American Realities, Diasporic Dreams: Pursuing Happiness, Love, and Girlfriendship in Jamaica

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2009

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Abstract

At the heart of "American Realities, Diasporic Dreams" lies the following question: How and why do people generate longings for diasporic experience, and what might this have to do with nationally-specific affective and political economies of race, gender, and age? This dissertation focuses on the women of Girlfriend Tours International (GFT), a regionally and socio-economically diverse group of Americans, who are also members of the virtual community at www.Jamaicans.com. By completing online research in their web-community, and multi-sited ethnographic research in multiple cities throughout the U.S. and Jamaica, I investigate how this group of African-American women makes sense of the paradoxical nature of their hyphenated-identities, as they explore the contentious relationship between "Blackness" and "Americanness."

This dissertation examines how these African-American women use travel and the Internet to cope with their experiences of racism and sexism in the United States, while pursuing "happiness" and social belonging within (virtual and territorial) diasporic relationships. Ironically, the "success" of their diasporic dreams and travels is predicated on how well they leverage their national privilege as (African) American citizens in Jamaica. Therefore, I argue that these African-American women establish a complex concept of happiness, one that can only be fulfilled by moving--both virtually and actually--across national borders. In other words, these women require American economic, national, and social capital in order to travel to Jamaica, but simultaneously need the spiritual connection to Jamaica and its people in order to remain hopeful and happy within the national borders of the U.S. Their pursuit of happiness, therefore, raises critical questions that encourage scholars to rethink how we ethnographically document diasporic longings, and how we imagine their relationships to early 21st century notions of the "American Dream."

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Robinson, Bianca C. (2009). American Realities, Diasporic Dreams: Pursuing Happiness, Love, and Girlfriendship in Jamaica. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/1325.

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