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Volume 57 / Social Sciences

SOCIOLOGY: THE CARIBBEAN AND THE GUIANAS


BENIGNO E. AGUIRRE-LOPEZ, Professor, Department of Sociology, Texas A&M University


AN IMPORTANT THEME in recent literature on the Caribbean region is pan-national cultural, social and political integration, illustrated by reports showing the continuing problems in the West Indies (item bi 95021245) and in the Caribbean (items bi 95021262 and bi 95021280). One complexity of integration is the anomalous status of Cuba, the largest island country in the region, which, despite its many efforts, has been largely excluded from regional integration. Studies of the region’s relations with the US continue to thrive. Particularly noteworthy among reports of these international exchanges are the issue of economic remittances of transnational Caribbean communities in the US (item bi 96009567), the expansion and impact of Cuban and Caribbean religions into the US (item bi 95005879), the growing importance in the Caribbean of Pentecostalism (item bi 94009368), and the influence of US immigration and drug policies (item bi 96024830). Unintended effects of economic adjustment policies from these international exchanges are the aggravation of ethnic antagonisms and political instability (item bi 94006263). Despite optimism in the region for the promise of democracy and free enterprise, research shows the devastating effects of chronic and pervasive poverty aggravated by austerity programs of international monetary agencies. Other topics of interest to regional specialists are urbanization processes and their links to macroeconomic forces (item bi 95021274) and life chances and survival strategies of women (items bi 96003530 and bi 96005882).

Cuba continues to attract a significant portion of the attention of specialists, although there is a greater emphasis on other countries of the region. African religious expressions in Cuba attract considerable research attention (item bi 95015118). Recent research often carried out in Cuba expresses a welcome and much needed willingness to analyze the social costs of continuing with the present government. Information about effects of the economic crisis which began in 1989 and of the government programs created to alleviate its effects are available. Studies documenting demographic impacts are particularly worthwhile (item bi 95021135), including a drop in national fertility indices from already comparatively low levels (item bi 94009215), a decline in health and educational benefits (item bi 95001413), two often-mentioned achievements of the revolutionary government (items bi 95012048 and bi 96024835), labor market dislocations (item bi 94007592), a resurgence and changing nature of organized religion (items bi 94010258 and bi 94010260) and efforts of artists and intellectuals to chart a new course (items bi 95004852 and bi 96013695). The growing recognition that racism persists in Cuba is also important (items bi 96024836 and bi 96023370). For too long, the revolutionary dogma declared all social inequality as the result of social class exploitation rather than racist discriminatory practices. Fortunately, this assumption has been largely abandoned. Likewise, the significant topic of political centralization and the failures of the present government’s policies designed to strengthen local governments have also received careful treatment (item bi 96003522). Among the top scholarship are studies enhancing understanding Cuban culture centered on the meaning and practice of citizenship (item bi 96009798); the influence of black people on Cuban culture and society (item bi 95021279); and the experience of exile, an ever-present reality in imagining the Cuban nation (item bi 96013756).

The nature of Puerto Rican national culture and identity continues to attract research attention. The celebrated interpretation of José Luis González is included here (item bi 95021275). One work explores the relationship between national culture and politics (item bi 94010207). Migration to and from the US may become a politically controversial topic as many well-trained Puerto Rican workers may move to the US since the US Congress annulled special tax advantages for US corporations doing business on the island. This is sure to have devastating consequences for the Puerto Rican economy (items bi 95021289, bi 95018970, and bi 94009012). A welcome research theme is the ecology of San Juan (item bi 95021252). Hopefully, more work on human ecology will be forthcoming. Studies of places such as the beautiful Bay of Mayagüez decimated by industry are still needed. Other topics in need of greater research attention are illegal land occupation by the poor (item bi 96003518) and crimes of passion. One recent innovative research effort conceptualizes crime in Puerto Rico from the perspective of social power, both at the macro or structural and micro or interpersonal levels of analyses (item bi 95021277). The project explores the roots of crime in colonial and sexist relationships. A new and unusual research topic is the Cuban community in Puerto Rico and the controversial characterization of the subnationality as a middleman minority (item bi 96004904).

