• Eye of the Hurricane: Politics of Art, Architecture, and Climate in the Modern Caribbean
    Joseph R. Hartman

“Photograph of Ebenezer Methodist Church in Nassau, Bahamas after Hurricane of 1929, featuring sign ‘EVERY DIFFICULTY IS SOMEBODY’S OPPORTUNITY’,” 1929. Photograph. Courtesy the Bahamas National Archives

The history of the Caribbean traces the poetics of catastrophe and this research examines the interrelated politics of catastrophe, which uniquely transformed the urban and architectural landscapes of the region during the modern era. Due to major shifts in climate caused by El Niño-Southern Oscillation weather effects, the decade of the 1920s and into the 1930s witnessed the most hurricane activity known in the Caribbean for the past 500 years. Those storms allow for critical reassessments of Caribbean visual and spatial cultures, past and future. The monumental building projects and visual works that followed devastating storms in Havana (1926), San Juan (1928), and Santo Domingo (1930) demonstrated how Caribbean modernity has constructed “natural disasters”—particularly hurricanes and their aftermath. Today, as the region faces new threats due to humanmade climate change, this study offers critical insights into the art, architecture, politics, and cultural life of meteorological disasters.

Joseph R. Hartman is an assistant professor of art history and Latinx and Latin American studies at the University of Missouri–Kansas City. Hartman specializes in the visual culture and built environments of the greater Caribbean. He is author of Dictator’s Dreamscape: How Architecture and Vision Built Machado’s Cuba and Invented Modern Havana (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019), and editor of the volume Imperial Islands: Art, Architecture, and Visual Experience in the US Insular Empire after 1898 (University of Hawaii Press, 2022). His research has enjoyed the support of the American Philosophical Society, the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Hartman has published widely on topics including environmental art, architectural theory, and US imperial aesthetics. His current work examines the role of natural disasters in architectural history.