The Michael Baptista Lecture

The Transnational Case for Reparations: Repair, Redress and Emancipation

March 31, 2021

Panel: Esther Ojulari, Consultoría para los Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento – CODHES, Colombia. Clissio Santana,Universidade Federal da Bahia, Brazil. Amy Strecker, University College Dublin, Ireland. Nora Wittmann, Author, “Slavery Reparations Time is Now.” Moderated by Michele Johnson, Professor of History and Associate Dean, Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies, York University.

The Caribbean Case for Reparations: Remembrance, Reclamation and Restorative Futures

March 18, 2021

Panel: Natasha Lightfoot,Associate Professor of History, Columbia University, New York. Verene A. Shepherd, Professor of History, Director of the Centre for Reparations Research, University of the West Indies, Regional HQ, Mona. Cikiah Thomas, Chair, Global Afrikan Congress, Toronto. Chevy Eugene (Discussant), PhD Candidate, Social and Political Thought, York University. Moderated by: Michele Johnson, Professor of History and Associate Dean, Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies, York University.

Critical but Expendable: Migration, Securitization, Racialization in (Unequal) Nation States

February 11, 2021

Panel: Evelyn Encalada Grez, Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, Canada. Manuel Galaviz, University of Texas at Austin, USA. Angelique V. Nixon, University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago. Chris Ramsaroop, Justicia For Migrant Workers and OISE, University of Toronto, Canada.

Fly Me to the Moon: Imagining a Future Beyond Extractions.

November 11, 2020

Panel: Esther Figueroa, Director of Fly Me to the Moon. Doona Ashamock, Indigenous Climate Action. Ali Kazimi, York University. Rachel Goffe, University of Toronto. Andil Gosine, York University. Tameka Samuels-Jones, York University. Rob Connell, University of California (was not able to participate).

- To access Esther Figueroa's manifesto, please click here.

Central American Migrants in Limbo: Transit Experiences and Grassroots Responses

March 11, 2020

Panel: Gio Bat'z, New Mexico State. Elizabeth Oglesby, University of Arizona. Adalberto Ramos, Centro de Recursos para Migrantes.

Discussant: Francisco Rico-Martinez (FCJ Refugee Centre)

The Coloniality of Disaster: Race, Empire and Emergency in Puerto Rico, USA

May 10, 2019

Keynote Speaker: Yarimar Bonilla. A political anthropologist specializing in questions of sovereignty, citizenship and race across the Americas.


Activism, Archives, and Performance: Commemorating 40 Years of CERLAC

November 8, 2018

Reflections from Early CERLAC directors

  • Alan Simmons (Sociology, York University)
  • Liisa North (Politics, York University)

Activism and the Latin American Working Group Collection

  • Luis van Isschot (History, University of Toronto)
  • Zoe Heyn-Jones (Postdoctoral Fellow, Canadian Consortium on Performance and Politics in the Americas)


Keynote by Diana Taylor

  • Diana Taylor (Performance Studies and Spanish, New York University): “‘Making Presence’: Regina José Galindo, Earth (2013)”


Violence in Mexico and Canadian Refugee Policy

March 8, 2017
Keynote Speaker: Sergio Aguayo. Professor at El Colegio de Mexico.
Panel: Judy Hellman, York University. Kathy Price, Amnesty International. Loly Rico, Canadian Council for Refugees.


'Disguise Up De English Language': Louise Bennett's Anansi Poetics.

November 3, 2016
Keynote Speaker: Dr. Carolyn Cooper, CD. Retired Professor of Literary and Cultural Studies, University of the West Indies (Mona Campus)


Beyond Memory/Mas alla de la Memoria: Traces of the Past in Struggle for the Future.

March 10, 2016
Panel: Gustavo Meoño, Carlos Henríquez Consalvi and Diana Carolina Sierra


Education and Mobilization in Contested Mexico - Situating Ayotzinapa

March 18, 2015
Panel: Jo Tuckman, Luis Hernandez and Maria Luz Arriaga.


