Keywords in Caribbean Studies: A Small Axe Project debuted in July 2022 and grows out of the work of criticism that the Small Axe Project has engaged in for more than twenty-five years. Refashioning and revising the model of Keywords advanced by Raymond Williams in his monograph of the same title in 1973, our project of critical vocabulary stages the productive tensions across disparate genealogies rather than enforcing a settled regional consensus. Our Keywords embrace the polyvocal character of Caribbean criticism as a project that cuts across vectors of difference—to include language, size, and geography, as well as attendant histories of plantation slavery, indenture, and Indigenous dispossession. Through the study of the keywords and organizing concepts of Caribbean studies, our project is a testing ground for the geopolitical frameworks and analytical trends that have defined the field. The inaugural Keywords essays, “Zwart, Negro/a/x*, Nègre, Black,” in Small Axe 68 are organized around distinct colonial linguistic geographies, but remain attentive to the sites of clash and moments of spillover in Caribbean discourse. The Keywords forum is staged and published annually in July. Vanessa Pérez-Rosario and Ryan Cecil Jobson serve as its inaugural and present co-editors.

Keywords for Caribbean Studies: A Project Statement

Vanessa Pérez-Rosario

Ryan Cecil Jobson

Editorial Assistant
Tyler Grand Pre


Ryan Cecil Jobson is the Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Chicago. His research is preoccupied with questions of energy, sovereignty, race, and capitalism. His writing is featured in Current Anthropology, American Anthropologist, The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology, and Small Axe. He is presently completing his first book manuscript, a historical ethnography of the Caribbean petrostate of Trinidad and Tobago. Jobson is a member of the Small Axe editorial committee. 

Vanessa Pérez-Rosario is a professor of English at Queens College and doctoral faculty in the Latin American, Iberian, and Latino Cultures program at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. She is the author of Becoming Julia de Burgos: The Making of a Puerto Rican Icon (2014), published in Spanish as Julia de Burgos: la creación de un ícono puertorriqueño (2022); editor of Hispanic Caribbean Literature of Migration: Narratives of Displacement (Palgrave 2010); and translator of Boat People, by Mayra Santos-Febres (2021).  She is currently working on a critical edition titled “I Am My Own Path: The Writings of Julia de Burgos” (University of Texas Press 2024). She is managing editor of Small Axe

Editorial Assistant 

Tyler Grand Pre is a PhD candidate in the Department of English and Comparative Literature and ICLS affiliate at Columbia. His research revolves around figurations of housing infrastructure in African Diasporic literature and culture. In both a material and symbolic sense, he explores and compares the meaning of different housing infrastructures that have come to define black domestic being in the urban and rural settings of the US and Caribbean. Tyler is currently co-chairing the black studies colloquium and regularly teaches UW classes for the Undergraduate Writing Program themed around human rights.

Cimarrón/ Marron/ Maroon

Small Axe 71, July 2023


Tolin Alexander is a theater maker. His intercultural and interdisciplinary work draws inspiration from Suriname's multi-ethnic culture, particularly as it relates to his own Maroon culture and traditions. Alexander participates in numerous national and international exchange projects with individual artists and organizations in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Europe. Recent projects include: Swartgat/Dunguolo (2020), Stones Have Laws (IDFA film 2018), and the theaterwork, Lofzang op de Vrijheid, 2018).

Corinna Campbell is an ethnomusicologist and Associate Professor of Music at Williams College. Her research among the Suriname Maroons highlights themes including: music/dance interconnections, Surinamese cultural nationalism, culture-representational/folkloric performance, and the politics of performance. She is the author of The Cultural Work: Maroon Performance in Paramaribo, Suriname (Wesleyan, 2020).

Johnhenry Gonzalez is university assistant professor of Caribbean history in the Cambridge Faculty of History. His 2019 book Maroon Nation focuses on the Haitian Revolution and the early decades of Haitian independence.  He teaches on the Caribbean and the African Diaspora and he is currently writing a book on history of the 20th century Haitian art business. 

Ileana M. Rodríguez-Silva is Associate Professor of Latin American and Caribbean History at the University of Washington. She is the author of the award-winning book Silencing Race: Disentangling Race, Colonialism, and National Identities in Puerto Rico (1850-1920) (NY: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2012) and co-editor of The Politics of Storytelling in Island Imperial Formations, Positions: Asia Critique 21, Issue 1, (2021). 

SJ Zhang is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Chicago. Their current project, Going Maroon and Other Forms of Family, considers how reproduction and carceral forces shaped the decisions and triggered the archives of four women who went maroon in North America and the Caribbean between 1781 and 1820. Zhang’s work is published in Representations, Women & Performance, Transition, and Caribbean Literature in Transition, Volume 1: 1800-1920.