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VOLUME 53, No. 3
(Copyright reserved and reproduction without permission strictly forbidden)
Rex Nettleford iii
An Analysis of the Type and Content of TV Ads in the 2002 Jamaican
General Election 1
Christopher A.D. Charles
Stepping out of the Kumbla" -Kincaid's AIDS Narrative, 'My Brother' 16
Liminal Anansi: Symbol of Order and Chaos
An Exploration of Anansi's Roots Amongst the Asante of Ghana. 30
Emily Zobel Marshall
Diasporic Transnationalism: Relocated Montserratians in the UK 41
Creolization and the Search for Identity in Caribbean Philosphy 70
Lawrence O. Bamikole
Book Reviews 83
Book List 91
List of Contributors 95
Instructions to Authors 96
THE UNIVERSITY OF THE WEST INDIES
Professor the Hon. R.M. Nettleford, O.M. Vice Chancellor Emeritus, Editor
Sir Roy Augier, Professor Emeritus, History, Mona
Professor H. Beckles, Pro Vice Chancellor and Principal, UWI, Cave Hill
Professor L. Carrington, PVC, NonCampus Countries and Distance Education
Professor B. Chevannes, Research Fellow, Mona School of Business, UWI, Mona
Professor Elsa Leo-Rhynie, PVC and Principal, UWI, Mona
Professor Wayne Hunt, PVC Research, UWI, St. Augustine
Professor B. Lalla, Dept. of Liberal Arts, Faculty of Arts and Education, UWI, St. Augustine
Professor the Hon. E. Morrison, PVC, Graduate Studies and Research, UWI, Mona
Dr. H. Simmons-McDonald, Dean, Faculty of Humanities and Education, UWI, Cave Hill
Linda Speth, General Manager, UWI Press
Dr. B. Tewari, PVC and Principal, UWI, St. Augustine
Dr. V Salter, Managing Editor
All Correspondence and contributions should be addressed to: The Editor, Caribbean
Quarterly, Cultural Studies Initiative, Office of the Vice Chancellor Emeritus, The University of the
West Indies, PO Box 130, Mona, Kingston 7, Jamaica.
Tel. No.: 876-970-3261, Fax; 876-977-6105
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com
Manuscripts: We invite readers to submit manuscripts pr recommend subjects which they would
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will be gratefully received.. Authors should refer to the guidelines on this web page. Articles
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Exchanges: Exchanges are conducted by the Gifts and Exchanges Section. Library, The
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Back Issues and Microfilm: Information for back volumes supplied on request. Caribbean
Quarterly is available on microfilm from Xerox University Microfilms and in book form from
Kraus-Thompson Reprint Ltd.
Abstracr and Index: 1949-2004 Author Keyword and Subject Index available as a hard copy. The
journal is abstracted by AES and indexed by HAPI.
Caribbean Quarterly, Volume 53, No.3. 2007 features five wide ranging and
diverse articles which should be of interest to readers.
In a Caribbean world bombarded by cable TV and foreign media, Christopher
A.D. Charles examines the content of local advertisements offered by the two main
political parties in Jamaica, in An Analysis of the Type and Content of TV Ads in
the 2002 Jamaican General Election.
Lorna Down's essay is a critique the Antiguan novelist Jamaica Kincaid's
poignant account of her brother's battle with his illness. Entitled, Stepping out of
the Kumbla Kincaid's AIDS Narrative, 'My Brother' it reflects the
surrounds AIDS in the region and the fact that a large part of her brother's life had to
be shrouded even from his own family in that secrecy.
Two essays explore different diasporic connections. Emily Zobel Marshall
traces the folk character and anti-hero in Caribbean lore from his homeland in We.
Africa to his place in Caribbean mythology and story-telling in Liminal Anansi:
Symbol of Order and Chaos. An Exploration of Anansi's Roots Amongst the
Asante of Ghana. Whereas Gertrude Shotte in Diarporic Transna/ionalisml: Re/oiatied
Montserralians in the UK examines how Montscrratians dislocated after the volcanic
eruption actively seek to retain their roots, national pride and culture in their quest for
survival, in the host country.
The final article by Lawrence 0. Bamikolc, Creolization and the Search for
Identity in Caribbean Philosophy seeks to inform the reader on the philosophic
viewpoints that guide thinking in the region. That the region has developed and is in
the process of understanding how its thinking informs the lives of its inhabitants and
a unique Caribbeanness is an indication that Caribbean citizens are indeed becoming
unleashed from the shackles of mental slavery. For this reason the University has seen
fit to expand the Unit of Philosophy into a fully-fledged part of the Humanitie.
Two book reviews complete this volume.
Ana'sis of jT Ads.-Jamaican General Elections 2002
An Analysis of the Type and Content of TV Ads
in the 2002 Jamaican General Election*
Christopher A.D. Charles
The 2002 General Election was very important because the Jamaica Labour
Party (LP) wanted to escape its 13 years sojourn in opposition and the Peoples
National Party (PNP) wanted an unprecedented fourth term in office (Smith, 2002).
To get their message to the voters the two major parties hit the campaign trail with
house to house canvassing, motorcades, mass meetings, and advertisements in the
print and electronic media (Davis, 2002; Duncan, 2002). This article is an exploratory
effort to get some understanding of the type of ads aired on CVM Television and
Television Jamaica and the content of the ads because there is a lack of research in
Television matters because the public eventually accepts the views of this
medium as truth. In other words, television in particular and the media in general
shapes the public's view of the political world (Iyengar, Peters & Kinder, 1982).
"Television news powerfully influences which problems viewers regard as the
nation's most serious" and "By priming certain aspects of national life while ignoring
others, television news sets the terms by which political judgments are rendered and
political choices made" (Iyengar & Kinder, 1987,4). The issues that are given
prominence in the evening news are given weight by viewers in their evaluation of
candidates (Iyengar, Peters & Kinder, 1982). This is the media effects tradition, which
sees the media as having an impact on the passive or active audience (Cngler, 1998).
However, one of the findings of Pan and Kosicki, (2001) is that direct priming effects
in the media are limited.
Media priming does not occur because citizens are naive victims but because
they make inferences as sophisticated citizens from credible institutional sources
(Miller & Krosnick, 2000). The media has the capacity to place in the minds of
viewers attributes which can be used to judge political leaders. Priming can be
triggered by the use of cognitive information which taps into memories and influence
attitude formation. There are priming effects in political ads because these ads give
voters images of the candidates which is related to their decisions about voting
(Cwalina, Falkowski & Kaid, 2000). A behaviour is more likely to occur after it has
been thought about and there is a relatively high recall for stimuli like videos
(Eastman, Newton & Bolls, 2003). Domke, Shah and Wackman (1998) found that
perceptions of the integrity of candidates were primed by moral and social issues and
the ethical interpretation of more material issues were primed by the more ambiguous
The capacity to make emotional connection may be the key to the
voters' image formation process. In other words, making emotional associations
facilitates emotional reception (Cwalna, Falkowski & Kaid, 2000). Ideas that are
emotionally significant are linked to subsequent behaviour. The mental models
enhance the explanations of media priming. People have many mental models that
they store in their long term memory. The content in the media can prime these
memories thereby making them more accessible (Eastman, Newton & Bolls, 2003).
Political advertisements in general and humorous advertisements in
particular must connect with the pictures that are already in the voter's head, if they
are to be effective. In addition, the advertisements that trigger the association and
values of the major themes in the political culture will be more effective than
advertisements that don't have this kind of resonance (Richardson & Jasperson,
2001). The style and appearance of electoral candidates influences voter choice
because their images influence the voters' perception of the candidates (Rosenberg,
Bohan, McCafferty & Harris, 1986). Political advertisements serve as shortcuts for
information to voters. These advertisements use cues so that voters will recall which
issues the candidates have expounded on in their personal appearances, the news and
the debates among the candidates Johnston, 2001).
Ads that appeal to emotions are designed using language that attack opponents
and cause the voters to feel rather than to know about the issues (Johnston, 2001).
The messages created by candidates and the strategies and targeting they use
determine the effectiveness of their appeal to citizens. Candidates have a lot of
influence especially when their message is reinforced by the free media and this is not
always positive in terms of the ideals of representative democracy (West, 1994). The
personal qualities of the candidates are more important to voters who are television
dependent compared to voters who rely on newspapers (Keeter, 1987). The effects of
television news are greater than campaign ads but in a keenly contested ideological
race the effects of campaign ads on political knowledge is greater than that of
television news (Zhao & Chaffee, 1995).
Analsis of TVAds.-Jamaican General Elections 2002
The political advertisements come from the parties, the candidates and interest
groups. The ads can be grouped as positive, contrast and negative based on their
primary purpose. Positive ads are those that only have information regarding the
candidate and there are no references to or criticisms of the opponent. Contrast ads
have negative things about the opponent and positive information about the
candidate. Negative or attack ads contain solely negative or derogatory content about
the opponent (Goldstein & Freedman, 2002). Negative ads do not depress voter turn
out or have damaging effects on the political system and they are more effective than
positive ads (Friedman & Goldstein, 1999; Lau, Sigelman, Heldman & Babitt, 1999).
In addition, the consumption of negative ads is associated with more information on
the issues and voters use these ads to assess candidates late in the campaign.
The JLP and the PNP set the political agenda for general elections in
Jamaica in their campaign ads in which they appeal to the electorate via negative,
contrast and positive ads and political debates. This agenda setting is contextualized
by the Jamaican media, in particular Television Jamaica and CVM Television because
how these two dominant electronic media houses frame the issues in their coverage
of the elections shapes the public's view of the Jamaican electoral world. However,
the extent to which theJLP and the PNP connect with the images in the voters' heads
via their television ads is important for their success at the polls.
The 2002 General Election
Jam; -a has a two party dominant political system in which the JLP and the
PNP with their multi-class appeal are the major contenders for power with
insignificant challenges from the minor parties, which are excluded from the national
political debates. The 2002 General Election was extremely important to the PNP
and the J1., because the former wanted an unprecedented fourth term in office and
the latter eagerly wanted to escape the role of opposition after 13 years. Prior to the
PNP winning the 1989 General Election, the JLP and the PNP alternated in
government with each party doing two successive terms in office. The minor parties
such as the National Democratic Movement (NDM), the Jamaica Alliance for
National Unity (JANU) formed an alliance because they could not compete with the
major ones in terms of national appeal, financial resources, advertisements and
political organizations. However, the United People's Party (UPP) campaigned on its
own platform (Brown, 2002; Smith, 2002; Stone, 1972, 1976; Walker, 2002).
Given the political culture of violence, corruption and electoral fraud in
garrison constituencies,1 the political Ombudsman said he expected the police
officers assigned to his office to act professionally or their services would be
terminated. The ombudsman also declared that he expected the election to be the
most peaceful in the country's history and the commissioner said the police was ready
to provide effective security. The police Commissioner also warned that if any police
officer became a political activist during the elections he or she would be punished.
The Commissioner refuted charges from one of his senior officers that there was a
plot to disrupt the election and from the leader of the opposition that there was a
special police squad ready to disrupt the polls. Electoral workers and the security
forces voted several days before the election was held (Charles, 2002, 2004; Daley,
2002b; Figueroa & Sives, 2002; Gray, 2001; Sinclair, 2002a, 2002c; Stone, 1980;
The major parties signed a code of conduct for the election campaign, which
among other issues stipulated that the candidates should desist from uttering
inflammatory statements that could trigger violent behaviour from their supporters.
Some candidates violated the code and there was an increase in gun related violence
after nomination day when the parties registered their constituency representatives.
Political violence between hardcore JLP and PNP supporters erupted in the
constituencies of Central Kingston, South Eastern St. Andrew, North Eastern
Manchester and Central St. Catherine among other constituencies. An official of
Region 3 of the PNP condemned the violence and apologized to the residents of
South Side for the attack they suffered from PNP supporters but declared that the
PNP did not have control over the gangs. The leader of the JLP accused the PNP of
planning dirty political tactics. The leaders of the two major parties made a public
pledge for peace with the intervention of the political Ombudsman. Two prominent
hoteliers, Paul Issa and Gordon Stewart also called on the major parties to control
their hardcore party fanatics. The song "Together We All" was recorded in support of
the call for peace by a group of reggae and dancehall artistes (Batson, 2002a; Blair,
2002; Charles, 2002; 2004, 2005; Clarke, 2002; Davis, 2002; Gray, 2001; Sinclair,
The European Union gave a grant of $9.4 million to the Jamaican observer
group Citizens' Action for Free and Fair Elections (CAFFE) which assisted its
recruitment drive to get over 6,000 volunteers to monitor the election. The Carter
Centre was invited by the Electoral Advisory Committee (EAC) to monitor the polls.
President Jimmy Carter said he hoped that the poll would be violence free and
vehemently criticized the violent prone garrison constituencies in which political
competition are not tolerated and electoral malpractices are rampant. The EAC also
invited the United Nations to assist in the voiding of election results if the need arose.
Anaqsis of TVAds.-jamaican GeneralElecions 2002
International and local observers became a part of the political culture in the 1997
election after the JLP and PNP resolved their differences over this issue (Charles,
2004, 2005; Daley, 2002a, 2002c; Paulin, 2002; Stone, 1980; Vasciannie, 2002).
The director of elections declared that the electoral office was organized and
ready to administer the election. The voters' list was cleaned up to reduce the
likelihood of voter fraud and the EAC was congratulated for doing an excellent job.
However, the UPP lambasted the EAC when the party was prevented from
appointing scrutineers for polling stations because it did not the meet the legal
requirements of the Representation of the People's Act. The major parties were asked
by the director of elections to control their supporters and to dissuade them from
wearing their party colour on Election Day in order to reduce the likelihood of violent
confrontation with rival supporters. The increasing political violence prompted the
EAC to advise the police to ban electioneering in six constituencies (Charles, 2004,
2005; Martin, 2002; Paulin & White, 2002).
The PNP more often than not had a very slim lead in the opinion
polls over the JLP and the campaign became more intense as Election Day drew
nearer. In the past, voters made up their minds about which party they would vote for
at least two years before the election was held. Former leader and founder of the
NDM, Bruce Golding, returned to the JLP and reinvigorated its campaign after
seven years of calling for a major overhaul of the Westminster system. Golding's
accommodation within the JLP three weeks before the election was based on a
memorandum of understanding that if the JLP won there were several principles that
should be explored. These are term limits for the Prime Minister, separation of
powers, setting a fixed election date, ending political tribalism, the punishment of
corrupt public officials and the opposition chainng all oversight committees in
parliament among other principles. Fearful of the negative impact of Golding's return
to theJLP on its electoral fortune, the PNP made overtures to some senior leaders of
the NDM. However, the voters were divided in their support for Golding's return to
the JLP (Charles, 2005; Clarke, 2002; Duncan, 2002; Jamaica Observer, 2002; Stone,
1989; Virtue, 2002b).
The PNP invited the voters to "log on to progress" with its "Advancing the
Quality Society" Manifesto which dealt with promises of good health care, economic
growth, tackling the international narcotics trade and creating jobs among other
promises. The JLP courted the voters with its "Change Pain to Gain" Manifesto and
promised social reform with affordable health care, free education, housing in the
inner city and good roads among other promises. The PNP responded to the JLP's
offer of free education by promising to pay for five Caribbean Examination Council
subjects for high school students. In addition, by 2005 parents would no longer pay a
part of the cost of their children's education (Ashley 2002; Charles, 2004, 2005;
Clarke, 2002; Jamaica Labour Party 2002; People's National Party, 2002; Robinson,
2002; Simpson, 2002).
The PNP on October 16, 2002 won an unprecedented fourth term in
government. The Carter Centre and CAFFE praised the electoral office for its
administration of the polls but pointed to some irregularities that occurred (Charles,
2004, 2005; Figueroa & Sives, 2002; Williams, 2002).
The purpose of this exploratory study is to understand the type of television
ads used by the political parties and explore the content of the ads. The research
questions are (1) what were the differences between the PNP and the JLP in terms of
the type of campaign ads they aired on television? (2) What were the contents of the
PNP and JLP television ads?
Sample There are 17 PNP ads and 28JLP ads. The party campaign ads were
obtained from the JLP and the PNP
Procedure: After reviewing the ads several times they were coded as contrast,
positive and negative. Contrast ads are those ads in which positive things are said
about the party and negative things are said about the competing party. Positive ads
are those in which goods things are said about the party. Negative or attack ads are
those in which bad things are said about the competing party. The content of the ads
were determined by identifying the recurring theme in the title of the ads, the message
of the ads and the theme songs.
A chi square test was done to determine if there was a difference between the
PNP and the JLP in terms of the type of television ads (negative, contrast and
positive) the political parties aired on CVM Television and Television Jamaica during
the campaign. There is a significant difference between the PNP and the JLP based
on the type of ads they aired on television, X2(2) =6.523. This answers the first
research question about the differences between the parties based on the type of ads
they aired, see Table 1.
Analysis of TVAds.-Jamaican General Elections 2002
Table 1: Type of Political Party TV Ads in 2002
In terms of the second research question about the content of the ads, the PNP
ads focused on progress and the policies that the party defined as solid achievements,
such as improved public transportation, Highway 2000, improved healthcare, helping
young people and information technology. The ads also focused on the party leader
and the new candidates. The negative ads focused on discrediting Bruce Golding and
framing Edward Seaga and the JLP as violent, see table 2.
Table 2: The Message in the PNP Advertisments in the 2002 election
Name of Advertisements
Don't stop the progress
I health Sector
Don't stop the progress (Singer & DJ)
:ock mouth kill cock
(Samuda cursing Seaga & the JlP)
((an anyone trust this man?)
Change for what?
(Scaga is the Jl.P, vice versa)
ChrisTufton says vote for the head
Golding (1 was associated with gunmen)
Western Kingston garrison and Seaga
Western Kingston garrison and Seaga
Better health care
PJ is a decent leader
PNP help the youth
Can't trust the JLP
Better bus service
Can't trust Bruce Golding
Seaga is a dictator
JLP say vote PNP
Bruce Golding is violent
Seaga & the JLP is violent
Seaga & the JLP is violent
The JLP is violent
TheJLP ads focused on the party leader, the need for change and the party was
a united team with a plan to create jobs, get investments, improve health care,
improve education and reduce crime. The negative JLP ads focused on P.J. Patterson
and the PNP team and that they should not be given five more years because there
were no jobs and investments but just solid mismanagement. See Table 3.
Table 3: The Message in the JLP TV Advertisements in the 2002 Election
Name of Advertisement Theme/Message
Rev. Make the change, JLP will develop the country
The plan (10 steps) The JLP has a plan to change Jamaica
The Team The JLP is together and united to make the change
The leader Seaga is the leader who will make the change
I will The people has the will to make the change
Mountain top (Hundred bells) Ring the bell for change and growth, vote JILP.
Karl Samuda counters the PNP The JLP defends itself against a corrupt PNP
Jobs The JLP will create jobs
Health Better health care for the poor and elderly
Crime reduction The JLP has a security plan to reduce crime
Free education Free education, JLP will improve education & literacy
Patterson team Scandals, failure, poor governance, lack integrity
Patterson worst The worst govt., PJ leads corruption/mismanagement
Seaga on Jamaica women Seaga love our women & will persevere like them
P.J. / PNP want 5 more years Say no to PNP failures
Unity (Golding rejecting tribalism) Unity, Golding committed to Jamaica & the future
Peace (Golding) JLP/Golding calling for peace, no violence
Arthur Williams/Norman Horne
Tarn Peralto/St. Aubyn Bartlett
(Halfway Tree mass meeting)
Ram Jam 2
(Montego Bay mass meeting)
Let's go do this (vote)
I am Jamaican/I need
(Golding during debate)
("Mobay"- Seaga speaking)
From pain to gain
N = 28
JLP fight injustice, corruption, build the economy
JLP will develop agriculture & small farmers
Make the change, vote JLP, ring the bell
Ram Jam 2, come to meeting, change, victory
Vote JLP, every vote counts for development
Vote for change, hope, opportunities and the future
Log of the failing PNP,JLP bring investments/growth
No solid achievements, rescue Jamaica from the PNP
Ring the bell for victory, change and development
PNP destroy Jamaica, squalor, suffering, JLP is hope
Ana sis of TV As. -Jamaican General Elections 2002
My goal in this study was to see if there was a difference between the PNP and
theJLP in terms of the type of television campaign ads they aired in the 2002 General
Election and deconstruct the content of the ads. It was found that there was a
significant difference between the JLP and the PNP in terms of the types of television
ads they aired during the election campaign, see Table 1. The PNP aired more
negative ads compared to the JLP, less contrast ads compared to the JLP and more
positive ads compared to theJLP. It can be argued that the PNP and theJLP believed
in the power of television to shape the political world of the Jamaican voters and the
political parties created different types of television ads which they deemed to be
important for success at the polls.
The PNP concentrated mainly on message with the positive ads about its
solid achievements and on negative ads that framed Bruce Golding, Edward Seaga
and the JLP as violent. The positive and negative PNP ads accounted for 47% and
41.2% respectively of the party's total television campaign ads. It is plausible to argue
that the PNP wanted to make connections in the voters' heads between the political
violence during the election campaign and theJLP because it used its negative ads to
link the JLP and its two top leaders with violence. In addition, the PNP promoted
Seaga as a dictator and the JLP's second tier leadership as sycophants with an ad
showing Karl Samuda castigating Seaga and the JLP years earlier. The PNP had few
contrast ads. This may be explained by the fact that since the PNP was the incumbent
there was not much to contrast with the JLP because the JLP was in opposition for a
long time. It therefore made political sense for the PNP to concentrate the majority of
its positive ads on what the party claimed it had done and maligned the JLP with its
negative ads to reduce the JLP's chances at the polls.
There are other possible explanations for the negative PNP ads which states
that because the PNP believed that the JLP's misfortunes at successive polls was a
function of (a) Edward Seaga's unpopularity with the electorate it was best to
reinforce the negative perceptions of Seaga with negative ads and (b) since it was
argued in the media that the return of Bruce Golding to the JLP three weeks before
the election would boost the chances of the JLP in the election, it was best to
undermine Golding's credibility with negative ads because they appeal to emotions
and cause voters to feel rather than to know about the issues. In addition, the attack
ads are more effective than positive ads because voters use the attack ads to make
evaluations of the parties and the candidates.
The majority of theJLP ads were contrast ads (48.1%) followed by positive ads
(33.4%/) which accounted for 81.5% of the party's total television ads. One possible
explanation is that since the JLP was in opposition for three electoral terms it had no
recent political record to present to the electorate so it was best to contrast itself with
the failing PNP by declaring the negatives of the PNP and then offenng itself as the
positive alternative to the incumbent by explaining the policies a JLP administration
would implement. In other words, it was best to distance itself from the failures of the
PNP with contrast ads and stay on the message for change with positive policies and
the positive attributes of the candidates so that the voters would judge the JLP
positively. Another possible explanation is that with Bruce Golding's return to the
JLP after vehemently criticizing political tribalism in Jamaica, it was best for the JLP
not to air a lot of attack ads about the PNP that could be construed by the electorate
as old time political tribalism that had no place in changing political culture, especially
since there was aJLP ad with Golding rejecting political tribalism. It was best for the
JLP ads to try and connect with the themes i the Jamaican political culture. The
minority ofJLP ads that were negative focused on framing Patterson and the PNP in
terms of the scandals that plagued them, the absence of jobs and investments among
other problems which occurred because of "solid mismanagement" by the PNP
Negative ads make emotional connections with voters.
