Contemplating Modern Caribbean Identities

Curwen Best’s “Internet and the Culture Wars: Caribbean Literary / Cultural Studies in Cyberspace” hits a vein of specific interest in the subject of Caribbean writers and who gets to identify as so and why.

In December 2013 renowned Dominican writer, Junot Diaz, was criticized greatly by Dominican intellectuals for speaking out against a sentence that takes away Dominican citizenship from those who have Haitian ancestry. They claimed he did not understand the full situation as he is not “Dominican enough” and has not resided in the country for many years. Diaz took to Facebook to dispute the above reasons that questioned his right to speak out against Dominican politics.

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Diaz makes clear his identity as Dominican and defends the members of the Diaspora as the source that is lending the most support to the people residing in the Dominican Republic while it’s government does not take into consideration the feelings of fear its community feels. This is a pretty strong statement made by the author who has been living with his family in the U.S. since 1974 while still a child. Diaz makes the interesting claim that those who immigrated understand what it is like to be discriminated against and hence have an advantage in understanding the sentence from all accounts. I took to the blogs during this public debate about Diaz’s “Dominicanidad” and found the very split between celebration and critique of “Caribbean” writers and artists Best’s piece allows readers to contemplate. In especially in modern times, also more ambiguous and technologically ridden times, it is possible to imagine the Caribbean as a land that extends beyond distance and space through the maintenance of cultural traditions and interests. Diaz is certainly an example of the extension of Caribbean politics and upholding cultural standards abroad. Blogs and internet spaces allow for this maintenance and free exchange of up-to-date Caribbean news and information, such as through blogs like Repeating Islands. I thoroughly enjoyed scrolling down the screen to access a multitude of news concerning the Caribbean. This blog reposts news and articles from different sources and does the work of researching for the information for all of its viewers and creating a space that attempts to give full-access to Caribbean life. I commend the contributors of blogs like such for creating this experience.

Who should be considered Caribbean artists? What standards must they meet for such honor?

Best introduces one perspective of the debate stating, “For some, a Caribbean writer can reside anywhere; he or she can be of any race, color, and ethnicity; they need not have any binding relationship to the hard reality of the region” (Best, 26). It is my belief that this statement is truer now with the involvement of social media, blogs, online archives, access to scholarship,  and internet news outlets both public and underground. Communication to the island and back is instant and interconnected with everyone worldwide. The Caribbean artist becomes one who personally identifies their interests most with the culture and can find a purposeful entry to represent it.

The internet has created fluidity amongst identity and cultures. With access to creation of blogs, Facebook, Twitter, e-books, downloadable music, and posted art from both the United States and the Caribbean, the information and cultural marks of identification are easily exchanged and borrowed. The Caribbean identity can certainly be legitimated by the many members of the Diaspora and their children who fight to retain identity. The countries of the Caribbean may not hold global and political superpower, but art created with a Caribbean mindset that is published and produced abroad has made the history more accessible. This trend has become a historical marker of Caribbean identity in the late 20th and early 21st century with the popularity and worldwide success of writers such as Edwidge Danticat, Julia Alvaraz, and Junot Diaz.

For those interested in the fairly recent Junot Diaz case:

One comment

  1. Maribi, I agree the internet has definitely created fluidity amongst identity and culture. In many ways, the internets has turned us into one big international cyber-community.

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