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The social legitimization of children in Suriname society

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Title:
The social legitimization of children in Suriname society an ethnographic account of pregnancy and childbirth among the Creole in greater Paramaribo
Creator:
Staker, Mark L., 1961-
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English
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xii, 257 leaves : ill. ; 29 cm.

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Subjects / Keywords:
Childbirth ( jstor )
Creoles ( jstor )
Fathers ( jstor )
Hospitals ( jstor )
Infants ( jstor )
Marriage ( jstor )
Mothers ( jstor )
Pregnancy ( jstor )
Slavery ( jstor )
Women ( jstor )
Children -- Social conditions -- Suriname -- Paramaribo ( lcsh )
Creoles -- Social life and customs -- Suriname -- Paramaribo ( lcsh )
Ethnic groups -- Social life and customs -- Suriname -- Paramaribo ( lcsh )
Legitimation of children -- Suriname -- Paramaribo ( lcsh )
City of Gainesville ( local )
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bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Thesis:
Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1992.
Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 243-256).
General Note:
Typescript.
General Note:
Vita.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Mark L. Staker.

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University of Florida
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University of Florida
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Copyright [name of dissertation author]. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.
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THE SOCIAL LEGITIMIZATION OF CHILDREN IN SURINAME SOCIETY: AN
ETHNOGRAPHIC ACCOUNT OF PREGNANCY AND CHILDBIRTH AMONG THE
CREOLE IN GREATER PARAMARIBO




















By

MARK L. STAKER


A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


1992















To my Father and Mother
who have a great deal of experience with childbirth and the
responsibilities of paternity and maternity













ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS


I would like to express my gratitude to Kim Staker for her

many contributions to this work. She gained her understanding

of pregnancy in Suriname through experience. Joshua and Anna '

Staker also contributed by enduring long walks, eating

unfamiliar foods, and patiently letting the incessant throngs of

people in the market run fingers through their hair and teach

them Dutch.

Many others contributed to this work as well. Dr. M.G. Lie

Hon Fong, the Minister of Health, gave me permission to do the

study. Dr. Sonja Caff6 of the Department of Public Health

graciously took responsibility for my work and gave invaluable

aid throughout the research process. The medical staff at

s'Lands Hospitaal allowed me to watch them work, shared their

knowledge, and provided support during the work. Doctor A.

Mungra, a hospital gynecologist/obstetrician and Sister Wandi,

the head nurse/midwife at the hospital, lent invaluable support.

Dr. Linda Wolfe, Dr. Leslie Lieberman, Dr. Molly Dougherty,

and Dr. Sharlene Simpson all contributed invaluable input during

various stages of this research. Dr. Brian du Toit gave immense

amounts of time and insight towards the completion of this

project. A University of Florida Grinter Fellowship made some

of the preliminary research for this work possible and a


iii










University of Florida Goggin Award contributed towards the

travel expenses during research.

Most of all I am indebted to the women and men in Suriname

who graciously shared their experiences and knowledge. Many of

them are sincere friends and association with them will always

be a fond memory.
















TABLE OF CONTENTS

page
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS.........................................iii

LIST OF TABLES............................................ix

ABSTRACT ................... ............................... xi

CHAPTERS

1 LEGITIMACY: ISSUES AND QUESTIONS ......................1

The Principle of Legitimacy ......................... 1
Marriage. ......................................... 3
Legitimacy.......... .............................. 9
Research Questions................................ 13
Why study in the Caribbean? .....................14
Why study Suriname in particular? ...............14
What in Creole society should be the foci of this
study?..........................................15
Summary................................................. 16

2 THE CARIBBEAN FAMILY SYSTEM......................... 19

Introduction........................................19
The Caribbean Family............................... 19
Origins of the Caribbean Family System.............21
The Nature of the Current Caribbean Family..........27
Men in Household Groups...........................27
The Matrifocal Family ............................31
Mating Patterns in the Caribbean.................35
Extra-Residential unions.......................35
Consensual unions ..............................37
Marriage unions................................ 38
The Importance of Children in Common..............41
Illegitimacy in the Caribbean.................... 45
Summary..............................................52


3 AN OVERVIEW OF THE RESEARCH SITE:
THE REPUBLIC OF SURINAME........................... 55

Historical Overview..................................... 55
European Domination................................ 55
Slavery in Suriname.................................57
The Post-Slavery Period ............................60
The Current Picture................................... 61










Population Growth.................................. 61
Ethnic Make-Up of the Population...................63
The Hindustani................................... 63
The African-American population..................65
The Javanese..................................... 67
The Native Americans ............................ 68
The Chinese...................................... 68
The Europeans.................................... 69
"Mixed" population............................... 70
The Political Situation............................ 70
The Economy.........................................72
Languages.......................................... 73
Sranantongo.......................... ........... 74
Dutch............................................ 75
Other languages.................................. 76
The Religions of Suriname..........................77
Summary.............................................. 81

4 METHOD............................................... 84

Population Studied.................................. 84
Methodology................... .....................85
Language Use...................................... 85
Participant Observation....................... .... ... .. 86
Hospital Records.................................. 88
Interviews........................................ 89
Structured interviews ...........................90
Semistructured and unstructured interviews......92
Summary......................................... ...95

5 THE MATING SYSTEM OF SURINAME......................97

Interaction Between Men and Women...................97
The Development of Relationships....................97
School Relationships..............................98
Street Relationships..............................99
Established relationships.......................99
New relationships.............................. 100
Social Events....................................101
Character...........................................102
Proper Intimate Behavior .........................103
Proper Intimate Knowledge........................104
Being Socially Sensitive .........................107
The Range of Unions................................108
Marriage..........................................109
Marriage rates................................. 111
Legitimacy in marriage..........................112
Consensual Unions................................114
Is "Suriname style marriage" a form of
marriage?.....................................115
The legitimation of children...................116
Extra-Residential Unions.........................117
The Importance of Paternal Recognition and
"Legitimacy"................................... 119











The Economic Status of Reproductive Age Women.... 121
Summary ........................................... 123

6 CONCEPTION..........................................129

Conception and Issues of Paternity.................129
A Woman's Reproductive Capabilities................ 129
Menstruation......................................129
Etiology of Illness and Menstruation.............130
Is There a Motive Behind Pregnancy?................ 132
Sexual Relations as a Rite of Transition.........133
Children as Part of Long-Term Relationships...... 134
The Use of Contraception and its Relationship to
Pregnancy... ..................................... 135
Contraceptives................................... 135
Reasons for Using Temporary Contraceptives.......138
The Importance of Children as They Mature........ 139
Conception........................................140
Signs of Pregnancy............................... 140
Menstruation and pregnancy................... 140
Other signs of pregnancy..................... 141
Response to Discovery of Pregnancy.............144
The Response of Others Towards the Pregnancy...149
False Pregnancies ...............................151
Improving Fertility............................ 152
Aborting the Pregnancy............................153
Spontaneous Abortions ("Miscarriages").........153
Induced Abortions ("Abortions") ................155
The Creole Use of Abortions.................... 159
Summary...........................................160

