May 31, 2009

Conversations at the Kingston YMCA

May 30, 2009

This morning, I woke up and had my breakfast on our lovely patio, which overlooks a nice garden and a swimming pool, which is, unfortunately, bereft of water.

After breakfast, I began writing my methodological statement. As a first step, I read an interesting article by KU professor, Thomas Skrtic, where he describes an elaborate application of naturalistic inquiry to a multi-sited project. It gave me some ideas for my own project.

Skrtic (1985) points out that you can begin a research project with theories already in mind, or you can use grounded theory. In my research on deportation, I am using a combination of grounded and a priori theories (Skrtic 1985: 190; 193). We already know a lot about immigration generally, so I am curious as to the extent to which current understandings of transnationalism and immigrant incorporation work in the context of deportation. On the other hand, I am also open to the possibility that thinking of deportation could fundamentally change how we think about immigration and globalization more generally. Thus, I have a set of questions related to transnationalism and immigrant incorporation. At the same time, I will remain open to exploring other emergent themes as I talk to deportees.

After my morning writing and thinking, I was ready to go on another adventure with my family. Yesterday, the people at the YMCA told us that the swimming pool is open from noon to 3pm on Saturdays, so we made plans to go there today. As soon as we left the house, Tatiana began to complain about walking in the sun. I told her that it is not very far. Yesterday, we walked at least 30 blocks, and today we only were going to have to walk four blocks to get to the swimming pool. Luckily you can see the pool after about two and a half blocks, and Tatiana stopped fussing as soon as she saw that (sort of clear) blue water.

Once inside the pool gates, the twins looked around. Soraya asked me if everyone in Jamaica was brown. Tatiana corrected her and told her everyone is black. I told them that most people in Jamaica are black. I haven’t quite figured out exactly how best to approach issues of race with the twins. They are eight years old, and I am not always sure what they can and can’t understand. I suppose I could take a color-blind approach and tell them that color doesn’t matter. But, that would be less than true, since color matters so much in our society and others. I could tell them that I like black people, but that is too much of a blanket statement. So far, I have told them that I have friends that are black, white, and brown, and that there are nice and mean people, and that you can’t tell whether people are nice or mean just by looking at their skin color. Nevertheless, the kids really notice color, especially in Jamaica. When we were walking back home, a car with Latinos rolled by, and Soraya told me that she saw some white people pass by.

Back at the pool, Raymi, Tatiana and Soraya jumped in the water and eventually made friends with a few kids who also were brave enough to be in the deep end. And, Nando and I took a spot in the shade near to the life guards.

Nando is always making sure I am making progress with my research. So, he began talking to the lifeguard and asked him if he knew people who had been deported from the US. When Nando began to explain my project to the lifeguard, I interrupted to explain that I was in Jamaica looking for people who had been deported who would be willing to tell me their story. The lifeguard suggested I put an ad in the paper. He then went on to explain that he also thought the US and Jamaican governments should do something about all the deportees, and that they should help them reincorporate into society. I mentioned that deportees might have a hard time getting a job. He agreed wholeheartedly, and said they have to work in the informal economy, since they can’t get jobs in the formal economy. He told me he thought that at least 80 percent of deportees would like to have a job and conform to society, and leave behind their criminal ways, but that it is difficult for them in Jamaica, since they often don’t have relatives here, and many times have been out of the country for years.

Most people I have talked to seem to think deportees are dangerous criminals, so it was interesting to notice that this guy did not have the same set of assumptions about deportees as others do. He did think that they would be in need of rehabilitation, but seemed to think that rehabilitation would be possible. Perhaps deportees in Jamaica are not viewed as negatively as I thought.

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