Date of Award
Open Access Dissertation
Cultural Studies, PhD
School of Arts and Humanities
Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member
Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member
© 2022 Shari Bissoondatt
Carnival, Cultural Policy, Diaspora, Gender
Caribbean Languages and Societies | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Trinidad and Tobago's 2020 National Cultural policy ostensibly seeks to build the twin islands’ cultural confidence through the development of a unifying and empowering national cultural identity. However, this research asserts that the current policy undermines these national goals by approaching its community through problematic colonial, nationalist frameworks and through centralizing the annual carnival festival. This positioning poses several key problems. First, it reinscribes the colonial cultural identity of the island. Second, this nationalist, Christian colonial approach reinforces a binary of belonging and non-belonging that excludes minoritized, diasporic, and non-conforming gender communities. Third, by centralizing carnival in cultural policy, the Trinbagonian national government promotes a one-dimensional story of the island, its culture, and its history. This policy paper seeks to dismantle these limiting worldviews and their tangible manifestations by emphasizing Trinbagonian culture as one founded in fusion, movement, and inclusivity. Movement is inherent in Trinbagonian culture. I use carnival to study the framing of cultural identity because the carnivalesque or trans dimensional qualities of carnival parallel the trans -national ones of cultural identity. Hence, to study this fluidity within the culture, I locate carnivalesque, the spirit of becoming, within carnival spaces. I then locate carnivalesque within quotidian culture through Trinidad and Tobago's liming culture. Liming exhibits carnivalesque qualities of chaos, relation, imagination, and eroticism, making this system of informal and formal transformative socializing spaces. I investigate cultural policy with a decolonial cultural studies framework as opposed to a neoliberal policy oriented one. Neoliberal methods, which policy makers use, are market oriented. Thus, they centralize economic reform policies. This approach preserves the focus of aesthetic culture over quotidian culture. As a result, I employ decolonial frameworks because they are critical examinations of cultural policy documents that lead to agency and equity through the support of self-determination and liberation. This approach prioritizes the lived experience of people and culture rather than a culture’s economic potential. Interviews and textual analysis of soca songs as well as the Trinbago's 2020 national cultural policy were crucial to my analysis. My research aims to fill the gap in cultural policy literature by highlighting intersectionality amongst the nation-state, identity, gender, diaspora, and imagination through the carnivalesque to transform the construction of the nation. From here, I explore how policy development can be more inclusive of multiple identities. Apart from my interdisciplinary approach, I focus on the intersectionality of cultural policy and gender, which distinguishes my work from other scholars. In the NCPTT, there are many spaces where carnivalesque cultural identity should be applied. As a result, my main recommendation is that the Trinidad and Tobagonian government, policy makers, and experts review and reorient their understanding of the nature of Trinbagonian identity. It is not static or limited to the nation, rather it is a process of movement. It is a recognition of historical fragments and an acknowledgement of lived experiences; it is carnivalesque. Second, I recommend that once they re-evaluate their knowledge of Trinbagonian identity, they rewrite the cultural policy using the cultural decolonial framework to employ inclusive language that expresses the carnivalesque approach to cultural identity. Third, I recommend that a carnivalesque cultural policy be written to reorient the current emphasis away from the development of the cultural arts for economic gain to the development of the cultural arts as a way of understanding Trinbago people’s many fragments.
Bissoondatt, Shari. (2022). Carnivalizing the Nation: Reassessing the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival as an Inclusive Platform for Local and Diaspora Cultural Identity. CGU Theses & Dissertations, 443. https://scholarship.claremont.edu/cgu_etd/443.