7 PREGNANCY...........................................165

A Woman's Appearance and Pregnancy................. 165
Pregnancy as an Event ..............................166
A Mother's Contribution to the Child.............166
A Father's Contribution to the Child.............166
Pregnancy Induced Changes in the Body............167
Diet During Pregnancy..............................168
Diet and Pregnancy...............................169
Food Cravings and Avoidance Patterns............. 170
Prenatal Care During Pregnancy..................... 172
Illnesses During Pregnancy..........................173
Inherited From the Ancestors .....................174
Fyo-Fyo..........................................175
Summary............................................ 177


8 BIRTHING..............................................181

Delivery and Paternity...............................181
The Term of Pregnancies ...............................181
Premature Births ...................................181
Postterm Births ....................................182


vii











General Gestation Length........................... 183
Anticipation of Delivery............................. 186
Paying for the Delivery.............................. 187
The Setting for Birth................................ 190
Where to Deliver................................... 190
The Hospital .......................................191
Getting to the Hospital............................ 195
Labor in the Hospital................................ 196
Delivery ..............................................202
Family Support During Delivery.....................205
Special Births......................................206
Age of Mother at Delivery..........................207
Day of Delivery.................................... 207
The Afterbirth..................................... 208
Variation in Birth Weight ..........................210
Summary.......................... *......... ...........211

9 MATERNAL POSTPARTUM RECOVERY AND INFANT
EXTEROGESTATION ............ ..... ................... 215

Postpartum Recovery...................................215
The Hospital Period................................ 215
Recovery at Home................................... 218
Ritual Cleansing Baths............................. 219
Introducing the Child to its World.................223
Preperation for Walking............................ 223
Protection from the Evil Eye and Other Harm.........224
Infant Feeding..................................... 225
Infant Mortality......................................227
Infant Diarrhea....................................228
Infant Funerals....................................228
Birth Anniversaries................................229
Summary......................................... ......229

10 SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS .............................232

Summary...............................................232
Implications for Understanding Events in Suriname....235
Implications for Caribbean Society...................238
Implications for Understanding the Concept of
Legitimacy.......................................... 240

REFERENCES...............................................243

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH......................................257











viii
















LIST OF TABLES


paae
1. Population Growth and Growth Factors, 1980-1985.......62

2. The Best Spoken Language of the Suriname Population
Six Years Old and Above by Ethnic Group.............74

3. Religion of Delivering Women..........................80

4. Ethnic Identity of Hospital Smaple....................81

5. Marriage Rates of Women Delivering at the Hospital...ll1

6. Official Poverty Level ...............................123

7. Number of Tubal Ligations Performed by Ethnic Group..137

8. Reaction of Women to Their Pregnancy.................144

9. Reaction of the Child's Father to the Pregnancy....... 144

10. Women's Response to Their Pregnancy..................146

11. Ethnicity of Women and Response to Pregnancy..........146

12. Men's Response to Pregnancy by Ethnicity.............148

13. Men's Response to the Pregnancy......................148

14. Number of Abortions in Population of Delivering
Women................................................... 157

15. Total Number of Abortions Specified as Induced in
Delivery Records by Ethnic Group...................158

16. Number of Prenatal Visits to a Clinic or the
Hospital...................... .....................173

17. Woman Reports that Her Menstrual Cycle is "Not Normal"
by Ethnic Group................................... 184

18. Length in Days of a Typical Menstrual Cycle by Ethnic
Group...............................................184

19. Length in Days of a Typical Menstrual Period by Ethnic
Group...............................................185











20. The Gestational Age of Infants by Ethnic Groups......186

21. Method of Payment for Birth by Ethnic Group...........189

22. Frequency of Water Breaking Before Admission.........196

23. Number of Previous Deliveries by Ethnic Group........202

24. Condition of Perineum by Ethnic Group................204

25. Average Age of Mother at Delivery by Ethnic Group....207

26. Kra Names............................................ 208

27. Sex of Child Born by Ethnic Group.................... 210

28. Average Infant Weight in Grams by Ethnic Group........210

29. Number of Low Birth Weigths (>2,500 grams) and High
Birth Weights (<4,000 grams) by Ethnic Group.......211

30. Still Births and Infant Deaths....................... 227















THE SOCIAL LEGITIMIZATION OF CHILDREN IN SURINAME SOCIETY: AN
ETHNOGRAPHIC ACCOUNT OF PREGNANCY AND CHILDBIRTH AMONG THE
CREOLE IN GREATER PARAMARIBO

By

Mark L. Staker

December 1992

Chair: Brian M. du Toit
Major Department: Anthropology

A review of the concept of legitimacy as developed and

used in anthropology is followed by an analysis of research

on the Caribbean family system and the view of scholars on

legitimacy within this system. The view of some Caribbean

scholars that there is no concept of legitimacy in the lower

levels of Caribbean society is critiqued.

Based on previous definitions of legitimacy and

exceptions to those definitions, a more encompassing view of

legitimacy is presented. This view defines children as

legitimate if they are born into a socially approved union

and receive public acknowledgement of paternity by their

father. In the context of an attempt to shed light on these

two concepts, an ethnographic account of pregnancy and

childbirth within the Creole population of greater

Paramaribo, Suriname, is presented.

For the Creole it is concluded that a relationship has

social approval if it is open and public. Although paternity

can be acknowledged by publicly legitimizing a child through












legal registration, it can also be done in rituals and other

types of behavior. One of the most important ways of

indicating paternity is participation in ritual healing for a

pregnant woman and her child of an illness called fyo-fyo.

Another is experiencing couvade-like symptoms known as yepi

or "helping" during the pregnancy or delivery. This evidence

indicates legitimacy is common within Creole society, and

some of the responses to illegitimacy within this context are

considered.

Based on these findings, it is important for

anthropologists to examine accepted definitions of

"legitimacy" and "illegitimacy." Legitimacy implies that a

child is born into a union that is socially approved and it

receives public acknowledgement of paternity.


xii















CHAPTER 1
LEGITIMACY: ISSUES AND QUESTIONS



The Principle of Legitimacy

Early in this century Malinowski developed a concept he

labeled the "principle of legitimacy." He argued that

In all human societies .there is universally
found what might be called the rule of legitimacy.
By this I mean that in all human societies a girl
is bidden to be married before she becomes
pregnant. Pregnancy and childbirth on the part of
an unmarried young woman are invariably regarded as
a disgrace I know of no single instance in
anthropological literature of a community where
illegitimate children, that is children of
unmarried girls, would enjoy the same social
treatment and have the same social status as
legitimate ones (Malinowski 1927:187).

