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“Carnival is more than just a big party; this festive ethos evokes a way of life”

For Release Upon Receipt - January 24, 2014

St. Augustine

 Professor Milla Riggio tells of Carnival Crossings and what makes T&T so unique at UWI 

ST. AUGUSTINE, Trinidad and Tobago – “The Trinidad Festival ethos offers the world – as it offered me – a blueprint both for bridging and for comprehending history,” says Professor Milla Cozart Riggio, James J. Goodwin Professor of English from Trinity College Hartford, Connecticut.  

Riggio has focused her research and much of her pedagogy since 1995, on Trinidad Carnival and the plays of Shakespeare, has coordinated world conferences on Carnival, and served as a frequent consultant for the Trinidad and Tobago National Carnival Commission. On February 3, she returns to Trinidad and The University of the West Indies (UWI) St. Augustine where she will present a Distinguished Open Lecture titled “Carnival Crossings: From There to Here - Arkansas to Harvard to Trinidad.”  

Riggio credits her work to English playwright Shakespeare, who first introduced her to what she calls the “Carnival Ethos,” which she believes extends beyond Carnival, to other festivals such as Divali, Ramleela, Eid and Shouter Baptist Day. She said that what she discovered in her research on Trinidad was a confirmation of what she had already discovered in late sixteenth-century England, but with a modern neo-colonial twist. She said, “Being both pre- and post-industrial and an oil, gas, methanol, and ammonia producing country, Trinidad is also the home to one of the most significant carnivals in the Western world, or more generally, anywhere, as well as to one of the largest celebrations of Ramleela, and many other such festivals.”  

Currently, Riggio coordinates the Trinity-in-Trinidad Global Learning site, an exchange program that brings students from institutions in the U.S. to study in Trinidad each year. Among her books are included an edited volume titled Teaching Shakespeare through Performance, as well as three books she edited or co-edited on Trinidad Carnival. She is also co-editor of In Trinidad, a book of photographs by Trinity Professor Pablo Delano, published in 2008 by Ian Randle Publishers. 

Her lecture will focus on her journey- as the daughter of a Southern Baptist preacher in Arkansas, to a Harvard Ph.D., to an immersion into the plays of Shakespeare and finally, into Trinidad and Tobago Carnival. It will be presented not simply as the story of one peculiar North American woman, but as a key to what makes the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago unique.  “Having grown up in Arkansas and begun my education in Texas detouring through Australia and ending with a Harvard University Ph.D., I am often asked how I made the journey to Trinidad,” she said. She added, “One of my early Trinidad friends repeatedly said to me: ‘I don’t know what it is about you, but you’re not as white as you look’ ...and, indeed, I am not.”   The lecture takes place at the Learning Resource Centre (LRC) from 5:30pm. All are invited. 


About The UWI

Over the last six decades, The University of the West Indies (UWI) has evolved from a fledgling college in Jamaica with 33 students to a full-fledged University with over 40,000 students. Today, UWI is the largest and most longstanding higher education provider in the English-speaking Caribbean, with main campuses in Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, and Centres in Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, The Bahamas, Belize, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St Christopher (St Kitts) & Nevis, St Lucia, and St Vincent & the Grenadines. UWI recently launched its Open Campus, a virtual campus with over 50 physical site locations across the region, serving over 20 countries in the English-speaking Caribbean. UWI is an international university with faculty and students from over 40 countries and collaborative links with over 60 universities around the world. Through its seven Faculties, UWI offers undergraduate and postgraduate degree options in Engineering, Humanities & Education, Law, Medical Sciences, Pure & Applied Sciences, Science and Agriculture, and Social Sciences.

(Please note that the proper name of the university is The University of the West Indies, inclusive of the “The”, hence The UWI.) 

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