The Journal of Caribbean History: Volume 39, Issue 1

Article 1
Belonging and Unbelonging: The Impact of Migration on Discourses of Identity in Jamaican History

Verene A. Shepherd


This article rehearses the recurrent and problematic subject of the impact of the migration and settlement of different ethnicities in colonial Jamaica. More specifically, it explores interethnic interaction, as manifested in “ranking”, and the discourses that surrounded the issue of identity, that is, who was truly “Creole” or “Jamaican”; who “belonged” and who did not. The article also engages with twentieth-century discussions in Jamaica about who had the right to appropriate social space and to benefit from the material resources of that space; who had cultural legitimacy in a multicultural society that rested on the ideology of racial and ethnic inequality. Clearly, while “Creole” in the sense of being “Jamaican” could imply unity and solidarity, “Creole” could also be inserted into a discourse of exclusion. This was manifested in the relations between Indian newcomers and settled Africans and their descendants in Jamaica, a relationship determined by the legacies of the colonizers’ divideand-rule tactics.