Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Visiting Faculty Spotlight: Kamala Kempadoo

Craig M. Cogut Visiting Professor of Latin American Studies, Fall 2020-Spring 2021

Kamala Kempadoo, of Guyana/Barbados, is a sociologist and Professor Emerita of Social Science at York University, Canada. Her expertise includes Caribbean, Black and transnational feminisms, Black Radical Thought, and sex worker and critical antitrafficking studies. She has published extensively on the Caribbean sex trade and global anti-trafficking discourses.  Most recently she is the co-editor, with Halimah A. F. DeShong, of the collection Methodologies in Caribbean Research on Gender and Sexuality and with Brown professor, Elena Shih, of White Supremacy, Racism and the Coloniality of Anti-Trafficking.  She was the Cogut Visiting Professor at CLACS for spring 2021 and is again visiting in Fall 2023 semester.

Professor Kempadoo served as director of the Graduate Program in Social and Political Thought at York University and temporarily as head of the Centre for Gender and Development Studies at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica. She is the recipient of various awards, including the Distinguished Scientific Award of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Caribbean Studies Association.

Hometown: Toronto Canada/Barbados

Educational background (Where you studied, what you studied):

Candidandus (Undergraduate) degree in Sociology, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Doctorandus (Graduate) degree in Social Science, major in Race and Ethnic Studies, minors in Cultural Anthropology and Social Psychology, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

MA in Black Studies at Ohio State University, USA (a side-step, after my graduate studies in the Netherlands)

PhD in Sociology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, USA (supervisor: Professor Manning Marable)

What research will you be conducting at Brown? What excites you about this work? I will be working on three projects:

One is the completion of the book Methodologies in Caribbean Research on Gender & Sexuality, which I have compiled and edited with Dr. Halimah DeShong (Ambassador on the Permanent Mission of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to the UN, former head of the Institute for Gender and Development Studies at the University of the West Indies-Cave Hill). Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the work on the final stage has been delayed, and part of my time in 2020-2021 will be devoted to the publication and launch of this book. It will be the first Caribbean methodologies book to be published, spanning over 50 years of feminist research, and is over 500 pages! I am delighted to collaborate on this project with the very accomplished feminist Dr. DeShong, and to bring together in this new volume work by many of the leading Caribbeanist gender and sexuality studies scholars. 

A second is the InterGuyanas Feminisms project – an international exchange and dialogue among gender, sexuality and feminist scholars of the English, Dutch and French Guyanas: Guyana, Suriname and French Guyana.  I am specifically working towards compiling and co-editing a publication out of research papers that were to be presented on a series of panels during the annual Caribbean Studies Association meeting in Guyana in June 2020, which has now been re-scheduled to take place in 2021. In the coming year I will continue to build the network of Guyanese and Surinamese gender/sexuality/feminist researchers, solicit papers for publication, and explore other options for conferencing between us. Exciting to me about this work is that we are trying to tease out the specificities of and connections across this sub-region of the Caribbean/South America in relation to research and education about gender and sexuality, and exploring the contours of what we might call a “Guyanas feminism” within the larger framework of Caribbean gender and feminist studies. It is also one of the first sustained efforts to build a dialogue between feminists across the three Guyanas, and I really enjoy learning about the feminist research, organizing and ideas in the different locations. I have been leading this project since 2012, and am thrilled that there are many other feminists from that region who want to connect up, share  and develop their research and insights and, perhaps most importantly, work together for gender justice in the Guyanas and their diasporas.

My third project goes beyond the Caribbean-Latin American region, and is more global in scope, although has a considerable focus on the Americas. This is a book project that I will be completing with Brown professor Elene Shih, on the racism and coloniality of anti-trafficking. It builds from both of our research on anti-trafficking and sex work, and will be the first collection to examine in-depth the ways that legacies of race, colonialism and racism manifest through contemporary anti-trafficking work in different global contexts. Exciting about this project is working with Dr. Shih – she is an incredible thinker and activist, and such an inspiration!

 What course will you be teaching in the fall? Do you have any expectations/stories you’ve heard about teaching here? I will be teaching two courses in the Spring term: “Caribbean Migrations: Circulations, Diasporization and Return” and “Caribbean Feminisms.” Both topics have substantial histories and are also very relevant to many people’s lives today in North America.

From what I have heard about teaching at Brown is that the students are wonderful! - curious, engaged, and critical, independent thinkers.

What impact are you hoping to leave on the Brown community? I am hoping that I can impart some of my love for Caribbean region – its history, people, cultures and scholarship  - and to share some of my passion for thinking critically about social and economic justice, especially from the perspectives of Caribbean and other brown and black women of the global South. I would also hope that my research and teaching while at Brown will contribute to broader conversations about US-Caribbean relations in the post-Covid19 era and to on-going conversations about anti-trafficking and migration.

What are you hoping to gain from your experience here? I look forward to being back in the US academy and to interacting with old and new colleagues in Caribbean, race & ethnic, and black studies. I am also hoping to gain insights into what it means for students and faculty to teach and learn with an open and innovative curriculum, and to better understand how this shapes knowledge production and research coming out of Brown.

Lastly, if you have any of your own words of advice, or a favorite quote or book passage related to liberation/community/survival (whatever that means to you), I’d love to include it! It doesn't have to be more than a few sentences. “The basic confrontation which seemed to be colonialism versus anti-colonialism, indeed capitalism versus socialism, is already losing its importance. What matters today, the issue which blocks the horizon, is the need for a redistribution of wealth. Humanity will have to address this question, no matter how devastating the consequences may be.”

― Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth