American Ethnological Society
Oral Presentation Session
On the island of St. Croix in the unincorporated territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands, most home-hospice patients—like most residents—are Afro-Caribbean. However, sometimes, a white American is admitted onto home-hospice care on island. This was the case for Ruth, a woman who had lived in St. Croix for decades but whose family remained in the continental U.S. As Ruth’s life was coming to an end, she did not have the social or financial resources to go off-island for curative care, and none of her family came to the island to care for her. In this paper, I interrogate the aloneness that in many ways characterized the last months of Ruth’s life as a way of interrogating migration and kinship through the lens of expatriatism. Ruth’s isolation from her family was both mirrored by and physically instantiated in the geographical isolation of the small island of St. Croix, an island she had come to decades before specifically in order to escape her difficult family life. Presenting a person-centered account as an entrance to broader social processes, this paper engages broken kinship in the context of the racialized history and geopolitics between the U.S. Virgin Islands and the continental American metropole. How is the contemporary (post)colonial situation of St. Croix entangled with politics of kinship and care? This paper addresses this question through an examination of the role of race, space, and (im)mobility in creating the figure of the American expatriate in a U.S. territory.