DISTINCT ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ -. *-T INEAALSO HR NDSAE N
2..A 9~sf Perki5
CTHEHRETCRiNONSAA AI'SItD fT4
Professor Rex Nettleford
February 3rd, 1933 February 2nd, 2010
It is with a deep sense of sadness and profound regret
that Caribbean Quarterly acknowledges the sudden
death of our Editor, Professor, the Honourable Rex
Nettleford, O.M., Vice Chancellor Emeritus, UWI.
He was appointed Editor of Caribbean Quarterly in
1970 and sought always to preserve the vision of its
founders throughout his forty years at the helm.
He inspired us all. La luta continue
May he rest in Peace
VOLUME 56, No. 3
(Copyright reserved and reproduction without permission strictly forbidden)
"Distinct but Inseparable": Church and State in the Writings I
of Michael Manley
Anna Kasali Perkins
The Harvest Ceremony Se6i as a Case Study of the
Dynamics of Power in Post-Emancipation Curacao (1863-1915) 13
Rose Mary A llen
Capital Changes: Haitian Migrants in Contemporary Dominican 31
From English for Dominicans to Dominican 55
V.S. Naipul and Islam 71
Continental Girl: A Profile ofHilde Dathorne 81
BOOK REVIEWS 89
Books for review 99
Notes on Contributors 109
Information for Contributors 110
UNIVERSITY OF THE WEST INDIES
Professor,Sir Roy Augier, Professor Emeritus, History, Mona, Interim Editor
Professor H. Beckles, Pro Vice Chancellor and Principal, UWI, Cave Hill
Professor B. Chevannes, Research Fellow, School of Business, UWI, Mona
Professor Wayne Hunte,Pro Vice Chancellor, Graduate Studies and Research,
UWI, St. Augustine
Professor B.Lalla, Faculty of Arts and Education, UWI, St.Augustine
Mr. J. Periera, Vice Principal, UWI, Mona
Professor Clement Sankat, Pro Vice Chancellor, Principal, UWI, St. Augustine
Professor Gordon Shirley, Pro Vice Chancellor,and Principal, UWI, Mona.
Professor H Simmons-McDonald, Pro Vice Chancellor, Principal, Open
Campus, UWI at Cave Hill
Mrs. Linda Speth, General Manager, UWI Press
Dr. B. Tewarie, Pro Vice Chancellor, Office of Planning and Development,
UWI, St. Augustine
Professor Alvin Wint, Pro Vice Chancellor, Board for Undergraduate Studies,
Dr. V.Salter, CSI, OVC, Mona, Senior Administrative Officer, Managing Editor
All correspondence and contributions should be addressed to: The Editor,
Caribbean Quarterly, Cultural Studies Initiative, Office of Vice Chancellor,
University of the West Indies, PO Box 130, Mona, Kingston 7, Jamaica
Tel. No. 876-970-3261, Tel Fax 876-977-6105
Email: veronica.salter(celuwimona.edu.jm, or cq(ciuwimona.edu.im
We invite readers to submit manuscripts or recommend subjects which they
would like to see discussed in Caribbean Quarterly. Articles and book reviews
of relevance to the Caribbean will be gratefully received. Authors should refer to
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Exchanges: Exchanges are conducted by the Gifts and Exchanges Section,
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Abstract and Index : 1949-2009 Author Keyword and Subject Index
available o on t he website.
The journal is abstracted by AES and indexed by HAPI
FOREWORD Laun Amencan Collection
Caribbean Quarterly, Volume 56, No. 3, September, 2010 contains six
articles spanning the Caribbean from Hispaniola to Curacao and the South
American continent, and from the island of Dominica in the Windwards to
Jamaica in the Antilles. The topics range from studies of linguistics, to the
pervasive influence of religion, stereotyping, myths and inequalities conjoured
or imagined on politics, culture, and inter-relationships between the 'tenants' of
this Caribbean region.
In English for Dominicans to Dominican English by Pauline Christie, she
traces the history of the various languages spoken in Dominica and the efforts
made by the British colonisers late-comers to the island to establish English as
the'official' though least spoken form of the three dominant languages used. Anna
Kasafi Perkins in "Distinct but Inseparable": Church and State in the
Writings of Michael Manley, examines the relationship and influences, one on
the other, as elaborated in chosen Manley texts. Rose Mary Allen's essay, The
Harvest Ceremony Se6 as a Case Study of the Dynamics of Power in
Post-Emancipation Curacao (1863-1915) also puts the Church under the
microscope' illuminating how the Roman Catholic Church played a very important
role by way of its attempts to change the way of life of the Afro-Curaqaoans and to
bring about, through Catholicism, a type of culture which it considered civilized
and respectable'. Another major world religion Islam (seen through
V.S.Naipaul's writings) is discussed in Morris Mottale's essay, V.S. Naipul and
Islam. Kiran Jayaram's, Capital Changes: Haitian Migrants in the
Contemporary Dominican Republic, uses field work and case studies to
illustrate how changes in the Dominican economy along the lines of imperatives of
global capitalism transformed the Haitian migration population in the Dominican
Republic, and brought up many of the still pervasive myths that account for
anti-haitismo. The last essay, Lucy Wilson's Continental Girl: A Profile of Hilde
Dathorne recounts the 'fascinating, sometimes frightening, and often frustrating
life' of the' wife of O. R. Dathorne: scholar, novelist, poet, and founder of [two
iconic institutions for Caribbean culture ] the Association of Caribbean Studies
and the Journal of Caribbean Studies.' Book reviews complete this issue.
*CQ has pleasure in announcing that as of 01/10/10 Dr. Kim Robinson-Walcott
will assume the position of Editor (combined with Managing Editor) of Caribbean
Quarterly, becoming the 1 th Editor since its inception in 1949.
RASTAFARI (Ed. R.Nettleford, V. Salter)
19 articticles from CQ publications on the Rastafari
"Distinct but Inseparable": Church and State
in the Writings of Michael Manley
ANNA KASAFI PERKINS
The question of how the Church and the State should relate to each other
continues to be an important and enduring one and is answered in a variety of
ways. Devon Dick, a Baptist Pastor, identifies five current views on the question
in the Jamaican context. Among these views is a fairly sectarian perspective,
which holds that the Church and State should be separate because they have two
different agendas, and like oil and water, they cannot mix. This sectarian approach
concludes therefore that the Church should not get involved in the affairs of the
State nor be beneficiaries of the State apparatus. In contrast, Rev. Dick's preferred
view is that the Church should be in solidarity with the nation and, therefore, must
be involved with the State by working to transform the nation without "being
conformed to the world." Dick speaks from the "Church side" of the equation, and
reading his analysis led me to wonder how someone from on the "State side" might
answer the same question. It is with this in mind that I intend to explore briefly the
arguments on the Church-State question of a Statesman who was particularly
influential in the development of the Jamaican nation, our former Prime Minister
I base my analysis on two of Manley's writings-first, The Politics of
Change, which was published in 1973. It is essentially a manifesto of his political
views, intentions and motives. Of particular interest for this presentation is his
discussion of the institutions of democracy, which he saw making an important
contribution to the social reconstruction that he envisioned for the Jamaican
nation. He named the Church prominently as one of these nine institutions of
democracy with a crucial role to play both in accelerating and mobilising for
change through working in concert with the government. (Other institutions,
which Manley saw as playing a crucial role in his strategy for change, included the
political parties, trade unions, teachers, women, youth, and minorities).
My second source is a speech entitled "From the Shackles of Domination
and Oppression that he gave at the Fifth General Assembly of the World Council
of Churches in Nairobi, Kenya in 1975. On that occasion he spoke to an
international audience of pastors and theologians pointedly and at length about
Church and State being commanded by "the common morality", to which both are
subject, to support each other as "the body" and "the soul" in the process of human
liberation. He called for a close collaboration between them while respecting the
distinctive spheres to which each belong, and it is in this light that he describes
them as "distinct but inseparable elements of the total human experience"-and
hence the title of this essay.
Throughout his arguments Manley continually referred to Church leaders as
"clergymen" or "men of God" in a way that would make many of us uncomfortable
today but which reflected the masculine nature of Church leadership in most
Christian denominations at the time he was writing. He was not unconcerned by
the absence of women from leadership within the Church, and at Nairobi spoke out
directly against the continued exclusion of women from God's ministry in so many
churches of the Christian world, which won him a standing ovation from the
women in the audience.
I will now briefly outline his argument and comment on some aspects of it in
light of current scholarship. To begin, however, it is important to recognize that
Manley's ideas did not originate in a vacuum but were shaped against a
background in which the Church, whether broadly understood as Christians in
general, local congregations or Church leaders, had been continually and actively
involved in the development of Jamaican life. As Manley himself often noted,
Christian values are particularly strong in Jamaica and most people are raised in
what he calls "a strong God-fearing tradition." He highlighted the work of the
Native Baptist Church with its long tradition of social activism beginning with
efforts for land reform immediately after Emancipation, and individual religious
leaders like Baptist Deacon Samuel Sharpe who led revolts for freedom during the
time of enslavement usually at the cost of their own lives. So to a large extent
Manley takes Church activism for granted, and his argument is really more around
establishing why the Church (in the form of the leaders/clergy) should continue to
be involved in the development of Jamaican society and the larger global society
(the theological question) and how that involvement should play out practically
(the pastoral question).
The Constitutional Separation between Church and State
The questions concerning why the Church should be involved and how is
should be involved with the State is preceded by a more immediate question: Is
Church activism legally and politically appropriate? (the constitutional question).
If we look at the United States we see that the relationship between Church and
State is often legally defined in terms of "disestablishment of religion," "freedom
to exercise" and by Thomas Jefferson's well-known "wall of separation between
Church and State." This idea of "separation has served to structure the
understanding of the role of the church in political matters." Essentially, this
separation clause is meant to protect against both favouritism and discrimination
in the exercise of religious and civil duties. Catholic social ethicist J. Bryan Hehir
argues that while the separation clause is a means of protecting religious
organizations it has often been interpreted as a way of silencing or excluding them
from public discourse. Clearly, Manley would disagree with any attempt to
silence or exclude the Church from such engagement.
In the Jamaican context, the Constitution drawn up at Independence also
provides for freedom of religion, and eschews the establishment of any religion.
Prior to this Constitution, the Anglican Church was established and non-Christian
religions were outlawed. Hindus and Muslims had to congregate in secret (Jews
seemed to have been an exception and they were allowed to establish their own
places of worship.). The government also refused to recognize non-Christian
marriage forms and non-Christians were forced to participate in Christian
ceremonies in addition to their own rites or their children would be stigmatised as
"bastards" under the Inheritance Law in effect at that time. Today no such
restrictions apply and the implicit legal separation of Church and State in Jamaican
life is visible, for example, in the matter of Church schools, which are neither
subject to any special restrictions nor receive any special treatment from the
Of course the provision for religious freedom and disestablishment are not
overtly statements about the separation of Church and State, but the relationship
between religion and the political state is implicit within any notion of religious
liberty and disestablishment. The possibility for religious liberty depends to a
large extent on how people view the relationship between Church and State.
Religious liberty is provided for because the accepted understanding of the
relationship between Church and State is the separation between them. The State
should not favour or discriminate against the Church nor should the Church seek to
control the State.
The genesis of the separation between Church and State
Manley takes this legal relationship of separation as his starting point. He
locates the genesis of this legal Church-State separation in the writings of Thomas
Aquinas (1225-1274) who he claimed developed the Christian doctrine of
separation in his notion of "the twin swords" of ecclesial and political power.
According to him, Aquinas's "twin swords" defined with rare eloquence a
distinction between the spheres that was valid for all ages due to "the corruption
which temporal power sometimes worked upon men of God." He feared however
that establishing this distinction might have sowed a seed of confusion in the
minds of the uncritical generations that followed. He sees Aquinas's doctrine of
separation as the basis of a certain uneasiness which the Church has felt and
continues to feel concerning "its role in things temporal." This uneasiness led
some religious thinkers and denominations to declare that the Church had no
temporal concerns and should deal exclusively with a person's immortal soul and
its safe passage to heaven. He identified such a tendency in Jamaica where it is
common to associate the Church, particularly the clergy, only with matters
spiritual as was evident in the sectarian approach identified by Devon Dick
previously. Such an approach often proved a detriment of more material concerns.
However, this tendency to disengagement exists alongside and often in conflict
with the respected traditions of Church activism. Yet despite such uneasiness by
some Christians about their relationship with the State, Manley makes the
sweeping claim that "all Churches, however, have been firmly united in the view
that the State must never interfere with, or dictate to. the men of God and often
have proved willing to concede reciprocal separation."
Manley sees the tendency toward disengagement being substantially
reversed since Independence by a new wave of concern amongst the clergy that the
Church should play an active part in the life of Caribbean territories and, in
particular, on behalf of those who suffer. He stated:
Although there still is, and properly, absolute clarity about the
necessity to keep the Church out of party politics, there is a
growing recognition, particularly on the part of the younger clergy,
that Christian concern must be with man's condition upon earth as
an aspect of divine purpose as well as with the metaphysical
questions of the life hereafter. Clearly, increasing inspiration is
derived from the miracles of healing and the symbolism of the
feeding of multitudes as examples of Christ's concern for the
sufferers and the disinherited.
He maintains that distinguishing the roles of Church and State is not an
invitation to inactivity, however, but rather a summons for the State to pay heed to
the moral injunctions of the Church. Equally, the Church is called upon "to take
note of such imperfections in the human condition which are the result of failures
of the body politic to provide social justice for all its members." Of course, by
"taking note" he meant more than simply noticing but rather actively critiquing
such deficiencies as a result of keeping the society under watchful scrutiny.
Manley concludes by claiming to share the views of such theologians as Gustavo
Guti6rrez for whom both Church and State are commanded by a common morality
to support each other as "the body" and "the soul" in the process of human
liberation. There is certainly a mutual relationship in this formulation but Manley
does not dwell on it.
The scriptural/theological basis for involvement
By pointing to the new wave of clergymen inspired by Christ's concern for
the poor and suffering Manley provides an answer for our second more theological
question: What is the basis for the Church's activist social role? He emphasizes
that Christian witness must always be concerned about personal salvation but
claimed to belong himself to "that body of Christians in the world who feel that
salvation without works is a mockery of God's holy word." He developed his
argument using extensive quotes from the Gospels: "He hath sent me to heal the
broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovering of sight to the
blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised" (Lk. 4.18). "For I was enhungered and
ye gave me meat. I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger and ye took
me in, naked and you clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison and
ye came unto me"(Mtt. 25.33-46). He was clear that distinctions were made
between those who truly responded to need (sheep), and those who did not (goats).
He also pressed the parable of Good Samaritan (Lk. 10.30-37) into service to
demonstrate the actions of an individual who cared for someone in need. In
examining Jesus's sayings like "Render to Caesar" (Mtt. 22. 15-22), the miracles
he performed including the feeding of the multitude (Lk. 9.10-17) and his very
public act of casting the money lenders out from the Temple (Lk. 19.45-48)
Manley concludes that Jesus's actions were not simply means of demonstrating
divine power but confirmed that Jesus was profoundly concerned with the state of
human institutions and, by implication, the need for religious leaders to work to
change them. Christians are called upon to imitate Christ in his concern for those
in need since personal salvation flows not only from "mystical communion [with
God]" but also involves a life on earth that is informed and inspired by moral
purpose. Personal salvation is by grace through faith but must be worked out
through service to other human beings.
In light of this, Manley argues that while the Churches must first be
concerned with Christian witness as it relates to personal salvation, they also have
"a historical mission, which is to assist in the definition, validation and articulation
of just political, economic and social objectives". The Church must speak out
against injustice wherever it is found. Quoting from the Bishops of Medellin,
Manley reminds Christians that, "when justice does not exist among men, God is
The pastoral role of the Church in transforming Jamaican Society
The Church can play an important role in the development of Jamaica
assisted in a large way by the nation's tradition of respect for the clergy. But first,
the Church must resolve its own philosophical problems and "come to understand
that the twin swords of Aquinas may be separate but inhabit the same universe."
Only then can the Church be cleared to make its unique contribution to social
transformation. In this respect, the Church is well placed to help tackle the
problem of division, which exists across the nation as a result of a deeply
entrenched party system. In Jamaica the People's National Party (PNP) and the
Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) are both deep-rooted in the life of the society and
possess a hardcore group of party loyalists. "This loyalty partakes of an almost
tribal character and has the effect of creating deep schisms within the society." As
a result Manley laments that it is often difficult for people in a village to unite
together behind a project of community self-help because at some point the origin
of the project will be attributed to one party or the other (usually the incumbent).
This immediately divides the community into two, for or against the desirability of
the project. In fact, the more fanatical members of the party, which did not
originate the idea, are prone to regard it as a duty to oppose if not sabotage the
project. In such a situation, he sees the Church as having an important role to play.
This role is so because in a deeply tribalized context, politicians tend to be
compromised by their party affiliations while clergymen stand out nationally and
within each community as above and beyond politics. At the same time, a
clergyman has a natural platform and easy occupational access to people
generally. The clergyman is therefore able to reach and teach people the lesson of
national unity and cooperation. Manley is confident that a clergyman can proclaim
the distinction between the legitimate conflict involved in democratic politics and
divisiveness of political tribalism.
[A clergyman] can teach the lesson of unity without being suspected of
political manoeuvring. He can call upon the people to unite in projects of self-help
regardless of political attachment; his is the leadership that can set examples by
handling the pick-axe and the shovel and the street-cleaning broom without being
accused of political histrionics.
The Churches are also particularly well-placed to identify and work to heal
the psychological consequences of oppression and domination. A critical feature
of this in Jamaican life is the psychology of dependence, which Manley names as
"the most insidious, elusive and intractable of the problems" inherited from the
colonial experience. Those affected by such a psychology demand and expect
nothing from themselves. They assume they have a predetermined "lot" in life,
and expect to rest securely on the efforts of someone else usually "the powers that
be". As a counter point to such dependency, Manley calls for self-reliance and
sees in the story of the Exodus and Moses' leadership the first recorded symbol of
the spirit of self-reliance. Again the Christian faith provides resources for the
development of the nation.
On the more personal level, Manley claims that it is a rare political leader
who can, unaided, keep disentangled in his own mind all those impediments,
which must be overcome in the development of any viable system of social justice.
Political leaders should therefore seek to renew their moral insights in dialogue
with "the men of God." Church leaders should respond personally but must "be
capable of giving help by keeping the historical process itself under their vigilant
scrutiny." It is of course a well-known fact that while Manley was in power he
availed himself of the spiritual advice of United Church Minister Ashley Smith,
especially during the 1970s when he implemented extensive social legislation for
the upliftment of the ordinary Jamaican people. He also had close relationships
with others like Anglican Canon Ernle Gordon, who was publicly rebuked by his
Bishop in 1980 for defending the value of the PNP's song the 'Red Flag' as a
Christian hymn which was sung at the funeral of a murdered member of
There is much that is admirable in Manley's arguments for engagement
between the Church and State: it is grounded in the Scriptures and the
development of Christian doctrine, it presents a fairly optimistic vision of the
possibilities for that engagement (He clearly holds Church leaders in very high
esteem.), and it is pointed towards the specific circumstances of the Jamaican
nation. Importantly, it presents a powerful challenge to any notion of temporal
disengagement on the part of the Church and calls the Church back to faithful
discipleship. His overly optimistic vision of the interrelationship between Church
and State is perhaps in a large way influenced by the fairly peaceful relations
between them in the modern Jamaican context. I wonder what his vision would be
like if the circumstances were more conflict ridden. Would he be more cautious
and less optimistic?
Similarly, it is this Christian background that he takes so much for granted
that allows him to argue that the Church and the State share a common morality
and therefore should work together while respecting their different spheres of
influence. It is the "Christian" nature of Jamaican society that gives him the tools
like the Christian Scriptures and tradition to support Church involvement in
national life. However, in a context in where Christianity is not the dominant
religious tradition such deeply Christian language may serve only to exclude or
divide. He requires a more public language and philosophy that could include men
and women of other faiths or men and women of no faith.
There are concerns that arise in the face of his advocacy of intimacy between
politicians and church leaders, which need to be carefully watched lest the
independence of the Church becomes compromised or even appears to be
compromised. Surely, such intimacy does not help deflect accusations that the
Church is meddling in politics, which religious bodies like the Catholic Bishops of
the Antilles and the Caribbean Conferences of Churches have to constantly deal
with whenever they attempt to make statements about the conditions in the region.
The Caribbean Catholic Bishops are, therefore, much more cautious in their
approach to engagement with the State than is Manley and they advocate a clear
distinction between the political roles of the Church hierarchy and the laity, which
needs to be taken seriously. The Bishops remind us that the Church as institution
is called upon to defend the dignity of the human person, not to become directly
involved in party politics nor form their own political party. Only in exceptional
circumstances should priests and religious become directly involved in party
politics, which is the proper role of the laity and carries a heavy responsibility.
They call upon committed Christians to become active in political life. And they
ask to what extent are the political programmes and activities in the region inspired
by the teachings of Christ? "If our various governments are not following
Christian principles of justice, equality and freedom for all, are we not ourselves,
the Churches with all their members to blame?" To that end they call upon
Christians to take their political obligations seriously by voting, active
membership in political parties, trade unions and some organisation dedicated to
the welfare of the community. It is through such direct political involvement that
Christians must show their commitment to the service of others.
Finally, Manley also assumes that the engagement between the Church and
the State is uni-directional with the Church teaching and the State learning, the
Church speaking and the State listening. However, the Church also has something
to learn from the interactions with the political sphere that is often unrecognised.
The Church should not expect that their policy choices will close the public debate,
but rather that their choices will call others into a moral conversation and in this
way increase the visibility of the moral dimension in policy debates. By so doing
they can truly engage the State and be engaged by the State while truly respecting
their distinct but inseparable roles in building Jamaican society.
1. Devon Dick, Rebellion to Riot: The Jamaican Church in Nation Building
(Kingston, Jamaica: lan Randle Publishers, 2002), p. xv. Dick makes the compelling
argument that the rebellions and riots, which have punctuated Jamaica's history, were
used by the people as wake-up calls against bad governance. The Church has frequently
used these events as a catalyst for reflection, analysis and action.
2. Michael Manley, The Politics of Change. A Jamaican Testament (Washington,
DC: Howard University Press, rev. edition 1990), p.162.
3. Michael Manley, "From the Shackles of Domination and Oppression", An address
given at the World Council of Churches Fifth Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya, November,
1995, p. 14.
