Sanne Rotmeijer: Media in the Dutch Antilles: Identities, Politics, and Change

Sanne Rotmeijer, MA | Leiden University | Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV) | Supervisors: Prof. dr. G.J. (Gert) Oostindie & Prof. dr. J. C. (Jaap) de Jong | December 2014 – December 2018 | rotmeijer[at]KITLV[dot]nl

This research focuses on how traditional and new ‘Dutch’ Caribbean media reflect and shape discourses of (trans)national identities in the context of the ambivalent dynamics of non-sovereignty. Towards, around and in the aftermath of the official dismantlement of the Netherlands Antilles – the political construction that had held five of the ‘Dutch’ Caribbean islands constitutionally together- on 10-10-10, debates on ‘us’ versus ‘them’ nurtured by politics of national positioning and (presumed) shared national identities have become more powerful. Ongoing migration to and from the islands, moreover, have made discourses of national identity more complicated. ‘Dutch’ Caribbean media play a quintessential role in reflecting and shaping these discourses. Considering the small-scale island populations and the potential area of distribution, the ‘Dutch’ Caribbean media landscape is widespread, highly diverse and multi-lingual (Papiamentu, Dutch and English representing the most important languages). Established media institutions, with newspapers being the most popular, are traditionally successful in the region. However, they also face challenges related to the small-scale of the islands. First, most media are politically affiliated or government-owned. Second, they tend to be economically dependent on sponsors and donors. And third, the islands lack trained and professional journalists. The emergence of new media, particularly the fast growing Caribbean blogosphere and islanders’ Facebook use, may meet up to some of these challenges by providing new spaces for bottom-up, peripheral voices and for younger generations and diaspora communities to participate in mediatized (trans)national identity constructions. Through a Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) from a Discourse-Historical Approach (DHA), this research aims to analyze ‘Dutch’ Caribbean media texts in light of the ambivalent dynamics of non-sovereignty, conduct ethnographic fieldwork at three ‘Dutch’ Caribbean newspapers as well as online participating in bloggers networks and Facebook communities, and explain findings drawing on insights from cultural media studies, postcolonial and political theory, and Caribbean studies. Insights contribute to a better understanding of the role of media during political change in small-scale societies, and the variety of complex political processes through which (trans)national identities are constructed in times of postcolonialism, globalization and digitalization.

Keywords: Dutch Caribbean, (new and social) media, (trans)national identities, diaspora, critical discourse analysis; discourse-historical approach, postcolonialism, cultural media studies, political theory