In later writings he retained the view that "the main

sociological principle embodied in these rules and

arrangements is that children should not be produced outside

a socially approved contract of marriage" (Malinowski

1929a:6-7). Malinowski (1930) recognized that having a

sociological father was central to the concept of legitimacy.

He viewed the acknowledgment of a sociological father as

critical to parenthood in all societies. "Parenthood, to be

normal [i.e. the "norm" or usual practice of a society], must

be made legitimate, that is, based on a socially approved,

but individual marriage contract" (1929b:407).









Malinowski was aware that every child has a biological

father and most people recognize this fact.1 But he saw the

concept of a sociological father as equally important

although not necessarily connected. "Physiological

paternity, the begetting of a child, is not, as a rule,

sufficient and may even be irrelevant in determining social

fatherhood" (Malinowski 1929b:406). This distinction between

a biological and sociological father has been retained by

anthropologists in the use of the terms genitor and pater,

respectively. The genitor is the biological father of a

child. The pater is the legally or socially recognized

father of a child that fulfills the duties this role requires

in his society. It is the possession of a pater that makes a

child legitimate.

According to this perspective, not every child possesses

a pater and some are born illegitimate; but illegitimacy is

expected to be unacceptable and unusual in all societies.

The idea of a child being born without a pater is separate

from the concept of a woman getting pregnant without a

husband. Malinowski was aware that premarital intercourse

can occur in all societies and that in some societies it is

institutionalized. But he asserted that "conception is not

left to the chance of free intercourse, even where this is

allowed, but its necessary condition is marriage" (Malinowski

1929b:406). He argued that children are either not born of

these unions because of abortion or other unknown factors or









the resulting offspring prove the fertility of a couple and

they marry.2

The concept of legitimacy, as described above, has

generally been accepted as valid for all societies as

indicated in Davis' statement that:

without this rule there would be no family
the legitimacy rule prevails no matter what other
conditions prevail. Children may be an asset or a
liability, pre-nuptial or extra-nuptial intercourse may
be forbidden or sanctioned, still the rule runs that a
father is indispensable for the full social status of
the child and its mother. Otherwise the child is
illegitimate and the mother is disesteemed (1966:79).

Although its validity has not generally been examined, this

"universal" concept is occasionally worked into the theories

or writings of anthropologists (e.g. Fortes 1969:258-259,

Houseman 1988:660).3 Most anthropologists, however, have

generally ignored the concept completely as evidenced by the

relative lack of discussion surrounding legitimacy in the

literature. Legitimacy has been given indirect consideration

in discussions of marriage (a topic that has been given

considerable attention) and an examination of the

anthropological discussion surrounding marriage will shed

further light on the views scholars have expressed concerning

the concept of legitimacy.



Marriage

The connection between legitimacy and marriage is

evident in the way anthropologists define marriage. The

well-known Notes and Queries in Anthropology (1951)









definition is still frequently referred to by anthropologists

and Mair (1972:82) calls it a "useful working definition."

Notes and Queries (1951:110) published a definition of

marriage as "a union between a man and a woman such that

children born to the woman are recognized legitimate

offspring of both parents."

Upon reflection it is evident that this definition does

not apply to every type of marriage. The Nuer institution of

woman-marriage-to-a-woman illustrates this point. Evans-

Pritchard (1960:108-109) has argued that the legal provisions

of this type of union are the same as those for a marriage

between a man and a woman. The only difference is that a

Nuer in a woman-marriage-to-a-woman will use a proxy male

(generally her own husband) to "father" children for her

while all of the children born of such unions are strictly

under the control of the woman who fills the paternal role.

The children call her "father" and she fulfills the role of

pater for them. Therefore the part of the Notes and Queries

definition that requires both a woman and a man does not

apply to all marriages.

Another part of the definition that states marriage is a

union has previously been called into question by Sarana

(1968) who has pointed out that if one considers that the

word connotes physical contact it does not apply to some

relationships. For example, Nuer ghost marriages to not fit

this requirement. A Nuer woman may marry a man who is

already dead while another man fulfills the role of genitor.4










When children are born they are incorporated into the lineage

of the dead man who is their pater. Children born of these

relationships are considered legitimate (Evans-Pritchard

1960).

The second half of the Notes and Queries definition,

which states if the children of a union are recognized as

legitimate the relationship is a marriage, was considered

problematic by Leach (1968); but his argument does not hold

up. He draws on his knowledge of the practice of polyandry

in various societies. He concedes that in some polyandrous

societies, such as that of the Britons as described by

Caesar, "wives are shared between groups of ten or twelve

men, especially between brothers and between fathers and

sons; but the offspring of these unions are counted as the

children of those to whom the maid was conducted first"

(Leach 1968:73; see Fischer 1952 for additional comments on

marriage among the ancient Britons). Leach acknowledges that

this type of marriage still produces children who are

legitimate since, although the genitor may by obscure, the

child has a recognized pater. He also concedes that the

Todas, another polyandrous society, have a single recognized

pater for each child (Leach 1968). Therefore, the only

polyandrous society that Leach sees as a real exception to

the rule is the Nayar studied by Gough (1952, 1955). Leach,

relying on two papers by Gough, stated that the Nayars

historically have not had marriage "in the strict sense of

the term" (i.e. the Notes and Queries concept of marriage)









but only a "relationship of perpetual affinity" between

linked lineages (Leach 1968:75). Leach also argued that the

Nayar did not have a notion of fatherhood since Nayar

children use a term of address meaning "lord" or "leader" to

all of their mother's lovers irrespective of paternity and

the term does not imply a notion of paternity. Leach does

concede that a notion of affinity is present, however, since

Nayar women were required to observe pollution at their

ritual husband's death. Leach concludes in his paper that

the only marriage characteristic among the Nayar is the

establishment of "a socially significant 'relationship of

affinity' between the husband and his wife's brothers" (Leach

1968:77). Leach expands the definition of marriage to

include ceremonies to establish one of ten specific rights

(one of which is the relationship of affinity mentioned

above) but he claims the list can be expanded further. These

ten rights are:

1. To establish the legal father of a woman's children.
2. To establish the legal mother of a man's children.
3. To give the husband a monopoly in the wife's
sexuality.
4. To give the wife a monopoly in the husband's
sexuality.
5. To give the husband partial or monopolistic rights
to the wife's domestic and other labor services.
6. To give the wife partial or monopolistic rights to
the husband's labor services.
7. To give the husband partial or total rights over
property belonging or potentially accruing to the
wife.
8. To give the wife partial or total rights over
property belonging or potentially accruing to the
husband.
9. To establish a joint fund of property--a
partnership--for the benefit of the children of the
marriage.









