Accepted paper:

Designing (counter) culture: Politics, CARIFESTA, and self-making in the Caribbean


Nicolette Bethel (College of The Bahamas)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the response of the Bahamian cultural community to their government's cancellations of the Caribbean Festival of Arts (CARIFESTA). It considers the resilience of their initiatives in a world where citizens' manipulations of new media undermine politicians' mastery of the old.

Paper long abstract:

In 2006, the Government of The Bahamas announced its intention to host the Caribbean Festival of Arts, a multidisciplinary regional festival, otherwise known as CARIFESTA, in 2008. In 2007, however, following a change in government, the new administration rejected, postponed, and then cancelled once and for all its predecessor's plan. Among the reasons cited was the general unpreparedness of The Bahamas, and of the Bahamian cultural community, to host such a major event.  The reaction of the Bahamian cultural community was unprecedented. Using both new and old media, particularly Facebook, Twitter and the blogosphere as well as radio, television and newspapers, the community responded by creating and hosting several international festivals in quick succession, and began numerous countercultural discussions about aesthetics, culture and their place on both a local and regional scale. This activity was matched regionally by the revitalization of local-level cultural initiatives, and a new pan-Caribbean discourse was begun in cyberspace. This paper examines both the institutional atrophy that led to the government's decisions and the genesis of several of these responses: The Islands of the World Fashion Week, Shakespeare in Paradise, and the Bahamas Writers Summer Institute, among others. It ends by considering the potential resilience of these new initiatives in the Caribbean where politicians' traditional mastery of old media are challenged by their citizens' access to the new.

panel P28
The aesthetics of governance