4. Manley, "From the Shackles", p. 6. See also Kenneth Slack, Nairobi Narrative:
The Stoy of the Fifth Assembly of the World Council of Churches. 23 November 10
December, 1997 (London: SCM Press, 1976), p. 50.
5. It is worth noting that of Jamaica's seven national heroes three were Baptist
Deacons: Samuel Sharpe was leader of the 1832 Christmas "Rebellion" that hastened the
proclamation of Emancipation. The Morant Bay "Rebellion" or "the Baptist Wars" of
1865 saw the collaboration of George William Gordon, a wealthy coloured land owner
and Paul Bogle, a black freeholder, in leading a protest for land reform and social justice.
This rebellion, which was brutally put down by the Colonial authorities leaving 500
people dead, resulted in the establishment of systems of nation building for the island: a
civil service, a police force, an improved judicial system, an island wide medical service,
a government savings bank, increased expenditure on education, the establishment of the
Institute of Jamaica, and improved network of roads, cable communication with Europe
and new irrigation schemes (Dick, p. xvii).
6. The structuring of Manley's argument will be assisted by an adaptation of the three
questions raised by Catholic social ethicist J. Bryan Hehir in his analysis of the work of
the US Catholic bishops in the political order during the 1980s in J. Bryan Hehir, "The
Church and the Political Order: The Role of Catholic Bishops in the United States" in
The Catholic Church, Morali't and Politics: Readings in Moral Theology No. 12,
Charles E. Curran and Leslic Griffin (cds.) (New York: Paulist Press, 2001), pp. 174-90.
7. Hehir, p. 179.
8. Philip Sherlock and Hazel Bennett, The Sto' of the Jamaican People (Kingston,
Jamaica: lan Randle Publishers, 1998), p. 333.
9. Dick, pp. 76-7.
10. Jozef D. Zalot, "Lessons for Today? The Church-State Relationship in
Twentieth-Century Christian Ecumenical Thought" in Journal of'Church and State, Vol.
45.1, Winter 2003, pp. 59-80.
11. Manley, The Politics of Change, pp. 178-9.
12. Manley, The Politics of Change, p. 179.
13. Manley, "From the Shackles", p. 14.
14. Dick, p. 62.
15. Dick, p. 71.
16. Antilles Episcopal Conference, Justice and Peace in a New Caribbean
(Port-of-Spain, Trinidad: AEC, 1975), pp. 1-6.
17. Antilles Episcopal Conference, Justice and Peace in a New Caribbean, p.5
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Hollenbach, David. "The Pope and Capitalism" in The Catholic Church, Morality and
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Hollenbach, David. "Politically Active Churches: Some Empirical Prolegomena to a
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The Harvest Ceremony Seu as a Case Study of
the Dynamics of Power in Post-Emancipation
ROSE MARY ALLEN
On 8 August 1862 the so-called Emancipation law was passed in the
Netherlands: the enslaved in the Dutch colonies would become free on 1 July
1863. Accordingly, the 67 government slaves and 6,958 private slaves in Curaqao
gained their freedom on the latter date (Lanternu 2003:17). The group of
Afro-Curacaoans comprised approximately 85 percent of the total population, of
which thirty-five percent became freed people at this time (Oostindie, 1995:158;
The sociologists Harry Hoetink (1987) and Rene R6mer (1979) who studied
the post-Emancipation society of Curaqao stated that in this society, policy and the
locus of political, social and economic power continued in place after slavery. The
upper class remained predominantly white and continued to lead the economic,
political and cultural spheres in society, while most blacks remained subjected -
even though no longer enslaved. The economic standing thus continued to follow
color lines with power lying in the hands of a select few.
An important element to consider is the position of the Roman Catholic
Church in the daily lives of the Afro-Curacaoans. Before emancipation, this
Church was allowed by the colonial state, Protestant Dutch Reformed oriented, to
convert the Afro-Curaqaoans. The Roman Catholic Church played a very
important role by way of its attempts to change the way of life of the
Afro-Curacaoans and to bring about, through Catholicism, a type of culture which
it considered civilized and respectable.
In this paper I focus on the post-Emancipation social life of
Afro-Curaqaoans within the dynamics of culture and power. It examines the social
life of Afro-Curaqaoans in the period between 1863, the year of emancipation, and
1915, the year in which the establishment of Shell oil company on the island
triggered the beginnings of an industrialized society.
My concern in this paper is to explore how the state, the plantation owners
and the Roman Catholic Church exercised power affecting the social life of
Afro-Curagaoans and to explore how Afro-Curagaoans, within the parameters of
these key power groups/institutions, were able to shape their daily life around their
own expectations and aspirations. I look at how this manifested itself in the harvest
ceremony named se6. This celebration originated during slavery and continued
afterwards. It developed around the harvesting of millet (sorghum vulgare) 'a very
important economic product both during and after slavery.
The paper is based on archival sources as well as oral history, including
interviews about the past conducted by Elis Juliana and Father Brenneker and also
by myself with elderly Afro-Curacaoans.
The Harvest Celebration Sea
Curagao did not have a plantation economy as most other parts of the
Caribbean did. Commerce was one of the main economic pillars. During slavery,
enslaved in Curacao produced subsistence products and occupied roles in the
small trades and crafts rather than labouring in the mass production of an export
crop such as tobacco or sugar. This significantly differentiated them from the
enslaved on most other Caribbean islands. More importantly for the present
discussion, this trade economy shaped a different type of social system in Curacao
than the one found in most other parts of the Caribbean.
The island's strength as a commercial area was countered-balanced by the
fact that subsistence was a major concern on the island. How to feed the people
was a matter of greater importance than the export of a plantation crop. This
affected the ways in which enslaved could live their daily life and establish their
social, economic and cultural spheres. It also affected the daily lives of freed
people both during and after slavery.
The planting and harvesting of millet was an important aspect of daily life.
During slavery, millet was an important economic product, primarily used for
self-consumption for the enslaved. Millet was also the primary crop enslaved
would grow from the earliest days of settlement when given a subsistence plot-
called kunuku. They were familiar with this crop as it was grown in Africa
Planting, hoeing, caring for the plants and harvesting were important tasks
for the enslaved on the plantations. The activities started after the rainy season in
October. After having been planted, the millet was hoed and protected against
insects, pests, weeds and birds that could damage an entire crop. In March or April
the millet would be harvested. The harvest celebration was called seti and involved
the entire plantation population. For the enslaved the seui signified the end of the
agricultural cycle, after which they would be put to perform other types of work.
After the abolition of slavery in Curacao, millet continued to be important
nourishment for the popular class until the beginning of the twentieth century
when the process of industrialization led to changes in the social and economic
conditions. The set continued to be celebrated as well.
The se6 was performed in several phases. The first one took place in the
morning when the agricultural product was harvested. The men cut the millet
while the women picked it up and put it in a basket called dakwe. The cow-horn
was blown rhythmically by a man to call the labourers to their work and set the
pace of their collective efforts. When the seli was performed in the private sphere of
the farmer's own piece of land, elements of traditional culture were more present. For
example, the work related to the harvest-celebration was based on reciprocity, as
family members and neighbors would come to assist. This work-sharing
relationship appears in most Caribbean societies and is known under the name of
combite in Haiti, troca dia in Brazil, and lend-day in Jamaica. The second phase
involved the storing of the millet. After the millet had been harvested, the workers
would proceed on the rhythm of the drum, cow-horn and again (piece of plough
used as a musical instrument) to the manganzina where the millet would be stored.
This part was also accompanied by music and songs. The third phase of the seti
started when the work was finished and people gathered together at the home of
the organizers to dance and sing to the rhythm of the drum. This was called seu
Resistance and Accommodation Through Popular Culture
This paper places seii within the scope of two frequently used concepts:
resistance and accommodation. The term 'resistance' has become an
all-encompassing term in studying the everyday manifestation of social life in the
Caribbean. Several authors have analyzed the everyday life of subjugated people
as a form of resistance to those with power. The anthropologist Peter J. Wilson
applied a bipolar model to the theory of resistance in his study of the everyday
social life of the English-speaking people on the Colombian-owned islands of
Providence (1973). He placed the value of respectability at one end and reputation
at the other end. Respectability has to do with acceptance of the moral force behind
the coercive power of colonialism and neo-colonialism, while reputation refers to
resistance, creativity and an act of anti-colonialism. His association of
respectability with a slavish mentality and of reputation with creativity does not
give sufficient insight into the multifaceted and dynamic dimension of social life.
Lawrence Levine's idea of resistance is quite different from that of Wilson. He
looks at resistance as a kind of masking (Levine, 1977:8-9). Subjugated people often
wear a 'mask' by which they behave in stupid, innocent or servile ways to hide and
retain what little power they have. This is in contrast to those with power, who
display their dominance openly and publicly. Masking is expressed both in speech
and in behaviour and involves a whole range of activities (Scott, 1990:4, 5). Scott
calls them the hidden transcripts as they entail the offstage speech, gestures, and
practices that mostly take place beyond the direct observation of those with power
and that confirm, contradict, or inflect what appears in the public sphere (Scott,
1990: 4, 5).2
Yet one has to be cautious of the tendency within some studies of history to
analyze all behaviour of the dominated class and the actions of the dominant class
within the framework of resistance. The present-day accentuation on resistance
makes it sometimes impossible to decipher, as Michel-Rolph Trouillot 3has
argued, whether resistance "stands for an empirical generalisation, an analytical
category, or a vague yet fashionable label for unrelated situations." Sidney Mintz
had already argued against characterizing certain actions of people either as
resistance or as accommodation. Both types of actions need not exclude each
other. The most effective forms of resistance, he points out, were built on prior
forms of adaptation to oppressive circumstances in which people lived (1974,
75-81). Steeve O. Buckridge deals with precisely this theme in his study The
Language of Dress: Resistance and Accommodation in Jamaica, 1760-1890
(2004) as he discusses the ways in which enslaved and freed people used fashion
and clothing styles to resist as well as to accommodate.
In a sense, Buckridge's study seems to match how Michel de Certeau views
social differences in his work The practice of everyday life (1984). De Certeau
distinguishes between what he calls strategies of resistance and strategies of
opposition. According to him, resistance is possible only when the dominated
groups or individuals act outside of the system of domination that encloses them.
Strategies of opposition, in contrast, involve the internal manipulation of the
established order: they disrupt but do not threaten or transform the system within
which those without power exist. In fact, strategies of opposition themselves
contain elements of domination. The concept of tactical opposition means that
people seek to achieve their aspirations by negotiating, collaborating and
compromising with those in power (within the system that controls them), while
constructing new/other forms of domination (de Certeau 1984: 35).
Richard Burton (1997) expands this idea of de Certeau to the Caribbean
societies of Jamaica, Trinidad and Haiti in his study Afro-creole power, opposition
and play in the Caribbean. He argues that it is in the arena of play and not work
(where control was very evident) that Afro-Caribbeans could manifest their
autonomy and oppose the controlling forces. This arena of play manifested itself in
cultural areas such as music, dance, food, religion and parties. Burton further
suggests that this cultural opposition by the Afro-Caribbean is double-edged.
According to him, Afro-Caribbean culture is creolized and by its very creoleness
cannot get entirely outside the dominant system in order to resist it, and in that way
it unconsciously tends to reproduce its underlying structures (1997:8).
We will see that the Curacaoan harvest ceremony set seems to reflect this
double-edged nature of popular culture. On one side, set was molded by the
control of the plantation owners. This is the case especially for those sei feasts that
were celebrated on or near the plantation. They exemplified the culture of
respectability, advanced by the Roman Catholic Church. On the other side, seu
was guided by African traditional knowledge, practices and values, and was also
based on new initiatives and aspirations ofAfro-Curaqaoans in their new society.
In that sense the seti differed from another form of cultural expression, the
tambi.4 According to Rene Rosalia, who studied the tambt extensively and listed
its different functions in society, this expression constituted a direct confrontation
by the popular class with the law of the government and that of the Church.
Sometimes certain plantation owners would allow the tambt to be celebrated on
the plantation grounds. In most cases people would celebrate it on the streets. In
1890 the owner of Savaneta (Savonet) plantation complained in a letter that when
he had refused permission to dance the tambh on his land, people living on his land
had danced in the middle of the public road, arguing that this was a free place for
everyone. As scholars have shown for the rest of the Caribbean, the claim of the
public space in the use of the street became a form of resistance to colonial power
(Wilson, 1973; Burton, 1997)
In contrast, in celebrating the sel the lower class does not seem to undermine
the rules of those with political and economic power. Se6 reveals a symbiosis
between abiding to law, the Roman Catholic conversion process, as well as
dissenting behaviour. It is therefore a useful lens through which we can study the
dynamics of power.
Seat and Land Tenure Systems
In the post-Emancipation period, the most common way in which the
popular class could plant millet was by working on a plot of land on the plantation
grounds. This piece of land was granted by the plantation owner and was called
kunuku. Some of these kunuku's belonged to individuals who had lived and
planted there since slavery times. After gaining freedom, these former slaves
remained on the plantation. It was a particular system called paga tera literally:
paying for the land you live on. They occupied the provision grounds as well as the
house they had had access to during slavery. In return, they were obliged to work
for free for the land owners during certain periods of the year. In many interviews
this was indicated by the following: 'Ora yega tempu di ana, bo mester a traha
pornadapa shon', meaning: when the time came, you had to work for nothing for
the plantation owner.
There were several variants of the paga tera system on the island. Some
elderly people preferred to continue living on the plantations. For them, starting a
new life outside the plantation was not easy. Some had served for a very long time
on the plantation. There they had their homes, their pieces of land. In some cases
their family had been living on the plantation for generations. Members of their
families were buried on the plantation ground, since several plantations had their
own slave cemeteries. Some younger people lived as workers on the plantations.
They worked as farmers, herdsmen, etc. on the plantations, while the plantation
owner provided a subsistence plot (kunuku) for building a home and producing
food. Another group had made arrangements with the plantation owner to have a
plot to grow crops on while they lived elsewhere. They were less dependent on the
plantation owners than the first two groups. There were also fishermen with a
piece of land on the plantation. They had to turn in part of their catch to the owners.
Sometimes their fishing boat also belonged to the plantation owner. The particular
variant ofpaga tera influenced the manner in which the set was celebrated.
The mutually dependent relationship of the paga tera was obviously not
always harmonious. The paga tera system benefited principally the plantation
owners. The workers had access to a plot of land, as was the case during slavery,
but now they had to pay for it through their labour. Paga tera also provided the
plantation owners with a cheap and steady supply of workers when required. The
plantation owners did not enter into permanent rent agreements with field workers,
as it was more convenient to keep them as day labourers and to employ them only
as and when needed. This was also visible in the instability of their income. Field
workers would earn fifty to sixty cents per day when they had work. This could
increase to seventy-five cents or one guilder in the rainy season, with domestic
servants earning eight to ten guilders a month.
There seems to have been continuous tension between working the
plantation owner's land or one's own land first during the rainy season. After rain,
people would prefer to work on their own land first, and then on that of the
plantation owner. When individuals failed to abide by the rules of the plantation
they were given ora di porta: an order to leave the plantation within 24 hours.
Plantation owners feared that such disobedient people would incite others and be a
'bad example' (sina mal ehImpel). Someone who had been chased from the land
and was thought of as impudent would not easily find a piece of land to live on.5
Leaving the kunuku abruptly in that manner meant that one would not be able to
reap a harvest. One became dependent for lodging and food on family members
who lived outside the plantation. In that way the paga tera system was not at all
convenient for the kunuku tenants.
The sel continued to be celebrated during the era of the paga tera system.
However, the festivities were contained by the rules of the owners of the
plantations. The festivities would take place in a square near the plantation house,
under strong supervision of the owner. The creativity of the songs and dances was
curtailed. There would be no tambu -an important element of the sel serd that
came at the end of the celebration. So the paga tera system was clearly a way to
continue exercising control over the labour and creativity of Afro-Curacaoan
Many sought to overcome their dependency and insecurity by looking for a
piece of land outside the plantations. People saw access to land outside the
plantation as a means of achieving more independence from the oppressive
supervision previously experienced. It gave them a greater degree of dignity and
control of their life and that of their family. However, after emancipation, land
became an increasingly problematic issue for Afro-Curacaoans, exacerbated by
the limited amount of fertile land available.
In the face of scarcity, land in Curaqao served as a primary symbol of
personal identity, prestige, security and freedom (Renkema,1981). Attaining a
piece of land, for example government land, helped people to become in a sense
autonomous. In the period after Emancipation government-land ownership among
the popular class became problematic in many ways. When people requested a
piece of land from the government, outside the plantation where they lived and
worked, the plantation owners in question would sometimes, through various
means, block the departure of the worker this would usually occur if the
individual was a particularly valued worker. These people were refused a piece of
land by applying the regulation of 23 August 1864/554 which stated that
individuals who already possessed a piece of land on a plantation and who could
provide a living for themselves and for their family, would not be able to rent a
piece of government land.6 Those who asked for permission were deemed wanting
to 'act on one's own' or 'trying to become independent'. Of those who did not fall
into this category, and who had requested a piece of land from the district master,
the latter inquired whether the plantation owners in the surrounding area had any
The perception of being free on government land was not entirely correct.
The tenants of government lands were not allowed to organize a tambu gathering
on the land. Those who violated the rule would be expelled from their plot of land.
In addition, they were not allowed to sell liquor, which for women was a source of
income. It was also an important commercial aspect of the seu as alcohol was sold
to the participants..
Those who lived on tera di famnia (family land) were more autonomous in
their social life and therefore in the way they could organize their seti. The
enormous significance of land for Afro-Curacaoans manifested itself in the
attitude of reverence towards family land. This significance could often be
interpreted from the names that were given to the land, such as Bida Largu (Long
life), Comfortabel (Comfortable), Deseo (Wish), Fe (Faith), Esperanza (Hope)
and Paciencia (Patience). Family land provided Afro-Curaqaoans with a sense of
freedom and identity.
Sea and the Roman Catholic Church
The Roman Catholic Church also played a role in the way the seu was held.
The Church was the prime institution exercising authority and control over the
lives of Afro-Curaqaoans. In its civilizing mission the Church aimed to create a
Catholic mindset which required that, in addition to people adhering to the
Catholic creed and liturgy and avoiding all other religious beliefs and practices,
they should avoid behaviour considered negative and focus instead on becoming
hende drechi (decent/respectable people). The essential aim of the Church's
civilizing mission was to turn Afro-CuraCaoans into hende drechi or un bon
katoliko (a good Catholic person) -i.e., decent people according to the Roman
Catholic definition. This definition was based on the way in which the Church
looked upon working class people in European societies, coupled with its
perception of people from non-European cultures, whom it believed to be on the
lowest evolutionary scale. The Church was critical of the social behaviour of
Afro-Curacaoans and believed that it required change.
The Church introduced the concept of bida drechi (living right) which
entailed first of all a set of values regarding proper family relationships. It was the
opposite of the biba den pika (living in sin). For example, one had to regulate one's
sexual life through marriage. A man and a woman cohabiting thus had to marry in
the eyes of the law and of the Church so that they could form a respectable nuclear
family. Bida drechi was also applicable to single people still living with their
parents: it gave an ideal image of the relationship between a man and a woman.
This concept of bida drechi went beyond the family relationship. In the ideology
of the Catholic Church the concept of bida drechi also determined whether women
and men should participate in popular celebrations. And if they were allowed, the
Church also prescribed the standard of proper behaviour.
After Emancipation, the Roman Catholic Church reinforced its involvement
with the Afro-Curacaoan population, leaving a strong mark on its cultural identity.
The Church introduced education, such as instruction in reading and writing, and
tried to transform Afro-Curacaoan culture by instilling its moral views into their
beliefs and everyday practices. The Church attempted to eradicate cultural
conventions and practices considered to be heathenish remnants of an African
past. De Pool (1935) gives an overview of what were believed to be such negative
African customs. Seu was one of them, according to de Pool. He was a devoted
Catholic who wrote several articles on cultural development during the 1930s. He
believed that 'Thanks to the Catholic Mission, that has always aimed at uplifting
the morality of our population, such a noisy, scandalous ceremony called seu,
which has always ended in bloody fighting, drunkenness and disorder, has
De Pool was wrong, as the se6 never disappeared. Furthermore the Church
was not against all elements of the se6: the wapamentu, i.e., the marching in a
particular style, was accepted. Even the set songs were appreciated by the Church.
Catholic priests proved to be primary collectors of the se6 songs, which were sung
during the ceremony of harvesting the maize. Because of his interest in these
songs, Father Jansen, alias Cobi, requested in the newspaper La Union of 2 April
1890 that readers send him kantika di makamba. These were songs sung in the
Guene language. A month earlier, Cobi had mentioned in the same paper titles of
songs such as 'Foedoewe', 'Guiara' and 'Hoenja lamanta para', which he claimed
were sung during the harvesting of maize.7 His petition would prove in vain in
1953. Later it was revealed that Cobi had never received any replies.
The se6 songs were regarded as seemingly innocent expressions of gratitude
for a good harvest and non-threatening to the Church's moral standards. It was the
tambu songs accompanied by the drum (itself also called tambu), which were sung
after the maize had been stored, that were considered unrespectable by the Church.
Priests would advise the people to celebrate the harvest in what they thought to be
the proper way. That meant singing songs of gratitude, but no drum celebration
The Roman Catholic Church played a special influential role in the set di
pastor (the se6 of the priest). On such occasions, people harvested their product
and walked in a procession accompanied by music to the parish home and
presented part of their harvest to the parish priest. In this case there would be no
celebration afterwards in the form of dancing to the rhythm of the drum.
The Seur as Symbolic Expression of the Dynamic of Power
Celebrating harvest was not something new for the enslaved of Curacao.
The West-Africans, from whom most of the enslaved originated, were basically
farmers and knew harvest celebrations such as the yams festival in which the god
of fertility was thanked for the harvest of yams, a major item of food there (Ratray,
1925). Roger Abrahams, who wrote about a similar phenomenon on the
plantations in the deep South of the USA in his book Singing the master, sees these
types of events as "part of a process going on the plantation in which the slaves
neither divested themselves of their African cultural heritage nor acculturated to
the behaviours and performances patterns of their masters." (Abrahams:XXII)
The harvesting of millet both those celebrations which happened on the
plantation grounds and those which took place on the worker's ground- occurred
in three phases. The ways in which the seti is celebrated differs according to the
social setting and the nature of the power relationship in which it occurred.
