COLONIAL INTIMACIES IN THE CARIBBEAN


TEXTS


  • Jordan Lynton, "What is a Hakka? Deconstructing Chinese Jamaican National and Racial Identification" (working paper)
  • Lisa Lowe, The Intimacies of Four Continents, Chapter 1
  • Christine Ho (1989) "Hold the Chow Mein, Gimme Soca": Creolization of the Chinese in Guyana, Trinidad and Jamaica, Amerasia Journal, 15:2, 3-25,
  • Stuart Hall. "Cultural Identity and Diaspora."


INTRODUCTION & PROBLEMATIC


This week's readings tackle the question of cultural identity in the context of the Caribbean. The authors trouble the notion of racial essentialism, whether based in biology, origin, or another vision of racial unity. They instead search for ways to make legible the "intimacies" created and concealed by colonialism. In this vein, they are less interested in the "roots" of racial identity than the "routes" which form and can reform these identities.

Stuart Hall pushes against cultural identity as racial unity and instead articulates an alternative vision of cultural identity reliant on the persistence of difference alongside continuity. In theorizing contemporary Carribean and "Third World" cinema, he explains a different way of viewing cultural identity: an in-process "production" rather than a fixed object of excavation, a positioning rather than an essence, a commonality in hybridity rather than origin.

Jordan Lynton examines the history of the identifier "Hakka" and the ways it has been used to assert ethnic selfhood and "make flexible claims to citizenship" (41) in different contexts along its routes. She argues that the newest mobilization of Hakka-ness emphasizes the characteristics of the Hakka spirit in a way that subverts strict racial and national boundaries and makes room for Chinese-Jamaicans to become visible.

Christine Ho details how creolization/creole culture is formed by a process of cultures encountering each other, coming together, and forming a new local identity. While creole culture isn't often applied to the Chinese diaspora, Ho identifies that in the Caribbean, the marker could not be more apt as the Chinese have either integrated or been integrated into the local culture and formed a new type of identity. Even in three separate locales (Guyana, Trinidad, and Jamaica), the creolization of Chinese prevailed, albeit in different forms.

Lastly, Lisa Lowe picks up on our sustained dialogue on the institutionalized archive, and how it is organized in ways that partition as well as obfuscate relational histories. By tracing the "often obscured connections" between European liberalism, settler colonialism, the transatlantic African slave trade, and the East Indies and China trades in her transnational study, Lowe exposes how the archives of the state tries to "subsume[]" its violence under narratives of liberal modernity, therefore destabilizing traditionalist notions of the institutionalized archive as the authoritative, official, capital-'H' History (1-2). Through her close readings of unconventional literary texts, Lowe illuminates the interfaces-the intimacies-between these seemingly disparate histories; she does not necessarily conduct "recovery" nor "recuperation" but rather a project of critical re-memory and "affirmation" (40).


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS


  • For Jordan Lynton
    • Could you speak a little bit more to the role that Chinese Jamaicans are playing as mediators between the PRC and Jamaica in the middle of increased investment on the island? How is this affecting conversations about national identification with China among Hakka populations in Jamaica?
    • How has the notion of Hakka as more "pure Chinese" identity affected Chinese Jamaicans' own claim to the Caribbean or Creole identity?
    • You note in your article that "Chinese migrants from Hong Kong capitalize on images of successful Asian Americans, PRC citizenship, and their own Western education to reconstruct historic views of Asians as middlemen parasites into bridge builders within their new contexts" (6). Can you expand on the transnational effects of "model minority" language and thought in the U.S.?
  • General Questions
    • How can we understanding the identity formations in the Lynton and Ho readings through the lens of Hall's analysis of cultural identity as "becoming" as well as "being"?
    • Lisa Lowe posits that liberalism played a key role in justifying the subjugation, slavery, and racial indenture of many non-White people in the Americas and Caribbean in particular. Are there any examples from the Lynton reading, Ho reading, or contemporary Culture in which liberalism has been used to obfuscate a more blatant process of racialization?
    • In what instances, or in what ways does language serve a signifier of racial identity, and how is this complicated by a diasporic lens, looking in particular at Lynton's discussion of Chinese Jamaicans? How do understandings of language as racial signifiers complicate, disrupt, or affirm state- or nation-based understandings of race?
    • Lisa Lowe discusses intimacy as a reading practice that allows us to observe the ways in which processes of modernity become separated in "the archives of liberalism" from their coloniality. How might intimacy as a reading practice be applied to our discussion from last week of The Pagoda and the archives? What reading practices are we using for Powell's work, and what reading practices does The Pagoda itself use in reading/writing the archive?


PRIMARY DOCUMENTS/MULTIMEDIA


RAPPORTEUR REPORT


In our discussion as a class and conversation with Jordan Lynton, we examined "Hakka" as an active site of happening and becoming, and similarly, both "creole" and "buffer" as verbs rather than descriptors. Lynton described the complexities of Chinese diasporic identity in the Caribbean since the 19th century and the need for these communities to continually re-articulate what it means to be Chinese, lending weight to their wide-ranging identification with the term "Hakka" and the opportunities for co-ethnic solidarity it makes possible. These conflicts and contentions over the meaning of Chinese identity continue today with the increased presence of mainland Chinese immigrants as China pursues its "Belt and Road Initiative" (一带一路), and Hakka people find themselves intermediating between Jamaica and the PRC. 

Reading Lynton together with Hall, Lo, and Lowe, the conception of identity as a process rather than a fixed entity brought by Hall helps us to identify how populations can be in the process of becoming creole and becoming buffers through the constant negotiation of identity and relationality while contending with outside expectations. The examples of Chinese as a "racial barrier between the British and the Negroes" (Lowe) and how Chinese were brought to "keep the Negro population in check" (Powell, The Pagoda) show the inherent permeability of any lines between the being-buffered and the buffering, further bringing our attention to the active and passive ways populations undergo the process of cultural identity.