Response to Sofia Aatkar, talk on Caribbean Travel Writing (3 March 2017, by Keeley Jones)

Caribbean Travel Writing

3 March 2017

Sofia Aatkar

by Keeley Jones

As part of Global Week’s celebration of diversity and culture, Caribbean travel writing is one of many sessions designed to inform people about Caribbean culture and how this is conveyed through Postcolonial travel writing. In a welcoming social environment, students, ambassadors, and passers-by were invited to the talk for an opportunity to make the most of the week’s final events, and learn about a new topic.

Travel writing as a genre often aims to create realistic and descriptive accounts of travel in new locations. More specifically, postcolonial travel writing challenges the Eurocentrism often identified in travel writing, critiquing the world view that appears in western civilization, and western society. Additionally, Postcolonial travel writing aims to write back against cultural stereotypes, and common themes include identity, nation, otherness, diaspora and hybridity. In the discussion held by a current PhD student in the Centre for Travel Writing Studies and the Postcolonial Studies Centre at Nottingham Trent University, the lack of current research about Caribbean British travel narratives was outlined, and why it is so important to learn about the origins of the Caribbean. In addition to the history of the culture, the travel aspect itself has a big impact, and it was further highlighted that an individual’s identity and nationality affects their opinion on travel as a whole.

Whilst the group discussion remained fairly informal and free-flowing, it primarily focused on the work of Caryl Phillips, who was born in the Caribbean and migrated to the UK when he was one year old. In his work, he often describes his journey to the United States and Europe, and his position as black man in Europe. Moreover, Phillips interrogates black European and black British identity, and the prevailing racism throughout Europe. When exploring Phillips’ travel to Amsterdam, it becomes evident to the reader that although black people here are used in the liberal framework that is Amsterdam and the red light district, they are not able to enjoy this as other tourists would. The exploitation highlighted in Phillips’ narrative conveys a lack of progress for what is considered a liberal city, detailing the experience from a personal perspective. As a result of this, Phillips’ travel writing successfully challenges our idea of contemporary Europe, questioning whether it is truly as evolved as we think.

Not only is it important to understand the origins of these cultures through postcolonial travel writing, but it is also important to focus on the need for education in order to eliminate ignorance and the ostracizing of others, purely out of fear of the unknown. Within a European sense of entitlement, we reject ideas which we know very little about, and we are not introduced to wider global issues. Whilst it can be argued this is due to the way we are conditioned in society, it remains an issue nonetheless. As global week comes to an end, the talk on Caribbean travel writing successfully concluded the fundamental lessons to take away: it is important to celebrate diversity in a way that not only embraces other cultures across the globe, but simultaneously educates us. It becomes more evident that Western society is perhaps not as liberal as we think, and education and open-mindedness are the first steps to solving this issue.

Keeley Jones is a second year student on BA (Hons) English at NTU. In Spring 2017, Keeley undertook work placement at the Postcolonial Studies Centre.

Review: Open Mic Poetry Evening – City Global Lounge (by Keeley Jones)

Review: Open Mic Poetry Evening, City Global Lounge

3 March 2017

by Keeley Jones

 

Throughout Global Week at Nottingham Trent University, different cultures are explored in order to celebrate diversity and raise awareness about important global issues. With events of all kinds taking place, the open mic poetry evening allowed people the opportunity to deliver their work in celebration of global week. Organised by Kyle Hutchinson and held in the city global lounge by the Creative Writing Society, issues were raised regarding identity and our place in the world, as well providing a refreshing opportunity to meet new people of different backgrounds.

Opening with a poem centred around urban living, the first performer focused largely on the small, mundane details of everyday life and its repetitive cycle, such as each minor action taken to make a cup of tea, the amount of sugar added, and the sound of the spoon hitting against the mug. Whilst this is not only designed to depict the life of an individual in Western society, it introduced the idea of the self as a mere fragment in a small world. Subsequently, the audience was encouraged to question this perspective, or rather challenge the cosmopolitan view that we are all a part of the same large world.

Themes of identity and cultural heritage were explored throughout the rest of the performances, outlining western privilege. ‘A Citizen of Nowhere’, written by Chris Page, critiqued the ignorance of Western society for its lack of knowledge and interest in other cultures. It was argued that too many people are oblivious to the issues around them, and that we are not able to label ourselves as citizens of the world when we don’t know enough about the world itself. This theme became more prominent throughout the evening, highlighting the importance of appreciating other cultures and individual backgrounds. Additionally, some poems even portrayed the struggles within a diasporic community from personal experience, and how this impacts an individual’s sense of identity: there are certain expectations based on where you come from, where you associate as ‘home’ and how others in society perceive this. These issues were highlighted and portrayed in a new light, both expressing inner feelings and writing back against cultural stereotypes.

In a large but intimate group of people from different backgrounds, performers were given a space to express their own experiences and how these have been affected by the issues that Global Week aims to raise awareness of. For those not necessarily engaged in Global affairs and the cultural issues that occur in societies every day, the open mic evening succeeded in raising awareness about Postcolonial issues and their overall individual experiences.

Keeley Jones is a second year student on BA (Hons) English at NTU. In Spring 2017, Keeley undertook work placement at the Postcolonial Studies Centre.