10. To establish a socially significant relationship of
affinity between the husband and his wife's
brothers.

Although each of these rights may exist in some

circumstances, only rights one and two on the list can be

considered to occur universally.5 Number one on the list is

considered universal by Gough, who disputes Leach's assertion

that Nayar polyandry is an exception of the legitimacy

principle.

Gough (1968) describes marriages of Nayar girls as

taking place every few years. A lineage held a grand

ceremony at which all of its girls who had not attained

puberty, about seven to twelve years old, were on one day

ritually married to men drawn from their linked lineages.

After four days of ceremonies the ritual husbands left the

house and had no further obligations to their brides. The

only further obligation a bride had to her ritual husband was

at his death when she and her children, "by whatever

biological father," would observe death-pollution for him

(Gough 1968:55). Death-pollution was a ritual that would

otherwise only be observed for matrilineal kin.

After this ceremony a Nayar girl is then able to take

part in the rites of adult women and she is called by the

respectful title amma meaning "mother." Gough reports that

although the ritual husband need have no further contact with

his ritual wife, if both parties were willing, he might enter

into a sexual relationship with his ritual bride about the

time of her puberty. This man did not remain a woman's sole









partner, however, and a woman usually had from three to eight

regular husbands but might receive other men of her own or a

higher caste when desired. Gift giving was an important part

of these relationships and when men no longer gave the

expected gifts it was assumed that they had ended the

relationship.6 However, "when a woman became pregnant it was

essential for one or more men of appropriate sub-caste to

acknowledge probable paternity" (Gough 1968:57). This was

accomplished by a man, or several men, paying the midwife for

the birth--a duty of the father.7 Since the Nayar believed

that numerous acts of intercourse were required for the

growth of the fetus, several men could in fact be the

biological father of a Nayar child. The legitimacy and

status of children depended on the status of the "visiting

husbands" who acknowledged paternity, not that of the ritual

husbands (see Sarana 1968:163-164). These men had no other

responsibilities towards the woman or her child. If no man

of a suitable caste would consent to make a gift then the

mother and the child would either be killed or sold into

slavery. If the woman were driven away then her kin would

perform funeral rites as if she had died.

In reference to this mating system Gough says:

In these circumstances the exact biological
fatherhood of a child was often uncertain,
although, of course, paternity was presumed to lie
with the man or among the men who had paid the
delivery expenses. But even when biological
paternity was known with reasonable certainty, the
genitor had no economic, social, legal, or ritual
rights in nor obligations to, his children after he
had once paid the fees of their births. Their









guardianship, care and discipline were entirely the
concern of their matrilineal kinsfolk .
(Gough 1968:58)

Gough concludes "Nayar unions [were] marriage because they

involved the concept of legal paternity." She then defines

marriage in the following manner:

Marriage is a relationship established between a
woman and one or more other persons, which provides
that a child born to the woman under circumstances
not prohibited by the rules of the relationship, is
accorded full birth-status rights common to normal
members of his society or social stratum. (Gough
1968:68)8

Because the Nayar marriage system has generally been

considered marginal and an important test case, this

definition has important broader implications. These

implications will be considered in the context of the

following discussion of legitimacy.



Legitimacy

In the case of the Nayar, Malinowski's (1929b:407)

assertion that legitimacy is based on a "socially approved,

but individual marriage contract" continues to hold. Part of

the Nayar concern for a man acknowledging paternity is based

on their concern for proper "breeding," although this is not

based on an understanding of genetic inheritance. The Nayar

say that if no one will acknowledge paternity then the father

must be a Christian or a Muslim, or "even worse" a woman has

had sexual relations with a member of her own lineage--an act

of incest. Gough points out that the Nayar fear their

children will inherit poor qualities in such circumstances.









The concept of "higher breeding" in legitimate relationships

exists in a number of societies (Teichman 1978:60-61).

But although the discussion surrounding the Nayar case

does indicate that legitimacy is inherited by children as a

part of all marriages, this does not mean that all children

who are legitimate are born into marriages. This can be seen

in the case of the Ashanti in West Africa.

Formally the condition of bastardy is not
recognized in Ashanti law and custom. But jural
sufficiency does not make the whole person; he must
be morally and spiritually complete as well. For
this, a freeborn person must have a known, freeborn
pater. If he cannot name a father who has
acknowledged him, this is tantamount to admitting
either slave-paternity or a condition akin to
bastardy. (Fortes 1969:196).

For the Ashanti marriage is not a prerequisite for legitimate

paternity. However, the genitor must make public

acknowledgement of his paternity, notably by exercising his

paternal role of naming the child, by supporting the mother

during pregnancy, and by giving customary gifts to the mother

at the time of delivery. Admitting paternity does not bind

the father and child in legal terms but it creates moral and

sentimental loyalties, claims, and privileges and these are

defined and sanctioned by custom and public opinion (Fortes

1969). Legitimate paternity is also essential as a sign of

manhood for the Ashanti. If a man does not have a child to

claim after a lengthy marriage, he is considered defective in

some way and is prohibited from election to office in the

lineage system.9









The Ashanti, then, have a concept of legitimacy that can

exist separate from marriage. In order for Malinowski's

definition of legitimacy to still apply to them it must be

restricted to being derived from a "socially approved, but

individual contract," with marriage taken out.

If marriage is separated from legitimacy as a concept

then it requires a more precise definition of legitimacy

since its opposite--illegitimacy--is usually defined as

including all children born outside of marriage.10 An attempt

to define illegitimacy in terms of sexual relations is also

problematic. Teichman's (1978:53) assertion that "an

illegitimate child is one whose existence is the result of an

unsanctioned sexual act" overlooks the fact that in many

societies if a woman is married all children born to her are

considered legitimate and her husband is their pater--even if

the genitor is another man from an illicit relationship.11

Teichman's definition also overlooks many sanctioned sexual

acts where the children conceived from the union are

considered illegitimate.12 In fact, the origins of

Malinowski's principle of legitimacy lies in his recognition

that premarital relationships among the Trobriand Islanders

were expected and even encouraged although children born as a

result of these unions evidently did not exist and would not

have been accepted if they did exist.

