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Take Me to My Paradise

Tourism and Nationalism in the British Virgin Islands

Colleen Ballerino Cohen

Publication Year: 2010

The British Virgin Islands (BVI) markets itself to international visitors as a paradise. But just whose paradise is it? Take Me to My Paradise looks at the many players in the BVI tourism culture, including immigrants working in a tourism economy, nationalists struggling to maintain some control, and the anthropologist trying to make sense of it all. The result is a richly detailed and accessible ethnography on the impact of tourism on a country that came into being as a tourist destination.

Published by: Rutgers University Press


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p. vii


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p. ix

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pp. xi-xiv

This book would not have been possible without the support of the people in the British Virgin Islands who taught me, schooled me, and invited me into their lives. I acknowledge as many of them as possible, and offer apologies to anyone I fail to mention. I also thank in advance my British Virgin Islands readers for their engagement with the ideas and ...

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A Note on Notes and Names

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pp. xv-xvii

Throughout this book I incorporate field notes that I kept from 1990 to 2008 on my research and experiences in the British Virgin Islands. Ethnographic knowledge is always mediated and it is in our field notes that ethnographers engage in one of the first mediations of what we observe...

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Introduction: Take Me to My Paradise

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pp. 1-14

The title of this book comes from the song “Paradise,” written by Quito Rymer, a British Virgin Islands artist, songwriter, and musician who is known throughout the BVI and by his fans abroad simply as Quito. When I first heard Quito sing this song in his popular beach bar on Cane Garden Bay...

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1. Tourism’s Paradise: Historical Background

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pp. 15-36

I begin this chapter looking at the first two lines of the song “Paradise,” “Big ol’ jet plane, wide-span, chrome-plated wings / Fly me to my island, fly me to that island in the sun.” Where the chorus, “Take me to my paradise,” calls forth images of a premodern Eden fixed in time, the first two lines reference...

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2. Making Paradise as a Tourist Desti-Nation

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pp. 37-70

The physical place that tourists to the BVI visit is at once the historical place evoked in claims to a particular “essence”; the contemporary place that is the residence of people from the Caribbean, North America, and Europe and home to almost a million offshore companies; the popularized place of beach bars, resorts, and islands that are known...

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3. “Nature’s Little Secrets”: Marketing Paradise and Making Nation

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pp. 71-98

When I started my formal research in the BVI in 1990, I was guided by the question, “What is a British Virgin Islander?” As the discussions in chapters 1 and 2 suggest, this is a timely question. The BVI has a longstanding and complex relation to Great Britain as well as to the U.S. Virgin Islands...

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4. Cultural Negotiations: Race, Identity, and Citizenship

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pp. 99-121

The BVI that is marketed to tourists and the BVI that is constituted as motherland are both imagined spaces, constructed on the basis of idealized images of what we want them to be. The image of the pristine tropical beach that awaits discovery and the image of an island home made up of people of one’s own kind...

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5. Like Looking at Ourselves in a Mirror: Collaborative Ethnography in Paradise

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pp. 122-146

Distinctions that inform interactions among British Virgin Islanders and between belongers and nonbelongers are based upon socially constructed categories of race, ethnicity, and nationality, but these categories are experienced as nonetheless real. In this, they operate...

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6. Stanley’s Swing and Other Intimate Encounters

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pp. 147-173

Tourists preparing for a vacation to the BVI have multiple resources available to assist them in their pretravel speculation and fantasy. Travel guides, Web sites, information from friends who have visited, and tourism brochures put out by the BVI Tourist Board and tourist businesses all help travelers...

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7. Of Festivals, Calypso Kings, and Beauty Queens

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pp. 174-198

Stanley’s Swing, Bomba’s Shack, and Foxy’s hold special meaning to visitors to the BVI in large part because they are places where tourists can enact and confirm their identities as modern Western subjects. In like fashion, the annual BVI Festival that commemorates the 1834 emancipation of slaves in the British...

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8. Performing Paradise and Making Culture

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pp. 199-229

In the last chapter I focused on the ways that Festival’s cultural events articulate and put on display political and social issues in the BVI, primary among them issues that arise in the context of the demographic changes resulting from tourism development. In this chapter I look at the multiple positions that people...

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Conclusion: Technically, It's a Country

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pp. 230-246

In this conclusion I consider what is in store for the British Virgin Islands as a tourist destination, as a major center for international financial services, and as a country. As I complete this book, the BVI is experiencing the impact of a global economic downturn in both its tourism and its financial services sectors...


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pp. 247-260


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pp. 261-270

About the Author

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p. 271

E-ISBN-13: 9780813550312
E-ISBN-10: 0813550319
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813548098
Print-ISBN-10: 0813548098

Page Count: 292
Illustrations: 7 photographs, 1 figure, 1 map
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 768294567
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Take Me to My Paradise

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Nationalism -- British Virgin Islands.
  • British Virgin Islands -- Social life and customs.
  • Culture and tourism -- British Virgin Islands.
  • Tourism -- British Virgin Islands.
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