This interview provides a rich account of Frank Birbalsingh’s experiences from his early life in colonial British Guiana in the early part of the twentieth century to his continuing work as a literary scholar and critic in diaspora. What is also revealed is a thoughtful critical reflection on the Caribbean, its multiplicity, and its course of change over a lifetime. The discussion also traces Birbalsingh’s migrations to India, Canada, New Zealand, and Nigeria and examines how these journeys have shaped his critical work within the fields of Commonwealth literature, postcolonial literature, and Caribbean studies, situating these shifts and movements within and against the backdrop of histories of decolonization. Birbalsingh’s early years in a plantation colony become prologue to his experience of education as a pathway to migration (a brain drain that still marks Guyanese and Caribbean experience to this day). The interviewers focus on the scholar’s career highlights and finally turn to the space that all wide-ranging departures and journeys beyond the nation encounter (regardless of emotional investments)—the place of exile and diaspora.
“An Archive of Loose Leaves”: An Interview with Frank Birbalsingh
Nalini Mohabir teaches postcolonial and feminist geographies at Concordia University, Quebec, Canada. Her work has been published in the Arts Journal, Journal of West Indian Literature, Small Axe, and Interventions. Her research focuses on indentureship and diaspora. Along with Ronald Cummings, she is working on a book project that considers the genre of the long interview as critical and narrative method in Caribbean Studies.
Ronald Cummings teaches queer and postcolonial literatures at Brock University in Ontario, Canada. His work has been published in the Journal of West Indian Literature, the Journal of Postcolonial Writing, Small Axe, and Transforming Anthropology. His research focuses on the field of critical Maroon studies. Along with Nalini Mohabir, he is working on a book project that considers the genre of the long interview as critical and narrative method in Caribbean studies.
Nalini Mohabir, Ronald Cummings; “An Archive of Loose Leaves”: An Interview with Frank Birbalsingh. Small Axe 1 November 2019; 23 (3 (60)): 104–118. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/07990537-7912358
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