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EN9A3 The Caribbean: Reading the World-Ecology


Dr. Michael Niblett (
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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.

Indicative Module Outline
(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

Martin Carter, "Listening to the Land," Poems of Succession (New Beacon Books, 1977)
Sylvia Wynter, "The Pope must have been drunk, the King of Castile a madman: Culture as Actuality, and the Caribbean Rethinking Modernity," The Reordering of Culture (1995)
Jason W. Moore, “The Capitalocene, Part I: On the Nature and Origins of our Ecological Crisis,” Journal of Peasant Studies 44:3 (2017): 594-630
Françoise Vergès, "Racial Capitalocene," Futures of Black Radicalism (Verso, 2017)
Elizabeth DeLoughrey, "Ecocriticism: The Politics of Place," Routledge Companion to Anglophone Caribbean Literature (Routledge, 2011)

Week 2: Plot and Plantation

Claude McKay, Banana Bottom (Harper, 1933)***
Sylvia Wynter, "Novel and History, Plot and Plantation," Savacou 5 (1971): 95-102.

Week 3: Pan-Africanism, Communism, Environmentalism

Aimé Césaire, Notebook of the Return to the Native Land (1939/47)***
Suzanne Césaire, Selections from The Great Camouflage: Writings of Dissent (Wesleyan UP, 2012)

Week 4: Zombie Ecologies and 'Cultural Guerrilla Resistance'

Erna Brodber, Myal (Peepal Tree, 1988)***
Tony Weis, "Small Farming and Radical Imaginations in the Caribbean Today," Race & Class 49.2 (2007): 112-117.

Week 5: Decolonization as Ecological Project: Pitfalls and Promises

Dionne Brand, Chronicles of the Hostile Sun (Williams-Wallce Publishers, 1984)
Merle Collins, Because the Dawn Breaks! (Karia Press, 1985)
Merle Collins, "Tout Moun ka Pléwé (Everybody Bawling)," Small Axe 11.1 (2007): 1-16.

Week 6: "Hotels are squatting on my metaphors": Neoliberalism as Ecological Regime

Nicole Dennis-Benn, Here Comes the Sun (Oneworld, 2017)***
Kamau Brathwaite, "The Namsetoura Papers" (2004)

Film Screening: Life and Debt, dir. Stephanie Black (2001)

Week 7: Catastrophes, Shocks, and Eruptions

Gina Athena Ulysse, Why Haiti Needs New Narratives: A Post-quake Chronicle (Wesleyan UP, 2015)***
Naomi Klein, The Battle For Paradise: Puerto Rico Takes on the Disaster Capitalists (Haymarket, 2018)***
Junot Díaz, "Monstro" and "Apocalypse - What Disasters Reveal"

Week 8: Some Versions of Ghetto Pastoral

Jesús Colón, Selections from A Puerto Rican in New York and Other Sketches (1961)
Pedro Juan Soto, Selections from Spiks (Monthly Review Press, 1973)
Pedro Pietri, Selections from Selected Poetry (City Lights, 2015)
Hurray for the Riff Raff, The Navigator (ATO Records, 2017)***

Week 9: Commodity Frontiers and Extractivism

Oonya Kempadoo, All Decent Animals (FSG, 2013)***
Mighty Sparrow, "Capitalism Gone Mad" (1983)
Brother Valentino, "Dis Place Nice" (1975)

Week 10: Afro-Futurism / Planetary Futures

Nalo Hopkinson, Falling in Love with Hominids (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.