American Culture Studies Ph.D. Dissertations


"It's not just about giving them money": Cultural Representations of Father Involvement Among Black West Indian Immigrants in the United States of America

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Culture Studies

First Advisor

Vibha Bhalla (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Apollos Nwawa (Other)

Third Advisor

Ellen Berry (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Radhika Gajjala (Committee Member)


The current project examined the meanings of father involvement among black West Indian immigrant males and females (19-81 years old) who are lawful/legal permanent residents living in the United States (U.S.). Subsequent investigations explored the role race/ethnicity and migration played in producing and reproducing cultural meanings and understandings of father involvement, as an aspect of the immigrants' identity creation.

The issues of father involvement, especially among black migrant West Indians are important because work on Caribbean migration is feminized. Next, knowledge of black West Indian immigrant fathers and how they father in this new cultural space is not given much interest since all black fathers in the U.S. are seemingly placed into a preconceived racial category which carries very strong negative connotations. Lastly, black white dichotomization characterizes race relation in the U.S., but fails to take into consideration that blacks across the Diaspora are themselves a diverse group of people and as such, ethnic differences (West Indian immigrants and African Americans) and not across groups differences (black, white) need to be assessed.

Using racialogy and racial consciousness frameworks from Omi and Winant, and Roediger, I utilized survey responses and in-depth interviews from a diverse socio-economic group of West Indian immigrants at various sites across the U.S. to assess the issues of father involvement. I found that black West Indian migrants in the U.S. defined father involvement in holistic terms; financial provider, friend, educational instructor, life coach, and so on. The role of fathering was not limited to just childhood but continues until the father or child passed away. Father involvement was not confined to a household and is understood as a community behavior.

Migration and racial self-perception have profound effects on male immigrants' perceptions of fathering and plays an integral role in how they create and recreate their identities as immigrants. Religious attitudes from the home country also influenced how West Indian immigrants defined father involvement. Examinations of generational status did not reveal significant differences in responses.