[Home] [Current Tables of Contents]

[ HLAS Online Home Page | Search HLAS Online | Help | FAQ | Comments ]


Volume 59 / Social Sciences

SOCIOLOGY: THE CARIBBEAN AND THE GUIANAS


BENIGNO E. AGUIRRE-LOPEZ, Professor, Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, University of Delaware


RECENT RESEARCH ON THE CARIBBEAN REGION shows growth and increased maturity. Among the most important published works for the region is the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) report on the institution of the family and its future, which includes extensive coverage of rural and urban families, poverty, and intrafamily relations and the private sphere of life (item #bi 97015902#; see also item #bi2002000811#). Escalante Herrera surveys the participation of women in the process of economic development, their uneven success in political mobilization, and their uneasy relation to power (item #bi 98005096#; see also item #bi 98008917#). Also of particular interest is the research on recent changes in religious identification (item #bi 97004196#) and urbanization (item #bi 97016841#). Finally, Brown et al. examine with great rigor what is known and not known about fathers in the Caribbean (item #bi 98008916#).

For the West Indies, we now have useful summaries of the literature on Caribbean culture by Reddock, and from Bolland, an insightful historical comparative account of mechanisms of labor regulation and racial domination in the postslavery period (items #bi 98012810# and #bi 98012808#, respectively).

Other publications center on the legal and cultural context of legitimacy in the British Caribbean (item #bi 97008382#), the analysis of criminal sentencing in Barbados (item #bi 97008770#); and the educational system (item #bi 98002513#), juvenile justice (item #bi 97008769#) and domestic violence in Trinidad and Tobago (item #bi 97008762#). Particularly thorough and candid is the Barbadian government's Report to the UN Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China, in September 1995 documenting significant female inequality in the sharing of power and decision making, the absence of mechanisms to promote the advancement of women, and their poverty and diminished life chances (item #bi 98000183#).

For Jamaica, we now have a new study of the social organization of criminals (item #bi 97008765#). Unfortunately, Haiti continues to attract little research attention. The exception is the detailed study of urban growth in Port-au-Prince (item #bi 97016843#).

Among the most significant monographs written in Cuba during the last few years is Rodríguez's Los Chinos en Cuba, published by the Fundación Fernando Ortiz (item #bi 98013574#). It is a well-written work of great scope and erudition, based on standard qualitative methods and substantial fieldwork. Among its many strengths is the analysis of the social organization of the ethnic community, especially its voluntary associations (sociedades), public celebrations and festivities, clan and family system, and culture such as writing, dance, opera, and theater. It also includes very interesting information about black and Chinese intergroup relationships, such as the practice of mixed marriage. Surprisingly, it lacks a conclusion relating its findings to the existing literature on transculturation in the Caribbean. For others interested in the Chinese experience in the Caribbean, Bryan's work on Jamaica could provide the basis for a comparative understanding of the ethnic group (item #bi 98008912#).

Much useful information is available from Cuba for those willing to read between the lines. The by now sizeable literature on Afro-Cuban religions is enriched by Matibag's master synthesis and interpretation (item #bi 97015984#; see also items #bi 98000178# and #bi 97015973#). His monograph includes a chapter on Afro-Cuban religion and revolution. It traces the evolution of government religious policy, from outright repression to the "folklorization" of African religions, providing a very important contribution to our understanding of contemporary Cuba.

As in the past, the institution of the Cuban family continues to attract research attention (items #bi 98000176# and #bi 97015880#). For those interested in Cuban society in general, Montiel's work presents the most up-to-date demographic information for the 1990s (item #bi 97005999#), while a population history is found in item #bi 97011519#. Not surprisingly, the contemporary crisis in Cuba is the basis of much recent scholarship. Among the most interesting is an assessment of the problems of young people (item #bi 97011523#). Other documents present useful information on increasing religious participation (item #bi 97011527#), and on HIV-infected persons (item #bi 97011529#).