.When celebrating the seu within their own social, the element of play was
predominant. Several acts could be performed, such as the one where two rivaling
bulls the toro manzinga and the toro mansebo would fight each other until one
of them, usually the older one, was symbolically killed. This act during the
celebration was part of the performance of Afro-Curagaoan male identity and
masculinity. It affirmed the superiority of agility, alertness and creativity of the
male. Another performance act during the celebration was the wega di palu
(stick-fighting game). This stick-fighting was prohibited several times by law
from the beginning of eighteenth century onwards.8 Women did not participate in
these acts. Any participation of women in these two types of expressions went
against the perception of what is correct women's behaviour. In this way it also
institutionalized the subordinate position of popular class women.
The third phase differed depending on the social context as well. During this
phase the rhythm of the music played and the singing resembled those of the tambu
This component of the set encountered a lot of criticism from those with power.
This setting was more than a form of resistance against the control of the
dominating class. In a male-female relationship it was also an expression of
subversiveness, opposition and power. For women, participating in the tambu
meant contravening what was deemed respectable behaviour, as they danced in a
form considered lascivious. Women who then performed as tambu singers
(kantadd di tambu) moved in the public domain and went beyond the boundaries set
by male-dominated society. They showed assertiveness and courage in the
composition and presentation of their songs. As singers they had the ability to
introduce lyrics with which they could verbally "lash out" at people
Music thus played a very important role during the whole celebration. In
contrast to the tambu-songs, the seu-songs encounter little objection from the
dominant class. This class saw most of the songs sung during the seu as ostensibly
innocent expressions of gratitude for a good harvest. Indeed, a great deal of these
songs could be regarded as such. However, a closer look at these songs shows that
there are other aspects that must be taken into account. One particular song, Di ki
manera, which started as a slave-song but is still sung each year during seu. In the
post-emancipation period it articulated the difficulties regarding land-ownership
and agriculture faced by the Afro-Curacaoan farmer. The text is as follows:
Di ki manera nos ta biba n 'e mundu aki,
ora nos hasi bon,
pekad di m 'a hasi malu,
ora mi hasi malu, pekad6 ta marmorami. (Rosalia, 1997:17)9
Tell me how, o tell me how we have to live on this earth,
if I behave well,
the sinner finds that I am misbehaving,
if I behave badly, the sinner wants to stamp me into the ground.
Most of the songs were performed in Guene. This language was developed as
a medium of communication among the enslaved and survived until the twentieth
century. A thorough study on Guene is that of Frank Martinus, A kiss of the slave
(1997), in which he deciphers the language in order to analyze its contribution to
Curacao's creole language, Papiamentu. Guene was based on secrecy: people
would express their feelings on matters of life in a concealed way. One informant
born in 1905 reported that when they sang songs in Guene during their work at the
phosphate company, and the supervisor would ask them about the meaning of the
song, they would lie. In that way the use of Guene conforms with what Michael de
Certeau sees as a reaction of the powerless against the action of the powerful. He
states that power is bound by its very visibility, while the powerless need to resort
to trickery (de Certeau 1984: 35). The use of Guene matches the trickery of the
Nanzi/Anancy figure the trickster hero of the Afro-Caribbean folktales called
kuenta di Nanzi (Anancy stories). Both de Certeau (1984) and Scott (1990) have
approached cunning and trickery amongst subjugated people as a particular
orientation to life and the world. They see them not only as an expression of social
reality, but also as a denial of it. In a sense they constitute a game played out
between the Afro-Curagaoan workers and the dominant class. In this game, the
subordinate group realizes its own forms of power while complying or appearing
to comply with the dominant image. Within this compliance they can employ
several techniques that conceal and aid them in gaining some degree of power.'0
The life of most Afro-Curagaoans in the post-Emancipation period was
characterized by a continuous struggle -struggles for land, economic survival,
security, and cultural autonomy and dignity, and a struggle to combine values
imposed by the 'white' groups and institutions with the cultural practices
developed during a long period of slavery.
While Afro-Curacaoans built survival mechanisms in all spheres of life,
they also developed values relating to mutual help, social assistance and
reciprocity. This spirit of interdependence and solidarity manifested itself in many
areas of life, as in shared labour, the building of a home, at times of birth, illness and
death, but also in a range of recreational activities.
The Roman Catholic Church had its own agenda for 'civilization'. Imbuing
Catholicism into the former slave population was envisioned as a package that
included instilling a Western work ethic, obedience to the legal system, disciplined
kinship patterns characterized by the nuclear family, and the extinction of
The popular culture that evolved in the post-Emancipation period was
marked by a mixture of resistance to the pressures of the 'white' world, adoption
of local variations of models imposed by the state and the Church, as well as a
manifestation and affirmation of an African-derived culture. In the process, the
Afro-Curaqaoan population gradually became more diverse and uniquely different
from other cultures.
A striking example of this interplay is the seu celebrated yearly after the
millet harvest in March or April. The set gave people an opportunity to express
their ideas on subjects which they considered important through songs about their
work situation or their perception of work. As such, seu also connected people to
their past, as it allowed the echoes of the past to reverberate in one's mind. The seu
was partially accepted by the Roman Catholic Church and the elites, who
considered it a relatively harmless expression of gratitude to God for having
received a good harvest. But these celebrations also contained elements of
opposition and negotiation. The seu indeed started with seemingly 'harmless'
work songs, but ended with the 'vulgar' and heathenishh' tambt, a musical
expression and dance abhorred by both the Church and the colonial state.
1. Millet, also named maishi chiki or guinea corn (Renkema 1981:86).
2. The prime oral history collection of Curaqao is the corpus provided by Brenneker
and Juliana. Their body of work is commonly referred to as the Brenneker/Juliana
collection. In 1973 they placed them in a foundation under the name of ZikinzA. The
corpus of this collection consists of over 1400 songs, stories and short narratives,
collected on tape from 267 informants. They are currently stored at the National
Archives in Willemstad, Curacao A number of interviews are also stored in the Public
Library in Willemstad. The corpus of this archive consists o 110 tapes containing
information on all aspects of life.
3. Michel-Rolph Trouillot, "In the Shadow of the West: Power, Resistance, and
Creolization in the making of the Caribbean Region," in Wim Hoogbergen, ed., Bor out
of Resistance: On Caribbean Cultural Creativity (Utrecht, Netherlands:
ISOR-Publications, 1995), 9.
4. The tambu celebration takes place in the months around the end and beginning of
the year. Compared to other popular celebrations, which have been gradually
disappearing, the tambu is still alive and present. The name tambu refers to the
celebration/event itself as well as the drum, the music and the dance. Of all popular
customs, it has been the most criticized. During slavery it was feared by the
slave-owners, as it offered opportunities to the enslaved to gather and to express their
disgust about their situation by means of their songs and their dance. It was also heavily
condemned by the Catholic clergy which called the dance lascivious and sexually
immoral. Members of the older generation still relate the severe punishment of those
found participating in a tambu celebration exercised by the clergy. This punishment
included confiscation of the drums, whipping, and even expulsion of the participants
from the Catholic Church.
5. Sometimes people would go and live on a different plantation after having been
chased away from their homes. For example, Leontina was chased away from San Juan
and went to live on Groot Santa Marta. As she and her son continued to misbehave, they
were again chased away from that plantation. NatAr, Archief van het Gouvernement,
Brievenboeken 5e district, 1863-1904, inv. no. 126, 16-6-1865/87.
6. NatAr, Archief van het Gouvernement, Brievenboeken 5e district, 1863-1904, inv.
no. 125,15-7-1864/70. Angelista Pieter was sent away from a plantation, but was also
denied a piece of land because she was impudent. See also the case of the couple
Johannes and Balentina Schoop who were denied a piece of government land in 1903
after having been chased away from the plantation based on the same criterion. NatAr,
Archief van het Gouvemement, Brievenboeken 5e district 1863-1904, inv. no. 145,
7. The meaning of'Foedoewe' and 'Hoenja lamanta para' is unknown. Latour
8. Plakaat van 25 april 1720.
9. Rosalia 1997:17
10. The enslaved sang in Guene to mislead their master. It was used as a secret
language in which they could talk about their master. Later, some plantation owners
became aware of this phenomenon and prohibited the use of Guene. According to an
informant, this was probably one of the reasons why the language became extinct. See
interview of Victor Bartolomeo, May 2000, by Allen and La Croes. Afterwards, people
continued to use some Guene words, to the extent that they could recollect them. This I
deduced from an interview with someone knowledgeable about this language. He stated
that on some plantations the inhabitants were prohibited from singing in Guene, as the
owners suspected that they were singing about them.
Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-Land en Volkenkunde (KITLV)
Koloniale Verslagen, 1863-1918
National Archives, The Hague (NA)
Ministerie van Kolonien, 1850-1900
Ministerie van Kolonien, Gouvernementsjouralen, Suriname en Curaqao, series A,
National Archives Netherlands Antilles, Willemstad, Curaqao (NatAr)
Archief van het Gouverement
Tapes Zikinzi-collection, interviews collected by Paul Brenneker and Elis Juliana,
1958-1960, stored at the National Archives, Willemstad (NatAr).
Tapes Brenneker/Juliana, interviews collected by Paul Brenneker and Elis Juliana,
1963-1989, stored at the Public Library, Willemstad (Fundashon Biblioteka Publiko
Tapes Archeologisch-Antropologisch Instituut Nederlandse Antillen (AAINA), collected
by Rose Mary Allen, 1980-1995, stored at the National Archives, Willemstad (NatAr).
Tapes Rose Mary Allen, collected by Rose Mary Allen, 1999-2005, private collection.
Abrahams, Roger D. 1992 Singing the Master. The Emergence ofAfrican-American
Culture in the Plantation South. New York [etc]: Penguin Books.
Allen, Rose Mary 1988 'El Se6l. Fiesta traditional de la cosecha de maiz en Curazao',
in: Francisco J. Gomez (ed.), El folklore Latinoamericano y del Caribe. Memorias de las
ponencias del Segundo Seminario del Folklore Latinoamericano y del Caribe, p. 55-78.
Caguas/ Puerto Rico: Departamento de Cultura, Municipio de Caguas.
Allen, Rose Mary 1988 'The Dialectics of Folk Culture. The Influence of the Roman
Catholic Church on the Folk Culture of Curacao.' Paper presented at the Symposium
'Religion, Power and Ideology in Latin America and the Caribbean', 46th International
Congress of Americanists. Amsterdam, 4-8 July 1988.
Allen, Rose Mary 1992a 'Katolicisme en volksculture een dialectische relative een
aanzet tot de studies van het beschavingswerk, van de Curacaose rooms- katholieke kerk
in de period 1834-1915 : in : Boudewijnse, B., H. Middelbrink, C. van de Woestijne
(eds), Kerkwandel & lekenhandel. De Rooms-Katholieke kerk op Curacao, p. 15-30.
Amsterdam: Het Spinhuis.
Allen, Rose Mary 2007. Di ki manera. A social history of Afro-Curacaoans, 1863-1917.
Beckles, Hilary 2002 Working slavery, pricing freedom. Perspectives from the
Caribbean, Africa and the African diaspora', in: Verene A. Shepherd (ed.), Working
Slavery, Pricing Freedom. Perspectives from the Caribbean, Africa and the African
Diaspora, p. 320-39. Kingston, Jamaica : lan Randle Publishers.
Certeau, Michel de 1984 The Practice of Every Day Life: Berkley, University of
Hoetink, Harry 1958 Het patroon van de oude Curacaose samenleving. Een
sociologische studied. Assen: Van Gorcum.[Reprinted in 1987, Amsterdam: Emmering.]
1962 De gespleten samenleving in het Caribisch gebied. Bijdrage tot de sociologie der
rasrelaties in gesegmenteerde maatschappijen. Assen: Van Gorcum.
Juliana, Elis 1983b 'Katibu ta galifia', Kristof6,4 (1983): 25-9.
Kontenido 1974 Kontenido di Zikinz6. Curaqao, s.n.
Lantemu 2003 '1 Juli: Een heugelijke dag? 1 juli 1863-1 juli 2003', Lantlrnu, no.
22.[Gedenkboek 140 jaar emancipatie.] Curaqao: Nationaal Archief.
Levine, Lawrence 1977 Black Culture and Black Consciousness. Afro-American Folk
Thought from Slavery to Freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [Reprinted in 1978].
Martinus, Frank 1997:The Kiss of a Slave. Papiamentu's West-African Connections.
Curaqao: De Curacaose Courant, [PhD thesis, University of Amsterdam, 1996.]
Mintz, Sidney W. 1974: Caribbean Transfrmations. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins
Oostindie, Gert J. 1996: Ethnicity in the Caribbean. Essays in Honor of Harry Hoetink.
Oostindie, Gert J. 1997 :Het paradijs overzcc. De 'Nederlandse' Caraihen en Nederland.
Amsterdam: Bert Bakker.
Pool, John de 1935: Del Curacao que se va. Paginas arrancadas de el Libro dem mis
recuerdos, Willemstad, curacao: s.n. [Original edition Panama, 1934, Reprinted in 1981.]
R6mer, Ren6 Antonio 1964: Ons samenzijn in sociologisch perspecticf. Een introductie
in de Curacaose samenleving. Curacao: Van Dorp.
R6mer, Rend Antonio 1979: Un pueblo na kaminda. Een sociologisch historische studied
van de Curacaose samenleving. Zutphen: De Walburg Pers. [Ph thesis, University of
Rosalia, Rene V. 1989:Manual di yabi yoatina. Un antalogia di e musika di se6 di
K6rsou.[Willemstad, Curaqao]: [s.n.].
Rosalia, Rene V. 1997 :Tambu, De legal en kerkclijke repressie van Afro-Curaqaose
volksuitingen. Zutphen: De Walburg Pers [PhD thesis, University of Amsterdam.]
Rosalia, Rene V. 2002: Migrated Rhythm. The Tambu of Curacao.
http://kaleidoscopc.caribseck.com/Rene Rosalia/Tambu/ 20-5-2005
Scott, James C. 1990: Domination and the Arts of Resistance. New Haven: Yale
Shepherd, Verene A. and Hillary Beckles (eds) 1993: Caribbean Freedom. Economy and
Society /fom Emancipation to the Present. Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle Publishers.
Shepherd, Verene A. and Hillary Beckles (eds)2000:Caribbean Slavery in the Atlantic
World. Kingston, Jamaica: lan Randle Publishers. [2nd ed.]
Staatscommissie 1856: Rapport der Staatscommissic, benocmd bii Koninkliik besluit
van 29 November 1853, no. 66 tot het voorstellen van maatregelen ten aanzien van de
slaven in de Nederlandsche kolonien. Uitgcgeven op last van den Minister van Kolonien.
's-Gravenhage: Van Cleef.
Streefkerk, Cees 2003 'Beeldvorning en reigie', in: Rose Mary Allen, Coen Heijes en
Valdemar Marcha, Emancipatie & acceptatie. Curaqao en Curaqaodnaars. Beeldvorming
en identiteit honderdveertig iaar na de slavernim, p. 35-50. Amsterdam: SWP.
Witteveen, I. 1992 'El tambu y la muier en Curacao. Imagenes en la encrucijada de
cultures', in: Richenel Ansano, et al. (eds), Mundu yama sinta mira. Womanhood in
Curaqao, p. 107-16. Curaqao: Fundashon Publikashon. NA, Ministerie van Kolonien,
Gouvernementsjournaal van Curaqao, 1890-1891, inv. no. 6788, 27-2-1890/128.
Van Dissel 1868:443-4. For example, part of the workforce on plantation Koraal Tabak
(at the bay of Sint Joris in the eastern part of the island) focused on fishing.
NatAr, Archief van het Gouvernement, Brievenboeken 2e district, 1863-1905, inv. no.
Capital Changes: Haitian Migrants in
Contemporary Dominican Republic
Complexity and diversity stand as one of the hallmarks of the Caribbean
(Trouillot 1992), and the island of Hispaniola is certainly no exception to the rule.
In this paper, I will show how changes in the Dominican economy along the lines
of imperatives of global capitalism transformed the Haitian migration population
in the Dominican Republic, specifically related to labour market insertion. The
shift from sugar production (under state auspices) to tourism along with the
construction boom (financed by private capital) fostered ruptures and
reconfigurations, as seen in new migration patterns, migrants' connections to
capital flows, changes in anti-Haitian sentiment, and growth of agencies
supporting migrant populations.
This article is based upon anthropological research conducted in summer
2006 and from October 2007 to December 2009 in Greater Santo Domingo in the
Dominican Republic. Information about the lower classes came primarily from
Haitians who live and/or work in "Benito"', secondarily from people at their work
sites throughout the Districto Nacional, and tertiarily at people's homes in the
province of Santo Domingo.
The relationship of the Dominican Republic to insular, regional, and
international flows of commodities and the specific ways that changes in markets
have impacted the country, requires a brief discussion of capital and capitalism,
both in its nature (as it relates to plurality) and its logic (as it relates to
neoliberalism and flexibility), as it plays out in the lived experiences of people in
The role of capital cannot be undervalued throughout the course of this
work. Capital is money involved in a process of commodity exchange that yields a
greater amount of value after the exchange than existed before (M-C-"M'),
where each represents a stage in capital accumulation. A commodity may take the
form of a tangible item, like coconuts, chacabanas,2 or currency, but it may also
take the form of something less than tangible, like labour-power, as in
construction, or sex work or university studies. Capitalism, therefore, refers to the
economic system founded upon a never-ending drive to generate profit (and
accumulation of capital) based upon creation and investment of surplus value from
commodity exchanges.3 Numerous scholars have dealt with the dynamics of
capitalism (e.g., Heilbroner, Marx, Polanyi), so I leave extensive discussions of
the topic aside. In this article, I respond to David Harvey's challenge to examine
"processes of capital accumulation ... [and how it] ... not only thrives upon but
actively produces social difference and heterogeneity" (2001:122). I am
particularly interested in, as he writes, "a more generalized debate about human
potentialities and the sources of their frustration" (2001:126), and the production
of spaces where novel political and social organizations might emerge. These
spaces, created by what Ong (2007) calls neoliberalism, understood as the
reorganization of the relationship between the state and the market according to
the logic of capitalism, represent opportunities for advocacy on behalf of those
politically excluded. Therefore, observing political economic changes over time
should correspond with analogous changes for migrants in a labour market (which
in this case means Haitian migrants to the Dominican Republic), their reception in
the host country, and advocacy on their behalf. Additionally, examining parts of
commodity chains in which people participate should disclose connections to
capital flows and political economic structures. Before noting these changes,
though, it stands to describe prior meanings of "Haitian" and to depict earlier
Dominican-Haitian relations. Therefore, I argue that neoliberalism has
restructured the Dominican political economy, Haitian labour market insertion,
and the nature of anti-Haitianism, while creating spaces for advocacy on behalf of
the new migrants. This fundamentally questions the dominant understanding,
which posits that Haitians form a single, homogenous block.
Myths of Haitian Homogeneity
It is no surprise that, given the dominance of agricultural production,
particularly sugar, in the Dominican Republic for most of its history, and well into
the twentieth century, most of the analyses about Haitians living in the Dominican
Republic linked Haitians to this industry. The extensive work by Moya Pons, El
Batey (1986), for example, provides a description of living conditions within a
sugarcane cutting community. Murphy (1991) has described how sugarcane
production adjusted to integrate foreign labour. Other works have dealt with
Haitians labouring in the rice industry and/or coffee industries (Castillo 1978;
FerrAn and Pessar 1991; Lozano 1993). Martinez (1995) has discussed
rural-to-rural migration among Haitian cane cutters. While these provide
excellent material for understanding the on-going situation in which many
Haitians working in agriculture find themselves, these necessarily do not deal with
results of recent market changes. Other writings that comprise the field one might
call "Haitians in the Dominican Republic" have treated border issues (Derby 1994;
Traub-Werner 2008; Turits 2002), sex work (Brennan 2004; De Moya 2002), or
dynamics of international population movement and globalization (Gregory 2006;
Lozano 1992; Smucker and Murray 2004). These works that go beyond the strict
scope of agricultural production reflect changes in the role of Haitians in the
Dominican Republic, and most of these discuss identity construction through the
use of difference.
Though the aforementioned works provide helpful insight into historical
and current aspects of life for some Haitians, little has been written describing the
lived experiences of Haitians in an urban area. This article contributes to a more
nuanced understanding of Haitians who live in the primary urban area of the
Dominican Republic, i.e. Santo Domingo, complete with points of unity and
disjuncture.4 Recent attempts to address the gap between scholarship and
experience include works from a human rights and/or applied research perspective
(SJRM 2008; Wooding and Moseley-Williams 2004; Wooding and Sangro 2008),
one piece based on the overall topic of Haitians in an urban context (Silie, Segura,
and Dore Cabral 2002), and a book examining dynamics of an urban
neighbourhood (Baez Evertsz 2001). These otherwise solid works suffer the same
shortcoming of earlier work (save for Silie et al. 2002), equating the term
"Haitian" with one group, albeit statistically the largest and most frequently
depicted in anti-Haitian sentiments.
Scholars treating Haitians in the Dominican Republic have usually relegated
anti-Haitianism to the realm of ideas. If they proffer any description, they use
terms like "ideology" (Torres-Saillant 2006; Matibag, this volume) or "prejudice"
(Martinez; Derby and Turits 2005). These authors describe how an ideological
construction creates difference between two populations as closed units, thus
essentializing Dominicans and Haitians and pathologizing the latter. Though I
agree in part with their assessment, they appear to ignore the behaviour, i.e. the
praxis/praxis.One variance on this theme is the work by Sagas, who describes
anti-Haitianism as an ideology, but also as:
an ideological method of political control...directed not only
toward Haiti and Haitians, but also toward Afro-Caribbean
members of Dominican society, who tend to be poor, forming the
subordinate class. Antihaitianism denies dark-skinned citizens,
and the poor generally, their own sociocultural space and
intimidates them from making demands on otherwise participating
in politics (2000:4).
Therefore, I define anti-Haitianism as a constellation of ideas and practices
negatively affecting people (as a person or a group) from Haiti, their descendents,
and those perceived as being as belonging to one of these groups, whether or not
they actually belong, and specifically because of their ascribed membership. This
differs throughout time and space.
Though the origins of anti-Haitianism in the Dominican Republic lie mainly
(but not entirely) in the nineteenth century, manifestations of anti-Haitianism
begin in the twentieth century. The most referenced event is the 1937 killing near
the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, where the ideology became
officially state-sanctioned, and thousands of people perceived as Haitians were
killed under orders from President Trujillo (see Cambeira, this volume; Derby, this
volume; Derby and Turits 2005; Sagas 2000; Turits 2002). Another notable event
occurred in 1962, when President Balaguer napalmed Haitians and
Haitian-Dominicans in the rural hamlet of Palma Sola for demanding land rights.
