The Common Wind of the Afro-Caribbean Americas

How can the Caribbean explain the modern world?


A study of Caribbean culture deepens our understanding of the dynamic between modernity and coloniality in our contemporary, neoimperial world. In this course we will focus on the non-Anglophone Antilles but also consider the culture of the Caribbean that transcends geographical definitions. Our shared theoretical language will build on the work of Anibal Quijano, Julius S. Scott, and a school of thought that centers Shakespeare's Caliban as a lens for understanding empire. Over the course of the three weeks, we will address major texts, thinkers, and historical events including Aimé Cesaire, José Martí, Frantz Fanon, Junot Diaz, Edwidge Danticat, Lin Manuel Miranda; a Caribbean-focused approach race, the Atlantic world, and revolution; and three wars (the Haitian Revolution, the Spanish-American War of 1898 and the Cuban Revolution).

Students have the option of completing written work in Spanish. Those who wish to read selections in Spanish (when originally written in that language) are encouraged to do so.

Meet the Instructor(s)

Lisa Surwillo

Associate Professor of Iberian and Latin American Cultures

Professor Surwillo teaches courses on Iberian literature, with an emphasis on the nineteenth-century. Her research addresses the questions of property, empire, race and personhood as they are manifested by literary works, especially dramatic literature, dealing with colonial slavery, abolition and Spanish citizenship. Surwillo is the author of The Stages of Property: Copyrighting Theatre in Spain (Toronto 2007), an analysis of the development of copyright and authorship in nineteenth-century Spain and the impact of intellectual property on theater. Her forthcoming book Monsters by Trade (Stanford 2014) is a study of slave traders in Spanish literature and the role of these colonial mediators in the development of modern Spain.

Jose Saldivar

Leon Sloss, Jr. Professor and Professor, by courtesy, of Iberian and Latin American Cultures

"Born and raised in the Global South of Brownsville, Texas, my most vivid memory is not so much of my family (four brothers and two sisters) but of the house on 214 Vilma Street where I lived with my parents and my grandparents. Sometimes I wake up with the feeling that I've dreamed that I'm in that house. Not that I have gone back there but that I'm there. It was a house full of my family but also absent relatives. I am beginning to write a border memoir or hauntology in which I will attempt to recover it and master my memories of it. It's a book I've carried inside me for decades.

"I spent my early years exploring U.S.-Mexico border culture and music, and I attended Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic School. A first-generation college student, I majored in literature at Yale, and completed my Ph.D. at Stanford University in English and Comparative Literature. Throughout my career, I have been interested in understanding how literature's complex narrative logic and its broad ideological horizons work. Is literature an extended metaphor?

"Among my previous books are The Dialectics of Our America; Border Matters; Trans-Americanity; and Junot Díaz and the Decolonial Imagination. My latest book, Junot Díaz: The Half-Life of Love, is in press. Before coming to Stanford in 2010, I was the Class of 1942 Professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley. Presently, I am the Leon Sloss, Jr. Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature and the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity (CCSRE) at Stanford."