Curaçao, one of the Dutch islands in the Caribbean, could be said to be caught between and betwixt different identities: being Curaçaoan, Antillean, Caribbean, Latin American, and Dutch. In everyday life, people seem to switch between these sometimes conflicting identities in their expression of culture.
Curaçao as Part of the Caribbean and the African Diaspora
The question of what it means for a Curaçaoan to be part of the Caribbean has not received much scholarly attention. The Netherlands remains, unwittingly, the principal reference point for most people of the island. Also, Curaçaoans have traditionally been raised and educated to feel superior to the rest of the Caribbean (Allen 2003, 78).
This phenomenon is found in other parts of the Caribbean, too. Caribbean people still look toward their respective metropoles in Europe or North America for all kinds of matters (Kuss 2004, 110). During Carifesta X, celebrated in Guyana in 2008, Rex Nettleford protested against this aspect of the Caribbean way of life, stating instead that Caribbean life and culture are more than what “the binary syndrome of Europe suggests. It is also a matter of the mind, which cultivates the spaces that remain invalid, that is beyond the reach of oppression and oppressor. That very mind also constructs for the intellect and the imagination, a bastion of discreet identities as well as quarries of very invaluable raw material that can be used to build the bridges across cultural boundaries” (2007).1
According to Franklin Knight, the focus on the metropole has led to a “fragmented nationalism” in the region, which is divided between Francophone, Hispanic, Anglophone, and Dutch-speaking subregions (2005; [End Page 51] Knight in Barros de Juanita and Trotman 2005). One would expect a debunking of the cultural boundaries erected by colonialism, given the fact that a great many countries in the Caribbean are independent states; however, the opposite holds true.
In this essay I propose that the concept of “diaspora” could help in transcending these cultural boundaries. The term diaspora has evolved over time. Originally, it referred to overseas minority communities residing in host countries that maintain “strong sentimental and material links with their countries of origin—their homelands” (Sheffer 1986, 3). Up to the 1960s the term was used primarily for the Jewish, Chinese, and Indian communities dispersed around the world. Later the concept of the African Diaspora was introduced. Joseph Harris defined the African Diaspora as encompassing the global voluntary and involuntary dispersion of Africans throughout history, the emergence of a cultural identity abroad based on origin and social condition, and the psychological or physical return to the homeland, Africa (1993). In a more recent definition by Michael A. Gomez, the African Diaspora is described as the “movements and extensive relocations of persons of African descent, over long periods of time, resulting in the dispersal of Africans and their descendants throughout much of the world” (2005, 1). Gomez’s definition only deals with dispersion; the criteria of homeland orientation and boundary maintenance are deemphasized (Brubaker 2005, 5–6).
Brubaker (2005) and Cohen (2008) argue that the term diaspora has in recent times been bandied about in both popular and scholarly discourses and therefore seems to be slowly losing its meaning. Rogers Brubaker speaks of the “‘diaspora’ diaspora” in an article with that title and ascertains that the term itself has become dispersed in semantic, conceptual, and disciplinary space and has been used for a variety of intellectual, cultural, and political agendas (2005, 1).
Analytically speaking, the concept of “diaspora” has a close linkage with migration, ethnicity, and race. The diaspora is usually seen as constituted by unidirectional outward dispersals from a single point of origin (Gomez 2005, 8). Peter Wade considers such a conceptualization of diaspora to be problematic, irrespective of whether the point of origin is geographical, cultural, or racial (2008, 1). Hall and Gilroy see the diaspora as continuous with the past. Hall suggests that one should think of black Caribbean identities as “framed by two axes or vectors, simultaneously operative: the vector of similarity or continuity [the first model of identity...