The other major demonstration of anti-Haitianism relates to batey-s, sugar cane
cutting and processing areas usually found in areas around Barahona and San
Pedro de Macoris. Though Haitians have been working at these sites since the
early twentieth century, only in the past 25 years have human rights groups taken
an interest in the forced recruitment, often of deplorable working conditions, and
deportations of batey workers, a population largely (but not strictly) consisting of
Haitians (see Americas Watch 1992). The Consejo Estatal de Azuicar (CEA)
controlled most of these areas until the sell-off of these lands to private owners in
These examples have two factors in common. First, each of these implies
involvement of the Dominican state. Secondly, the geography of these events
locates Haitians on the border, in rural areas, or in batey-s, meaning that there is a
spatial element of fixedness associated with these earlier forms ofanti-Haitianism.
Thirdly, those people targeted by these actions were often linked to agricultural
production. With the elabouration of official, state anti-Haitianism during the
Trujillo and Balaguer regimes, clearly, violent and non-violent acts of
anti-Haitianism occurred frequently among non-state actors and beyond the
countryside or border lands. Nevertheless, under neoliberalism the state has
become a less visible and active participant in anti-Haitian fervor and, as I will
show, urban spaces have now become important sites to study the content and
significance of anti-Haitianism in immigrants' daily lives as well as for
understanding how anti-Haitianism is now practiced. To date, however, no
significant historical scholarship has dealt with this topic (though Torres-Saillant
2006 provides a small piece). After changes in the Dominican economy, though,
anti-Haitianism linked so openly to the state could not be sustained.
The Rise and Fall of Sugar as Economic Backbone
The important role of sugar in the Dominican economy came late, compared
to other countries in Latin America. The economy of Cuba, a major sugar
producer in the nineteenth century, suffered a setback due to the Ten Years' War,
which contributed to the growth of the Dominican industry (Howard 2001). This
occurred through the purchasing of large plantations, thanks to the flight of foreign
capital from Cuba to the Dominican Republic, and the growth of large sugar
entities in the beginning of the twentieth century (Betances 1995). The labour of
Black British and French migrants from other Caribbean islands, had already
played a role in reducing the number of Dominicans participating in the growing
sugar industry, a switch fostered by the US occupation and commandeering of
sugar production. But due to the Haitian- and Dominican-sponsored bracero
program, in addition to voluntary migration6' Haitians began to replace both
Dominicans and Afro Antillean workers in this industry (Martinez 1999). This
extremely cheap labour, combined with favorable market conditions, boosted
Until the mid 1970s, the sugar Dominican industry thrived under the control
of the Dominican government and sugar baron families like the Vicinis. While the
country could not compete with production on the massive land areas of
top-producers Brazil and India, the Dominican Republic saw a 40% increase in
revenue from 1961 to 1976. This was due partially to increased production and
rising prices of sugar on the global market. Unfortunately for the sugar barons and
for the Dominican state that regulated production to its benefit, these days of
prosperity were numbered, and a new era was about to begin on the island. As has
been described by others (see Hoffnung-Garskof 2008; Lozano 2001), profits
from Dominican sugar production began significant decline in the late 1970s due
to subsidies in other major sugar-producing countries, which put downward
economic pressure on national production, and consequently, political pressure on
the state to usher in changes.
From Sugar to "Sweetheart"
From the 1970s to the 1990s, a series of factors shifted the Dominican
economy away from sugar production. Starting in the 1970s, with the state losing
money on sugar production, some lands were shifted to production of other
agricultural goods like pineapples, rice, coffee, and tobacco (Lozano 1997;
Lozano 2001). In the 1980s, the Dominican Republic, like many other countries in
the hemisphere, faced pressure from multilateral loan institutions that pushed for:
"a reduction in trade barriers, for floating interest and exchange
rates, for cuts in public employment, price controls, and industrial
subsidies, and for creation of export processing zones exempt from
taxation, labour laws, and environmental protection" (Lozano
The government under President Blanco and later President Balaguer
capitulated to these pressures from the World Bank and International Monetary
Fund. Also during this time, cane cutting became more mechanized, reducing the
need for manual labourers. Additionally, overall production decreased dropping
thirty percent from 1981 to 1991, and again from 1991 to 2001 (FAO 2009). All
signs pointed to the fact that the importance of sugar and of the model of
Dominican economy that had so long depended on it was declining.
At the same time, new sources of income bolstered the economy. From 1996
to 1997, cigar cheroot exports jumped seven hundred percent, dwarfing the
amounts of all other agricultural products. In the mid 1970s, Gulf & Western
constructed the Casa de Campo, an extravagant resort with internationally ranked
golf courses and its own airport. The Fanjul family, which had been (and
continues to be) a major exporter of Dominican sugar to the US, purchased this in
the mid 1980s. Over the next two decades, all-inclusive resorts popped up along
beaches and increased numbers of cruise-ships arrived at Dominican ports. By the
year 2000, tourism had become the country's largest earner of foreign money
(Icon Group 2000). Along with these changes also came a large increase in sex
tourism in the country, where Dominicans could market themselves as
"sweethearts" to foreigners on vacation (see Brennan 2004; Padilla 2007). As if to
enshrine the change from an economy based upon sugar to one diversified along
the lines of global capitalism, President Leonel Fernmndez, in his investiture
speech in 1996, spoke of the challenges of implementing changes of globalization
to stimulate "progress and modernization" through "tourism, free trade zones,
international finance transactions, and putting in place the GATT agreements"
Economically, several changes marked the past decade. Leonel Fernandez,
taking back the presidency from Hip6lito Mejia in the 2004 elections, continued
governing in his style from his earlier term, marked by a transition away from the
heavy-handed authoritarianism of the past (while still maintaining a cult of
personality) to rule according to more market-oriented policies. State and private
interests came together to negotiate the opening of free-trade zones. They
subsequently flourished, though the industry posted lower numbers in 2007.
(Schwerdtfeger 2008). Due to the damage of Hurricanes Georges (1998) and
Jeanne (2004) and with an increased demand for apartment buildings in Santo
Domingo, the construction industry has grown significantly, including nearly a
23% growth in 2006 (Jimenez 2007). Cigars continue to bring in almost as much
money as all other agricultural products combined (FAO 2009). Commerce and
communications, along with the service, transport, and hotel industries also posted
significant growth in the past few years (Schwerdtfeger 2008). This boom in
communication included the opening of Orange (France Telecom) in 2007 and
Viva (US-based Trilogy International Partners) in 2008 to compete with Tricom
(opened in 1988) and Codetel (originally of the Anglo Canadian Telephone
Company; opened in 1930). Currently, tourism and international remittances
currently bring in the largest amount of money to the country (World Fact Book
As the Fanjul family's investment in a resort stands as a marker from old to
new capitalism in the last decades of the 20th century, there are similar markers for
the first decade of the 21 s century. One of these is the implementation in 2007 of
the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA).
The second includes the diversification of the Vicini family's businesses.
Originally establishing sugar mills in Azua and Ocoa in 1876, and quickly
becoming one of the most wealthy and powerful families in the Dominican
Republic from sugar, the family now deals in food and drink retail, energy,
finances and insurance, communications, tourism, and real estate (Grupo Vicini
2009). With all these changes, it is no surprise that the dynamics of labour
insertion of Haitians in the Dominican Republic has also shifted.
At this point, I am moving towards an understanding what it means to be
Haitian in the Dominican Republic in the first decade of the 21 century. Since the
shift away from sugar (including the privatization of the Dominican sugar industry
in 1998) and agriculture, much of this migratory population shifted toward the
capital (Wooding and Moseley-Williams 2004). Furthermore, almost all Haitians
now migrate directly to major cities or resort towns. Consequently, I examine
those in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic.
To further this understanding requires two parts of a sociological
imagination, that of the (new) subjectivities, i.e., the varieties of human experience
that have come to prevalence, and how they are related to each other. After
explaining these two parts, I will provide small descriptions and case studies of
some of these.
When considering Haitians in contemporary Santo Domingo, they can be
divided into those:
1. Working in the informal economy or fringes of the formal
2. Attending universities in the Dominican capital,
3. Working in a professional or semi-professional capacity,
4. Of a business elite.
Listing these groups does not accurately describe the model of Haitians in
Santo Domingo, though. Both Dominicans and Haitians make a class and/or race
distinction when describing Haitians in the capital. One Dominican man named
Pedro succinctly quipped, "a Haitian is not the same as a poor Haitian" (personal
communication). Furthermore, it has been observed that both dark-skinned
Dominican citizens have been rounded up and deported as a "Haitian", and that
elite people from Haiti are often not considered Haitian. This points to the
traditional racial and economic divisions, indicated in numerous Haitian
proverbs." Therefore, the sociological imagination includes a two-tiered
framework. The lower classes include those in the lower sections of the formal
economy and in the informal economy. These people represent the continuation,
in the urban context, of those individuals commonly associated with the so-called
Haitian problem and the aforementioned anti-Haitianism. Above the apparent line
of acceptability are the university students, the professionals, and the elite.
Persons in both classes are linked to capital flows in distinct manners.
Lower Socio-Economic Classes
The first group of Haitians consists of those who work on the fringes of the
formal economy or in the informal economy9. This is, by far, the most diverse
group in terms of employment and the largest in number. Though Murphy (1990)
has described the way Dominican tricicleros and lechugeros form part of the
informal economy, little information has been compiled on this as it pertains to
Haitians (Baez Evertsz 2001 is one exception). Sili& et al. (2002) in their research
on the topic of Haitian migration in general states this group includes day
labourers, petty commerce, artisanal work, domestic service, and tourism.
Consistent with my findings, they describe this entire group as:
I. male (72%),
2. between 20-40 years old (73.4%),
3. arriving on their own, or with the help of family members
4. living in the country less than 11 years (72%), and
5. having little formal schooling.
Within Santo Domingo, I identify seventeen types of occupations within the
lower classes. These include of phone card vendors, flavored ice vendors, clothes
vendors, petty commerce vendors, hot food vendors, sweet cart vendors, ambulant
sweets vendors, agricultural vendors, moneychangers, a population that has been
described in a similar setting (Ulysses 2008) as informal commercial importers",
construction workers, domestic workers, sex workers, pica polio workers, store
front barkers, artisans, and hair braiders. I divide these into those selling tangible
commodities (food, phone cards, etc.) and those selling their labour-power2.
Vendors of Tangible Commodities
Phone card vendors
One of the major factors involved in the communications boom in the
Dominican Republic relates to the spread of cellular phone usage. People from all
classes, like counterparts in other countries, use cellular phones to communicate.
Perhaps due to paperwork burdens or perhaps due to prohibitive cost, some
acquire cellular phones instead of installing landlines at home, essentially making
a technological evolutionary leap. Furthermore, operating a prepaid telephone is
cheaper (and more flexible) than a monthly plan, meaning that thousands of people
need to add money to their phone account. Customers may add to their account
balance at company kiosks around the city, but many opt instead to purchase
physical phone cards of varying amounts ranging from twenty to three hundred
Distribution of these cards occurs in several ways. The main companies
(Claro, Viva, Orange, and Tricom) sell their cards in bulk from distribution
centres, mainly to intermediaries rather than individual customers. This person is
usually Dominican, as it now requires someone to show a cedula or proof of legal
residence in the country. However, some Haitians may purchase from these
centres if they have been doing so for a significant length of time such that the
centre's employees recognize them. Often, Dominicans will sell cards in smaller
bunches to colmado-s ", but some will drive around the city and sell to phone card
vendors from Haiti. At least one Dominican sells large quantities of cards in front
of a government building under the guise of operating a different type of
government enterprise, and many Haitian card vendors purchase from him.
Before the vendor can purchase and then sell the cards, he or she must
acquire the initial capital. This may involve investing profits from previous card
sales. However, many people do not have this foundation will borrow money from
trusted family members or friends, paying them back in installments. Then, the
vendor purchases cards at a rate that, when sold to the consumer, provides a few
pesos profit to the intermediary and six to eight pesos profit to the vendor. Many
vendors, some of who wear caps or vests with company colours and logos, stand
around major intersections of the city. This way, as people sit in traffic, they can
beckon to the vendor by calling out "tarjeta". The vendor approaches the vehicle,
the customer makes a request, and the transaction is completed. A similar
exchange occurs among pedestrian customers.
Sweet cart vendors
Another common sight in Santo Domingo is the vendor with a sweet cart, or
bak paletel. These people sell individual packages of crackers, cookies, chips,
gum, hard candies, suckers, and occasionally chocolate. Most of these people also
have an insulated container from which the sell coffee that was made in their home
Starting or maintaining a bak paletel also requires capital. As with phone
cards, this money comes in the form of loans or reinvestment from previous
ventures. The vendor, either a man or woman, must purchase a stand (made of a
wooden box to hold merchandise and the bottom of a stroller for movement).
Next, the person must acquire their product. Vendors usually purchase large
packages (which can be opened to sell individual units) from major retailers, but
may purchase from a larger colmado if necessary, and sell individual units at a
marked up price. At the end of the working day, the person stores the cart and
merchandise. The storage sight may be a parking garage or warehouse paid to the
security guard, and usually costs 25 pesos per night.
Dynamics of paletel sales can be as varied as the products sold. Vendors
may have a regular location where they park the cart and sell, or they may walk
through the city in search of highly trafficked areas and clients, known as sikile (to
circulate). One vendor commented that "if you don't circulate, you won't sell
anything" (anonymous, personal communication 2009). The product is usually
consumed by Dominican passers-by. Clearly, most exchanges include cash, but a
regular customer may be able to purchase on credit (with no interest).
Occasionally, police officers pilfer items.
Agricultural vendors include those people who sell raw fruit or fruit plates,
fruit juice, coconut water and the meat of the nut, and sugar cane (juice or sticks).
Fruit sold raw or as plates may include bananas, mangoes, papayas, pineapples, or
mandarins, depending on the season. Honey may also be added to the fruit plate.
Fruit juices usually include orange, key limes, or grapefruit, depending on the
Such an operation requires more capital than the other ventures. Though it is
not uncommon for someone to borrow money to start the enterprise, some
evidence exists which points to a developmental cycle, whereby people who
previously sold their labour power would save money and invest in agricultural
vending. Once initial money is acquired, people must purchase their tricicleta 4 or
their cart, followed by a purchase of agricultural products. Most people buy their
produce from the Mercado Nuevo'5 in Santo Domingo and pay extra for a carro
putblico to transport their fruit back to the depo 16 Those who sell batidas, or fruit
smoothies, will have a blender, run on either a battery or through an AC
connection near where they park their stand.
All vendors usually have one or two locations in the city where they sell
during the day (usually between 7am and 5pm), and may have had to ask
permission from or pay a neighbor or business owner for the right to sell there.
Like paletel vendors, they operate almost completely on cash, with credit being
extended occasionally to repeat customers in need. Their customer base mainly
consists of Dominican passers-by.
Similar depictions of occupations, partial commodity chains, and sales
could be made for the remaining types within this category. Within all of these,
several commonalities emerge. First, the means of production of these
commodities are controlled by private entities. Second, commodities pass from
the producer to one or more Dominican intermediaries before reaching the Haitian
vendor. Third, most of the consumers of these products are Dominicans. The
significance of these will be discussed later.
Vendors of labour-Power
Construction workers form the largest part of the manual labour force of
Haitians in the urban areas"7. Within the industry, there are a number of positions,
from site management to mixing concrete. Haitians occupy all positions within
this framework, but clearly they carry out the majority of the low-skilled manual
labour (SJRM 2008). Though both Haitians and Dominicans work on public and
private projects, fewer Haitians work on public projects than on private ones.
Haitians engaged in such work are particularly of interest, given how they are
working on projects involving transnational capital and national pride, like the
new subway being built throughout the city (the Metro), the Plaza de Bellas Artes,
and restoration of buildings around the Plaza Col6n. Recruitment occurs either
through on-site worker solicitation, or through the personal connections someone
has with an existing employee.
It is not common for Haitians to earn the legal minimum wage for day
labour, which could explain why so many sites violate the Dominican labour law
that requires a minimum of 80% Dominican presence on any project '". They work
more days and more hours per day without further compensation than legally
permitted, and frequently are not paid or are picked up by immigration on the day
before they get paid.
Domestic servitude operates under the opposite gender bias from
construction, as it is almost completely made up of women workers'9. These
people make their living by taking care of one or more of the following: cleaning,
cooking, childcare, and other duties related to social reproduction (Wooding and
Sangro 2008). They may work only for the day and then return home, or they may
be given a room within the residence to sleep. Their employers may be from the
Dominican Republic, from the US, or from other countries, including Haiti. The
domestic servants are legally accorded certain labour rights (including overtime
pay, work-related health coverage, and certain provisions for paid leave),
however, they are not regularly respected. Wooding and Sangro (2008) contend
that part of their continued vulnerability relates to this populations "invisibility,"
as they labour in private spaces.
This group includes people who offer sexualized services in exchange for
money2 This may take several different forms. Some women may stake out
regular spaces on Avenidas Independencia and Duarte or in Parque
Independencia. These people could be considered street walkers. After they
finish with a client, they may return to the same spot or return home. Some women
work at strip clubs and leave with clients after their shift. Others still may sit at
restaurants, bars, or casinos where tourists frequently pass. Finally, there are some
bordellos in Santo Domingo, where women are there for nothing more than sexual
work. Any of these may give out their cellular phone number to a client afterward
to keep regular customers.
These workers, save for perhaps those at bordellos, have complete say in
whom they take on as clients and determine what they will do for what amount of
money. Clients may be Dominican, Haitian, or other foreigners, and it seems to be
that Dominicans pay the least, other foreigners pay the most, and Haitians pay
somewhere in between21. In addition to differences in nationality, geographic area
relates to the amount a woman may earn per exchange. Despite what seems to be a
degree of choice and power for the women, many women suffer mistreatment,
including insults, refusal of payment, and occasionally physical abuse. Further,
many of these workers feel compelled to continue because they are already single
mothers and because the money earned in a month from jobs they might get (with
the limited formal schooling or marketable skills they do have) would pale in
comparison to what they make within two hours of sex work with a foreigner.
More Emergent Commonalities
Like those selling tangible commodities, those selling their labour-power
also work using capital of private origins (save for some construction projects).
Similarly, consumers may be Dominican, but they may also be foreigners of any
Extending the discussion to include all these cases from the lower classes,
several other commonalities emerge. First, these described cases demonstrate that
their financial origins are no longer based upon the Dominican state, and certainly
not upon sugar or agricultural production. Second, the aspect of capitalism that
brings producers of value (in this case, Haitians) and consumers (mostly
non-Haitians) together in a market context of commodity exchange provides a
space where mental conceptions and social relations that stigmatize Haitians are
altered. In other words, though one may complain about the product, no one
complains about the vendor during the exchange. Finally, by way of a comment, it
should be stated that Dominicans are also in the lower rungs of the formal
economy and in the informal economy. Schwerdtfeger (2007) posted that 56% of
the eligible Dominican work force was involved in the informal economy. But not
only are Dominicans in the informal economy, Haitians are also in the upper
classes and formal economy.
The Upper Classes
As mentioned above, the upper classes include university students,
professionals, and the business elite. No significant research has been conducted
among either Haitian professionals or members of the business elite in the
Dominican Republic, and due to limited research focus, only a few comments can
be added here. The business elite is almost unimaginable in the Dominican
Republic, but significant parts of Dominican industry receive contributions from
Haitian-owned enterprises (Edwin Paraison, personal communication, 2008), and
efforts have recently begun to foster connections between Haitian elite and the
Haitian lower classes in the Dominican Republic (Paraison 2008). Also, there is a
growing number of Haitians who are working professionally in the Dominican
Republic. Professions may include graphic designers or artists, academic or
artistic instructors, office workers, or small business owners. This group has a
degree of overlap with the category of university students, as some people work
professionally while completing post-secondary schooling.
The second largest group of Haitians in Santo Domingo includes those who
attend universities in the city. These students, mostly 21-29 years of age, have
finished their secondary schooling in Haiti and moved to Santo Domingo to earn
baccalaureate or professional degrees. These students may have received a
scholarship to study, may work in a semi-professional or pre-professional manner
to pay for school, may combine the two forms of support, or draw upon other
means. Lodging is largely acquired through rental properties, usually paid for by
families in Haiti. All study in the Dominican Republic on a student visa, and most
of them say they do not plan on staying in the country after completing their
coursework. Though they have the legal ability to travel back and forth between
home and host countries, all but the wealthiest must forego travel except in cases
of holidays or emergencies.
Most Haitians who study in the Dominican Republic attend private
universities (Sonia Adames Nufiez, personal communication, 2007) who are
frequently unwilling to share information about Haitians at their school, thus
making obtaining accurate information about student populations difficult. The
number of students has grown significantly in the past few years, with a reported
increase from 4,000 in 2004 to almost 5,000 in 2005, to 11,000 in 2006, to nearly
17,000 in 2008 (Alter Presse 2004; D'Oleo 2008; Dominican Today 2006; Nufiez
2008). Students attend private institutions, like the Universidad de Acci6n Pro
Educaci6n y Cultura (UNAPEC), la Universidad Dominicana Organizaci6n y
Metodo (O&M), the Instituto Tecnol6gico de Santo Domingo (INTEC), the
Universidad Cat6lica, the Pontificia Universidad Cat6lica Madre y Maestra
(PUCCM), the Universidad Tecnol6gica de Santiago (UTESA), the elite
Universidad Iberoamericana (UNIBE), among others, or the state-run
Autonomous University (UASD).
Haitian students study an array of topics, but the majority study medicine.
Some departments within the UASD host a larger numbers of Haitian nationals,
most notably, the health sciences faculty, which hosts 123 of the 164 Haitian
students, followed distantly by the sciences (14), agronomy (11) and the
humanities (5) (UASD 2006). Though the data is not complete, D'Oleo (2008)
confirms that most Haitian students study medicine, followed by Business
Administration and Computer Science, with fewer still in Engineering and Hotel
Capitalism clearly is linked to the rise of this population. In one sense, what
these students represent is an extension of their family's capital. A student and his
or her family organize themselves to manage the governmental and institutional
obstacles (i.e. visa, legal documents, and translation of Haitian accreditations) and
pay for tuition and living expenses outside of Haiti, thus offering money for the
initial stage of capital accumulation. In the second stage, students enroll and study
at universities. This clearly is an investment of intellectual labour, and the choice
of students' majors shows a connection to the insular labour market. Finally, the
goal is to secure gainful employment in the labour market22 (on the island or
elsewhere) and generate money for the family. This completes one cycle of capital
accumulation through a process of migration.
