Fall 2020 Caribbean Studies Courses

Routes, Writing, Reggae

AAS 2657/ ENGL 2599

Professor Njelle Hamilton

Tu 3:30-6:00pm


When most people think of reggae music, they think of lazing out on a Caribbean beach with a marijuana spliff and nodding to the music of Bob Marley. But what is the history of the music of which Marley is the most visible ambassador? How did the music of a small Caribbean island become a worldwide phenomenon, with the song “One Love” and the album Exodus named among the top songs and albums of the 20th century? This course traces the history of reggae music and its influence on Jamaican literature. Framed by readings on Jamaican history, Marcus Garvey’s teachings, and Rastafari philosophy, at the heart of the course is an intensive study of Marley’s lyrics and the literary devices, musical structures, and social contexts of reggae. Armed with these tools, we will apply the ‘reggae aesthetic’ to Jamaican poetry, fiction and film, including The Harder They Come and the Booker Prize novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings. Assignments such as album reviews, ‘diss’ tracks, and critical essays will allow you to engage topical and controversial issues such as: misogyny and homophobia in reggae and dancehall; the place of religion and spirituality (and yes, marijuana) in reggae; reggae’s critique of oppression and racial injustice; cultural appropriation and the global marketplace; and the connections between reggae, dancehall, hip-hop, EDM, and reggaetón.


Fulfills: Humanities


Prof. Marlene Daut

Encounters of the Modern Caribbean

AMST 4500

AAS 4559

Tuesdays, 2-4:30


The Caribbean is often located in the popular imaginary as a tropical paradise of palm trees replete with resorts designed for tourist consumption. Modern Caribbean Studies helps to refocus understandings of the West Indies beyond this stereotype by highlighting it as a place with myriad and complex histories, cultures, and forms of thinking. The Caribbean, for example, is comprised of a distinctly heterogeneous population, which is the result of contact between Europeans, indigenous Americans, Africans, and Asians. Colonialism, slavery, indentured servitude, and other forms of forced migration and unfree labor were largely responsible for producing the diverse societies we continue to see in the greater Caribbean region today. This introductory course on Caribbean Studies will comparatively situate the geographical and sociocultural aspects of the Caribbean beginning with an overview of the region’s history. The course encourages students to understand the modern Caribbean through a variety of topics, such as gender and sexuality; migration and diaspora; the legacies of slavery and colonialism; globalization and inequality; race and racism; and tourism. The course will also introduce a variety of artistic, intellectual, and religious traditions found in the Caribbean today, including the musical styles of calypso, konpa, zouk, reggae, merengue, and salsa. Literature, film, philosophy, social movements, and politics may also be primary features of the course.


Prof. Charlotte Rogers

Caribbean Environmental Humanities

SPAN 7560

SPAN 7850

Wednesdays 3:30-6

New Cabell Hall 209

How did the image of the Caribbean as a tropical Eden or a hellish site of malaria and hurricanes come to dominant descriptions of the region by outsiders?  How do peoples of the Caribbean define their own relationship to the islands’ ecologies? This graduate level seminar considers these questions through the lens of the environmental humanities, an emerging method of study that unites humanistic inquiry with environmental science. We will survey the intertwined ecological and human histori es of the archipelago from the colonial era to the twentieth century, including deforestation, the plantation system, natural resource extraction, scientific experimentation on Caribbean peoples and landscapes, and the social, economic, and ecological ramifications of tourism. The course will emphasize how artists and writers recognize and resist the legacies of environmental depredation and human exploitation in the region. Our areas of inquiry will include literature, film, art, tropical medicine, the history of science, environmental activism, social justice movements and cultural studies. Readings will be in Spanish, French, and English with optional translations.