This book outlines the ways in which sport helps to create transnational social fields that interconnect migrants dispersed across a region known as the Black Atlantic: England, North America and the Caribbean. Many Caribbean men’s stories about their experiences migrating to Canada, settling in Toronto’s urban and suburban neighbourhoods, finding jobs, returning home for visits, and traveling to other diasporic locations involved some contact with a cricket and social club. The cricket ground brings black Canadians together as a unified community, not only to celebrate their homeland cultures or assuage the pain of the “racial terror” that unifies the Black Atlantic, but also to allay the pain of aging in the diaspora. Players and spectators corporeal practices, post-game activities, sport-related travel, as well as music, food, meetings, fundraisers, parties, and shared stories are analysed in this text as resources deployed to maintain the Black Atlantic, that is, to create deterritorialized communities and racial identities; A close look at what goes on before, during, and after cricket matches provides insights into the contradictions and complexities of Afro-diasporic identity performances, the simultaneous representation of sameness and difference among Afro-Caribbean, African-American, Black British, Indo-Caribbean and South-Asian groups in Canada. This book describes twenty-one months of ethnographic empirical evidence of how black identities are gendered, age-dependent and formed relationally, with boundary making (and crossing) as an active process in multicultural Canada.
The introduction chapter depicts a common story of thousands of Black migrants to Canada from various Caribbean islands and territories. Contact with a cricket and social club was critical for settling in Toronto’s urban and suburban neighbourhoods, finding (mainly) middle-class jobs, returning home to their nations of origin for visits, and travelling to Black plurilocal homespaces created in Canada, the Caribbean, the United States, and England. The Mavericks Cricket and Social Club (MCSC) involved sport, spectatorship, food, music, dancing, travelling, and socializing that were crucial for recreating the sense of home necessary for Black men’s survival in a city rife with interpersonal and systemic racism. The chapter outlines the ways in which cricket is an essential yet often forgotten component of Black Atlantic cultures and Canadian socio-politics The chapter describes the MCSC participants and researcher involved in this study; reviews the sociological processes of making and crossing group boundaries; and sets the context for the book by reviewing a range of literatures including the Black Atlantic and the Caribbean diaspora in Canada, studies of sporting diasporas, the narrative inquiry approach used, and the contents of the remaining book chapters.
This chapter highlights the ways diasporas form as a collectively identified community despite their dispersal to multiple sites and in the Caribbean case, multiple nations of origin. These communities are neither homogeneous nor innate; they do a lot of work to construct boundaries around themselves and in the case of the Mavericks Cricket and Social Club (MCSC) that work involves liming to recreate a sense of home. Liming is a uniquely Caribbean expression that captures the practice of socializing, listening to music, playing and watching games of cricket and dominoes, and engaging in spirited rounds of antiphonic storytelling in native Patois languages and various English accents. This chapter explores these tactics used by MCSC members to create a sense of familiarity, solidarity, security, and comfort in a racist society; to celebrate blackness and masculinity; and to assuage the fear of infirmity and mortality. Through a focus on club members’ activities before, during and after games, the chapter shows how they mark themselves as part of various bounded groups: Blacks, Afro-Caribbeans, and also a local, Canadian community.
Chapter two shows the ways the concept of transnational mobility is central to creating a deterritorialized Black Atlantic community. The Mavericks cricket and Social Club (MCSC) demonstrates that visits to the homeland are no more important than visits to other Caribbean diasporic locations to facilitate forming a cross-border community and racial identity. The chapter provides examples of Afro-Caribbean-Canadians’ travel, and their family and friend reunions, to demonstrate how transnational social networks form. The chapter describes MCSC sport tourism in their nations of origin and other Caribbean diaspora locations, and hosting visiting teams in Toronto as integral to increasing their knowledge about different black people and places and ameliorating their ability to make meaningful financial/material investments that regenerate community in multiple Black Atlantic locations. MCSC members use ‘routes’ to create plurilocal homespaces inside and outside of the Caribbean and Canada. Travelling to and hosting international cricket clubs, an often overlooked aspect of the diaspora experience, allows Afro-Caribbean-Canadians to broaden their identities.
