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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Aluminum across the Americas: Caribbean Mobilities and Transnational American Studies

  • Author(s): Sheller, Mimi
  • et al.

The emerging field of critical mobilities research posits the need to replace sedentary approaches to nation-states as containers for national societies and repositories of national histories with a far more relational understanding of transnational and cross-regional dynamics. It proposes “mobile methodologies” for research that cross national boundaries, including following people, commodities, and cultures as they circulate between various interlinked sites of production and consumption. Yet few have noted the debt of mobilities research to Caribbean Studies and to the theoretical trajectories that have arisen out of research on the colonial and postcolonial Atlantic world. This article aims to situate the “new mobilities paradigm” in relation to Caribbean and transnational American Studies, and to mobilize Caribbean Studies as an approach that transcends regional or national paradigms. After tracing some of the theoretical intersections of mobilities theory and Caribbean Studies, the article sketches the arc of the author’s own work, leading into a current research project on the mobilities of bauxite/aluminum as a material object. Following the mobilities of aluminum allows us to break open both US American history and particular Caribbean national histories into a dynamic pan-American framework that challenges the geographical fixity of American Studies and illustrates the importance of placing (im)mobilities at the center of transnational American Studies.

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