UC Santa Barbara
‘The Country in Our Minds’: Diasporic Longing, Ethnic Solidarity and Political Consciousness within the Haitian Transnational Community
- Author(s): Gow, Jamella Nefetari
- Advisor(s): Bhavnani, Kum-Kum
- et al.
This study examines the lived realities of Haitian Americans residing in Miami, Florida. By drawing on theories of global capitalism, migration, transnationalism, and diaspora it explores how the experience of Haitian migrants living in the Miami community of Little Haiti offer insights as to whether transnational, diasporic communities are uniquely placed to become socially aware and political active within their diasporic communities . Most studies on Haitians in the United States focus on New York. However, those residing in the global city of Miami are a unique population of mostly working-class Haitians who, marginalized by U.S. politicians, the media, and migrant groups in Florida, are rendered precarious. Such experiences can push Haitian migrants to maintain transnational links and form diasporic communities in areas such as the ethnic enclave of Little Haiti.
Through participant observation and semi-structured interviews with Haitian volunteers and employees at the Little Haiti Community Support Center (LHCSC), in July 2014 I explored the lived experiences of politically engaged Haitian migrants residing in this diasporic community. From the interviews emerged a hybrid, at times ambivalent, diasporic political and cultural consciousness maintained through transnational forms of solidarity. Political consciousness developed in community and in strategic collaborations with other Black diasporic groups. Cultural consciousness functioned as a tool of empowerment and a medium for critiques of U.S. policies, aspects of Haitian culture, and gender norms. Activism solidified communities and families and cultivated new practices to pass on to the next generation. Using the LHCSC as an example of a transnational, politically active site of community, this paper explores how an ethnic community becomes unified as diaspora, and more socially and globally aware as a consequence of their migrant experience.