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New PhD project analyzes Caribbean coasts

Cand.mag. Anne-Sophie Bogetoft Mortensen has initiated a PhD project at Roskilde University.
Anne-Sophie Bogetoft Mortensen
Anne-Sophie Bogetoft Mortensen

During the British colonization of The Global South a handful of islands in the Caribbean archipelago were the emperies first, but also most lucrative colonies, despite their humble size. The islands continuous coastlines and seemingly isolated geography made them an obvious destination during the maritime colonization, but also meant that the coast often became the site for the first, and often traumatic, encounter between colonizer and native islander. Trauma has remained the Caribbean coasts main characteristic. While sugarcane plantations started to fill the land, the coasts became the site where busy sea ports where established. At the same time, the sea became the only possible escape road for the island’s natives and the enslaved, after the British colonizers had cultivated the wild hinterland. Today the coast remains the primary attraction on many of the islands. Tourists from all over the world flies thousands of miles to experience the Caribbean beaches, all the while forcing the locals away from them. The place where sea and land meets are also where some of the threatening consequences of climate change affect the islanders most significantly. Throughout the last couple of decades, the Caribbean has experienced an intensification of the disastrous weather phenomenona, such as tropical storms and floods, threatening to erode the coastal societies financial fundament and qualification as a home for the native Caribbeans.   

The PhD project ’Encountering and Colonizing Caribbean Coasts’ will examine the coast as a space in 
selected British and anglophone Caribbean poetry and prose from the 19th, 20th and 21st century. The project will work in the intersection of two of the most eminent theoretical fields within cultural studies, postcolonialism and ecocriticism. Both fields have been at the forefront of the critique of western civilization today, where the Western colonization partly has turned away from populations, but still insists on dominion over natures landscapes and their forces. The project’s aim is to examine, how literary portrayals of the coast has contributed to the shaping of the Caribbean coastal landscapes, the ones that prevailed during the colonization as well as the ones we know today. Therefore, the project will immerse itself in academic discussions beyond the literary: from historical and philosophical, to geographical and geological. The projects aim is to potentially formulate or urge the formulation of a new ecocriticism that does not take the West, but instead the Caribbean archipelago and its continuously traumatized coasts, at its starting point. 

Anne-Sophie Bogetoft Mortensen holds a Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature from University of Copenhagen, with Minorities Studies and Gender Studies as her minor, graduating in 2018. 

She discloses: I have embarked on this project due to a long interest with how postcolonial and ecocritical cultural theory might work together in an exploration of the Western ‘colonial way of thought’ that is still present in our continuous colonization of our physical surroundings. As an academic, I believe that cultural objects play a crucial role in the way we conceive the world. I am interested in how literature can change these perceptions and how an academic devotion to a literary tradition such as the Caribbean, can contribute to a new outlook on our connection with the physical world.