Human Rights in the Humanities: Politics & Memory in the Caribbean Basin
This course is inspired in part by a special section of the October 2005 edition of the Publication of the Modern language Association entitled, “The Humanities in Human Rights.” Starting with the questions who is a human and what is a right, this course asks what literature, film, music, history, politics, economics and global health practices can teach us about human rights. We will take the island nation of Haiti, which was recently ravaged by a devastating earthquake that killed over 200,000 people and left countless others homeless and/or maimed, as our place of departure to explore how humanities scholarship might engage with human rights discourse. We will consider the role of the media, journalism, education and religious activism in shaping our cultural perspectives of the humanitarian role in Haiti (both pre- and post- earthquake).
We will also pay attention to how Haitians have responded to humanitarian aid and have consciously objected to the global construction of their country as simply the object of world benevolence.
We will delve into such human rights topics as censorship, imprisonment, torture, modern slavery, refugees, AIDS, women’s and children’s rights, war, poverty, revolution, violence and peace. Throughout the course students will be challenged to reconceptualize their notions of human rights both in their personal and academic lives, as well as to envision a viable form of cosmopolitan ethics for today’s global world.
Required Texts: Aime Cesaire, Discourse on Colonialism
Jean-Robert Cadet, Restavec: From Haitian Slave Child to Middle-Class American
Patrick Chamoiseau, School Days (1997)
Danny Laferrier, Down Among the Dead Men (1994)
Amy Wilentz, The Rainy Season: Haiti Since Duvalier (1990)
Edwidge Danticant, ed. The Butterfly’s Way
Jamaica Kincaid, A Small Place