"Coming to this Caribbean mecca": The role of place in knowledge construction among Trinbagonian migrants in Brooklyn.

Open Access
Campbell, Kimeka Georeen
Graduate Program:
Adult Education
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
April 18, 2014
Committee Members:
  • Fred Michael Schied, Dissertation Advisor/Co-Advisor
  • Esther Susana Prins, Committee Chair/Co-Chair
  • Kenneth Tamminga, Committee Member
  • Davin Jules Carr Chellman, Committee Member
  • place
  • space
  • adult education
  • Trinidad
  • Tobago
  • informal learning
  • Brooklyn
  • cultural historical activity theory
ABSTRACT The journeys of African Caribbean migrants from the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago in Brooklyn, New York frame this study. I structured a critical placed-based pedagogical (CPBP) inquiry through a cultural-historical ethnographic snapshot (Janzen, 2005) to analyze how migrants used place between Trinidad and Tobago and Brooklyn to construct knowledge and reinvent place. I collected data as I lived as an insider-researcher in the Caribbean neighborhood of Lefferts Gardens in Brooklyn. Qualitative analysis included examining data through narrative methods (Riesmann, 1993) and conducting grounded thought-by-thought coding (Charmaz, 2008) of data to build phenomenological thematic data structures to unearth activities in participants’ migrant experiences. From these, the outcomes of constructing knowledge using a cultural, historical activity theoretical framework (CHAT) are cast as experiences in place that occur as the subject works to achieve an evolving motive-object. In this study, the main motive-object of participants was reinventing Trinbagonian culture in Brooklyn. Participants reported significant place dissonance once in Brooklyn, which signaled the first signs of tensions in constructing knowledge. Their experiences specified various motive-objects that participants deemed important to navigating their new lives in Brooklyn. From the analysis of these motive-objects, nine activities emerged across data: Reconciling Skin Color and Race, Being Trinbagonian in Brooklyn, Traveling Between Countries, Cooking Cultural Foods, Hosting Fetes, Maintaining Local Limes, Navigating Marital and Spousal Changes, Caribbean Business Ownership, and Carnival Participation. The main findings are that Trinbagonians use tools from Trinidad and Tobago in Brooklyn to first prove personhood and authenticate culture in the process of reinventing place in Brooklyn. Second, the vital life knowledge of “marginalized” cultural groups can be unearthed using a critical place-based cultural, historical approach that is observable and understandable. Third, informal critical place-based adult learning approaches must centralize the perspective of subjects to appropriately to understand related activities. Accordingly, the significance of perspective was reinforced throughout the study to preserve subject perspective as central in adult learning and adult. The study concludes that the work of transferring and transposing information through transnational and translocal places constitutes a fundamental place-based pedagogy. This place-based pedagogy can be consciously and geographically located from the perspective of participants in any place where knowledge people construct knowledge. Cultural historical activity as pedagogical practice is different from formal pedagogies that, while valuable, restrict knowing and knowledge to the structures of schooling and training. Formal learning structures in a society privilege the gaze and perspective of the dominant culture for affirmation and validation, consequently teaching subjects to do the same. Thus facilitators of informal, incidental knowledge construction in various settings must incorporate critical place-based informal adult learning and knowledge construction inquiries in quotidian practice. These inquiries honor the perspective of subjects as central to living successfully in translocational (Brown, 2007) and transnational places and provide the appropriate framework and tools to evaluate knowledge experiences.