Ewing – January 2 and 3; January 17; Trinidad and Tobago, January 4-12, 2015
AAS 392/SED 392/SOC 392 – Caribbean Culture and Society: Trinidad and Tobago (1 unit; Liberal Learning in Race and Ethnicity)
Program Directors: Dr. Winnifred Brown-Glaude, Associate Professor of Sociology and African-American Studies, and Dr. Ruth Palmer, Associate Professor of Educational Administration and Secondary Education
No Pre-Requisites, Language Requirements, or GPA Restrictions – Open to all students (including current first-year students – students may download a copy of the syllabus and review its contents)
Apply Now! (click on this link to access the online application – use your TCNJ username and password)
The countries of the Caribbean form a vast and complex part of the Western Hemisphere. Although the strategic geopolitical relevance of the region has been recognized, the values and attitudes regarding politics, culture, and life in the region in general remain profoundly misunderstood, if not totally unknown by many. In fact, what people think they know about the Caribbean is usually based on unfair stereotypes and generalizations generated by the world media and in tourism brochures. Thus, the main objective of this course is to foster a greater understanding of the region’s complex realities by exposing students to the rich and diverse culture of one of its key countries, Trinidad and Tobago.
Lying northeast of Venezuela and south of Grenada in the Lesser Antilles, Trinidad and Tobago is a richly cosmopolitan country, comprising of people whose ancestry are African, Indian, and Creole (which is a mixture of different ethnicities). The population also includes smaller groups of French, Spanish, Chinese, Lebanese, Syrians, Americans, Venezuelans, and some of the original settlers, the Amerindians. The largest non-secular groups are of the Christian faith, followed by those of the Hindu, Islamic and traditional African faiths, especially Orisha. The culture of Trinidad, then, is defined by the ethnic and religious diversity of the country and its peoples, and is evidenced in the largest celebration of the year known as Carnival (that occurs in the pre-Lenten season).
However, Trinidad’s Carnival is far more than just a party. It is a celebration of literal and spiritual emancipation. It is a breaking down of artificial barriers of society – like ethnicity, race, religion, and wealth. It also provides an opportunity to turn society upside-down and take a good critical look at it. Through its calypso, soca and chutney-soca music that circulates throughout this festival, for instance, artists provide social commentary on issues of the day. Costumes created and worn by men and women also provide opportunities both to celebrate the islands’ cultural heritage, but also to challenge social conventions and gender norms.
The main component of the course introduces students to the richness and diversity of the culture of Trinidad as it prepares for Carnival. Through the various preparations they will observe (making of elaborate costumes, steel pan band practices and competitions, etc.), students will observe the process of Carnival unfolding in front their very eyes. More importantly, students will develop their critical thinking skills by paying close attention to ways in which racial, ethnic, religious, gender identities are expressed through these cultural practices, and gain an appreciation for the rich diversity of the culture and its peoples.
2014 Program Cost – approximately $2,500
(including TCNJ tuition and fees, all land and domestic airfare expenses in Trinidad and Tobago except most meals and incidental expenses). Students will need to purchase most meals on site as well as an airline ticket ($900) to be arranged through TCNJ’s travel agent. The program costs for in-state and out-of-state students are the same.