Paradise Remixed: The Queer Politics of Tourism in Jamaica
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Employing an interdisciplinary approach, “Paradise Remixed: The Queer Politics of Tourism in Jamaica” examines the dominant historical, literary and ideological narratives of tourism in Jamaica. At the same time, it examines the intersection of tourism and sexuality through an analysis of media representations of homophobia and queer Jamaican discussions of progress. Noting that tourism is a privileged form of mobility, this dissertation uses tourism to interrogate the array of historical and contemporary tensions of class, race, sexuality and how such tensions are negotiated through Black diasporic and queer Jamaican ways of knowing.
This dissertation begins by tracing how the promotion of Jamaica as an ideal tourist destination, since the early 1900s, heavily shaped politics and culture on the island and abroad. Jamaica’s reputation as a tourist paradise was manufactured and depended on a continual rearticulation of what Jamaica is and who Jamaicans are. Drawing on a range of media archives from Jamaican newspapers to African American lifestyle publications, this dissertation argues that the success of Jamaica’s paradisical tourist image comes after difficult debates about how Jamaica should be represented. Interestingly, the successful touristic representations would greatly impact how African Americans would imagine Jamaica as a tourist destination.
By the late 20th century, tourism again becomes a site of fracture and precarity. The calls to end homophobic music and a proposed boycott threatened Jamaica’s image as a welcoming paradise. The leaders of these campaigns, primarily North Americans, deployed a global strategy that brought attention to homophobia in Jamaica. However, these same leaders failed to amplify the nuanced voices of queer Jamaican activists who were progressively gaining visibility, strengthening their own organizations and articulating for themselves what it means to be queer and Jamaican. In recent years, some have even established their own tourism businesses. For example, initiatives like Connek create safe spaces for queer people, spark genuine transnational connections and transform perceptions of queer life in Jamaica. In centering queer Jamaican experiences, this dissertation highlights the nuanced voices, artistic expressions and activism of queer Jamaicans, and acknowledges the safe spaces they have and continue to create through tourism and beyond.