Mimi Sheller

Andrew W. Mellon Regional Fellow in the Humanities

20102011 Forum on Virtuality

Mimi Sheller

Professor, Sociology, Drexel University

Virtual Caribbeans: Inventing Island Edens, Economies, and Elsewheres

New software-supported “hybrid” spatialities can be said to mix materiality (physical worlds) and virtuality (digital worlds) not only in contexts of advanced metropolitan urbanism, but also in remote Caribbean islands and other geographically peripheral regions. Rather than assuming that there are “digital ghettoes” of disconnectivity, this project seeks to explore the differential and disjunctive ways in which software is recoding, re-scaling, and re-mediating island space, assembling islands into new configurations of territoriality, (im)mobilities, and governance. This includes the complex transnational assemblages of material and virtual interventions mobilized in the recent response to the earthquake in Haiti. Paying attention to virtually-augmented islands and Caribbean “information territories” offers a key terrain for thinking about the contemporary respatialization of Caribbean states, islands, and territories. This project will examine three aspects of the Virtual Caribbean: 1) Virtual Edens: the tourism and leisure destinations that are being disembedded from national territories and repackaged as virtual-natural enclaves connected to global metropolitan transport, media, and data flows; 2) Virtual Economies: the imaginary “offshore” economies that function as deregulated in-between realms of digitized financial transactions and cyber-property, interstitial zones that are both within and without the state; and 3) Virtual Diasporas: the emergence of the online virtual Caribbean as a site of citizenship and participation, which is bridging localities and international communities in new ways.