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Seminar 01 - Histories and Politics of State, Nation, and Identity


Week 1: Christian Cwik (University of Graz, Austria) and Week 2: Don E. Walicek (University of Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico)


The arrival of European seamen and colonizers at the end of the 15th and 16th century, mainly from the Iberian Peninsula, has destroyed the “happy” nations of indigenous people in the Americas. Based on Roman and Christian laws, the Europeans (French, English, Dutch and Danish colonizers who entered this war against the indigenous nations during the first third of the 17th century) developed their colonies by establishing new societies as well as imposing Roman Catholic religion as state religion. But different outlaw groups occupied the several interspaces (maritime and terrestrial) and established there (frontier) their conception of a new and happy world. Among them we can find Europeans, Natives and Africans intermingling and generating new popular societies, specifically pirate and bandit societies which became famous in historiography and literature. With the foundation of nations as a consequence of the independence processes (1775-1898), these interspaces became smaller and smaller because of the violent colonization of the frontier. This process is still ongoing and has produced an incredible high number of unhappy nations and failed states. Today, the most dangerous countries in the world are in Latin America and the Caribbean. In most of the ratings, regarding happiness, American countries rank on the lowest end of the scale.

The seminar wants to reflect the value of happiness by means of different ethnic and cultural categories in the Americas. Furthermore, we try to deconstruct the well-known phrase “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" in the US Declaration of Independence and study its impact for the establishment of nations and states. Finally, we would like to find answers due to the matter of fact why Latin America and the Caribbean are the most violent and brutal region in the world of today.


Students will explore the expression of individual human experiences at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and instances in which the U.S. Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay has figured prominently in the collective conscience of Americans as well as populations in the Caribbean and Latin America. Special attention will be given to the occupation of the bay by the U.S. during the Spanish-American War, episodes in which tens of thousands of Cuban and Haitian refugees were held there in the 1990s, and the operations of the prison for suspected terrorists established there in the aftermath of 9/11. Factors leading to Guantánamo’s emergence role as a place that has impacted the formation of states, nations, military policies, and identities will be considered.

Christian Cwik


(University of the West Indies, Trinidad & Tobago)

Short CV:   >> here <<


Don E. Walicek

(University of Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico)

Short CV: >>here<<

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