Caribbean Society and Culture
The Role of Historical
Experiences
Influences

Experiences with Plantation Slavery - (Europe,
Africa, Caribbean)

Experiences with Indentureship

Colonialism

Indigenous Populations
The Result
Caribbean culture is a rich amalgam of European, African, East
Indian, Asian, Plantation, Colonial and Indigenous influences,
heritages and cultures

Caribbean Theorizing - Creole (process of interculturation),
Plural (mixing but not combining), Plantation Society
(dependent economies; enclaves of Metropole)
Manifestations of Influences


Language, Street names, Parishes
Music, Games, Sport (cricket, football)

Religion

System of Social Stratification & Population Structure

Food

Legal/judicial, Political & Educational Systems

Economic Arrangements
Other Legacies of Plantation &
Colonial Heritages

Economic Structure






Dependence on metropole
Economies adjuncts of metropolitan economies
Producers of primary products/raw materials
Heavy dependence on imports (debt)
Maintenance of preferential trading arrangements
(bananas, sugar)
Likeness for things foreign
Other Legacies of Plantation &
Colonial Heritages (cont’d.)

Treatment of Class, Race, Colour

Light complexion, European physical features &
beauty

Notions of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ hair
Pride of Caribbean Identity

Music & Festivals

Rastafarianism

Language

W.I. Cricket Team (Chanderpaul, Lara, Powell, etc.)
Resistance to Colonialism &
Eurocentrism


Rastafarianism
Garveyism

Black Nationalism

Retention of Cultural forms of Countries of Origin
Creolization

The problem of identity has always been an issue in the
modern Caribbean.

One of the earliest lines of cleavage was that between
whites and mixed elements (creoles).

Rivalry was succeeded between Afro-creoles and
indentured workers (TT, Guyana and Suriname)
(Selwyn Ryan, 2002: JACAS Symposium Series 15)
Creolization

The term has varying meanings in the Caribbean.

Stuart Hall (1977: 164) states “ the term itself is hard to
define, it’s ambiguity being itself an index of its complex
articulation with the structured form of the cultures and
groups with which it interacts.”

Lowenthal (1972: 32-33) The term was originally used to
define African slaves born in the new world. Later
extended to “…anyone, black or white, born in the West
Indies…then extended to things, habits and
ideas…opinions expressed”
Creolization

Nettleford (1997: 74) Whites born in the American
colonies were regarded as “creoles” by their metropolitan
cousins.

Jamaican born slaves were similarly differentiated from
their “salt-water negro” colleagues freshly brought in
from West Africa.

Genuine Caribbean expressions are regarded as those that
have been “creolized” into indigenous form and purpose
distinctively different from the original elements from
which those expressions first sprang.
Creolization

Brathwaite (1974) Creolization is the process through
which the various groups in the Caribbean society absorb
each other’s cultural products.

The Africans and Indians imitated or were forced to
imitate the Europeans.

Europeans inadvertently but at times consciously
absorbed some of the cultural styles, languages and
mores of the subordinate groups.
Creolization

The Africans and Indians acculturated while the
European’s process was defined as interculturation.

The former is the result of the yoking of cultures by force
and example while the latter is an unplanned,
unconscious and osmotic relationship following from the
yoking process.
African Retention

One of the main proponents of the African retention school
is Melville Herskovits

Slavery did not totally destroy the African culture

African culture has survived in various forms in the
Caribbean
African Retention

African cultural forms survived in three main ways:

1. Survivals- cultural forms that closely resemble the
original African forms. For example, the practice of
burying the umbilical chord of a child and planting a fruit
tree over it
African Retention

2. Syncretisms- the practice of identifying elements in the
new culture with parallel components of the old. An
example is the practice of identifying Catholic saints with
African deities

3. Reinterpretations- This is seen where African culture is
reinterpreted to suite the new environment. An example of
this is the reinterpretations of African polygamy as
progressive monogamy.
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Caribbean Society and Culture