Who Ain't A Slave.  Slavery in Fact and in Herman Melville's Fiction

March 26, 2014
Keynote Speaker: Greg Grandin, Yale University.

The Haitian Apocalypse and Rebirth

March 4, 2010
Keynote Speaker: Patrick Bellegarde-Smith.
The Hatian Apocalypse and Rebirth
'Apocalypse' is not too strong of a word for the event that took place in Port-au-Prince, on January 12, 2010 at 4:53 in the afternoon. One third of the citizenry was affected, and Haitians will have to live with the aftershocks till the middle of the 21st century. "Apocalyptic" is usually the word applied to the entire thrust of Haitian history by reporters and pundits with scant knowledge of Haitian history and culture. It is high time that North Americans learn about a society to which they are intimately linked for ill and good. Proximity has not made for good neighbors. Haitians take solace about the auspicious coming together of the 'stars,' President Obama and Governor-General Michaelle Jean, and the hundreds of thousands of Haitians now Canadian or American citizens, that augurs well for a different historical course between our three nations. What can we now expect? what will transpire in the foreseable future?

Patrick Bellegarde-Smith has a PhD in international relations and comparative politics, but he is most proud of his status as a 'oungan asogwe,' the highest ranking that one can achieve as a priest of Vodou, Haiti's national religion. Transcending religion to become spiritual discipline and worldview, Vodou has impacted all systems and fields in Haitian culture, playing a similar role as Shinto in Japan, Hinduism in India, and Judaism in Israel. Besides key books on Haitian history and social philosophy, Bellegarde-Smith has edited or co-edited a series of volumes on Vodou, Cuban Santeria, and Brazilian Candomble and Umbanda. Several of these books have seen translation into Spanish, Portuguese, and French. He is the grandson of Dantès Bellegarde, Haiti's foremost diplomat of the 20th century, and one of two major philosophers, with Jean Price-Mars, in the country.

Years of Human Rights Struggle in Argentina

September 22, 2006
Keynote Speaker: Nora Cortinas

Argentinean Human Rights Leader and Co-founder of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo - Linea Fundadora (Mothers of May Square)

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Argentina’s 1976 military coup d’état. An estimated 30,000 people were forcibly “disappeared”, tortured and murdered during the seven-year dictatorship that followed. Shortly after her own son’s “disappearance” in April 1977, Nora joined a group of mothers seeking to discover the whereabouts of their children and organized the first of a series of weekly protest marches in the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires.

Each Thursday afternoon since then, the Mothers have continued to march in the Plaza de Mayo, demanding that the fate of the victims be made known and that justice be served. The Madres de Plaza de Mayo have become an important political force in Argentina and an international symbol of courage and human rights activism.

The Disappearing Island: Haiti, History and the Hemisphere

March 20, 2004
Joint Jagan Lecture

Keynote Speaker: J. Michael Dash

In this lecture, J. Michael Dash explores Haiti’s symbolic destiny, in an effort to “free” Haiti from being relegated symbolically to the margins of world history. He argues for an understanding of the Haitian Revolution as both a foundational moment in modern universalist thought and a point of origin for postcolonial Caribbean societies, one which privileges global interaction and transcends ethnocentric models of nation, race, and identity.  In the spirited question period, also captured here, the circumstances of former President Aristide’s recent departure from office, the complexities of internal Haitian politics, and the regional and international context are debated.

Full paper as a PDF file.

Colombia: Internal Displacement & Humanitarian Crisis

May 23, 2001

Keynote Speaker: Amanda Romero

Colombia has received increasing international attention in the past three years in response to the deterioration in the internal war that has affected the country for more than forty years. However, the myth that violence in Colombia is largelyb due to drug trafficking has served to mask the complex historical and political components of an armed conflict that currently represents the most critical issue in the hemisphere.

This paper begins by analyzing one of the most pressing issues of the Colombian conflict: the internal displacement of poor Colombians, its causes and characteristics, and the responses by several actors in society. It relates internal displacement to human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law by different parties in the conflict.

