A Transnational Sense of "Home": Twentieth-Century West Indian Immigration and Institution Building in the Bronx

By Lightfoot, Natasha | Afro-Americans in New York Life and History, July 2009 | Go to article overview

A Transnational Sense of "Home": Twentieth-Century West Indian Immigration and Institution Building in the Bronx


Lightfoot, Natasha, Afro-Americans in New York Life and History


Caribbean immigration remains central to New York City's history, as more than a million migrants from various Caribbean territories have settled the city's neighborhoods from the turn of the twentieth century to the present. Furthermore, Caribbean migrants have made invaluable contributions to this city's economy, political landscape, and cultural production. Especially after changing immigration laws in 1965 widened the possibility for entry to the US, the city's cadre of Caribbean migrants increased exponentially. This paper focuses in particular on migrants to the Bronx from the Anglophone Caribbean (conventionally known due to Columbus's blunders as the West Indies), and seeks to place the historical experiences of said migrants in this borough within the larger literature on West Indians in New York City.

The previous two decades of scholarly research on West Indians in New York has established the significance of studying black immigrants to introduce race as a key factor in identity formation debates that underpin the broader literature of American immigration. (2) This scholarship has also shown that the creation of multiple kinds of community institutions has been extremely valuable to West Indian settlement in New York City. Such institutions greatly aided their transition to city life. Furthermore, as the paper will argue, these institutions have supported their maintenance of a tripartite identity in the process, simultaneously nationalized to their various home countries, West Indianized (as in a broader "pan-Caribbean" identity built from encounters with West Indian migrants from different islands), and to a considerable degree African Americanized as well, especially in successive generations, but even in some ways among the first generation. These layers of identity exist both in tandem and in tension with one another at given moments within the narrative of West Indian immigrants' progress in New York City.

Recent scholars of West Indian immigration have encapsulated their identity formation process as evidence of transnationalism, essentially defying the boundaries of the nation-state and the traditional concept of a "homeland" as a singular place. (3) Ethnographer Karen Fog Olwig, in her revealing study of West Indians in the US, Canada and Britain, Caribbean Journeys, investigates immigrants' transnational social networks and concludes that the contours of their identities are multilayered, being neither fully embedded within the places from which they left, nor within the places in which they settled. Her findings show that migration extends the local social relations immigrants built in their countries of origin over long distances and creates similar social relationships in their new destinations. Therefore among West Indian migrants and their descendants not only family and kinship, but also affiliation with their "home" island is socially constructed, being defined by everyday practice within social networks, rather than the fact of location or birthplace. (4) Ultimately, the BAAHP interviews demonstrate how multiple locations and extended networks of family and friends in the islands, in the Bronx, and beyond, all inform West Indian migrants' transnational identities, their evolving practices of community, and their hybrid socialization over time in New York City.

West Indian immigrant institutions in New York City have historically been both informal and formal in nature. Specifically, this migrant community frequently depended upon "migration machines" to use Charles Tilly's apt term, as a way to aid their transition into city life. Tilly defines "migration machines" as "sending networks that articulated with particular receiving networks in which new migrants could find jobs, housing, and sociability." (5) Also West Indians quickly moved to join or establish formal institutions as well, including small businesses, churches, benevolent societies, sporting clubs, cultural societies, and political organizations. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A Transnational Sense of "Home": Twentieth-Century West Indian Immigration and Institution Building in the Bronx
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.