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EN9A3 The Caribbean: Reading the World-Ecology


Dr. Michael Niblett (
Office Hours: Tuesdays, 5-6pm; Wednesdays, 9-10am in FAB 5.37
Seminar: Tuesday, 3-5pm, R241

Module Aims

The centrality of the Caribbean to the development of the capitalist world-system and the often rapid and catastrophic nature of the ecological transformations experienced by the region – from, say, the mass deforestation demanded by plantation agriculture to the environmental upheavals occasioned by hurricanes and volcanoes – make writing from the archipelago a particularly fruitful locus for pursuing new approaches in ecological criticism and world literature.

This module aims to familiarize students with ecologically-oriented approaches to Caribbean literature, as well as with the critical debates surrounding world literature, ecocriticism, and environmental history more generally. In particular, it will explore the concept of world-ecology and consider its potential as a methodology for reading texts from across the Caribbean archipelago. Focusing on a wide range of fiction, poetry, plays, calypsos, and films, the module will encourage students to examine how literary texts register the dialectic between local environmental transformations and changes in the global production of nature. We will consider the way in which such processes as colonialism, decolonization, independence, neoliberalism, and financialization might be grasped as ecological projects – as forms of environment-making complexly related to different forms of narrative-making. Topics covered will include: the plot and plantation as organizational models for Caribbean literature; commodity frontiers; the aesthetics of ecological catastrophe and renewal; food regimes and folk/vernacular foodways; the Eco-Gothic; and neoliberalism as an ecological regime.

2023/24 Syllabus
(The texts students will need to obtain are marked *** below; other readings will be provided via handouts or e-copies)

Week 1: The Caribbean in the Capitalocene: World-Ecology and World-Literature

Jennifer Rahim, "The Orbis Spike, 1610Link opens in a new window", Sanctuaries of Invention (Peepal Tree, 2021)
Sylvia Wynter, "Unsettling the Coloniality of Being/Power/Truth/Freedom: Towards the Human, After Man, Its Overrepresentation--An<br />ArgumentLink opens in a new window", CR: The New Centennial Review, 3.3 (2003): 257-337.
Jason W. Moore, “The Capitalocene, Part ILink opens in a new window: On the Nature and Origins of our Ecological Crisis,” Journal of Peasant Studies 44:3 (2017): 594-630
Elizabeth DeLoughrey, "Ecocriticism: The Politics of PlaceLink opens in a new window," Routledge Companion to Anglophone Caribbean Literature (Routledge, 2011)

Week 2: Plot and Plantationocene

Sylvia Wynter, "Novel and History, Plot and PlantationLink opens in a new window," Savacou 5 (1971): 95-102.
Édouard Glissant, "Closed Place, Open WordLink opens in a new window," Poetics of Relation (Trans. Betsy Wing. Michigan UP, 1997)
George Beckford, Persistent PovertyLink opens in a new window (1972), pp. 3-18
Janae Davis et al. “Anthropocene, Capitalocene, . . . Plantationocene?: A Manifesto for Ecological Justice in an Age of Global CrisesLink opens in a new window,” Geography Compass 13.5 (2019): 1-16.
Alexis Pauline Gumbs, "EvidenceLink opens in a new window," Octavia's Brood, eds. Adrienne Maree Brown and Walidah Imarisha (AK Press, 2015)
Olive Senior, "Meditation on YellowLink opens in a new window," Gardening in the Tropics (McClelland &Stewart, 1994)

Week 3: Extractive Imperialism

Diana McCaulay, "Bridge over the Yallahs River" (Granta, 2022)
Norman Girvan, "Extractive Imperialism in Historical PerspectiveLink opens in a new window," Extractive Imperialism in the Americas, eds. James Petras and Henry Veltmeyer (Brill, 2014)
Summary of Submission, "Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Thematic Hearing on the Impact of Extractive Industries on Human Rights and Climate Change in the CaribbeanLink opens in a new window"

Week 4: Plotting History, Plotting Land

Erna Brodber, The Rainmaker's Mistake (New Beacon Books, 2007)***
Merle Collins, "Tout Moun ka Pléwé (Everybody Bawling)Link opens in a new window," Small Axe 11.1 (2007): 1-16.