The paper moves on to discuss current problems with the peace process that have developed in tandem with the implementation of Plan Colombia, an ambitious programme based on the assumption that Colombia’s problems are due to the negative effects of drug trafficking. In this context, the paper considers the problematic responses to the Pastrana administration’s appeal for international co-operation, giving particular attention to the concerns of ethnic minorities in Colombia and to the economic interests behind the "war on drugs". It concludes by presenting recommendations from civil society organizations working to overcome Colombia’s long-running conflict.

Full paper as PDF File.

Inaugural Lecture: The Moral Challenge of Globalization: Principles for Human Development

May 23, 1999

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Oscar Arias (former President of Costa Rica)

Globalization has brought significant changes to our political economy, which in turn have affected human development and the search for peace. In order to strive for a world that is compassionate and equitable, globalization must embrace more than technological advances, sophisticated markets and the increasingly rapid movement of people and information. The challenge is to embrace global citizenship - to think about security, democracy, and justice on a worldwide scale.

Full paper as PDF file.


The Diana Massiah Lecture


"The Language of the Blue Clerk"


November 19, 2015
Keynote Speaker: Dionne Brand

This year the Diana Massiah Lecture will feature Dionne Brand.   The theme of her talks is:  A meditation on what poetry offers to ‘being’ in the diaspora; a consideration of poetry’s possibilities in diaspora.

Banking the Unbanked: Mobile Banking as Recovery in Post-Earthquake Haiti

November 12, 2014
Keynote Speaker: Espelencia Baptiste

Diana Massiah Lecture_Poster 2

The 7.0 magnitude earthquake that devastated Haiti’s already poor infrastructure on January 12, 2010 exacerbated the daily challenges many Haitians face. At the best of times, banking in Haiti has been difficult, and the damage the earthquake wrought to telephone land lines made it more difficult for both ordinary Haitians and international agencies to access their accounts and move their money around. Mobile phone use, meanwhile, increased dramatically. Capitalizing on this shift, international agencies introduced mobile phone banking, not only for purposes of short-term recovery but also in the hope that it would increase “financial inclusion” and thus promote development in the long term. Four years later, however, adoption of the technology remains timid. Dr. Baptiste’s talk explores this failure as a window onto the vicissitudes of post-earthquake reconstruction in Haiti.

Espelencia Baptiste was born and raised in Haiti, Dr. Espelencia Baptiste is an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at Kalamazoo College. She specializes in the anthropology of education, ethnicity and nationalism, diasporas, Creole societies, and language and culture, as well as mobile banking, Voodoo, and inheritance in Haiti. She has worked in Saint Lucia, Mauritius, Kenya and Haiti, and her book, How Citizens are Produced and Ethnicity Maintained in Post Colonial Mauritius with Special Attention to the Creoles: An Anthropological Study (Mellen Press) was published in 2012.

Intimate Witnessing: Mapping State Violence on the Social Body, Kingston 2010

November 8, 2013
Keynote Speaker: Deborah. A Thomas

Deborah A ThomasWhat windows onto the everyday does bearing witness to state violence open for us? The lecture returns to the May 2010 government-sanctioned violence against the inner-city community of Tivoli Gardens in Kingston, Jamaica, to explore the sphere of intimacy-- the small, domestic, pedestrian stories-- that both gives a view of the gendered dimensions of spectacular and structural violence and produces desire related to social and political life.

Deborah A. Thomas is a cultural anthropologist. She is the author of Exceptional Violence: Embodied Citizenship in Transnational Jamaica (Duke 2011) and Modern Blackness: Nationalism, Globalization and the Politics of Culture in Jamaica (Duke 2004).


The Jagan Lecture

They Came in Ships: Imperialism, Migration and Asian Diasporas in the 19th Century

October 20, 2007
Keynote Speaker: Walton Look Lai, retired lecturer of history, University of West Indies in Trinidad.