The importance of Malinowski's assertion that social

approval is essential to legitimacy can be seen in a number

of industrial societies. For example, in the United States a









child born in most states is only considered legitimate if

born into a marriage, born to a mother who subsequently

marries the father, or is adopted after birth (The Guide to

American Law 1984). In Great Britain, even when a child is

born into a marriage, if the father does not acknowledge the

child as his it may be considered illegitimate. Especially

if the father's actions and public sentiment do not support

the mother's contentions (Teichman 1978). In these

situations it is not marriage that is the fundamental

component of legitimacy, but public acknowledgement of

paternity.

In the Ashanti case legitimacy is created through the

public acknowledgement of paternity. This coincides with the

Nayar view that paternity needs to be acknowledged for a

child to be legitimate. Marriage, or the giving of gifts to

the mother, is not important for obtaining legitimacy. It is

only when gifts are given to the midwife at birth that

legitimacy is conferred on the Nayar child.

It seems then, in an attempt to define legitimacy, that

the social approval of a relationship (whether it is

considered marriage, as Malinowski believed, or not) is

important in conjunction with public acknowledgement of

paternity. Keeping this in mind we can now approach a

definition of legitimacy.


A child is legitimate when it receives public
acknowledgement of paternity and is born from a
union that is socially approved.










This definition separates the concept of legitimacy from that

of marriage. Although an attempt to define marriage in terms

separate from legitimacy has not been successfully done, such

a definition might be approached through a modification of

existing definitions to restrict marriage to those

relationships that give legitimacy to children without the

necessity of public acknowledgement of paternity (i.e. the

very nature of the relationship is one in which everyone

knows who the pater should be).



Research Ouestions

Based on the definitions presented, two questions

arise: first, how is a relationship outside of legal marriage

recognized as having social approval while other nonlegal

relationships may not have such approval? Second, how does

public acknowledgement of paternity take place and what is

accepted as valid proof of paternity?

I will explore these questions in the following

chapters in the context of an ethnographic account of the

perinatal period for a specific society in the Caribbean--the

Creole population in greater Paramaribo, Suriname. Because

the history of Suriname is connected historically and

culturally to that of other Caribbean societies, research

examining the patterns of family life throughout the

Caribbean has bearing on our understanding of Surinamese

society and so this information will also be considered in a

separate chapter.










In the concluding chapter, I will return to the

concepts discussed above and especially to Malinowski's

characterization of legitimacy and reexamine the issues in

light of the data presented.



Why study in the Caribbean?

An examination of a Caribbean society is important in

furthering the understanding of illegitimacy. Since some

have argued that illegitimacy as a concept does not exist in

the Caribbean and others have argued that it exists but is of

little concern to those living there, the region is important

as a borderline case for testing the construction of

legitimacy as presented.



Why study Suriname in particular?

Although the Republic of Suriname has historical and

cultural similarities to other Caribbean societies, it is

unique in its cultural diversity in the Caribbean due to the

importation of a diverse pool of labor (discussed in chapter

three). This allows for the examination of the Creole

population in Suriname in the context of a wide diversity of

beliefs and practices that serve to highlight distinctive

beliefs and practices and thereby foster an emic view of

Creole society.

Suriname is also distinctive in the Caribbean in that

it inherited the Dutch legal system.13 Dutch law differs from

British law (common in much of the Caribbean region) in that









Roman-Dutch law declares that "a mother makes no bastard" or

in other words that a child is always legitimate in terms of

its mother while British law declares that a child is "filius

nullius" or "the child of no one" which means the child does

not have claim on either its mother or its father (Teichman

1978). The distinction made within Dutch law separates the

issues of maternity and paternity so that paternity can be

focused on more precisely.14



What in Creole society should be the foci of this study?

The development of the approval of relationships

outside of legal marriage and the subsequent paternity of a

child are described relying on rituals and activities

surrounding birth. Paige and Paige (1981), in their cross-

cultural study of 114 non-industrial societies, have argued

that ritual is used by fraternal interest groups to gain

control over children through asserting paternity. Although

the authors do not consider issues of legitimacy directly in

their work, they do argue that "legitimacy is

determined by social consensus and contractual

agreements" (Paige and Paige 1981:167). The authors argue

that ritual surrounding reproduction is used by men in

societies with loose fraternal organizations to gain the

social consensus that a child belongs to the fraternal

interest group and, indirectly, is legitimate.










Summary

Malinowski originated the concept of "principle of

legitimacy" which is essentially the emphasis of all

societies on having legitimate children with the result that

illegitimate children are unusual. In his view, it was the

possession of a pater that makes a child legitimate. This

concept has been accepted as valid by other scholars and is

occasionally worked into theories of parenthood. Views of

marriage have also revolved around the idea of legitimacy.

Marriage has generally been defined as a legitimizing

relationship.

The Ashanti have relationships that are not considered

marriage and yet a child born in these unions is legitimate

as long as someone acknowledges paternity. Such

relationships require that the concept of legitimacy be

redefined such that:


A child is legitimate when it receives public
acknowledgement of paternity and is born from a
union that is socially approved.

Based on the definitions presented, two questions

arise: first, how is a relationship outside of legal marriage

recognized as having social approval while other non-legal

relationships may not have such approval? Second, how does

public acknowledgement of paternity take place and what is

accepted as valid proof of paternity? These questions are

explored in the remainder of this dissertation in the context

of the Creole population in Suriname with reference to










Caribbean societies in general. An examination of this

region is warranted because of the apparent uniqueness of

concepts of legitimacy and illegitimacy in the Caribbean.

Doing research in Suriname allows for the examination of a

population that in some ways has hightend cultural awareness

because of the ethnic diversity in the capital. Since the

events surrounding the conception and birth of children and

the period shortly after the birth all seem to be important

in determining issues of paternity, these events will be

specifically focused on in the discussion of the Suriname

family.

1The Trobriand Islanders that Malinowski studied were one of the two
known groups where a biological father was not recognized (see
Malinowski 1929; Fortune 1932). The other group is a segment of the
Australian Aborigines (see Ashley-Montagu 1937).

2The possible biological influence on this phenomenon that Malinowski
guessed at has since been shown to be valid. Many women do not begin to
ovulate until sometime after menstruation takes place. This delay would
mean that in some societies women would not conceive during premarital
relations even though they were menstruating. Later, when ovulation
begins, women were more likely to be married.

30ne pc3sible exception to this trend has been Spiro's (1954)
examination of life on the kibbutzim in Israel. In a kibbutz children
are separated from their (unmarried) parents to live in separate
housing. However couples do seem to marry soon before or soon after a
child is born so that the child will be considered legitimate. How
often this happens is not stated. In a later addendum (1968) Spiro
states that he does consider the family to exist on the kibbutz since,
among other things, terms of affinity (father, mother, son, daughter)
are used.

