University at Albany


Colbert I. Nepaulsingh

At age 8, on the island of Trinidad, I asked a question about Bartolomé de las Casas. I wanted to know what kind of person he and Christopher Columbus and other Spaniards were who came to the New World. That question led me to study Medieval Spain, because the conquistadores were medieval men. To study medieval Spain well meant studying medieval Europe, because university curricula, correctly, did not then and do not now separate Spain from the rest of Europe. University curricula should also include the study of North Africa, at least, if not all of Africa, in the study of Spain, because Spain is and always has been a Euroafrican bridge. But what I know about Africa, I have had to teach myself. What I now know about Spain and Europe and Africa has given me answers to the question I first asked at age 8.

My training and research as a hispanomedievalist have always been oriented towards an understanding of the islands of the New World commonly called the Caribbean, a name I have rejected in my article entitled “A New Name for the Islands”. I published three books and about three dozen articles about Spanish literature and culture, and since my last book about Spain, Apples of Gold in Filigrees of Silver: Jewish Writing in the Eye of the Spanish Inquisition (1995), I have turned my publication efforts entirely towards the New World Islands.  First, I published a series of esssays about the literature, history, and culture of the New World Islands (on the difference between islands and continents, the continental fallacy of race, Jamaica Kincaid, Toussaint Louverture, and so on) which I will one day reissue as a book currently entitled Naming the New World Islands: Essays at a New World. Meanwhile, I have co-authored, with Edward Baugh, Derek Walcott: Another Life Fully Annotated, with a Critical Essay and Comprehensive Notes (Lynne Rienner, 2004). Walcott’s masterpiece is such an encyclopedic work that, although Professor Baugh (perhaps the world’s leading Walcott scholar) and I had been working on it, independently, each for about thirty years, we would not have been wise to attempt such an ambitious project alone. For us, it was a labor of love, and we owe a debt of gratitude to the Nobel Laureate for permitting us to use his text (and his unpublished papers) for the benefit of the students and teachers who will use our annotated edition and study of it.

Derek Walcott has been a painter all his life, and his masterpiece Another Life is very much about painting. My current major projects include a book-length study of the work of Trinidad artist Jackie Hinkson, whose work was exhibited at the University at Albany, in 1998, alongside Walcott’s paintings, in a show entitled “Island Light”. The working title for that book is Hinkson: Heat, Light, and Color.

Professor Nepaulsingh was Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University at Albany from June 1988 to August 1991 when he returned to research and teaching as a Full Professor in the Department of Latin American and Caribbean Studies. He has been at the University at Albany since 1972 and has served as Acting Director for the Center for the Arts and Humanities, Chair of the Department of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, and as Chair of the President's Committee on Racial Concerns Across the Campus. Professor Nepaulisngh has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for his research on Hispanic literature. He is also a winner of the Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching, and of the University's Award for Excellence in Academic Service.