Caribbean Cultural Crossings


Fall 2013 quarter

Taught by

Spanish language, Latin American studies

In the late 1700s, Europeans saw the Caribbean as one vast sugar plantation controlled by French, English, Spanish and Dutch colonial powers. The insatiable need for labor decimated local populations who were replaced by millions of African slaves and, after emancipation, indentured labor from East India and China. Historically, this represents the largest forced mixing of cultures in the world; the result was a host of new Caribbean identities, all developing in the context of the political, economic and ideological structures imposed by Europeans. Today, the identities and cultural expressions of all Caribbean peoples continue to be shaped by the colonial legacy and the rise of post-colonial consciousness. Thinkers like José Martí (" Our América"), Aimé Césaire ( Discourse on Colonialism ), and Frantz Fanon ( Black Skin, White Masks ) exposed the negative effects of colonial subjugation and envisioned liberatory processes of social change. Despite the region's shared colonial and post-colonial legacies, a sense of a common Caribbean identity should not be exaggerated. As Jean Casimir writes, the Caribbean is simultaneously united and divided. A Guadeloupian may be more connected psychologically and physically to Dakar, or even Paris, than she is to Puerto Rico.

Out of this intense forced mixing of cultures, what forms of identity emerged and continue to emerge? Is there such a thing as a Caribbean culture, or are identities complex amalgams that defy easy categorizations such as Caribbean, Dominican American, creole Martinican, Afro-Cuban, East-Indian Trinidadian? What are the factors that make the identities of each island's peoples similar and in what ways do they defy categorization--even on a single island? How have cultural movements such as négritude and the "New World baroque" contributed to the construction of Caribbean identities and post-colonial consciousness? These will be the questions at the center of this program. We will begin with an exploration of the colonial legacy with close attention to the political and economic forms central to extracting sugar profits from land and laborers. We will explore the impact of diverse political statuses such as independence (e.g., Jamaica), complete incorporation with the motherland (Martinique) and more nebulous forms in between (Puerto Rico). We will explore the symbioses and tensions between these political and economic issues and cultural movements. Finally, we will investigate how migration and globalization continue to play a major role in shaping local realities. Throughout the quarter, we will examine our own positionality with relation to these questions, asking: How can we study about, learn from, and engage across cultural differences in non-dominating ways?

Readings will range from fiction and poetry to history and political-economic analysis. In addition to shared readings, lectures and films, each student will engage in synthesis work and a small project. The latter will be on a topic of the student's choosing, such as cultural expression through music and art, political status, religious syncretism, post-colonial literature, globalization, or migrant identities abroad.

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

cultural studies, political economy, international relations, and economic development.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day


Buy books for this program through Greener Bookstore.

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning: Access to web-based tools required, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

Required Fees

$25 fee for museum admission.


Date Revision
September 30th, 2013 $25 fee added.
May 14th, 2013 New opportunity added. This replaces Self-Determination in Latin America, which will now be offered during winter quarter only.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Fall)

Class standing: Freshmen–Senior; 25% of the seats are reserved for freshmen

Maximum enrollment: 48


Course Reference Numbers

Fr (16 credits): 10342
So - Sr (16 credits): 10345

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