Introduction: Globalization, Development and Environmental Change in the Caribbean

By Torres, Rebecca Maria | Southeastern Geographer, November 2005 | Go to article overview

Introduction: Globalization, Development and Environmental Change in the Caribbean


Torres, Rebecca Maria, Southeastern Geographer


In 2004, Southeastern Geographer editors Scott Lecce and Derek Alderman charted a new editorial vision for the journal while reaffirming its historical commitment to serving as a vehicle "in which a diversity of voices are heard and co-exist, reflecting a broad spectrum of sub-fields, theories, and methodologies" (Lecce and Alderman 2004, 1). Among the new initiatives put forth, they seek to expand the scope of contributions and readership both within and outside the SEDAAG region, and to foster scholarship about the South that is situated in and connected to broader global transnational issues. In response to this new editorial vision, scholars have proposed expanding the boundaries of southern regional geographies to include studies that compare and explore connections to other regions such as Africa (Moseley 2005) and the Caribbean (Gamble 2004). Gamble (2004) took this a step farther to argue that the southeastern United States and the Caribbean are so interconnected that they should be conceptualized as the "Southibbean" for purposes of SEDAAG-based research and professional activities. He drew upon the multiple historical and current political, economic, cultural, environmental and migratory ties between the South and the Caribbean, as well as the concentration of Caribbeanists in the SEDAAG region, to support his call for expanded boundaries and greater integration. Gamble (2004, 12) believes that, "... the greatest potential for growth of the Southeastern Geographer and SEDAAG is a greater emphasis of Southeast-Caribbean interaction within the journal and division activities."

This special issue is a first step in responding to both the new editorial vision put forth by Lecce and Alderman (2004) and Gamble's (2004) call for greater integration of the Caribbean region into southeastern studies. We invited geographers and scholars of related disciplines, from the Southeast, the Caribbean and other regions, to submit articles on any geographical aspects of the Caribbean--including both physical and human dimensions. This intentionally broad call for manuscripts was aimed at promoting inclusivity and diversity in this initial effort. The result is this collection of six articles and three commentaries presented by four scholars based in southeastern universities, another three contributors from U.S. institutions outside of the South, and three internationally-based authors. This introduction briefly touches upon issues of defining the region and the paradoxes inherent in the multiple and complex, historical and contemporary Caribbean realities. Upon briefly reviewing the articles in this volume, broad cross-cutting themes of globalization, development and the environmental change emerge. The introduction concludes with a discussion of future directions, particularly areas not addressed in this collection of articles. This collection does not strive to be all encompassing in terms of geographical or topical coverage, but rather to serve as a catalyst for future scholarship integrating the Caribbean into the SEDAAG realm of activities.

As a region, the Caribbean defies precise definition and scholars are not in agreement as to clearly demarcated boundaries. This issue does not attempt to contribute to this debate because as Boswell (2003, 19) asserts, "... regions are like beauty--they are in the eyes of the beholder." Indeed, with Gamble's (2004) conceptualization of the "Southibbean" as inspiration for this issue, and as a Latin Americanist working in the Mexican Caribbean, this author would support more expansive boundaries. Nevertheless, it is important to recognize that a single clear understanding of what comprises the Caribbean region does not exist. According to Boswell (2003), for many U.S. geographers the Caribbean includes all islands in the Caribbean Sea as well as the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands (Fig. 1). Many European geographers would define the Caribbean as all islands between North America and South America located east of Central America and Mexico and including Belize, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana. …

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