Caribbean Modern

caribbean modern

Historically, the geopolitical region we know as the Caribbean is foundationally modern—that is to say, it was forced into being by modern/modernizing colonial powers as a constitutive part of the making of the modern capitalist world. Whatever fragments of indigenous social formation survived the European expansionist onslaught, and whatever fugitive communities of marronage that emerged in its wake, were incorporated in subordinate positions within a terrain of transforming and modernizing economic and state powers. The history of the Caribbean is the story of the struggle with this founding fact. All of us, Caribbeans, in the region or its diasporas, grapple with the powers of the modern, the structural powers of political and economic modernity, as well as the intellectual and aesthetic powers of modernism. This platform, Caribbean Modern, aims to provide an experimental space in which to support and share projects that seek to explore the edges of this condition.

Otto and Hermina Huiswoud:
Modern Black Diasporic Radicals

September 08-09, 2023

In the history of Black internationalism, few trajectories involve as many sites of political organizing as those of Hermina and Otto Huiswoud. Hermina participated in organizations spanning from the Harlem Tenants League in New York to the Lenin Institute in Moscow. And while Otto remains principally remembered as the only Black person present at the founding meeting of the Communist Party USA, he also spearheaded recruitment campaigns in the Caribbean, and made his mark as chair of the Vereniging Ons Suriname (“Our Suriname Association”) in Amsterdam after WWII. On September 8–9, 2023, Small Axe, The Black Archives, the International Institute of Social History, and the Tropenmuseum will organize a symposium in Amsterdam that brings together an international set of scholars discussing questions do to with the Huiswouds’ relationship to Pan-Africanism, their work for radical publications such as The Negro Worker and organizations such as International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers, their legacy in the contemporary Dutch Caribbean, and their archive at The Black Archives in Amsterdam.

Coordinator: Mayaki Kimba

The PDF is open access. However, use of any portion of the texts must be authorised by the author and should be accompanied by the following acknowledgement: 'downloaded from'.

In Modernism’s Wake:
Styles and Infrastructures of Caribbean Artistic and Intellectual Practice

Arguably, across a range of expression and identity, artistic as well as intellectual, modernism has been a shaping force in the twentieth-century Caribbean. If European high modernism partly nourished itself on its imperial connection (primitivism), so also did the vernacular modernisms of the colonial world find their voices by appropriating, indigenizing, creolizing, transforming the forms and languages of modernism. Founded as it was, as a geopolitical region, withi modern structures of power—colonial slavery and indenture—the problem of modernity is native to the Caribbean. No surprisingly, therefore, across the regional and diasporic Caribbean modernism contributed to the modes of radica artistic and intellectual response to colonial domination, dispossession, and oppression, providing some of the idioms and styles and infrastructures through which the politics and poetics and aesthetics of self-determination was articulated. In the last three decades or so, however, with the waning of postcolonial sovereignty and the rise of globalization, there is reason to doubt that modernism continues to be the subversive force that it was for so long taken to be. This is the arena of our project. Our aim is to understand the role of visual, literary, and intellectual modernism in the twentieth-century Caribbean, regional and diasporic, and as a corollary, to explore whether or to what extent modernism’s heretical energies continue to be a significant point of reference.

What and When was Caribbean Modernism?
A Symposium

November 09 - 11, 2023 / Amsterdam

This occasion seeks to capture something of the varied temporalities and idioms of modernism as these emerged and manifested themselves across the Hispanophone, Francophone, Dutch, and Anglophone Caribbean (including their diasporas). Day one will be devoted to visual modernism, and day two to the literary.

Coordinator: Dantaé Elliott

Download PDF

The PDF is open access. However, use of any portion of the texts must be authorised by the author and should be accompanied by the following acknowledgement: 'downloaded from'.

The Archive of Caribbean Modernism:
A Symposium

November 00 - 00, 2024 / Puerto Rico

This occasion seeks to explore questions relating to archive—archive as practice, as authority, as possibility—in relation to Caribbean modernity and modernism across the Hispanophone, Francophone, Dutch, and Anglophone Caribbean (including their diasporas).

Coordinator: Dantaé Elliott

Download PDF

The PDF is open access. However, use of any portion of the texts must be authorised by the author and should be accompanied by the following acknowledgement: 'downloaded from'.

Itineraries of Caribbean Modernism
A Moses Maerz Project

November 00 - 00, 2024

This image is granted with the permission of the artist. No part of this image can be used without the consent of the artist.
© Copyright 2023

Mapping Decolonial Berlin 
A Moses März Project

In his cartographic practice Moses März translates reading notes from academic and literary texts into lines, images, symbols, and quotations. This method of combining scholarly research with elements from the verbal and visual arts developed out of his collaboration with the editorial team of the Chimurenga Chronic—a Pan-African literary magazine based in Cape Town, South Africa—and his engagement with Édouard Glissant’s philosophy of relation. 

The Mapping Decolonial Berlin series is an ongoing artistic research project focusing on the intersecting histories of decolonial movements in and around the city of Berlin. They chart the continuities and changes shaping the German variant of the coloniality of power and the diverse alliances of force resisting it. The maps shown here were produced between 2021 and 2023 in collaboration with the Dekoloniale Memory Culture in the City initiative in Berlin. Each map is linked to other maps via big red arrows. 

Map 1 traces alliances between anticolonial movements that were active in the period between the two world wars. Its main focus is on initiatives that were based in Berlin and Hamburg (centre) and were strongly influenced or supported by Marcus Garvey’s black nationalist project (red) and the Communist International (black) and its commitment to support anticolonial movements. These two currents met at the founding congress of the League Against Imperialism and Colonial Oppression in 1927 (red and black circle), which is considered a predecessor of the Bandung Conference of 1955.

Map 2 shows the Afro-Asian movement that began with Indian independence in 1947, gained momentum at the Bandung Conference in 1955, and eventually dissipated in Cuba in 1966. The map offers a South-South focused geopolitical perspective that cuts across racialized divisions between Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, the Caribbean and Asia. It also shows how closely the German Democratic Republic was woven into the project of Afro-Asian solidarity via relations of exchange and support that the grey arrows on the map indicate. 

Map 3 traces the intersecting lifelines of Audre Lorde (black line), her publisher and friend Dagmar Schultz (grey line) and the Afro-German poet May Ayim (red line) in mid-1980s Berlin. Along with their comrades they had a powerful effect on the creation of several organizations, events and publications that are considered of fundamental importance for the Afro-German community. Among the initiatives that emerged from this Afro-feminist movement are organizations such as Schwarze Frauen in Deutschland e.V. (ADEFRA) and Schwarze Menschen in Deutschland e.V. (ISD) that have paved the way for contemporary initiatives in Berlin such as Each One Teach One (EOTO) and Dekoloniale Memory Culture in the City. 

Map 4 provides a schematic overview of the conflict between the coloniality of power (black) and decolonial movements (red) over the course of more than 500 years. It focusses particularly on the history of German colonialism (area enclosed by dashed line) and on Black movements of resistance operating in and around Berlin since the 1980s (upper right side). The red arrows on the sides of the map indicate transnational exchanges of theories and cultural practices that had an impact on this local decolonial tradition.