Prof Norman Girvan (right) in discussion with UWI Archivist John Aarons at the UWI Museum in October 2013.

Prof Norman Girvan (right) in discussion with UWI Archivist John Aarons at the UWI Museum in October 2013.


“Norman Girvan

walked the talk

of commitment

to regional


(David Abdulah)




When he was in Jamaica in October 2013, Professor Norman  Girvan visited the UWI Museum, to view a cameo exhibition titled People & Region, mounted alongside our permanent display on the history and development of the cross-regional University of the West Indies (UWI).

The exhibition focused on the aspects of regionality embraced by Caribbean/West Indian people, beyond the framework of political integration: aspects of culture, widely cast, including sport and education.

This focus, we were pleased to note, resonated with comments on Caribbean cultural community that Prof Girvan incorporated in his keynote address to a conference on regional integration, then in session . The conference, hosted by the UWI’s Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social & Economic Studies (SALISES), was titled: ‘Beyond CARICOM’. (CARICOM is the Caribbean Community – a political and economic integration mechanism that has been struggling to become for several decades)

In his address at the conference, held upstairs the UWI Museum, in the UWI’s Regional Headquarters Building at Mona, Jamaica, Girvan affirmed: “…there is no question in my mind that culture, widely defined, holds the key to wider Caribbean integration. It is the means by which we develop a consciousness of ourselves as a regional people, and of fostering mutual understanding and respect across the boundaries of language and ethnicity.”

Norman Girvan died in April. At a service celebrating his life, his son Alexander underscored Norman’s appreciation of Caribbean culture as “a distillation of a complex history” that contributes to our being the people we are and having both the problems and the possibilities that we do.

Girvan walked the talk as a Caribbean man engaged with Caribbean culture as well as with the economic development that he had studied and taught at the UWI; to the extent of pointing out the impossibility of participating in a conference in Jamaica, planned to coincide with the Caribbean’s premier annual Carnival in Trinidad & Tobago, a thousand miles across the sea to the south. It’s a story that friend and colleague Brian Meeks told in a recent tribute to Girvan.

The UWI Museum salutes the style and commitment; the life and work of Norman Girvan.


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