introduction
N
The patterns of highly uneven distribution of human su√ering, pov-
erty, and violence found in many parts of the Caribbean and the
wider Americas are closely related to the histories of colonialism, slavery,
and exclusion that formed the contemporary world. It is this shared his-
tory, and the ongoing injustices arising from it, that first drew me into
studying the connections and relations that bridge the Caribbean and
Atlantic worlds. My sense of the unequal exposure of people to violence,
poverty, and sheer human su√ering began from personal experience of
places like Philadelphia, where I grew up and now live, and New York,
where I began my research on the Caribbean in the mid-1990s. I also
encountered it in starker form in the Caribbean, as a tourist and while
conducting long-term research in Jamaica and Haiti, as well as more briefly
while attending conferences throughout the region. The astounding dis-
parities of social violence emerge most starkly in the confrontation with
the present-day realities of Haiti since the earthquake in January 2010. In
the earthquake’s aftermath we have all been faced with the continuing
homelessness of hundreds of thousands of people; the reported rapes of
women and children in camps that are supposed to o√er shelter, including
by United Nations peacekeepers; the violent halting of food aid to, and
evictions of people from, those camps; and the ongoing interception of
Haitian refugees at sea and their enforced return to Haiti and the detention
of ‘‘illegal’’ migrants at borders such as U.S. airports (Center for Human
Rights and Global Justice 2011; Schuller 2010). These are all instances of the
lingering violence of life in the post-slavery Atlantic world.
People of African descent throughout the Americas continue to be espe-
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