4This practice is not the levirate since the genitor is not necessarily
a brother but the practice of levirate would also apply to this same
argument.

5Right number two, "to establish the legal mother of a man's children"
is very clearly connected with he first right of establishing a legal
father to a woman's children. Since in what Hall (1983) calls high
context societies the mother of a child is always known due to the
outward physiological signs of pregnancy and the act of birth, the
mother of a child is rarely in doubt. Only in those situations where a
child is "left on the doorstep" or abandoned in some way is maternity










generally in question. Such abandoned children may be a special case
since both their father and their mother are legally in doubt. Since
the father in such cases is also unknown, the lack of a pater or
sociological father is apparently important in all issues of legitimacy.

6Gough does not state how a Nayar woman went about ending a
relationship, or even if they were allowed to do so.

7The Nayars believed several acts of intercourse "feed" the embryo and
assist it to grow. This would allow more than one man to be the
biological father of a child although it was only essential that one man
acknowledge paternity.

8Although Gough does not discuss it in her paper, this definition is
also important because it allows for the exclusion of children from
legitimacy who are born to a married woman if a man other than the
husband is the father. Although in many cases this is unimportant and a
child is considered legitimate if a woman is married regardless of who
the father is, in other circumstances this is not the case. Having said
this, Gough's definition should not just say "a woman and one or more
other persons" since besides the polyandrous unions she dealt with there
are also polygynous unions

9Fortes (1969:196) notes that public and continuous living together of a
man and a woman without the formalities of marriage but generally with
the consent of the woman's guardian is very common among the Ashanti.
Children of such unions, acknowledged by their fathers, are in every
respect considered equal with those born within a marriage.

10An example of this is found in United States law where nonmaritall
child" is considered equivalent in meaning to "illegitimate child" (The
Guide to American Law 1984:110).

11This is considered in West Africa among the Dahomey in terms of rights
in genetricem and rights in uxorem (Bohannon 1949). That is rights over
a woman as a mother and as a wife respectively. When rights in
genetricem are held by a man, or the patriline as in many West African
societies, then all of the children born to a woman belong to the man or
patriline.

12An example of this is the orgies held by the Areoi, a religious
society described by early explorers in Polynesia. Women who joined the
Areoi society had to promise to destroy at birth any infants that they
might bear while members (Williamson 1924).

13The Dutch were also influential on some of the Caribbean islands--
notably Aruba, Bonair, CuraQao, Saba, and St. Martin.

14It has been pointed out that only a child "left on a doorstep" does
not have a mater or sociological mother. Although this is true for most
societies, British society at one time did not require the mother of an
illegitimate child to take care of it since legally that child did not
have parents. This is an interesting phenomenon that should be examined
in more detail although it is not the focus of this dissertation.
















CHAPTER 2
THE CARIBBEAN FAMILY SYSTEM



Introduction

The concept of legitimacy in the Caribbean can only be

understood in the context of the Caribbean family system.

The family has probably been examined more thoroughly than

any other social phenomenon in Caribbean society. This

research has reflected two major concerns of ethnographers:

the first is an attempt to accurately describe the family

system; the second is an attempt to understand the forces

that have created and shaped this family system to its

current form. Both of these themes are intricately

intertwined. One cannot understand the forces that have

shaped the family system in the Caribbean without an accurate

understanding of the nature of that system and, conversely,

one cannot understand fully the Caribbean family system

without an understanding of the forces that served to create

and shape it. An exploration of these themes places the

concept of legitimacy within its social context.



The Caribbean Family

As research continues on the Caribbean family, an

accurate description of its many facets becomes more










feasible. Marks has distilled eight points which he

considers to be "general" characteristics of the Caribbean

family.


1. the co-residence of a man and a woman as sexual
partners often takes place in the form of a
concubinage;
2. the relations between a man and a woman are
often weak and the period of their co-residence
is not infrequently brief;
3. sexual and economic relations without co-
residence are frequently found;
4. the various forms of man-woman-relationship[s]
such as marriage, concubinage and non-co-
residential unions are not equivalent in
status, durability and sexual exclusiveness;
5. the percentage of illegitimate births is high
in comparison with figures for e.g. European
countries;
6. the husband/father as a co-residential member
of the household group is often lacking;
7. the mother, or in some cases the grandmother,
plays a key role in the management of the
household's affairs and in the children's
upbringing; and
8. household groups are only in relatively few
cases composed of a man and woman and their
joint offspring. (Marks 1975:4)

Marks restricts these descriptive terms to areas where the

process of industrialization is in its "first stages". (He

notes that Curagao, where he studied, is in a "later stage"

of industrialization, and therefore does not fit this

pattern). Most other scholars, however, have restricted

similar descriptions of the Caribbean family to the "lower-

classes" of Caribbean society. (A notable exception is R.T.

Smith [1988], who points out that scholars have generally

neglected other "classes" of society. He argues there may be

fewer differences between the various social strata than

previously thought).1 Since almost all of the research done










on the Caribbean family focuses on the "lower class" of

Caribbean society, the description of the Caribbean family

system which follows is necessarily restricted to the lower

strata of society, although the discussion may apply to the

more wealthy members of Caribbean society as well.2



Origins of the Caribbean Family System

Although there is general agreement as to the make-up

and nature of the Caribbean family, there has been little

agreement about the social forces that have given the

Caribbean family its form. The explanations offered can

generally be attributed to two perspectives of the situation.

The first of these is Herskovits', the first serious

student of Caribbean family life. He viewed the foundation

of the Caribbean family as a West African derivation through

which slaves had retained and reinterpreted a "cultural

focus." The West African "cultural focus" was, for

Herskovits, found in the realm of supernatural sanctions. He

argued that this was why "African religion has shown greater

resistance to white influence than any other phase of African

culture" (Herskovits 1937:55). Herskovits noted that

religion was not the only aspect of society which drew from

the African past; essentially every aspect of Caribbean

society had drawn from West Africa, ranging from the combite,

or communal work patterns, to marriage contracts.

The other contributor to the specific cultural milieu

shaping the "cultural focus" was the colonial power dominant









in each region. For example, "African tribes" and "types of

Frenchmen" were "forged into the structure of Haitian life"

(Herskovits 1937:17). Herskovits argues against the idea

that the French were the only ones to give and the Africans

the only ones to take but concludes that each influenced the

other. Many have viewed his theory as one focused on

"African retentions" or "reinterpretations"; although these

are important components of his perspective, those who are

critical of Herskovits' notion of African retentions have

overlooked the fact that Herskovits makes it clear he

understands there are European influences as well. As an

example, he mentions the "lack of sanitation" and "poor

hygiene" found in Haitian cities as characteristic of French

eighteenth century cities and not those found in West Africa.

