Department of Anthropology
University of California, Irvine
Memory in the Caribbean Metropolis: Home, Metal and the Flash of the Spirit in Kingston’s Security-scape
"In Kingston, Jamaica, a residential architectural aesthetics defined by metal has emerged in response to the city's high crime rate - stylized metal burglar bars protect windows, metal gates secure front yards, metal grills enclose verandahs and spiked metal fences surround the periphery of properties. In this talk, I argue that this stylized metal has come to mark Kingston's urban landscape as a security-scape, where the home is imagined as the ultimate space of enclosure and exclusion. This imagination of the home, I suggest, is one intimately tied to socio-historical narratives of discipline that helped to give form to Kingston’s urban landscape. However, I contend that a material and historical reading of metal, one attentive to its properties and its attributes opens up space for an imagination of Kingston not just as a city of limit but one of possibility. Through attention to Kingston’s metal security artifacts and the stylized metal adkinkra patterns that decorate them, I argue that Kingston's security-scape reveals the workings of a diasporic cosmology that interpenetrates paradigms of security, surveillance and discipline with Afro-diasporic symbolic systems. By placing my own memories in the city alongside fieldwork with metal artisans, I suggest that the Caribbean metropolis must be considered as an archive of black memory, one that gives us insight into forms of citizenship and belonging that predate the trans-Atlantic slave trade and took on new meanings in the so-called New World."
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