LOST PARIS OF THE WEST INDIES: CREATIVE RESPONSES TO THE 1902 ERUPTION OF MARTINIQUE’S MONT PELEÉ VOLCANO. Liverpool (UK): Liverpool University Press, forthcoming/in progress.
The project explores the literature written in the wake of the eruption of the Mont Pelée volcano and the destruction of the city of St. Pierre. From early texts like Marie Bally-Dufrénois’ Éruptions du Mont Pelé en 1902, lettres d’une fiancée to Patrick Chamoiseau’s Texaco, it looks at the eruption as the before/after of Martinican literature.
EXTINCTIONS: COLONIALISM, BIODIVERSITY AND THE NARRATIVES OF THE CARIBBEAN. Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, forthcoming/in progress.
My overarching question in this study is how biodiversity losses have shaped visions of the Caribbean region across a broad spectrum of narratives—and how these narratives force us to reconsider what it means to be “postcolonial” in a new century in which Caribbean writers have begun to ponder the potential extinction of Caribbean islands and peoples due to global warming, continued deforestation, galloping desertification, and rising sea levels. The study, therefore, focuses on past animal extinctions and currently endangered species, using specific cases to illustrate spaces where political, economic, cultural and biological “narratives” intersect and their importance for understanding the impact of colonial and neo-colonial/neo-liberal policies on Caribbean environments. The case studies illustrate how quickly and devastatingly the Columbian encounter evolved into an ecological revolution—an “an abrupt and qualitative break with the process of environmental and social change that had developed in situ” (Melville). Facing catastrophic habitat collapse, island ecologies experienced “substantial species’ loss” from the earliest stages of colonization (Miller). This ecological revolution can be measured in terms of biodiversity losses that have erased thousands of flora and fauna species in the region, some dating back to the earliest decades of the Indies’ colonization and conquest.
Image: Monk Seal: Critically Endangered by Frits Ahlefeldt
The third edition of Creole Religions of the Caribbean was published in Spring 2022.
This third edition updates the scholarship by featuring new critical approaches that have been brought to bear on the study of religion, such as queer studies, environmental studies, and diasporic studies. The third edition also expands the regional considerations of the diaspora to the US Latinx communities that are influenced by Creole spiritual practices, taking into account the increased significance of material culture, art, music, literature, and healing practices influenced by Creole religions.
“Creole Religions of the Caribbean approaches readers as if they were out-of-town guests at a dinner party, thoroughly acquainting them with the topics of conversation and encouraging them to mingle among the liveliest characters.” ~The Journal of Religion
“Provides a unique sociocultural, historical and political analysis of Caribbean religion.” ~Centro Journal
“Offers an excellent . . . multidisciplinary introduction to the scholarship in this area of study.” ~New West Indian Guide
A much revised edition of Creole Religions of the Caribbean (originally published in 2003, see below) appeared in 2011.
“Fernández Olmos and Paravisini-Gebert write with evident expertise, keen to uphold our understandings of how the major Creole spiritualities—everything from Vodou to Rastafari—have always dynamically adapted to change to ensure their survival and flourishing. This second edition is, in short, an extraordinarily rich work for scholars and students alike; it is certain to become the field’s standard text.”-Darren J. N. Middleton, Texas Christian University
“Brings to life the living and lively religious traditions of Caribbean peoples. This new edition offers to scholars and students of Caribbean religions and cultures an illuminating introduction to religious continuity, change, and creativity in the Caribbean region in the past 500 years, especially among the Afro-Caribbean population.” -Ennis B. Edmonds, Kenyon College
“Offers a unique perspective on Caribbean religions and provides well-reasoned explanations for the diverse ways in which African religious traditions were adapted to a new cultural milieu in the diaspora…. A brilliant book and a significant contribution to the literature on Caribbean religions. In short, it leaves no stone unturned.” -Leslie Desmangles, Trinity College
THE LITERATURE OF THE CARIBBEAN. Westport, CT.: Greenwood Press, 2008.
This book project stemmed out of my interest in making Caribbean literature accessible to a larger public by offering a series of studies that could make it possible for classics of the region to be incorporated into the high school curriculum in the United States. I selected the fifteen texts I thought most suitable for high school readers and asked myself “if I were a high school teacher unfamiliar with the nuances of life and culture in the Caribbean, what would I need to know in order to teach each of these texts effectively?” The book includes chapters on Michael Anthony’s The Year in San Fernando, Alejo Carpentier’s The Kingdom of this World, Michelle Cliff’s Abeng, Maryse Condé’s I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem, Raphael Confiant’s Mamzelle Dragonfly, Edwidge Danticat’s Breath, Eyes, Memory, Zee Edgell’s Beka Lamb, Magali García Ramis’s Happy Days, Uncle Sergio, Jamaica Kincaid’s Annie John, Mayra Montero’s The Messenger, V. S. Naipaul’s The Mystic Masseur, Patricia Powell’s A Small Gathering of Bones, Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea, Simone Schwarz-Bart’s The Bridge of Beyond, and Derek Walcott’s Omeros.
“Accessibly written and filled with penetrating insights, this book will prove a vital interpretive tool for both previously unacquainted readers and symbol-seeking scholars.” LIBRARY JOURNALaudience.” JOSÉ F. BUSCAGLIA-SALGADO
CREOLE RELIGIONS OF THE CARIBBEAN: FROM VODOU AND SANTERIA TO OBEAH AND ESPIRITISMO. With Margarite Fernández Olmos. New York: New York University Press, 2003.
Creole Religions of the Caribbean offers a comprehensive introduction to the syncretic religions that have developed in the region. From Vodou, Santería, Regla de Palo, the Abakuá Secret Society, and Obeah to Quimbois and Espiritismo, the volume traces the historical-cultural origins of the major Creole religions, as well as the newer traditions such as Pocomania and Rastafarianism.
“Bravo! A well-written text that de-mystifies Creole spiritual practices and places them in historical perspective is a major contribution to the twenty-first century. Over and above the accurate and detailed descriptions of the various spiritual practices of the Caribbean, the authors have clearly delineated the historic origin and connection of Creole practices to African religions, often indicating the specific regions of Africa from which they came. This volume provides an excellent overview of the history and culture of the Caribbean islands and is the first of its kind to present comprehensive, well-researched treatise of Obeah, Myalism, Quimbois, Espiritismo, Vodou, Santeria, Regla de Palo, and the Abukua Secret Society as well as the more recent traditions of Rastafarianism and Pocomania. This work is interesting and will leave the reader well informed about the Caribbean island’s religions, practices, and culture, complete with present-day expressions in the Caribbean. It will be an important text for the study of the Caribbean, religion, ethnicity, race, and culture.” MULTICULTURAL REVIEW
“Creole Religions of the Caribbean approaches readers as if they were out-of-town guests at a dinner party, thoroughly acquainting them with the topics of conversation and encouraging them to mingle among the liveliest characters.” THE JOURNAL OF RELIGION
JAMAICA KINCAID: A CRITICAL COMPANION. Westport, CT.: Greenwood Press, 1999.
This biography of the writer and politician recreates Allfrey’s life against the background of 20th-century Caribbean political and literary history—from the decline of the planter class, the rise of party politics, the efforts to join the West Indies into a federation in the 1960s, and the post-independence period after 1970.