chapter  2
17 Pages

The Dialectic of Marginality in the Haitian Community of Guadeloupe, French West Indies


Recent literature about transnational migration in cultural anthropology implies two distinct models of diasporic subjectivity. According to the fi rst model, the tension of “living here and remembering/desiring another place” (Clifford 1997, 255) determines how people construct their collective identity: how they map its boundaries, invest in it materially and emotionally and fi gure its difference from other groups. Collective identity is a matter of the politics of location, but the location of diasporas is (by defi nition) plural, fragmented, dynamic and open. In this model, therefore, notions of group identity are calibrated to people’s fragmented, dislocated social experience. For example, people cultivate a myth about their lost homeland, and, on that basis, generate the criteria for ethnic inclusion and exclusion (Safran 1991). Or they travel back and forth in a transnational family network, pursue parallel life strategies in several places at once and on that basis generate sentiments of connection or a singular trope of collective self-defi nition (a process explored in the Haitian diaspora by Glick Schiller and Fouron 2001 and Laguerre 1998). They may fi nd themselves thrown on the defensive by shifting politics in their homeland and forced to craft entirely novel and hybrid tropes of self-defi nition (Gross et al. 1996). In all these cases, collective subjectivity arises from, and mirrors, people’s supralocal lives, including the ideas, images and political engagements that move in transnational space (see Axel 2004).