Week 5: Embodied Apocalypses

Dionne Brand, Ossuaries (McClelland &Stewart, 2010)***

Week 6: The Shock of the Plantationocene

Maryse Condé, Waiting for the Waters to Rise (Trans. Richard Philcox. 2010)***
Gina Athena Ulysse, Selections from Why Haiti Needs New Narratives: A Post-quake ChronicleLink opens in a new window (Wesleyan UP, 2015)

Week 7:
"Hotels are squatting on my metaphors": Neoliberalism as Ecological Regime

Nicole Dennis-Benn, Here Comes the Sun (Oneworld, 2017)***
Kamau Brathwaite, "The Namsetoura PapersLink opens in a new window" (2004)


Week 8: Debt and Disaster

Raquel Salas Rivera, The Tertiary (Noemi Press, 2019)***
Naomi Klein, The Battle For Paradise: Puerto Rico Takes on the Disaster CapitalistsLink opens in a new window (Haymarket, 2018)
Hurray for the Riff Raff, "Pa'lanteLink opens in a new window" from The Navigator (ATO Records, 2017

Week 9: Caribbean Futurism

Karen Lord and Tobias S. Buckell, eds. Reclaim, Restore, Return: Futurist Tales from the CaribbeanLink opens in a new window (Caribbean Futures Institute, 2020)

Week 10: Caribbean Cthulus and Planetary Futures

Rita Indiana, Tentacle (Trans. Achy Obejas, 2015)***

Illustrative Bibliography

Campbell, Chris and Erin Somerville. What is the Earthly Paradise? : Ecocritical Responses to the Caribbean. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007.
Carrigan, Anthony. Postcolonial Tourism: Literature, Culture, and Environment. Routledge, 2011.
Davis, Mike. Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World. London and New York: Verso, 2001.
DeLoughrey, Elizabeth., Renée K. Gosson and George B. Handley. Eds. Caribbean Literature and the Environment. Charlottesville: U of Virginia P, 2005.
DeLoughrey, Elizabeth and George B. Handley. Postcolonial Ecologies. Oxford: OUP, 2011.
Deloughrey, Elizabeth, Anthony Carrigan, and Jill Didur. Global Ecologies and the Environmental Humanities. Routledge, 2015.
Glissant, Édouard. Caribbean Discourse: Selected Essays. Trans. J. Michael Dash.Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1989.
——. Poetics of Relation. Trans. Betsy Wing. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1997.
Grove, Richard H. Green Imperialism: Colonial Expansion, Tropical Island Edens and the Origins of Environmentalism, 1600-1860. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
Henry, Paget. Caliban’s Reason. Routledge, 2000.
Aaron Kamugisha. Ed. Caribbean Political Thought: The Colonial State to Caribbean Internationalisms. Ian Randle, 2013.
——. Ed. Caribbean Political Thought: Theories of the Postcolonial State. Ian Randle, 2013
Aaron Kamugisha and Yanique Hume. Eds. Caribbean Cultural Thought: From Plantation to Diaspora. Ian Randle, 2013.
Lovelace, Earl. Growing in the Dark: Selected Essays. Ed. Funso Aiyejina. San Juan, Trinidad and Tobago: Lexicon, 2003.
McMichael, Philip. "A food regime genealogy". Journal of Peasant Studies 36 (1): 139–169.
Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Viking Penguin, 1985.
Moore, Jason W. "Environmental Crises and the Metabolic Rift in World-Historical Perspective". Organization and Environment 13.2 (2000): 123-57.
——. "The Modern World-System as Environmental History? Ecology and the Rise of Capitalism". Theory and Society 32 (2003): 307-377.
——. "Capitalism as World Ecology: Braudel and Marx on Environmental History". Organization and Environment 16.4 (2003): 431-58.
——. "The End of the Road? Agricultural Revolutions in the Capitalist World-Ecology, 1450–201". Journal of Agrarian Change 10.3 (2010): 389-413.
Moretti, Franco. "Conjectures on World Literature." New Left Review 1 (January–February 2000): 54–68.
Mukherjee, Upamanyu Pablo. Postcolonial Environments. Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.
Niblett, Michael. "'When you take thing out the earth and you en’t put nothing back': Nature, Form, and the Metabolic Rift in Jan Carew’s Black Midas". The Journal of Commonwealth Literature 46.2 (2000).
——. "World-Economy, World-Ecology, World Literature". Green Letters 16.1 (2012): 15-30
Nixon, Rob. Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. London: Harvard UP, 2011.
Puri, Shalini. Caribbean Postcolonial. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.
Wallerstein, Immanuel. The Modern World-System I: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European World-Economy in the Sixteenth Century. New York: Academic Press, Inc. 1974.
Watts, David. The West Indies: Patterns of Development, Culture and Environmental Change since 1492. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987.
Wenzel, Jennifer. "Petro-magic-realism: Toward a Political Ecology of Nigerian Literature". Postcolonial Studies 9.4 (2006): 449-464.
Wynter, Sylvia, "Novel and History, Plot and Plantation". Savacou 5 (June 1971): 95-102.