by Anne Taylor
There's no place like home — but this means something different for Anne Bailey than it did for Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz."
"I want to problematize the idea of home," Bailey says. "Where is home? Is home one place? Is it several places? Or is it an idea?"
Bailey, an associate professor of history and Africana studies, received a Fulbright Research Grant to travel to Jamaica this fall in search of answers to these questions. In addition to having personal significance for Bailey — who originally hails from there — Jamaica is a country whose citizens are uniquely qualified to address the complicated nature of "home."
"There are roughly seven million Jamaicans worldwide, and four million of them live outside the country," Bailey says. "That changes our concept of home, as well as our understanding of citizenship, because there's a tension between the ways in which people stay connected with their mother countries and the ways in which they assimilate and adopt new forms of citizenship. As I have, for example. I have American citizenship, and I consider myself very American — but I consider myself Jamaican as well."
This kind of dispersion, where large numbers of people migrate from their homes to other countries, is known as a diaspora. Bailey — whose first book, African Voices of the Atlantic Slave Trade: Beyond the Silence and the Shame, discussed the original African diaspora created by the forced migration from Africa to the Americas and elsewhere — hopes that her trip will provide her with material for a new book on modern-day diasporic experiences.
"I would like it to be an edited book so that I can bring in other contributions," Bailey says. "I don't just want to look at the Jamaican diaspora or the African diaspora — I want to look at the diaspora more generally, in terms of concepts of home, citizenship and belonging. I am very interested in comparative history, so it is exciting for me to go from the particular of the African experience and extrapolate to the more universal experience that many other groups share as well."
But the lessons Bailey will learn during her sojourn will not be limited only to the pages of a book. She also wants to incorporate them into her classes, especially "The Making of the African Diaspora," "Afro-Caribbean History and Cultures" and "History & Memory" — all of which are strongly linked to the themes of home, history and the way these concepts are constructed within cultures.
On a broader level, Bailey believes that the Fulbright grant itself carries with it a vital mission that she is honored to take up.
"The Fulbright grant is awarded by the U.S. State Department, an agency that promotes diplomacy," she says. "So I feel that, having given out these awards, they are inherently inviting you to promote diplomacy in your research. And, in many ways, that's one of my goals in my classroom, too — to promote the kind of diplomacy where we can have and share viewpoints respectfully and perhaps adapt and change if necessary. It's important to me to cultivate a space to have that kind of dialogue even about very thorny, difficult issues."
In addition to teaching her students diplomacy, Bailey also wants them to apply these skills outside of the classroom — and the country.
"I'm hopeful the path that I'm taking will inspire students to go abroad," she says. "We have a very robust study-abroad program, and I can't encourage students enough to take advantage of it. It's a challenging but incredibly enriching experience. Wherever you go, it helps you think more about where you feel home is, your own culture and your own sense of citizenship. You're getting another point of view that's impossible to get without stepping away."
Last Updated: 3/1/17