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Volume 53 / Social Sciences


West Indies

LAMBROS COMITAS, Gardner Cowles Professor of Anthropology and Education, Teachers College, Columbia University; Director, Research Institute for the Study of Man

THIS SECTION INCLUDES PUBLICATIONS in sociocultural anthropology dealing with the Caribbean archipelago, The Guianas, Belize, and the several West Indian cultural enclaves located in other parts of the Caribbean mainland. Four-fifths of the section comprises annotations of publications dealing with the following countries or dependencies: Antigua, Barbados, Barbuda, Belize, Costa Rica, Cuba, Curaçao, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Martinique, Nevis, Tobago. The remaining publications deal with the Caribbean in either regional or sub-regional terms. During this biennium, the territories or units receiving the most attention were, in order: the Caribbean in general, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica. As usual, publications cited in this section cover a very wide range of subject matter. Therefore, for the reader's convenience, I have categorized below most of the included publications into several broad, overlapping classes.


Interest in theoretical issues has surged over the past two years, particularly as they relate to our understanding of the nature of West Indian society. In this general class, I list publications dealing with reviews or critiques of anthropological theory, those that emphasize the use of particular theoretical perspectives, and those that focus on questions of group identity. For examples of overarching reviews, see Trouillot on the Caribbean as a theoretical open frontier (item bi 93008261), Carnegie on native social science in the English-speaking Caribbean (item bi 93004014), Vertovec on East Indians and anthropologists (item bi 93008268), and Yawney on Rastafari women and research (item bi 93008311). For book-length, ethnographic treatments of issues or institutions ultimately related to questions of theory, see Douglass on the dynamics of Jamaican upper-class families (item bi 92014228) and Williams on the reproduction of social cleavages in Guyana (item bi 93008192). The ongoing debate over pluralism and plural society theory continues unabated. See, for example, M.G. Smith's own version of the development of the pluralism concept and its relation to social stratification (item bi 93007858) and his long essay which offers a precise definition of pluralism as well as case studies on pluralism, politics, and ideology in the Creole Caribbean (item bi 93008172). See also Robotham's critique of Smith's corporation theory (item bi 93007869), and Best's tribute to Smith (item bi 93007223). For varying uses made of this perspective at a more or less ethnographic level, see Stewart on ethnic image and ideology in a Trinidadian village (item bi 93008202), Dew on ethnic politics in Suriname (item bi 93007336), and Purcell on transformation and inequality in Limón, Costa Rica (see HLAS 51:727).


Caribbean anthropology has long been ambivalent in its use of history and historical perspective. However, a number of publications with diachronic dimensions cited in this section testify to the growing interest in and value of history for anthropologists. See, for example, Davis and Goodwin on Island Carib origins (item bi 93003022), Whitehead on Carib soldiering in the Caribbean (item bi 93008269), González on Carib militarism (item bi 91009031), and Hulme on Amerindians in European discourse (item bi 93007441). More significantly, anthropological contributions to Surinamese history continue to escalate. In this regard, see the work of Richard and Sally Price as editors of Stedman's Surinam (item bi 93008188) and Richard Price's Alabi's world (item bi 93007772). For more on Suriname, see Hoogbergen on the history of the Maroons and the origins of the Kwinti Maroons (items bi 93007435 and bi 93007437), Rosemary Brana-Shute on legal resistance to slavery (item bi 93007211), Lamur on slave religion (item bi 93007532), and Hoefte on the resistance of indentured laborers (item bi 93007433). Morrissey's book on slave women and gender stratification deals with the region as a whole (item bi 93007764), as do Mintz and Price in their reissue of An anthropological approach to the Afro-American past (item bi 93007589). Trouillot's article deals with free people of color in Dominica and St. Domingue (item bi 93008262), McDaniel with a Grenadian "free mulatto" family (item bi 93007565), Olwig with Methodism and 19th-century Afro-Nevisians (item bi 91010390), Moberg with the alcalde system and the Garifuna (item bi 93007740), Desmangles with Maroon republics in Haiti (item bi 92001903), Chamberlain with the Barbadian plantation tenantry system (item bi 93007236), and Besson with the development of free Afro-West Indian communities (item bi 93007199).


