UCL Institute of the Americas


Whiteness and Weddings in the 'Post'-Colonial, Neo-liberal Economies of the Caribbean

18 January 2017, 5:30 pm

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UCL Institute of the Americas


UCL Institute of the Americas, 51 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PN


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(Birmingham City University) - In the contemporary neoliberal context, where the princess bride is a privileged consumer citizen, the destination white wedding is a niche product for the tourist industry, and the Caribbean is a particularly popular destination, fulfilling 'Western ideas of [paradise and] a romantic other' (C. M. Hall and Tucker 2004: 10). Operating in the global market place, companies such as Sandals actively sell the Caribbean as a paradise destination and attainable luxury, through interactive web sites and high-quality glossy brochures.
This paper will discuss destination weddings in the Caribbean as a lens through which to explore issues of gender, race, and colonial relations in the neoliberal context. It assesses the discourses created by the tourist industry and disseminated through the global media, which appear to reaffirm traditional gender positions and resurrect colonial relations by perpetuating narratives of blackness as servitude and the Caribbean as unproblematic paradise.

The packaging of the region as an elite white space for the staging of beach weddings creates a 'new white aesthetic [that] encourages classed, gendered and racialized identities to be valorized, procured and maintained within new global conditions' (Wilkes, 2016: 7). Thus, the destination white wedding offers a lens through which to understand the privileging of whiteness, and the operations of neoliberalism that maintain historical 'system(s) of rule' (Hall, 1996b: 254) in this 'post' colonial period.

Karen Wilkes is Lecturer in Sociology at Birmingham City University. Her interdisciplinary research on visual texts explores the formation and representation of gender, class, sexuality, and race in historical and contemporary visual culture and her book Whiteness, Weddings and Tourism in the Caribbean: Paradise for Sale, was published in September 2016. She has also published chapters and articles including 'From the Landscape to the White Female Body' (in Lester and Scarles [eds.] Mediating the Tourist Experience, 2013); 'Whiteness and Postcolonial Luxury'(Michael and Schultz [eds.] Unsettling Whiteness, 2014); and 'Colluding with Neoliberalism: post-feminist subjectivities, whiteness and expressions of entitlement' (Feminist Review July 2015).