Caribbean Migration

Caribbean Migration

Caribbean Migration

Caribbean Migration


Originally published in 1992, this classic considers out-migration from the Caribbean in a unique and sophisticated analytical manner. Its comparative approach, involving three islands (Jamaica, Barbados, and St. Vincent) and the range of micro-environments within those islands, is based on data from extensive surveys and in-depth interviews. For the first time, analysis of the migration process reflects the perspective of Caribbean potential migrants themselves.

The book contributes to international migration at a theoretical level, destroying the myth of migration being purely the result of poverty and overpopulation and rejecting explanations based on "push-pull" models and the unilateral flow inherent in such models. Instead it presents a conceptualization of Caribbean migration that is fundamentally circular and self-perpetuating, and which has become part of the institutional framework of Caribbean societies.

Migration behavior is a response to Caribbean circumstances and is an intrinsic part of the formation of the image of self and life chances of the individual. This image, conditioned by the particular location of the individual in relation to the national and international system, is the key element in explaining the complex interplay of global, societal, and personal factors resulting in the propensity to move and in the actual move itself.


The latent consciousness which embraces migration has not been adequately taken into consideration in explanations of Caribbean migration nor the dialectic between migrant and non-migrant fully appreciated. 'The emigrants and islanders', Brathwaite (1986: 7) observed, 'are the two main types that make up the present West Indian sensibility'. At the heart of this sensibility lies 'the desire (even the need) to migrate'. In this light, the migrant cannot be portrayed as a mere product of materialism derived from the location in the global political‐ economic periphery. The migrant reflects as much, if not in many cases more, the social and cultural implications of that specific location occupied in the periphery. It is from the particular temporal, spatial and social position in which people are located that mental images are formed and migration has meaning.

Migration 'opportunities' to Caribbean people are themselves a mirror reflection of the migration 'requirements' of countries outside the region seeking to augment their labour force. The extent to which the Caribbean is perceived to be a potential source of labour for metropolitan capital development determines the evaluation of the Caribbean, or specific parts of the region from the outside. On this is based the nature of legislation controlling the volume and characteristics of immigration at any particular time. This has produced a self‐ perpetuating process whereby the reputation of Caribbean migration propensity has kept alive the very opportunities for migration on which each Caribbean society's main image of the world is based. The view of Caribbean migration as the movement of labour has dominated perceptions:

So you have seen them
with their cardboard grips,
felt hats, rain
cloaks, the women
with their plain
or purple-tinted
coats hiding their fatten
ed hips.

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