Interest by anthropologists in lower class West Indian socioeconomics remains high. For Jamaica, see Drori and Gayle on youth employment strategies (item bi 93007350), Powell et al. on Kingston street foods (item bi 93007768), and LeFranc on Kingston higglers (item bi 93007540). Laguerre deals with urban poverty in Martinique (item bi 93007530), while Valdés-Pizzini analyzes Puerto Rican fishermen associations and critically reviews Caribbean coastal/maritime anthropology (items bi 93008263 and bi 93008264). For Belize, Moberg examines the loss of rural food self-sufficiency (item bi 93007748), socioeconomic change in Stann Creek district (item bi 93007591), and resistance and hegemony in the citrus industry (item bi 93007640). Miller discusses consumption and culture in Trinidad (item bi 93007576). For studies of issues or institutions closely linked to socioeconomics, see Georges' book on the impact of migration on a community in the Dominican Republic (item bi 93007360) and Grasmuck and Pessar's interdisciplinary study of Dominican international migration (item bi 93007414). See also Barrow's article on family land in St. Lucia (item bi 93007178), Young's on household structure in St. Vincent (item bi 93007863), Rubinstein's reply to Young (item bi 93008118), and Lerch and Levy's analysis of success in the Barbados tourist industry (item bi 93007544).

Three book-length works on women in the Caribbean appeared during the report period; see Handwerker on women's power in Barbados (item bi 93007416), Senior on women's lives in the English-speaking Caribbean (item bi 93008163), and Morrissey, cited above, on slave women. Georges' article studies women in a transnational community in the Dominican Republic (item bi 93007359), Gordon investigates changes in women's work in post-war Jamaica (item bi 93007411), and Lazarus-Black reveals women's use of the Antiguan magistrate's court (item bi 91007837). Finally, Sargent and Harris explore gender ideology in Jamaica (item bi 93003696), Dann and Potter the topic of sex- and race-typing in Barbados (item bi 93007311), and Chernela examines the Garifuna couvade (item bi 91009129).

Klass' book studies East Indian religious practices in Trinidad (item bi 93007528). For Sai Baba, see Mahabir and Maharaj's article on Hindu elements in Shango (item bi 93007563). Jha has written a short history of Hinduism in Trinidad (item bi 93007526). Chevannes explores Rastafari and racism in Jamaica (item bi 93007238), seeing Rastafarianism as a cultural continuity. For a useful dictionary and sourcebook on Rastafari and reggae, see Mulvaney (item bi 93007765). Murphy (item bi 93007766) and Brandon (item bi 93007212) cover various aspects of santería.

The four book-length works on popular culture include Rohlehr's on calypso and Trinidadian society (item bi 93007860), a collection of essays entitled Caribbean popular culture (item bi 93007225), a special edition of Caribbean Quarterly entitled Konnu and Carnival: Caribbean Festival Arts (item bi 93007529), and the republication of Trinidad carnival (item bi93-8244). Other publications include Neil on the steel band in Laventille (item bi 93007767), Miller on a new Trinidadian dance form (item bi 93007569), and Maurer's critical analysis of the literature on Afro-Caribbean dance (item bi 92002890).

The many publications on a single racial or ethnic group in the Caribbean demonstrate both historical and contemporary concerns. In fact, most of the publications annotated for this section of the Handbook could have easily been listed in this category. In any case, for additional material on Afro-West Indians, see Lewis on the African dynamic in Trinidadian culture (item bi 93008190), Elder on African survivals in Trinidad and Tobago (item bi 93007358), and Stone on the Afro-Caribbean in Central America (item bi 93008238). For more material on Surinamese populations see Thoden van Velzen on the current civil war (item bi 93008242), Gary Brana-Shute on social science research and electoral politics (items bi 93007200 and bi 93007210), Richard and Sally Price on Saramaka lifeways (item bi 93007773), Magaña on the Carib speaking Kaliña (items bi 91000770, bi 91000771, and bi 93007548), and Wolfowitz on language style in Surinamese Javanese (item bi 93008198). For East Indians, see Moutoussamy's study of contemporary life in the French West Indies (item bi 93007778) and Ehrlich on two dissimilar East Indian populations in Jamaica (item bi 93007356).

The deaths of Gordon Lewis, Derek Gordon, and M.G. Smith during this reporting period are sadly noted. All three were eminent social scientists and major contributors to our understanding of West Indian life. Their passing marks the end of a glorious chapter in Caribbean studies.

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