Centre for Latin American and Caribbean Studies

Vanessa Knights Memorial Lecture

Vanessa Knights Memorial Lecture 2017

This is the second in a series of annual lectures in memory of Vanessa Knights (1969-2007) who was lecturer in Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies at Newcastle University from 1995 until her early death.

This event took place on 16 March 2017 in the Barbara Strang Teaching Centre at Newcastle University. 

About Vanessa Knights

The Vanessa Knights Lecture in Latin American and Caribbean Studies is an annual event organised by CLACS. It is in memory of our colleague Vanessa Knights, who sadly died very young in 2007. She published on the bolero, nationalism, diaspora and science fiction, and feminism and women's movements in contemporary Spain and Latin America. She was vice-president of Women in Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies in 2003-2004 and was a member of numerous scholarly organisations.

Withering Pasts or a Rasanblaj of Peculiarities

This year our speaker was Gina Athena Ulysse, Professor of Anthropology at the Wesleyan University, with the title ‘Withering Pasts Or a Rasanblaj of Peculiarities’. Gina told us the tragic, violent and painful story of Haiti in a way academic audiences at Newcastle are rarely exposed to: through a performance of her subject matter in text infused with the accents of her native creole, chants, poetry, and photography. Through this mixed media assemblage (‘rasanblaj’), Gina Athena Ulysse shows how Haiti’s past still looms large in the present. In her words, she ‘meditates on historical silences, rebellious rage, and the sacred, to affirm ancestral and political imperatives necessary for Black self-determination and self repossession’. Gina’s performance left everyone moved, and opened up an instructive space for us to discuss with her the ways that performance can be used as a teaching tool and as a medium for engaging with academic audiences, communicating messages otherwise hard to put into words. 

Vanessa Knights Memorial Lecture poster