Caribbean Journeys

An Ethnography of Migration and Home in Three Family Networks

Caribbean Journeys

Book Pages: 336 Illustrations: 3 tables Published: June 2007

Author: Karen Fog Olwig

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Caribbean Studies, Cultural Studies

Caribbean Journeys is an ethnographic analysis of the cultural meaning of migration and home in three families of West Indian background that are now dispersed throughout the Caribbean, North America, and Great Britain. Moving migration studies beyond its current focus on sending and receiving societies, Karen Fog Olwig makes migratory family networks the locus of her analysis. For the people whose lives she traces, being “Caribbean” is not necessarily rooted in ongoing visits to their countries of origin, or in ethnic communities in the receiving countries, but rather in family narratives and the maintenance of family networks across vast geographical expanses.

The migratory journeys of the families in this study began more than sixty years ago, when individuals in the three families left home in a British colonial town in Jamaica, a French Creole rural community in Dominica, and an African-Caribbean village of small farmers on Nevis. Olwig follows the three family networks forward in time, interviewing family members living under highly varied social and economic circumstances in locations ranging from California to Barbados, Nova Scotia to Florida, and New Jersey to England. Through her conversations with several generations of these far-flung families, she gives insight into each family’s educational, occupational, and socioeconomic trajectories. Olwig contends that terms such as “Caribbean diaspora” wrongly assume a culturally homogeneous homeland. As she demonstrates in Caribbean Journeys, anthropologists who want a nuanced understanding of how migrants and their descendants perceive their origins and identities must focus on interpersonal relations and intimate spheres as well as on collectivities and public expressions of belonging.


Caribbean Journeys is a refreshing look at immigration from an unusual point of view, and it is worth reading and using in courses not only on immigration but also on social networks, family studies, and cultural identity development.” — Silvia Domínguez, American Journal of Sociology

“[A] fascinating examination of family identity and migration. . . .” — Colleen A. Vasconcellos, Interventions

“Karen Fog Olwig presents . . . an engaging ethnography. . . . A well-organised book.” — Amber S. McIlwain, Population, Space and Place

“Karen Fog Olwig presents a profound ethnographic study of three transnational Caribbean families. . . . As she describes the nuanced and colourful lives of her participants, it becomes evident that Olwig’s study transcends the fundamental migration related experience. . . . Caribbean Journeys is a valuable contribution to migration literature.” — Terry-Ann Jones, Ethnic and Racial Studies

“Olwig is very much in her element in this rich and beautifully written book. Her considerable skills as an ethnographer and her superior understanding of the Caribbean and its migrating peoples have resulted in a remarkable study of transnational family networks, and of memory and myth.” — Mary Chamberlain, History Workshop Journal

“Olwig offers a fine study of the role of family networks in migration. . . . [T]he book is historically and theoretically well informed. . . . Highly recommended.” — K. Tölölyan, Choice

“The book is well written. . . . [I]n the ethnographic chapters the prose is crisp and the family narratives are enjoyable to read. Caribbean Journeys succeeds admirably in showing how a migrant’s network of family relations provides the central context for migratory moves and the nature of relations migrants maintain with their places of origin. Olwig offers us a level of complexity and understanding that goes beyond most accounts of Caribbean migration.” — George Gmelch, New West Indian Guide

“This study of three families’ respective histories of migration from the Caribbean holds many points of interest both for Caribbeanists and for those concerned more generally with migration studies. There is also something here for students of identity politics, both in the UK and in the USA. . . . [An] ethnography of extremely dense and rich transnational relations.” — Diane Austin-Broos, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

“Building on her previous work on historical consciousness, nationalism, and transnationalism, Karen Fog Olwig outlines a new direction for migration studies. By highlighting the ways that individuals’ personal understandings of their migratory experiences are connected to foundational family narratives, Olwig broadens understanding of belonging and diaspora.” — Deborah A. Thomas, author of Modern Blackness: Nationalism, Globalization, and the Politics of Culture in Jamaica

“In this nuanced, sensitive tracing of kinship across borders, Karen Fog Olwig reminds us that most often family ties are at the heart of why migration processes are transnational. An outstanding contribution to kinship, migration, and transnational studies, Caribbean Journeys is an excellent counterpoint to glib references to transnational or diasporic communities.” — Nina Glick Schiller, coauthor of Georges Woke Up Laughing: Long-Distance Nationalism and the Search for Home


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Karen Fog Olwig is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Copenhagen. She is the author of Global Culture, Island Identity: Continuity and Change in the Afro-Caribbean Community of Nevis and Cultural Adaptation and Resistance on St. John: Three Centuries of Afro-Caribbean Life and a coeditor of Caribbean Narratives of Belonging: Fields of Relations, Sites of Identity.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Introduction 1

Part One: A Jamaican Family

1. Learning to Mix in Society 39

2. Seeking Improvement beyond Jamaica 62

Part Two:A Dominican Family

3. The Village Origins 97

4. In Pursuit of a Proper Livelihood 118

Part Three: A Nevisian Family

5. A Family Home 155

6. To Better Our Condition 176

Part Four: The Family Legacies

7. The First Generation: Migrating for Improvement of Self and the Family 215

8. Generational Perspectives: Negotiating Identities and Origins 244

9. Relating Regional, Family, and Individual Histories of Migration 270

Notes 287

References 297

Index 311
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3994-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3977-9
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