Together with the lower classes, the university students and the rest of the
upper classes show how variations in capital flows relate to difference within
populations. However, in this new phase of capitalism, other realms beyond the
social also become heterogeneous.
Other Neoliberal Gestures
Within this current political economic moment, capital flows have changed.
As has been shown above, these new flows reveal new migratory populations and
new relations to nature. Beyond this, two additional developments related to
neoliberal processes arise: a new anti-Haitianism and pro-Haitian advocacy
The New Anti-Haitianism
Positing a new anti-Haitianism does not mean erasing an older one. Turits
(2002) argued that anti-Haitianism "has only grown and, above all, diffused during
the last 60 years, as Haitian migrants to Dominican sugar zones and other
areas-mostly far from the frontier regions -actually increased in number after
the massacre" (592, emphasis mine). This being said, older models still continue,
with much of the ideological element remaining the same. In a conversation about
my research with a cleaning woman named Mercy 23, she commented that:
it's easy to find the Haitians here. They have dark black skin, they
speak Spanish poorly, they smell really bad, and they have their
own style of music and dance that is different from us Dominicans.
Just look around construction sites because they take Dominicans
jobs there, but whatever you do, be careful (personal
She further recounted how once, on a guagua, she sat next to a Haitian who
spoke with her. She explained that he used magic to control her mind so that he
could steal money from her purse (which was on her lap) without her realizing it.
Mercy's commentary and bus story highlight the negative opinion and stereotypes
that transmogrify Haitians into deviant and dangerous people who are clearly
distinct from Dominicans and who are linked to magic and to wealth taken from
Dominicans given to Haitians (c.f., Derby 1994). The ideological component, no
longer a state ideology, is diffused through fairly recent ultranationalist literature
(including the work of Balaguer), school textbooks, and news media (Sagas 2000).
What's new in the new anti-Haitianism relates to the nature of state
practices, the authorship of new practices, and the populations affected. On one
hand, the state apparatus has targeted lower-class Haitians. Whereas previous
Dominican governments have actively participated in bringing Haitians into the
country, including the renewal of residency permits for those cutting sugarcane, in
the past two decades, the Dominican state has become more active in formalizing
the illegality and marginalization of Haitian migrants. Starting in 1991 with
Decreto 233-91 by President Balaguer and occurring again in 1996-97 and 1999,
mass expulsions by people perceived by skin colour to be Haitian were carried out
with regard to whether people were legal or illegal, Haitian or Dominican. This
trend continued in the early 21st century. Regarding documents, the 2004
immigration law authorized the creation of the so-called Pink Book, where
non-residents receive a pink certificate registering birth and residents receive a
white certificate. Combined with the new Constitution of 2010 formally denying
citizenship to children of those "in-transit" or illegal residents (despite the
inclusion of a jus solis clause), this ensures that a new generation of ethnic
Haitians will be denied full citizenship in the Dominican Republic. In "Benito," it
is common knowledge among Dominicans and Haitians that the police from
several precincts may drive through after dark, stop anyone (but almost always
Haitians) on the streets, and give them the choice between spending a night in jail
or paying anywhere from 50-500 pesos. On the other hand, the significant number
of tourists, NGO and government workers, and other professionals foreigners are
protected by a new Dominican police branch, Policia Turistica (POLITUR), to
protect and serve the tourists (and de facto the aforementioned groups) and the
areas they frequent. Though it is not uncommon for these people to live in the
country on expired visas (and simply pay a fee when they leave), there have been
no reported attacks of these people being caught up in illegal immigrant sweeps 24
.at this points to is how the state targets poor, low-skilled foreigners while
protecting the wealthy, professional ones.
Another facet of the new anti-Haitianism includes the fact that more
non-state actors are involved. While earlier actions by non-state actors occurred in
concert with the state apparatus (e.g. the 1937 massacre), many current practices
occur without active state involvement. Several fruit and sweets vendors have
reported how some Dominicans blatantly steal merchandise and then become
aggressive and shout anti-Haitian slurs when confronted. In 2008, a Dominican
threatened Robert, a Haitian juice vendor, with a machete if he did not return
change for a bill that the Dominican had not given to the vendor, cursing him all
the time as "maldito haitiano". Robert paid the 50 pesos rather than suffer a fatal
machete blow. In the most gruesome incident in recent memory, in spring 2009, a
Haitian construction worker allegedly killed his boss after he was refused
payment. Later, a group of family members and friends of the victim encircled the
worker and beheaded him. One person was arrested in connection with the crime,
and rather than implement anti-hate legislation, the Dominican state identified the
act as solely an isolated incident, and failed to take further action. These and
similar episodes are recounted by many Haitians in Santo Domingo, marking it as
systemic but not institutional.
Finally, all classes of Haitian populations in the city are being affected by
anti-Haitianism. University students from across various campuses have reported
being mistreated in the academic setting (D'Oleo 2008), including speaking
poorly of Haiti, speaking poorly to them, treating them as inferiors, and being
rejected because of their skin colour. Even light-skinned students in elite settings
have had professors lecture the class that they "should not be like the Haitians [and
cheat in class]" (Elizabeth Voltaire, personal communication, 2009).
This last aspect of the new anti-Haitianism again reveals the changing same
of the pathology associated with being Haitian. The two other parts of the new
anti-Haitianism bring back the issue ofneoliberalism. With the state limiting itself
to the facilitation of generation and accumulation of capital, it is logical to have
differential applications of state power toward migrant groups, protecting those
immediately beneficial in a market setting and excluding those with lower-valued
skills in order to more easily exploit and extract surplus value from them.
Additionally, it makes sense for the state to maintain efficient control over private
citizens while ensuring it does not formally dictate how people should act in daily
life, even if it is systematically racist.
As stated above, the new capital flows associated with the changes in the
contemporary Dominican political economy, allow for new spaces for advocacy.
In addition to groups like the Movimiento de Mujeres Dominico-Haitianas
(MUDHA) that serve subsequent generations of ethnic Haitians, several
organizations work with first-generation Haitians in the lower and upper classes.
The Jesuit Service for Refugees and Migrants (SJRM) was created after the 1991
coup d'6tat in Haiti to "accompany refugees and forced migrants in their personal
and legal processes for empowerment so that they may constitute social subjects,
recognized as people and incorporated into society with projects for their own
lives, both as individuals and as a collective" (SJRM 2010). In addition to legal
counsel and representation, the SJRM organizes conferences, conducts and
supports advocacy through research, and offers course in Krey6l and Spanish. At
almost every university campus, there are Haitian student organizations. Some act
as a social outlet, while others work to support new arrivals to the country and give
advice on legal paperwork processes. There is a blanket organization, the
Fundaci6n Universitaria Socio Cultural de los Haitianos Activos en la Republica
Dominicana (FUSCHARD), which coordinates with groups from many
universities in Santo Domingo as well as in Santiago. In addition to social
functions, it serves to "preserve the rights of its members" and assist students in
"meeting their goals and helping, to the extent afforded by law, Haitians living in
difficult conditions in the [Dominican Republic]".
In conclusion, the changes in the contemporary Dominican political
economy reveal how neoliberalism connects with daily life. The origin and flows
of capital no longer are associated with the state but with private and/or
international entities, as the apparatus reduces its activities according to capitalist
logic. Shifts in the productive elements of the economy allow for new Haitian
migrant insertion, both for the lower and upper classes. Capitalism allows for
novel advocacy and identities (including providing space for NGOs to take over
the role of the state as protector of rights), but it renders anti-Haitianism more
diffuse, making social and historical injustices more difficult to address.
Afterward: Remarks after the January 12 Earthquake
The island of Hispaniola experienced a 7.0 earthquake. Some remarks
related to these topics bear mentioning, specifically relating to migration and to
In the two weeks directly after the earthquake, significant numbers of
Haitians crossed the border in both directions. Lower class Haitians traveled to see
if their family and friends were still alive or at least sent money. Haitian medical
students at Dominican universities traveled to Jimani to provide support. Haitian
professionals were either donating their time as translators in Haiti, in Jimani, and
in Santo Domingo, or facilitating evacuation of family and friends. Returning to
Santo Domingo, I found a notable increase in Haitians. Everywhere I went, in
even affluent areas, Kreyol and/or French was much more prevalent. While many
upper class Haitians came for a vacation or to "de-stress", some people came
looking for opportunities to continue studying or to work. Others still were
helicoptered in by international NGOs (like Medecins Sans Frontieres) as medical
refugees. Clearly Haitians were participating in novel migratory behavior, and
almost exclusively using private (rather than state) capital.
With this influx, contrary to what one might think, not only were there
surprisingly few negative reactions, but also there were several gestures to the
contrary. Upon learning of my work with medical refugees, Dominicans regularly
provided sympathetic comments that "it must be so sad there". One popular
morning radio show castigated many callers for being anti-Haitian and added that
people needed to accept and celebrate Sonia Pierre as a "national hero"25. This
good will extended to institutions, as well. Dominicans and Haitians worked
together at the SONAPI base in Haiti for the Dominican Red Cross. Also,
President Fernmndez intimated that the UASD may forgive tuition payments for
Haitian students for that semester. It seemed like change was in the air.
I. "Benito" refers to an area north of the Zona Colonial, south of Avenida Mexico,
west of Calle Enriquillo, and east of Emile Proudhomme. The term Pequeflo Haiti is
used less frequently and ambivalently by Haitians, being more often invoked by
Dominicans attempting to denigrate the area. Greater Santo Domingo includes the
District Nacional, i.e., the city of Santo Domingo, and Santo Domingo province, i.e.,
the areas immediately to the north, west, and east of the city.
2. A chacabana, also called a guavabera, is a shirt with four pockets in the front,
usually white and short-sleeved.
3. By commodity chains, I refer to "the overall group of economic agents (or the
relevant activities of those agents) that contribute directly to the determination of a final
product" (Tallec and Bockel 2005)
4. For a related work on unity and disjuncture in a US urban context, see Glick 1972).
5. Of particular interest is the 1960s bracero program between the Haitian and
Dominican governments, whereby Haitian workers were sent to the DR, and a portion of
wages kept by the Haitian government for workers' reintegration after the harvest.
6. These plantations were organized first under direction of foreign capital,
subsequently by Generalissimo Trujillo, and finally, after 1961, under the Dominican
state (Lozano 1997).
7. My thanks to former Ambassador Guy Alexandre and former Haitian Consul
Edwin Paraison for helping me identify these categories.
8. Two examples of these are: "the cockroach is never right in front of the chicken",
pointing to the idea of "might makes right", and "a rich black person is a milat, a poor
milat is black". Milat in Krey6l refers to the colonial constructed racial category of
offspring produced from a member of the white planter or administrative classes and a
black slave or black member of the affranchise class.
9. I follow the model of Portes (1994), Itzigsohn (2000), and Gregory (2006) in my
understanding that the informal economy in some way articulates with the formal
10. I do not include tourism, as Haitians in Santo Domingo do not significantly
participate in this sector.
11. My thanks to Prof. Gerald Murray for reminding me of the existence of this group
early in my research.
12. I recognize that in both cases, labour-power is involved, but in the former, its value
is fused with that of a commodity for sale whereas in the latter, the labour-power itself is
13. Colmado-s are small corner stores, elsewhere called bodegas.
14. A tricicleta is a full-sized tricycle with a cart on the front for holding oranges.
Other materials include a juicer, cups and straws, a cooler for ice, and containers for
15. Mercado Nuevo is one of the major receptor sites in Santo Domingo for
agricultural goods that are grown across the country.
16. A carro ptblico, or public car, is a common form of public transport, each which
has its specific routes. A depo is where people store their tricicleta or cart and
merchandise while they are not working.
17. Some of this material is based upon my research, but much of it comes from the
report by the Jesuit Service (SJRM 2008).
18. As of 2008, the minimum wage was 414 pesos per day, approximately US$12.
19. Some of this material is based upon my research, but much of it comes from the
report by Wooding and Sangro (2008). In this section, I do not deal with restavek-s, or
child servants from Haiti, though the practice does extend across the island.
20. This section unfortunately limits its discussion to male-female sex work encounters.
See Brennan 2004 for more, and Padilla 2007 for a good discussion of male-male sex
21. As of 2009, amounts for services ranged from a low of 500 pesos to 1500 pesos
22. Though an extensive discussion cannot be provided here, the demands of labour in
Haiti fall squarely in the medical field, agricultural management, and secondarily in
small business and computer work.
23. All names in this article are pseudonyms unless the person is acting in a public
capacity, as in a politician.
24. Reportedly in 2008, a West African professional was picked up and deported twice
to Haiti, though he had no ties to the country, other than being associated with it by the
fact that he had dark skin.
25. The day prior, Secretary of State Clinton awarded Ms. Pierre and several other
women across the globe with awards for their outstanding contribution to women's rights
in their respective countries.
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Lozano, Wilfredo. 2001: Los Trabajadores del Capitalismo Exportador. Coleccion del
Banco Central de la Repuiblica Dominicana.
Martinez, Samuel. 1995: Peripheral Migrants. Knoxville: University of Tennessee
Moya Pons, Frank. 1986 : El Batey. Santo Domingo, Republica Dominicana: Fondo para
el Avance de las Ciencias Sociales.Murphy, Martin F. 1991: Dominican Sugar
Plantations. New York: Praeger Publishers.
Nufiez, Padre Jose. 2008: Presentation at the screening of El desafio de la convivencia,
April 3. Plaza de la Cultura. Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
Paraison, Edwin 2009: Presentation for Haitian Community by Ministere des Haitiens
Vivant a 1'Etranger (MHAVE), November 12. Centro Bon6. Santo Domingo,
Schwerdtfeger, Martin. 2008: Dominican Republic's GDP expands 8.5% in 2007.
Global Insight Report. March 2008
Sili6, Ruben, Carlos Segura, and Carlos Dore Cabral, 2002 : La Nueva Inmigraci6n
Haitiana. Santo Domingo, Repiblica Dominicana: FLACSO.
SJRM (Servicio Jesuita a Refugiados y Migrantes) 2008 : "Entre lo real, lo establecido, y
lo deseable" Estudio de las condiciones labourales de los inmigrantes haitianos que
trabajan en el sector construcci6n en el Distrito Nacional de la Repiblica Dominicana..
Santo Domingo: SJRM.
(Servicio Jesuita a Refugiados y Migrantes) 2010 : Servicio Jesuita a Refugiados y
Migrantes. Online document.http://www.sirdom.org/spip/. Accessed November 15,
Smucker, Glenn R. and Gerald F. Murray, 2004: The Uses of Children: A Study of
Trafficking in Haitian Children. Port-au-Prince, Haiti: USAID/Haiti Mission.
Tallec, Fabien and Louis Bockel, 2005: Commodity Chain Analysis. Food and
Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. Online Document.
http://www.fao.org/docs/up/easvpol/330/cca 043en.pdf.Accessed December 12, 2009.
Traub-Wemer, Marion. 2008: "La globalizaci6n, el libro comercio y la frontera
haitiano-dominicana". In Ciudades en la Frontera, Haroldo Dilla Alfonso, ed. Pp.
205-230. Santo Domingo: Editora Manati.
Trouillot, Michel-Rolph. 1992 : "The Caribbean Region: an Open Frontier in
Anthropological Theory." Annual Review of'Anthropology 21:19-42.
Turits, Richard Lee. 2002: A World Destroyed, A Nation Imposed: The 1937 Haitian
Massacre in the Dominican Republic. Hispanic American Review 82(3):589-635.
Wooding, Bridget and Richard Moseley-Williams. 2004: Inmigrantes Haitianos y
Dominicanos de Ascendencia Haitiana en la Repuiblica Dominicana. Santo Domingo:
Cooperacion Internacional para el Desarollo.
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From English for Dominicans to Dominican
Dominica was officially ceded to Britain in 1763 at the end of the Seven
Years' War, after more than a century of rivalry between that nation and France for
possession of it. At that time, three different languages were in general use on the
island-Island Carib, the language of the indigenous inhabitants, French, the
language of the first European settlers, and Kwey6l ('French Creole') or Patwa,
spoken by African slaves who had originally come to Dominica mainly from the
neighboring French islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe.
The new administration soon took steps to establish English as the official
language. Thus, in 1770, it was decreed that all Deeds, Conveyances and other
instruments of writing, except wills and testaments, should be written in English.
This Act was repealed during a five- year period of French control from 1778 to
1783, but it was revived on the return of the English. A proclamation in 1771
announced the Anglicisation of several place-names, but this was largely
unsuccessful, as most of the places mentioned in it have retained their original
names to this day. They include the capital Roseau, which was to have been
renamed Charlotteville after the wife of the English king. Portsmouth, the second
town, on what was then labelled Prince Rupert's Bay, is still popularly known as
Gwantans, a name derived from the French Grande Anse.
The English language faced stiff competition from French, largely due in
the first place to the continuing influence of the French settlers. These had been
offered renewable leases for an initial period of not less than seven years, on
condition that they consented to take the oath of allegiance to the King of England.
These leases covered a maximum of three hundred acres and it was further decreed
that each lessee, his heirs or assigns, should pay to the King of England, his heirs or
successors, the sum of two shillings sterling per annum for every two acres of land
of which the lease consisted. The French residents were, moreover, forbidden, for
a limited period, to dispose of their land without the governor's permission. Many
of them complied and stayed on, despite having been denied political power
(Baker 1994: 63). Their loyalty to the British remained shaky, however, especially
during three unsuccessful attempts by French invaders to capture the island
between 1793 and 1805, during the Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars.
These French settlers were mainly small-holders. However, they not only
outnumbered the English but also had the most valuable plantations. This resulted
from the profitability of their coffee production, which lasted until well into the
nineteenth century. An anonymous writer commented as follows:
"In Dominica which was first settled by the French, many of the
coffee planters are still Frenchmen or their descendants, speaking
the French language, and being French in manners and habits, as
are also their slaves, though living in a British colony." (A
According to Trouillot (1988: 54), at the time of the abolition of slavery in
1834, coffee production still accounted for a half of Dominica's export revenues.
However, the importance of the French planters declined by the end of the
nineteenth century after their coffee plantations had been attacked by blight.
A far more lasting barrier to the spread of English than French, as such, was
the 1 French-lexifier Creole (Kwey6l) spoken by the vast majority of African
slaves. According to Borome (1967: 37), in 1763, the population of Dominica had
consisted of 1,718 Whites, 500 free Negroes and 5,872 slaves. The slave
population, therefore, even then, outnumbered Europeans 3:1. Many additional
Africans who landed on the island after Roseau and Portsmouth became free ports
in 1766, were destined for other islands; but the number actually living on
Dominica rose sharply after the establishment of labour-intensive sugar
plantations during the first decade of British rule.
The mountainous topography of Dominica was in fact unsuited to large
sugar estates of the kind which generally existed elsewhere in the Caribbean.
Several would-be planters from Britain, daunted by the rough terrain, returned to
the Mother Country after only a short stay on the island. Despite this, however,
efforts by the British to establish a sugar industry did meet with some success in
the first few decades after the cession, on estates which were situated on relatively
flat land in the larger river valleys.
By 1772, there were 15,755 African slaves, according to a Report on the
State of His Majesty's Island of Dominica (C.O.71/2). The same Report added
that in the following year the number was further increased by nearly three
thousand by the sale of many Guinea Cargoes which had been sold to the planters.
In 1783, at the end of the American Revolutionary War, after the island had been
temporarily in French hands, the number had fallen. Still, Atwood (1791) reported
that eight years later there were between fifteen and sixteen thousand. From a high
of 22,100 in 1805, two years before the abolition of the slave trade, the number fell
to 14,200 in 1834, the year when slavery was abolished (Curtin1969: 65). The
decline was due not only to the cessation of legal trading, but also partly to the fact
that many slaves from the British estates had escaped to the mountains during the
period. There they had joined the maroons, earlier runaways who had remained
loyal to the French after the British take-over.
Kw6y6l became the language of most of the Africans who arrived after
1763. After more than two centuries of British rule, it has remained the first
language of the majority of Dominicans, including the descendants of the
indigenous Caribs who eventually abandoned the regular use of their ancestral
language in the early twentieth century.
The persistent problem of communication between British officials and
Kw6eyl-speaking locals is indicated in a report in 1897 by J. Spencer Churchill, a
former Commissioner of Dominica, in which he stated that Government officials
were seldom able to acquire knowledge of the patois. He further pointed out that
the necessity for interpretation in the courts and inability to hold converse with the
people at all times interposed an almost impassable barrier between them and the
bulk of the population. Even well into the twentieth century, it was considered
necessary for the Village Councils' Ordinance to state specifically that voters as
well as candidates for election should be able to speak, read and write English.
Universal adult suffrage was achieved in 1951, so at least where the voters are
concerned, that restriction no longer applies. Nevertheless, according to the
Constitution, ability to use English is a stated prerequisite for membership of the
House of Representatives and for nomination to the Senate (The Dominican
Constitution Order, 1978, Sections 31.1cand 31.2 c).
A number of English planters came to Dominica from Antigua and
Montserrat after the cession in 1763 and settled mainly in the north-east of the
island. They brought with them African slaves who spoke a form of
English-lexifier creole. This survives today as Kokoy. It was reinforced over the
years by further contacts with its Leeward Island sources, especially during the
period from 1871 to 1939 when Dominica was part of the Leeward Islands
Colony. Kokoy is still restricted mainly to the Marigot-Wesley-Woodford Hill
areas of north-eastern Dominica and parts of Portsmouth. It remains recognizably
different from what is referred to in this paper as Dominican English, as should be
evident from even a cursory glance at the following two short samples. It contrasts
even more sharply, given the different European source of most of its vocabulary,
with the Kw6ybl spoken by the majority of Dominicans.
Sample of Kokoy2
(The speaker was a 13 year-old school girl living in the village of Marigot).
Igo we a Bra Rabit huom. Ise: "Mi waan migren weyu tek". Ise:
"A no mi tek om. "Bra Rabit dig diip diip huol. ...I gitop an i se:
"Mi a gofi mipikaks. Mi a go dig om op. Wen i dig, di liki bway no
[He went away to Brer Rabbit's home. He said: "I want my grain
that you took." He said: "It's not I who took it." Brer Rabbit dug
(a) very deep hole. He got up and he said: "I am going for my pick-
axe. I'm going to dig it up". When he dug, the little boy said
Sample of Dominican English.
(The speaker was a former household helper, 54 years old, living in the
village of Colihaut on the west coast, about ten miles from Roseau.)