Finally, research attention to Cuban emigration continues with the analysis of the adaptation of Cubans in Jamaica (item #bi 98006627#) and Spain (item #bi 98004048#), as well as a controversial description of recent immigration to the US (item #bi 98006626#). Prieto's attention to recent culture change in Cuba (item #bi 98010437#; see also items #bi 98013572# and #bi 98007147#) is also very useful, as is Morejón's description of the life conditions of rural youth (item #bi 98005092#). Respondents for one uncommon report were post-1989 illegal emigrants who did not succeed in their attempt to emigrate from Cuba and were sanctioned by the Cuban government (item #bi 98000168#). Also noteworthy among migration studies is Guanche's analysis of the presence of Canary Island cultural themes in central Cuba's popular myths and beliefs (item #bi 97004396#), McGarrity's study of the history of Cuba-Jamaica migration and the anomalies of the post-1989 period (item #bi 97006256#), and Diaz-Briquets' detailed analysis of remittances, the most important source of dollars for the Cuban government (item #bi 97011507#).

For Puerto Rico, perhaps one of the most interesting research efforts is Jorge Duany and associates' anthropological study of the Barrio Gandul, in the municipality of Santurce, San Juan (item #bi 97015915#). Their study is an attempt to understand censal undercount of the population on the island. It focuses on Dominican illegal immigrants residing in the barrio and on the informal economy predominating in it. Also published is a useful review of what is known about crime in Puerto Rico, with special attention given to juvenile crime (item #bi 97015962#). It is also necessary to note Davila's excellent essay on the uses of national symbols for marketing products (item #bi 97005170#), and other research on the structure of power (item #bi 97012364#), the relationship between premarital fertility and New York-Puerto Rico migration of women (item #bi 97011080#), and dengue fever (item #bi 97011499#).

Colón-Warren's excellent, lengthy demographic study of the link between migration to the US and poverty continues a very important line of research (item #bi 98006628#). Also continuing earlier research on the subject, Duany's study of the immigration to Puerto Rico of Cubans and Dominicans is also informative, as is research on the public perception and reception of immigrants in Puerto Rico (item #bi 98004201#).

Recent research on the Dominican Republic shows increasing maturity and sophistication, as demonstrated by the quality of its scholarship and the variety of the topics under investigation. Examples are the effect of poverty on families (item #bi 98000173#) and the social psychology of Dominican national identity (item #bi 97015907#). This last report presents, among other themes, an informed albeit partial intellectual history of the country. Other research efforts are by the Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe, which includes an anthropological analysis of colmados or food and beverage stores (item #bi 97015976#), the importance of women in the formation and dynamics of families (item #bi 97006895#), and the impact of poverty (item #bi 97006897#).

One of the most revealing books published in the Dominican Republic in the last few years documents the worsening condition of the environment and offers information about the most important problems facing municipal governments, such as garbage disposal and public health (item #bi 98008913#). Its anti-Malthusian view notwithstanding, it is a sobering look at the urban context in the Dominican Republic, which applies with equal or greater force to Cuba and to other countries in the region. Also useful is the monograph by Diaz Santana evaluating the condition of public education in the country and the recent official attempts to improve it (item #bi 98008909#). Dominican migration to the US is the other topic receiving recent research attention, particularly its impact on gender relations, social identities, and cultural understandings (item #bi 98006547#). It posits the emergence of a hybrid transnational culture transforming the status of women (item #bi 98012264#).

Dr. Aguirre appreciates the assistance of Ms. Cristina Morales and the financial support of the College of Liberal Arts and the Race and Ethnic Studies Institute of Texas A&M University in the preparation of this chapter.


Go to the:


Begin a Basic Search | Begin an Expert Search

[ HLAS Online Home Page | Search HLAS Online | Help | FAQ | Comments ]


Library of Congress
Comments: Ask a Librarian (11/14/11)