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Louisiana and the Caribbean: a Cultural Gumbo

  The Program in Louisiana and Caribbean Studies at Louisiana State University grew out of discussions that began in 1996 among faculty of English, History, Comparative Literature, and Modern languages about our changing concepts of the local, the regional, and the global. Many of us felt our university should do more to honor the culture of the people we serve in Louisiana, while simultaneously reaching out to the myriad connections our state and region have to the immediate world of the Caribbean islands and coastal rims. A series of grant applications led to funding by the Louisiana Board of Regents, and the subsequent founding of the Program in Fall, 2003, under the supervision of English Professors John Lowe and Katie Henninger and Paul Hoffman from History. The grant was given significant support from colleagues in these and other humanities and social sciences departments, and was strongly encouraged by then Dean of Arts and Sciences, Jane Collins.

  The Program continues to receive strong support from Dean of Arts and Sciences, Guillermo Frerreyra, and has also forged new connections with disciplines in the natural sciences, notably the Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences. These connections are fostered through a series of brownbag lunches, guest speakers, academic conferences, and interdisciplinary course offerings.  Past conferences, "Beyond the Islands: Extending the Meanings of Caribbean Culture," "Creole Connections: Linking Louisiana and the Caribbean," "After Katrina: Rebuilding Landscapes, Rebuilding Cultures," and "Black Diaspora in the South and the Caribbean" will be followed by this year's gathering, "Rhythmic Rituals of Performance: Revisiting the Past and Realizing the Present in the Gulf South and Circum-Caribbean Musical Discourses" in March of 2008.

  Ultimately, our work establishing campus connections will lead to a minor, and then a major field of study for undergraduates at LSU. We are committed to increased study and translation of the major languages of Louisiana and the Caribbean, including French, Spanish, Creole and Pidgin. In our first year we have brought Professor William Ferris of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill here for consultation and for a public lecture on regionalism. The former Director of both the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at Ole Miss, and then the National Endowment for the Humanities, Professor Ferris offered crucial advice and encouragement, and helped us publicize our efforts. Our community of scholars also began to coalesce through a series of Brown Bag lunches organized by Professor Henninger.










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