Date of Award

May 2020

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Anthropology

Advisor(s)

Susan S. Wadley

Keywords

caribbean, loyalty, partisanship, patronage, politics, subjectivity

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences

Abstract

This dissertation examines an unflattering aspect of political partisanship in Trinidad: the ambivalences of being a party loyalist. Extensive scholarship on Trinidadian politics points to the confluence of race and patronage shaping political decisions yet less is spoken of the conflicting subjectivities of loyalists that are obscured by their exercise of franchise once every few years. In truth, there are limited options to reject one’s socio-historical conditioning towards a party in Trinidad because, here, political identities are also psycho-social identities. They are entangled in generational dependencies, shared egalitarian aspirations, and hyper-local networks of reciprocity that make opting out an almost impossible proposition even when faced with a sense of betrayal, anger and anguish towards one’s underperforming party. I trace this disjuncture between lived experiences and political choices against the backdrop of eight local government reform consultations held in the country in 2016. Here I witnessed a disconnect between the political performativity of these events organized and sponsored by the PNM party and the emotional and affective interjections of a disgruntled and distressed public. Tellingly, the majority of my participants who attended these events also identified as PNM party supporters. Through interviews and participant observation at political events, community meetings, intimate family affairs, and backyard parties or “limes,” I piece together the compelling configuration of ethnic mobilization, political patronage and everyday sociality that fundamentally shapes partisan articulations of being and belonging. By continually realigning themselves to their failing party, my participants came to reenact their structural dispositions even as they asserted their own agency – concealing race talk in articulations of morality, demanding patronage through narratives of entitlement, and disavowing politics while seeking intervention in civic matters. My goal is to complicate our assumptions of party loyalty as a stable, purposeful and individualistic display of partisanship by viewing it also as a product of contested and ambivalent political subjectivities.

Access

Open Access

Available for download on Sunday, August 15, 2021

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