Professor Juan Manuel Avila Conejo
*also open to pre-college students
In 1934, a historic strike in Costa Rica brought the mighty United Fruit Company to its knees. The multinational behemoth, infamous for its unchecked power and ability to overthrow governments with its own army and navy, was suddenly powerless against its own labor force. But how did this happen? This course delves into the role of plantation literature as a tool for revolutionary education and organizing. Working through the lens of ecocriticism, we will examine a collection of texts from across the Caribbean basin, including Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude (Colombia 1967), Alejo Carpentier’s The Kingdom of This World (Cuba 1949), and Miguel Ángel Asturias’ The Green Pope (Guatemala 1954), exploring the concept of plant-thinking as a form of revolutionary politics in the context of plantation societies. With the help of authors like Edouard Glissant, Michael Marder, Michael Taussig, Frantz Fanon, Donna Haraway, and Anna Tsing, we'll analyze four novels and a compilation of short theoretical texts on diverse topics related to plantation literature, including racism, colonialism, imperialism, and the history of United Fruit. As we progress, we'll broaden our focus to consider how these early plant-based revolutionary ideas can be applied to our current era of ecological crisis, or the "plantationocene" as defined by scholars like Donna Haraway and Anna Tsing. Alongside our readings, we'll also watch films by Manthia Diawara, whose work explores themes of colonialism, identity, and representation in the context of the African diaspora. Join us for an exciting and thought-provoking journey through the history and literature of plantation societies, and discover how they can inform our understanding of today's world. By the end of this course, you'll have a deeper appreciation for the power of literature to inspire social change, and a new set of tools for navigating our complex, interconnected world.