Chapter three highlights memory making and sharing as critical processes of connecting to the past, to regional imagined communities, and to the dispersed people of the diaspora. Nostalgia involves an emotional longing with an orientation toward sharing memories of past. For members of the Mavericks Cricket and Social Club (MCSC), remembering is a political act; the past may or may not have existed as it is remembered, especially as club members age, their memories fail, and their stories merge with the stories of others. Nevertheless, their current inability to produce (in cricket, labour, financial, civil rights, or sexual terms) can be masked with stories of past potency. Important to Afro-Caribbean nostalgia is the style of oration: boasting, using verbal repetition for emphasis, and nostalgic monologues. The chapter outlines MCSC members’ stories of former poverty and childhood antics, West Indies Cricket successes and failures, and travels to places in the Caribbean, and Caribbean places in other countries. These stories appease their longing for the past and plurilocal homelands, create community in the present, and ease the pain of aging in the diaspora.
The Black Atlantic is a unified community, but it is heterogeneous. Chapter five investigates four “types” of black female club members and uses their experiences to show many of the misunderstandings, lack of translations, and disjunctures among members of the globally dispersed Afro-Caribbean diaspora. ‘Widows’ are those women who ‘lose’ their husbands to cricket every weekend through the summer. These women are among the most important club members because their absence from regular weekend games is essential for the creation of a male homosocial reputation-building space. ‘Gossipers,’ barely notice the cricket match because their time at the grounds is spent talking to and about each other, delineating respectability, values, morality, and national hierarchies. ‘Lovers’ accompany some (married) men to games, dances, and trips providing romance and friendship. ‘Supporters,’ invest in the functioning of the club by cheering, heckling, cooking, fundraising and scorekeeping among other duties. Some women perform one or all of these roles in distinct times, spaces, and contexts, but all are essential to the club and the creation of Black and Caribbean plurilocal homespaces.
In chapter five, the lateral connections between diasporas from different homelands, termed ‘diaspora space,’ helps to analyze the range of fusions and new boundaries created when people from different cultures meet. This chapter sets the history of Afro-Indo ethnic relations in the Caribbean against contemporary local municipal politics, migrant wealth, ethnic enclaves, and recreational cricket in Canada. The Mavericks rarely play with South Asian (Bangladeshi, Indian, Pakistani, and Sri Lankan) cricketers, but when they do, the interactions are vituperative and discriminatory with South Asians portrayed as invaders because they use cricket spaces to perpetuate their own cultural heritage, racial identities, and gender performances. Ethnic boundaries are sharply policed and black Caribbeans may end up alienating Indo-Caribbeans. This analysis extends the concept of the Black Atlantic beyond an inward-facing focus on shared transnational cultures and racial terror to an outward facing focus on relational boundary making and the real and symbolic violence blacks can enact.
Chapter six draws from empirical evidence to interrogate how Afro-Caribbean-Canadians embody multiple hybridized national identities, and at the same time use dominant discourses to draw boundaries around national identities that are supposedly pure. The family and friendship ties of cricketers lead them to regularly frequent their nations of origin in the Caribbean, or Caribbean spaces in United States and England. It is during these visits that they share national iconography and symbols such as a Maple Leaf pin (Canada), or curry goat (Jamaica), which is central to the attempts to fix and celebrate national boundaries and identities. The Mavericks come to know themselves as more (and sometimes less) Canadian or Barbadian through their interactions and interminglings with Barbadian players from England. The purpose of this chapter is to highlight the relationships among deterritorialized communities that share plurilocal homelands, and the interpellations of geo-political regimes whose narratives are powerful enough to embrace and alienate at the same time. This chapter shows how nation of origin and Canadian nationalisms are reinforced in transnational, diaspora spaces.
This chapter concludes this book, which concerns the Black Atlantic, a geographic region and a theoretical framework that helps to understand the experiences of a transnational racialized community, and the importance of Black people’s travel. This chapter specifies the cultural and migration flows within Canada, England, the United States, and the Caribbean, and the ways the boundaries around an Afro-Caribbean-Canadian community are made and crossed with special attention paid to race, ethnicity, and gender. In conversations about the Black Atlantic and the Caribbean diaspora, the use of recreational sport to connect migrants to the homeland and each other has been virtually ignored. This chapter shows how the entire text moves beyond the runs, wickets, bowling, and batting of cricket to draw attention to local and deterritorialized community building, transnational travel and social networks, hetero-masculinities and femininities, nostalgia of older adults, historical and contemporary Indo-Afro ethnic antagonism, and persistent national identities that constitute the Afro-Caribbean diaspora and Black identity in Canada. These complexities help us to understand how the Black Atlantic is defined both through its décalages or disjunctures – that is, who is missing or unwelcomed – and also through its unified, shared experiences and cultures.