UC Davis - Latin America and the Caribbean Spotlight: Professor Develops Courses on Indigenous Caribbean

Zoom screenshot of Middleton's course
Professor Beth Rose Middleton, Ph.D. student Jasmine Wade and undergraduate student Maria Avila Gallegos, with guest collaborator Zoila E. Browne, a distinguished scholar and the head of the International Garifuna Heritage Foundation. Courtesy of Beth Rose Middleton.

Professor Beth Rose Middleton develops courses on Indigenous Caribbean and collaborations with Garifuna leaders

By Charles Walker, professor of history in the College of Letters and Science and faculty director of Global Centers for Latin America and the Caribbean in Global Affairs

Beth Rose Middleton headshot
Professor Beth Rose Middleton. Courtesy of the UC Davis Department of Native American Studies.

UC Davis Professor Beth Rose Middleton, chair of the Native American Studies Department in the College of Letters and Science, has long had an interest in the Caribbean. She has family connections to Belize, Jamaica, and Honduras and has conducted research and taught about issues facing the Garifuna, an Afro-Indigenous people originally from the island of St. Vincent, exiled to the Central American coast of Honduras in the eighteenth century. Today, Garifuna live across the Americas. A 2020 Global Affairs Seed Grant has allowed Professor Middleton to develop courses on the Indigenous Caribbean and to develop exchanges and collaborations with Garifuna leaders.   

Although COVID-19 postponed her plan to bring Zoila E. Browne, a distinguished scholar and the head of the International Garifuna Heritage Foundation, to campus in fall 2020, they have still been able to collaborate via Zoom. The grant has allowed graduate students Jasmine Wade, cultural studies Ph.D. student, and Vivienne Muller, Native American studies Ph.D. student, to present their work to and collaborate with leading Afro-Caribbean scholars and activists. These initial encounters have already led to further publication plans.

When asked why she developed the project, Professor Middleton first noted the lack of offerings at UC Davis on the Caribbean, despite broad interest. Professor Middleton and her advisees offered a Global Learning Seminar as a part of Undergraduate Education’s First Year Seminar program on African and Indigenous Intersections in the Caribbean in fall 2020. The seminar is laying the groundwork for an upper division undergraduate course on the Indigenous Caribbean that she hopes to offer in 2021-22.

Scenic photo of SVG
A view on St. Vincent, where Middleton addended the International Garifuna Heritage Foundation Conference in 2012. Courtesy of Beth Rose Middleton.

The seed grant will also allow her to develop other opportunities linking UC Davis with St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the Garifuna diaspora. She is particularly excited about the opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate students that these exchanges will offer. In discussing the benefits of these programs, she stressed the commonalities between discussions in the pan-Caribbean Garifuna community about racism and injustice and the issues that concern the Black Lives Matter movement.

Heroes Day in SVG
On Heroes Day in Greggs, a historical Garifuna town in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, each Garifuna settlement is represented by the wooden structures depicted. Business owners sold food and souvenirs while performers danced, sang, and recounted the history of national heroes. Courtesy of Jasmine Wade..

While disappointed that most of the collaborations will have to be virtual in the coming year, Professor Middleton is confident that her project has sown the seeds for greater attention to the Indigenous Caribbean at UC Davis and for numerous opportunities for students.

This is part of a series featuring UC Davis people and programs connected to the Latin America and the Caribbean region. Learn more about UC Davis’ Global Centers for Latin America and the Caribbean

About Global Affairs at UC Davis

Global Affairs brings the world to UC Davis, welcoming more than 10,000 international students, scholars and leaders, and hosting programs that inspire global curiosity, understanding and engagement. Compelled by the valuable outcomes of thinking globally, we make transformative opportunities a reality by supporting the thousands of students and faculty learning and researching globally—and by facilitating collaborations that tackle the world’s most pressing challenges through more than 150 global partnerships.

Putting our vision of a UC Davis community that engages, thrives, and leads in this interconnected world into action, Global Affairs is in pursuit of an ambitious goal: Global Education for All.

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