Herskovits does, however, tend to focus more attention

on the importance of Africa in his examination of the

Caribbean family than he does to the importance of Europe.

His views on the "origins" of the Caribbean family illustrate

this. He argues that it is the result of the social forces

brought to bear during slavery on the "African" polygynous

form of mating. Also the matrifocal nature of Caribbean

families emphasizes the connection between mother and

children in a polygynous society as the male's importance

declines. Herskovits does not attempt to say why the

Caribbean family has changed from its African roots, he

simply attempts to discover the historical sources of the

current Caribbean family.










The second influential perspective is that of Frazier,

another early student of the Afroamerican family. He argued

against African origins. Based on research done in the

United States he pointed to the disintegrative effects on the

Black family of such socioeconomic factors as slavery,

discrimination and urbanization (Frazier 1965). Frazier

argued that economic and social forces have "determined" the

shape of Black household structure. He saw the attempt to

explain the family life of Afroamericans within the context

of African culture as unfounded. Frazier did acknowledge

some exceptions, noting "among some isolated groups of

Negroes in the New World as for example in Haiti and Jamaica,

it appears that elements of African culture have been

retained in the Negro Family" (Frazier 1965:306).

Although scholars have set these two perspectives up

as diametrically opposed to each other, there appears to be a

greater degree of agreement between Herskovits and Frazier

than either they or later scholars have conceded. Frazier

did not discount the influence of the African past although

he may have emphasized the influence of external conditions

on the Afroamerican family. Herskovits likewise may have

focused on the historical roots of the Afroamerican family

and ignored the social forces which brought about change and

"retention" of some elements. However, neither of them saw

the current family system in the Caribbean as completely

devoid of an historical past.









Most examinations of the family system in various

Caribbean societies made after these two groundbreaking

scholars have been derivations in some form of Frazier's

perspective. These scholars generally discount the African

roots of the slaves family system without attempting to

answer why some aspects of the African past had more

relevance than others in the slaves' subsequent environment.

They also do not attempt to explain why some elements of the

African past are more frequently found than others in the

post-slavery Caribbean. These are not only difficult

questions to deal with but they also may not be very

productive in terms of providing insight into the Caribbean

family system if one agrees with most current arguments that

credit economic conditions with shaping the family.

All current research on the Caribbean family has been

influenced by R.T. Smith's work done in Guyana. R.T. Smith

(1956) concluded that matrifocality and the associated

marginality of men as husbands and fathers was characteristic

of the "lower class" in a class stratified society. He

viewed this situation as directly associated with low rates

of social mobility, restricted public roles for adult men,

and an absence of "managerial" functions, political

responsibilities and status differentiation among them.

In later research, Gonzalez (1969) views the economic

forces on local demography as the important factor in

household structure. She observes that in the Black Carib

population which she studied there has almost always been an









excess of females over males. The "draining of men" from the

system brought "additional burden" on women (Gonzalez

1969:54). This led the women to compete, in a sense, for

economic resources from men. This competition led to

increased instability in the relationships of the younger

women who were mating with younger men, since the younger men

were the ones involved in migratory labor. In contrast M.G.

Smith (1966:xxvii) states this argument is "filled with both

unnecessary errors and conceptual blunders. He argues that

one of the fatal errors of this perspective is the assumption

of a uniform constitution of family system. He shows from

data obtained in rural Jamaica that communities there have a

balance in sex ratio and yet have a similar system. Despite

this evidence, Gonzalez's argument illustrates that the long

term temporary migration of males can have an effect on the

family system.3

Based on her research in Jamaica, Clarke (1966) argues

that the "nuclear family" is the most prevalent and stable in

areas where the land pressure is least. The Caribbean family

system from her perspective is an efficient means of

allocating land. (Clarke's attempts to tie this pattern of

land allocation to African origins by arguing that Jamaican

inheritance through the name of the father and the blood of

the mother fits Ashanti inheritance patterns. R.T. Smith

[1988] does not see the relationship between the two as

significant).









Based on an examination of CuraQao's family system,

Marks (1975) attempts a synthesis of Herskovits' historical

perspective and the economic perspective taken by others

He observes that social status (which is operationalized as

lighter skin color verses darker skin color), as well as

economic status, correlate with legal marriage. He concludes

that the lack of consensual unions in Curacao is due to

"equal economic and social status" and argues that it is only

in cases where status is unequal that "African influences"

play a role. Marks does not attempt to explain why unequal

economic and social status allows more "African influences."

He explains why Curacao is an "equal" society in terms of the

historical view taken by the Dutch on the island that they

were natives of the island and compatriots with those of

African descent in opposition to the Dutch in the Netherlands

who were part of the political yoke to be broken; but he

excluded the oil industry in Curacao and other important

economic factors in his assessment of the differences between

Curagao and the other societies in the Caribbean.

From their Jamaican data, Dirks and Kearns (1976)

argue that the frequency of different types of mating systems

is correlated with the economic situation and environmental

conditions in a country and both tend to change together.

Olwig (1977) found a similar situation in the Virgin Islands;

while Stoffle (1977) concluded that in Barbados

industrialization reinforced rather than disrupted historical

patterns of mating. M.G. Smith (1962) has noted that the










mating patterns in Carriacou and Grenada are generally the

same as they were during slavery and he credits the structure

of slave society for the current family in the Caribbean.

There has been no real consensus on the factors that

have led to the creation or retention of the Caribbean family

system. But it seems evident that although the African

origin of the slaves was undoubtedly important in shaping

their response to slavery, the structure of slavery itself

had a large impact on shaping the family while post-

emancipation economic conditions (including male migration)

may have served to reinforce an existing system of

reproduction.



The Nature of the Current Caribbean Family

There is much more consensus on the nature of the

family as it exists in the Caribbean than there is on its

origins. But that does not mean there is not disagreement

about many of the generalizations made, such as those cited

from Marks (1975). Several areas of family life are

considered important if not distinctive to the Caribbean

region. Each of these is considered separately.



