensen’s paper, “Traveling Maroons: From the Borders of History to the Global Imagination,” traced the migration of the idea of marronage from historical accounts from the era into the disciplines of history, anthropology, linguistics, and psychology, as well as popular media such as literature, drama, poetry, and film.

The conference setting reflected the ambition to align academic findings with the intellectual, cultural, and experiential knowledge of Maroons themselves. Held in the Safa Yard, an enclosed, open-air space with a stage for presentations and performances, the space enabled Maroons to comment critically on the academic research, and also benefit from it.
For example, researchers have been able to offer digital versions of primary documents from the archives for Maroons to use in land disputes with the Jamaican government.

One of the highlights, and near downfall, for Prof. Kristensen, was a three-hour hike up a mountain to see the ruins of an 18th century coffee plantation. Col. Lumsden, the leader of the Charles Town Maroons, led the way, stopping to demonstrate methods of Maroon survival and warfare along the way. Refreshed by a snack of freshly-cut wild sugar cane, the group made it back down the mountain and across the river safely!

Pictured above:
Flying to the conference and Paul Youngquist, University of Colorado - Boulder, giving a paper in Safa Yard.
Pictured to the left: Col. Frank Lumsden, Charles Town Maroons, and Col. Wallace Sterling, Moore Town Maroons.

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