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UWI seminar turns spotlight on identity, cultural issues

Friday, April 25, 2014    

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PRO vice-chancellor and principal of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, Professor Archibald McDonald, says that regional universities must play a role in establishing "full and complete" appreciation of the factors securing a democratically integrated region.

"A full and complete appreciation of the various institutions, policies, cultures and principles guiding statehood amongst our regional neighbours is key to securing a democratically integrated region." Professor McDonald told Tuesday's opening session of the two-day collaborative research seminar on the issue of 'Contending Perspectives on the Caribbean: Institutions, States, Cultures, Concepts" at Mona.

"It is therefore important for the university to provide a collaborative and educational setting for scholars and researchers to discuss these issues; and to hopefully provide guidance which will complement the growing knowledge base related to regional integration," Professor McDonald said.

He stated that the seminar supported the UWI's ability to delve into a group of nations, the French Caribbean, whose identity and cultural significance are not as widely appreciated as its English-speaking counterparts.

"As a group of English-speaking nations, it is rather easy for us to focus primarily on the concerns that affect our society, thus isolating ourselves from other multi-lingual neighbours. The seminar, however, provides an opportunity to recognise the voices of our neighbours and realise that, along with our similar histories, we also share commonalities in the manner in which our societies are organised and governed," Professor McDonald stated.

He noted also that the French Caribbean harbours a wealth of culturally untapped resources and significant socio-political policies that may be of great benefit to the entire region.

"And this is why we must begin to expand the dialogue regarding these islands," the Mona principal added.

He said that the UWI was always keen to support collaborative initiatives that bring together the Caribbean's most innovative intellectual minds. He added that the seminar provided an opportunity for scholars to share their research relating to Caribbean affairs, that will focus on issues associated with governance, cultural diversity and sustainability amongst states, and the impact of migration on the society.

The wide range of topics discussed this year will construct a crucial starting point for the promotion of greater and more intensive dialogue on the issues, Professor McDonald stated.

The seminar brought together three research centres and institutions participating in the delivery of "Programme France-Caraibe". They are the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES) and the Department of Government; the CRPLC (Centre for Research on Local Powers in the Caribbean) located in the Université Antilles-Guyane, Martinique; and the LAM/Africas in the World from the Sciences Po Bordeaux, France.

It was funded by the Fondation de la Maison des Sciences de l'Homme in Paris, and the European and International Relations and Co-operation branch of France's Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (France). Both of these institutions are committed to reinforcing the collaborative network of research based on the "Programme France Caraibe".

Over the two days, the participants engaged in dialogue on ongoing research on the Caribbean, by scholars from diverse disciplinary and institutional backgrounds. The researchers and lecturers have collaborated for several years in a French/ Caribbean teaching programme and sought, through the workshops, to strengthen the research aspect and continue an initiative that was launched in Martinique in May 2012.

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