In/Secure Conversations: Retheorising Life and Debt, Tourism and Caribbean Geopolitics

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    The Caribbean has figured prominently in narratives of security, mobility and transnational connections. Referred to as the ‘Third Border’ in US foreign policies, and inhabiting contradictory geopolitical spaces between North and South America, the region also negotiates narratives of in-betweenness and in/security in relation to more ‘leisurely’ pursuits, notably tourism. This paper analyses the ways in which representations of in/security have framed media images of Caribbean tourism by revisiting two case studies: the critically acclaimed documentary film, Life and Debt and recent security discussions around tourism in Jamaica. While geopolitics and tourism studies have largely tended to remain distinct areas of research, Life and Debt illustrates the significance and urgent need to exhume the interdependency of both. Media representations, Caribbean literature and policy decision-making are part of ongoing conversations that illustrate the limitations of over-generalised notions of security, time and space. Antonio Benítez-Rojo’s concept of ‘repeating islands’ is drawn upon to critically analyse how representations of geopolitics in the Caribbean are part of a series of interconnected and multi-layered conversations. The Caribbean is an archipelagic region that has often found itself in uneven and contradictory conversations about security, mobility and control, and as such affords an important context for analysing the compromises and negotiations involved in national, regional, and global conversations around in/security. Critically engaging with how we conceptualise conversations, and examining their repetitive and contradictory nature, also opens up new possibilities for interrogating the ways in which tourism narratives have reinforced, recreated, and stifled diverse, secure and inclusive social spaces.

    Two key questions provide the focus for this paper:

    1) in what ways can the concepts of conversation and repetition enable a critical analysis of the connections between popular media and geopolitical discourses of Caribbean in/security and tourism?

    2) how are the connections and contradictions of geopolitical discourses and national tourism strategies illustrated through media and policy images of place, specifically Life and Debt and official Jamaican tourism statements?

    To tease out the ways in which these Caribbean conversations offer a provocative and productive forum for engaging and mobilising more inclusive understandings of security the following analysis is divided into four sections. The first section provides an overview of the conceptual framework for the paper and sets out the ways in which we may think of conversations as social and strategic tools. The concept of repeating islands is also introduced as a device for framing Caribbean identities. The second section contextualises Life and Debt and analyses the film’s relevance for wider stories of Caribbean in/securities. The conversations emerging from these earlier sections are then developed further in the third section, which examines their importance for interrogating the dynamics of geopolitics and tourism studies in a Caribbean-global context. The fourth, and final section, reflects on the implications and possibilities for thinking and working through creative and constructive Caribbean conversations.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)90-104
    Number of pages15
    JournalSmall Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism
    Issue number3 (57)
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2018


    • Caribbean tourism
    • security
    • geopolitics
    • Jamaica, media


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