PLAS Graduate Works-in-Progress: Will Freeman & Jessica Womack

Nov 18, 2020, 5:00 pm6:30 pm
Zoom Meeting (registration required)



Event Description

Will Freeman


Will Freeman (Politics, Princeton University)

While a growing literature explains the survival of "authoritarian enclaves" in Latin American democracies, we know much less about why they break down and what replaces them. This paper develops a two-part theory; first, it argues that competition emerges where political outsiders are able to exploit intra-elite rivalries to attract patrons that support their bids for office. Once outsiders take power locally, however, competition only becomes institutionalized if they break with these patrons, generating incentives to build durable grassroots organization. Will Freeman substantiates his theory with case studies of neighboring departments in Northern Colombia--Magdalena and Atlántico--where competition respectively institutionalized and failed to institutionalize over time. He concludes by noting that as local politics becomes more competitive, it is not necessarily bound to become any less illiberal.

Will Freeman is a Ph.D. candidate in Comparative Politics studying subnational politics in Latin America. In the summer of 2019, he conducted fieldwork in Colombia supported by PLAS. He holds a BA from Tufts University and was formerly a Fulbright grantee in Hungary.



Jessica Womack (Art and Archaeology, Princeton University)

Cahier d'un retour au pays natal (1939) by Martinican poet Aimé Césaire was translated to Spanish by Cuban anthropologist Lydia Cabrera and published under the title Retorno al país natal in 1943 in Cuba. The text included several ink drawings by Cuban Surrealist artist Wifredo Lam. Like Césaire and his poem’s protagonist, both Cabrera and Lam spent time in Europe where they also experienced a coming to consciousness about their personal identities. The conversation between Césaire’s text, Cabrera’s translation, and Lam’s illustrations is critical for an understanding of the relationship between cultural production and racial identity formation in the Caribbean during the colonial and post-colonial periods. I argue that Lam’s illustrations work to recontextualize the poem by providing a visual translation; by encoding Lucumí iconography in his illustrations to demonstrate the narrator’s revolution, Lam makes Retorno a part of the contemporaneous Afrocubanismo Movement’s anti-U.S. zeitgeist, adding Cuban cultural and historical specificity to the text. His references to Lucumí, idiosyncratic figures, and visual language (that he would continue to develop and exhibit in Cuba until his move back to Europe in 1952) helped to make Retorno resonant in his home country given Lucumí’s cultural importance to the nation and its prevalence in academic study and artistic production during this historical moment.

Jessica Womack, a Ph.D. candidate in Art and Archaeology, studies modern and contemporary art from the Caribbean, Latin America, and the United States with a focus on African Diasporic religions and their iconography and visual culture in postcolonial and post-revolutionary contexts. She is especially interested in nation-building, identity (re)formation, diaspora, and performance. Her dissertation focuses on Jamaican art after independence in 1962 and examines the connections and negotiations between artists, arts institutions, and Jamaican, British, U.S., and Cuban government officials. She received her A.B. in art history from Dartmouth College in 2014 where she was a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow.

Discussant: Laura García Montoya, Politics, Princeton University;
Tony Wood, PLAS Postdoctoral Fellow, Princeton University

Moderator: Lindsay Ofrias, Anthropology, Princeton University

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