Course title and instructor

Landscape, Language, and Identity in the French Caribbean

Devan Baty, French professor

Syllabus description

Students will learn about the use of Creole and French in Martinique, Martinique’s colonial history, the intersection between the Caribbean sugar industry and the Atlantic slave trade, folklore, music and popular traditions, environmental issues, and the socioeconomic and cultural relationship between Martinique and metropolitan France. This course will make visible the rich intersections between landscape, language and identity that shape Martinican reality.

For students who wish to achieve greater fluency and an understanding of life in a Francophone country. This course will focus on oral comprehension, speaking and writing skills, and the acquisition of cultural competencies.

Course highlights

  • Two weeks in Martinique
  • Experience Carnaval festivities
  • Learn from faculty at the Université des Antilles
  • Site visits facilitated by the CIRECCA Research Center

Student reflection

Maren Elnes, Omaha, Neb.

Biology major, environmental studies minor

I was excited that a French course was being offered in a place that has such a unique culture. We stayed with host families which helped us not feel so much like outsiders and gave us a unique perspective into home life in Martinique.

We also had the good fortune of being there for Carnaval, which was one of the biggest highlights of my experience. At Carnaval we saw one of the most famous zouk bands in the Caribbean called Kassav, which was especially cool because we had learned about how zouk music started in Martinique, and how it has such close ties with their Creole culture.

Learning about the political/social issues of Creole culture and language was very interesting, especially the many issues about conforming to the standard French culture. In many ways, I found similarities in these issues to those we have in the U.S. surrounding black culture. Many Martinicans feel that French people don't consider them French citizens—that they view them as "second-class" people. While we found that they more often identify the cause as being socioeconomic class, it was hard not to wonder why the issue of racism wasn't as big of a concern as it is in the U.S.

I found that this trip really intensified my understanding of social/political issues, as well as my knowledge of slave history. It was truly a worthwhile experience, and I feel that my life will not be complete if I don't go back!