Islands, nationness, and the imagination
Non-sovereign states and the politics of belonging in the Dutch Caribbean
Research Institute of Child Development and Education
University of Amsterdam
Prof. dr. Monique Volman
In special cooperation with Dr. Wayne Modest,Head of the Research Centre for Material Culture at the National museum of World Cultures, The Netherlands.
Globalize much? In this day and age, globalization manifests itself as a key phenomenon in our everyday life. We see its effects through our greater connectability, increased flows of migration through our societies and the increasingly intensive exchange and intermixing of ‘cultures’. From the enactment of worldwide adopted sub-cultures – such as anime – through fashion, to the use of google glass to virtually map the world and place our bodies on a 21st century globe, globalization is ‘here’. It is present in our countries, within our cities or villages, within our neighborhoods, our schools and – perhaps more intimately – working within and through our bodies.
In the ‘proto-globalized’ Caribbean space, characterized by a history of intensive mobility and, as a result, fluid creolized cultures and peoples, current day embodied globalization is fused with postcolonial issues. In the first decade of the 2000’s, this complex reality of dealing with the effects of globalization within a postcolonial context became visible within heated discussions on national identity, (trans)nationalism, sovereignty and political independence within the non-sovereign Dutch Caribbean territories.
Starting from a framework in which a Westphalian notion of sovereignty is confronted with Dutch Caribbean postcolonial non-sovereignty and Caribbean ‘hyper-globalization’, this research searches to question our understandings of ‘belonging’, constructed communities, sovereignty and nationness. I aim to explore how these issues are imagined, (re)constructed and embodied within our everyday life by looking at the construction and corrosion and mutation of so called ‘national’ boundaries and the crossing-over between the personal (our subjectivity through our body) and the communal (constructed sense of community and belonging). In actuality this means an exploration of the construction of the nation by reading and including ‘the body/ bodies’ as active, conceptual sites through which we can perform modes of belonging or construct ‘the nation’.
This exploration is performed from a cultural studies perspective, through a mixed method approach which includes extensive analysis of a selection of cases within literature, music(al performances), online sources or other media, as well as the use of ethnographic methods such as interviews with cultural and heritage policy brokers and media practitioners dealing with St Maarten and St Eustatius.
My research centers on the non-sovereign Dutch Caribbean territories (in particular the cases of the new country of St Maarten and the new Dutch overseas municipality of St Eustatius). However, this ‘Islands, Nationness and the Imagination’ research is strongly comparative and thinks on the Dutch Caribbean case within a broader context.