Visibly Modern: Palestinian Honduran Family Photographs in a Banana Company Town

Thursday, January 6, 2011: 3:00 PM
Suffolk Room (Marriott Boston Copley Place)
Kevin P. Coleman , Indiana University
In this paper, I attempt to understand the visual construction of ethnic identity among a commercial elite, the Arab Christian immigrants who owned many of the stores and small-scale manufacturing facilities in the banana economy of early twentieth-century Honduras. I argue that the family photographs of Palestinian immigrants crystallized their efforts to appropriate the international currency of modernity even as they distanced themselves from those dimensions of Honduran nationalism that posited them as the constitutive other. The fact that Palestinian immigrants crafted, and were in fact pushed to craft, cosmopolitan identities meant that their gaze was cast more toward Jerusalem, Europe, and the United States than it was toward Tegucigalpa. Because of their origins and occupations, together with the communitarian narrowness that they sometimes encountered in Honduras, Arab Christian immigrants often identified more with an imagined community in far-flung capitals than they did with their neighbors in El Progreso. Consequently, the resulting subjective orientation and accompanying sense of moral obligation of these immigrants was largely toward other members of this minority group who found themselves in the sometimes hostile environment of Honduras and toward abstract members of a community of modernity in places further away.
Previous Presentation | Next Presentation >>