Caribbean Literatures, Arts, and Cultures

The Caribbean archipelago by itself (without including the countries on the Caribbean coasts of South America) comprises 13 sovereign nations and 12 dependent territories.  While there are only five official languages of the Caribbean — English, French, Dutch, Haitian Kreyòl, and Spanish — there are 59 living languages. Because of various forms of colonialism, forced migration, slavery, and unfree labor, the Caribbean cultural region is even more vast. Made up of Europeans, indigenous Americans, Africans, and Asians, it stretches from the Caribbean Sea to the Gulf of Mexico, to the Atlantic coasts of Central and South America, to the diasporic communities of cities like Montréal, Miami, New York, Paris, and London.

For these reasons, doctoral students studying the Caribbean must be trained to think across differing and sometimes overlapping histories of colonization and across the varied racial, national, and linguistic discourses that emerged from those histories. Students require mentorship from scholars with expertise not only in several nation states, but also in multiple languages.

The approach of this research cluster, led by scholars with expertise in the Francophone, Hispanophone, Creolophone, and Anglophone Caribbean, will be hemispheric and transatlantic in scope. Fellows will benefit from the presence of many other Caribbean Studies faculty on campus, who form part of UVa’s Greater Caribbean Studies Network. Our aim is to encourage transnational study of Caribbean literatures, arts, and cultures with an eye to the comparative complexity that understanding the history of the Antillean archipelago demands.

Possible areas of study

Artistic creation has often been the chosen method by which Caribbean peoples have imagined, processed, and communicated not only freedom and joy, but the tragic histories and realities of colonialism and empire, along with the experiences of slavery, revolutions, hurricanes, earthquakes, dictatorships, and military occupation.  Whether we are considering literature, film, painting and sculpture, political posters, or musical styles, the Caribbean is an apt space for exploring the relationship among history, politics, and artistic creation.

Through the lens of examining artistic production, the projects of our doctoral students will intersect with a variety of other research areas, such as:

  • Gender and sexuality
  • Migration and diaspora
  • Religion and philosophy
  • Legacies of slavery and colonialism
  • Globalization and inequality
  • Race and racism
  • Political movements, including Communism, socialism, and democracy
  • Empire, translation, and tourism

Mentoring Plan and Resources

Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellows will have coordinated access to the following resources and opportunities at UVA.

Greater Caribbean Studies Network

Fellows will engage routinely with this research collective convened by Professor Charlotte Rogers, which presently comprises over 50 faculty, graduate students, postdocs and librarians. The group meets several times a semester for lunchtime workshops, and its members also regularly organize academic lectures and public events, as well as host cross-disciplinary seminars (most recently in collaboration with UVA’s South Atlantic Seminar and the Global South Lab).  The network will provide an invaluable resource for doctoral fellows to exchange ideas about research and teaching in this multi-disciplinary field, enabling students to receive feedback on works in progress as they refine their research topics and draft dissertation chapters.

Academic Conferences

Fellows will work with faculty to host graduate student conferences at UVA in their second and fourth years of study, gaining important professional development as readers, interlocutors and planners by reaching out to potential keynote speakers, organizing panels, and publishing work yielded by the events. These events will also provide Fellows with the opportunity to showcase their own work as they begin to establish their scholarly network beyond the University.

There will also be opportunities for Fellows to help plan and coordinate ongoing interdisciplinary conferences led by faculty in the mentoring cluster. The Conversations in Caribbean Studies Colloquium, for example, held its inaugural program titled Legacies of the New World Avenger in May 2019.  This colloquium provided a unique opportunity for graduate students in the South Atlantic Seminar on Transatlantic Haitian Print Culture to engage with emerging and established scholars in the field of Atlantic Studies, including Julia Gaffield (Georgia State), Laurent Dubois (Duke), and Grégory Pierrot (UConn). The next iteration, titled “The Borderlands of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, a Conversation with April Mayes, Anne Eller, and Edward Paulino,” will be held on April 29, 2020.  Other conferences organized by the mentors in this cluster include the Global South Conference, Coasts in Crisis, and Haitian Studies in the 21st Century.

Teaching Assistantships

Fellows will have priority consideration to participate as teaching assistants for the undergraduate course Introduction to Modern Caribbean Studies to broaden the teaching experience available to students within their home departments.

Research Assistantships, Editorial Work and Web Design

In addition to undertaking traditional scholarly research assistantships with faculty in the mentoring cluster and the Greater Caribbean Studies Network, Fellows will have the unique opportunity to work as student-editors on a variety of faculty led initiatives. Projects include:

Additional digital humanities work might include mapping novelistic timelines and creating other time-shape diagrams for Njelle Hamilton’s Caribbean Chronotropes book (in progress) and creating a companion website.

Graduate Certificate Programs

The Graduate School offers certificate programs that build community among doctoral students and faculty with common interests approached from a variety of disciplines, including programs in Africana Studies, American Studies, Digital Humanities, Environmental Humanities, and Gender and Sexuality Studies.  Students earn a credential en route to the PhD degree that will help to define their qualifications for faculty positions with interdisciplinary requirements.