My name is T... but they calling me S... I have seven children with a
man, but Isee nothing in it so I leave that. I was making some
coals to raise up those children because the man leave me... They
did have a nice church but somebody put a candle to it. Nobody
didn know an it ketch.
['My name is T...but they call me S... I had seven children with a
man, but I saw noting in it so I left that. I used to make coal to raise
those children because the man left me...They had a nice church
but someone put a candle to it and it caught (fire).]
The roots of Dominican English
It is likely that the first Dominican-born persons who attempted to learn
English were mainly the few individuals who interacted informally with British
officials in Roseau and to a lesser extent Portsmouth. In order to communicate
with the foreigners, these must have used a pidgin consisting largely of isolated
English words and phrases, at least to begin with. However, there is no
documented evidence of its existence. What we do know is that English came to
be taught formally in schools. The first of these were started even before the
Emancipation from slavery, on the so-called English estates in the north-east and
in Roseau and Portsmouth. In 1840, two years after full Emancipation, 20 schools
were established out of funds from the Mico Charity for Negro Education.
An allegation was made in one newspaper that only a few of the would-be
legislators articulated English decently, and that a still smaller number of them
were able to write it with any degree of accuracy or propriety (Colonist newspaper,
July 1, 1854, cited by Borom6, 1972:121). These legislators would certainly have
included some of the coloured persons who had achieved prominence in public life
by the early 1830s, during the so-called Mulatto Ascendancy. The allegation
might not have been entirely influenced by the editor's well-known political bias
against the coloured group, many of whom were descendants of free mulattoes
from Martinique and Guadeloupe, who had settled in Dominica and spoke mainly
French and/or Kw6y6l. Indeed, Borom6 (1959:14) referred to animated patois
(i.e. Kw6ybl) expressions being hurled across the floor of the Assembly at one
stage during a heated debate.
Outside of public life, there was, for a long time, little incentive to learn
English, as there was little need for it in everyday social interaction. Even in public
life, it was not always necessary. According to the Inspector of Schools in his
Report (1869), several years after the Emancipation and the official introduction
of English-medium education by the State, there was still practically no necessity
to speak English in the course of business, or before the courts of law where every
question had to be translated into French to almost every witness, or in the exercise
of public worship, most of the resident clergy not even understanding English. In
at least some of these cases, reference to French included Kw6y6l, which is even
now considered by many to be merely broken French.
The process of acquiring English as a second language was initiated several
times over, both simultaneously and in successive generations, as different
individuals were exposed in varying degrees to one or another form of English
speech. There has been relatively little immigration into Dominica from outside
the Caribbean. Douglas Taylor (1977: 227) observed that even in the latter half of
the twentieth century, opportunities for hearing -and especially for using- what
might pass for Standard English had been and still were rare in small islands like
The formal teaching of English was seen to present a particularly serious
challenge in an environment where the official medium of education was so
recognizably different from the mother tongue of the Kw6y6l-speaking majority
of learners. C.P. Lucas (1890:166) articulated this problem approximately
half-a-century after the introduction of formal education:
"In Dominica, English education meets with a special difficulty as
a century and a quarter of British occupation has not removed the
traces of French settlement and the ordinary language is a patois
more or less French"
In any event, education was accessible to only a few. The 20 Mico schools
established in 1840 are reported to have had an average attendance of only 740
pupils. (Honychurch 1995:200)
The situation still left very much to be desired approximately a century later.
In 1947, there were still only 38 primary schools and four secondary schools on the
island, the latter all located in Roseau. Thirty- five of the primary schools were
Government Schools and the remaining three were grant-aided under the
management of the Roman Catholics. In that same year, the percentage of
illiteracy was estimated at 40% (Colonial Office Report, 1947). Largely because
of the mountainous nature of the island, settlement patterns and very poor internal
communication, there were many isolated villages which remained with little or no
access to education and therefore a majority of monolingual Kwey6l speakers.
This situation is illustrated by a report in the Dominica Tribune in October 1946
that at the opening of junior school at Pennville in the extreme north of the island,
the Inspector of Schools, realizing that many of those present understood little
English, repeated the gist of his speech in Kweyol. Pennville and the nearby
village of Vieille Case have traditionally had close ties to the nearby French
islands of Les Saintes and Marie Galante, dependencies of Guadeloupe.
Dominican English developed over the years as a second language used for
communication in specific domains between British officials and their employees,
teachers and their pupils, parents and their children, children and their peers, in
that order. Gradually, the interaction came to be mainly between Dominican and
Dominican, especially in Roseau and Portsmouth. The type of interaction involved
in each of these cases has had very important implications for the nature of the
input and its effect on outcomes, including its contribution to the reinforcement of
linguistic innovations. Over the years English has spread to new contexts of use,
gradually including the home more and more. From being largely an urban variety
it is slowly being expanded to more and more rural areas.
The earliest teachers would have been missionaries, especially Methodists
on the plantations owned by the English, and in Roseau and Portsmouth. In 1832,
before slavery was abolished, the Methodists had six schools, whereas the Roman
Catholics had only one. Charles Gordon Falconer, editor of the Dominican, a
newspaper founded by the coloured elite in 1839, was an immigrant from
Barbados who taught for a while in Mico Charity schools before entering politics
(Borom6, 1959:11). He may not have been the only Barbadian school-teacher at
the time. Other teachers came from Antigua. However, some teachers were
certainly bilingual speakers of Kwey6l and English by the latter half of the
nineteenth century. The Inspector of Schools in 1873 reported, approvingly, that
some of them made the children render sentences of French patois into English
conversationally. It is likely, however, that this practice of translating Kwey6l into
English in the classroom was partly responsible for the loan translations calquess)
that became a significant feature of Dominican English. Another Inspector had
reported in 1869 that some teachers used Kw6yol to convey to their pupils at much
extra labour, the ideas represented by the lessons those pupils could so fluently
read and repeat without commanding even a glimpse of their meaning. In this case,
the main motivation for using Kw6y6l was clearly to pass on information rather
than to teach English.
Although by 1946 approximately two-thirds of the population (69%) was,
according to the Census Report for that year, bilingual in English and Kw6yol, and
just over 6% monolingual in English, the so-called English of the bilinguals, and
even that of some English monolinguals, still spanned a wide range of usage both
as regards closeness to Standard English and the extent of use. It is highly likely
that the word 'English' used in the census figures simply meant 'not Kw6y6l'. It
would also very likely have included Kokoy.
Despite the evidence that some teachers made use of Kw&y6l in the
classroom, it was traditionally assumed by many of them that teaching English
should and would lead to the eradication of Kw6y6l. For years, teachers in
Dominica, as happened with vernaculars elsewhere, banned its use, not only in the
classroom but even in the playground. In fact, a letter to the Beacon newspaper in
1875 claimed that a certain school had not been recommended for special aid
because the Inspector of Schools had discovered that the teacher spoke Kw6y6l to
the children. Even as late as 1945, a memorandum from the Educational Adviser
for Colonial Development and Welfare stated that the aim should be not to make
the children bilingual but ultimately to make English their mother tongue ( quoted
by Goodridge 1972:160). However, as was pointed out in the Biennial Report of
the Department of Education for 1949/50, when not under supervision, in the
playground or on the road or in the home in other words, everywhere but in the
classroom-the pupils quite naturally lapsed back into their native tongue.
Relatively recent developments
Over the last half-century or so, major developments in education at the
pre-primary, primary, secondary and tertiary levels and significant improvements
in internal and external communication have coincided with a noticeable increase
in the number of speakers of some form of English, including monolingual
speakers of it. This has been so despite the fact that these developments have been,
and still are, unevenly distributed, both geographically and across social classes
and age groups. Generally, English has gradually acquired greater attractiveness
in the eyes of the local population. The advantages to be derived from its
association with education and socio-economic advancement at home and abroad
have become more evident as links within Dominica and also with the outside
Anglophone world have improved.
English is the language heard almost exclusively on the streets of Roseau
today, in contrast to even twenty years ago. Parents, even many of those who
reside in remote rural areas, more and more actively encourage the use of English
by addressing their children in that language as far as they are able and by
expecting them to reply in like manner. Most importantly, they send them to
school wherever possible. Universal access to primary education was reported to
have been achieved by 1960 and completion rates was said to have been close to
100% (Dominica: World Education Forum: EFA 2000 Assessment, Country
Report). In a recent CIA Report (2006). 94% of the total population was estimated
to have attended school at some time or other. Attendance at school does not, of
course, automatically confer competence in English. Nevertheless, already in
1955 Douglas Taylor had noted that the number of Dominicans who were able or
anxious to express themselves in some sort of English as a secondary language
was increasing considerably (Taylor 1955: 45). Fluency in some variety of
English is no longer primarily associated with the urban middle class
Characteristics of Dominican English (DE)
The label 'Dominican English' is used here as an umbrella term for the
mainly English-lexicon vernacular. While this label covers a very broad spectrum
of features, it excludes Kokoy. Its characteristic features are evident at some time
or other in the usage of speakers who are clearly not aiming at the traditional
external norm. These 'fossilized' features are nowadays an integral part of what is
normally acquired by the majority of those Dominicans who have English as either
a second or a first language. At least within Dominica, all varieties of this
vernacular are referred to as English, seen by the speakers themselves as distinct
from both Kokoy and Kw6y6l.
In Dominican English, as in creoles, there is often no formal indication of
past time reference or plural number, but it lacks the basilectal forms of the
pre-verbal tense and aspect markers, for example, mi/ben (past) and (d)a
(progressive) and the use of the plural marker -dem, which are found in
English-lexifier Caribbean creoles including Kokoy. Further, the Dominican
English personal pronouns make the same distinctions between subject and object
that are to be found in internationally accepted Standard English, for example,
between I (Subject) and me (Object) and he/she(Subject) him/her (Object) in
contrast to, for example, Kokoy mi (Subject and Object) and i (Subject), om
(Object). Unlike the traditional external model of English, however, Dominican
English, like the creoles, frequently distinguishes second person singular (DEyou)
from second person plural (DE all you/vou all). Further, although in both
Dominican English and the relevant creoles, double negatives are frequent (DE
nobody didn know) and the negative marker immediately precedes the main verb
without the use of an auxiliary, in DE the markers are consistently not, don't, or
didn 't, rather than basilectal no.
The language of immigrants from Barbados or the Leeward Islands appears
to have had very little direct influence on Dominican English, despite the known
presence of school teachers in these groups. The fact that more recently school
teachers have often come from the Kokoy-speaking areas of Dominica also
appears not to have had any significant linguistic consequences. Dominican
English has much in common with language varieties spoken in St Lucia and
Trinidad, but this derives largely from their shared history of French- lexifier
Creole speakers having come in contact with speakers of English. Apart from the
previously mentioned links with the Leeward Islands, most informal contacts by
Dominicans have traditionally been with the inhabitants of the French islands,
their closest neighbours, with whom they have traditionally had a common
Among the characteristic features of Dominican English are several calques,
i.e. loan translations, from Kw6yol. These include:
(a) Expression of age:
1. My mother has eighty years. 'My mother is 80 years old.' (cf.
Kwey6l: ni ... nanne 'have.. .years')
(b) Existential sentences
2. It had a policeman by the name of... 'There was a policeman by
the name of...' (cf. Kwey6l: I t ni...'It had')
(c) Expressions concerning the weather
3. It was making dark when Igot up. 'It was dark when I got up.'
(cf. Kw6y6l. I te kafe nwe 'It was making dark')_
(d) Expressions of negation
4. Not to do that (cf. Kw6y6l: Pafe sa. 'Not do that')
5. They not yet pass (cf. Kw6y6l: p6 k6 'not yet').
(e)Expression of obligation
6. He had to come last week 'He should have come last week'
(cf. Kw6y6l: ni pou 'have to')
Integrated loanwords are an even more obvious feature. Among these are
words which have clear cultural associations of various kinds, for example, some
associated with folklore, carnival, food and cultural practices. They also include
emotional responses such as cursing, exclamations, tags, and some adverbials, the
meanings of which are often expressed more concisely in Kw6y6l than in English.
The following examples illustrate these categories:
(i) Words associated with folklore: e.g. kont 'a traditional story'; konmpe
(as inKonmpe Tig 'Brer Tiger'); soukouyan 'vampire'.
(ii) Words associated with culturally-linked entertainment: e.g. mas
'carnival'; bile 'a traditional dance'; wob douwiyet 'a traditional costume'.
(iii) Words associated with other cultural practices: e.g. vep 'something
received without payment' (often a lift in a motor vehicle) derived from the fact
that no collection was taken at evening services in churches. The word vep comes
from French Vepres 'Vespers'.
(iv) Names of local foods: e.g. braf 'broth' (This was quite early
assimilated into Kw6y6l from English); farin 'cassava flour' (A distinction is
usually made between the Dominican English form and its Kwey6l counterpart
with /w/, i.e. fawin); bouden 'black pudding'.
(v) Names of plants and animals: e.g. kwapo 'a type of frog'; kokoy 'a fruit
which appears to be a cross between a banana and a plantain'; dowad 'a kind of
fish'; siwik 'a type of crab'; zaboka 'avocado'.
(vi)Words associated with cursing. e.g. mepwi 'slanderous statements';
(vii) Exclamations, e.g. Bonnje! 'Good Heavens!'; Elas! 'Alas'; Bwavo!
(viii) Tags: wi, no, as in You are stupid wi/no.
(ix) Adverbials: e.g. afos 'to such an extent', as in: Afos the boy rude and
bold; ti-tak 'a short while ago', as in: I saw him pass ti-tak.
Many grammatical features, too, illustrate transfer from Kw&y6l. Many of
these reflect under-specification in Kw6y6l structure vs. Standard English
structure, or vice versa. As an example of the former, whereas Standard English
distinguishes formally between past and past-before-past time reference,
Dominican English, as is the case with Caribbean creoles, including Kwey6l, often
does not. Thus,
7. They saw the sofa the same place where it was contrasts with
Standard English They saw the sofa at the same place where it had
Again, in contrast with Standard English, habitual/iterative aspect is
not formally distinguished from the progressive in either Dominican English or
Kwey6l. Kwy61l uses ka +V in these cases and Dominican English uses (be)
8. 1 was making coals to raise up those children.
(habitual/iterative past action)
9. Sometimes they eating more than four pounds offood. (habitual
/ iterative, non-past action)
Habitual does occurs in Dominica, but it is relatively uncommon. Its
immediate source is probably Antigua. (See Farquhar, 1974: 52).
Some other examples from Dominican English which reflect
under-specification in Kw6ybl vs. Standard English are in the area of word
meanings. For example,
(i) Where the meanings of two Standard English verbs are represented by a
single verb in Kweyol, Dominican English follows Kwey6l. For example, DE
'bring' is equivalent to SE 'bring' and 'take' (cf. Kwey6l po6t), DE 'meet' to SE
'join', 'meet up with'/ 'find' (cf. Kwey6oljwenn), and DE 'borrow' to SE 'lend'
and 'borrow'(cf. Kw6y6l pwetd). Thus,
10. I must bring some sandwiches to work. 'I must take some
sandwiches to work.' [The speaker was not at work.]
11. I can't meet him at all. 'I can't meet up with/find him at all.'
12. Borrow me your pen. 'Lend me your pen.'
(ii) The single Kw6y6l word sa corresponds in meaning with Standard
English this (indicating proximity) and that (indicating distance). Dominican
English uses the same two forms, but it does not always make the same semantic
distinction between them as is made in Standard English. Thus,
11. It was Vincent that built this house. 'It was Vincent that built
that house.' [The speaker was not in the house in question]
12. All the police that pass here was renting that house. 'All the
policemen who passed through here rented this house.' [The
speaker was in the house in question.]
The use of prepositions in Dominican English merits separate discussion.
Sometimes where no preposition is required in Kw6y6l, both Standard English and
Dominican English use one, but not the same one. Thus, one finds, for example, of
following accustomed, as in:
13. Whatever he is accustomed of doing (Dominican English) vs.
Standard English Whatever he is accustomed to do (vs. Kw6y6l:
akoutime fe ...).
The use of at before a place name that follows a verb expressing motion
towards is also worthy of note. This is illustrated in:
14. When have you gone at Portsmouth? (Dominican English) vs.
Standard English When have you gone to Portsmouth? (vs.
Kw6y6l: ale Gwantans 'go Portsmouth').
The choice of preposition in this case is explained by the fact that the
direction of movement is here encoded in the verb rather than the preposition. This
is a regular feature of some West African languages (See, for example, Michaelis
and Kriegel 2004). A similar explanation accounts for Kw6ybl: pwan adan
literally 'take in' vs. Standard English 'take from' and Kw6y6l: leve asi literally
'get up on' vs. Standard English get off 'get down from'. However, in these
cases, the corresponding Dominican English structures
15. Take some in it.
16. Get up on my bed
The use of at in
17. 1 sent Jacqueline at home (Dominican English) follows the same
principle, but here the use of the preposition contrasts with both Standard English
go home and Kw6y61 ale lakay where home and lakay, respectively, are used
The phonology of Dominican English has not been considered in this paper,
despite its many very striking features. Some aspects of what he considered the
basilect were described by Amastae (1974). Some of these, too, reflect transfer
from Kw6y6l, although, as in the case of the grammar and lexicon, this is not the
only relevant factor.
Douglas Taylor (1977:224) predicted that with the development of
education, the French Creole in Dominica would one day give way to a variety of
English "heavily tinged with creolisms". The pressures on the population as a
whole to use English are now much stronger than the pressures to use Kwey6l,
resulting in the fact that deliberate efforts to preserve Kw6y6l have now been
considered necessary. Predictions of the imminent demise of Kw6y6l have been
made over the years by Symington Grieve (1906), Le Page (1967), Stuart (1993),
and more recently by Parkvall (2003). Now, more than ever, Kw6y6l is under
threat from English, and in more ways than one. Taylor (1955:50) already
observed that its vocabulary and grammar had for some time been affected by the
spread of English. According to him, the deliberate Anglicisation attempted by the
schools had resulted for the most part, not in achieving greater proficiency in
English, but in further diminishing the adequacy of Kw6y6l, by teaching young
children to use a number of English lexemes before they were old enough to have
become habituated to the equivalents in their primary language. Words to express
new concepts in Kw6yol are increasingly borrowed from English. The phonology
of Kw6y6l, and to a lesser extent its morphology, have also been affected. For
example, the denasalisation of vowels and the sporadic addition of English bound-
forms to Kw6y6l stems have both become more noticeable in recent decades.
In Dominica, English is still largely the language of urbanization and
education and all that is associated with these, including membership of a higher
social class. It has become more and more also the language associated with the
church, the mass media on the whole and international relations, including links
with Anglophone Caribbean neighbours. All these associations have become
more relevant for Dominicans of all social backgrounds within the past
half-century. It is ironic that the ambition of the early British colonialists to
establish English as the language of all Dominicans appears likely to be fulfilled in
the aftermath of political independence from Britain. At the same time, it is clear
that what has emerged, at least for informal communication, is not simply an
imposed medium, but one which strongly reflects the experience and culture,
including the traditional language, of the people who have adopted it. In this
respect, Dominica is not unlike many other parts of the world which have
witnessed the birth of'new Englishes' as a result of colonialism (see, for example,
Mesthrie and Bhatt 2008).
I. This is a revised version of a paper presented at the Conference of the Society for
Caribbean Linguistics, held in Roseau, Dominica, in August, 2006.
2. The orthography for Kokoy is based on Cassidy and Le Page (1961).
3. The orthography for Kw6y6l is based on Louisy, Perlette and Paule Turmel-John
Amastae, Jon 1979. Dominican English Creole Phonology: an Initial Sketch. In
Georgetown University Papers on Language and Linguistics 15: 83-122.
Atwood, Thomas 1791. The History of the Island of Dominica. London: J. Johnson.
Baker, Patrick L. 1994. centreing the Periphery. Chaos, Order and the Ethnohistory of
Dominica. Jamaica. Barbados. Trinidad: The Press, University of the West Indies.
Borom6, Joseph 1959. Charles Gordon Falconer. In Caribbean Quarterly, 6/4:11-17.
Borome, Joseph 1967. The French and Dominica, 1699-1763. In Jamaica Historical
Review 7: 9-39.
Borome, Joseph 1972. How Crown Colony Government Came to Dominica. Aspects of
Dominican History. Roseau, Dominica: Government Printing Division: 120-50.
Cassidy, F.G. and R. B. Le Page 1961 Lexicographical Problems of the Dictionary of
Jamaican English. In F.G. Cassidy and R.B. Le Page (eds.). Creole Language Studies II.
London: Macmillan and Co: 7-36.
Christie, Pauline 1969. A Socio-linguistic Study of Some Dominican Creole Speakers.
University of York (UK): unpublished D.Phil. thesis.
1982. Language Maintenance and Language Shift in Dominica. In
Caribbean Quarterly 28, 4:41-51.
1998. Dominica: a Sociolinguistic Profile. In UWILing, Working Papers
in Linguistics # 3. Mona, Jamaica: Dept. of Language, Linguistics and Philosophy:
Churchill, J. Spencer 1897. Dominica. A pamphlet. In Leeward Island Notes I. London:
Royal Commonwealth Society.
C071/2. 1773. Report on the State of His Majesty's Island of Dominica.
Curtin, Philip 1969. The Atlantic Slave Trade. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
Dominica 2006. CIA World Factbook.
Dominica 1947. Colonial Office Report. London: HMSO
Dominica 1771. Proclamation re Change of Place-names.
Dominica 1869, 1873. Reports of the Inspector of Schools.
Dominica 1946, 1871, 1970, 1980/81, 1991). Reports of Censuses.
Dominica 1949/50. Department of Education Biennial Report.
Dominica 1978. The Dominica Constitution Order.
Dominica 2000. World Education Forum, EFA. Assessment Country Report
Farquhar, Bernadette 1974. A Grammar of Antiguan Creole. Comell University:
Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation.
Goodridge, Cecil 1972. Dominica-the French Connection. In Aspects of Dominican
History. Dominica: Government Printing Division: 151-62.
Grieve, Symington 1906. Notes upon the Island of Dominica. London.
Honychurch, Lennox 1995. The Dominica Story: a History of the Island. Macmillan
Caribbean. Third edition.
2001. Slave Valleys, Peasant Ridges: Topography, Colour and Land
Settlement on Dominica. Paper Presented at Country Conference, Dominica.
Le Page, R.B. 1967. Review of R.A. Hall, Pidgin and Creole Languages. In Journal of
African Languages 6:83-86.
