Her personal history, worldview and some classroom inspiration shaped Kaygon Finakin ’19’s summer research project. She is examining the role of international institutions in the continued exploitation, oppression and underdevelopment of a number of Caribbean countries.
Finakin’s focus is Barbados, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Jamaica, where she was born and lived until she was 10. Now Finakin lives in the Bronx, visiting Jamaica with her family every year. With each trip back, it seems to Finakin that the economy and living conditions have declined. Her aspiration is to move to back to Jamaica someday to work for improvements at a policy-making level.
She has outlined a broad plan to make that happen: earn a graduate degree, build career experience in the U.S., then take what she’s learned to Jamaica, which she still considers home. With that in mind, Finakin majored in world politics with a concentration in poverty and underdevelopment.
Major: World Politics
Hometown: Bronx, New York City
High School: DeWitt Clinton
The classroom inspiration for her summer research came from documentaries she watched and discussed in an Africana studies course. One film addressed how Jamaica fell into debt after gaining independence, and the other looked at “pseudo slavery” of Haitians who work in the Dominican Republic’s sugar industry. They influenced her choice of major as well as her summer research.
Working with Associate Professor of Africana Studies Nigel Westmaas, Finakin is investigating the region’s poverty, underdevelopment and possible policies to foster improvement. The project is funded by a grant from Hamilton’s Levitt Center. By summer’s end, Finakin doesn’t expect to have found clear solutions but she may have developed ideas about steps to take.
“I’m looking at a lot of existing research. I don’t plan to interview anyone, but I do plan to look at the work of political actors in the region or previous political actors in the region and understand what they want versus what they’ve been given in the international system since independence. So understanding the interests and the interactions is the biggest goal,” Finakin explains.