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Jamaican Ethnic Oneness: Race, Colorism, and Inequality


My dissertation analyzes racial and skin color stratification in Jamaica, the impact of an ideology of racial mixing on Jamaican’s explanation for that inequality, and racial and nation-based identification. Using the Americas Barometer social survey on Jamaica (a comprehensive and nationally representative dataset), the census, and original, qualitative, semi-structured interviews, I examine: (1) the parameters of Jamaican national identity, (2) Jamaican nationalism and its influences on perceptions of racial and color prejudice and discrimination, and (3) the structuring of socioeconomic well-being along racial and color lines. I find that the ideology of racial mixing/fusion or creolization strongly influences understandings of Jamaican national identity and of race. While issues pertaining to both race and colorism are not blatantly denied, race is generally viewed as a “U.S. problem,” while colorism is considered centrally an issue of the nation’s past. Instead, Jamaicans overwhelmingly focus on class for explaining social inequality rather than skin color or race, despite my research revealing dramatic racial hierarchies in both wealth and educational attainment.

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