How does ethnic identity manifest among contemporary second-generation West Indian youth? In this essay I argue that the ethnic identities of post-1990s second-generation West Indian youth in Brooklyn are best characterized as “hybrid identities.” Diaspora communities like the one created by West Indian immigrants in Brooklyn provide ideal conditions for the development of hybrid identities, the fusion of two or more cultures coexisting in a single individual (Smith and Leavy, 2008). In addition to the question already posed, this paper will explicate how second-generation West Indian youth experience, make sense of and express the inherent complexity of identities that emerge from living in a hybrid cultural space. My analyses are based on the premise that there is something new and different about the way in which second-generation West Indian youth today conceptualize their ethnic identities (Richards, 2007) as opposed to their representation in publications based on the Brooklyn West Indian experience in the 1980s and early1990s (Waters, 2001, Zephir, 2001). Most prominent among them is the work of Waters (2001) who described a cultural disconnect between most working class West Indian youth and their immigrant parents. Waters, (2001) and others predict that the greater salience of ethnicity among middle class youth would rapidly erode, much like their working class counterparts, as racial discrimination became a more prominent fixture in the lives of these young people (Waters, 2001; Portes and Rumbaut, 2001; Kasinitz, Battle and Miyares, 2001).

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Copyright © 2008 Brill Publishers. This book chapter first appeared in Hybrid Identities: Theoretical and Empirical Examinations, By Keri E. Iyall Smith and Patricia Leavy, 265-289. Boston: MA, 2008.

The definitive version is available at: Brill Publishers

Full Citation:

Richards, Bedelia Nicola. "Hybrid Identities in the Diaspora: Second-generation West Indians in Brooklyn." In Hybrid Identities: Theoretical and Empirical Examinations, edited by Keri E. Iyall Smith and Patricia Leavy, 265-89. Boston, MA: Brill Publishers, 2008.