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Jamaica Study Group

University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica
Director Spring 2019: Professor Kezia Page, Professor of English and Africana & Latin American Studies


History of the Jamaica Study Group

In 1964, the Jamaica Study Group was proposed for September 9, 1970 and continued for the duration of the 1970-71 academic year. The personnel for the experiment included 20 male Colgate Students and 20 female students from Vassar, Skidmore, and Wells, and five faculty members from the above colleges. Each student would be required to conduct an in-depth study of at least on interest and to present evidence of his work in this area. Students were also expected to participate in the work of the experimental community. In 1983, the West Indies Study Group visited Giddy House in Port Royal Jamaica.

The program runs in the spring biennially. The study group studies and lives in the University of West Indies, Mona, Jamaica, which exposed students to life in a developing country with a vibrant culture and dynamic society where virtually everything is different from what they are accustomed to at Colgate and in the United States.


The University of the West Indies (UWI) at Mona, Jamaica campus is located in the suburbs of Jamaica’s capital city, Kingston. The university is a regional institution with students drawn from all over the Caribbean and beyond. The campus at Mona is the oldest and largest of four located in different Caribbean islands. Ranked very highly in the Commonwealth, the UWI offers courses in a wide array of disciplines in the humanities, education, social sciences, pure and applied sciences, medicine, law, engineering, journalism, and business studies at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

The West Indies study group to Jamaica is a semester long program, running from mid- January to early May, and students are eligible to earn four credits. The classroom experience will be enhanced by field trips, concerts and shows, and by living and studying with Caribbean students in a prestigious multi-national university. Students will find this study group offers a unique educational experience through combining excellent courses with a rich cultural environment.


This study group will expose Colgate students to life in a developing country with a vibrant culture and dynamic society where virtually everything is different from what they are accustomed to at Colgate and in the United States. It will most certainly take them out of their comfort zones and into an entirely new and unfamiliar world. Their lived experience among Jamaican and Caribbean students of different ethnic backgrounds and with widely differing values and interests will challenge, expand and enrich their understanding of the world, how it functions, and their place in it. The UWI will place the study group participants in a scholarly environment where academic traditions and pedagogical systems are very different from Colgate; and they will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in courses in different disciplines that emphasize the issues of relevance and importance to the Caribbean and the developing world. This study group also enables students to take courses that can count towards a minor or major (Caribbean Studies emphasis) in the Africana and Latin American Studies curriculum.


Students are required to have taken at least one of the following courses in Caribbean Studies: ALST 203 Introduction to Caribbean Studies (CORE 163 The Caribbean); ALST 220 (CORE 161): The Black Diaspora – Africans at Home and Abroad; ALST/HIST 228 The Caribbean: Conquest, Colonization and Self-Determination; or ALST/HIST 327 Authoritarianism, Dictatorship and Democracy in the Caribbean. They must also be in good academic standing. There is no language requirement.

Living Arrangements

All students will live in campus housing, sharing accommodation with UWI and other Colgate students.  Students will have a choice of preparing some meals for themselves in the kitchens provided in the halls of residence or eating at the campus cafeterias or in various facilities in the surrounding community. Most students choose a mix of these eating options.  Housing is fully secured with 24-hour security service provided throughout the campus.


There will be a standard four-course load, with some additional cultural activities and field trips. Students will be required to take two courses with the Study Group Director, and two UWI courses. The director’s courses will provide students with the academic grounding to assist them to interpret and understand the socio-cultural environment they are living in and their experiences in it:

ALST/ENGL 367Y  “Jamaica in the Literary Imagination, 1930 to the Present”. An introduction to Jamaican literature from the plantation to the diaspora, spanning a period from 1930 to the Present.  While this historical framing is central to the organization of the course, our study is not strictly a historical survey, but rather an attempt to read Jamaican literature produced at different historical moments, in rural and urban, global and local spaces, and across perspectives mediated by differences and convergences of race, gender, sexuality and location. Writers may include Claude McKay, Roger Mais, Erna Brodber, Curdella Forbes, Margaret Cezair-Thompson, among others. Students will examine how the historical forces of colonialism, nation-building, migration and the information age have helped to shape how the selected writers from different spaces and identities imagine Jamaica's culture, cultural products and geopolitical relations in the global world. Taught by the director.

ALST 340Y “Art and Culture in Contemporary Jamaica”. This course introduces students to ways of reading and interpreting Jamaican culture using a broad interdisciplinary approach.  In keeping with a cultural studies framework, students will examine literature, theatre, music, dance and film as expressions of Jamaican subjectivities and identities.  The contexts and conversations out of which these artistic representations have emerged will be considered through historical, sociological and political texts that will help to map the larger cultural matrix.  Textual explorations will be accompanied by field trips and guest lectures (from experts in the various disciplines) with the understanding that Jamaican culture is not fixed but evolving and dynamic, multifarious and heterogeneous.Taught by the director.

Colgate students will have full access to the library facilities and academic support programs at the UWI. A wide range of courses will be available in African and African Diaspora Studies, Anthropology, Biology, Biochemistry, Botany, Chemistry, Computer Science, Demography, Economics, Education, English, Environmental Biology, French, Gender Studies, Geography, Geology, History and Archaeology, International Relations, Linguistics, Mathematics, Microbiology, Molecular Biology, Philosophy, Physics, Political Science, Psychology, Sociology, Spanish, Zoology, and many more.

Course Credits

All four pre-approved credits earned will count towards graduation, and grades for all the courses will be recorded on the students’ transcripts as Colgate grades. Appropriate courses will count towards concentrations in Africana and Latin American Studies, and credits for other concentrations should be negotiated directly by the student with the Chairs of those departments.

University of West Indies, Jamaica, Course Pre-Approval Form

Extracurricular Activities

Students will be able to participate in all sporting, religious, and other cultural activities at the University of the West Indies, and a range of other activities is available off-campus. In addition, a variety of activities and field trips will be organized by the Director to places of academic interest such as sugar plantations, runaway slave (maroon) settlements, historic colonial sites, art galleries and museums, e.g., the Bob Marley museum.


The cost estimates for this study group will be made available in March 2016. For estimated details of student expenses on this study group, please see the spring 2015 Student Cost Estimate Sheets.

​Costs above Colgate’s tuition include room and board, travel to and from Jamaica, visa fees, and necessary out-of-pocket expenses. On the average students can expect to spend about the same as a semester on campus.

Students who are planning extensive personal travel will need to increase their budget accordingly.


The deadline for applications to the spring 2019 West Indies Study Group is Wednesday, November 15, 2017.  Applications are on the Colgate University Off-Campus Study/International Programs website and are submitted online.  Student notification of selections will be completed in December 2017.  Written confirmation of participation is expected in January 2018.

General Information

Course-related Materials

Latin American Studies