Engaging course on Caribbean culture raises awareness for transnational connections and challenges students to become critical viewers, consumers, and thinkers.
Patricia Saunders, assistant professor of English and ENG 667 course instructor.
Whether or not you’ve visited the Caribbean, you’ve likely consumed the fruits of the region—and not just the bananas and breadfruit, which ironically are not native but were brought from Southeast Asia by British colonizers to feed slave populations. If you’ve listened to reggae, danced to calypso music, or collected postcards of tropical landscapes, you are part of the transnational exchange of ideas and products taking place in the West Indies since Christopher Columbus first set foot there in 1493.
A graduate-level course, Caribbean Popular Culture challenges what students think they know about the region and explores how the region has been portrayed throughout history. The syllabus is an interdisciplinary feast of art, history, film, literature, music, and political science.
“I’d like students to become critical viewers, critical consumers, and critical thinkers, even when they are listening to their iPods, attending poetry readings, or watching Hollywood movies or commercials that attempt to ‘market’ the Caribbean,” says Patricia Saunders, assistant professor of English and course instructor.
A native of Trinidad, Saunders earned her Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Pittsburgh but spent three years writing her dissertation at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad. She is associate editor of Anthurium, a peer-reviewed online journal at the University of Miami that publishes original works by Caribbean writers and scholars. Saunders lauds the Internet as a remarkable vehicle for cross-cultural dialogues but cautions that it doesn’t take the place of actually traveling to other countries. “This course encourages students to think about what mobility means for cultural production and consumption in the African Diaspora,” she says.