Accepted Paper:

Trans-Caribbean identity in New York City: the de- and reconstruction of insular identity (ties) in the diaspora  


Bettina Schmidt (University of Wales Trinity St David)

Paper short abstract:

New York Caribbean is a heterogeneous cultural area connected by the perception of the islands. Despite a sense of belonging to the Caribbean the national division ceases to exist. Trans-Caribbean identity hence contains two contradictory tendencies, one of homogenisation and one of diversification.

Paper long abstract:

The paper will explore the significance of the Caribbean Islands in the diaspora with special reference to the second and third generation of migrants. The Caribbean islands are still 'home' even for the second and third generation. Despite of their disapproval with the images their parents have construed, the children still feel a strong belonging to the Caribbean though sometimes they are looking at different places as their parents. Young Caribbean students take classes in Caribbean music and dance or go to workshops to learn more about the Caribbean. For them the national division of the Caribbean ceased to exist. Trans-Caribbean represents a new sphere, a kind of counter-culture that offers an alternative or sometimes even an opposition to the American mainstream society. Some even join Caribbean religious communities such as e.g. Haitian Vodou temples or casa de santos of Cuban/Puerto Rican SanterĂ­a.

The paper will characterize the New York trans-Caribbean culture based on Werner Schiffauer's concept of urban culture. The internal heterogeneity indicate the wide range of different Caribbean identities; Jamaicans, Haitians, Cubans, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, people from Trinidad and Tobago, Martinique and Saint Lucia - all are part of New York Caribbean. The common element is the connection to the Caribbean islands however distant this connection is. Yet the co-operation in certain situations may not conceal the social and political differences between and within the communities. The New York Caribbean diversity is not a harmonious one, rather a heterogeneous and diverse assemble full of conflict and disagreement. Trans-Caribbean culture can be characterized therefore by bricolage, an ensemble of many voices, many flavours connected by the image of Caribbean islands.

Panel W005
Islands of Doom, Islands of Bliss: revisiting maritime places of conquest and exploitation, pleasure and consumption