Mimi Sheller’s ‘Caribbean Futures In The Offshore Anthropocene’

Introduction by
Natalie Oswin

The devastating impacts of Hurricanes Irma and Maria across the Caribbean (especially in Barbuda, Dominica, Puerto Rico, St Martin/St Maarten, and parts of the British and US Virgin Islands) are haunting harbingers of a world of climate disaster, halting recovery, and impossible futures.

Abstract: The devastating impacts of Hurricanes Irma and Maria across the Caribbean (especially in Barbuda, Dominica, Puerto Rico, St Martin/St Maarten, and parts of the British and US Virgin Islands) are haunting harbingers of a world of climate disaster, halting recovery, and impossible futures. Being at the leading edge of the global capitalist exploitation of people and other living and non-living beings in a world-spanning system of vast inequity and severe injustice, Caribbean thinkers, writers, poets, philosophers, activists, and artists have long lived with, dwelt upon, and offered answers to the problem of being human after Man, as Sylvia Wynter puts it. This reflection on island futuring and defuturing offers a critical analysis of Caribbean “disaster recovery” and “climate adaptation” based on an understanding of the disjuncture between three uneven spatio-temporal realities: (1) the decelerating “islanding effects” of debt, foreign aid, and austerity; (2) the accelerating mobilities of the “offshore” and extended operational landscapes of “planetary urbanization”; and (3) the durational im/mobilities of Amerindian survival, Maroon escape, and Black/Indigenous cultural endurance of alternative ontologies.

Here, we are fortunate to be able to publish responses from the three scholars who acted as respondents during the AAG session – Sharlene Mollett, Beverley Mullings, and Marion Werner – along with a reply from the author.

Thank you to all involved for this wide-ranging discussion of climate change, the Caribbean, colonial capitalism, mobilities, the politics of knowledge production, and more.

essays in this forum

More Than Past Slaves And Labor: Complicating Climate Change Vulnerability In The Name Of Caribbean Futures

Caribbean Futures in the Offshore Anthropocene: Debt, Disaster, and Duration offers a stark and urgent analysis on the entanglement of debt and disaster, affirming both the “unnatural” consequences of “natural disasters” and how influential place histories are to recovery, mobility and future possibilities.

Caribbean Futures In The Offshore Anthropocene: Debt, Disaster, And Duration

Mimi Sheller asks the daunting question: ‘What kinds of human, non-human, and island futures can exist here?’ It is a question that has continued to be asked from the dawn of capitalism and the earliest moments of the European presence in the Caribbean. Expressed in the anxieties of early colonial settlers who viewed a corrupted future as the only kind that could be had in this space, the people of this region have always had to fight against the coloniality of extraction and abandonment.

The Archipelago And Politics Of Possibility

Mimi Sheller’s work offers a lucid synthesis of diverse literatures to reckon with the Caribbean’s centrality to – and silencing within – our understanding of Western modernity and its signal, if not terminal, crisis, climate change. Her Society & Space essay, ‘Caribbean Futures,’ deftly constructs a mobilities grammar to reframe Caribbean disaster narratives on terms that demand engagement with the region’s colonial legacies and enduring racial formations, as well as alternatives drawing upon Caribbean emancipatory thought and practice.

Climates Of Coloniality And The Coloniality Of Climates: A Response

I want to thank Sharlene Mollett, Beverley Mullings, and Marion Werner for their incredibly generous, generative responses to my paper on “Caribbean Futures,” as well as their important critical interventions. Here I want to respond to what I consider the key points made in each of their responses, which I believe are crucial questions not only for Caribbean geography, but also for all geographers to consider.