An exploration of the content of the contrast and positive ads reveals other
important issues that were on the campaign agenda of the JLP and the PNP that they
used to prime the voters. The PNP in heralding its positive message, framed its
achievements as progress, another sunrise which should not be stopped because
there were improvements in the health sector, Highway 2000, information
technology, the opportunities for the youth among other achievements, see Table 2.
Moreover, the PNP in its view had a vibrant slate of new candidates or young political
blood to infuse the political system. These positive ads had information about the
PNP polices and the attributes of the new candidates that the party wanted the voters
to know about compared to information the voters received from competing
institutional sources in Jamaica.
The contrast ads dealt with the improvements that the PNP claimed were made
to the ailing public transportation system that it inherited from the JLP In addition,
there was no need to change from progress to aJLP administration led by the dictator
Seaga because Seaga is the JLP. The policies in the positive and contrasts ads of the
PNP was a synopsis of the promises in the party's "Advancing the Quality Society"
Manifesto that the PNP believed would help it to secure its fourth consecutive
Analysis of TVAds. Jamaican GeneralElections 2002
The positive ads promulgated by the JLP stated that the party had a plan and
there were no divisions in the party see Table 3.The JLP was a united team led by a
leader who supports unity, and who will provide jobs and improve education which
was evident in the free education plan. In addition, Seaga cared about Jamaican
women and took his cue from these persevering women. These positive JLP ads
provided cues or information short cuts so that the voters could recall which issues
were important to the JLP.
One of the contrast ads saw Karl Samuda responding to the PNP ad which
showed him attacking Seaga and the JLP publicly at a PNP rally years earlier after
Samuda had been expelled from the JLP. Other contrast ads promoted the absence of
jobs and the jobs theJLP would create, the problems of crime and theJLP crime plan,
and that Bruce Golding was a unifier who rejected political tribalism unlike the PNP.
Moreover, the JLP was going to move Jamaica from pain to gain. Unlike the PNP,
some of the JLP contrast ads not only promoted some of the party's new candidates
but it outlined some of the problems in the country and the response of the JLP to
these problems. Contrast ads are important because they present the voters with
contrasting images of the candidates and differences in the policies and programmes
of the competing political parties which the voters may or may not use in their voting
decision. Similar to the PNP, the policies in the JLP positive and contrasts ads
highlighted the plans and programmes in the party's "Change Pain to Gain"
Manifesto that the party felt was important for electoral success.
The JLP and the PNP aired their television campaign ads to prime the Jamaican
voters thereby shaping their views about the political world so that the voters would
vote for one of these political parties. The PNP used less television campaign ads than
theJLP. There were other differences between the PNP and theJLP in the type of ads
they aired. The PNP had more positive ads than the JLP, more negative ads than the
JLP and less contrast ads than the JLP The two major political parties aired the types
of television ads based on what they thought the important issues were and their
positions on these issues which the parties believed would help them to win the 2002
The negative JLP ads framed the PNP and the Prime Minister as solid
mismanagement and the negative PNP ads linked the two top leaders of the JLP and
the party with violence. Negative ads used language and images that evoke emotions
which cause voters to feel rather than know about the issues which the parties
expected the voters would use to evaluate the competing party and its candidates.
The positive ads of the JLP dealt with party unity and the party's policy agenda
framed as change and the PNP used its positive ads to talk about its policy
achievements framed as progress and solid achievements. The positive ads of the
parties provided information short cuts to voters about (a) the good policies of the
parties which were priority on the agendas of the parties and (b) the positive attributes
of the candidates.
The contrast ads of the JLP dealt with the ills of the PNP and what the JLP
would do to fix these ills. The contrast ads of the PNP dealt with the problems they
inherited from the JLP and what the PNP had done to remedy these problems. The
contrast ads of the parties provided important information about the differences
between the parties in terms of polices which the parties believed the voters would
use in their voting decisions.
*Author's Note: This article is the first in a series of studies on television campaign
advertisements in Jamaica. The author is doing another study for the 2007 election to
build on this work. The 2007 campaign advertisements study will include both
television and radio advertisements.
I would like to thank Dalkcith Dempster for his comments and Huntley Medley and
Olivia "Babsy" (;range for providing the advertisements. Correspondence
concerning this article should be sent to Christopher A. D. Charles, Psychology
Department, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, room N2131, 445 West 59t Street,
New York, NY. 10019. Electronic mail may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
1. garrisonn constituencies are community majorities of hardcore party supporters
-stablished by the political party that forms the government by the partial distribution
of houses to party supporters as reward for their support. These communities were
later militarized with party gunmen to thwart political competition and political
challenges thereby establishing a dominant and permanent political base for the
political party. For detailed discussions on garrison constituencies, see (Charles, 2002,
2004; Figueroa & Sives, 2002; National Committee on Political Tribalism, 1997; Stone,
Analsis of TV Ads.-Jamaican General Elections 2002
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'Stepping out of the Kumbla,1-Kincaid's AIDS
Narrative, 'My Brother'
Kincaid's narrative of her brother's life and death breaks new ground in the
literature of the Caribbean region. It steps out of the kumbla of protective silence
around AIDS and its victims. Despite its high prevalence m the Caribbean region
(Kelly and Bain 33), HIV/AIDS has not been addressed by many Caribbean'creative'
writers. In fact, Kincaid's narrative, published ten years ago, is still one of only two
major Caribbean literary works to do so the other is Patricia Powell's A Small
Gathering ofBones', though the disease is unnamed in the latter work. (More recently,
there has been the autobiographical 'No Stone Unturned'by Rosemarie Stone). This is
in marked contrast to North America, where AIDS since 1985 has become 'a widely
acknowledged literary subject' (Cady 3).
In charting the literature treating the subject of AIDS, which spans different
genres the realistic novel, science-fiction, and most recently detective fiction Cady
notes that there are two main approaches to writing about AIDS. There are authors'
whose priority is to 'expose readers as closely as possible to the emergency of the
epidemic and the suffering of the affected individual' (Cady 2) and others who treat
the subject using a distancing device. Such a distancing device 'ultimately shields the
audience from too jarring a confrontation with AIDS' (Cady 2). He further argues
that that approach cooperates with the 'larger cultural denial of AIDS since it does
nothing to dislodge readers from it' (Cady 2). Kincaid's narrative does not, strictly
speaking, fall into either category as it both exposes its readers to the suffering of the
affected individual as well as distances them from the situation by various structural
Further distinctions about the production of AIDS narratives have been made
by other critics including Pear who explains that these narratives are either first
person narratives, generally factual and written by persons who are infected by HIV,
or fiction which is usually produced by those not infected by HIV He further
contends that 'heterosexual writers with first hand knowledge of HIV have been thin
on the ground' (Pear 1).
In making these distinctions Pear concurs with Cady's views that most AIDS
narratives have been produced by gays and lesbians (Cady 6). Garmire also agrees and
adds primarily white gay male writers. Perhaps then the silence in Caribbean literary
Stepping out of the Kumbia-Kincaid's AIDS Narrative
works has been the result of the limited number of published gay and lesbian writers.
There is also the fact that there are sections of Caribbean society that have difficulty in
accepting homosexuals. I suggest, however, that the silence about AIDS is a silence
that comes because of its association with sexual contact and a 'natural' Caribbean
reticence about speaking publicly about sex except in the transgressive space of dance
hall and calypso music. HIV/AIDS that is transmitted primarily through sexual
contact in most countries (Kelly and Bain 9) is, therefore, very much a 'taboo' subject.
In Powell's 'A SmallGathering of Bones'AIDS is not named as the disease from
which one of the main characters, Ian, suffers. But the description of the illness
clearly indicates that it is AIDS. The novel itself focuses on the intimate, turbulent
and homosexual relationship between Dale and Nevin, who have to deal not only
with the homophobia of their society but also with the internal conflict within their
relationship. Powell's characters, however, are ignorant of the nature of AIDS; plan's
illness is seen as strange, puzzling but peculiar to him. In effect, plan's illness could be
read as a consequence of society's hate, specifically his mother's as she has rejected
him because of his homosexuality, though the writer is careful to indicate the
connection between his contraction of the disease and the casual and unprotected sex
in which he engages. And though the novel is one of the few Caribbean works of
fiction that openly treats the issue of homosexuality, its very title, 'A Smal/Galhering of
Bones'and its refusal to name the disease suggest an unwillingness to depict a subject
that is still very much 'unspeakable' and 'untouchable' to use Cady's terms (1) in
Caribbean society. Yet even with this distancing, Powell's work has to be
acknowledged/applauded for forcing Caribbean readers to confront the disease of
AIDS since so many other Caribbean novels have remained silent on the issue,
including the sexually explicit (for mainstream Caribbean literature) novels of Colin
Channer which are remarkably free of any reference to HIV/AIDS.
Ironically, it is in the oral and impermanent media of dancehall (and much less
so in the 'permanent' discourse of the printed texts), that a space for literature on
AIDS has been created. Admittedly, some of these dancehall artists have been
commissioned for public service ads to build AIDS awareness by the United Nations
and other organizations and so include in their performance 'cautionary' narratives
about the disease. But they go beyond this as Rupee, the Barbadian entertainer, who
lost both of his parents to AIDS explains, 'I make sure I mention [HIV/AIDS] as
much as I can during performances As early as 1990/1991 there was Peter Ram's
song 'Dangerous Test' which points to the seriousness of the disease, 'It's a
dangerous disease that nobody can't test. AIDS'. More recently there is Buju
Rude bwoy don't be silly
Put some rubbers on onoo willy
AIDS a go round and you
Don't want to ketch it
which advocates the use of the condom. Similarly there is Lady Saw's very
explicit song urging condom use:
You see when you're having sex
Saw beg you use protection
A condom can save you life (men)
Use it all with your wife (yes).
Sensual, witty and frank her song identifies and refutes the arguments against
condom use as presented in lyrics promoting unprotected sex, for example,
I-Wayne's 'we haffe do it/skin to skin/so bun de dutty condom ting/she clean, she
clean, she clean' Lady Saw asserts instead:
Safety first and trust go to hell...
How do you feel when you get
/you banana peel
The wickedest slam to make you pedal and wheel
Only to find out that you have AIDS disease
You no want know, so get you condom please.
These narratives, speaking to various aspects of sexual relationships and
cautioning about the disease of AIDS, extend the literature on AIDS which abounds
in posters, medical articles, books, and UN reports. Specifically, they manage to give
a more human dimension to the subject. Yet even with these dancehall narratives, the
human dimension of the subject is limited; there is no 'face' to these stories, no
account given of someone living with HIV/AIDS. Another entertainer, Alison
Hinds responds to this, as in an interview with Maya Trotz she emphasizes the
importance of humanizing the subject of AIDS through entertainers sharing of their
'real life experiences' She makes the point that 'medical people speak to them of
statistics, [but] you need real people to come in and talk to those kids' What creative
narratives do is highlight 'the traumas and heartbreaks, as well as the victories and
conquests, [being] sources that no clinical account could, or should, ever emulate'
(Pear 3). It is within this context that Kincaid's narrative of her brother has also to be
placed as she takes us through the painful journey of discovering and responding to
her brother's illness.
Stepping out of the Kumbla-Kincaid's AIDS Narrative
Kincaid's narrative thus challenges typical responses to HIV/AIDS by
breaking the silence and speaking openly about HIV/AIDS, in effect, stepping out of
the kumbla. Moreover, in writing about her brother's illness Kincaid is breaking the
Caribbean convention of'not talking private family business' outside the family. She
also qualifies as one of the few heterosexual writers on HIV/AIDS to which Pear
refers. Of course, Kincaid is writing from outside the Caribbean; she lives in
Vermont, USA and, therefore, has a certain freedom in writing a personal account of
AIDS that other writers living in the Caribbean would not have. Moreso, Kincaid
emerged and developed as a writer in New York, so she would have a more liberal
attitude to the issue of wanting about AIDS and sexuality in general.
But Kincaid's personal account of her brother's illness which does not fit any
of the two categories that Pear makes about AIDS narratives, that is, they are either
factual or fiction (1), employs a certain indeterminacy in her representation of her
brother's life-story. Employing mainly the form of a memoir, she gives us select
details of her brother's life that are verifiable and so prevent us defining the work as
fiction. Yet the lyricism, the poetic evocation of a place, of events, of people and a
language that slips from rendenng details 'objectively' to a vocabulary that is highly
stylised with its apparent simplicity, its condensed metaphors and images suggest a
fictionalised narrative. (Sandra Pouchet Paquet (243) does, in effect, treat My Brother
as an AIDS elegy). The poetry of the prose takes the narrative beyond the form of a
conventional memoir. I suggest that this combination of fiction and fact, this
indeterminacy of form and content, represents Kincaid's use of a discourse that
corresponds to the tension and uncertainty that marks the life of this AIDS victim.
On the one hand, Kincaid writes of a supposedly 'insignificant' life whose author had
apparently failed to take charge of its construction, and presents her narrative as
giving meaning to this life. On the other hand, she treats this 'insignificance' as part of
the stereotypical narrative of the AIDS victim that has to be contested.
This indeterminacy in Kincaid's narrative of her brother's life, a brother who
had died of AIDS is thus foregrounded. The indeterminacy is seen as the correlative
of the writer's struggle to come to terms with the brother's contraction of
HIV/AIDS, his lifetime choices that led to that and finally his death. And yet this
indeterminacy creates a space in which the brother's life can be re-constructed, in
which the brother's 'voice' amidst all the other voices in society can be heard.
Specifically, the paper shows that the narrative representation of the brother's
life as indeterminate, marginal and unimportant is continually being deconstructed so
that another narrative emerges. And though one narrative layering another, in a kind
of palimpsestic way, produces this indeterminacy, it is an indeterminacy that
challenges any rigid response to the victim of AIDS. This 'other' narrative, in effect,
contests the stereotypical reading/writing of the brother's life as well as other
HIV/AIDS victims as insignificant, as 'wutless' [p. 29], by interrogating what
constitutes significance and reveals a life that has its own meaning. Moreover, I
examine how Kincaid's writing of AIDS not only reflects on how language creates
reality but also challenges that notion. The image of the person living with
HIV/AIDS is produced through our words, yet there is a space between that naming
and the 'real', the thing itself. The narrative attempts to reach that space.
Unlike the conventional memoir with its sequential organization, detailing
major events in an 'important' person's life, Jamaica Kincaid's My Brother meanders
over time, detailing events that cumulatively act more like a commentary on what is
represented as an insignificant life. Writing, in effect, against the traditional memoir
that sets out to show the importance of its subject, Kincaid instead uncovers a life
that by conventional standards is unimportant. But because the narrative does recall
the conventional memoir it keeps in the forefront the expectations of that kind of
memoir, with the effect that the question of the significance/insignificance of the
brother is central. And the primary narrative, representing the stereotypical
responses to a PLHIV/AIDS (person living with HIV/AIDS) centres on the
'unimportance' of the brother a small islander who, the writer is quick to point out,
has not managed to escape to the 'bigger islands' of the north. An earlier work by
Kincaid, A Small Island, in fact presents the small island as a place of
narrow-mindedness, pettiness and insignificance a place from which one needs to
escape. Reading the primary narrative of My Brother in relation to that of A Small
Island, the reader is confronted by Kincaid's starkly reductive figure of Devon.
In fact, the racist script of AIDS produced through the association of the
disease with marginal groups and specifically by the early 'speculation about the
geographical origin of AIDS' (Sontag 140) is suggested by the image of the poor black
young man from the small island suffering from HIV/AIDS. Representations of
both the brother and the island of Antigua are conflated. As Sandra Pouchet Pacquet
notes, Kincaid's 'descriptions of island space are marked by colonial and postcolonial
neglect and decay and a reciprocal representation of the prostrate, disfigured body of
her dying and deceased brother' (230). But as this paper shows the initial familiar
representation of the black male HIV/AIDS victim is continually deconstructed; in a
similar way, her representation of the island is not fixed. She counters AII)S
stigmatisation by details such as her discovery, when her pharmacy is out of AZT,
that there are 'quite a few' [p. 60] AIDS victims in her USA small community
Moreover, the image of the hardworking and successful other brother, juxtaposed
Stepping out of the Kumbla-Kincaid's AIDS Narrative
against that of Devon, nullifies any simplified reading of the black male. Even as she
points out the isolated room in the hospital, with limited medical intervention and no
AZT available to treat Devon because it 'is felt that since there is no cure for AIDS
it is useless to spend money on a medicine that will only slow the progress of the
disease; the afflicted will die no matter what...' [p. 31], the creative artist is attuned to
the complexities and layers in every situation.
Kincaid does not spare her readers the awe-full details of the emotional and
physical pain of the AIDS sufferer; she explains that the 'entire mouth and tongue, all
the way to the back of the inside of his mouth, down his gullet, was paved with a white
coat of thrush.' And that he 'had a small sore near his tonsil, [she] could see it when he
opened his mouth wide, something he did with great effort' [p.15]. She speaks of the
'look of agony [that] would come into his eyes' [p. 16].
But AIDS is not only presented as fact, it is also presented as a metaphor for a
life lived apparently without care, without its owner taking responsibility for it. And
Kincaid in doing so succumbs to what Sontag argues against the use of metaphor to
produce the stigmatising of those with AIDS (182). Kincaid's summary of the
brother's life 'he lived a life that is said to be typical in contracting the virus that
causes AIDS; he used drugs and he had many sexual partners He was careless; I
cannot imagine him taking the time to buy or use a condom' [p. 7] recalls the typical
AIDS narrative as one where 'shame is linked to guilt', (Sontag 112) and where
victims are part of'a tainted community that illness has judged' (Sontag 134). It is a
summary that Kincaid, however, acknowledges as a 'quick judgment' [p. 7].
But the sister's acknowledgement of a 'quick judgement' also refers to that of
the society's. In making Devon's sexuality a central issue in the narrative, she focuses
our attention on this typical judgement, this quick reading by society. It is a reading
that is dismissive and exclusionary as the tone of the narrative underlines. The AIDS
victim is so configured, that s/he has no face, no context the label 'drug taker'
'sexually careless' writes her/him off. It is a reading, however, that the sister cannot
ignore. Various incidents are recalled in order to examine the brother's attitude to sex:
Devon in hospital, 'diseased and dying, looking as unattractive as a long-dead corpse'
[p. 43] is presented as 'staring pointedly at [a woman's] crotch' and calling out to her
'that would fit me very nicely, you know' [p. 43]. His inviting one of Dr. Ramsey's
nurses to date him, his having unprotected sex with a number of women during the
remission of his illness with the help of AZT, and his declaring, when told that HIV
was dose-related and that if more of the virus entered his system he would become
worse, that 'he could not go two weeks without having sex [p. 67].
A climactic moment in the narrative is the writer's recall of her brother
uncovering himself and with 'a sort of thrusting gesture' [p. 91] revealing his penis
'covered with sores and on the sores was a white substance, almost creamy, almost
floury, a fungus' [p. 91]. His voice is full of deep panic and deep fear as he urges,
'Jamaica, look at this, just look at this' [p. 91]. The scene makes clear that Devon has
configured his spent/wasted penis as the signifier of his life. He has determined his
significance by his sexuality and, therefore, when its expression is stymied, he sees
himself as nothing. Kincaid's bewilderment at her brother's construction of his life's
significance in that way is reflected in her declaration that she is unqualified to
understand her brother's 'compulsion to express himself through his penis, his
imagination passing between his legs, not through his hands...' [p. 70].
She concludes, therefore, that his life was a passive one a judgement that she
was also to state in an interview, despite her uncovering of his 'other' narrative: 'his
life was a passive event. It had no shape. His life was sort of waiting to happen' More
scathingly, she categories him as part of the group of men, 'who are only urges to be
satisfied, men who say they cannot help themselves, men who cannot save
themselves, men who only know how to die, not at all how to live. [p. 69].
In a similar way, the structural pattern of contrasting the potential of Devon's
life with its reality emphasizes the limited view of him. Devon, for example, is
presented as possessing the potential to be a writer of books on gardening. The wrter
notes, 'I looked at my brother, for he was a gardener also, and I wondered, if his life
had taken a certain turn, might he have written a book with such a title' [p. 11]. The
brief description that follows highlights his love of gardening and her pleasure at
seeing his garden small but flourishing. But the contrast, with Kincaid's privileging
the writer of books about gardens marks the standard that her brother's life fails to
meet. His potential aligned with other's achievements acts as a signifier of his failure.
The juxtaposition of 'events' also serves to reveal Devon's 'failure' One event
changes the other. His proclaimed faith, that of Rastafarianism, a positive 'event' is
undermined by his lack of meaningful rituals and community as metonymically
represented in the description of him smoking 'fat marijuana cigarettes' and taking
coke, as well as the fact that Rasta friends never came into his hospital room to visit
him. (A fleeting first visit at the door and 'they never returned again' [p. 42].) The
desire, too, to be a reggae singer, another self-affirming 'event' is undercut by his
narrow and limited definition of a successful singer a man for whom 'gahl a take
ahff she clothes' [p. 68] when he sings. Moreover, each figure Rasta, reggae singer -
is a figure of cultural authority, defined by their virility. And Kincaid in undercutting
her brother's appropriation of these icons calls into question his definition of self.
Stepping out of the Kumbla-Kincaid's AIDS Narrative
Similarly, there is the narrative's insistence on the 'facts' of the brother's life,
emphasized in the summaries of his life. The latter, fuller one tells us:
[he] was a baby almost eaten by red ants, at two left in her care he lay
unattended with his diaper filled with faeces; as a school boy he was
involved in the homicide of a gas-station attendant; he played cricket
well, learned to swim; he smoked the Weed, he changed from a
vibrant young man who had come down with a bad case of
pneumonia and then told he had the HIV virus and would shortly be
dead; he became well enough after that to begin having unprotected
sex, with women and sex with other people who were not women but
who his family did not know about [p.191].
This emphasis on the 'facts' in effect draws our attention to what is the 'fiction'
in the narrative, and focuses our attention on the sister's need to distinguish between
what is her interpretation of his life, her inferences and what actually is.
But the facts are shown as only part of the story that the 'memoir' captures.
They are shown as unreliable for a final reading of Devon as the sister/writer
continually searches for the other narrative. Moreover, the continual crossover
between the fact and fiction of the life, of this which is and is not a memoir,
dramatizes her unease and uncertainty about making any final judgement calls on her
The primary narrative is the acknowledged quick judgement. It is judgement
that begins to 'deconstruct' as the writer uncovers her brother's life, a life presented as
being unravelled by AIDS. As the writer fills in the context and other aspects of his
life are disclosed, we recognize that this is only a partial evaluation of her brother's
life. The tale of a meaningless and irresponsible life is disrupted.
This disruption is most evident in the more contemplative Part 2 (not named as
such but the un-numbered page falling between two other pages suggests this) which
opens with, 'My brother died' [p. 88], in contrast to the first section which begins
'When I saw my brother he was said to be dying of AIDS' [p. 3]. The prose,
discarding chronology, meanders through descriptions of the last visit, the death and
the funeral. Some events appear unconnected to each other, random and
unimportant. Others can be categorized as a distillation of the brother's life
experiences. One memory, however, of the writer lying on her brother's bed, looking
up at the ceiling and recognizing that it was rotting away unites them. The memory
overlaying the image of the dying brother forces her to recognize the similarity of the
two images and to evoke the response that in 1986, the date of the incident, she could
not know that her brother would one day 'come to resemble the process of [this]
decaying house' [p. 113]. In other words, she could not then attach any significance to
the image. Only in retrospect can she do so. And in recognizing this Kincaid reveals
to her readers that significance is not inherent but is conferred, is imposed, is random.
