Encountering the Caribbean: Modernity in the Global South

CRN 29394 / Th 6:00PM - 8:50PM / G21 Cathedral of Learning
From plantation slavery to the neoliberal present, the Caribbean has been the site of an accelerated modernity––but it is often not recognized as such. Instead, for many Americans, the Caribbean conjures images of the primitive or exotic; anachronistic underdevelopment or backward belief; banana republics and backyards that entitle the US to attempt control of oil, water, trade, and ideology; extremist Islam and anti-American revolutions; military confrontations and military bases; threatening overpopulation, poverty, debt, failed states, drug cartels, natural and ecological disasters, high unemployment, and mass out-migrations. But what is the relationship between the discrepant modernities of the global North and the Caribbean, between the promise of abundance and emancipation on the one hand and slavery and scarcity on the other; between the gleam of aluminum and the processing of bauxite; between the forms of sociality engendered by coffee and sugar in the North versus in the plantation societies of the Caribbean where they are produced? This interdisciplinary course takes as its object of study not only the Caribbean but the inquiring subject. It focuses, in other words, on a series of interactions or encounters with the Caribbean. What interpretive lenses do we bring to the study of the Caribbean? How have internal and external inequalities interacted to structure the Caribbean region? What historical forces structure our relationship to it? How do Caribbean people understand that relationship and how have Caribbean artists responded to it? For example, what resources have they found in the genres of epic, (anti)romance, crime and detective novels, and historical fiction? We will explore answers to these questions by studying Caribbean literature and its marketing. We will read the work of such writers and scholars as Perry Anderson, Colin Channer, David Chariandy, Edwidge Danticat, Colin Dayan, Brenda Flanagan, Donette Francis, C.L.R. James, Marlon James, Jamaica Kincaid, Elena Machado Sáez, Jacob Ross, Mimi Sheller, Krista Thompson, and Derek Walcott. This seminar will also likely include a visit by a Caribbean scholar-writer.

Number of Credits


Shalini Puri

Course Term


Course Category

Category C: Cultural Antagonisms and Cultural Crises

Course Year