Shaffer’s book on transnational Caribbean history has modern implications


WYOMISSING, Pa. — A new book by Penn State Berks professor of Latin American studies Kirwin Shaffer explores how historical forces, people, and ideas have crossed political borders and bodies of water to shape the Caribbean history. Titled “A Transnational History of the Modern Caribbean: Grassroots Resistance Across Borders,” the book addresses many of the same issues that are relevant today, including same-sex marriage and LGBTQ+ rights.

The book’s release coincides with the traveling exhibit, “With Open Heart and Open Arms: LGBTQ+ Cuban Refugees and the LGBTQ+ Community’s Response to the Mariel Boatlift of 1980,” currently on display at the Penn State Berks Thun Library through October 17.

Published by Palgrave Macmillan, “A Transnational History of the Modern Caribbean” focuses on how average people resisted political, economic, social, and racial control, and how that resistance sometimes came from abroad and other times was taken abroad to inspire others to resist exploitation. and guarantee their freedoms.

Although written from a historical perspective, the issues continue to take center stage in world affairs today.

“There’s a lot going on in the Caribbean right now,” says Shaffer. “Cuba was hit by Hurricane Ian and they are appealing to the United States for relief funds. This comes right after the country legalized same-sex marriage and allowed same-sex couples to adopt. most countries in Latin America are expanding LGBTQ+ rights, including same-sex marriage, despite objections from the Catholic Church.Simultaneously, activists promoting the fight against femicide, harassment and access to legal abortion measures have come together in a social movement – ​​called the “green wave” – and united across political boundaries. It’s an interesting change.

A Transnational History of the Modern Caribbean” examines the Caribbean resisting racial, political and social oppression from the eve of the Haitian Revolution from the 1790s to the 21st century.

“Haiti was hit by a massive earthquake in 2010 that devastated the island. When the government did not intervene, people started doing things for themselves. They fought violence outside the jurisdiction of the government and even built new cities. He goes on to explain, “Many thought it would be an opportunity for the country to ‘start over’, but instead street gangs pretty much run the country today.”

Palgrave Macmillan’s website describes “A Transnational History of the Modern Caribbean”:

“The migrant rebels, the newspaper postings, the rumors and the acts of resistance themselves inspired people across the Caribbean to launch their own acts of defiance, illustrating the transnational nature of Caribbean resistance.

“Some people fought to be left alone, ungovernable and without a master. Others fought to liberate their ethnicity or their race, their class or their nation. Men and women used a range of tactics from uprisings violent armed forces to flee repression and create their own communities.

“Through song, language, religion, and festivals, they maintained cultures and identities against oppressive norms that devalued or sought to destroy those cultures and identities. People declared strikes and riots against economic oppression. Women and mothers mobilized for their freedoms and those of their children. Throughout the Caribbean, people faced oppression and in doing so demonstrated their humanity and agency.

Shaffer became interested in Latin American and Caribbean history in 1979, when he was 14 years old. He was a rebellious teenager and started reading the newspaper more than the sports section. “I became fascinated by international news and the opinion page. In those days, there was a lot going on, from revolutions in Grenada and Nicaragua, to civil war in El Salvador.

He made his first trip abroad to Cuba as a graduate student at the University of Kansas. He remembers it being wildly unlike anything he had ever seen with socialist billboards and rhetoric everywhere.

“It was right at the end of the Cold War, and our group was staying in a government-run guest house. Hungarian and East German officers and their wives also stayed there. One night they started singing their respective national anthems and our band started singing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”. Soon the others join them in singing “Solidarity Forever”, an adaptation written in 1915 as a rallying cry against the titans of industry, which would later become a communist anthem.

In addition to visiting Cuba as a student, Shaffer studied at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica, taking courses in Caribbean history and reggae and Rastafarianism in Jamaican culture. While in Jamaica, he interviewed Rita Marley, wife of the late Bob Marley.

“From my freshman year in college, I knew I wanted to be a teacher,” Shaffer comments. “Students need to understand that in the modern world it makes no sense to study the politics and history of just one country; you have to study many countries and their relationship to each other.

Shaffer includes integrated study abroad courses in its curriculum. More recently, he took a group of students to Mexico City. “It’s one of the great cities in the world. It is a historically important place for an archaeological tourist.

In addition to his teaching schedule, Shaffer conducts research on how Latin American countries interact with each other and how this translates into resistance to exploitation.

“There is a long history of people cooperating to fight oppression,” he explains. “One of the ways people fight oppression is ‘through migration and the sharing of ideas, information, money and organization’.

When he asks his students where Latin America is, they usually answer the southern United States. Next, he asks them to consider the southwestern states of the United States – many were once part of Mexico and are a popular entry point for Latin American migrants. Next, he asks them to consider Florida, which was discovered by Spanish explorers and is another popular port of entry. In fact, Shaffer would say that Reading, Pennsylvania, with an 80% Latino population, is “Latin American through the transnational migration of peoples and cultures.”

For more information, contact Shaffer at 610-396-6258 or via email at [email protected]

About Kirwin Shaffer

Kirwin Shaffer received a doctorate in Latin American history from the University of Kansas and is a professor of courses in Latin American and Caribbean history, Latin American studies, global terrorism, tyranny and freedom, globalization, and world cinema with Penn State Berks World Studies. bachelor’s degree program. When he is not teaching, he pursues his research on transnational anarchism in the Americas. He has published five books on anarchist politics and culture in Latin America.

About the Bachelor of Arts in Global Studies

Penn State Berks offers the only global studies degree in the Penn State University system. While emphasizing a traditional liberal arts education in literature, politics, history, and the study of foreign languages, the Bachelor of Arts in Global Studies also fosters cross-cultural understanding and sensitivity to diversity that are essential for navigating the world. 21st century global environment. Students will have the unique opportunity to learn directly from study abroad and internships that add real-world experience to classroom preparation.


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