Collisions: History, Home and Storytelling

By Tanya L. Shields
The recently-released special issue of the academic journal Cultural Dynamics emerged from a past conference, Telling Our Stories of Home: Exploring and Celebrating Changing African and African-Diaspora Communities (TOSH). In 2016, dramatic arts specialist, Kathy Perkins, and I hosted this dynamic conference that was funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and focused on how African and African diaspora women negotiated home as artists, activists, and citizens. TOSH brought together more than 20 women from 10 countries including Rwanda, South Africa, India, Grenada, the UK, Brazil, Haiti, and the US.

Recent discoveries of the bones of freed slaves on South Carolina’s St. Helena island, once known as the final home of Napoleon Bonaparte, illustrate the way home, history and the ways we shape stories of the past are always with us. The islanders on a quest to understand why the bones of many freed slaves are in cardboard boxes in a shed are coming to terms with what it means to call St. Helena home.

The Cultural Dynamics volume focuses on notions of home in the Americas, specifically the Caribbean and the US. The issue engages with home through personal reflections and scholarly articles. Reflections by scholars Évelyne Trouillot, Lisa Outar, and Isis Semaj-Hall provide a range of views on living in, returning to and remembering the Caribbean. And scholarly articles by April Shemak, Lyneise Williams, Belinda Deneen Wallace and me explore memory, history and the ways stories indicate belonging by examining fictional refugee experiences in France, healing practices in South Carolina, sexuality and gender performance in the Caribbean and historical haunting. These different genres and topics bring a richness to discussions on home, belonging, and storytelling among people of African descent that are intellectually rigorous, accessible and teachable.








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