History and Anthropology Conference Highlights Expansive Caribbean Archives

Ada Ferrer, Sidney Mintz, Aisha Khan -- RISM Symposium CLACS at NYU
CLACS Director Ada Ferrer, Anthropologist Sidney Mintz, and Anthropology Professor Aisha Khan at the CLACS Caribbean History and Anthropology Conference

On December 1 – 2, scholars and Caribbean studies enthusiasts came together for a two-day conference highlighting the recently acquired RISM Collection.

The expansive RISM (Research Institute for the Study of Man) Collection was founded in 1955 by Dr. Vera D. Rubin (1911–1985), and produced unique social science research ranging the fields of anthropology, history, demographics and medicine. This conference focused on three specific collections from Trinidad, Puerto Rico and Cuba.

Harvey Neptune - RISM Symposium CLACS at NYU
Harvey Neptune (CLACS alum and Assitant Professor of History at Temple University) talks about the Trinidad Study

The Trinidad Study is comprised of materials from the Study of the Aspirations of Youth in a Developing Society, which includes a series of in-depth surveys of high school student in 1957 and 1961. The project aimed to understand “how youth perceived the changing social, political, and economic issues facing Trinidad and Tobago as a developing nation in the Caribbean.”

The Puerto Rico Project, which scholar Sidney Mintz participated in, was conducted by Dr. Julian H. Steward and a team of anthropologists between 1947 – 1949.  The collection includes field notes, meeting minutes, manuscripts, printed matter and other ephemera.

The Carl L. Withers Manuscript Collection is an extremely expansive and rich collection, and an uncommon collection to come out of Cuba. The collection documents Carl L. Withers from field work in Mayajigua, Cuba from 1947 – 1950.

Sidney Mintz
Anthropologist Sidney Mintz

Sidney Mintz opened the conference with a talk titled, “The Other Side of Primitive.” He discussed his experiences as a young anthropologist in the late 1940s, and overall changes in the field over the last several decades.

Scholars from across disciplines participated in the day-long symposium, some of who had worked in the archives, while others had focused on the region and/or time period. The presentations included:

Jorge Giovanette – University of Puerto Rico: UnWithering Manolog: Comparative Notes on Caribbean Rural Life and Post-War Anthropology

Olivia Gomes de Cunha – Museo Nacional, Rio de Janeiro: Producing People and (Arti)Facts: Notes on Ethnographic Knowledge

Ana del Carmen Vera Estrada – Institute Juan Marienello, Havana: El trabajo de campo entre la historia y al sociologia

Antonio Lauria-Pericelli – Gallatin, New York University: Materialist Scholarship and “The People of Puerto Rico”

Juan Giusti Cordero – University of Puerto Rico: Highland and Lowland in ‘The Peole of Puerto Rico’ – Writing Space Back into Puerto Rican History Today

Marie Cruz Soto – Gallatin, New York University: Imagining Puerto Rico, Imagining Anthro-History: The Puerto Rico Project and its Legacies

Donald Robotham – City University of New University: The Crisis of Post-plantation Youth in the English-speaking Caribbean

Harvey Neptune – Temple University: The Age of the Nation: Toward a Youthful Imagination of British West Indian Decolonization

Posted by Von Diaz – MA Candidate at CLACS / Global Journalism at NYU

Published by Von Diaz

Von Diaz is a writer and radio producer based in New York City. She is a self-taught cook who explores Puerto Rican food, culture, and identity through memoir and multimedia. Her work has been featured on NPR, American Public Media, StoryCorps, WNYC, PRI’s The World, BuzzFeed, Colorlines, and Feet in 2 Worlds.

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