Black British subjects in Cuba: race, ethnicity, nation, and identity in the migratory experience, 1898-1938

Giovannetti, Jorge L. (2001) Black British subjects in Cuba: race, ethnicity, nation, and identity in the migratory experience, 1898-1938. Doctoral thesis, University of North London.


This thesis examines the history of black British Caribbean migrants in Cuba during the early twentieth century. It centres on their experience of social and racial discrimination within Cuban society, and how this was influenced by the historical legacy of black fear in Cuba and the social, political, and economic changes the country experienced from 1898 to 1938 (i.e., foreign intervention, social and political revolts, and economic depressions). The racial, ethnic, and identity dynamics in the interaction between the migrants, Cuban society, and the consular representatives are examined in detail. The study avoids the generalisations that are prevalent in the historiography, and contributes with new insights into the history of this migration through its emphasis on different migration patterns, the experiences of the various islanders, and the complex identity politics and social practices of resistance, adjustment, and accommodation in which the migrants were involved The thesis looks at the triangular relation between the black British Antilleans, Cuban society, and the representatives of the British Empire at various levels, and reveals the otherwise unacknowledged agency of the migrants in gaining consular support. The complex debates on race, ethnicity, identity, and nation arising from this case study are of prime relevance not only for the understanding of migration processes in Caribbean societies, but also for the study of nation formation in Cuban society and British colonial and imperial history, At the same time, these debates are connected to wider issues concerning the relationship between race and nation, and racism and migration in the Caribbean past and present. The study is of an interdisciplinary nature and combines archival and documentary research with interviews, ethnographic data, and anthropological and sociological literature.

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