But significance paradoxically is also discovered as inherent. Reflections on the
destruction of the passion fruit vine by her mother, its subsequent rebirth and then
death force an acknowledgement that there is a significance to things whether one
recognizes or admits it, 'I could only notice [the absent passion fruit] not attach any
significance to it, but there is significance to it all the same.' [p.127]. What the
narrator has come to accept is the notion that something/someone can be significant
without being named so or recognized. Someone/something is significant simply
because of its being, because it exists.
This discloses the contradiction that is at the core of the book. On one hand,
there is Kincaid's representation of her brother's life as a life 'that is said to be typical
in contracting the virus that causes AIDS' [p.7] a life lived irresponsibly, carelessly
and, therefore, unimportant. On the other hand, there is Kincaid's interrogation of
what makes for a meaningful life. She thus compels a reading of the other narrative,
almost hidden under the primary one. Moreover, her non-chronological ordering of
Devon's history, the way she introduces topics and then returns to them later and
elaborates on them underlines the at once muted and open interrogation of what
constitutes significance. In effect, this elaboration of a situation (in wave-like fashion,
each 'situation' rippling out/dramatically expanding) and her reflections act as a rider
to how a life marked by a seeming lack of direction and of substance would 'normally'
be constituted, in effect, how the AIDS victim is configured in the 'cautionary' and
general 'public' texts.
Reading Devon's life then with this proviso we begin to uncover another life.
He has chosen to live a life that is clearly opposed to that of a conventionally western
defined one of success. And though he is no Aldrick (in Lovelace's The Dragon Can't
Dance) who also challenges society's definition of success, his unrealised potential is
not as the narrator emphasizes an indication of an unrealised life. Furthermore, her
acknowledgement that he was 'someone who had lived in extremes, sometimes a
saint, sometimes a sinner' [p. 83], suggests a life that was fully lived. What is disclosed
is a life lived with its own rhythms and on its own terms.
His casual affairs are initially understood only as the expression of an
irresponsible attitude towards sex, but with the uncovering of the 'other' narrative,
they must also be read as a life focused on the present, a letting go of the future. And
though such a life can be easily dismissed as passive, as valueless, as in '[he] doesn't
make anything, no one depends on him, he is not a father to anyone, no one finds him
Stepping out of the Kumbla-Kincaid's AIDS Narrative
indispensable' [p. 70], it is a life that he has constructed himself, like the house that he
built himself in his mother's yard. The complexity of Devon's life is thus
acknowledged. There is no single, fixed reading of his life. The interpretations are
multiple. The narrative thus repeatedly demonstrates that to interpret, to judge is
problematic. Kincaid's deferral of the description of his homosexual relations
towards the end of the narrative has also to be seen in this light. On one hand, this
severs the stereotypical connection of homosexuality and AIDS. On the other, it
again discloses the complexity of the brother's life and her limited knowledge of him,
even as she represents it as his inability to reveal himself, he had died without ever
understanding or knowing, or being able to let the world in which he lived know, who
he was; that who he really was he could not express fully' (p. 162). And the
withholding of this knowledge by the sister-narrator until the end of the narrative,
moreover serves to emphasize the limitations of knowing another, that it is all another
Furthermore, the disconnect in the narrative's flow also raises the question of
how connections are made. It is not so much that meaning is elusive because the
narrative shifts back and forth, continually interrupting itself with unexplained
juxtapositions...' as Pouchet Paquet observes [Pouchet Paquet 254]. It is that Kincaid
forces us to search for new patterns of connections so events, ordinarily
unconnected, are placed together to suggest a connectedness. Juxtaposing the
incident of the red ants some small things attacking Devon at birth with his dying
of AIDS some small things attacking him internally Kincaid suggests that there is
meaning to be found in those contrastivee and incongruous juxtapositions' [Pouchet
Paquet 254]. Again Kincaid points us to the complexity of people, events, AIDS and
cautions us that meaning is to be found not on the surface of things, not in the usual
connections. Devon appears to be an insignificant small island man dying of AIDS
because of the superficial connections that we make between people and events. The
narrative impels us to search for connections that we would not ordinarily make.
But the naming of these incidents 'significant' could also be understood as the
arbitrariness of the signified 'significance' and perhaps the futility of searching for
connections, for meaning. At the end of the narrative Kincaid concedes, this [i.e.
Devon's life] now has a meaning only because my own life can make it have one' [p.
128]. But the narrative itself subverts such self-conscious posturing; Devon's life
exists in and of itself, like the tamarinds that she noted in her final walk with Devon as
being 'not good' and 'not bad, just tamarinds' [p. 80]. The sister's assigning of
meaning to her brother's life is, in effect, her definition of what constitutes
significance. Furthermore, the method of her narrative, with its privileging of
indeterminacy, simultaneously compels us to question the very act of assigning
meaning, of seeing only familiar connections.
In reading Kincaid this way what emerges strongly is the recognition of 'being'
as having its own importance, as having an 'essence' separate from its construction by
others. This is emphasized, too, by the writer's representation of HIV/AIDS. It is
the 'death that lives' 'flowering upon flowering with a voraciousness that nothing
seems able to satisfy and stop' [p. 20]. And possessing this power it escapes the
limitations of any reading/any construction/any representation. Kincaid's rich
imagery, the nurses and visitors to the hospital fear of it, the Antiguan government's
negative AZT policy, and Devon's references to HIV/AIDS as that 'chupidness' [p.
65] neither enlarge nor diminish its potency. In contrast, Patricia Powell's (in A Small
Gathering of Bones) refusal to name the strange disease affecting one of the main
characters AIDS does not reduce its damning effect. In other words, the meaning of
AIDS is not confined to its representation in language. What these representations of
the disease uncover is their 'writers' attitude towards it, not what it is. Its significance,
like Devon's, like any small place or thing, like everything else, exists in that space
before/beyond language. Language is in the end an approximation of what is not its
only arbiter. The question of significance then is more than a question of language, of
In making this distinction between the 'essence' of the object or person and its
representation, Kincaid forces us to confront the various constructs of AIDS victims
as constructs. Her narrative, in effect, displaces these constructs and creates a
community of readers with a 'new' understanding and language for AIDS. It is a
language that as Mark Doty in commenting on his AIDS memoir, in an interview with
Owen Keehnen, notes 'is one of the things we have developed as a community of
people devastated by the epidemic a kind of language with which to talk about
death and dying' (2), Kincaid begins to create this community of readers by first
collapsing the usually erected barrier between the AIDS victim and others, by
removing the victim from the 'isolated ward' and giving him a 'face', his individual
context. His body as affected by the disease is bared to the readers; there is no hiding
from it as many in Devon's society attempt to do. Exposing the body, positioning it in
a space between life and death as in:
'On one side, there is life, and the thin shadow of death hovers over it; and on
the other, there is death with a small patch of life attached to it. This latter is the life of
AIDS' [p. 96]
the writer acknowledges the body ravished by AIDS but equally insists that
Devon is this and more
Stepping out of the Kumbla-Kincaid's AIDS Narrative
Kincaid's exploration of what constitutes significance, of what it is to make
'quick judgements' leads us to understand that the matter of reading/interpretation
and determining meaning is a complex undertaking. To read AIDS, therefore,
without an awareness of the complexity of doing so is to fall into the trap of reducing
people who live with HIV/AIDS to simplistic 'sloganese' Doty too warns of the
danger of reducing the epidemic to 'a familiar set of conventions' He points out how
our 'culture loves to simplify things, to come up with a story and say, "This is the
story, this is what AIDS is" (2).' Jamaica Kincaid in sharing her brother's story in the
way she has done rejects what Doty in Heaven's Coast calls the 'covering up, the notion
of AIDS as shameful or unspeakable' by naming it and particularizing it. She steps
out of the kumbla that seemingly safe space of silence and of denial.
Moreso the mix of fact and fiction, which I have argued makes for an
indeterminacy in the text, allows for the emergence of insights and understanding not
otherwise achievable. The facts call our attention to the disease, opens up the
intimate dialogue on sex and AIDS. The recall of the brother's response to it denial
and anger, expressed m his attempts to spread the disease, his referral to it as 'that
chupidness', his having sex without a condom is the writer's attempt to have
Canbbean people (and others) confront the disease, the secrecy and denial
surrounding it. The poetry of the prose takes us into another realm. Metaphor as
Doty posits 'is a way of knowing the world, and no less a one than other sorts of
gaining knowledge' (25). So Kincaid's fiction allows for the easy commingling of
paradox, ironies and images filled with similes and metaphors that clarify meaning for
the reader, that elaborate on the affective aspects. It is in acknowledging this context
that we can understand the writer's abundant use of nature images that speak to the
mystery of life and AIDS in particular as well as to the ordered life and death cycle. So
she not only captures poignantly Devon's death but suggests too another life.
Moreover, this crossover of poetry and prose, metaphorical and factual
narrative, often leaves the reader to fill the gaps and make the necessary links. So
there is the irony of the sister, who regularly visits and who provides the needed AZT,
being omitted from the brother's roll call of his family during his last moments: 'That
night as he lay dying and calling the names of his brothers and his mother, he did not
call my name, and I was neither glad nor sad bout this' [p.174]. And then there is gap
between the brother's promiscuous relations with women, his loud insistence on his
desire for women and later the revelation of his homosexuality. These remain like
unconnected lines in a poem for the reader to determine the necessary links, and
ironically show that the connections made are more an exposure of the readers'
beliefs about AIDS and sexuality than any 'objective' knowing.
Furthermore, Jamaica Kincaid shows that facts have to be interpreted. Her
summaries of the facts of Devon's life placed in different sections of the narrative in
different contexts suggest different readings. Placed at the beginning of the narrative,
the summary emphasizes the quick judgement usually passed on people with
HIV/AIDS. Towards the end, with a few additions including a gentle tone of
acceptance this same collation of the facts of Devon's life expresses strongly the
limitation, the inaccuracies even, of facts and statistics in describing him.
In reading My Brother this way we are returned to one of the primary functions
of literature, that is, literature as an intervention into society's discourses. Specifically,
Kincaid's narrative provides an intervention into the AIDS discourse. The laudable
posters, advertisements, testimonials, and the medical texts, which form most of the
written AIDS discourse in the Caribbean, ironically contribute to the stereotypical
AIDS narrative. Posters and ads, for example, advocating the inclusion of
HIV/AIDS victims in mainstream society with the messages, 'you can't get
HIV/AIDS by working with an infected person'; it's ok to touch a person living with
HIV/AIDS; be a friend, don't discriminate', as commendable as they are, also
communicate, at the subtext level, their antithesis, their binary opposites: one needs
to be careful with persons suffering from that disease. The pariah status of the victims
is thus subtly reinforced. Kincaid's narrative, on the other hand, because
acknowledges that status, that reading is able to extend itself beyond this.
In fact, Kincaid's presentation of her brother's life replaces the arms' length
treatment of an AIDS victim with the intimacy of the sister's grappling to understand
his life. The indeterminacy of the narrative not only produces 'a restraint of
judgement and a certain complexity' [Delany 1990:187] but impels the reader to share
in the construction of Devon's life, to determine, like the 'perfect' reader imaged in
William Shawn, whether the narrative is 'either not true or incomplete' [p.196].
Ultimately the 'perfect' reader, replaces the stereotypical primary AIDS narrative of
shame, guilt and judgement with the far more nuanced, complex, useful and human
narrative that lay covered to emerge only when the reader, like the author, refuses to
passively read the troubling body of HIV/AIDS.
In a discursive site that threatens closure, Kincaid's achievement in breaking
the established boundaries of the Caribbean AIDS discourse is extraordinary.
Author's note: This article also appears in Sargasso, journal o/ Caribbean literture, I anuage and
Culure, 2006-07, 1 "Minor Keys, Chords and Dischords"
'To go into kumbla' a folk expression, popularised by Erna Brodber's Jane and Louisa
'il/Soon (ome Home, means to enter a protective space, but one which also has the potential
Stepping out of the Kumbla-Kincaids AIDS Narrative
to imprison the person if s/he remains there too long. Its use here is to mean leaving the
protective space created by a denial of AIDS a denial that comes in many forms e.g. it
affects only a few persons belonging to a particular group, the statistics in the Caribbean is a
false representation of the region as a whole as only one country is seriously affected.
Banton, Buju. "Don't Be Silly" in Voice of amaica. London: 1993
Cady, Joseph. "AIDS Literature." glbtq: An Engyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, bisexral,Transgender,
and Queer Culture. Ed. Claude J. Summers. Chicago: glbtq May
Davidson, Diana "Interview with Felicity Aymer: AIDS, AIDS Activism, and Jamaica
Kincaid's My Brother." Anthurium, A Caribbean Studies Journal 2:2 (2004).
Delany, Samuel R. Flight from Neveryon. Hanover and Iondon: Wesleyan University Press,
Doty, Mark. Heaven's Coast, A Memoir. NY: HarperColins, 1996.
Garmire, Lisa. "Resisting the Apocalypse: Telling Time in American Novels about AIDS,
1982-1992." UCSB English Department Doctoral Dissertation 1996. June 6, 2005.
1-Waync. "In I Arms" New York: 2005
I. Keehen, Owen. Owen Keehen Interviews "The Brilliance of Mark Doty", http://www.
Kelly, MichaelJ and Brendan Bain. inCQ Vol.50. No.l, 2004, HIV AIDS Special Issue
Kincaid, Jamaica. My Brother. New York: 1997, A Small Place. 1988, NY: The Noonday Press.
Lady Saw. "Condom"
Lovelace, Earl. Dragon Can't Dance. Essex: Longman, 1979
Pastore, Judith Laurence, ed. Confronting AIDS through Literature. Urbana and Chicago:
University of Illinois Press, 1993.
Pear, David. "HIV/AIDS and Literature: An Introduction." May 15, 2005 http://www.naf.
Pouchet Paquet, Sandra. Caribbean Autobiography. Wisconsin: U of Wisconsin P, 2002.
Powell, Patricia. A Small Gathering of Bones. Oxford: Heinemann, 1994
Ram, Peter. "Dangerous Test" quoted in Maya Trotz "Excerpts ofJouvay.com Interviews"
2003.May 13, 2005 http://www.phiva.net/interviews.html
Sontag, Susan. Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors. NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux,
Snell, Marilyn. Interview "Jamaica Kincaid Hates Happy Endings," Sept./Oct.1997
MotherJones.com News. Dec 9, 2004.http://www.motherjones.com/news/gal997/0/snell
Trotz, Maya. "Excerpts of Jouvay.com Interviews." 2003. May 13,
Liminal Anansi: Symbol of Order and Chaos
An Exploration of Anansi's Roots Amongst the Asante
Emily Zobel Marshall
The word 'Anansi' means 'spider' in the Twi language of the Asante peoples of
the former Gold Coast. However, as much of the written history of the Asante started
with European contact there are varied debates concerning Anansi's position
amongst them and speculative and conflicting accounts concerning Anansi's roots
abound. African anthropologist John Mbiti states that among the Asante 'the spider
symbolizes "wisdom" and for that reason, God is given the title "Ananse Koroko"
which means the Great Spider, that is, the Wise One' (Mibiti, 1969, p. 51). Walter
Jekyll, early twentieth century collector ofJamaican Anansi tales, writes that 'there is a
Gold Coast tradition which affirms the human race to be descended from a spider.'
Other interpretations claim that the Asante believed Anansi to have immense
spiritual powers, and 'that everything that happened in the world was started by
Anansi' (Jekyll, 1966, p. xxx).
This article will root Anansi firmly amongst the Asante and demonstrate the
ways in which he directly reflected key elements of Asante thought and culture. It
argues that the tales were not only implemented as vehicles for political discourse, but
that Anansi was tightly bound to traditional Asante religious beliefs. As we shall see,
an exploration ofAnansi's role in the rich cultural history of the Asante will reveal the
original content, context and significance of the stories and help uncover the reasons
for the survival and metamorphosis of this captivating trickster spider into the
National Jamaican folk hero.
Anansi's Roots: The Spinner of Asante Life
The Asante lived in a highly autocratic and hierarchical society. The Asante
Kingdom was formed at the close of the 17th century when the 'Asantehene' or King
'Osei' Tutu brought together a confederation ofAsante chiefdoms under his one rule,
creating a powerful Kingdom. The strength of the Asante Kingdom continued to
Anana:Symbol odf order and Chaos
grow throughout the 18t century. A highly successful trade network was developed
selling slaves, gold, kola nuts and ivory across the Atlantic and north across the
Sahara. Thanks to the combination of their unique skills of craftsmanship,
agricultural successes and strong military traditions, the Asante were able to expand
their Kingdom to cover much of present day Ghana (Isichei, 1977, p. 60).
During the 19th century the growth of the Asante Kingdom was eventually
thwarted by the British. Following the Asante's invasion of Fante lands in 1806, the
British, fearing the might of the expanding Asante Empire, supported the Fante as
allies through a series of wars between the two Akan factions. The British finally
invaded the Asante Kingdom in the 1870s, blew up the royal palace in the capital
Kumasi and razed the entire city to the ground. By 1900 the Asante were defeated and
the Asante Kingdom was annexed to the British Gold Coast colony.
The Asante kept many of their traditions alive throughout the period of British
rule and into the 20"t century, and writing in the early 1980's, historian of Asante
culture, M.D. McLeod states that although the Asante embraced many forms of
modernisation, they 'proudly retain many of their customs, display the subtlety, wit
and sophistication which pervade their culture, and act always with a consciousness
of their great past' (McLeod, 1981, p.19).
Traditional Asante religion was primarily based around the worship of spiritual
forces that structured the universe. Nyame was the Omnipotent Great Deity and
resided in the sky (Allyene, 1988, p. 45). According to Asante, belief Nyame sent his
children down to earth and they bore the names of the hills and trees, the great lakes
and rivers of Asanteland, and they played the roles of lesser gods and were called the
'Abosom.' Nyame had a female partner, Asase Yaa, who was often depicted as an old
woman; Asase Yaa was neither Nyame's wife nor his creation, but she was to Nyame
what the Queen mother of the Asante was to the King; she shared his power but he
has no power over her (Pelton, 1980, p. 65). Prayers were directed to both the male
and female gods, with Asase Yaa representing the earth and Nyame the sky.
Amongst the Asante Anansi had a day-name, and was named Kwaku Anansi,
meaning Wednesday-born. Although there are many accounts which describe Anansi
as an Asante deity, there is little evidence to support the theory that he was
worshipped as a god in his own right. While he was in continual contact with the
Nyame, there are no examples of shrines built in his honour, offerings made to him or
prayers directed towards him. Like so many indigenous trickster figures and culture
heroes, such as Brere Rabbit who originated from the folklore of the Bantu-speaking
peoples of South, West and Central Africa, it seems that the Asante Anansi was an
intermediary figure. He existed halfway between the earth and the sky and had the
Emiy Zobel Marshall
power to restructure both the world of the divine and the human. Furthermore, for
the Asante all animals and humans were believed to be entwined with the spiritual
world and share some of Nyame's power, so rigid distinctions denoting the levels of
divinity between the lesser gods, the spirits, powerful personages, mythological
figures and the ancestors were somewhat unnecessary.
The Asante Anansi myths explain how Anansi brought both wisdom and
stories to earth from the realm of Nyame. These tales exemplify how Anansi was
bringer of culture's vital elements and symbolise his immense power as the mediator
between humankind and the gods; in these tales we see how Anansi controlled the
fundamentals of civilisation, wisdom (knowledge) and stories (history). However,
Anansi of the Asante remains a multi-faceted creature for as well as bringing
wonderful things to the human race, such as stories and wisdom, he has a darker side.
He is insatiably greedy and commits innumerable gruesome acts for his own personal
gain. He disrespects Nyame and steals from him, and his relationship with his people
can be even more antagonistic than with the Sky-God.
Anansi continually shows his disregard for the rules of society and
community and there is a long list of his antisocial acts. He is selfish, lusty and
deceitful. He breaks public trust during a famine, watches his family starve as he
gorges himself, sleeps with other men's wives and if he helps humans it is often
because he will gain some form of reward for himself. He introduces debt, jealousy,
diseases, contradiction, and serpents and monsters into the Asante world, and
although he brings knowledge to earth, it is primarily through anger and frustration.
The Spider and the Shade Tree: Discipline and Displacement
R.S Rattray, head of the Anthropological Department of the Asante capital
Kumasi in the 1920s, was a key figure in the collection of information on the Asante,
and his research forms the main body of early 20th century European writing on
Asante culture. During the 1920's Rattray collected Anansi tales for his text
Akan-AshantiFolktales (1930). Rattray aimed to collect the tales at their source and to
do so visited remote Asante villages and observed their evening storytelling sessions.
He would note what he considered the 'best' tale and asked the storyteller to return
the next day and repeat their story. The tales would then be written down in both Twi
and English, with as little editing as possible, making the collection a valuable and
Aamnsi:Symbol odf order and Chaos
In his text Rattray observes how the stones of the disgraceful Anansi were
acted out by the teller in an extremely comic and realistic manner. He explains that
they were aimed at exposing the misconduct of powerful personages; the teller would
bring the character to life, mimicking both their movements and voices. It seems that
an Asante man or woman, who would have had a strict code of social conduct to
adhere too, could make use of an Anansi tale to criticise figures of authority such as
the elders, the Asantehene or even the Sky-God Nyame, which would, as Rattray puts
it, 'ordinary be strictly taboo' (Rattray, 1930, p. x). Rattray continues:
If one had a grievance against a fellow villager, a chief, or even the
King of Ashanti, to hold him up to thinly disguised ridicule, by
exposing some undesirable trait in his character greed, jealousy,
deceit (they could) introduce the affair as the setting to some tale. A
slave would thus expose a bad master, a subject his wicked King. Up
to a point the story teller was licensed. (Rattray, 1930, p. xi)
Therefore the tales were implemented to vent frustrations or upset in a manner
that was considered appropriate and legitimate by the Asante Kingdom. Indeed, it
was an established practice amongst the Asante to deflect their criticism of the
Kingdom and its rulers on to other things. An example can be found in the method of
talking to the 'shade tree.' The shade tree was a tree of great importance in an Asante
village; it was seen as synonymous with the chief of the village or the Ki ng, and their
spirits were believed to find refuge in its boughs. As McLeod states 'the spiritual state
of the whole town was connected with these trees,' and it had to be protected at al
times. Often villagers would 'talk to the shade tree' and verbalize the things they
would have liked to say to the chief or King. Furthermore, the expression 'to tear the
leaves of the shade tree' was a guarded way of saying 'to curse the King' (McLeod,
1981, p. 30)
Furthermore, it was not just Anansi who played havoc with the power
structures of the Asante Kingdom; they had several practices which involved the
celebration of the inversion of social rules. At the annual Odwira festival, celebrated
from September to October, the roots of which go back to the start of the Asante
Kingdom, 'the ordinary rules of behaviour were turned upside down.' During the
festival the King would wear barkcloth, 'the garb of the poorest slave in the realm,' in
contrast to the elaborate robes he normally donned (McLeod, 1981, p. 37).
The Asante had a love of oratory and delighted in word-play and long
discussions, which is exemplified in their strong storytelling tradition. They also
believed that it was wrong to fight and kill when conflicts could be resolved through
discussion. Europeans have contributed greatly to the image of the Asante as
Emiy Zobel Marshall
bloodthirsty warriors, yet a visitor from Europe to the King Osei Bonsu's court, at
the beginning of the 19th century, reported that the King had 'a maxim associated with
the religion he professed, never to appeal to the sword while the path lay open for
negotiation' (Isichei, 1977, p. 62). Furthermore, the Anansi themselves tales
undoubtedly reflect a faith in the power of words to resolve conflicts.
