The Aftermath of the Panama Canal with Dr. Khemani Gibson

Strictly Facts: A Guide to Caribbean History and Culture

Feb 9 2022 • 28 mins

Following the completion of the Panama Canal in 1914, some West Indian migrants returned home, but also many stayed and formed new West Indian-Panamanian communities. In this episode Dr. Khemani Gibson shares the challenges and experiences these newly formed communities faced and helps us reconsider the limits of nation and empire in the Caribbean.

Khemani Gibson is a historian of the African Diaspora focusing on the Black migration in the Caribbean Basin looking at the West Indian immigrant community in Panama during the twentieth century. For his manuscript entitled: Citizens of Their Own Nation: The West Indian Immigrant Community in Panama, 1914-1961, he examines how West Indian immigrants used migration and claims making as methods to achieve full freedom in the post-emancipation circum-Caribbean. The manuscript explores the development of the West Indian immigrant community in Panama and how its members responded to the racial antagonism they encountered while dealing with the Americans, the British, and the Panamanians. Moreover, Khemani argues that despite the various strategies community members used to navigate the racial politics of the Isthmus, the experiences of the West Indian immigrant community in Panama forces us to reconceptualize our understanding of diasporic citizenship.While committed to his work as an academic, Khemani is deeply committed to bridging the gap between the academy and marginalized communities. Khemani uses his training as a historian to help lead workshops that illuminate the ways that inequalities of the past have a continued effect on Black and brown communities. Moreover, Khemani is committed to blending historical inquiry with modern day technology via mediums such as social media and interactive websites to make academic knowledge more accessible to others beyond the academy. It is Khemani's hope that he not only produces groundbreaking scholarship that helps us to understand how marginalized people navigated racially antagonistic societies but also to use his research and expertise to help community organizers and leaders strategize about how to address social ills.

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