In this paper, Walton Look Lai develops a comparative overview of the pattern of East and South Asian labour migrations in the 19th century as both groups were steadily integrated into the expanding Atlantic world economy. He explores their respective push factors and destinations, the various mechanisms under which their labour was engaged, the relative issues of freedom/unfreedom attached to their engagement, the patterns of reception and treatment in their various host countries, and finally, their comparative mobility and assimilation options and choices in their host countries.

Full paper as PDF file.

Sweet & Sour Sauce: Sexual Politics in Jamaica Dancehall Culture

October 22, 2005
Keynote Speaker: Carolyn Cooper, Professor of Literary and Cultural Studies, University of the Aest Indies, Mona, Jamaica.

In this lecture, Carolyn Cooper explores sexual politics in Jamaican dancehall culture, arguing transgressively for the freedom of women to claim a self-pleasuring sexual identity that may even be explicitly homoerotic.  She analyzes particular contemporary music and movements of Jamaican women in dancehalls, and explores the credentialising of sexual orientation in Jamaican culture.

Full paper as PDF file.

The Disappearing Island: Haiti, History, and the Hemisphere

Joint with the Michael Baptista Lecture Series

March 20, 2004
Keynote Speaker: J. Michael Dash, Professor of Francophone Literature and Director of Africana Studies, New York University.

In this lecture, J. Michael Dash explores Haiti’s symbolic destiny, in an effort to “free” Haiti from being relegated symbolically to the margins of world history. He argues for an understanding of the Haitian Revolution as both a foundational moment in modern universalist thought and a point of origin for postcolonial Caribbean societies, one which privileges global interaction and transcends ethnocentric models of nation, race, and identity.  In the spirited question period, also captured here, the circumstances of former President Aristide’s recent departure from office, the complexities of internal Haitian politics, and the regional and international context are debated.

Full paper in PDF file.

Language and Politics of Ethnicity in the Caribbean

March 2, 2002
Keynote Speaker: George Lamming, Caribbean writer, visionary and public intellectual.

This lecture was given by the renowned Caribbean writer and intellect George Lamming as part of the Jagan Lecture Series commemorating the late Dr. Cheddi Jagan.  Lamming looks at the problem of ethnicity - and especially of relations between Africans and Indians in the territories where they form almost equal populations, namely Guyana and Trinidad - from multiple perspectives. He recalls dramatizing strategies employed by the old colonial power in this region, strategies that are still used today by contemporary politicians.  He proposes that race and ethnicity are socially constructed categories, and draws upon many Barbadian examples to illustrate the absurdity of racial prejudice in a Caribbean context where cultural miscegenation is so deep, and where habits of perception, accents, and tastes are so mixed, that wearing several categories of identity at once is common to all.  His conclusion, however, is that, far from being a curse, the challenges of cultural, linguistic and racial/ethnic diversity faced by the Caribbean constitute part of the wealth of the region, as amply demonstrated by its cultural workers, and its distinct traditions and peoples.

Full paper as PDF file.

Race, Class & in a Caribbean Interpretation

March 3, 2001
Keynote Speaker:  Lloyd Best, Director of the Trinidad and Tobago Institute of the West Indies.

"From Belize and Havana to Cayenne and Paramaribo, there is currently a crisis of Caribbean civilization...." Thus begins this unflinching analysis of Lloyd Best into the present Caribbean politico-cultural malaise - an analysis in which no historical figure or ideology is deemed beyond the need for critical reassessment, and in which the urgent need for a creative new departure is emphasized. Asserting that the promise of independence in the Caribbean was never realized, Best calls for a new beginning that eschews the superimposition of imported theories, values, and knowledge. He implores the people of the Caribbean, instead, to creatively seek a new understanding of their region in order that it may become, in Best’s phraseology, its "own first world".

Full paper in PDF file.

