Caribbean Island Movements explores the different ways in which being mobile is central to the production and reproduction of social identities on the Caribbean island of Culebra. Rather than seeing insularity and mobility, and its associations, as mutually exclusive components, this ethnographic study demonstrates how they mutually inform each other. The book proposes the term of "transinsularism" as a means to articulate the complex ways in which islanders construct a unique place for themselves in the world, while referencing and engaging in practices of movement.
Based on a long term relationship to the Caribbean island of Culebra, it describes how mobile islanders select from various, at times contradictory, discourses and practices in the process of fashioning their sense of island identity. It makes the case for a conscious social creative process where a group of individuals finds ways to narrativise a life-world that operates in tension with structural social forces associated with nation-building, colonialism, and "landed narratives".
1. Transinsularism from a Caribbean Perspective / 2. Militarisation & Culebra's Transinsular Precedents / 3. Conflicted Visions of Land / 4. Working the Ubiquitous Seas / 5. Musical Movements / Conclusion: Keeping an Eye on the Tension / Bibliography/ Index
Carlo Cubero’s wonderfully sensitive and rich exploration of Caribbean transinsularity breaks new ground by grasping the relationship of immanence that exists between the circulations and stabilities of human social life. We learn ethnographically how people forge lives that are at once insular and transnational, and which unsettle academic and political perspectives that privilege one dimension over the other.
Cubero imaginatively tackles models long prevalent in Caribbean Studies that identify the region as insular, victimized, and imperial replicas while also as mobile, victorious, and unique. The island of Culebra is the rich site of this welcome critique, which explores what Caribbean postcolonial, national, and transnational identities can otherwise mean if approached through multiple forms of local agency and practice.
This ethnographically rich experience-near study of music and life in the tiny island of Culebra is a fine example of how research in the Caribbean can benefit from an intellectual approach that is simultaneously archipelagean, transinsular and cosmopolitan. Carlo Cubero brings ‘mangrove’ methodology to his anthropological understanding of Culebra and hence of contemporary world society.
In particular, scholars interested in island geographies will find Cubero's analysis provocative. Those interested in migration (particularly to places like Lampedusa, Malta or Lesbos) will find transinsularity a useful term to understand the politics of exclusion and inclusion during periods of heightened migratory flows. Finally, the book questions the fundamental categories that have been traditionally mobilized to describe the Caribbean. For this reason alone, I encourage all Caribbeanists and island scholars to grapple with Cubero's provocative ethnography.
Carlo A. Cubero is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department Social & Cultural Anthropology at Tallinn University in Estonia.