Louisy, Perlette and Paule Tunnel-John 1983. A Handbook for Writing Creole. Castries,
St. Lucia: Research St Lucia Publications.
Lucas, C.P. 1890. A Historical Geography of the British Colonies, Vol. 111. Oxford:
Oxford University Press.
Mesthrie, Rajend and Rakesh M. Bhatt 2008. World Englishes. The Study of New
Linguistic Varieties. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Michaelis, Susanne and Sybille Kriegel 2004. Encoding PATH in Creole Languages.
London: Unpublished Paper presented at Westminster Creolistics Workshop.
Parkvall, Mikael 2003. The Rise and Fall of French Creole in the Commonwealth Lesser
Antilles. In Anthony P. Grant (ed.) .Papers in Contact Linguistics. University of
Bradford: Dept. of Languages and European Studies: 113-163.
A Resident 1828. Sketches and Recollections of the West Indies. London.
Stuart, Stephanie 1993. Dominica Patwa- Mother-tongue or Cultural Relic? In IJSL
Taylor, Douglas 1955. Phonic Interference in Dominican Creole. In Word 11:45-52
Taylor, Douglas 1977. Languages of the West Indies. Baltimore The Johns Hopkins
Trouillot, Michel-Rolph 1988. Peasants and Capital: Dominica in the World Economy.
Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
V.S. Naipul and Islam
Quite often observers of the Islamic world have been writers who have not
necessarily developed a methodology from the social sciences, but all the same
their observations and viewpoints have had some impact on those who followed
V.S. Naipaul has been a keen observer of his own society and his own
cultural background has been a starting point for his observations on non-Western
societies. By his own admission, he admits that when he first started, in 1979, to
write about the Islamic world he knew almost nothing about Islam (See Prologue-
Among the Believers, Naipaul's introduction to travels through Islam, is a
solid starting point to analyze his perspectives on the religion that Muhammad
I do believe however that he should not be read out of context, but rather his
work on Islam should be linked to his novels and travel descriptions, underlining
his central point about the relationship between the developing world and the
West. It would be interest to compare these views if he had ever traveled to Japan,
South Korea, or the hustle and bustle of China today, where the process of
modernization has not encountered the hostility that seems to characterize those
other areas, such as the Islamic world, Africa, Caribbean, and Latin America.
In Naipaul, political Islam is rage, anarchy, destruction, mayhem. It is also
implicitly and sometimes explicitly stated that Islam is anti-moder, or that at least
that the believers don't care for the premises of the liberal, democratic world. The
current Al-Qaeda organized violence in the Arab and Islamic worlds from North
Africa to South East Asia adds an element of confirmation to the insights of
Naipaul. Should his observations be classified along a social-scientific lines, they
should be seen through the prism of the psychological and a social reactions to the
accelerated process of modernization and cultural interaction of the areas that he
describes with the Euro-American world. Their many cultural manifestations
broadcast today in a globalized world through instant communications from
satellite television to the internet add fuel to the rage and resentment born out of
the ideological mystifications of Islamic fundamentalist and Third-World
intellectuals in "explaining and interpreting the West" and its ostensible
domination and exploitation of the non-Western world.
Echoes of this standpoint can be gleaned through the ideological and
political pronouncement of the Iranian President, Ahmadinejad, and the clerical
establishment that controls him, in justifying the breaches of the nuclear
proliferation treaty and the denials of the Holocaust.
Naipaul's views of Islam as he wrote that book, should be seen within or
through the lenses of the Islamic revolution that exploded in Iran in February of
1979 and whose reverberations are seen today in the clash between Shiites and
Sunnis in the Near East and where the American war in Iraq has become the
starting point for the Iranian-Shiite expansion into the Gulf. The daily spectacle of
sectarian mayhem shows Naipaul's keen observation of the dynamic elements in
Islam during Khomeini's revolution and destruction of the old monarchical system
The current episodes of fundamentalism in the Sunni Islamic world should
be traced back to that revolutionary phenomenon that spurred the rise of Sunni
fundamentalism and the Wahhabi counter-reaction to Shiite encroachments in the
Persian Gulf and elsewhere in the Sunni world.
Naipaul is arguably one of the keenest observers of Islam without being an
Islamic specialist and his observations in his second book on the Islamic World,
Beyond Belief Islamic Excursions Among the Converted Peoples, are remarkable.
He writes in his prologue,
"Islam is in its origins an Arab religion. Everyone not an Arab who
is a Muslim is a convert. Islam is not simply a matter of conscious
or private belief, it makes imperial demands. A convert's world
view alters, his holy places are in Arab lands; his sacred language is
Arabic. His idea of history alters. He rejects his own; he becomes,
whether he likes it or not, a part of the Arab story. The convert has
to turn away from everything that is his. The disturbance for
societies is immense, and even after a thousand years can remain
unresolved; the turning away has to be done again and again.
People develop fantasies about who and what they are; in the Islam
of converted countries, there's an elements of neurosis and
nihilism. These countries can be easily set on the boil."
All writers, however, need to be analyzed in terms of the problematic themes
explored in their fiction and non-fiction, as they explore and fathom the realities of
the societies from which they spring.
The multicultural and colonial background of Naipaul should be first
explored to critically analyze his perceptions and attitudes towards the world of
Islam. Naipaul's experience with the people of the Islamic world can be traced
back to his upbringing in the Caribbean where an East Indian population had
moved with British rule into the area, some of Islamic faith. Trinidad and Guyana,
for example, are areas that saw an Islamic presence. However, in his "Caribbean"
writings he seldom touches on the Islamic presence in the area.
There were also influences in the sixties in the Caribbean that came from the
Black Muslim movement in the United States with its roots in Malcom X's
antipathy and racialism toward the White, Christian, European, American and
Jewish worlds. So one may say arguably that Naipaul's first brushes with the
Islamic world were in the Caribbean itself and they were not exactly very positive
encounters. (See Michael X and the Black Power Killings in Trinidad)
He was also familiar with the Islamic world in East Africa during his years
there, especially Uganda, but it is the Iranian Islamic revolution that brought his
face-to-face with the Islamic world in his travels. And regardless of the criticism of
Edward Said, who didn't think much of his book, the sequel was just as critical of
the Islamic world. Not in terms of any explicit statements, but in the description of
the day-to-day activities of people mired in tradition, mythology, and what
transpires very clearly resentment against the modem world.
The world of Islam was also explored tangentially in his books on India: An
Area of Darkness and India: Wounded Civilization. His critical and somewhat
negative perceptions of India came to be later modified by more positive views in
his book India: A Million Mutinies Now and which included later a defense of
Indian nationalism in light of the Islamic invasion of India in the sixteenth century
and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in South Asia. It should be remembered
that South Asia was originally a vast area dominated by a Hindu civilization that
either evolved in Buddhism, or that came to be destroyed by Islamic invaders. It is
also interesting to notice that democracy and political stability have not eluded the
Indian state as it has been the case with Pakistan, both born out of the British
His encounters with the religious dimensions of the Caribbean, and Africa,
should be seen through the prism of Naipaul's contrasting a modem, European
world with a post colonial social system attempt to fashion a new collective
identity under the pressures of political and economic modernization, a
modernization that implies very much an ability to transcend the past as a burden,
and to enter a world where an individual's choices can go beyond the established
boundaries of traditional societies. Compare and contrast for example The Middle
Passage: The Caribbean Revisited and The Loss of El Dorado: A Colonial
Every scene in Naipaul's work is a chance for him to display a Brahmin-like
or Mandarin-like detachment, and arguably scorn for the inability of individuals
and societies to adapt to the modern world, including segments within the
Anglo-American polities. See for example A Turn in the South and In a Free State.
It is evident that the modern world that is imprinted on his mind is that of the
British and North American experiences. In his essay "Reading and Writing",
written the New York Review of Books on Feb 18, 1999, Naipaul clearly outlines
his intellectual socialization. The statement,
"We were an immigrant Asian community on a small plantation
island in the New World,"
is a revealing introduction and a starting point for his intellectual socialization. He
goes on to say,
"...mangled bits of old India (very old, the India of the nineteenth
century villages, which would have been like the India of earlier
centuries) were still with me, not only in the enclosed life of our
extended family, but also in what came to us sometimes from our
His description of Trinidad is very revealing,
"...the island was small, 1800 square miles, half a million people,
but the population was very mixed and there were many separate
The separate worlds were obviously shaped by the greater dimension of the
British and North American experiences. He add later on, as he describes his
"Very soon I got to know that there was a farther world outside, of
our colonial world was only a shadow. This outer world England
principally, but also the United States and Canada ruled us in
every way. It sent us governors and everything else we lived by; ...
It sent us ... the coins of England, it sent us textbooks, it sent us the
films that fed our imaginative live and Life and Time. It sent
batches of The Illustrated London News... it sent us the
Everyman's Library and Penguin Books and Collins Classics. It
sent us everything."
In his book, Amongst the Believers, his encounter with the Iranian
Revolution was paradigmatic. In Iran he notices, as he does later on in South East
Asia, the problem of the masses in the Islamic world's rejection of modernity, but
it could just as well be a metaphorical allusion to the masses of the Caribbean.
Naipaul visits Iran, Pakistan, Malaysia, and Indonesia and everywhere
finding "the fever of faith". As Eugene Goodheart points out in his article on
Naipaul's Mandarin sensibility,
"The medical figure is not fortuitous, for the skeptical Naipaul,
faith is a disease. In the West, skepticism is the force that corrodes
faith. And the absence of faith often translates as a crisis of values,
a failure of nerve. In Among the Believers, Naipaul observes the
scenes of his travels with an unremitting skepticism. In its
encounter with resurgent faith in Islamic countries, skepticism
emerges as a value."
Personal circumstances and individual character contribute to a skepticism
that shapes the methodology of V.S. Naipaul as a writer. Being of Hindu origins,
he would be arguably expected to be averse to Islamic claims. As a lapsed Hindu
with a strong and recognized antipathy toward all religious fanaticisms, he could
find all that he needs in the Islamic fundamentalism and revivalism to confirm his
aversion. His aversion to Islam is neither religious nor existential, but driven
primarily by political considerations and intellectual skepticism.
As Goodheart notices,
"It is Islam's political incapacity with its inordinate political
ambition that is dangerous. In Naipaul's account, Islamic fervor is
an ignorant and destructive force. 'Political Islam is rage, anarchy."
Goodheart goes on to say,
"Naipaul has no counterfaith to offer as did the philosophy of the
Englightenment as they took on what they regarded at the
barbarism of Christianity, though he values rationality, clarity,
progress all Enlightenment virtues. He does not, however,
compose them into a philosophy. His responses are intellectual
reflexes to bad faith and false consciousness. Thus in Hyderabad,
he examines history textbooks and finds them falsifying in their
selective treatment of the past."
"History is a selective as this leads quickly to unreality. Before
Muhammad there is blackness; slavery, exploitation. After
Muhammad there is light; slavery and exploitation vanished. But
did it? How can that be said or taught? What about all those slaves
sent back from Sind to the Caliph? What about the descendants of
the African slaves who walk about Karachi? There is no adequate
answer, so the faith begins to mollify and overlay the real."
In Karachi, Naipaul visits a Mr. Mirza, who, "has been represented to him as
one of the most distinguished men of Pakistan, one of the country's profoundest
minds and someone who would tell me all I wanted to know about the Islamization
of institutions. The voice of the man immediately betrays his vacuity.
'And there was no exchange of words; a low, common even and
seizing, uninterrupted babble, poured out of Mr. Mirza. We are
living in a satanic time; people are not interested in the truth,
universities are not interested in the truth. We had a lot of
information now, but too much information was as bad as too little
information. Where was all this leading?... to the need for Islamic
As Goodheart points out,
For Naipaul the issue is not simply aesthetic. In this rough,
ideological indifference to truth Naipaul sees the counterpart of
Islamic revolutionary cruelty.
'How could he read, how could he judge, how could he venture
into the critical disciplines of another civilization when so much of
his own history had been distorted for him and declared closed to
inquiry. And how strange, in the usurped Freemasons' hall of
Rawalpindi to talk of the English political novel and the distortions
of colonialism, when in that city in a few weeks, in the name of an
Islam that was not to be questioned, the whipping vans were to go
out, official photographs were to be issued of public flogging, and
one of the country's best journalist was to be arrested and
photographs were to show him in chains.'
"Ideology may be too grand a term for what possesses the new
breed of Islamic revolutionaries. It may be more accurately caught
by the characterization of Behzad, the first person Naipaul
introduces in Among the Believers, B is 'the kind of man who,
without political doctrine, only with resentments had made the
Iranian Rvolution.' It was Nitzsche who introduced resentment
into our understanding of modern personality. Precociously
sensitive to slights, tormented by feelings of exclusion, nourishing
projects of revenge, inarticulate or half-articulate (unable, as
Napaul puts it, 'to fit words to feelings,' 'feeling, uncontrolled by
words.') the resentful man is the opposite of the aristocratic or
mandarin personality, who possesses the earth and feels secure in
his position, in his power of expression. It is under mandarin eyes
that we perceive resentment and it is through Naipaul's eyes that
we perceive the resentfulness of the underdeveloped and
half-developed personalities of the societies to which they
Goodheart goes on to say that, if Naipaul moralizes against anything, it is
against resentments, which he regards as a passion that disfigures self and truth.
He understands it is as a necessary consequence of modernization. He writes of
'Jakarta boomed, the city and the country needed wealth a skills.
But these things created wounding divisions, and there was rage
about the loss of the old order, the loss of the old knowledge about
good and bad.'
It is interesting to note that two well-known writers on nationalism, Ernest
Gellner and Benedict Anderson, construct their theories on notions of resentment
and the mythification of the past by nations and individuals in the search of new
Goodheart claims Naipaul has little feeling for the old order and he regards
the new one as a necessity,
"His realism tells him that the old order is not what it is now
imagined by its elegists to be, and in any case it can never be
It is obvious that, Naipaul turns out to be a very severest critic of political
and social resentment and its political and ideological articulation. It is tempting
for those who share the revolutionary outlook after the Third-World insurgency, to
see as Goodheart states Naipaul as someone who has internalized the values of the
Goodheart is right to state that such a view is itself an ideological reduction
of the man and his work. In Naipaul there is none of the insecurity and ingratiation
one finds in people who borrow the manners and attitudes of another class.
Naipaul does not seem to try to cater to the fashionable, patronizing, and
paternalistic beliefs of Western writers and intellectuals who overlook, for the
sake of political posturing in their home countries, the deficiencies, horrors, and
cruelties of many post-colonial societies.
If the Iranian Revolution was really a rage against modernity and
Euro-American civilization, attempting to go back to a utopian past, grounded in
the civilization of the Islamic Middle Ages with the tinges of apocalyptic
millenarianism and hidden and not so hidden imams, his encounter with African
societies stems from the same approach. In his essay "Return to the Heart of
Darkness", the metaphor of a return to more primitive times on the part of Africans
incapable of adapting to the modern world, parallels his observations on Islam.
Likewise, his original writings on India seem to be influenced by this
perspective as he, contrary to practically all his contemporaries, blasts Ghandi in
India as another romantic, utopian attempt to go back to the past, Naipaul points
out that, Ghandi got his social ideas from Christianity.
Later on, critics faulted him for having defended Hindu nationalism in the
90s, but then one may argue that from the vision and perspective of a writer
steeped into Western liberalism and individualism, living in London, and writing
in the English language; Hindu civilization and its expression in the 90s, especially
in its anti-Islamic positions, were preferable to Islamic fundamentalism and its
assault on many other basic freedoms that have characterized British civilization
around the world. His views on the relationship between Islam and Hinduism can
perhaps be seen better through his statements of the theme of conversion.
According to Naipaul, conversion can be seen as a kind of cross-over of old
beliefs, earth religions, the cults of rulers and local deities... with the larger
philosophical and humanitarian and social concerns. To him, Hinduism is less
coercive and more spiritual.
Should one be critical of Naipaul, one could point out that he misses an ideal
picture of a more laid-back British colonial experience, which after all, afforded
him the option of becoming a great writer by providing him with a full scholarship
for seven years to study in England. Unlike other writers from the Third World,
whether in the Francophone or English-speaking world, he appreciated the
It is interesting to note that Salman Rushdie, after having ran afoul of Iranian
mullahs and Pakistani religious psychopaths, discarded some his more open
sympathies for revolutionary movements like the Sandinistas. The Satanic Verses
was a reminder that all other things being equal, it's better to be a writer in the
West. His case is symptomatic of the difficulty in coping with the radical
fundamentalism that now grips much of the Islamic world and which sees any hint
at analysis and criticism as heresy. Incidentally, Salman Rushdie is, on paper, still
under an Iranian death sentence.
Naipaul's sympathy for the West can be seen in A Turn in the South, where
he's quite sympathetic to the southern, white working class, unlike the plethora of
American and non-American writers who show their sympathy for the
down-trodden Black masses.
Some writers believe that Naipaul's position derives from his Brahmin
background, acid, poised, with a chauvinistic feeling of superiority inherited from
a superior caste position. That may very well fit in some idealized picture of the
Naipaul's whole theme about the Islamic world and the developing world is
one where the disappearance of the colonial system is seen as a some burden to be
overcome because the law, order, and stability, however much tinged with racism
and discrimination, provided at least some degree of peace and tranquility, which
Islamic fundamentalism, Third-World nationalism, Third-World radicalisms,
Black Power movements, and other liberationistt" currents, have certainly not
provided the new societies of our globalized world.
Continental Girl: A Profile of Hilde Dathorne
In the late 1950s, Hildegard Ostermaier was a young Bavarian girl, still in
her teens, studying at the University of London. The only surviving child of
considerably older parents, she had lived a sheltered existence in postwar
Germany. She remembers as a small child watching victorious U.S. soldiers
distribute candy bars among the German children. Such excitement was rare,
however, for Hilde's father was a somber man who did not welcome deviation
from his routine. That all changed one day for Hilde when, standing in the London
Underground, she was introduced by her roommate to Ronald Dathome. Ronald
was like no one she had met before. Though still in his twenties, he seemed older,
and already he had the appearance and mannerisms of a scholar. After a brief
courtship Ronald announced to Hilde, "I am going to marry you."
This was the beginning of Hilde's fascinating, sometimes frightening, and
often frustrating life as the wife of O. R. (Oscar Ronald) Dathorne (1934-2007):
scholar, novelist, poet, and founder of the Association of Caribbean Studies and
the Journal of Caribbean Studies.
Having grown up in the culturally diverse society of colonial Guyana,
Ronald Dathorne earned an international reputation for his groundbreaking work
on social conflicts of race, class, and status in colonized cultures. As a social critic
and an academician, he often came into conflict with those in authority. He
changed jobs often and sometimes found himself at the heart of controversies.
Nonetheless, he remained a creative thinker and a respected expert on the effects
of colonization and the literature of colonized peoples.
Ronald Dathorne taught in England, Africa, and the United States. He
founded and directed the Black Studies program at Ohio State University and the
program of Caribbean, African, and African-American Studies (C.A.A.S.) at the
University of Miami. For thirty years he remained the founder/director of the
Association of Caribbean Studies, and editor of the Journal of Caribbean Studies.
A creative as well as an academic writer, he produced a body of published work
that included numerous essays, a book of poetry, three novels, and eight books of
cultural criticism notable for the scope of their vision. More than any of the
universities where Professor Dathorne taught, the Association of Caribbean
Studies was his refuge, his outlet, his home. For thirty years he and his wife Hilde
devoted much of their time, effort, and personal resources to organizing the annual
conferences and publishing the Journal of Caribbean Studies and the conference
When Ronald Dathorne died, his wife Hilde attempted to keep the
Association and the journal in operation. More than anyone else, she knew the
value of Ronald's work and understood its importance to him. In a series of
interviews conducted at her home in Kentucky this past July (2010), I asked Hilde
to talk about her life with her late husband. Anyone who had attended the ACS
conferences over the years with any regularity was aware of Hilde's importance to
the continued success of these ambitious ventures. Yet despite decades of non-stop
work for the Association, Hilde's name appears nowhere in the journal or in the
Association correspondence. Many others (myself included) were given credit for
assisting Ronald with the production of the journal: visiting editors, editorial
consultants, advisory editors, reviews editors and so on. But the name of the
woman who actually produced the journals and organized the conferences is not to
be found. And that is exactly how she liked it. This self-effacing woman is a
challenge to the interviewer because she is so reluctant to talk about herself. But
what a story she has to tell. When the nineteen-year-old Hildegard Ostermaier
decided to marry the Guyanan scholar, she married "away" (the German
expression for children who leave home and country when they marry) in nearly
every capacity implied by that term: geographic, cultural, linguistic, and racial.
Even a brief account of Hilde's life, such as this, gives some idea of the courage
and fortitude of this woman who from behind the scenes ran her husband's
organization, published his journal, planned and oversaw his conferences, and, by
freeing him to concentrate on his research and writing, in essence created and
nurtured the phenomenon known as O. R. Dathorne. It should be noted that she
did this on two continents while making homes for her family in Africa and
America, raising two children who today are successful professionals, and
earning a Ph.D. in anthropology at Florida's Miami University.
In the early days of their marriage, before Ronald began receiving job offers
and invitations to talk at prestigious American universities, he found himself
unable (in large part because of the color of his skin) to find a teaching job in
England, so in 1960 the Guyanese scholar and his young wife, his "continental
girl" as he referred to Hilde in an unfinished novel, moved to Nigeria. The
Dathornes lived in Nigeria and Sierra Leone for 10 years, during which time Hilde
gave birth to their daughter, Cecily, and son, Alexander, though having miscarried
in month five of her first pregnancy, Hilde returned to Europe for the births of her
daughter and son. Of her life in Zaria, in Northern Nigeria, Hilde recalls poisonous
snakes, modest houses made of clay, and streets with no lights at night. Ronald
taught at Ahmadu Bello University, and in his "spare" time, he began a school for
local residents and persuaded his colleagues to volunteer their time teaching basic
language skills and other subjects that might enable the residents to improve their
lives. Four years later the Dathornes moved to Ibadan when Ronald was offered a
position at the University of Ibadan.
Hilde thought of Nigeria as home and expected to live there permanently.
Her only regret: "I wish that the children had had proper cribs and Winnie the Pooh
Bear blankets instead of rough cots and mosquito nets. But they spent part of every
year in Germany with their grandmother, and there they had their own rooms and
small luxuries that were unavailable in Africa." I asked Hilde whether her parents
objected to her marriage to a black man from South America, and she insisted that
they did not. What made them unhappy about her marriage was her decision to
marry "away." But Cecily and Alexander spent several months a year with their
grandparents. Although Hilde's father died a short time after Alexander's birth,
his infant grandson brought out the best in this taciturn man. In fact, the infant
Alexander's power to charm may have been the fulfillment of a midwife's
prophecy. According to Hilde, when Alexander survived being born with the
umbilical cord around his neck and a blood type incompatible with his mother's,
the midwife predicted that he would enjoy good fortune in life.