However, there was a strict set of rules to be adhered to if one wanted to
criticise or mock the powerful through the medium of an Anansi tale, which
protected the teller from causing offence. Firstly, the tales must only be told after
nightfall. Secondly, there must be a public disclaimer made before the start and at the
end of the each story to show that the tales were not strictly true. In Rattray's
collection these consist of the constant repetition at the beginning of each tale of the
formula; 'we do not really mean, we do not really mean (that what we are going to say
is true)' (Rattray, 1930, p. 55). At the end the storyteller would say: 'this, my story,
which I have related, if it be sweet, (or) if it be not sweet, take some elsewhere, and let
some come back to me' (p. 59), or alternatively 'some you may take as true, and the
rest you may praise me (for the telling it) (Rattray, 1930, p.77).
Liminal Anansi: Symbols of Chaos and Order
We can conclude that the Anansi tales played a vital political role as a medium
for members of the Asante community to air their potentially divisive issues publicly
in a controlled manner. This public airing could end in resolution or simply diffuse
negative emotions into laughter and mockery; thus avoiding the build up of
resentment and retribution. However, we are still faced with the discrepancy between
Anansi's chaotic and crude acts and the strict morals and principled forms of
behaviour common to the Asante people. Even Rattray describes his surprise at the
contradiction between the often potentially offensive content of the tales and the
disciplined, sophisticated and well-mannered Asante. In the following tale from
Rattray's collection, translated by Rattray to mirror the language structures and
rhythms of the original story told in Twi, we find examples of Anansi's violent and
crude behaviour, as well as a warning of the dangers of hypocrisy. In the story the
character called 'Hate-To-Be-Contradicted' tells Anansi a lie abont the palm nuts that
grow near his home:
"When they are ripe, three bunches ripen at once; when they are ripe I
cut them down, and when I boil them to extract the oil, they make
three water pots full of oil, and I take the oil to Akase, to buy an Akase
old woman; the Akase old woman comes and gives birth to my
Anansi:Symbol odf order and Chaos
grandmother, who bears my mother, that she in turn may bear me.
When mother bears me, I am already standing there."
Aware that Hate-to-be-Contradicted kills those who contradict him, Anansi
tells him a lie in return:
The Spider said, "you do not lie, what you say is true; as for me I have some
okras standing near my farm, and when they are ripe, I join seventy-seven hooked
poles (to reach them to pull them down), but even then they do not reach, so I lie on
my back, and am able to use my penis to pluck them."(p.107)
When Hate-To-Be-Contradicted visits Anansi's home the spider's children are
instructed to tell him that his penis has broken in seven different places and he has
gone to the blacksmiths to get it repaired. Anansi and his family continue to lie to
Hate-To-Be-Contradicted until he can stand it no longer and contradicts them. When
he has done so Anansi tells him that since he, Hate-to-be-Contradicted, has
contradicted someone, his son Ntikuma must "beat him so he may die." Ntikuma
does so with vigour and Anansi proceeds to cut up his flesh and scatter it about, and
'that is why many persons who hate to be contradicted are found in the tnbe' (Rattray,
1930, p. 109).
Anansi of the Asante could not only break the boundaries of social
acceptability, but he could also inhabit the dangerous zone of the spirit world and the
wild bush, so feared by Asante. As we shall see, the Asante were a people preoccupied
with the boundaries between the human world and the unknown world of spirits and
unfathomable forces, boundaries which Anansi continually tests.
Until the end of the 19th century the very geographical layout of an Asante
village or town reflected the preoccupation with the divide between the forces of
nature and culture. Obsessed with cleanliness, the Asante threw all 'unclean' things
onto a space (a midden) at the peripheries of their villages. The unclean included
household and bodily waste as well as the corpses of people that they deemed as being
'incomplete.' Incomplete beings were those believed to be witches, children (who
were not complete beings until adolescence), and those who had died from ominous
deaths due to the uncontrollable force of nature; for example being killed by a wild
animals, crushed by falling trees or struck by lightning (McLeod, 1981, pp. 38-40).
Fringe areas of the village were also used as village latrines and for housing
menstruating women (who were deemed 'unclean' and dangerous) as well as for
burial grounds and temples (to respect the gods as well as to control their entry into
the human world). These fringe zones were places intertwined in the minds of the
Asante with the 'intermediary, or special conditions or entities.' Beyond these
Emiy Zobl Marshall
intermediary zones lay the bush, and as McLeod states 'the bush and the village were
strongly opposed in Asante thought' (McLeod, 1981, pp. 38-40).
The Asante believed that all human activities should take place in the
village, no child should be conceived or born in the bush, and to die in the bush was
both horrifying and disgraceful. A place of chaotic wild forces, full of spirits and
superhuman beings who threatened humankind, the bush was the ultimate contrast
to the carefully ordered Asante village or town. The intermediary 'midden' zone that
separated the town and the forest, the dwelling and the bush, associated with death,
the unclean and the supernatural, was 'a symbolic as well as a physically distinct zone
(McLeod, 1981, p. 40).' A small low barrier of thin logs were traditionally placed in
this zone, across the edge of the village, for man's protection against the wild and
fearsome forces of the bush.
This great distinction, both geographical and symbolic, between the civilised
human world and the wilderness, influenced much of Asante art and is today integral
to our understanding of the Asante's fascination with their folk hero Anansi. If we
take this element of Asante thought and custom into account it seems logical that a
people so focused on the opposition and boundaries between order and disorder, the
clean and the unclean, the sacred and the profane, culture and nature, should revel in
tales that portray Anansi fearlessly breaking down and transgressing these divides.
Anansi, ambiguous trickster, inhabits and restructures both the natural and human
world, and shows no fear in the crossing of boundaries. He is a great hero who
bravely climbs to places where an Asante would only dare to tread in their
T.E. Kyei, in his autobiography My Childhood Amongst the Asante (2001),
describes his memories of walking through a dark forest with his father as a young
boy back to his hometown, Kwaaman. He explains his feelings of excitement and
fear as he passes what he believes to be Kwaku Anansi's village, and he imagines
Anansi and his family in their dwellings deep within the forest:
As the physical body entered the impenetrable forest, the mind
roamed wildly in the realms of fantasy and the many stories I had
heard told at our Anansisem (story) telling nights at Kwaaman
became realities. I imagined things. The small Abedimsabi village we
had just passed was Anansi-kurom wherein dwelt the wily, guileful,
worldy-wise Kwaku Anansi and his family (Kyei, 2001, p. 4).
The Anansi that Kyei envisions is unsettling because he inhabits a liminal space.
The term liminal is derived from the latin word limenn' meaning 'threshold.' The
Anans.iSymbol odforder and Chaos
liminal can be described as a 'betwixt and between' space on the threshold between
boundaries or binary constructions, a space in which perceptions or conditions blend
and transformation occurs. This term perfectly describes Anansi's characteristics as
well as his role in Asante culture (Neufeldt & Guralnik, 1988) 'Liminal' is a word
which resists straightforward definition, but it is the very complexity and intangibility
of the term that makes it so appropriate when discussing Anansi.
Anansi is liminal because he is a Shamanic shape-changer and master of
transformation and metamorphosis. As we have seen he inhabits a hybrid space on
the threshold between the human world and the non-human, and from his position
on the peripheries he tests any established boundaries. Anansi's actions are
simultaneously destructive and creative and his liminality lies in his ability to invert all
social rules. In the Asante stories we see him disconnect his own body parts, eat his
own children, abuse his guests, unashamedly ignore the truth and totally disregard the
sky-god Nyame. Anansi has free reign to do anything he pleases.
Nevertheless, Anansi is not just a force for change and mayhem, he
also has the power to bring about order and structure. As the Priest, R.D Pelton,
rightly points out:
Anansi reveals the Asante understanding that there can be no pure
centrifugality.Just as the turning of the centre creates movement away
from the centre, so Anansi's movement away from order creates
order. He shows the power of liminality precisely by stressing its
negation of ordinary structure' (Pelton, 1980, p. 36).
Liminality, which evidently preoccupied Asante thought, signals the
reversal of social structure and yet it is the very liminality of the Anansi tales that
brought about social unity for the Asante by accepting into their society the darker
forces which a social system normally tries to eradicate. It was precisely by acting
completely opposite to conditioned forms of human behaviour and testing the
limitations of the Asante moral code that Anansi was able to set and strengthen
hierarchical Asante social structures. Anansi was a re-creative force because while the
structure of Asante society was challenged by his liminality it was also simultaneously
regenerated and reaffirmed by it. The force for chaos ultimately brought about an
improved social order.
Emily Zobel Marshall
Anansi, Spinner of the Social Web
The Asante Anansi tales are in many ways symbolic of the Asante 'midden'; the
powerful liminal in-between space full of human waste, incomplete beings and
incomprehensible forces. Both the tales and the midden acted as intermediaries
between life and death, nature and culture, the spirit and the human world. As birth is
linked to death the preoccupation with death in the tales also forms part of their
regenerative essence. It celebrates a cyclical rather than linear approach to life in
which the rotting corpse is linked to the pregnant mother within the circle of creation.
The Asante emphasised the pnority of the community over the individual
(Vecsey, 1993, p. 118). There were strong obligations to the group and deviation from
the norm could result in banishment, the ultimate punishment for a member of such a
tight community. In contrast with the Asante people Anansi is the ultimate loner;
without friends and often even estranged from his family, he has no sense of
community ties or obligation to others. However, as Anansi wreaks havoc the tales
portray a very well-ordered society going on around him. While he is scheming and
stealing and violating the rules, his neighbours, in contrast, are team players; they are
planting crops, cooperating and obeying. As Anansi threatens social order the other
characters in the tales uphold it, again reaffirming a faith in the structures of the
Asante community (Vecsey, 1993, p. 119).
The function of the tales in their Asante setting was to aid the harmony of the
Asante social system as a whole. Both philosophical and comical commentaries on
life, they were used as a medium for negotiation and as a temporary release from a
controlled environment. As the release was temporary and only acceptable in certain
contexts it tested the limits of Asante codes of behaviour but in doing so redefined
and strengthened its boundaries. Rather than having a 'blind faith' in their social
structures, through the medium of Anansi the Asante incorporated scepticism into
their belief systems, and by doing so made them both more resilient and profound
(Vecsey, 1993, p. 121).
Following the Anansi Thread: From Messenger of the Gods to Muse of the
From the 16th to the 19th century thousands of Akan slaves were taken from
the former Gold Coast and shipped to Jamaica and other parts of the Caribbean. The
Portuguese fort of El Mina, built in 1482, was the first European fortification on the
Anansi:Symbol odf order and Chaos
Gold Coast, and Akan slaves taken from the vicinity of the fortress were names
'Cromanti' by European colonials (Allyene, 1988, p. 30). The Cromantis were a
combination of tribal groups of Akan origin and had a reputation for being fierce
fighters and defended themselves against traders and planters on both African and
Caribbean soil. However, similarly to their role in West Africa, in Jamaica the Asante
emerged as the dominant cultural group and influenced Jamaican slave culture to a
greater degree than any other of their Akan or Cromanti counterparts. Key elements
of Jamaican slave culture that can be traced directly to the Asante are evident in the
prevalence of Asante Twi words in the language of the Jamaican slaves, the popularity
of Asante deities in the slave's religious beliefs and the continued use of Asante
day-names for slave children. As Joseph Williams explains, while the popularity of
African day-names was not confined to the descendants of the Asante alone, 'it is the
Ashanti terminology that is uniformly followed in the day-names, indicating how
complete the ascendancy of the Ashanti became over the entire slave population.'
The idea that the ascendancy of Asante culture was complete may be questionable, but
it is clear that the Asante and their customs played a key role in development of
Jamaican slave culture (Williams, 1979, p. 28).
The Asante slaves bought the tales of their trickster hero with them to Jamaica,
and the stories became popular in the plantations. However, it seems that whereas
Anansi both tested and strengthened the social rules of Asante society, in the
Jamaican plantation context, Anansi inverted social order without paradoxically
upholding it. In other words, Anansi's liminal force was interpreted differently in the
Jamaican plantations as he functioned as a symbolic destructor of an enforced and
abhorrent social order, rather than the tester of the boundaries of a system with
In the Jamaican Anansi tales all interaction with the spiritual world is lost;
Nyame is replaced by Tiger. Anansi becomes less spider and more man as he begins
to symbolise the black slave stolen from Africa. He is depicted as talking with a lisp,
for his patois is heavily influenced by Twi language structures and pronunciation. His
actions seem even more violent and remorseless and many elements of plantation life
enter into the tales such as Massa, the whip and the cane fields.
Using Anansi tactics the slave implemented methods of survival and
psychological and physical resistance; finding ways to do less work, eat more food,
trick and steal from Massa and generally using brains over brawn. It is said that the
escaped slave Paul Boggle shod his horse back-to-front to deceive British soldiers in
pursuit of his trail, and the Maroons used Anansi tactics to hide, outwit and terrify
their pursuers in Cockpit Country, the rugged and largely inaccessible hills of inland
Jamaica. Anansi was forced to metamorphose from a mythical Asante spider in to a
representation of the black slave trapped in a social system in which negotiation was
an impossibility. In his Jamaican setting, Anansi was breaker rather than tester of the
chains. He becomes symbol of creative chaos and longed for freedom in a tyrannical
and coercive order.
The journey and survival of Anansi throughout Jamaican history and culture
exemplifies the ways in which slavery failed in its attempts to destroy the spirits of its
victims or to eradicate certain aspects of their tenacious cultural practices transported
from West Africa. Such oral narratives represented much more that a reminder of
'roots': they also operated as parables of survival, tales in which the weak can and do
prevail over the strong. In their Jamaican setting the tales represented the slaves
wildest dreams; in which the powerless become powerful, passive victim becomes
active agent and the wretched inherit the earth.
Isichci, Ilizabeth (1977). A History of WestAfrica Since 1800. London Macmillan.
Jekyll, W. (1966). Jamaican Song and Story: Annang Stories, Diging Sons, Dancng
Tunes and Ring Tunes. New York: Dover Publications.
Mbiti,J.S. (1969). African Religions and Philosophy. London: Heinemann.
Mcl.od, M.D (1981). The Asante. London: British Museum Publications.
Neufcldt, V & Guralnik, D. (eds) (1988). Webster's New World Dictionary of American
English. New York, Simon & Schuster.
Pelton, Robert. D. (1989). The Trickster in West Africa: A Study of Mythic Irony and Sacred
Delight. Berkley: University of California Press.
Rattray, R.S (1930). Akan-Ashanti Folk-tales. Oxford: The Clarendon Press.
Vecsay, Christopher (1993). Ananse the Akan Tricksterin Hynes, William (ed.(1993). Mythical
Trickster Figures: Contours, Contexts and Criticisms. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press.
Williams, Joseph. J. (1934). Pschic Phenomena of Jamaica. New York: The Dial Press.
Diasponc Transationalism:Rlocated montsrratians in U.K
Diasporic Transnationalism: Relocated
Montserratians in the UK
I open my eyes and see our trek from our LITTLE BAY,
A large bite of the apple, evacuating ourselves from the
Promised Land to the land ofpromise.
In vain I look for the ancestors of those who will return,
But I am binded,for I weep, I weep for them and I weep for us who remain.
(Karney Osborne 1998:95)
The awakening of the Soufriere Hills Volcano on 18 July 1995 plunged
Montserratians onto the world's forced-migrant stage. With two-thirds of the island
declared uninhabited, approximately the same proportion of the population was
forced to leave the island. Resettlement occurred in different territories but it was
Mother England who accepted, or should I say attracted, a sizeable majority of the
post 1995 diaspora.
The entry of Montserratians into the forced-migrant world brought with it a
range of issues that do not fit neatly into the prescribed global view of refugee
populations. Relocated Montserratians could claim no 'well-founded fear of
persecution', nor could they declare themselves as "victims of systematic violence"
(Wardak 1995:1). Yet they have undergone horrendous life events that have
undermined their physical and emotional well-being. They have also "fled from
danger" (volcanic), albeit of a non-oppressive nature, and have "resettled" in other
countries (Kaprielian-Churchill & Churchill (1994:6). With reference to the United
Kingdom (UK), their initial experiences spanned a cross-section of conceptual
frameworks that have since evolved into a discernible in-between position a
position that has forced a rethink of their non-refugee status.
Unquestionably, the very nature of the reasons for the creation of refugee
populations renders them problematic. The post 1995 Montserratian diaspora is no
exception. And 'fleeing from danger' to the Motherland has inevitably brought with
it many challenges and complex issues including battling homelessness, juggling
multiple identities, confronting repatriation dilemmas and defying resettlement
I wish to emphasise that it was not the post 1995 diaspora that visibly exposed
Montserratians to the 'migration' world for Montserrat has been characterized as an
island of out-migration since the beginning of the post emancipation era (Ebanks,
1988; Foster & Evans, 1978; Mckee, 1966; Philpott, 1973). Notably too, when
compared to the other Caribbean islands, proportionately, Montserratians
represented the largest migrant group (approximately 1/3 of the island's population)
to England during Marshall's fourth phase1 of Caribbean migration (Shotte 1999:5).
From 1838 up until 1965, this fourth phase was the largest out-migration from
Montserrat (Philpott 1973:29). The post 1995 exodus represents approximately 2/3
of the island's population, thus this phase has become the largest scale of
out-migration in the history of the island. However, the reasons for spotlighting the
post 1995 diaspora in this paper extend far beyond the arithmetical. The post-war
migrants2, by way of remittances, did make an impressionable impact on some social,
economic and political aspects of life in the homeland. But it was the post 1995
diaspora who has literally changed the face of the socio-economic, socio-cultural and
socio-political landscape of the Montserrat community. This transformation has also
taken place in the host country, albeit to a lesser degree.
I have examined Montserratians' patterns of mobility against the backdrop of
these six different phases3:
1. The post emancipation diaspora -
Inter-territorial Migration (1838 to 1885);
2. Inter-Caribbean Migration (1885 to 1920);
3. The 'Oil Refinery' Phase (1920 to 1940);
4. Movement to the Metropoles (1940 to the present);
5. The 'New' Caribbean Migration (1965 to the present);
6. The Post 1995 Forced Migration Phase (1995 to the present).
I posit that these very mobility patterns have transnationalised Montserrat to
the extent of figuratively narrowing its 'distance' between it and its hosts. Host
countries have had significant impact on the growth and expansion of spacial
practices and shifting cultural identities during the third, fourth and sixth phases.
This paper does not allow the scope to detail all the main contours of migration
during these periods. I am therefore taking host UK as the major point of reference
for this paper since it attracted the largest and second largest migratory groups -
phases six and four, respectively.
This paper maps out some principle aspects of post 1995 migration from
Montserrat to the UK. To put the relocated Montserratians case in context, I first
present a brief explanation of what triggered mass migration to the UK during the last
Diasporic Transnattonalism:Relocated montsrratians in U.K.
quarter of 1997 I then look at some of the conceptual faces of transnationalism a
catchword that is tightly linked to recent population flows and diaspora -'movement
of a people' Thirdly, I describe the fundamental features of the post 1995 diaspora in
the UK, with specific reference to location and settlement patterns, group structure,
the role of religion in resettlement and views on repatriation. I recount the
supportive relationship between the post-war, the post 1995 diaspora, and 'those who
stayed behind' This position is extended to include the role transnationals play in the
current Montserrat economy and its politics. I also explain how pre and post 1995
migrants have managed to maintain a recognisable level of Montserratness despite
being hemmed in by other dominant cultural ideologies. Finally, I suggest that the
pattern of migration over the past century has shaped and reconstructed cultural
identities and practices in ways that have commanded a rethink of the concept of
Birth of the Post 1995 Diaspora
The Soufnere Hills Volcano thundered its way into the lives of the residents of
Montserrat, a 102 sq.km/39.5 sq.mls volcanic Caribbean island that is situated in the
inner arc of the Leeward Islands, approximately 25 miles south-west of Antigua, its
international gateway. Thus began a crisis that has not only transformed the physical
and socio-economic landscape of Montserrat, but also the lives of the islanders.
The first large-scale domestic and regional migration occurred on 21 August
1995 when Plymouth and its environs were temporarily made a Biblical, modern-day
Egypt -'Darkness covered the land' as a result of a massive eruption of black ash that
completely blocked out the light of the sun. However, within a few weeks most
persons had returned. A decline in volcanic activities, perhaps erroneously
interpreted as the beginning of the end of the crisis, appeared to have influenced
person's decision to return. Internal evacuation officially ended on 7 September 1995
but there was a continuous flow of internal migration as persons in affected areas
relocated to less affected zones. Over the next two years, a roller-coaster emotional
existence had become the way of life for residents as volcanic activities increased and
living and safety conditions worsened. Hopes soared whenever there was a lull in
volcanic activity and plummeted when activities revived. Residents were then facing
the inevitable forced migration. But a people who had been dubbed 'resilient',
possibly because of the manner in which rebuilding and rehabilitation were
conducted in the aftermath of the 1981 Flood and the 1989 category-5 Hurricane
Hugo, were determined that no "bad, bad, bad, bad volcano" (Desmond 'Flasher'
Daley) could make them "run away" (Alphonsus 'Arrow' Cassel). In fact, the
following poetic lines were reflected in their everyday living:
When we face tough times we get tougher
We build resilience when we suffer
We gain strength in the midst of disaster
Montserratians won't say die
(Randy 'Zunky' Greenaway)
Not even this 17 September 1996 occurrence brought about a change of
Volcanic pebbles, from gravel size up to two inches in diameter,
formed projectiles which dented cars and in some cases punctured
car roofs and smashed windscreens, as people sought to leave some
of these areas to the safer far north. For the first time, several houses
at the evacuated village of Long Ground on the eastern side of the
volcano were burnt, with local radio reporting seven houses and a
church gutted by falling red hot rocks which fell through their roofs
and set them on fire (Buffonge 1999:74 &75).
Volcanic activities continued to fluctuate between high and low levels. The
first major pyroclastic flows on 30-31 March 1997 threatened two outstanding
landmarks Galway's Soufriere (sulphur springs) and Great Alps Waterfall. Both
landmarks were completely destroyed by pyroclastic flows on 11 April 1997. By this
time a trickle of residents began to relocate to safer shores. On June 25, 1997, the
volcano claimed its first victims (19 presumed dead) when pyroclastic flows
devastated several eastern villages and forced the closure of W. H. Bramble airport.
The hot pyroclastic surges from these flows spread over nearby areas,
covering an area of several kilometres. Trees, houses and churches
were reportedly set ablaze in several villages, two of which were
completely submerged in hot volcanic material, as the flows rushed at
high speed down the Tuitts and Paradise ghauts. The affected villages
included Harris, Windy Hill, Streatham, Farrels, Bramble Village,
Tuitts, Bethel, Farms, Spanish Point and Trants (Buffonge 1998:34).
After this cataclysmic event, volcanic activities operated in top gear. The island
was now a three-part enclave Northern, Central and Exclusion Zones. On July 6,
Plymouth, the then capital, was set alight by hot surges and the August 3rd event
brought about the total destruction of the capital. This was followed by "a series of
explosive eruptions every ten to twelve hours", which continued throughout the
Diaspori Transnationaoisi:Re/ocated montsrratians in U.K.
week (Buffonge 1998:69). By September 1997, all shops, businesses and offices were
relocated to the far north as central zones joined the exclusion clan.
The ongoing volcanic crisis brought about severe economic hardships on
Montserrat (DFID 1999:17). Shelters4 were overcrowded and the 'safe zone' not only
became less 'safe', but it also was getting smaller as volcanic activities increased. St.
John's Primary School, one of the 10 pnmary schools, was converted to a hospital and
all other schools were used as shelters. So, in addition to the threats from a raging
volcano, the economic and social situation got progressively worse. Residents were
therefore forced to emigrate. Thus began the exodus to the UK and the birth of the
post 1995 diaspora.
