Culture and Politics in the Caribbean

The culture and history of the Spanish Caribbean islands – Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic – will be at the center of this seminar. In addition, we will briefly study the French and English speaking Caribbean and the complicated place of the Caribbean coastal regions in continental Spanish America. The class will be organized around key moments of Caribbean history: slavery and the struggles against it; colonialism and independence movements; U.S. occupations, dictatorships and revolutionary movements; the massive growth of a Caribbean diaspora; and the transformation of the Caribbean islands into so many tourist destinations. We will work with primary sources such as slave testimonies, declarations of independence, and revolutionary discourses, and read literary texts by authors such as Julia Alvarez, Alejo Carpentier, Junot Diaz, Gabriel García Márquez, Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, and José Martí. We will also study some of the most influential approaches to the Caribbean in cultural studies, anthropology and history. While the class will be taught in English, reading knowledge of Spanish and French is very welcome. Cross-listed with Spanish as SPAN-UA 551.001. Sibylle Fischer holds a Ph.D in Comparative Literature and Spanish from Columbia University. She has held teaching positions at Duke as well as at Princeton and now teaches in the Department of Spanish & Portuguese and the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at NYU, with affiliations with Comparative Literature and Africana Studies. Her research focuses on Caribbean history and culture. Her study of the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804) and its impact on Caribbean national cultures, Modernity Disavowed, won book awards from the Modern Language Association, the Latin American Studies Association, The Caribbean Cultural Studies Association, and the Caribbean Philosophical Association.

The course introduces students to the history and culture of the Caribbean from the arrival of the Europeans in 1492 to the present. It is centered around several key moments in Caribbean history: “Discovery,” slavery and the struggles against it, colonialism and independence movements, U.S. occupations and resistance to it, dictatorships and revolutionary movements, the massive growth of a Caribbean diaspora in the U.S. and elsewhere, and the transformation of the Caribbean islands into so many tourist destinations. Students will come to understand why it is that the multilingual space of the Caribbean with its fraught encounters between African, Asian, Ameroindian, and European cultures time and again became the starting point for political and cultural movements that eventually swept the globe. Assignments will be evenly divided between readings of literary texts, historical sources, critical analysis, and viewing of Caribbean films.

Course Information



4 Points

Term Section Instructor Schedule Location

Spring 2018

Sibylle M Fischer
TR: 9:30 AM - 10:45 AM 7E12 121 (SB)