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Volume 55 / Social Sciences

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS: THE CARIBBEAN AND THE GUIANAS


DAMIAN FERNANDEZ, Associate Professor of International Relations, Florida International University
JACQUELINE ANNE BRAVEBOY-WAGNER, Professor of Political Science, The City College and The Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York

DUE TO THE INCREASE IN RESEARCH and publications on the Caribbean area, this volume introduces a new contributing editor to share responsibilities for this chapter. Damián Fernández will continue to cover the general works on the area and scholarship on the three Latin islands of Cuba, Hispaniola (including Haiti and the Dominican Republic) and Puerto Rico, while Jacqueline Braveboy-Wagner will examine publications on the English-speaking islands as well as The Guianas and the smaller island nations.

GENERAL AND HISPANIC CARIBBEAN

The increased number of works on the region as a whole as well as on the Hispanic Caribbean attests to the growing emphasis on this field of study in the post-Cold War era. The extent of professional interest in this region may surprise some, but is indicative of the area's importance outside of traditional geostrategic considerations as well as proof of the large number of experts working on the Caribbean. Still, a growth in quantity does not necessarily mean growth in quality.

The criteria applied to include and annotate articles or books herein were as follows: 1) primary documents that could serve as sources for future research; 2) works on neglected topics and/ or subjects on which there is either a dearth of information, even in cases where the analysis is mostly routine (e.g., studies of Haitian and Dominican foreign relations, on the basis that future research will be well served by these annotated works); and 3) the quality of the scholarship, in terms of sound and/or original methodology and new light shed on a topic. Unfortunately, exemplary works of scholarship are few. One notable exception is Harold Dana Sims' article on US policy (item bi 93005430) toward the pre-Castro leftist labor movement in Cuba.

It would seem that three topics command the most attention from researchers: 1) the international political economy (e.g., the Caribbean Basin Initiative and the impact of North American integration on the region); 2) foreign policy studies, with Cuba leading the way as the most studied case in the region and perhaps in Latin America as a whole; and 3) the role of the US. Overall, however, one theme underlies most scholarship in the region and that is the interconnections between domestic and international politics.

Such a perspective, however, has not led scholars to apply postmodern approaches to the study of the international politics of the region. While the postmodern point of view is leaving its mark on the overall field of international relations, in our region the discipline is still dominated by traditional paradigms. In that sense we continue to lag behind now, as in the past. An emerging and welcome trend is the avoidance, on the part of scholars and writers, of the most polemical and overtly ideological approaches - either from simplistic neomarxist or new-right perspectives - which have dominated much of the literature since the 1950s. [DJF]

NON-HISPANIC CARIBBEAN

That the literature on the international relations of the non-Hispanic Caribbean has grown quantitatively is a healthy development. Unfortunately, the dearth of theoretical studies continues and, if anything, theory seems to have been abandoned altogether in favor of descriptive and, in particular, prescriptive approaches. One notable exception in this regard is Michael Erisman's work (item bi 94011317). To some extent, this is the inevitable consequence of the changes in the international system, given the fact that the 1990s are a time of strategic reassessment for both policymakers and scholars. But the result of this prescriptive preoccupation is a spate of studies that are very similar in tone and content and that contribute little to the long-term evolution of the field.

On the other hand, the end of the Cold War and the rise of international economic and social preoccupations have given impetus to research in areas other than the geopolitical sphere that so preoccupied scholars in the 1970s-80s. Although security studies are still in plentiful supply, even the most traditional now include some discussion of broader issues, for example narcotics trafficking or environmental issues, exemplified by studies such as Ivelaw Griffith's work (items bi 93024530) and Andrés Serbín's compilation (item bi 95023259).

Not surprisingly, the early 1990s are also witnessing a spurt of studies on economic trends and policies, especially various aspects of integration and free trade. While most studies are rather general, a few are notable for their detail and specialized analysis as evident in Guillermo Hillcoat and Carlos Quenan's publication (item bi 94008322) and the compilation edited by Hilbourne Watson (item bi 94011369).

A number of historical retrospectives have been written, resulting in some insightful backward glances at the role of the US in the Caribbean (Fraser, item bi 94004382); the breakup of the West Indies Federation (Wallace, bi 94008442); and - of particular interest - the role of the Jamaican left in the 1950s (Munroe, item bi 94011360).

Finally, while the general thematic literature is expanding, there are still few studies that deal either specifically or inclusively with Suriname (only one work annotated below, item bi 94011324). Haiti, with only five works included below, is also underrepresented, despite recent crises experienced by that country, events that usually trigger an outpouring of publications. Also noticeable is the dearth of in-depth studies of Guyana.

To conclude, the publication of informative studies on new themes in international relations is a highly positive development. However, the disregard for theory and the neglect of certain areas remain as serious problems. Without theory, Caribbean international relations is less of a scholarly pursuit than a sort of coincidental categorization of a region. [JAB-W]


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