The nature and change of the national political system and economic crisis dominates scholarship on the Dominican Republic. Studies of the impact of the economic crisis on family life and on marriage and other forms of intimate relations are included (item bi 96022740). Research on women and street children documents chronic poverty and the government’s indifference to their plight (items bi 96005368, bi 94009249, and bi 96025435). The lasting remnants of “caudillismo,” a long standing political tradition antedating R. Trujillo’s government militating against the establishment of democracy, received extended analysis (items bi 96024831 and bi 96007769). Balaguer’s waning influence and the recent presidential elections may augur the beginning of yet another epoch in Dominican politics. One promising line of research is on social movement organizations, documenting how the mass of the people organize and attempt to change political and economic power to better reflect their needs (item bi 95005124). Research has demonstrated the lack of effective public health programs (item bi 95021287). The “Haitian question,” or the meaning and effects of Haitian immigration for the culture and society of the Dominican Republic, continues to attract attention (item bi 95005125; see also HLAS 56:1984), which is also the case for migration. Results of national surveys of internal (item bi 95021254) and international (item bi 95021253) migrants, first-hand accounts of illegal emigration to Puerto Rico and subsequently to the US (item bi 95021266), and a demographic profile of Dominicans in Puerto Rico (item bi 96022714) are now available.

There is comparatively slightly greater research interest in Haiti which provides support for the desired improvement of social science research and adds to our understanding of Haitian society. Major themes are the analysis of the continuing impact of the legacies of the Duvalier period on present-day political processes (items bi 96010839 and bi 96020330), class formations (item bi 96005604), and the difficulty of establishing a democratic polity (items bi 96003520 and bi 96024832). The current legal system has come under scrutiny, particularly in its inability to protect the rights of women and children (items bi 96025147, bi 96025142 and bi 96025137). Also worthwhile in the recent scholarship are the works on Haitian legends and myths (item bi 95021271) and the impact of internal migration on urban culture (item bi 96005601).

In Jamaica, scholarship on the Rastafari Movement continues to thrive (item bi 96011618). Lewis’ recent book-length monograph is an important addition to this burgeoning literature, showing the Rastafari experience in the US, its symbols, and its material culture (item bi 97006714). Other studies examine the internationalization of the movement (items bi 95004077 and bi 95005878). The report of a national task force charged with examining crime and the fear of crime was published (item bi 95021264), as was a monograph on the subject (item bi 96003519). Both argue for a structural understanding of crime behavior as caused by poverty. Other significant research includes an extended argument on how best to preserve Jamaican culture (item bi 95021268), an exploration of Jamaican women’s identity (item bi 94015562), and an investigation of the determinants of the use of health care services (item bi 95021248). The use of theater as a tool for stopping violence against women is one of the most interesting documented efforts to solve this important problem (item bi 95007766).

Other island nations in the Caribbean are also represented in recent scholarship, including a social history of the people of Guadeloupe (item bi 95021286) and Guyana (item bi 96008443). A biography of Walter Rodney offers in-depth coverage of his relationship with the government of Guyana (item bi 95021257). One important research effort is a collection of articles on social history of the Bahamas (item bi 95021263). Work on Barbados examines crime (item bi 95018921), television viewing habits (item bi 95018950), gender stereotypes (item bi 95018943), the continuation of racism during the post independence period (item bi 94008453), and typical experiences of immigrants in England (item bi 96008444). A similar study examines the experiences of immigrants from Guyana in France (item bi 96010840). Grenada’s political system and its recent revolutionary transformation are the topics of recent scholarship (items bi 95018922 and bi 96010052), as is the grassroots movements in Dominica (item bi 95018946). Family land tenure in St. Lucia is the topic of two monographs (items bi 95021285 and bi 94015199). In Trinidad and Tobago, the results of the 1990 census have been published (item bi 95021255), and other important contributions examine the carnival as a vehicle for social change (item bi 94009054), the history of Chinese immigration (item bi 96003527), and the assimilation of Indian immigrants and the function of religion in structuring the Indian community (items bi 96004903 and bi 95021283).


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