Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geography and Anthropology

Document Type



In the last decade, transnational migration research has gained considerable ground in geography. There is still more to be done, however, in order to understand the complex relationship between migrants and the lands they leave behind. The island of Barbuda in the Lesser Antilles is the ideal place to study the larger issues of transnational migration on a smaller scale, particularly research that focuses on both migration and land tenure. Barbudan land tenure is common property, something that was in practice for more than a century and formalized into law in January of 2008. Because of this particular system of land tenure on the island, this dissertation contributes not only to the transnational-migration literature but also that of common property, especially the broader themes of migration’s impacts on common property regimes as well as communal-land tenures in transition. Through a variety of methodologies, which include interviews, participant observation, archival research, and mental mapping, I suggest that Barbudan communal lands have undergone tremendous changes over the last three decades as the island’s economy has shifted away from livestock and subsistence agriculture. Yet even despite these changes, Barbudans are still creatively negotiating their land rights just as they have always done. During this transition, Barbudans have accommodated the migratory nature of the islanders, insisting that any study of the Barbudan commons also include the historical and present-day role of migrants as it relates to the land. Through archival research, I highlight how Barbudan migrants have sought to protect the land tenure and how they are making use of those land rights today. Through mental mapping and follow-up interviews, I show generational difference among land-use practices but more importantly, I promote the use of mental mapping as an essential methodology for migration research. In the latter two chapters, I explore the complexity of Barbuda’s transnational spaces in part pushing the bounds of migrant experiences through the theoretical offerings of emotional geographies. Finally, I argue that transnational migration researchers have generally underestimated the agency of migrants utilizing “slower” forms of communication in facilitating complex connections through what I contend is a transnational communicative space.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Sluyter, Andrew