Professor Carolyn Cooper, University of the West Indies (UWI) professor of literary and cultural studies, offered an exciting presentation titled 'Stuck in Traffic: Jamaican Culture Outa Road' at the Jamaican Embassy in Washington, DC, recently. This was the second lecture in the Jamaica 50 Series hosted by the embassy.
Cooper, addressing an overflow audience, surveyed aspects of Jamaican culture through a metaphorical review of the traffic situation in the country from the time of Independence. So, for example, Cooper showed how the traffic concept of the 'right of way' could be used to symbolise different forms of conflict in Jamaica over multiple rights asserted by Jamaican citizens.
Cooper also relied on the idea of social relations as reflected in the former tramcar system, in the minibus, and in the private use of motor cars, to demonstrate different class and racial perspectives of the Jamaican people.
The professor's presentation, which carried references to Bob Marley, Louise Bennett-Coverley, Mervyn Morris, Susan Lowe, Eric Donaldson, Junior Gong, and others from the Jamaican cultural environment, was well received by an audience consisting of Jamaicans in the diaspora.
In his introductory remarks, the Jamaican ambassador to the United States, Stephen Vasciannie, noted that the Jamaica 50 lecture series is intended to encourage reflection and discussion about aspects of Jamaican life since Independence, and to promote recognition of the rich tapestry of the island from diverse perspectives.
The vote of thanks was given by Ariel Bowen, minister-counsellor at the Jamaican Embassy. Copies of the book, Global Reggae, edited by Professor Cooper, were made to the audience.
- Derrick A Scott
Photos by Derrick A. Scott