Transnationalism and Diaspora: Definitions and Concepts
Concepts of transnationalism are as vaned as they are complex. Besides it is
almost impossible to conceptualise transnationalism without examining what makes a
diaspora. This may be so because migration research is no longer of a 'pure'
sociological and/or historical nature, but have expanded to include views of
novelists, postmodernist, and 'scholars of cultural studies' who are themselves
migrants. Thus, conceptualizaton of both terms range from the abstract to the
concrete. Consider this example: Schwartz (1998) in Olwig (2004) perceives
transnationalism as an adjective that modifies diaspora, while Basch, Schiller & Blanc
(1994:7-8) emphasise the processes that characterise the "multiplicity of
involvements that transmigrants sustain in both home and host societies" This wide
conceptual span neither trivialises nor overemphasises the characteristics of
population movements, but rather highlights the struggles theorists and researchers
encounters in appropriately representing the many images that are formed by the
varied patterns of migration.
The foregoing triggers some reflection on the choice of topic for this paper -
diasporic transnationalism. I grappled with the problem of how best to encapsulate
the relocated Montserratians' migration experience and found some solace in the fact
that the interconnectedness and overlapping of meanings and notions may grant me
the licence to rearrange Schwartz's modifier. This is not to suggest that I am
manufacturing my own version of transnationalism, but is merely pointing out that
the constant increase in population flows demands a fresh and critical look at
migration a transnational approach. Basch, Schiller & Blanc (1994:5) use the terms
'transnationalism' and 'transnational social field' to describe an interconnected social
experience in relation to the simultaneous involvement of two migrant groups. The
focus here is on the interconnected experience, which of course is not new from a
migration perspective, but is analysed from a fresh point of reference, as noted by this
One of the principal criticisms of transnational approaches to
international migration is that they have simply used new
technologies to describe old processes (Al-Ali & Koser 2002:4).
The researchers who contributed to Al-Al & Koser's 2002 edited volume
'New Approaches to Migration?' acknowledge this critique and thus have contrasted
it by attempting "to identify what is old, what is new and what might be appropriately
be described as 'transnational"'(p. 4). Adamson for instance, tries to interpret
transnational communities that are formed by migratory patterns against the
background of "their relationship to global inequalities in levels of political and
economic development" (Adamson 2002:157). Along the same lne of appropriating
the term transnational, Ellis & Khan accept that transnationalism generally denotes
multiple ties and interactions connecting people and institutions across borders of
nation-states, but have taken this further by examining "the nature of the ties and the
range of interactions between members of the diaspora of the population" in
question from economic, political and socio-cultural perspectives at institutional and
grassroots levels (Ellis & Khan 2002:167). To explain this connective interaction,
refer to a comment from parliamentarian and former Deputy Chief Minister, Dr
Lowell Lewis, who quoted these words of some senior citizens of St. Patrick's:
I would vote for you because we are family, but my children in
England tell me to vote for Mr. Osborne, because he is the only
candidate who can do anything for me (Lewis 2000).
The above statement shows that migrants can still influence political ideologies
although the existing regulation allows three months residency before one
permitted to vote. This means that many persons from the 1995 diaspora, although
influential, were excluded from the actual voting process.
The earliest use of the term transnational was in reference to organizations and
multinational corporations. It was the social scientists of the 1980s decade, who
extended its meaning to 'include individuals and groups who move across national
boundaries and yet remain tied to their home community' (Duany 2002). The claim
that transnational communities and national identities are sustained by economic and
social activities as well as cultural practices is not an exaggeration, at least in the
Montserrat migrant context. Family traditions such as christening (baptism), first
communions, weddings and funerals do help to sustain blood and friendship ties
between home and diaspora communities. Advancing modem technology (fax,
Diasporit Transnationalism:Relocated montsrratians in U. K
e-mail, mobile phone, the Internet) has played a significant role in the maintenance of
Schiller et al (1992) in Duany (2002), offer a basic definition of transnationalism
as the process whereby people establish and maintain socio-cultural connections
across geopolitical borders. This implies that migrants may participate in political,
economic and social activities in host and country of origin. Duany (2002) cites some
Dominican Republic migrants to the United States of America (USA) as doing just
that. They have even assumed a hyphenated hybrid cultural identity
Dominican-American. The comparison to the UK migrant situation is interesting for
while some migrants can claim dual citizenship, it is not a permitted practice to define
one's identity in culturally hybrid terms. This is a situation where each state can
define its own interest in domestic terms but identification with a Brtish Overseas
Terrtories Citizens (BOTC) status does not necessarily mean identification with a
British Citizen (BC) status. Yet, this definitive difference in state control does not
make migrants to the UK any less transnational, but highlights how problematic it
becomes to precisely conceptualise transnationalism.
\nothcr contention manifests itself in this'narrow' and 'broad' classification of
transnational practices as advanced by Jose Itzigsohn et / (1999) in Duany (2002):
Narrowly defined, transnationalism refers to highly institutionalized
activities and constant population flows between two counties.
Broadly defined, transnationalism involves a low level of
institutionalisation and sporadic physical displacement between two
countries... (Itzigsohn et al 1999 in Duany 2002).
The above categorisation is indeed useful in partitioning types of transnational
practices. I-Iowever, it leaves unexplained the issue of frequency, unexpected
occurrences and the merging of high and low levels of institutionalisation, with equal
weight or an imbalance in either level. It seems then, that at given periods, particular
groups of migrants can fit, although not neatly, into either category. Given that
transnationalism is political as is economical as social, is possible for
transnationals to wear as many hats, and it is within this'freedom' that one can switch
comfortably between high and low levels of institutionalisation.
It is generally accepted among researchers that transnational migration occurs
between sovereign states and their dependencies, even after gaining political
independence (Brettell 2003; Basch, Schiller & Blanc 1994). Citing the Caribbean as
an example, the UK becomes host for the English Caribbean migrants, the USA
becomes host for those from Puerto Rico and the USA Virgin Islands, France
becomes host for those from the French Caribbean and The Netherlands becomes
host for migrants from the Dutch Caribbean. Each sovereign nation boasts different
political orientations and institutionalized practices, thus putting the political status of
its respective migrant group on different scales. For example, the UK immigration
laws that govern Montserratian migrants (as BOTCs) differ with regards to Antiguan
migrants (as Antiguan citizens) although both groups are from English Caribbean
territories. Such variation further exposes the limitations of 'umbrella'
conccptualisations of transnationalism.
I.ike transnationalism, concepts of diaspora have helped to place migration
'search on higher plains "towards important new areas of inquiry" (Olwig 2004:53).
Yet, Olwig argues that notions of both terms "may unnecessarily narrow the field of
study in wavy that make it difficult to grasp the breadth of experience and the
comply. of socio-cultural systems found among people who have engaged in
migratory movements" I align myself with Olwig's views for as a member of the post
1995 diaspora, after countless penods of reflexive and reflective contemplations, I
still find it increasingly difficult to "place myself theoretically" on predominant and
leading eruditions with regards to understanding and recording the ontological
's and the diametrical subjectivities that encase patterns of mobility (Basch,
Schiller & Blanc 1994:10). Yet, like other post 1995 migrant scholars, I consider this
group a diaspora against the backdrop of these specific principles:
Retaining a memory of, a cultural connection with, and a general
orientation towards the homeland;
I leaving institutions reflecting something of a homeland culture and/or
Relating in some (symbolic or practical) way to the homeland;
I larbouring doubts about full acceptance by the host-land;
committing to a survival as a distinct community; and
Retaining a 'myth' of return (Safran 2004:10).
lThe foregoing principles aptly sums up the main processes present in diasporic
situations, and all find resonance with relocated Montserratians. Safran also notes
that as an archetypical diaspora, the Jewish condition is considered 'normal' to the
extent that it has become part of the European Chnstian folklore. Similarly, for
Montserrat, as a country that earned itself the label 'out-migration country' during the
first four phases of migration from the Caribbean, emigration among its nationals
seem 'normal' so 'normal' that "it provided a topic for song-making, an art keenly
developed by many Montserratians" (Dewar 1977:6). A Montserratian folksong, 'To
Panama We Go', relates the early exodus to Panama during the second migratory
Diasporic Transnationalism:Relocated monsrratians in U.K.
Anywhere we go
Money we must get
Oh an' away down
To Panama we go
The above reference to the phase two rmgrants prompts this question: Are
early emigrants considered a diaspora in the same manner, as do the post 1995
migrants? The first of the six defining principles of diaspora mentioned earlier alludes
to homeland orientation, which according to Safran (2004:16), is widely perceived to
be the major element that distinguishes a diaspora from ordinary immigrant
expatriate communities. This raises further issues with regards to home and
homeland, which will be considered under the 'Rethinking Home'
The concept of home/homeland is pivotal to most explanations th;
researchers offer for diaspora. Baumann perceives this conceptualsation as an
integral part of a three-directional reciprocal relationship that is between diaspora,
country of origin and country of residence (Baumann 2004:173). He contends that
there is a continuous adaptation to changes within the diasponc situation, and to
capture these changes, has proposed a phase model of diaspora. \s the discussion
unfolds, I will revisit these phases with a view of applying them to the post 1995
migrants. For the purpose of this discourse, I advance a skeletal summary of the
1. Arrival and settling in;
2. Process of becoming more fully established;
3. Country of origin gets less attention and host country move to the fore;
4. Cultural conflicts and categories of foreignness; and
5. Host becomes new home of identification.
(Adapted from Baumann 2004: 174-180)
Baumann's phase model re-emphasises the complexity that Olwig (2004)
alludes to with reference to transnational practices. This again demonstrates the
inextricable link between concepts of diaspora and transnationalism. Basch, Schiller
and Blanc (1994) also make reference to this interconnectedness when expanding on
the second of their four theoretical premises of transnationalism, which highlights
"the fluidity with which ideas, objects, capital, and people now move across borders
and boundaries" (p. 27).
A further expansion of the second premise, refers to the application of network
analysis to explain the social relations of international migrants. Mention is made of
two contrasting models of migration Eades (1987) 'spider's web' model and the
conventional bipolar model of migration (p. 28). While both models match certain
aspects of migratory trends from Montserrat, I propose a 'seismic model of
migration' to explain the post 1995 phase. 'As active agents in a process of
hegemonic construction', there is a literal reciprocating movement between host and
country of origin. Labelling this model as 'seismic', is influenced by the literal seismic
upheaval that signalled major volcanic eruptions during the ongoing crisis as much as
the metaphorical social upheavals that accompanied relocation to the UK. I posit
that the irregular zigzag patterns seen on a seismograph during active earth-shaking
episodes, aptly epitomise the mobility patterns between the post 1995 migrants and
the homeland. Besides the traveling back and forth for festive activities, regular
migration for work-related events and 'family affairs', is a notable feature of some
relocated migrants' life. Alongside this is an interesting situation with regards to
remittances, the circumstances are often reversed in that some persons who remain at
home constantly send money 'to support their family in England' The issues
surrounding this situation merit further research and discussion but the affair was
raised here to underscore the 'seismic' nature of literal and symbolic social turmoil
that migrants experience in relocating from a country that is "full of seismicity" to one
that is "a seismic city" (Randy 'Zunky' Greenaway).
It should be noted that the aforementioned 'seismic model of migration' does
not operate as a 'lone ranger' but is manifested within and sometimes alongside the
'spider's web and bipolar models. It is this kind of interconnected networking of
different migratory patterns that support the 'fluidity of ideas, objects, capital and
people', as will be illustrated later in this paper.
Admittedly, the terms transnationalism and diaspora, "differ to the extent that
they emphasize different aspects of movement and identity form; (Olwig
2004:55), but they do intertwine at a theoretical level (Brettel 2003; Al-Ali & Koscr
2002; Fabos 2002). Considering all the many faces of migratory patterns that
unfolding on the global scene international, regional, intra and interregional as well
as local it is indeed appropriate to explore the scholarly discourse that label the
processes of migration with a view to detangling the complexity that dulls
application of both concepts whether as symbiotic convergence or, if ncce, a;r and
possible, a single transference.
For the rest of this paper, I will reflect on the lived experiences of the post 1995
relocated migrants, which I contend bear some conceptual trademarks of
transnationalism. These experiences are also branded with theoretical concepts and
generalisations that share 'old' (traumatic dispersal) and 'new' (cultural fusion)
notions of diaspora, hence the label 'post 1995 diaspora'.
Diaspora' Transnantioiila/sm.Re/o'alted/ montlra/liaiis in .K.
The Post 1995 Diaspora
I refer to the group of persons who relocated to 'safer' shores as a result of the
awakening of the Soufriere Hills Volcano in uly 1995 as the post 1995 diaspora. This
paper focuses on 'destination UK' I will begin by examining the settlement patterns
of the relocated migrants and then move on to discuss some of the many issues that
Location and Settlement Patterns
althoughh the post-war migrants had taken up residence in different cities-
from ston the north-we. Southampton the south- the largest
ais in ].ondon. Inrterstingly, the distrnbution of Montserratians is not
merely a reflection of the distribution of \est Indians in general, for Philpott notes
'as where there is a high concentration of West Indians there are very little or
,as that show a high concentration of Montserratians
show small proportions of We. ins (p.168). The cluster that is found in North
and Iast I.ondon c; 'suit of original migrants sending back for kin and
fnends from the a;me villagee or parish. Initn new arnvals staved in the same house
hul eventually moved to a house nearby onsequently, clusters of kin and friends
were often found in the sheets within the area, thus allowing for further
al coninci bIet\weecn Montscrr
I'lie first batch of relocated migrants to IEngland hved with families who had
atled to Briiain. This suggests that the geographical distnbution of post
1 ')95 Inigr that of the post-war migrants. Using Local Housing
\uthorlly a crude provided by the Montserrat Projects
Post-war migrants settled a little further south than the post 1995 migrants,
which means post 1995 migrants settled a little further north than the post-wi
Post 1995 migrants spread around the L.ondon area although there is a
,sidential widening our' of post 1995 migrants, the heaviest concentration remains
in the North ; search, the group structure revealed an
interesting gender imbalance that provoked : anal ., of the implications for
families in host and homeland alike.
Group Structure: A Gender Issue
The concept of transnationalism has transformed how we interpret and analyse
population movements. Accordingly, research into 'the relationship between gender
and migration' has become an integral part of the current debate on migratory trends
(Margold 2004; Brettell 2003; Basch, Schiller & Blanc 1994). The case of the post
1995 diaspora is not an exceptional phenomenon but it does uncover a unique and
atypical finding that is worthy of mention.
Findings from my 1998 research that investigated the educational experiences
of relocated Montserratian students revealed that generally, boys were doing less well
than girls (Shotte 1998:91). Four years later, from further research work, I noted that
the situation had grown more acute. For this discussion, I wish to handpick gender
from among the many variables that might have influenced the downturn. I proffer
The nature of the volcanic crisis demanded the services of
organizations (such as the Royal Montserrat Police Force (RMPF),
the Royal Montserrat Defence Force (RMDF) and Port Authority
workers) that had a strong male presence, hence many families were
forced to relocate without the fathers. So, many relocated students
who formerly lived in 'complete' family units, are now living in
female-headed households. I am not here suggesting that
female-headed households are dysfunctional, but simply pointing out
that the male or father presence in Montserratian family units, had a
notable influence on children's overall development and progress
Findings from both pieces of research support the above conclusion. It was
observed that the students who had 'severe' behavioral problems, and those who
had very low levels of achievement motivation were mostly those whose fathers had
remained in Montserrat. This is not to say that female-headed households are
ineffective, but it does demonstrate that the presence of, and the supportive
contribution from males do have a positive impact on children's educational
progress. Moreover, the theme 'dysfunctional families' was identified as one of the
major out-of-school factors that affected relocated students' educational aspirations
I contend that the 'gender crisis' began during the period of internal
displacement. The inadequate shelter situation, particularly overcrowding, forced
many families to separate, in the sense that women and children slept in shelters while
the 'mature' male members slept elsewhere, including vehicles. This separation
Diasporic Transnationaism:Relocated montsrratians in U.K.
brought about a change in the role of family members. Some children found
themselves in responsible positions- as family heads and guardians- a situation that
continued after relocation to the UK. The situation is indeed grave, not simply
because for the first time in the history of Montserrat there are more men than
women, but for the emotional havoc it is wreaking on the families concerned, and the
resulting negative impact it continues to have on the children's overall development
and educational progress. It is the London-based Montserrat religious institutions
that are taking the lead in assisting many family members to effectively cope with this
crucial state of affairs, as the next subheading shows.
Churches' Role in Resettlement
It is the 'black evangelical churches'6, rather than the mainstream churches7,
that are taking the lead in blunting the razor-sharp edges of resettlement. Leaders of
these churches set up group meetings for the relocated community and organised
several social gatherings such as parties, dinners, and games evenings with the
purpose of establishing social networks. Little wonder that relocated migrants have
inflated the membership of the evangelical churches. An interesting, but not isolated
experience, might have also influenced membership. This parent, in an indirect way,
was discouraged by a mainstream church leader from attending church services. The
The second time I went to church, he (the Priest) came up to me and
said that he was glad to see me, but some church members were not
too pleased about my attendance, so I must not come back (to that
church) next Sunday (Muella Parent)
Persons who have had similar experiences to that of Muella, reported that they
would rather attend churches where they felt "more comfortable, welcome and at
home" Such homeliness might have been experienced principally because some of
the churches are led by Montserratian pastors who are either post-war or post 1995
In addition to catering for relocated migrants' spiritual needs, the churches
have actively participated in the organising of education workshops and other social
gatherings. Not only have some pastors willingly offered their churches as venues for
some of the events, but they also were panellists and/or keynote speakers at many of
the meetings. In addressing a group of relocated students on 'Coping with Loss', one
Accept the reality, this is not a dream, this loss is real. Montserrat will
never be the same again. Work through the pain of the loss pain
comes with loss. Be careful how you choose to deal with the pain. Do
not use harmful substances like drugs and alcohol to numb the pain,
let the pain take its course and try to adjust to the environment in
which you find yourself. Remember that it is possible to be
Montserratians in a British environment... Move on with your life- it
is worth living. Set realistic, achievable goals. Do not leave a vacuum,
neither should you become detached from what you believe in.
Continue to believe in yourself, you can still achieve. Strike a balance,
widen out and seek positive action (Pastor Ruthlyn Bradshaw -
The encouragement offered in the foregoing excerpt is typical of the spirit that
existed in most, if not all the projects that the churches and the UK-based Montserrat
organizations have successfully co-ordinated. I assess the success of these projects
within this broad framework: success denotes something that gives enjoyment or
satisfaction as a result of the attainment of something desired (Wordsmyth
Educational Dictionary, www wo\VIJs.1 .i h .net).
In light of the students, parents and teachers' comments regarding their
reactions to the community initiatives, it is plausible to conclude that the community
projects were successful. But if relocated Montserratians and others were to measure
the relocated students' educational progress merely from the perspective of these
church and community initiatives, this would be to underestimate the realities the
students have encountered in a multicultural school environment. Admittedly, the
community projects and workshops have played, and are still playing a significant role
in helping relocated students to revive and maintain their motivation to attain
educational success. However, these projects should be viewed as supplementary,
and/or as motivating extensions to the regular learning institutions. Since the projects
were born out of concern for relocated students' educational progress, the extent of
their success should therefore be evaluated in a wider social context with reference to
particular indicators within "the sum total of the learning experiences" that the
students have acquired (Halliday 1991:28).
Religious ceremonies have always been an integral part of African Caribbean
people's 'survival kit' Bryan et al assert that they serve as a creative and sustaining
force, "a means of articulating our joy at our continuing survival and our hope that
salvation would come" (Bryan et al 1985:189). For the post-war African Caribbean
migrants to the UK, church-going in the 'black' communities was used as an
Diasporic Transationaism:Relocated montsratians in U.K.
opportunity to socialise, but Sutcliffe and Wong explain that the 'black' churches created
more than a social space for African Caribbean people:
Many of the people have derived strength and solace from the black
Churches, which have provided them with a social space in which they
can make the rules, in which they can develop and succeed. The
churches have afforded them spiritual strength derived in a typically
black way from collective, joyful worship in which the love of God is
experienced and continue to be a very important and underrated force
The foregoing explanation associates development and success with the black
churches, possibly because "teachers from the church, fostered an atmosphere of
learning, of certain goals and objectives to fulfil" (Bryan et al 1985:69). Approximately
five decades later, the 'black' churches are still playing a major role in the socialising,
development and general success of migrant communities. From all reports, the church
have ably facilitated the 'settling in' and the 'becoming fully established' processes as
noted in Phases 1 & 2 of Baumann's diaspora model. This does not mean however, that
Table 1: Views on Repatriation
Group 1 Persons who were unemployed in Montscrrat and are now thrilled by the
income support and job seekers allowances -- This group would rather remain in Britain
for the time being.
Group 2 Persons who were gainfully employed in Montscrrat but cannot access similar
employment in Britain because they arc unable to meet the job entry requirements This
group feels cheated by the British system and therefore sees repatriation as a means to 'get
back on track'
Group 3 Persons who have found similar employment and are fascinated with the idea o
living in a foreign country This group does not mind 'holding on' for a 'little' longer.
Group 4 Persons who cannot cope with the 'paper-work' culture (excessive bureaucratic
practices) and who find it difficult to adjust to an entirely different way of life This group
sees repatriation as being sooner rather than later.
Group 5 Persons who think that the volcanic crisis has inflicted irreparable damages on
the education system and are extremely concerned about their children's present and future
education This group is willing to remain in Britain for the children's sake. When the
children "out of the woods", persons in this group will repatriate "at the drop of a hat"
Group 6 Persons who were not afforded the opportunity to attain a university education
and have now "gone back to school" This group will return if employment on return is
readily available and opportunities are created for the utilisation of 'new-found' skills.
Group 7 Persons who have little or no blood relations in Montscrrat and have formed
new relationships and 'cultural' attachments. This group will return for short visits.
thoughts of repatriation are not vocalised almost on a daily basis. Repatriation
remains on the agenda of most post 1995 migrants.
The term repatriation generally implies return. But because return ranges from
short and extended visits to long and permanent stays, 'repatriation' has become
loaded with various shades of meanings and applications. For this discussion, I
therefore take it to mean returning to take up permanent residence in Montserrat.
There is no denying that the question of repatriation is a contentious issue for
the post 1995 diaspora. Although the issue is raised many times over in formal and
informal settings, it seems that there is still no immediate pragmatic answers to the
several concerns that migrants face here in Britain, and what they inevitably will face
as repatriates. I have held formal and informal discussions with several post 1995
migrants and have categorised their contributions into eight groups (Table 1).
The categories displayed in Table 1 are by no means exhaustive for they do not
represent all the views of all the relocated migrants. Yet, I assert that they are useful
for these purposes:
To explain some of the dilemmas that confront some migrants when
deciding to repatriate;
To provoke thoughts on squaring up to the realities of resettling in the
To highlight the tensions that exist within families with children to educate;
To gain insight into how persons prioritise commitments to self, family and
To create a springboard for discussing and analysing migrants' views on
their experiences and their desire to repatriate.