Hilde did not realize at the time that in Ibadan she was witnessing the birth of
a modern African arts and literature movement. The Dathornes' circle included a
young writer named Oloye Akinwande Oluwole "Wole" Soyinka, the Nigerian
poet and playwright who, twenty years later, would win the Nobel Prize in
Literature. They also knew Nigerian writer John Pepper Clark and transplanted
European artists Uli Beier and Suzanne Wenger (later Nigeria's "White
Priestess"). Beier's journal Black Orpheus showcased a select group of Nigerian
writers and artists. However, Hilde recalls distrust of outsiders and suspicion that
Black Orpheus was backed by the CIA. Uli Beier was not the only outsider
suspected of CIA connections. When Malcolm X gave a lecture at the University
of Ibadan, Ronald Dathorne caused an incident by mimicking some of Malcolm
X's mannerisms and reiterating his key points. "When the students responded with
enthusiasm," according to Hilde, "Ronald said, 'See how easily you are swayed by
the power of his rhetoric!' The enraged students chased Ronald from the
building." Although there are a number of conflicting accounts of this incident,
including a brief reference in Malcolm X's Autobiography, Hilde insists that
Ronald "was simply trying to make a point by warning the students about
believing everything they heard. At this time, Ronald was not yet aware of the
Black Power movement in the United States or of Malcolm's importance to that
movement. Had my husband been cognizant of the true state of race relations in
America, I doubt very much that he would have moved here."
Hilde explained their decision to leave Nigeria and move to Sierra Leone:
"In 1967 civil war broke out between the Muslim Hausa-Fulani, the Yorubas, and
the more worldly and successful Ibos (Biafrans) from the east. There was a
holocaust taking place. However, they were not after us, so we did not feel
threatened. That changed, however, when Ronald was mistaken for a Biafran.
Fearing for his life, we left Nigeria in a hurry."
In Njala, Ronald was appointed professor of English literature and Black
literature, and chair of the English Department, at the University of Sierra Leone.
He was also expanding his areas of expertise from British modernism, in particular
D. H. Lawrence, and Anglophone African literature, to include Caribbean and
African American literature. Hilde, however, was homesick for Nigeria. Before
the war broke out, Hilde explains, "I could not imagine living anywhere else. I had
moved there during my impressionable years and had practically grown up there."
In 1970, three years after moving to Sierra Leone and ten years after their
arrival in Africa, Ronald agreed to give a lecture tour in the United States including
stops at Northwestern University, the University of Wisconsin, Hunter, and Yale.
The Dathornes arrived in New York, where Hilde, Cecily, and Alexander stayed in
a hotel while Ronald was traveling, but because they had no credit cards and little
money, the hotel insisted that they pay in advance. Shortly after that, Yale offered
Ronald an associate professorship, but Ronald turned it down because he saw it as
a step backward from his full professorship at the University of Sierra Leone.
Hilde recalls, "We were so ignorant, naive and ignorant. Ronald did not know that
Yale was special. He did not understand academic politics in the United States. He
did not play politics, though everybody else did. Had he, our lives would have
In an effort to support his family, Ronald accepted full-time professorships
at Howard University and the University of Wisconsin, then resigned both when
his "moonlighting" was discovered. He went on to teach at Ohio State, University
of Miami, the University of the District of Columbia, S.U.N.Y. Brockport, and the
University of Kentucky. There were more conflicts with administrators, for
according to Hilde, "He did not like authority in Africa or the United States or
anywhere." Nonetheless, he continued to produce books and scholarly articles at a
remarkable rate and was instrumental in legitimizing Black Studies and
Afro-Caribbean literature within the American university curriculum. "He was
loved by students," Hilde explained, "but butted heads with nearly every chair and
dean he ever worked with. He ended up at the University of Kentucky where he
kept a low profile, wrote his books, and taught his classes."
But how, I asked Hilde, did Ronald's career choices affect his wife and
children? She explained that for Ronald, it mattered little where he lived. "Ronald
was at home wherever his 4000 books were shelved. No one was allowed to touch
his books. But sometimes the children complained about being dragged all over
the world. 'Alexander once said, 'I have no home,'" but gradually, like their
father, Cecily and Alexander came to view themselves as citizens of the world
with a global perspective that has served them well in adulthood.
With characteristic self-deprecating humour, Hilde insists: "I was never the
power behind the man. He made all the decisions. Being naive and stupid, I went
along with things." Hilde jokes that Ronald married her because he so admired D.
H. Lawrence whose wife, Frieda, was German. Hilde spent long periods in
Germany, first with the children and later caring for her ailing mother, but always
she reached a point where she thought (in her words): "Let me go back to Africa
[later America] for that was where Ronald was." They were a team. It is difficult to
imagine O. R. Dathorne's numerous achievements had he not had this feisty
German woman watching his back. He was too volatile, too anti-authoritarian, and
also too fragile to have made that journey alone. For Ronald was fragile, plagued
by a variety of serious health problems for much of his life. Although he exuded
confidence and charisma, he was painfully aware of the lingering effects of
colonialism and racial inequality.
According to Hilde, "Ronald's greatest contribution was the Association of
Caribbean Studies and the Journal of Caribbean Studies. Anybody can write
books. But Ronald was instrumental in creating and legitimizing the field of
Caribbean studies." Throughout most of the 30 years that the Association and the
journal thrived under his direction, it was Hilde who planned the conferences,
visited and selected the sites in the Caribbean, South & Central America, Europe
and Africa. She ran the conferences and made sure that the journals and abstracts
came out on time. She did all the mailing of programs, calls for papers, journals,
and membership materials. When Ronald caused a near riot in Brazil by involving
the police during a period of heightened tension between university students and
the constabulary, Hilde calmed everyone down and saved the conference. When
some of us sat around their hotel suite (a sure sign that one had been admitted into
the inner circle) listening to Ronald hold forth on any and every topic that arose, or
when we attended sessions, swam in the sea, visited historic sites and dined at
restaurants she had selected in advance, Hilde would be off arguing with hotel
management about the inadequate size of the conference rooms or the absence of
overhead projectors. Hilde (in her words) "had to take so many insults" from staff
members at conference hotels, and as soon as one conference ended, she had to
begin planning the following year's conference. Yet nowhere in the conference
materials or the journal is her name mentioned. Ronald and Hilde agreed that
another Dathorne in the list of ACS and JCS advisors and facilitators might
compromise the organization's professionalism by giving it the appearance of a
family enterprise. However, the time has come for Hilde Dathore to step out of
the shadows and be recognized for a lifetime devoted to the promotion of
Today she continues to protect her husband's legacy. After his death in
2007, there was much speculation and vying for position within the ranks of the
Association of Caribbean Studies. Who would assume directorship of the
organization? Who would edit thejournal? Could any one or even two individuals
replace O. R. Dathome? He was larger than life, a force of nature, with the power
to charm or infuriate, and it mattered little to him which he did as long as he had
your attention. I have seen him hijack a conference presentation that he felt was
moving too slowly-he just walked to the front of the room and began talking!
No one could take his place. ACS without Ronald Dathome at the helm
would not have been the same organization. The journal was Ronald's creation as
well, and Hilde feared that whoever took over as editor would change the focus of
the journal to reflect his or her interests. This was unacceptable to Hilde, and in
2009 she made the difficult decision to close down the Association and cease
publication of the journal.
Toward the end of my visit with Hilde in Kentucky, one question remained,
but I knew better than to ask her whether Ronald appreciated her lifetime of work
in his behalf. I knew that she would respond with characteristic self-deprecating
humor. So I turned to the great man himself. He was gone, but his books remain,
and although he dedicated several of his books to his wife, one dedication in
particular allows us to see behind the facade at the vulnerable, complex, and yes,
exceedingly appreciative man who married his continental girl and brought her
into his world: "For Hilde Ostermaier Dathorne who provided me with the time,
space, and climate to make this possible and who gave unstintingly of her time and
effort." Theirs was a "marriage of true minds," and together they helped put
Caribbean studies on the map while providing direction for scholars like myself
and a place for us to meet other academics who shared our interest in Caribbean
culture. They literally changed lives, broadened minds, enabled friendships, and
opened lines of communication across national and ethnic boundaries. This is 0.
R. Dathorne's legacy, and Hilde made it happen.
Review of: Jamaica Talk: Three hundred Years of the English Language in
Jamaica. Frederic G. Cassidy. Jamaica etc.: University of the West Indies Press,
2007, pp x, 68, index of words [word list. US$30.
In his groundbreaking classic, first published in 1961, Cassidy documents the
origin, development and vocabulary of language in Jamaica. Although Cassidy
claims to refer to the English spoken in Jamaica, it is not only Jamaican English
that is explored, as much of the data represents Jamaican Creole as well, which
Cassidy refers to as "folk speech" throughout the book. More than forty years
after its first publication, Jamaica Talk is still a must-read for anyone who wishes
to gain an appreciation of the peculiarities of Jamaican culture, history and the
speech of Jamaicans. It remains an authoritative text for students of Caribbean
Creole studies, linguistics enthusiasts, as well as historians and anthropologists.
This gem is comprised of two sections, History, Pronunciation and Grammar
and Jamaican Vocabulary. The chapters of the first section address some
important questions such as "What language do Jamaicans talk?" and "How did
Jamaicans come to talk as they do?" Cassidy provides an explanation for what he
This term would include any word, meaning or feature of grammar, idiom or
pronunciation that has originated in Jamaica, or has been adopted here from a
foreign source. It should also include any similar element that has survived in this
island after dying elsewhere or which has received a decidedly higher degree of
use in Jamaica than elsewhere. (p. 3).
Such Jamaicanisms are further explored in the remaining chapters. In chapter two
(10-25), Cassidy examines the Sources of Jamaica Talk. Readers are taken on a
journey from the settlement of the Arawaks through the conquest by the Spaniards,
subsequently overtaken by the colonizing English, and their importation of
enslaved Africans, and an assessment of the extent to which the languages of these
groups influenced Jamaican Creole. The Arawaks and Spaniards left their
influence on the language mainly in a few place, plant and animal names, but the
African contribution is far more significant, and extends beyond vocabulary into
the grammar of Jamaican Creole.
For the remainder of chapter two Cassidy gives an account of the sociolinguistic
situation in early Jamaican society. In referring to this era, Cassidy (p. 18) states
that "it had always been to a slave's advantage to learn English. Without it, he
could not hope to improve his condition or get the more desirable employments.
Such is the situation today as English is still the language of upward mobility
Chapter three (26-48) focuses on the pronunciation of speech in Jamaica. Cassidy
shows how Jamaican English and Jamaican Creole differ in patterns of stress,
pause and pitch. However, the reader lacking formal training in linguistics may
find this portion of the book quite complex. He submits that the source for the
characteristic Jamaican intonation may be found in the African languages that the
slaves spoke. Similarly, in chapter four (49-73), where Cassidy looks at the
system of Jamaican Grammar, he attributes the differences between the
grammars of Jamaican English and Jamaican Creole to the latter's "African
background". One of the distinctive features of Jamaican Creole grammar which,
he states, "may be recognized clearly as another of the inheritances which this
speech preserves from its African backgrounds" (p.73) is reduplication or what
Cassidy calls "iteratives". This includes African forms such as kas-kas
"contention" from Twi kasckasa "to dispute" and chaka-chaka "disorderly" from
Twi takataka "muddy, miry", as well as English-based forms such as matta-matta
"matter, pus", hinka-hinka "to hanker" and fool-fool "foolish".
The second section of the book (chapters five to sixteen) offers a wealth of
information on the early vocabulary of Jamaican Creole. The topics range from
Work and Occupation to Wild Animals; below follows a discussion of a selection
of these topics.
Chapter five (74-106) focuses on the vocabulary common in the category of Work
and Occupation. The types of occupations mentioned here are those very common
during the sixties such as fishermen and donkey-cart owners. Notwithstanding the
fact that many of the words have become obsolete, a few have worked their way
back into current usage. One such phrase is chi-chi bus, "imitating the hissing of
the compressed air that operates the doors" (p. 75). This word is in popular usage
today and refers to the white articulated buses run by the government-owned
Jamaica Urban Transit Company. This chapter goes beyond discussing words and
in fact gives insight into the lifestyles of Jamaicans during this period. It speaks of
the use of cutlass to chop bush, the hankra and heng-pon-me baskets as everyday
containers, the cistern to wash one's hands, and the vabba and negro-pot to
prepare meals. A few of these words are in use today, especially in the rural
parishes of Jamaica.
Chapter six (107-127) explores Seasons and Places: Measurements by looking at
Time, Weather, Clothing, Direction, Position and Location, Land terms, and Size,
Quantity, Number and Degree. In his discussion of clothing, he states that words
for clothing were between two extremes, shoes and hats; blue-boot referring to
"one's best pair", board-slippers or sand-patta "simple pieces of board cut to the
shape of the foot and held on with a plain leather strap across the vamp",
jippi-jappa or yipa-yapa "the best known Jamaican-made hat made of fine strips
of palm leaf" (from the word JipiJapa, the name of a town in Ecuador). A
cutta-frock was "a short frock", laama referred to" a dress, new or old", and a
heng-pon nail referred to "ready-made clothing".
No discussion of language in Jamaica could be complete without a look at
Religion, Belief, and Superstition (chapter eleven, 232-255), Cassidy (p. 232)
states that "virtually all the Christian churches and sects are represented in
Jamaica" and this comes as no surprise since it is often touted that Jamaica has "the
most churches per square mile". Instead of the word christen, the verb used was
christian so that "Quashee..got himself christianed, and changed his name to
James Reeder" (p.233). Religions derived from African sources are referred to as
cults and these include Bedwardism, named after their leader Bedward,
Pocomania or poco for short, and Cumina, still common in St. Thomas and
John Canoe and other Entertainments is the focus of chapter twelve (256-280).
The John Canoe or Jonkunnu, a parade with masqueraders, used to be a popular
attraction during Christmas in Jamaica. Cassidy (p.257ff) discusses several
explanations which have been proposed by different authors through the years,
even centuries, for the origin of the term, but ultimately rejects all of them,
deciding in favour of the Ewe language as the most likely source.
After reading this book, one is left with an appreciation and understanding of the
potpourri of Jamaican culture and especially its language. In concluding, Cassidy
(p. 391ff) summarizes the contributions of various languages to that spoken in
Jamaica. He states that there are minor influences from American Indian
languages, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and French, but that of non-British
influences, the African influence is obviously the greatest (p.394). Finally,
Cassidy notes the possibility that education may eradicate such rich "folk speech,"
but expresses the belief that educated Jamaicans "will not fling away this heritage"
and will be bilingual instead (p.406) a situation which can be observed among
educated Jamaicans today, although their recognition of that rich heritage leaves
something to be desired. I join Cassidy in expressing the hope that we, as a society,
will not be "so dull as to scorn this possession of the folk" (p. 406).
KADIAN NADEISHA WALTERS
Buccheri, Mauro, Costa, Elio, and Holoch, Donald, Eds. The Power of Words,
Literature and Society in Late Modernity. Ravenna: Longo Editore, 2005. 306
The background behind this 2005 collection of essays published by the Italian
Longo Editore is the questioning of what directions society, culture, and finally
literature are taking in the third millennium. And the questions have such a broad
scope that the editors Mario Buccheri, Elio Costa, and Donald Holoch decided to
approach them from different angles, trying to account for different points of view
and literatures, as well as for the social and economic backdrops. In fact what
comes out of this collection of essays is a general inter-connection among different
fields and a cross-fertilization of disciplines which, all together, could help us
search for clarifications to our initial queries.
The book is divided into three parts. The first part deals with general concerns
about the relationship between literature and the hypertexts, which comprises of
both the new technologies and the persistence of literature. The opening essay is
Umberto Eco's "Books, Texts and Hypertexts", in which the Italian semiotician
analyses the almost paradoxical presence of paper books in a future world made of
hypertexts and books on CD-ROM. But, as far as Eco has a deep knowledge of
Middle Ages, he takes the Medieval fear of the Millennium as a comparison not to
think of the fear of losing books in a future era, for new technologies do not
necessarily supersede the old ones, as much as television or cinema have not
supplanted literature yet; the question is analysed with hermeneutical concerns,
but also in an ironic tone. The second essay by John O'Neill is titled "The Word's
Millennial Power" and it analyses some of the Italian writer Italo Calvino's works
like Six Memos for the Next Millennium, Cosmicomics, and Invisible Cities, in
which Calvino sustains the importance of the intellectual figure as a response to
cultural entropy, and as a 'heroic' figure fighting against the amnesia of culture.
Actually, O'Neill sustains, we must fight to remember and not to forget, for,
according to Calvino "Literature (...) re-mythologizes the world, rationalized to
the point of barbarism, in order to avoid the fall into cultural amnesia and historical
schizophrenia." (12). Again, the issue of cognition is tackled by the following
essay, by Lubomir Dolezel, "The Power of Words: Literature, Cognition and
Practical Life". In it Dolezel explains why he thinks that the 20'h century has been a
"linguistic century", and in so doing he refers to the linguist DeSaussure, the
philosopher Derrida, and the semiotician Eco. That is why the approach to
language comes from different angles, because he counters the post-structuralist
conviction that language is monofunctional, thinking it is poly-functional and
embracing all the concerns of our intellectual and densely practical lives. Umberto
Eco's and Italo Calvino's works return again in the speculations of Rocco
Capozzi's essay "Hypertextuality and Cognitive Experiences in the Labyrinths of
Words and Images". In fact, Calvino's concept of the multiplicity of literature and
Eco's thought about the hyper-textuality weave in Capozzi's conviction of the
computer and hyper-texts as "rhizomatic structures" (13). Mauro Buccheri's "The
Return of Orpheus, or the Persistence of Literature and Myth" concludes the first
part of the book by taking the figure of Orpheus as a symbol of the persistence of
literature and myth as a figure able of bridging gaps. Buccheri sustains his views
with contemporary literary and philosophical theories; he sustains that for instance
Nietzsche, Michel Serres, or Eco again have developed a cultural system able of
standing in between, and where Orpheus would represent the search for meaning
even in aesthetic terms.
The second part deals with more historical and philosophical questions, especially
concerning Marxism or Bachtinian preoccupations, and the link between the role
of the intellectual and market. Esteve Morera's "Literature, History, and
Philosophy: Some Reflections on Gramsci's Quaderni del Carcere" considers
Gramsci's Quaderni as a hyper-text referring, for its very composite nature, many
aspects of life and culture, yet being a historical, cultural, sociological piece of
literature. Gramsci's concept of hegemony and of the intellectual encompasses
also the nature of works of art, either revolutionary or reactionary, as for instance
Alessandro Manzoni's The Betrothed (IPromessi Sposi). But the focus shifts from
Marx to Bakhtin in the second essay, David McNally's "Language, the Market and
the University: Bakhtin, Benjamin and the Intellectual in Late Capitalism".
McNally considers Michail Bakhtin's Rabelais and His World as a literary site to
discuss the role of the free-exchange of ideas in the pre-capitalist marketplace,
which is from the seventeenth up to the nineteenth century. McNally argues
against the "commodification" of culture and the role that the church and the state
exercised to control culture. Robert Dombroski's "Marxism, Literature and the
Curriculum" goes back to a Marxist approach, sustaining that taking distance from
a Marxist analysis or an approach to literary criticism in university curricula have
been determined by the fear of a silent wave of protest or thinking, so that Marxist
political thinking has been separated from literary criticism. He tackles the critical
currents of New Historicism and Postmodernism, observing that the first has some
Marxist concerns despite its criticism of Marxism, while the latter is in some terms
a negation to the light of reason, when one of the main concerns of literary
criticism should be to make us understand how the world works with all its social,
political, and cultural issues. Of a totally different view is Robert L. Fisher's essay
"Narrative, Human Nature and Post-Modernism", which concludes the second
part of the book. Fisher thinks that literature separates us from the real world and
that, consequently, it is derived from our need to give meaning to life and the
The third section deals instead with world literature, embracing many territories
and opening it up to contemporary social and cultural issues. Rinaldo Walcott's
"Desiring to Belong? The Politics of Texts and their Politics of Nation" analyses
three Canadian works of fiction like Lawrence Hill's Any Known Blood, Cecil
Foster's Slammin' Tar, and Andre Alexis' Childhood to cope with the problems of
integration, exclusion, of living on the borders or in a community which does not
pertain to you. The theme of 'belonging' is seen through these instances of
'counter-novels', where the so-called minority literatures become just another way
of looking at political, social, and cultural issues. Another 'minority' issue
emerges from Sergio Maria Gilardino's "Smaller Languages, Greater Identities:
The Power of Words in Quebec", for he tackles the question of the Francophone
minority in Canada, with all the political and linguistic implications derived, but
the strength of a language and of a literature do not necessarily depend on the fact
of it being a minority language, and in saying this he underlines again the power of
words and languages in literature. Keith Ellis' "Power Without Responsibility:
The Function of Words in Augusto Roa Bastos' Yo El Supremo" talks about the
figure of the dictator Francia in Paraguay. The analysis Ellis makes reveals
political overtones concerning a resistance to globalization and the analysis of the
dictator's autobiography with its distortion of historical facts. The preoccupation
of a writer from a minority literature with larger political concerns is the focus of
Zilpha Ellis' "From the Depth of Commitment to the Shallow of Despair: The
Career and Identities of Rene Depestre". Ellis looks at the Haitian poet and writer
Depestre's career to search for an evolution in his commitment: from the militant
years of his youth, to his contribution in the literature of the Caribbean, to the
struggles for liberation in Africa. Similarly, Ato Sekyi-Out remarks in his
"Enigmas of the World, Proverbs of the Human Condition: Revisiting Some
Postcolonial African Novels" how the hot questions of political independence and
struggles for freedom have reverberations in African proverbs and, consequently,
in African novels. Sekyi-Out especially lingers on Ayi Kwei Armah's novels The
Beautifid Ones Are Not Yet Born and Two Thousand Season to explore how
Ghanian proverbs bring African philosophy to embrace old and contemporary
political issues, taking its moves from Franz Fanon's sociological and
philosophical preoccupations. Donald Holoch's essay "Literature and Dystopia:
Narrative and the State in China" concludes the third part of the collection. He