A Heritage of Greed: Colonial Enterprises’ Past and Present

Exploring the symbolic and material effects of the rhetoric and the practice of colonization on people, territories and the environment, as well as their long-lasting repercussions. Presenters will discuss both explicit and disguised reenactments of the “colonial logic” at a local and global scale. Topics include contemporary efforts to obtain reparations for slavery in postcolonial spaces; the displacement of Japanese Americans during World War II and its links to environmental justice; the “colonial gaze” framing both landscapes and human bodies in contemporary documentary films; and the contradictions of current humanitarian interventions in formerly colonized territories.


Colonization, Slavery and Reparations: The Case of the Caribbean

Prof. Hanétha Vete-Congolo, Romance Languages and Literatures


Colonization and slavery have had multiple and multifaceted consequences on the populations and lands that were under their yoke. Efforts to obtain legal, economical and moral reparations have gained momentum and are currently under debate. Such are the cases of the claims presented by the CARICOM’s Reparations Commission, and the lawsuit pursued by the Le Conseil Mondial de la Diaspora Pan Africaine [The Global Council of the Pan-African Diaspora] and Le mouvement international pour les reparations [International Mouvement for Reparations] that jointly summoned the State of France to court. Prof. Vete-Congolo will outline the history of the Reparations movement in the Caribbean, and discuss the moral, political, philosophical and ethical scope of such initiatives in today’s world.


The Nature of Japanese American Incarceration

Prof. Connie Chiang, History & Environmental Studies


The U.S. government’s removal and confinement of over 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry during World War II was a massive violation of civil liberties. It is important to consider that this injustice took shape and was deeply embedded in the landscapes of the American West. In this presentation, I will explore how the inequalities endured by Japanese Americans were connected to the environment and how federal officials tried to frame this policy as one that could improve and assimilate the non-white Americans under their charge.


The Humanitarian Situation in Haiti

Prof. Greg Beckett, Sociology and Anthropology

Humanitarianism presents itself as a universal moral good and few professions today enjoy a higher moral standing. Yet, what should we make of the historical and institutional connections between contemporary humanitarianism and European colonialism? Using the case of Haiti, Professor Greg Beckett explores some of the political, ethical, economic, and social dimensions of contemporary humanitarianism and its connections to colonialism, past and present.


Sublime Devastation in Manufactured Landscapes

Prof. Sarah Childress, Cinema Studies

Jennifer Baichwal’s documentary film Manufactured Landscapes celebrates the work of Canadian fine-art photographer Edward Burtynsky, whose large-scale landscape photographs of industrial wastelands in China and Bangladesh invite “first-world” viewers to meditate on humanity’s impact on the planet. Professor Childress addresses how, while raising awareness of colossal environmental destruction, both the photographs and the film also aestheticize that devastation, transforming the landscapes and the human bodies portrayed into consumable art objects. How do landscapes implicate their makers and viewers in colonial enterprises?