CFP Repost from Small Axe: Commemorating 1917: A Discussion of Citizenship and Freedom in Caribbean Literature

CFP repost from Small Axe: Commemorating 1917: A Discussion of Citizenship and Freedom in Caribbean Literature

5 March 2017
Transfer Day 1917

Call for Papers:

Commemorating 1917: A Discussion of Citizenship and Freedom in Caribbean Literature

Proposals for this special section are due by 1 June 2017 and full discussion articles will be due by 31 August 2017. Please send proposals to Vanessa K Váldes at

1917 was a significant year in the Caribbean:

  • On March 2, 1917, the Jones‑Shafroth Act was signed, conferring U.S. citizenship to inhabitants of Puerto Rico, the territory it had annexed at the conclusion of the Spanish-Cuban-American War of 1898.
  • Twenty-nine days later, on March 31, 1917, the Danish West Indies formally became the Virgin Islands of the United States, as the United States had purchased the islands of St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John for twenty‑five million dollars from Denmark. (The inhabitants of these islands would be granted citizenship a decade later.)
  • 1917 marked the third year of a U.S. military occupation in Haiti that would last for seventeen years: during the first months of the year, the Haitian legislature rejected a version of the constitution drafted by the U. S. State Department which included a provision that allowed for foreign ownership of land, a feature that had been excluded in previous constitutions.
  • In the Dominican Republic, 1917 marked the first year of a war of resistance against the U.S. military occupation happening in that country; this guerrilla war would last five years.
  • Finally, the year would see the end of Indian indentured labor in the British Empire, including the colonies of Guyana, Trinidad, and Jamaica.

In commemoration of the centennial of these events, sx salon: a small axe literary platform seeks discussion essays that examine how these historical moments are reflected in the region’s literature, then and/or now. How did literary writers of the time respond? Given the ongoing legacies of these occurrences, how have writers of later generations interpreted this critical year in the region?

This special section on the centennial of 1917 is slated for publication in October 2017. Discussion articles are typically 2000-2500 words and offer a targeted exploration of the topic. sx salon, launched in 2010 as part of the Small Axe Project, is an electronic publication dedicated to literary discussions, interviews with Caribbean literary figures, reviews of new publications (creative and scholarly) related to the Caribbean, and short fiction and poetry by emerging and established Caribbean writers. View past issues and submissions guidelines here.

Proposals for this special section are due by 1 June 2017 and full discussion articles will be due by 31 August 2017. Please send proposals to Vanessa K Váldes at

(St. Thomas Harbor, March 31, 1917 – View from the fort before the Danish Flag came down. Photo by

H. Petersen, courtesy of NPS-HFC)

“Free Land”


This design never became a coin of the US Mint, but it was a strong contender along with others with the legend “Free Land”.  It begs the question, for whom was it free?  The picture seems to answer the question.  It also answers the question “what did it cost?” for those received the “Free Land”–manual labor.  It however says nothing about the costs of this “Free Land” and homesteading to the indigenous peoples of the region or migrant workers or other disenfranchised peoples.

This is the design that was chosen in the end:


It by contrast emphasizes the rustic experience: simple shelter, basic water, but corn in abundance.  The oversized ears of grain have a long symbolic tradition in Greek and Roman numismatics, especially in connection with state sponsored solutions to hunger.


Money and the Control of Indigenous Populations in Colonial Times

Liv Mariah Yarrow


This is from Feliks Gross’ bibliography of Cecil Rhodes, Rhodes of Africa.  Notice how the imposition of the colonial government’s tax intersects with the private enterprise of individual colonists.  It provides the means for extracting both labor and the interest on the debt.  If you’re not familiar with the slang Kaffir, it is a racial slur derived from the Arabic word meaning ‘unbeliever’ or ‘one without religion’, and on par with ‘nigger’ in degree of offensiveness.

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Please bear with us…

We’re overwhelmed by the strength, quality and diversity of the abstract submissions.  To adequately reflect on the large number of submissions, the organizing committee needs more time before announcing the final program.  We hope to have answers to all of you by Dec. 1 at the very latest.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause!  Thank you.

The Wealth of Libya


1774: The Reverse Legend in Latin announces that Massilia is strengthened by the wealth (opibus) of Libya.  The French ships are shown approaching the north African shore.  A classicizing personification of the continent holds out her bounty.   However, unlike the classical prototypes the artist has taken extra efforts to depict racial features.  The walls of Massilia are seen in the distance behind the back of the personification.

Punny (Token) Coins

From the ANS collection:



Cf.  A short blog post about this type.

This type below is more conservative its rhetoric and is also a more official product of the campaign:

And just as an aside, I can quite find the actual provenance for this image let alone the token itself:


But it does make me wonder if Abe’s portrait isn’t being assimilated a little to that of King Tatius’ image on Roman Republican coins:


What we want to do…

This is the language from our funding request:

The rhetorics of freedom and liberty permeate contemporary and historical political discourse. This language and its associated symbols is invariably positively connoted from the perspective of the speaker and the presumed audience. However, the associated values and defining principles shift dramatically in each social context. In short we can all agree freedom is good, but we cannot agree what it means to be free. One of the key sites of contention in such discourse is what needs to be sacrificed in order to achieve liberty and what costs are associated with the preservation of freedom. The valuation of liberty is directly linked to whose freedom is prioritized and who is seen as bearing the associated costs.

The aim of this conference is to bring scholars from numerous disciplines into conversation across the historical timeline. Just as freedom and liberty are slippery concepts, so are ideas of value, cost and payment. But rather than simply viewing these terms as rhetorical devices that make freedom seem worthwhile, we deploy value, cost and payment as analytical tools for understanding how freedom works – while also keeping in mind that these are concepts that themselves demand investigation. These ideas unite the discourses of freedom and liberty, from ethical and economic discourses, which describe freedom as either physical labor or a mental activity, as well as the language of religion and science. Often our innumerable ways of assessing value bleed one into another, especially in conversations regarding individual and shared liberties.

By explicitly juxtaposing the different methodologies used in asking “what does freedom cost?” from Greco-Roman antiquity to the present, we hope to explore overlapping areas of research and help expand the existing conversations in each discipline. In addition to providing vocabularies, practices and theories of freedom that we still use today, Ancient Greece and Rome provide many examples of peoples who lacked freedom but strove to obtain it, including slaves, women and conquered peoples. By simultaneously examining the Greco-Roman antiquity and modernity, we bring to light recurrent historical patterns of the costs that people have and continue pay for freedom.

Our ultimate goal is to produce a rigorous edited volume of the most substantial and unified conference contributions for publication by a major university press.

These are some “meta-goals”:

  • Ensure each panel is diverse in terms of scholarly material and the demographics of the speakers
  • Support engagement from researchers at all stages from distinguished professors to promising undergraduates
  • Allow all participants to attend all sessions