After ten years into the crisis, relocated migrants are still considering issues
relating to repatriation, albeit with less intensity. Housing (accommodation),
unemployment and the reduction in educational facilities are still the major issues
debated and more than ever the practicality of returning is evaluated, despite this
Still home still nice
Yes, it's the place you can come home to
Still home still nice
Don't stay away whatever you do
Still home still nice
It's a paradise with a touch of ash
No matter where in the world you roam
Montserrat is home sweet home
(Pat 'Belonger' Ryan)
Diasporic Transnationalism.Relocated montsrratians in U.K
Partial or complete removal of the aforementioned issues may perhaps bring
about a change in attitude, but education will always remain the key player in
determining a return home. Elsewhere, I noted that concerning the issue of
repatriation, some parents vowed to give their children all the support they needed to
get a 'good' education, so that on returning to Montserrat, they may be able to make a
valuable contribution to the rebuilding process (Shotte 1998:104). Female
calypsonian, Pat 'Belonger' Ryan, issues this appeal:
Exiles, come back home
We need your help to complete the task
Help rebuild the Emerald Isle
That is all I ask
(Pat 'Belonger' Ryan)
It would be interesting to find out whether or not the said parents remain
committed to their earlier promises in relation to encouraging their children to
respond positively to Pat Ryan's appeal. It would be even more interesting to observe
the children's reaction, particularly if after seven years they have cultivated an
adulterated concept of'home' as a result of juggling multiple identities and battling
with various 'culture conflicts and categories of foreignne. (Phase 4 Baumann's
Home? What Home?
Refugees are going home. But to what? For many people, the trauma
of being driven from one's home will now be matched by the shock
of returning to a home that does not exist (Levy 1999 in Oxfeld &
The above definition relates 'home' to an 'actual place of lived experience' but
this is but one of the many dimensions that 'home' entails. Other measures include ";
metaphorical space of personal attachment and identification" (Armbruster 2002:20),
"a mythic place of desire" (Brah 1996:192), "a place where personal and social
meaning are grounded" (Papastergiadis 1998, in Al-Ali & Koser 2002:7), or even an
analysis that symbolically conceptualises home as being in the making of tradition and
culture, and by extension notions of identity and belonging (Fabos 2002:34-50).
The majority of the post 1995 diaspora can identify with all of the above
dimensions of'home' But with regards to Levy's statement, they have experienced
this 'homelessness' in a literal way. There exist unfaded memories of a past to which
most would like to return but the existing conditions (physical, socio-economic and
even political) brought about by the volcanic cnsis, render that an unrealistic dream.
Consider these thoughts of a thirty-eight-year-old Russian:
Someday when my daughter has grown old enough to understand
and remember, we will take a trip to Russia. We will go to my village,
where nobody lives anymore, where empty windows are nailed down.
We will find my house and I will show her a real Russian stove, with
hundreds of tiny fingerprints on it (Vermont 1999 in Oxfeld & Long
Some relocated migrant mothers perhaps share similar sentiments to those
above, but for a sizeable number of them such thoughts remain 'wishful thinking'
since their villages lay buried under tonnes of volcanic deposits. For this very reason, I
contend that some relocated migrants are homeless in a literal way since their point of
reference for home is a particular village community in Montscrrat. This raises this
two pertinent questions: What constitutes home for relocated migrants? Is homeland
a suitable substitute for home? The literature views the concept of homeland as part
of the analysis of return when return is analysed in the context of "people who are
actually returning or contemplating a return to a physical place of residence" (Oxfeld
& Long 2004:4). In analysing the findings of my 2002 research work, I used
homelessness in two different contexts temporary accommodation that resulted in
a 'nomadic' existence and literal loss of homeland. If homelessness is applied in
different situations, it follows then that 'home' can also be applied likewise.
Therefore the converse of the concepts of 'homelessness', renders 'home' as
permanent accommodation and homeland.
Paralleling home to permanent accommodation has even found an application
in Montserrat with reference to internal displacement. After some time living in
'temporary accommodation' in the designated 'safe zone', evacuees from the
exclusion zones became homesick and expressed a strong desire to return home. A
local calypsonian echoes this communal sentiment:
Going home, going home
Going home, going home
All dem Salem people
Frith and Hope people
All dem Old Town people
(Herman 'Cupid' Francis)
Diasporic Transnationalism.Re/ocated monsrratians in '.K.
But to take these conceptualisations of'home' at face value is to oversimplify a
term that is loaded with inexpressible emotional attachments, and limit the extent of
its application in the widest context possible. When 'home' is linked to 'freedom' as
asserted by renowned Antiguan-bom calypsonian Emanuel 'Short Shirt' Maclean in
his 'Home Is XWhere the Heart Is' composition, there is no boundary to the numerous
interpretations that this correlation can throw up. I relate the 'home-is-where-the-
heart-is' notion to this scenario a relocated migrant writing a letter (written in
dialect) to a Monserratian who did not relocate:
Me deares lane, excuse me style
But me heart full up, me dear
Me nuh need fo homesick gel, because
Montserrat nght here
Me home life is quite happy here
De people treat me nice
An since dem is Montserratian, ah still get
Me dumplin, dasheen an nce
(Ann Mane Dewar)
Dewar's poetic version of the migrant situation widens the interpretation of
'home' Homesickness was not felt by this migrant because 'traditional' Montserrat
(treating one another nice and eating local dishes) was 'right here in England', and this
gave the migrant an opportunity to experience the 'freedom' that Montserrat affords
in a 'foreign' land. It also demonstrates the supportive relationship between some
post-war and relocated migrants.
But on the issue of return, as Oxfeld & Long (2004) point out, people do not
necessarily return to the exact location from which they left. But from a Montserrat
perspective, some post-war migrants who returned before the volcanic crisis did
return to the same village environment where they had their homes built; others
chose to resettle in residential areas. Up until 1995, there were no profound changes
in the island's "physical, spatial and geographic attributes" (p. 5), thus 'going home'
had significant meaning for the returnees. This implies that any analysis of home with
reference to Montserrat returnees should make notions of homeland an integral part
of the discussion, especially since Montserratians had a strong attachment to 'land'.
This attachment was quite evident for Skinner referred to the devastation caused by
volcanic activities as "the literal destruction of their (Montserratians) sense of place"
Home and homeland are not analogous to home ownership, but are
interconnected at a conceptual level as interpreted in the Montserrat context. In an
analysis of the 1991 Montserrat Population and Housing Census, Daly (1996:46)
noted that a high value was placed on home ownership for over 70% of the
households (couples as well as single persons) owned their own homes. Land
ownership thus suggested a degree of prosperity. Skelton describes the general
socio-economic situation before July 1995 this way:
A quiet and relatively prosperous 'small place', Montserrat had good levels of
employment, high standards of health care and education provision, an estimated per
capital income of over 2, 000 per annum, and boasted one of the highest standards of
living in the Caribbean for its population as a whole (Skelton 2000:104).
Almost ten years later, the situation does not reflect Skelton's summary. Yet, a
strong 'sense of place' remains as is expressed below:
This is the land of our birth,
This is the land of our birth'
We gotta claim it for all it's worth,
We gotta claim it for all it's worth
Yes we've been through a lot of pain,
Yes we've been through a lot of pain
But we gonna rise back up again,
But we gonna rise up back again
(H-erman 'Cupid' Francis)
\ strong 'sense of place' is also evident from a culture perspective. From
discussions held with some members of the post 1995 diaspora, I have concluded that
it is within this strong attachment to land that relocated migrants define, analyse and
interpret their feelings about a Montserrat cultural identity.
Evidently, "the literal destruction of their sense of place" has not obliterated
the strong emotional attachment that relocated Montserratians have to their
homeland, but it has thrust upon them new concepts of place, space and time. Thus,
they cannot totally ignore the cultural shifts, no matter how small, that are developing
with their new lifestyle. The social pressures that they face are numerous, and one
school of thought suggests that in shaping new identities, "these pressures leave no
room for any effective choice to one sort of person rather than another" (Glover
1988:17). This does not mean however, that new identities cannot be created in the
light of Montserratian values, for in merging the 'traditional' and the 'new', value
boundaries remain important.
Clearly, the relocated Montserratians' sense of place is grounded in a strong
island identity. Such an affiliation to land, although necessary, should not be allowed
to make indistinct, the opportunities that new social identities have offered. Hall
postulates that processes of identity are concerned with 'becoming' rather than
Diasporic Transnationalism:Rlocated montsrratians in U.K. 61
'being' for it is within these processes that migrants purposely and practically define
their sense of belonging (Hall 1996:4). It is in this light that I contend that rethinking
a sense of place is critical to the way forward since repatriation is impractical, at least
for the immediate future. Also critical for survival in a 'foreign' land, is the
maintenance of Montserratness via articulated cultural definitions and expressions.
Culture is a complex term so for this paper I take it to mean "a system of
beliefs, values, and modes of construing reality that is shared by a group or society"
(Saljo 1994:1242). This according to Saljo, is the symbolic side of culture, in which
language plays a decisive role.
For the second time in the recorded history of Montserrat, the cultural
tradition is under serious threat because of out-migration. The first was during the
fourth phase of migration from Montserrat when the continued development and
growth of the cultural tradition was in danger of extinction. It was during the
seventies decade that DrJ A Irish, the then Resident tutor of the University of the
West Indies (UWI) Extra-Mural Department (now known as UWI School of
Continuing Studies), along with a nucleus of Montserratians, "dedicated themselves
to the revival and preservation of the cultural tradition" (Dewar 1977: 17). The
Emerald Community Singers8 emerged out of this dedicated thrust.
Undoubtedly, both relocated migrants and those who stayed at home suffer the
eroding cultural effects caused by out-migration. Perhaps in recognition of this fact,
the newly ratified constitution of the Montserrat Democratic Party led by former
Deputy Chief Minister, Dr Lowell Lewis, has the following as one of its activities:
Public lectures, exhibitions, workshops and concerts designed to
enhance the cultural, social, educational and intellectual development
of members of the community (The Constitution of the Montserrat
Democratic Party Activity iv).
But, indisputably, the eroding effects are felt more so in the relocated
community because of the 'scattering' of the Montserrat community, as discussed
under the subheading 'location and settlement'. Dewar asserts:
The 'soul' of any country rests with its 'folk', and with the surviving
cultural tradition which is their way of life (Dewar 1977:3)
An extension of Dewar's assertion implies that the 'soul' of the post 1995
diaspora still rests with its 'folk'. Dewar further notes that Montserrat's history,
(which include patterns of migration), played a significant role in the development of
its musical folk arts. But it was the Montserrat dialect, the mother tongue of the
majority of Montserratians, that "has kept alive the cultural tradition of the island"
And it would continue to survive if Montserratians "hold on to we dialect" and "use
this language more and more and be proud of you own culture" (Alphonsus 'Arrow'
Cassel). The concept of Montserratness is intrinsically tied to 'possessing' this culture.
It should be noted here that the Montserrat culture is not 'pure', but one that is
enlaced with African, Irish, British, Caribbean and North American influences and
yet has paradoxically evolved as quintessentially Montserratian. These imported
influences are interwoven into Montserrat's core culture of creative expressions -
music, literature and traditional customs. It is within this tapestry of traditions and
influences that the identity of Montserratians is manifested. However, living in an
environment as multi-ethnic and culturally diverse as England presents a constant
uphill struggle in maintaining this identity. This is perhaps one of the situations when
more attention is given to the host rather than country of origin (Phase 3 -
Baumann's diaspora model). I recognize that the current situation has necessitated a
redefining of'Montserratness' But this does not mean shedding the 'traditional' and
donning the 'new', for the redefinition of Montserratness is a process of emergence.
Such redefinition therefore is not a 'cut and dry' deal since there is no strict
dichotomy between the 'traditional' and the 'new', but rather a dynamic process of
development, which includes a shift in what constitutes 'local'. But while that process
of development is being realized, it is imperative to preserve the 'traditional' for it's
maintenance is crucial to the 'survival' of Montserratness in the relocated community.
The above recognition is not lost on the post-war migrants for their
London-based organizations have tried to maintain the Montserrat culture via
numerous community activities and links to the home community. But it was the post
1995 migrant group, perhaps because of the reason for their relocation, who have
taken culture maintenance to higher levels. With assistance from the post-war group
they have organised several activities that highlighted many aspects of the traditional
culture. The following sentiment is a typical response to these gathering:
They came in their hundreds, braving the 'cold front' that had
dumped almost a foot of snow on the ground. They came to
celebrate, as only Montserratians can... While the activities in some
way mirrored those on the Emerald Isle (Montserrat), the joy and
fellowship of the dispersed could not be duplicated. The level of
patronage of these activities is proof of their value (MCST 2001:1)
Diasporic Transnationalism:Re/ocated montsrratians in U.K.
When large groups of Montserratians come together in one location this is in
itself an exhibition and celebration of Montserratness. This is evident at funeral
gatherings. Unfortunately, since relocating to England several Montserratians have
passed away. By any measure, funerals are not joyous occasions, however, the
Montserrat UK community has used these gatherings to 'celebrate the life of the
deceased', to socialise and recreate a sense of'Montserratness' a communal sharing
of grief, encouragement and comfort. Although the relocated Montserrat
community is scattered throughout England from far north to extreme south -
distance has not been a determining factor in preventing persons from sharing the
Montserrat community experience. Although unplanned and unwelcome, funerals
have provided an extraordinary opportunity to network, and have brought together
very large gatherings from every echelon of the UK Montserrat community, that no
planned event would have accomplished so readily.
As noted earlier in this section, The Emerald Community Singers emerged out
of a commitment to revive and preserve the Montserrat cultural tradition. Similarly,
from among the relocated migrants, two groups have materialised for the same
purpose the Keep Montserrat Alive Group and the Alliouagana Singers. One of the
objectives of the latter group is 'to assist the post 1995 diaspora to preserve the
Montserrat cultural heritage in a foreign land' This is being accomplished by staging
concerts and conducting workshops for youths and other interested persons. The
two choral groups continue to showcase the wealth of Montserrat's folklore at
various venues throughout the country, especially in areas where there is a sizeable
number of relocated migrants. Whenever the UK-based organizations have major
activities, these groups are invited to share the cultural experience.
In addition to choral singing, culture preservation is emphasised in calypso
shows and competition, steel-band and string band music and masquerade dancing.
The Oriole String Band 9 and a masquerade ensemble "o are located in Leicester and
Birmingham, respectively. These art forms are an integral part of the Montserrat
annual December festival. Since relocating to the UK scores of relocated
Montserratians return to participate in the festivities. The rich and varied collections
of folk songs and calypsos suggest that Montserratians treasure these art forms and
will utilise every opportunity to compose a song. Every song composed paints a
lyrical picture of social, economic and the political situation that exist. Dewar
(1977:15) supports this view when she stated that "there is a folk song for every
occasion" and that all songs (calypsos included) have "a story behind them" This
tradition of composing a song for every situation is evident in the variety of poetic
verses used in this paper to highlight given situations; and this tradition still remains,
even in 'foreign' lands. The following verses, composed to reflect the political and
economic situation in England bear this out. They are an addition to Justin 'Hero'
Cassell's 'Cost of Living':
Teachers get no salary
Doctors, nurses in misery
Civil servants work so hard
Yet the government treat them bad
We must stand up for what is right
To take the nation out of this plight
And to get us out of this crisis
Vote and tell the government this
Cost of living too high, too high, too high
Prices up in the sky
They must come down so that we can buy
What we need now is price control
On everything that is sold
Instead of making promises
Government should do something about this
Instead of making promises
Gordon Browne should do something about this
Instead of making promises
Mr Blair should do something about this
(Howard Meade Alliouagana Singers" )
Children songs and games are also on the cards of extended activities for the
maintenance of Montserratness. Although during the immediate pre-volcano period
the street-corner, under-lamp-post and backyard singing and playing were not as
prevalent as during the 50s and 60s decades, it was still recognized that childhood
games played a vital role in inflating the cultural tradition. It is hoped that action
songs such as 'Lah mo Shay', 'Miss Mary Mack' and 'Toonsie eena Moonlight' will be
revived in educational workshops 12 not only for their cultural input but also as
devices to help children "to learn tolerance and respect for each other" It is the
instilling of values such as these that makes the sustaining of Montserratness an
imperative for all Montserratians at home and abroad.
Montserratians, 'a bunch of transients', have had a chequered history of
out-migration since the post-emancipation era and were therefore always under the
migration telescopic lens. But it was the post 1995 forced migration phase that has
necessitated the enlargement of this lens, possibly because this phase represents the
largest out-migration in the recorded history of the island. It was within the confines
of such amplified lens that this paper examined the experiences of the post 1995
Diarpori Trasnaotionalism:Rlocated montsratians in U.K
Montserratian migrants in the UK as transnationals and as a diaspora. The
relocated migrants' case did not fit neatly into any specific conceptualisation of
transnationalism and diaspora, but has spanned a cross-section of theories and
Location and settlement patterns, group structure (a gender bird's-eye view),
the role of churches in resettlement and views on repatriation were the principal
topics for discussion. The paper explained why it is vital to preserve Montserratness
even in a 'foreign' land and related how this desirable but up-hill task is being
accomplished in the migrant post-war and post 1995 communities. The 'scattering'
of the relocated community and the literal loss of 'a sense of place' seemed to have
strengthened migrants resolve to 'be proud of their culture' and to 'hold on to it
forever'. Their process of assimilation has been as problematic as the 'post-war
migrants', albeit in a very different way. Yet, the yearning for a collective Montserrat
identity remains, and it is the post 1995 migrants who are better informed and better
positioned to pick up the cultural fragments since they lived it in a way that the
post-war migrants never did.
Whether as BOTCs or BCs, the post 1995 diaspora have changed the face of
migrant Montserratian community in the UK. Despite the 'complex' relationship
that they have with their host country, and despite the culture clashes and contested
identities, there is the recognition that a sense of identity is not only shaped by the
mores of the Montserrat cultural tradition, but also by self-definition and
self-expression via interactive cohabitation with persons in the host country. This
seems a practical way forward if Montserratness is to be preserved in a land where
each interpretation of 'foreign' tends to expose another paradox of 'foreignness'
1. 'Movement to the Metropoles' (1940 present), is Marshall's fourth phase of
Caribbean migration. This significant migratory movement resulted from the response
to the call from the Metropoles to remedy labour shortages after World War II. See
Shotte (1999:2-8) for an explanation of the other six phases.
2. Persons who migrated to the UK during the fourth phase.
3. Phase 1 The post emancipation diaspora- Inter-territorial Migration (1838 1885) -
This movement blazed the out-migration trail that earned Montserrat the label -
out-migration territory. Slavery officially ended in 1834 but it was not until 1838, after
the apprenticeship system ended, that a large number of persons began to leave
Montserrat. Planters in Trinidad and British Guiana attracted migrant labourers by
organising and sponsoring recruitment programmes in the Colonies.
Phase 2 Inter-Caribbean Migration (1885 to 1920) Mass migration to the Isthmus
dominated this phase. However, there was also a steady migrant flow to Cuba and
Santo Domingo where migrants worked on the sugar plantations. British West Indian
labour became in great demand when the United States of America (USA) took over
the building of the Panama Canal in 1904. By 1906,'scores of persons of the labouring
and other classes' had left Montserrat for Panama. However, the completion of the
canal did not bring to an end migratory flows out of Montserrat for there continued to
be a 'constant stream of emigration to the USA, Canada, Cuba and Santo Domingo'
Phase 3 -The 'Oil Refinery' Phase (1920 to 1940) The development and expansion of
oil refineries in these Dutch islands created a huge demand for immigrant workers.
Large numbers of Montserratians responded to this call.
Phase 4 Movement to the Metropoles (1940 to the present) See note i.
Phase 5- The 'New' Caribbean Migration (1965 to the present) This fifth phase is
also called 'migration transition', a term coined by McElroy & de Albuquerque (1988)
to describe "the change-over in rapidly modernising societies from being net exporters
of labour to net importers of labour" (in Mills 1997:6). Montserrat is classified as both
a migrant-sending and migrant-receiving country.
Phase 6 The Post 1995 Forced Migration Phase (1995 to the present) The term I
gave to the forced migratory movement after the eruption of the Soufriere I lills
Volcano in 1995.
4. The Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) provided accommodation in churches:
and school buildings in the 'safe' zone for persons who were internally displaced
because of the volcanic activities. These places of accommodation are called
5. The Montserrat Project was established in January 1998 in London for the purpose of
offering advice and support to Montserratian evacuees who had opted to settle in
the United Kingdom as a result of the volcanic activity in Montserrat. It was
administered by Refugee Action, a sub-organisation of The Refugee Council.
6. Various branches of Baptist, Pentecostal, Seven Day Adventist and Weslyan Hloliness
7. Mainstream churches refer to Catholic and Anglican (Church of England).
8. A choral group formed in 1971 to explore and develop the musical folk arts of
Montserrat via research and creativity.
9. A folk band that features the Hawaiian ukelele.
10. These masked dancers in colourful costumes have employed a mixture of ethnic
influences to create what has now been generally recognized as a Montserrat tradition.
To explain, the Masquerade's outfit resembles the Belizean and Jamaican jonkonnu,
the musical ensemble consists of the Irish fife and the African kettle-drums, a boom
Diasporic Transnationalsm.Relocated montsrratians in U.K
drum, a boom pipe, and a shak-shak. The folk religion and drum beat are African,
while the quadrille and the polka (dance steps) are Irish. The dancers also dance to folk
songs that are created from Caribbean experiences. Noticeably, there is an overall
weightier African influence in this interpolation. Little wonder that Fergus hails the
Masquerades as "the richest expression of African folk art in Montserrat"
11. Alliouagana Singers is a London-based choral group comprised of Montserratians
migrants. A sizeable proportion of its members are relocated migrants.
12. London-based Montscrrat organizations, together with the Montserratian-headed
evangelical churches, have organised education workshops to help relocated students
to adjust to the UK education system.
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Wordsmyth Dictionary and Thesaurus,, www.wordsmnyth.net
Lawrence O. Bamikole
Creolization and the Search for Identity in
Lawrence O. Bamikole
There is Caribbean history, Caribbean literature, and Caribbean music; but is
there Caribbean philosophy? When this question is asked in this manner, there
appears to be a tone of skepticism, to the effect that Caribbean philosophy may not
exist. In order to claim that Caribbean philosophy exists, we need to provide a ground
for dislodging this seeming skepticism. The attempt to provide such ground may be
regarded as the question of Caribbean philosophy.
The question whether there is or can be a Caribbean philosophy has engaged
the attention of some scholars, who are not necessarily professional philosophers.
For instance, Paget Henry (2000: xi) says that "Caribbean philosophy has been
carefully embedded in the practices of non philosophical discourses almost to the
point of concealment". Henry traced the reason for this situation to the fact that the
history of colonialism and slavery created a situation in which attention is shifted
from traditional philosophical discourses.
It is interesting to note that one of my students in a term paper made an allusion
to this kind of argument. According to her, the Caribbean (government, public) does
not pay particular attention to philosophy as an academic discipline because attention
is focused, nowadays, on the development of science and technology. In essence, one
yardstick of measuring the importance of a discipline is (material) utility.
We shall respond to these two positions, starting with the latter. Our response
will be both practical and theoretical. Practically, developments in the contemporary
world suggest that we need philosophy to organize our world, to understand our
history, to assess our present and to plan for our future. Philosophy is able to do this
by virtue of its character as a critical and analytical discipline. The critical nature of
philosophy enables us to question received beliefs. It also prevents us from seeing
ourselves as the final authority on any issue. This attitude promotes the virtue of
tolerance which is necessary for peaceful co-existence, especially in a multicultural
society like ours. Theoretically, we have to note that development in science has to be
guided by the development in the knowledge of human persons who are supposed to
Creoliation/ Idenrtity in Caribbean Philosophy
be the beneficiary and recipient of the gains of science. Persons are loci of value and
there are issues about what we should do, rather than what we could do in certain
situations. As we live in human societies, we should be weary of interpreting utility in
terms of material conditions alone. In this connection, Bertrand Russell (2001:89) has
warned us against "the practical man" who recognizes only material needs, who
realizes that man must have 'food' for the body, but is oblivious of the necessity of
providing 'food' for the mind. In other words, utility should not be seen only in
material terms; there is also an aspect of utility that speaks to the intellect and
philosophy is a good candidate for this description.
