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Ecology and Empire: Language, Culture, and Environment in Martinique

Schoelcher, Martinique

Term Offered: 
CHID Martinique Program
Approximate Dates of Instruction: 
June 20, 2015 to July 18, 2015
Application Deadline: 
January 30, 2015

Martinique, a former French sugar colony and present-day French overseas department, is the ideal site to study the interaction between “nature” and “culture” through the study of the island’s literature, cinema, social and environmental movements, museums of natural and cultural history, tourism industry, nature preserves, and “lieux de mémoire” (monuments). Located in the middle of the chain of islands stretching from Puerto Rico to the northern coast of Venezuela, Martinique corresponds in many ways to our idea of the island paradise: swaying palms trees, white-sand beaches, turquoise waters, and a picturesque volcano towering over it all.

But Martinique’s natural ecology has been profoundly reshaped by human cultures, and most notably by the cultures of slavery, plantation life, and their aftermaths. We will read (that is to say, interpret) in situ the narratives that Martinican authors, filmmakers and other cultural actors produce about the relationship between human activity and the natural environment, with the aim of understanding the island’s “natural wonders” not as places simply to be enjoyed or consumed, but as markers of Martinique’s cultural history. We will also explore how this complicated cultural history finds its expression in language use and attitudes. In reading linguistic and sociological texts, we will investigate language as social practice, paying particular attention to how various identity markers influence linguistic and cultural production.

A site such as Martinique, with its complicated relationship to France and the French language, is a perfect place for students to gain first-hand knowledge of what it means to be French-speaking.

  • French 390 / CHID 470A: Postcolonial Environments (5 credits I&S, VLPA)
  • French 320/390 / CHID 470B: Language and Cultural Identity (5 credits I&S, VLPA)
  • French 199/299: French Language Study (2 credits)
Fulfills Requirements: 
CHID Cultural and Historical Engagement
CHID Power & Difference
I&S Credit
VLPA Credit
Total Program Fees: 

*Note that the fees stated above do not include some additional costs, including, but not limited to: airfare, Study Abroad Insurance (about $42/month), and personal spending money. Remember that these costs will differ by program. Be sure to read our Fees, Financing, and Withdrawal information for details about the fee structure and payment schedule.