The Meaning of Freedom in the Modern Caribbean
University of Liverpool, Spring 2018/2019

Since Columbus landed on San Salvador, the Caribbean region has been at the center of many of the most significant global transformations. In the ensuing five centuries, the people on these islands have forged global connections with almost every part of the world. The Caribbean was also a crucial laboratory for testing the meaning of freedom—both individual and national—and the limits of this powerful concept. For in the Caribbean, as in many parts of the Global South, freedoms won (in this case, emancipation and independence) were almost always replaced by new forms of rule and control. Over the course of this semester, as we study the Caribbean’s transition from a collection of colonial slave societies into a region of mostly postcolonial nations—some independent, more nonsovereign—we’ll consider a number of questions: What is freedom? What does freedom look like? Can it be limited or constrained? We’ll survey this complex terrain by focusing our attention on three countries in particular—Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba. In the process, we will examine some of the broader trends that form this region’s shared history: postemancipation economics and politics; nationalist and anticolonial movements; the rise of American economic, political, and cultural influence; communism; and the Caribbean today as a postcolonial and global space.