A Rich and Rewarding Sixteen years...
Sally Price reflects on her and Rich's time here at William and Mary.
When we were invited to join the faculty at William and Mary in 1994, we had already established a home base on the island of Martinique, in the very same fishing village where we'd conducted ethnographic fieldwork over thirty years earlier. The College was willing to work out an arrangement for us to continue, offering each of us half-time, half-salary contracts that brought us to Williamsburg for one semester of teaching each year, after which we were free to return to Martinique for research and writing. It was an ideal arrangement, allowing us to continue both teaching and active research. Based in Anthropology, we each accepted a joint appointment in American Studies, and Rich another in the History Department.
Our courses covered various aspects of African American studies (Maroon societies, arts of the African diaspora, etc.) as well as more topical issues in ethnography - oral history, cultural politics, and the like. One year we co-taught the "Introduction to Cultural Anthropology"; no textbook combined with essay questions for the exams made that quite an adventure! While Rich was negotiating his triple obligations in Anthropology, American Studies, and History, Sally undertook the renovation of the rather forlorn (and decidedly empty) cases in the Anthro Department hall, securing a grant for their refurbishment, and guiding an undergraduate class project that filled eight cases with an innovative exhibition of Maroon art (with a special focus on calabash carvings), which they entitled "Do You Speak Calabash?"
Our time at William & Mary has been productive in terms of research and publications. On the Mall (Indiana University Press), based on our participation, with Maroons from the entire western hemisphere at the 1992 Festival of American Folklife in Washington, was published in 1994. The next year Harvard University Press published our novel, Enigma Variations, about two anthropological sleuths on the tracks of a forger of ethnographic art. Three years later, Rich published The Convict and the Colonel (Beacon Press), which uncovered some of the hidden history of anti-colonial resistance in Martinique, centered in a town just a few minutes' drive from our home.
Continuing our work with Maroons in French Guiana, we brought out Maroon Arts (Beacon Press) in 1999. Soon after, we wrote a book in French aimed at the schoolteachers, physicians, nurses, prison guards, and others in French Guiana who were encountering Maroon immigrants in their daily lives but had little understanding of their cultural background; that book, Les Marrons (Vents d'Ailleurs, 2003), was sold throughout French Guiana (even at the airport!) and seems to have served its purpose of informing people about the different Maroon peoples who have come to make up such a large part of the French Guiana population. At the same time, we did some anthropological detective work in the archives, analyzing the field diaries of our predecessors in Maroon studies, Melville and Frances Herskovits; that led to the publication of The Root of Roots: Or, How Afro-American Anthropology Got Its Start (Prickly Paradigm Press/University of Chicago Press, 2003). During this same period, we explored the ways in which Caribbean connections informed the art of African American artist Romare Bearden, and co-authored a large full-color artbook entitled Romare Bearden: The Caribbean Dimension (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006, published simultaneously in French).
During the past ten years, our main research sites have kept us tacking back and forth between two ends of the French empire - Cayenne (where Rich pursued his research with a Saamaka wiseman and curer) and Paris (where Sally followed the development of President Jacques Chirac's plan to upgrade appreciation for non-Western arts by creating a major new museum next to the Eiffel Tower). Both these projects have now borne fruit. Rich's Travels with Tooy: History, Memory, and the African American Imagination (University of Chicago Press 2008) won the 2008 Victor Turner Prize in Ethnographic Writing, the 2009 Gordon K. and Sybil Lewis Memorial Award for Caribbean Scholarship, and the 2009 Clifford Geertz Prize in the Anthropology of Religion. Meanwhile, Sally's Paris Primitive: Jacques Chirac's Museum on the Quai Branly was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2007 and will be coming out in French translation, with a new afterword, this September.
In short, it's been a rich and rewarding sixteen years, with stimulating students and engaging and friendly colleagues. As for the future, we already have an invitation to spend the first semester of 2012 at the Museu Nacional in Rio de Janeiro, teaching graduate students and continuing our research. After that, we'll see. Indeed, our only current dilemma is how to ship two retirement gifts from the provost - official William and Mary rocking chairs-to our home in the Caribbean.