First conceived in 2009, the concept of “Resisting Paradise” developed after Nixon’s studies of poetry by Bahamian Marion Bethel and Bahamian-Trinidadian Christian Campbell, whose works represent the complexities of Caribbean culture and identity. “Their poetry, for me, offered counter-narratives to stereotypical ideas of paradise,” said Nixon. In “Resisting Paradise”, Nixon delves into explorations of the region’s colonial and postcolonial history, African diasporic connections and exotic myths of the Caribbean. The work is of obvious personal significance to her, and The Bahamas is featured prominently throughout.
The book’s cover art is designed by John Beadle and interviews with Bahamian artists, tourism and cultural workers are highlighted in the text. Nixon also incorporates an analysis of Junkanoo and visual art by Dionne Benjamin-Smith, Veronica Dorsett and Piaget Moss. Nixon grew up in The Bahamas, and like most Bahamians, was taught about the importance of the tourism industry to the local economy. As she pursued her Ph.D., this dependence on tourism seemed to Nixon to be “a form of neocolonialism”.
In “Resisting Paradise” she discusses her own experiences working in the tourism and banking industries, escaping poverty and making her way to a university education. “For me, being born and raised in a tourist economy and postcolonial Bahamas, I have experienced the layers of connections among tourism, sexuality, culture, and postcoloniality,” explained Nixon. “And we are told over and over again that tourism is our savior and that it is our only hope. But we experience how unsustainable it is. We experience its decline and defeat, even as we depend on and hope for its success.”
While many politicians still tout the older economic model as the way forward for the country, in academic circles and think tanks, Bahamians and others around the region are examining the mass tourism industry critically. Nixon’s book offers a new forum for this exploration, where she shares ways of investing in Caribbean people, rather than the Caribbean as a destination. “I wanted to analyze the serious effects of tourism on cultural, racial, sexual, and class identity inside the region and the Caribbean Diaspora in order to explore resistance and search for new models,” she said. “And I wanted to interrogate the sexual-cultural politics of tourism.” Using a “mixed-method” approach, Nixon incorporated interviews, participatory observation and analysis of cultural texts to develop “Resisting Paradise”. “I think that my method is significant because it prioritizes local experiences,” she explained. The end result is a work comprised of seven chapters, which address topics like the shared characteristics of the current day tourism industry and colonization and the return of Caribbean peoples to their homelands after working abroad.
Nixon goes on to discuss the common culture of staging paradise for tourists and the ways cultural critics, academics and activists resist what Bahamian scholar Ian Strachan calls the “myth-reality” of living in paradise. With much of her work centered on feminist, gender and sexuality studies, Nixon also hones in on Afro-Caribbean women’s travels abroad and within their home countries to establish multiple homes and create more ethical relationships. The tourism industry’s sexualization of the Caribbean as a marketing model also comes into the conversation, with her questioning the relationship between gender, race and sexual labor within the tourism realm.
She wraps up by reflecting on resisting the paradisical model of tourism and presenting an analysis of Baha Mar and the work of the former Current art team in using tourism as a platform for empowering Bahamian artists.
Through “Resisting Paradise”, Nixon hopes readers “gain new insight into the ways Caribbean cultural producers are writing, creating and asserting Caribbean sense of self and subjectivity.” “Resisting Paradise” will be launched at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, November 20 at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas.
In addition to getting an overview of Nixon’s book, guests will have an opportunity to weigh in on conversations about the relationship between tourism, culture and identity during a panel discussion featuring artist John Cox, activist Erin Greene, Dr. Keithley Woolward and Dr. Nicolette Bethel as moderator. Like all NAGB programming, the event is free and open to the public.
Limited copies of “Resisting Paradise” will be on sale at a discounted rate at the launch. Those who miss the sale can purchase a copy or download an e-copy on Amazon.com or through the University Press of Mississippi website. For more information on the launch and discussion of “Resisting Paradise”, contact the NAGB at 328-5800 or visit its Facebook page. Dr. Angelique V. Nixon lives and works in Trinidad and Tobago as a lecturer at the Institute for Gender and Development Studies at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus.
For more information about her work, visit: http://sta.uwi.edu/igds/AngeliqueVNixon.asp and follow her on Facebook and Instagram/Twitter @sistellablack.