In response to Paget Henry's concealment theory, we will like to mention two
points. Firstly, it might be the case that he is referring to the broad sense of
philosophy in which philosophy is seen as a set of principles on which a particular
society or culture is predicated.
This is a legitimate use of the term. However, this usage is different from
philosophy in the professional and academic sense. Secondly, the fact that the
philosophy of the Caribbean is concealed is not unique to the Caribbean. This is
always the case in most cultures. It is the task of the philosopher (or sociologist of
knowledge) to examine these data, analyze them and attempt to make them relevant
to a given situation.
It is in line with the foregoing observations that we think we should address
anew the need for Caribbean philosophy in the academic (and non-academic) sense.
However, we need to come to grips with some fundamentals- it is important to ask -
how is Caribbean philosophy possible? This question is raised against the backdrop of
the special uniqueness of the Caribbean space in which there are diverse peoples,
races, cultures and social classes.
Most of the authors who have attempted to discuss the question of Caribbean
philosophy have hyphenated the title of what they are doing in form of the compound
word-"Afro Caribbean" Paget Henry vacillates on this issue. The title of his book is
Caiban's Reason: Introducing Afro- Caribbean Philosophy. But reading through the book,
he refers to what he is doing as Caribbean philosophy (no longer "Afro- Caribbean"
as in the title of the text). One can understand the reason behind this ambivalence.
Historically, the Caribbean is made up of "different population groups" (African,
English, Indian, Chinese, Spanish), which have blended and being melted away by
Lanna O. Bamikek
many years of slavery and colonial rule. This has made it difficult to trace the original
inhabitants of the Caribbean space. As one writer puts it "Colonialism has uprooted
the Caribbean man from his native land it is a radical attack on his identity" (Hirt
The explanation of the adoption of the tag "Afro- Caribbean" may yet be
traced to other sources. It may be connected with the belief of one of the groups in
the Caribbean that concerns itself with the issue of identity. This group is the
Rastafarians. Paget Henry has observed that the Rastafarians attached a lot of
symbolic importance to Ethiopia. Since Ethiopia did not experience any colonial rule,
the Rastafarians prefer it as their progenitor. Skin pigmentation is another reason for
the nomenclature and this is easily depicted by one of the prominent reggae musicians
in Jamaica, Peter Tosh: "Wherever you come from, as long as you are a Blackman,
you are an African."
Despite this historical attachment, there is still the need to raise the questions
of Caribbean identity. Thus, attention must be paid to how the Caribbean subject
differs from the African subject. This is the main reason why the phrase "Afro" may
be deleted from "Afro Caribbean", thereby adopting a nomenclature that reflects an
autonomous identity of Caribbean space.
The Concept of "identity" as a Philosophical Problem
In logic, the principle of identity is one of the Three Laws of Thought- others
being that of non contradiction and excluded middle. The principle of identity says: if
P, then P (P.P). This principle affirms that something P is identical with itself. It is a
principle of individuation. It is a principle which marks off one item from another or
from a group of similar items. It is a presupposition of principle of identity that no
proper thought can take place without taking into consideration that one thing is itself
and different from other things.
Some philosophers have thought that the laws of thought are universal
principles (Lukes 1974) while others have thought that such laws are rule guided
(Winch 1974). Winch claims that although the principle of identity is a law of thought,
such principle makes sense within a given rule. This is what philosophers of post
modem era refer to as Cultural Relativism. Relativism is the view is that a culture has
its own virtues and the people ought to be the arbitrators of the values to which other
members are held accountable (Etizioni 1997: 177).
In metaphysics, the concept of identity is linked with the notion of
consciousness. For instance, Descartes (1954) at the end of his methodical doubt
asked the question: "Who am I", and he answered- "A being that thinks." This
Creoiation/ Idenrtiy in Caribbean Philosophy
suggests that the question about identity is a question about the subjective experience
of a person; it is a realization of the personal feeling of somebody towards himself or
herself. In the history of philosophy, the question of (personal) identity as an explicit
philosophical problem is linked with John Locke (Locke 1894). Just like Descartes,
Locke identified personal identity with consciousness. However, contrary to
Descartes' belief, Locke holds the "Cogito" cannot mark off a person's identity
because thinking may occasionally be interrupted; for instance during sleep. Locke
believed that identity of persons consists in continuity of consciousness, and seems to
be provided by links of memory; thus Locke appears to analyze self identity in terms
Marya Schechtman (1990:71) has observed that the question "who am I" may
be asked by either of two characters which have found themselves in a certain
uncomfortable mental state.
The first is an amnesia victim and the second, a confused adolescent.
According to her, different answers are expected from both persons. The former
seems to be asking which history her life is a continuation of, and the latter
presumably knows her history but she is asking which of the beliefs, values and
desires that she seems to have are virtually her own, expressive of who she is.
Schechtman called these two questions the question of re-identification and the question of
What we have to note here is that these two positions are consequent upon the
fact that a person is required to ask questions about herself at particular points in her
life history. In other words, there should be a period of re-thinking and critical
self-examination. This attitude depicts the philosophical spirit.
With regard to the moral dimension of the notion of identity, we shall again
return to Locke. Locke said that in order to impute responsibility in a given individual,
we have to establish that she is the same individual who is able to recall the changes
she has brought into the world. If we cannot establish that one is the same individual,
then it is impossible to be talking of the same individual. Thus in spite of various
changes in the life of an individual, there are still features that are resilient to change,
which can enable her to identify herself as the same person.
However, we have to note here that Descartes and Locke's conceptions of
identity are limited to the individual person; but this is not the only conception of
identity. Identity can also take social and cultural dimensions. Scholars have
recognized these dimensions of identity, especially in connection with the African
conception of a person (Okolo 1992; Bewaji 1997) The essential point in this
Lawrence O. Bamikole
conception of a person is that persons are inextricably linked with their culture and
their environment in such a way that a person is strictly not a person outside the
group and the culture to which she belongs. This is the origin of the assertion "I am
because we are", which is the direct opposite of Descartes' "I think therefore I am"
Thus, there is a cultural dimension to the concept of identity. There are
different conceptions of the term "culture." However, we shall adopt a concept
developed by Dalfovo (1999) according to which culture represents the network
through which the perception of all reality needs to pass- language, art, religion,
behaviour, ideas, values, beliefs, and practices.
Dalfovo goes on to observe that there are two aspects of culture- its outer
aspect and its inner aspect. The outer aspect of culture refers to the social heritage of a
community that is most readily perceived, while the inner aspect- 'mind' or 'soul' of
culture is given by collective mental and spiritual heritage such as systems of symbols,
beliefs, aesthetic perceptions, values, ideas, motivations, and the world view that are
concisely expressed in the outer aspect of culture.
Cultural identity here means the collective will of a given people- what they
can use to tell their past history and shape their future life.
The Question of Identity and Caribbean Philosophy
This section of the paper is an application of our analysis in the previous
sections. One author who raised a purely philosophical question about the existence
of Caribbean (a) philosophy is Patrick L Goodin (2000). Goodin raises some issues,
which are immense relevance to developing what, can be described as a distinctive
(Afro) Caribbean philosophy. The difference between our own project and Goodin's
is that we are inclined not to adopt the hyphenated nomenclature; rather we prefer to
refer to what we are doing as Caribbean philosophy.
We shall itemize what we consider as the salient points in Goodin's paper.
In its present level of discourse, we cannot with confidence, say that there
is an Afro-Caribbean philosophy.
Afro-Caribbean philosophy can draw from the experiences, debates and
struggles of African-American philosophies to fashion out a distinctive
The various studies that have been done in Afro-Caribbean thought have
not really touched on the distinctive philosophical problems of
No Caribbean university has a course offered under the rubric
Creooiation/ Idenrtity in Caribbean Philosophy
These are purely philosophical issues which responses are expected to depend
not only on a descriptive analysis of what has happened in the past, rather we need to
probe, albeit into fundamentals, and one of these fundamentals is to raise the
question of identity of a distinctive Caribbean philosophy.
We appreciate the pioneering effort of Paget Henry in his Caliban's Reason. To
be fair to him, he identified the problem of identity within the Caribbean context. He
however, suggested that this question has become difficult to answer by virtue of the
colonial experience that has totally enveloped what may be regarded as a distinctive
identity of the Caribbean people. Goodin recognized the importance of this problem
and the need to interrogate it when he wrote:
"Perhaps the Caribbean people are in a unique position to question
not only who they are... The great problem/issue of Caribbean
identity but also to raise anew some of the fundamental questions of
philosophy" (Goodin 2000:149)
Our suggested direction at answering this question is to apply our analysis and
to try to give reasoned answers to the questions raised earlier: What is distinctive
about the Caribbean which can qualify for a separate philosophy of its own? First of
all, who is a Caribbean person?
This question is descriptive and non-descriptive; descriptive in the sense that
we can refer to a person having body and mind that occupies a specific space that can
be found on a map. In the non-descriptive sense, a Caribbean person can be referred
to as a person with particular history who can still be regarded as the same person
despite the fact that she has undergone many life experiences. This is a principle of
identity. This identity consists of those values, norms, and beliefs that a Caribbean
person possesses which marks her out from all other human persons. Paget Henry
(2000) has observed that these features are concealed, yet it is the job of the
philosopher to exhume them and bring them into the limelight. The next crucial
question is how to proceed in this arduous task.
Creolization and the Search for Identity in Caribbean Philosophy
With regard to the origin of academic discussion on the concept of
creolization, Carolyn Allen (1998:33) has this to say:
Chief among the ideas which Kamau Brathwaite has elaborated for
our benefit is an understanding of the cultural dimensions of
Caribbean history as a process in which the arrivants and their
Lawrence O. Bamikole
progenitors forge a complex dynamic of group identity and
interrelations. Choosing "creole" as the root term, he labeled the
process "creolization" A concept which is receiving increasing
recognition in an age highly attuned to indeterminacy and cross-
Thus, since Kamau Brathwaite introduced the concept of "creolization" into
academic discussion, it has become a household unit of analysis, especially among
linguistics and sociologists in interrogating the social history of a group or groups of
people who have been hybridized by the phenomena of slavery and colonialism.
"Creole" is among other things, language types, person, style and culture (Allen
1998:31) In terms of language, creole refers to the product of the blend of two or
more language groups to form a distinct language which is neither wholly anyone of
the original languages. In terms of a person, "creole" refers to locally born persons of
non-native origin, which, in the Americas, generally means people of either African or
European ancestry, or both. "Creole" refers to people who are culturally distinct
from the old world populations of their origin. The concept of "creolization" then
refers to those processes of cultural change that give rise to such distinctiveness
(Bolland 1998:1) Creole is an intermediary category, defined primarily by its
relationship to other, rather than an essence. (Allen 1998:36).
"(Synthetic) creolization refers to a group's attempt to create a new local
culture from the whole range of cultural resources available to the different
components that together constitute a creolized society" (Medea 2002:127).
Creolization is understood as a varied, dynamic, on-going, and often paradoxical
process (Warner-Lewisl998:50). Creolization is the agonizing process of renewal and
growth that marks the new order of men and women who came originally from
different Old World cultures... and met in conflict or otherwise on foreign soil
From the different viewpoints on the terms "creole" and "creolization", we
may come up with a position that sums up the essence of the terms which can aid our
own philosophical understanding of them. Thus, we can put our view roughly as:
Creolization is coming together of different elements in an interacting process,
producing a new reality or entity which is neither one nor the other of the original
elements, but which nevertheless share some features with the original elements.
This way of summing up the import of the term creolization, is reminiscent of
some philosophical positions both within the Western and African traditions.
Cro~ otion/ Idrteniy in Caibbean Philosophy
(1) It reminds us of Locke's doctrine of'abstract ideas' In Bk. I
v, Ch.7, Sect. 9 of Essay Concerning Human Understanding,
Locke said,' the mind can conceive of a general idea of a
triangle for it must be neither oblique nor rectangle, neither
equilateral, equicrual, nor scalene, but all and none of these at
once. An abstract idea is an idea, wherein some parts of
several different and inconsistent ideas are put together.
(2) Ludwig Wittgenstein's notion of 'family resemblance' In
Philosophical Investigations 1, Sec. 66, Wittgenstein has this
to say about this notion. Nothing is common to a group of
things or instances that are called by the same name other
than family resemblances the vague and overlapping
likeness which one sees between the different members of a
family. Consider for example the proceedings that we call
games. I mean board-games, card-games, Olympic games and
so on. What is common to them all? Don't say: "There must
be something common, or they would not be called 'games'
but look and see whether there is anything common to all. -
For if you look at them you will not see something that is
common to all, but similarities, relationships and a whole
series of them at that (Wittgenstein 1988:31).
(3) Hegel conceives of reality as a kind of interplay between two
opposing forces, producing a synthesis, which in turn
breaks up into opposites and the process goes on and on.
(4). African ontology conceives of persons as organically related
not only to other persons but also to non-human beings and
How do the following philosophical positions border on identity, creolization
and the search for Caribbean Philosophy?
One of the important observations that could be made here is that identity does
not suggest an essential property which transcends space and time. This is contrary to
the Platonic theory of Forms which sees common property as an eternal entity
removed from particular objects and observations. On the above philosophical
positions, identity is a process which involves a situation in which an individual or a
group of individuals identify herself or themselves with others in the bid to promote a
state of affairs that is mutually beneficial to all the parties concerned. This view is in
Lawrrnce O. Baminkol
consonance with the concept of creolization which sees it as a process and not a
finished product. This conception of identity sees the individual and a group as
striving for recognition within their local, national and international spaces. This
conception of identity is also linked with the concept of creolization as a dynamic and
It thus follows that one identifiable method of philosophy which can be of
relevance to the formation of a distinctive Caribbean Philosophy is the method of
dialectics. This method is as old as philosophy itself; starting from Socrates down to
Plato, Aristotle, Hegel and Marx. What is important in this kind of method is the
ability of the philosopher to make use of the totality of his experiences to fashion out
the type of philosophy that would be relevant to the kind of space in which he finds
himself in his act of philosophizing. This is the hermeneutic method. This situation
has become important, especially for philosophers in Africa and the Caribbean where
governments tie the utility of professions to the relevance they have for the overall
development of the society.
Another aspect of creolization which is also linked with identity which in turn
may constitute a distinctive Caribbean philosophy is cultural retention and
endurance. It is necessary to note here that although culture is dynamic, there are
some aspects of culture which are resilient to change. These are what have been
referred to as the "soul" of culture. The soul of culture entails the social heritage of a
given people which is manifested in their collective mental and spiritual heritage such
as systems of symbols, beliefs, aesthetic perceptions, values, ideals, motivations and
the world view (Dalfovo 1999). It is possible to identify such features and use them to
fashion out a distinctive Caribbean Philosophy. In this connection, Maureen Wamer-
Lewis (1998:57) has pointed out the dialectical relationship between dynamism and
homeostasis in nature, human society and culture. According to the distinction,
dynamism suggests the capacity of an entity to generate new ideas, new institutions,
new speech forms; on the other hand, homeostasis allows a community to absorb
new features while retaining enough of its conventions to allow the community to
recognize itself as the same as, or similar to, what it was before innovation.
Cultural retention and endurance can constitute data for a distinctive
Caribbean philosophy in virtue of the historical antecedent of the Caribbean people.
This is where the Rastafarian ideology becomes relevant. Rastafarianism is a cultural
as well as a religious ideology. One of the major concerns of the Rastafarians is to
delegitimize imperial domination.
They do this by making use of the existential method of philosophizing. This
method involves the analysis of the inner nature of the individual in order to better his
CrnoSatis/ Idetnti in Caribbean Philosophy
condition. One of the terms used in their analysis is "dread" A dread experience is
one that confronts or challenges the subjectivity of the Rastafarians. He or she
becomes "a dread" through the repelling of this challenge (Henry 1997:157) In order
to repel a dread situation; the Rastafarians usually affirm their own existence. Like
Descartes' cogito and some existentialist philosophers, this group uses the word "I"
in an honorific manner to refer to both personal and collective norms on the wake of
re-awaken of the divinity of Hailie Selassie.
We believe that if the Rastafarian ideology is given an in-depth analysis, there
are some things to learn which can illuminate the idea of identity which in turn can be
creolized to form a distinctive Caribbean philosophy. What the Rastafarians are trying
to do is to locate themselves within the spectrum of local, national, regional and
international politics and culture. This is exactly what is involved in the dialectical
conception of identity and creolization.
However, one of the contentious issues in the Rastafarian ideology is that of
physical repatriation to Africa. This is one of the aspects of Caribbean thought which
Henry will likely call "mis-identification" Perhaps we should remark here that it
might be difficult, given the contemporary structure of world politics, to expect
physical repatriation. What might be suggested instead is that Rastafarians should
appeal to the spirit behind the traditional norms in Africa which they cherish and
attempt to inculcate them in their lives and transmit same to other Africa's Diaspora
It is necessary to observe here that the sources of these traditional norms and
values can be traced to such elements like proverbs, wise sayings and other unwritten
sources of information of which the elders and the sages in our local communities are
custodians (McKenzie 2005). We have to remind ourselves in this connection that
ethno-philosophy and philosophic sagacity are two of the canons of African
Philosophy. Just like Paget Henry would apt to point out, we do not advocate for a
total and wholesale adoption of these models for Caribbean philosophy, rather we are
inclined to suggest the adaptation of Wittgenstein's notion of "family resemblance"
to identify areas of resemblance between African Philosophy and Caribbean
Philosophy. For instance, the Anansi stories which are told in the Caribbean resemble
the tortoise stories (Akojopo Alo Ijapa) told among the Yoruba people of West
Africa. These traditional stories are sources of knowledge as well as principles of
moral and political actions. They also depict some metaphysical systems like ontology
and cosmogony. These, in our view, constitute veritable data for the interrogation of
a distinctive Caribbean Philosophy.
Lawrnce 0. Bamikokl
One of the existing important sources of Caribbean Philosophy is the
Caribbean socio history. However as they are, they constitute mere data. Such data
have to be reconstructed in such a way as to reflect the present realities of the
Caribbean space and what it is expected to be done in order to fashion out a
distinctive Caribbean philosophy that is proactive rather than reactive. What we learn
from the analysis of slavery and colonialism is the unity of purpose of the Caribbean
people in the faces of oppression and exploitation. Paget Henry has identified this
unity as one of the sources of Caribbean philosophical traditions. What we are
suggesting here is that this unity can be used to thematize a distinctive Caribbean
philosophy which refrains from conceiving persons as atoms that do not bear a
significant relationship with one another except relationship of the market. The
situation on ground at present is that of conceiving persons in atomic terms, a
reflection of the Western idea of persons as it is encapsulated by liberal politics. This
is another kind of "mis-identification", to make use of Paget Henry's term once more.
In order to have a distinctive Philosophy, Caribbean philosophy must creolize itself
by getting rid of this mis-identification and coming up with a distinctive philosophy
which speaks to the present realities of the Caribbean people and how they can move
along with others in a globalized world.
What we have done in this paper was to examine how creolization can be used
to fashion out a distinctive Caribbean philosophy. We will like to observe here that
the paper is more of methodological concern than a substantive one in the sense that
we are not so much concerned with issue of content. Methodological issues should
come first in order to prepare an adequate ground for the planting, germination and
growth of such philosophy. This is in consonance with Locke's conception of
philosophy as an under labourer.
However, it is not the suggestion here that questions of methodology must first
of all be settled before substantive issues in Caribbean Philosophy can be discussed.
Methodological issues in any discipline are always living ones which cannot be settled
in one final swoop. What is important is that whatever the content of such
philosophy, the issues raised should be related to the metaphysical, epistemological,
ethical, cultural and socio economic realities of the Caribbean people.
We would like to note here that before Caribbean philosophy could be fully
mature, there is the need for a kind of in house cleaning exercise. This exercise can
take both theoretical and practical forms. Theoretically, scholars in the discipline
CrroSation/ Idenrtiy in Caribbean Philosophy
would have to conduct an act of self emptying in the sense of liberating their minds
from Western influences that they have imbibed through Western education. The
(unexamined) influence of Western tradition on Afro Caribbean Philosophy is what
Paget Henry considered as Fanon's inadequacy in his attempt to fashion out a
distinctive Caribbean philosophy. Thus, in order not to fall into the same mistake,
philosophers working within the Caribbean tradition should make their work relevant
to local realities in the Caribbean space.
Practically, there is the need for the Caribbean people as a whole to also liberate
their minds from unmixed Western influence which will not allow the "planted seed"
to germinate and grow. In this connection, mention should be made of those values,
norms, practices and attitudes that are antithetical to an autonomous Caribbean
philosophy. The Caribbean people should look inwards and develop alternative ways
of conducting their affairs. This does not mean that they have to sever themselves
totally from their progenitors and historical antecedents, but in the spirit of
creolization, they should make use of the knowledge gained from the interactive
process with other cultures to better their human, social and spiritual conditions.
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Dalfovo, Albert T. (1999) "The Rise and Fall of Development: A Challenge to Culture"
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Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1988) Philosophical Investigations, (trans.) G.E.M. Anscombe. Oxford:
Kim Robinson-Walcott's Out of Order! Anthony Winkler and White West Indian
Writing, The Press, UWI, Mona, Jamaica. 2006
Had the Kim Robinson-Walcott's Out ofOrder! appeared three or four years ago
when I was still teaching the course "Caribbean Culture", it would certainly have
appeared on my list of required readings in the section on "Race and Identity",
alongside Rex Nettleford's Mirror, Mirorand M.G. Smith's PluralSociey. It is a perfect
complement to Nettleford's focus on the ambiguity of a black identity, with its focus
on the ambiguity of a white identity, and, in a sense, a replication of Nettleford's turn
from the methods of the social sciences to those of the literary imagination to find the
language to express what he called that "powerful other dimension" of that
specifically Caribbean identity being explored by our literary "artist-citizens"
Alongside Smith's anthropologically based Plural Socety, Out of Order! knocks the
plural out of Plural Society, by its painstaking exposition of the non-viability of a
separatist white identity in a sea of black self-affirmation, but at the same time it
unveils the scaffolding around which a cross-racial Caribbean identity can be
Out of Order! is therefore more than a brilliant exercise in literary criticism,
which takes the reader into the mind and heart of one of our region's most popular
novelists. It is as well a very handy tool of social science understanding. I have long
ago fancied the development of a social science course on the anthropology of the
Caribbean, structured entirely around the works of writers, novelists and poets alike,
Lamming, Walcott, Naipaul, Lovelace, Goodison. I would now, thanks to the author,
have to add Winkler, for what she has convincingly done is present a writer whom
most readers regard as outrageously rude, so outrageous that you have to laugh, the
crafter of light humour that, for all its iconoclasm, really hurts nobody, causes no
tears, that, in short, is not really serious literature that could qualify as classic -
certainly not in the zone of In the Castle ofMy Skin, or The Dragon Can't Dance, let alone
A House for Mr Bivsas -what she has done is reveal him unto us as a writer of
exceptional talent, grappling with the central-most issue of the West Indian literary
imagination: race and identity.
Thus, Winkler falls very much in the mainstream. But he is different in that he
uses wit, comedy, sarcasm, humour, satire and irreverence, devices that resonate with
his Jamaican, and by extension, Caribbean readership, because of their cultural
BOOK REVI WS
authenticity. Indeed, as the author tells it, many readers visualize him as black. What a
shock, therefore, to learn that Anthony Winkler is actually white Therein lies another
point of difference from the mainstream.
