I'm simply attempting to get people to think more critically about these things that they have taken for granted all their lives and have never really investigated. Part of that sense of inquiry comes from your own exploration. If you don't explore, then you're never going to really see anything differently.

Linden Lewis

How can moving away from a region contribute to understanding it? Professor Linden Lewis, sociology, says that being away from where he was born and raised has broadened his view of the Caribbean region and its people, who live across the world.

"I've now lived in the United States for longer than I lived in Guyana, where I was born, or Barbados, where I grew up," he says, "but at this particular point in my life I feel more profoundly Caribbean than I have ever felt when I was living there." Lewis says that with distance and time he has gained a greater sense of the various languages, cultures and history throughout the region and of Caribbean people living all over the world.

His research interests encapsulate a wide notion of the Caribbean. "I'm interested in its politics. I'm interested in its culture. I'm interested in the race relations of the Caribbean. I'm profoundly interested in issues of gender, of labor, of the state, of sovereignty, of power. I'm interested in all of those things about the Caribbean, and that is reflected in the scholarship that I do," he says.

Because there has been extensive scholarship on femininity, Lewis has focused especially on questions of masculinity. "In the Caribbean, there is this sense that men have that they are the leaders of everything. They are the leaders of the household. They are the leaders of the church. They are the leaders of the community. That there is a God given right to lead and I'm curious about that," he says. "I'm curious about this argument by authority, which is what men use to say, 'We were born to be leaders.' The thing is if men are born to be leaders in every one of those spheres, there is no room for women. None. And if there's no room for women, then what's the point?"

He says his work has moved him in the direction he is currently pursuing, which is the intersection between gender and human rights. A sense of intellectual curiosity and a love of writing are reflected in everything Lewis does. He has written, spoken and consulted extensively. His next major project is a biography of Forbes Burnham, the first prime minister and president of Guyana, who served for 28 years. Lewis has also been a champion for addressing racial diversity efforts at Bucknell and is a teacher who pushes his students to think.

"I'm simply attempting to get people to think more critically about these things that they have taken for granted all their lives and have never really investigated," he says. "Part of that sense of inquiry comes from your own exploration. If you don't explore, then you're never going to really see anything differently. What I ask students to do is to be critical of everything, including what I say. For me, the classroom is a very democratic space, and if you can't say the most conservative thing or the most radical thing in the classroom, I don't know where you can say it." 

Posted September 5, 2013

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