Development: Challenges Ahead for Small States

March 9, 2000
Keynote Speaker: Winston Dookeran, Governor, Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago

CERLAC and York University cherished the close association they enjoyed with the late Dr. Cheddi Jagan, former President of Guyana, Caribbean thinker, politician and political visionary.  Links with Guyana grew significantly under his influence, and Dr. Jagan twice visited York - last in 1996, at which time he delivered a major public lecture on his inspiring vision for a more just “New Human Global Order”.   In celebration of this special relationship and in commemoration of Dr. Jagan’s life and work, CERLAC and York International, together with a group of individuals from Toronto’s Caribbean community combined efforts after Dr. Jagan’s death in March 1997 to organize an annual lecture series - The Jagan Lectures - and to build an endowment fund by which it may be perpetuated.

On April 15th 2000, the second annual Jagan Lecture took place. Some 300 people, including prominent members of the Caribbean diplomatic community and Nadira Jagan-Brancier (Dr. Jagan’s daughter), gathered at York University to hear Winston Dookeran, current Governor of the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago, deliver his message. Although more a pragmatist than an idealist of Cheddi Jagan’s ilk, Dr. Dookeran nonetheless provided a thought-provoking talk. Dr. Dookeran sought to map out the challenges and choices presently confronting the small states of the Caribbean in their pursuit of a more equitable standard of development such as that envisioned by Dr. Jagan.

Dr. Dookeran began by acknowledging the rich cultural contributions as well as the great potential of small states, while noting how key tenets of Dr. Jagan’s vision have come to rank prominently on the international political agenda: the need for debt relief in particular, as well as the need to question reigning international institutions.

However, even as he reiterated Dr. Jagan’s call for a “restructured multilateral framework that [would give] a meaningful place at the negotiating table to developing countries,” the thrust of his lecture focused on the need for small states to adapt to the changing global context.  Among the adjustments he felt are required is the need for small states to cede more sovereignty to the process of regional integration; to “increasingly share decision-making space with global corporate interests and civil society”; and to rise to the challenges and opportunities presented by expanding trade liberalization and transformations in information technology.

Mr. Dookeran’s closing remarks returned to Cheddi Jagan’s vision, leading him to call for small states to more actively demand control over their future and to note - with regard to the small states of the Caribbean - that:

Our development resilience will, in the final analysis, be founded in our own sense of Caribbean identity and – as the life of Dr. Cheddi Jagan, built on integrity, compassion, and endurance – so too, must our future be built.

Inaugural Lecture: Janet Jagan, then Guyanese President

March 27, 1999

President Janet Jagan of Guyana spoke to an audience at York University on March 27, 1999, marking the first of a series of Jagan Lectures established to honour and keep alive the memory of Dr. Cheddi Jagan.  In her inaugural lecture, Mrs. Jagan established the tone of the Jagan Lecture Series by presenting an insider’s view of Dr. Jagan and his legacy.  Two years after his death on March 6, 1997, people of Guyana and around the world continue to be inspired by his efforts of achieving global justice.

In her speech, Mrs. Jagan noted that it is hard to understand Guyana’s history without studying the efforts and accomplishments of Cheddi Jagan.  She quoted from a speech Dr. Cheddi had planned to give at York University in 1997, but was unfortunately never able to deliver.  She spoke of the legacy of Dr. Jagan and his efforts to promote the cause of Guyana to espouse freedom and equality for all.  Dr. Jagan believed that Guyana must adopt a democratic model of development but within a framework of self-determination and economic progress.  She explained his incredible dedication to his work and how “he committed himself to a single goal of freedom for his country and people and never, even for once, wavered”.  He inspired people to liberate themselves from slavery, bondage and economic hardship.

Mrs. Jagan reminded the audience to focus on Dr. Jagan’s main contributions to Guyana and his inspiration for others to follow in his footsteps.  Acting as a political leader, teacher and organizer of working classes, Dr. Jagan’s goal was to bring freedom, equality and prosperity to Guyanese people.  He was also an internationalist in his struggle against injustice and poverty around the world.  Economic growth, human development, and national unity were central to achieving his goal.

In her concluding remarks, Mrs. Jagan described Dr. Jagan as a humble and honest man who always saw what was good in people.  She ended her speech with the hope that the future of the lecture series would continue to foster many discussions of the life and times of Cheddi Jagan.