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Public ideologies and personal meaning-making in postcolonial Grenada

Abstract

This ethnography of the small Eastern Caribbean nation of Grenada explores what it means to today's post-Revolution generation to be Grenadian. The dissertation is both a study of postcolonial nationalism and a person-centered exploration of meaning-making in the face of complex national narratives. Through an analysis of ethnographic data collected during fieldwork from 2006-2009, I examine the dynamics between dominant ideologies about the nation and the personal worlds of youth as they make sense of their lives and country. In the first part, I examine public representations of the nation and argue that there are two master narratives circulating about Grenada and its people. The "Isle of Spice" narrative is future- oriented, and utilizes development rhetoric to unite Grenadians as one people, one family, advancing toward a more independent and prosperous nation. The "Island of Conflict" narrative encompasses the nation's unsettled and violent past, especially the period of the Grenada Revolution (1979-1983), and depicts Grenadians as conflict -oriented and divided. What is the relationship between these two narratives in the minds of Grenadians? In the second half of the dissertation, I explore the personal worlds of thirteen Grenadian youth. Through open-ended, in -depth interviews, this person-centered approach considers how individuals process public narratives in light of lived experience. Their meaning-making processes suggest: (1) contradictory narratives are differently internalized to manage cognitive dissonance, (2) politically alienated and uneducated about history, the youth focus on Grenada's economy and development, (3) the dual narratives foster a strong pre- and post-Revolution generational divide, (4) the common emic perception that Grenadians have a weak national identity must be examined in the broader context of the region's history and contemporary global power relations. By holding both public and personal worlds in focus, it is possible to discern the complex implications of the ways in which individual minds make meaning of national ideologies and, in turn, inform the thrust of these evolving national narratives. As subjects and agents, Grenadians are engaged in an ongoing process of defining themselves and their nation in the face of dynamic internal and external social, political, and economic pressures

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