2008 Biennial Conference, San Juan, Puerto Rico

8th Biennial Conference (2008)

Puerto Rican Studies Association
October 1–4, 2008
Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Puerto Rico y el Caribe
San Juan, Puerto Rico

Conference Theme: Cartografías de identidades: Puerto Rico/rriqueños(as) en el siglo XXI / Cartographies of Identities: Puerto Rico(ans) in the 21st CenturyIntroduction

Building upon the successful 2006 Biennial Conference held at Cornell University, PRSA shifted back the setting of its biennial conferences to Puerto Rico, where an earlier successful conference had taken place in 1996.

2008 Conference Poster

The shift of location to Puerto Rico reflected not only the need to provide opportunities for a greater number of island-based scholars to participate as panel organizers, presenters and commentators. It also reflected the fact that many of the dynamics of transnational migration that are such an important focus of scholars working on stateside Puerto Ricans have become more visible and complex on the island, as well.

It is important to remember here that the ten years or so that spanned the period, roughly speaking, between the mid-1960s to mid-1970s represented the one period in the history of Puerto Rican migration in which more Puerto Ricans, on balance, moved back to Puerto Rico. This earlier “return migration” had an enormous impact on island society.

In cultural terms alone, Puerto Ricans from the mainland who resettled in Puerto Rico had a still understudied impact on the island’s language, forms of representation in literature, music and the visual arts; as well as in the complex politics of colonialism and nationalism, both of the political and cultural variety, and in patterns of consumption and the resignification of commodities produced locally or imported.

This pattern of stateside Puerto Rican “return migration,” as it has been generally dubbed, lasted only for a short time in the statistical charts of demographers. However, it was already becoming more profound as a more long-term pattern of circular migration, producing along the way transnational identities and a sense, experiential and ontological, of translocality that came to dominate migrant flows from the 1970s onwards. This pattern became more accentuated in later migration flows at the end of the century, leading to the current, early twenty-first century migratory boom of what some are calling the second great Puerto Rican migration, a new migration boom that emerged in part due to the forced ending of exquisite federal tax privileges and the overall stagnation (and, in many respects, actual decline) of the island’s economy.

These patterns of generally transnational and translocal migratory flows and identities had already set in by the time PRSA was convening scholars to meet in San Juan in 2008.

Prominent in these transnational migration flows (transnational if we consider Puerto Rico a nation without a nation-state) has been the migration to the United States of successive cohorts of aspiring Puerto Rican scholars who, despite their professional stateside location, are primarily, sometimes exclusively, experts working on the politics, literature, arts, historical processes, music and dance, and performance art, to cite only some examples, of Puerto Rico itself.

In this sense, staging the conference in San Juan was also for many U.S.-based Puerto Rican scholars an ideal opportunity to present their latest research to a much broader audience of island-based colleagues.

The emphasis attempted here is on doing away with facile dichotomies that too often characterize certain visions of the relationship between island- and stateside-based scholars.

This is, in many ways, a politics of intellectual space, and in retrospect it is fascinating to reconsider the fact that the 2008 Conference Theme was centered around the topic of social spaces and their representation, on cartographies tied to geographies of materiality and discourse, of discipline and resistance, as well as cartographies as a complex metaphor of conceptualization, representation, hermeneutical maneuvers by intellectuals, and a myriad of social relations and ontological categories of identity that do not escape us by being intellectuals.

We will have much more to say about the emergence of an interest in the study of social space and its representation in future articles that we plan to post in “El Noticiero” blog.

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The Editor