29 August 2008

A Short History, and a Call for Contributors

First, let me welcome you to


This is a “renewed” blog in terms of site redesign, renaming, and building on its precursor, The CAC Review, which first started in early 2003 on the kacike.org domain.(1)

It is new in some ways as well: over the past few months I have been rethinking, sometimes agonizing, over the slow and diminishing level of academic collaboration that in the end came to mark the 10 year existence of the Caribbean Amerindian Centrelink. One of the main problems was that I was the centre of all web updates and content management, and began to suffer “broker overload” which suffered from additional aggravating problems external to the network. Within the past year, email started to grow to oppressive heights, and in fact there are many messages from as long as 10 months ago that I have yet to answer, and probably never will. Many contributing authors would submit files loaded with problematic code, and then begin to grow increasingly anxious, even upset, when for many months I had not posted their works, and soon the demands became pointed. In the meantime, when communicating with collaborators, I rarely got responses, except from the usual reliable two or three persons. The rest would remain totally silent, as if being listed as an “editor” was all that mattered. In other respects, I felt that I was being pinned down and locked within a narrow niche, that I could not express myself freely, and that I would remain permanently “on call” thanks to my past (and remaining) research on the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean.

That is why I had to create the Watchman blog, and why I have been so busy at Open Anthropology. It has been as if I had a ton of things to get off my chest.

Most of all, however, I also grew increasingly uneasy and unhappy with the centrality of the non-indigenous academic (myself), in an indigenous field. With so many indigenous Caribbean persons actively online, making excellent use of the web, and showing great sophistication and advanced knowledge of web design and coding, there was no real reason why I had to continue to be the broker/overlord through which information passed (and got stuck in a bottleneck).

Simple solutions to simple problems led to some very exciting results. For example, to not have to manually update a HTML directory of researchers (that link will expire soon) each time one wanted a new photo, or to correct an email link, or to alter a single word (or delete a duplicate “the”) I placed the responsibility for updates back with the researchers. That was the first step in creating the Indigenous Caribbean Network, which has now grown to large and dynamic networking proportions, far beyond a mere directory of researchers, and instead becoming a lively site for rich cultural, political, historical, and political discussion, not to mention audio-visual collaboration. I actually try to limit my presence there for fear of being sucked in for too long.

NING offered pages that members could update themselves, and that was the only reason I first chose NING, because I had no other means (i.e., coding knowledge or software) available for those listed on that old “directory of researchers” to update their own entries. I asked them to sign in to NING, roughly a third did, and the rest are “lost.” What really propelled the network was the onrush of indigenous Caribbean persons, and archaeologists, two of the main groups in the network.

All of the above then really got the ball rolling. I realized that one of the problems was the limitations imposed by static HTML pages, administered by me, on domains I owned, using private accounts that I paid for. That worked to ensure that sites such as the Caribbean Amerindian Centrelink, and even KACIKE: The Journal of Caribbean Amerindian History and Anthropology, would remain firmly in my weakening hands, regardless of best intentions. At the same time I began to fool around with content management sites, and soon realized that I could use WORDPRESS to create such a site, and use GOOGLE PAGES to archive KACIKE, so that a new group of contributors could directly access those sites on their own, post as they wished, and nobody owned it.

Hence, slowly but surely, the Caribbean Amerindian Centrelink is mutating into the Indigenous Caribbean Center, while KACIKE is going defunct, at least until new editors wish to take control of it (and when they do, lack of HTML knowledge won’t be an excuse, and the site is free so there are no ownership issues, no "accounts to settle").

The renaming issue stems from exchanges that are too long to summarize here adequately. From 1998 doubts began to be aired about use of the term “Amerindian” (popular in Trinidad, and among a diminishing group in Guyana) that misled me to believe that the term was appropriate. For many instead, it is either too racial, too exclusive of miscegenated groups such as the Garifuna, or sounds too much like “American Indian.” “Aboriginal” sounded derived from Australia to many, despite the fact that it is also in official and common use in Canada. Indigenous was both wide and ambiguous, and now that all of the old efforts are being undone and unwoven, it seemed like an appropriate time to install the renaming.

And why “center” instead of “centre”? Because I am fed up with American readers writing to point out that I “misspelled center.” And what happened to “centrelink”? That is the funniest one: I came up with the name while in Trinidad at the same that the Australian government renamed its welfare agency Centrelink. For years we were getting massive numbers of visitors from Australia, and at one point, even centrelink staff email (how many BBQs were derailed by my silence in neglecting to point out that the intended recipient would never get their email?) When I once boasted that Australia was one of our top three sources of traffic, an Australian Centrelink administrator wrote to tell me that it was because our site sounded like their welfare agency, and had a more memorable URL (centrelink.org). My response was that it was sad to see how many Australians were in dire need of welfare.

1 comment:

Maximilian C. Forte said...

I forgot to mention one key detail -- those interested in contributing should contact me at max.forte@openanthropology.org and tell me a bit about yourself if I don't know you, and provide the email address you would use to login. Your email address is used as your username.