Nationalism and Transnationalism in the Caribbean Basin

AHA Session 36
Friday, January 3, 2020: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Gramercy (Sheraton New York, Lower Level)
Lara E. Putnam, University of Pittsburgh
The Transnational Nature of Puerto Rican Nationalism
Margaret M. Power, Illinois Institute of Technology
Local Internationalists: Activist Women in 1940s Panama
Kaysha Corinealdi, Emerson College
Lara E. Putnam, University of Pittsburgh

Session Abstract

This proposal is for a multisession workshop that places emerging scholarship on the Caribbean Basin in dialogue with innovative studies of the Amazon. Our purposes are twofold: we examine how national projects have used transnational frameworks to shape regional identities, and we interrogate why particular geopolitical regions – the Amazon and the Caribbean – seem particularly conducive to transnational studies. By placing scholarship on the two distinct regions in dialogue, we hope to create a space for “challenging the analytical primacy of the nation” (Tinsman and Shukla) to reveal the flows that have occurred across and beyond borders. Both the Amazon and the Caribbean regions share a long history of mobility, migration, and resource extraction. They are regions bound by large bodies of water that have historically served as conduits for the movement of goods and people while also drawing the attention of foreign interests and exploitation. Regional identities overlap with national identities, and many of the papers address what it has meant to be a transnational subject or citizen, examining how regional/national identities intersect with racial, ethnic, class, and gendered identities. By examining these two regions in tandem, our goal is to locate points of connection to better define what facilitates or thwarts the development of intersections between nationalism, regionalism, and transnationalism.

The Caribbean Basin is, in many ways, a region defined by difference. The mainland nations of Central and South America and the multitude of Antillean islands that share this body of water are home to a wealth of cultures, religions, and languages that evolved out of the area’s long history as a focal point of colonial—and later neo-colonial—interest. And yet, the historical forces that gave rise to this diversity also laid the foundation for a shared sense of regional identity, one within which distinctly national projects developed.

This panel proposes that during the early twentieth century, nationalism in the Caribbean Basin was intrinsically transnational. This set of papers explores a variety of actors, from exiled revolutionaries and anti-imperialists to pathbreaking Afro-Caribbean women, in order to explore the impact of transnational forces on the development of national identities. What unites these papers is a defining feature of the region as a whole: the constant of movement of people, through either forced or voluntary migration. Exile and diaspora created transnational spaces in which cross-border solidarities could flourish. Driving much of this movement was the political and economic influence of the United States, but was U.S. power always central to the formation of regional identities? How did larger hemispheric projects shape Caribbean nationalisms? How do the experiences of everyday people—and their gendered and racialized identities—complicate and enrich our understanding of the connection between nationalism, regionalism, and transnationalism? Finally, what has made the circum-Caribbean such fertile ground for transnational studies?

See more of: AHA Sessions