Date of Degree

9-2021

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Earth & Environmental Sciences

Advisor

Ruth Wilson Gilmore

Committee Members

Donald Robotham

Gary Wilder

Aisha Khan

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences

Keywords

Reparations, Barbados, Small Place, Discursive

Abstract

A Discursive Geography of Repair: Exploring Regional and National Claims for Reparative Justice in the Caribbean examines demands for reparations for slavery and colonialism made by Barbadian activists and the CARICOM Reparations Commission (CRC)—a multilaterally- run organization of activists and scholars of the Caribbean. The experiences and materialities of slavery, emancipation and independence produced interconnected and yet distinctive outcomes that shape Caribbean states today as well as their roles in the regional struggle for reparations. Therefore, this dissertation looks at how reparative justice has been conceptualized and contested in Barbados—a “small place” that has performed an outsized, region-wide role in contemporary demands for reparative justice. I extend David Scott’s concept of the “problem-space” to explore the formation of Barbadian and regional claims for repair. My elaboration of “problem-space” specifically engages how space and place are made and remade – the production of geography -- through reference to forces such as the 2008 financial crisis, as well as the insurgence of Black Lives Matter and vulnerabilities induced by COVID-19, which have shaped reparative demands. To understand the problem-spaces of repair, I analyze texts including the Report of the Barbados Taskforce on Reparations1, the CARICOM Reparations Commission’s 10 Point Action Plan and Sir Hilary Beckles’s famous text, Britain’s Black Debt. I argue that these representations alongside other reparative discursive practices –such as the removal of Horatio Lord Nelson’s statue in Barbados in 2020 -- reveal how reparative justice is conceptualized in the Caribbean. Based on participant-observation, interviews and textual analysis, I argue that these texts and their authors, which are defined by a range of symbolic and material forces, operate both inside and outside of conceptualizations and claims of a Black radical tradition. This dissertation makes the case that Barbados is constitutive of the regional reparations struggle as it is imagined as a Black nation that exists at the interstices of coloniality and Africanity as expressed by Barbadian activists.

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