Who would have thought that whites, brought up in privilege and socialized in
the understanding, as the late Lloyd Braithwaite wrote in his famous essay on Social
Structure in Trinidad, that despite the differences in the social class, gender, race and
colour that permeate West Indian life, all are knitted together in the common
taken-for-granted, self-evident truism that white, and only white, is right, is the best, is
the tops -who would have thought that they could have an identity problem, right in
this-here Caribbean? And that they suffer psychological pain?
But they do. Winkler does. They suffer the dilemma of privilege and
unbelonging. For Winkler, however, it is the dilemma of the reverse of the roast
breadfruit syndrome. His is a white skin but a black heart, genuinely in love with the
black underclass, their ways, their thinking, not patronizing, not uncritical, just plain
loving them, but is pained by the judgment that the superficies of his skin is fated to
"You not a Jamaican" [says a young boy who has observed Winkler
looking at his old family home in Montego Bay and been told that he
used to live there].
"I was born in Kingston Public Hospital," I said angrily. "I went to
Cornwall College, right here in Montego Bay. I lived in that house for
"You not a Jamaican," he repeated stubbornly. "You a white man."
This was too much to bear in front of the very house in which I had
spent so much of my childhood.
"I'm a rass claat Jamaican!" I snapped.
The boy was unmoved. "Any white man can learn bad word from
book," he said scornfully [Quoted in Robinson-Walcott, p. 151].
As Robinson-Walcott shows, being Jamaican is for Winkler not merely the
sense of belonging to the island-mountain-space called Jamaica, but a sense of being
one with the blacks who have peopled it, of having grown up among them,
internalized their pum-pum outlook on life, on earth as it is in heaven, and in
admiration of their spirit of compassion and forgiveness -in a letter to the author, he
wrote: "I am trying to understand that part of the poor Jamaican's character that I
have never fully understood the enduring, forgiving, compassionate part. I do not
have much of that part in me and if I had been born poor and wretched in Jamaica I
am sure that I would have been hanged by now" Yet, in the midst of his nostalgic
return to his childhood identification with that space, he is rejected by the very people
he is one with. If this is not angst, I cannot imagine what is.
Robinson-Walcott's portrayal is skilfully built, sensitively executed, like a
gifted-handed surgeon intruding inside a living body, dissecting, without bruising,
without brushing the vital organs, and healing. Through this operation on Winkler,
we are left with very clear possibilities for the healing of this torn and fractured
Ev'ry white man mus' born again!
Hafi enter dis worl' a second' time.
An' di waata fi im baptism
Mus' come from di mystic Nile,
di Niger and di Kongo!
Bow dung your head and worship!
This is from a song I wrote late in the 1960s, at the height of our Black
Power/Abeng dream. Winkler is already baptized. As the author shows, he is "one of
the few white West Indian winters who seem able, or willing, to identify fully with the
black majority" (p. 45). Yet, it seems to me, such identification, such a baptism is the
foundation for the full release of the still latent creative energy of the country. The
acceptance by Europe of Africa, of the Caribbean children of Africa, and of their
creation of an emerging bricolage civilization, put together out of the detritus of their
history, opens the path to black acceptance of the black self and to ultimate truth and
reconciliation. The ultimate affirmation of ourselves is mediated through our
affirmation by the other that's the sad legacy of the colonial presence, which
Winkler satirized harshly. As the author shows, his love of the poor black underclass
is not without his criticism of their colonial ambivalence towards Europe and all
things European, including white skin colour. In The Lunatic the fact that a madman
could find himself in such abundant possession of a white pum-pum was enough to
send the obsessed men in the village in search of madness.
But the whole country mad, according to Winkler. Thanks to the author, we
now see this as a theme running through all his novels, including The Great Yacht Race,
the Painted Canoe and his autobiographical Going Home to Teach, before its full
development in The Lunatic, where for Winkler, "the black madman is the ultimate
symbol of a madly and maddeningly difficult Jamaican existence" (p. 96), "not
independent long enough to be convinced that the Queen does indeed doo-doo, but
independent long enough to have suffered a series of incompetent governments
mismanaged by demented politicians" (p. 97).
And if this is a place that drives people mad, it is no surprise that it is also a place
fraught with perpetual tension between order and disorder. The colonial-originated
order with its suffocating bureaucracy, embrace of foreign values and stifling sense of
what is decent is enough to drive people mad, but the madness of a man talking to the
bushes and grinding Mother Earth may in fact have its own order and logic. Who is to
say who is madder than whom? "Thus", Robinson-Walcott concludes, "The Lunatic
entertaining, hilarious, a quick write and a quick read; slack, vulgar and out of order;
containing, in other words, all the components of popular as opposed to serious
fiction nevertheless transcends it own possibly self-imposed limitations as popular
fiction. It may be full of pumpum, hood, wee-wee and doo-doo, but it proves Inga's
outrageous assertion: Shit does indeed have deep meaning" (p. 110).
Robinson-Walcott presents us with a deep-context close-reading of Anthony
Winkler, which she orchestrates at two levels. On one level she sets him, Jamaica's
most successful novelist, against the backdrop of other white and near-white writers,
from Jean Rhys and Herbert George Delisser to the late Morris Cargill, to
contemporaries like Honor Ford-Smith, Pauline Melville, Michelle Cliff and Robert
Antoni, people socialized into common ideas of colour-and-class status, power and
hegemony, and striving for resolution of that central issue of an identity which these
ideas pose. And so, Cargill leaves Jamaica, while Winkler is returning, and Winkler is
forced to leave for good, while Cargill is forced to return for good. Cargill leaves,
frightened by the possibility of a loss of privilege, but returns, preferring to fight to
remain a big fish in the small pond that is Jamaica, instead of living the rest of his life a
small, anonymous fish in the large ocean that is the United States. Winkler returns to
Jamaica because of where his heart is, "with the black poor", but leaves because "his
(wife's) skin is white" (53). By bracketing "wife's", the author intends the meaning
that Winkler leaves not only because of his wife's unhappiness at being white in a
black country, but also because he himself must choose. The choice is between an
up-close identity, but accompanied by an unrelenting target of hatred of whites, as
against the personal happiness with a family, but accompanied by a black identity
Thus, concludes the author, Winkler has embraced an identity that no other
white or near-white writer has. He has not only transcended the plantation legacy but
has subverted it "by choosing not to invest in this whiteness, but instead immersing
himself in a black identity" (p. 167).
BOOK RE VIE W'S
Such deep-context close-reading would do Winkler a disservice, were it limited
to the explication of identity, central though that is. And so at the other level, she
enters into a deep analysis of text. In The Duppy, she tells us, we should take seriously
Winkler's satirizing of Eurocentric religion's obsession against sex. As those who
have read The Duppy would recall, Winkler's heaven is the fulfilment of what you
want. So, while in the American heaven, "angels float on clouds plunking harps and
tending sheep, everyone eats manna fallen from the sky instead of bully beef and
sardines, all residents have compulsorily had their hoods sheared and pumpums
caulked, and all residents are white" (quoted in Robinson-Walcott, p. 114), the
Jamaican heaven is an out-of-order place where "hood thrives and [pumpum]
prospers", where there is fun and joy, no hell, no pain. Of course, God prefers the
But Robinson-Walcott is not content with a simple critique. After consulting
three Jesuit theologians and one former Jesuit, she concludes that Winkler's theology
is similar to what Martin Schade has called "dialectical incarnationalism" (118).
In dialectical incamationalism there is total unity but at the same time
distinction between God and his creation, like the unity and distinction between
mother and child. According to Schade, "God became flesh not because of sin but in
spite of sin, and mankind began in state of Original Grace, not Original Sin" (p. 119).
There is thus no hell, for "God is unconditionally forgiving. God hurts by us" (p.
118). For Winkler, God used Himself as raw material to create the universe, and
people must love God "because one wants to, not because one should it is
'shouldisms' which are a 'poison"' (p. 119), which '"leads to principle and principle
leads to murder'. Rather, God calls for tolerance and recognition that there is 'good in
the heart of all' because God says,'all things are me, and I am all things"' (p. 128).
The Duppy' succeeds most, says the author, not because of its subversion of
Eurocentric religious teachings and American culture, but because of "its affirmation
not only of God, but of life itself" That, in the end is why out of all the possible
heavens, God prefers the Jamaican one.
Clearly, what we have here is to use an awful cliche a very
thought-provoking writer. Having read The Lunatic, The Duppy, The Annihilation ofFish
and Other Stories, and Going Home to Teach, and although finding Winkler's attack on
Eurocentric views of sexuality transparent enough, only on reading Out of Order!was I
made aware of the deep seriousness of his worldview. We don't have to search far for
its source: the very people among whom Winkler grew up, who abused him for his
race and colour as a child and as an adult, but whose way of life he was
generous-hearted and broad-minded enough to identify with, to see in it its true
humanity. This is no superficial, "going-native" sort of identity. This is deep, at the
most profound level, the level of worldview, beyond which only being exists. How
painful then not to be able to experience the complete fulfillment that that ontological
point would bring! But, then, Winkler is wise enough to know that, incarnated as
black, he would have had to forego the distance, and therefore, the true appreciation
that comes from looking on from outside. Habi-habi no waanti, waanti-waanti kyaan
geti is a proverb that expresses well the existential dilemma. Winkler attributes the
self-deprecation and self-devaluation by blacks to a centuries-old colonial and
neocolonial past. But, he also knows that identity is not an entirely self-constructed
state. We are who we are not only because we affirm who we are, but also because of
the other. Indeed, identity is always shaped in an other-centred context. So, just as the
value of the Jamaican heaven can only be measured by its contrast to the American
heaven, so in an important, but ambiguous sense, a black identity finds its true
measure and value in its contrast with a white one.
I suppose what I am saying is that had Winkler been born black, and with all his
gifts of perception and penmanship, we would have been deprived of the truth of
who we really are, the sheer beauty and humanity of being a Jamaican. And we would
miss, as well, the profound insight that in demographic contexts such as ours -and
Southern Africa comes to mind, whites acquiring a black identity is not only a
possibility but an urgent necessity.
For this we have the author Robinson-Walcott to thank. Her painstaking work
of textual criticism, interviews, emails, letters and scribal craft establishes her as a
scholar of quality second to none. Out of Order Anthony Winkler and White West Indian
Writing is deserving of the acclamation it is bound to receive.
Jean Smith's, PraiseSongs- Chapters in a Life, Mill Press, Kingston Jamaica, 2007.
So why this book? At least in part because of the extraordinary, textured life
that Jean Smith has led and continues to lead. So many luminous characters have
crossed her path, as they cross all our paths. But she had a clarity of vision to see them
from odd angles and with endearing idiosyncrasies, and to recognize and record their
significance, their quirkiness and oftentimes their goodness.
Some of their stories go off like a light bulb in our heads, as we have a Eureka
moment when we recognize a kindred spirit. Others roll over us with a warm, gentle
wave enveloping us in good feelings and a belief in the ultimate rightness of the
human spirit. Some give us insight into pivotal points in our nations history, or
developments in our culture. But the one's I like best are the one's about ordinary
people behaving in extraordinary ways... not a grand scale, but on an everyday,
ordinary, mundane stage. Ones filled with pathos and humour and certainty about
what the most important things in life are, and how to go about achieving them. Praise
Songs offers startling points of light that illuminate truths and highlight surprising
beacons of integrity and justice. The vignettes in this book give a road map on how to
proceed through life. They shed a brilliant incandescence on the richness, and
diversity of experiences in which we should immerse themselves. The stories exhort
us to not just sidle along on the outskirts of life, but to interact, to interlink, and most
importantly to love.
"Dark peoples, singing in my veins,
Fair People's singing in soft strains,
So when I lift my hand to pray,
I bow with blue eyes, dark hands, red hair
My Prayer is Life"
Jean Smith in her "Praise Songs", the birth of which we have come to celebrate,
quotes this and other passages from Campbell's poems It is only right that she
should do so for she was one of the bright stars with "blue eyes, dark hands, red hair"
who as a youngster moved confidently into our early years of Independence.
Professor Ted Chamberlin, who gave this book it's title, reminds us on the
back-jacket that "in southern Africa imbongi or praise singers are the eyes and ears
of the community, the author he continues takes up that inheritance, watching
and listening to her Jamaican people with clarity and compassion bringing light and
love to them and to us" True, but we should note that she was not and is not the
aloof observer, set apart. She was and is an intimate player, a doer and a facilitator, the
heart that in a pivotal period in our cultural history provided the link between
head/mind and hand of the body politic and the spirit of the creative souls that
abound in this island of ours.
But what a piece of writing is this Praise Songs. The twenty-five "vignettes" that
the author calls "chapters in a life" add up to a monumental statement about lives and
incidents that have touched and shaped her.
These treasures of simple wisdom and honesty and the repeated
acknowledgement of the virtues of service; of service to one's fellow man and service
to country; and of course of the value of a sound education, a lesson repeatedly taught
by her own father's actions in educating his children and children other than his own.
There is no pretense in this book, no superfluous artifice to Jean Smith's words,
rather we are treated to a pure, basic English, eloquent in its simplicity: Here is a
passage from the chapter: "A Daughter Looks Back"
"Those were the days when the man set the agenda, and the woman,
who had probably been attracted to him because she saw him as
someone who was able to set an agenda, figured out how best she
could help him to do what he had decided was best for the family. So
our grandmother, Miss Rosa, made guava jelly and marmalade, and all
our clothes, and mama took in boarders and fed them well. Those
were the days when you ate what you cooked, and you often wore
what someone in your house had made. No boutiques, no caterers, no
Chinese Food, no fancy restaurants, because parents were making
sure that their priorities, which were always the children's education
could be taken care of. We all went to boarding school, and then to
Universities in Canada and Scotland, with a trunk full of clothes made
a little dressmaker, knowing that the impossible had been
accomplished and all the years of sacrifice had gone into those trunks
and those fees.
What is wonderful too about this book is the manner in which the value-system
hierarchies which others traditionally impose are banished so that the value of the
lessons, the value of the love of an aged retainer who gave "a plantain for every meal"
and "roast breadfruit straight from the fire" is recorded with no less assumed value
than an Edna Manley creating a national Icon or a Rex Nettleford conquering the
halls of academia. This is a lesson in itself for us.
In mirroring the lives, the accomplishments the lessons of others and from
generously quoting from the stories and literatures that she loves, the author gives the
reader a composite picture of herself. Our author speaks too of racial pride and
nationhood, and the role of culture in defining nationhood. Compassion for her
fellow human beings is a leit motif throughout and she gives us persistent lessons on
friendships that you "grapple to your soul with hoops of steel."
BOOKS FOR REVIEW
BOOKS FOR REVIEW
Caribbean Quartery invites reviews for the following books recently received.
Contact the Managing Editor
Inna Di Dancehall- Popular Culture and the Politics of Identity in Jamaica by Donna P
Hope. University of the West Indies Press 2006. 167 pages.
Where Men are Wives and Mothers Rule Santeria Ritual Practices and Their Gender
Implcations by Mary Ann Clark. University Press of Florida 2005. 185 pages.
Revisiting Caribbean Labour. Edited by Constance Sutton. Ian Randle Publishers
2005. 149 pages.
Blackface Cuba, 1840-1895 byJill Lane. University of Pennsylvania Press 2005.
Ruins ofAbsence, Presence of Caribs Post-colonial Representations ofAboriginaly in
Trinidadand Tobago by Maximilian Forte. University Press of Florida 2005. 283 pages.
The Power of Words Literature and Sodety in Later Modernity. Edited by Mauro
Buccheri, Elio Costa, Donald Holoch. 2005. 307 pages.
The Francophone Caribbean Today Literature Language Culture. Edited by Gertrud
Aub-Buscher and Beverley Ormerod Noakes. 191 pages.
The Language of Caribbean Poetry Boundaries of Expression by Lee M. Jenkins.
University Press of Florida 2004. 232 pages.
Born to Slow Horses by Kamau Brathwaite. Wesleyan University Press 2005. 145
Cuba's Agricultural Sector b yJoseAlvarez. University Press of Florida 2004. 306
The Jewish Community of Earl Colonial Nevis A HistoricalArchaeological Study by
Michelle M. Terrell. University Press of Florida 2005. 174 pages.
Colon Man A Come Mythographies of Panama Canal Migration by Rhonda D.
Frederick. Lexington Books 2005. 214 pages.
The Myth of ose Marti. Conlicting Nationalisms in Eary Twentieth Century Cuba by
Lillian Guerra. The University of North Carolina Press 2005.
Postcolonical Cultures by Simon Featherstone. Edinburg University Press 2005.
From Garvey to Marley Rastafari Theology by Noel Leo Erskine. University Press
of Florida 2005. 215 pages.
BOOKS FOR REVIEW
The Pleasures ofExile by George Lamming. Pluto Press 2005. 229 pages.
God and Trujillo Literary and Cultural Representations of the Dominican Dictator by
Ignacio Lopez-Calvo. University Press of Florida 2005. 196 pages.
Puerto Rican Nation-Building Literature Impossible Romance by Zilkia Janer.
University Press of Florida 2005. 119 pages.
Contemporary Caribbean Cultures and Societies in global Context. Edited by Franklin
W. Knight and Teresita Martinez-Vergne. The University of North Carolina Press
2005. 303 pages.
Toussaint's Clause The Founding Fathers and the Haitian Revolution by Gordon S.
Brown. The University Press of Misssissippi Press 2005. 295 pages.
Negotiating Caribbean Freedom by Michaeine A. Crichlow. Lexington Books
2005. 273 pages.
Sugar, Slavery and Freedom in Nineteenth-Centuy Puerto Rico by Luis A. Figueroa.
The University of North Carolina Press 2005. 290 pages.
US Intervention in British Guiana. A Cold War Story by Stephen G. Rabe. The
University of North Carolina Press 2005. 240 pages.
Writing to Cuba Filibustering and Cuban Exiles in the United States by Rodrigo
Lazo. The University of North Carolina Press 2005. 224 pages.
Ethniciy, Class and Nationalism Caribbean Extra-Caribbean Dimensions. Edited by
Anton Allahar. Rowman and Littlefield Publishing Group 2005. 281 pages.
To Die in Cuba Suicide and Sodety by Louis A. Perez Jr. The University of
North Carolina Press 2005. 456 pages.
Monsieur Toussaint- aplay translated byJ. Michael Dash and Edouard Glissant.
Lynne Rienner Publishers 2005. 125 pages.
CannibalModernities. Postcolonialty and the Advent-Garde in Caribbean and Brailian
Literature by Luis Madureira. University of Virginia Press 2005. 255 pages
Cuba'sAborted Reform. Socioeconomic Effects, International Comparisons, and Transition
Policiesby Carmelo Mesa-LAgo andJorge F. Perez-Lopez. University Press of Florida
2005. 223 pages.
Lenguay ritos delPalo Monte Mayombe by Jesus Fuentes Guerra Armin Schwegler.
Die Deutsche Bibliothek 2005. 258 pages.
The Elusive El Dorado Essays on the Indian Experience in Guyana by Basdeo
Mangru. University Press of America 2005. 138 pages.
BOOKS FOR REVIEW 93
Written in Blood- The Story of the Haitian People 1492-1995 by Robert Debs Heinl
and Nancy Gordon Heinel. University Press of America 2005. 869 pages.
War and genocide in Cuba 1895-1898 by John Lawrence Tone. The University of
North Carolina Press 2006. 338 pages.
The Origins of the Cuban Revolution Reconsidered by Samuel Farber. The University
of North Carolina Press 2006. 212 pages.
Gathering Ground by Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady. The University of
Michigan Press 2006. 210 pages.
Cuba and the Tempest. Literature and Cinema in the Time Diaspora by Eduardo
Gonzalez. The University of North Carolina Press 2006. 246 pages.
Regional Footprints The travels and Travails of Eary Caribbean Mgrants. Edited by
Annette Insanally, Mark Clifford and Sean Sheriff. Latin American Caribbean Centre
2006, University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, Kingston 7. 481 pages.
Reading Erna Brodber. Uniting the Black Diaspora through Folklore and Reigion by
June E. Roberts. Greenwood Publishing Group 2006. 275 pages.
Performing Cuba. (Re) Writing Gender Identity and Exile Across Genres by Denis
Jorge Berenschot. Peter Lang Publishing 2005. 165 pages.
Indigenous Resurgence in the Contemporay Caribbean. Amerindian Survival and Revival
by Maximilian C. Forte. Peter Lang Publishing 2006. 298 pages.
I been there, sort of New & Selected Poems by Mervyn Morris. Carcanet Press Ltd.
2006. 92 pages.
Golden Grove: New and Selected Poems by Loma Goodison. Carcanet
Press Ltd. 2006. 124 pages.
V.S. Naipaul. Man and Writerby Gillian Dooley. University of South Carolina
Press 2006. 159 pages.
Race, Culture and Identity. Francophone West African and Caribbean Literature and
Theoy from Negritude to Creolte by Shireen K. Lewis. Lexington Books 2006. 166
Tim Hector A Caribbean Radical's Stoy by Paul Buhle. University Press of
Mississippi 2006. 259 pages.
Writing Rhumba The Afrcubanista Movement in Poetry by Miguel
Arnedo-Gomez.University of Virginia Press 2006. 217 pages.
Plunging into Haiti Clinton, Aristide and the Defeat of Diplomay by Ralph Pezzullo.
University Press of Mississippi. 312 pages.
BOOKS FOR REVIEW
Planning the past Heritage Tourism and Post-Colonial Politics at Port Royalby Anita
Waters. Lexington Books 2006. 125 pages.
Cultural Identity and CreoliZation in National unity The Multiethnic Caribbean.
Edited by Prem Misir. University Press of America 2006. 216 pages.
Sucking Salt Caribbean Women Writers, Migration, and Survival by Meredith
Gadsby. University of Missouri press 2006. 225 pages.
The 1812 Aponte Rebelkon in Cuba and the Struggle against Atlantic Slavery by Matt
D. Childs. The University of North Carolina Press 2006. 300 pages.
Sweet Negotiations Sugar, Slavery and Plantation Agriculture in Eary Barbados by
Russell Menard. University of Virginia Press 2006. 181 pages.
The Convict and the Colonel- A Stogy of Colonialsim and Resistance in the Caribbean by
Richard Price. Duke University Press 2006. 297 pages.
Worldview, the Orchids and Santeria. Africa to Cuba and Beyond by Mercedes Cros
Sandoval. University Press of Florida 2006. 417 pages.
The Rainmaker's Mistake by Erna Brodber. New Beacon Books 2006.154 pages.
New Caribbean Poett An Anthology Edited by Kei Miller. Carcanet Press
Limited 2007 158 pages.
The Prophet and the Power. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the International Community and
Haiti by Alex Dupuy. Rowman and Littlefield Publishers Inc. 2007. 238 pages.
Trinidad Carnival- The Cultural Politics of a Transnational Festival. Edited by garth
L. Green and Philip W. Scher. Indiana University Press 2007 254 pages.
Laurence O. Bamikole
Christopher A.D. Charles
Emily Zobel Marshall
is a lecturer in the Unit of Philosophy,
Humanities and Education, UWI, Mona Campus.
is a professor in the Dept. of Psychology, at the
Graduate Center, John Jay College of Criminal Justice,
is a Lecturer in The Institute of Education, Faculty of
Humanities and Education, UWI, Mona Campus.
is a lecturer in the School of Cultural Studies, Leeds
Metropolitan University, U.K. She is of British and
is a tutor in the School for Lifelong Education and
International Development, Institute of Education,
University of London, U.K.
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