Navigating Islands’ Political Geographies: The Case of the 'Maduro Migrations' from Venezuela to Trinidad and Tobago
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Geography & Environmental Studies
Faculty of Arts
Grounded in critical geopolitics and feminist political geography, this dissertation undertakes a critical examination of Trinidad and Tobago’s (T&T) responses to the inflow of Venezuelans from the “Maduro migrations” since 2015. This massive displacement was triggered by conditions of economic, political and humanitarian crisis on the Venezuelan mainland. The dissertation’s central argument is that T&T’s responses are strategic exercises in defence of its sovereignty, launched through the conscious use of its island-geographies, with a view to rejecting external dictates in its domestic affairs. The island’s responses are examined through three interrelated, but scalarly disparate foci: regional and hemispheric geopolitical influences on domestic state decisions; the (dis)connections between immigration policy, migrant reception and migrants’ lived experiences; and shifts in the island’s functioning as a migration site. Reading the island nation from these three key positions, the dissertation’s argument tethers island self-preservation practices, and metaphors of control, containment and closure, that occur at all scales of the analysis.
In service of the central argument, this dissertation will demonstrate that the state’s politics of response through its intermittent domestic action and contentious country-position, intended to craft and control the precise discourse of Venezuelan migrants in the domestic and international geo -political landscape. It will also expose the racialized, sexualized and violent readings of Venezuelan migrants, compounded by the island’s ad hoc and fragmented migration infrastructure geared to restrict and regulate migrant bodies. Further, it will reveal the work of the island’s regulatory policies as a strategy to interfere, interrupt and ultimately contain migrant mobility. The lessons from the historically rooted/routed Trinidad and Tobago’s response to the Maduro migrations fortify the notion that the smallness of islands’ geographies 1) do not determine their relevance in understandings of how sovereignty is variously launched in human mobility containment efforts, and 2) do not prescribe their global impacts.
This dissertation contributes to migration, mobilities, sovereignty and political geography literatures that acknowledge the centrality of island geographies. It adds to nuanced understandings of islands’ geo-political involvement and heightened consciousness in shedding their “passive” profiles, through the re-assertion of autonomy.
Mohan, Shiva, "Navigating Islands’ Political Geographies: The Case of the 'Maduro Migrations' from Venezuela to Trinidad and Tobago" (2020). Theses and Dissertations (Comprehensive). 2324.