Men in Household Groups

The exact role of the husband or father in the

household has been disputed by some. R.T. Smith (1956:221)

saw men filling an economically induced marginal role in

Guyana. He saw "a correlation between the nature of the










husband-father role and the role of men in the economic

system." In relation to R.T. Smith's findings, M.G Smith

(1966:xiv) points out: "nowhere in this Caribbean region has

any other student [than R.T. Smith] found men to be always

'marginal' as husbands and fathers." But after this

statement was made, Alexander (1977:369) concluded that the

middle class male in Jamaica is "marginal," "irresponsible"

and "weak" because he does not have the level of commitment

to his family expected of him by his society. Gregory

(1985:7) viewed the "marginal" male as a psychological

disadvantage to Jamaican children--especially young boys.4

The difference in perspectives may be based on the

fact that although Caribbean men are not "marginal" in terms

of lack of presence in the household and lack of economic

contributions to the household, their presence and

contributions fall short of the Caribbean ideology of the

male provider. Either male ineffectiveness in economic

endeavors or female reliance on male economic support may be

emphasized in a specific society. In Montserrat, Moses

(1977) found that no matter what women contributed

economically, their status was always lower than the status

of men. This circumstance created a conflict between the

ideology of male superiority and the reality of their

inadequacy as providers. Clarke goes so far as to hint that

this conflict is in part the source of the mating system in

Jamaica. She states:









[t]he husband's liability for the maintenance of
his wife and his responsibility for her debts are
fully understood one reason why men say they
live in concubinage [is] because 'marriage is not
for the poorman' (Clarke 1966:76-77).

Whitehead (1976) later makes this perspective explicit,

arguing that men who fail in the economic role create

insecurities in the household (as a deliberate act) and seek

to find success as individuals through fathering children.

This specific view is unique in the literature. Most

scholars tend to place more emphasis on the nature of male

economic support.

Gonzalez (1969) found that men from the Black Carib

population are responsible for the economic well being of

women with whom they are having sexual relations and they are

responsible for the economic needs of their own children as

well (if they have acknowledged paternity). Men will often

contribute money simultaneously to several women. Flinn

(1986) found that in a village in rural Guyana males with

more land had a higher mating success because they were able

to contribute money to more women than could other men.

Davenport (1968), who studied in Jamaica, found male

interaction with their offspring, which he terms the father-

child dyad. But he views it as a weaker relationship than

the mother-child dyad.

Black Carib men are also responsible for the care of

their mothers and sisters, and as Gonzalez' points out, this

relationship is often overlooked when ethnographers have only

examined men in sexual relationships. In Curagao, a husband










is responsible for the care of his children (Marks 1975).

The responsibilities of his wife and her kin are restricted

to specific aspects of the children's care such as education.

Since legal marriage in Curagao is not only common among the

upper classes but is "by far the prevailing man-woman-

relationship" among the lower class as well, these economic

relationships are found throughout that society.

Although the exact nature of the responsibilities of

men in Aruba has not been stated, De Waal-Malefit and

Helleman (1973) found that women there were economically

dependent on men for support. This does not mean that women

are not active in economic pursuits even though men play an

important economic role in their lives. Barrow (1986) notes

that, although women throughout the Caribbean participate

less in the labor force than men, they continue to fill non-

familial roles including economic ones.

The relative lack of research on men and male/female

relationships has been decried by scholars such as Remy

(1973). As information is published, it suggests that men

are not as marginal in Caribbean society as they are

sometimes characterized. Wilson, one of the few to examine

men in the Caribbean, asks:

if the emphasis on the household by anthropologists
is any measure of its importance as a social unit,
we may well ask whether this means that males have
a marginal role in the society of the community,
and whether they have a subordinate position in the
social system of the Caribbean lower class? To my
knowledge, no anthropologist has reported a society
anywhere in the world in which males take a
subordinate position in the practical affairs of









the community or in the ideological system of
values by which social relationships are conducted.
Is the Caribbean an exception? (Wilson 1971)

Wilson argues that males are not subordinate in Caribbean

life. Although the role of men within the household and

within Caribbean society as a whole needs to be examined in

greater detail, it is clear they have a place somewhere

within the "matrifocal" family. This characteristic of the

family system is clearly one of the most important

conceptually and one of the most central to Caribbean family

life.



The Matrifocal Family

Herskovits and Herskovits (1947:15) pointed out that

in the Caribbean the "nuclear grouping with a woman as its

effective head, has everywhere persisted-to such a degree

that students sometimes speak of the New World Negro family

as 'matriarchal' in character." The view of a "matriarchal"

society in the Caribbean sometimes still appears in the

literature, such as Ducossen's (1976:58) discussion of the

"matriarchal" family in Guadeloupe--the author also states

that "fathers always retain authority" and "mothers exhibit

extreme dependence on them." Although most researchers

contend that Caribbean households are not matriarchal, the

central importance of women in the formation of these

households is also evident. This phenomenon has generally

been referred to as matrifocal. R.T. Smith argued that most

if not all Afro-Caribbean "lower class" households are










"matrifocal" and dominated by women in their combined roles

of mother and wife. This situation is exaggerated as women

grow up and have children of their own while still living in

their mother's household.(R.T. Smith 1956). It is not

uncommon to find three generations of women living in the

same house.

More recently R.T. Smith has argued against the use of

the term "matrifocal" since it has at times led to a

misunderstanding of the prevalence of various mating types.


If the concept of the matrifocal family is to have
any useful meaning it must be redefined to purge it
of the functionalist assumptions embedded in its
earlier use. Nothing can prevent its being used to
mean 'female-headed household' but if that becomes
an accepted usage it would be better to abandon the
term (R.T. Smith 1988:180).


R.T. Smith argues that "matrifocal" cannot be used in

contrast to a "normal nuclear family" since there is

"considerable doubt" as to the normalcy of the nuclear family

worldwide as well as in the Caribbean. This observation was

probably made in reference to conclusions such as those of

Pollard and Wilburg (1978) who view the mother-child family

and matrifocality in Guyana as an incomplete family form as

part of the breakdown of the family system. They argue that

male headed households are superior in performance and have a

higher status in the community. These conclusions, however,

ignore the general consensus that the practice of










economically successful males of establishing more permanent

relationships will influence the performance of households.

Rubenstein (1983) points out that studies of kindred

and family have been neglected in the Caribbean in favor of

studies of the household and that the distinction between the

two has not generally been made. This failure to distinguish

between the two is reflected in Blumberg's (1978) argument

that matrifocality is prevalent among urban residents in all

wage labor societies and not just in the Caribbean, when she

is really discussing female headed households rather than

matrifocal households.

What exactly is a "matrifocal household" if it is not

a female headed household? R.T. Smith argues that it is a

household where the mother and the "maternal" family are more

visible or involved than the man and his family. Eliciting

kinship relationships from individuals in Guyana and Jamaica,

he notes that "[t]he proportion of more distant relatives

increases slightly on the maternal side if all cases are

taken together" (R.T. Smith 1988:61). Melville and Frances

Herskovits' (1947) work supports this view as they observed

that the maternal grandmother figures most importantly in the

lives of grandchildren; although they get along with all of

their grandparents, and although they will go to their

father's family if the mother's family cannot help,

Trinidadians always go first to the mother's family for help.

Slater (1977) views a similar phenomenon in Martinique as

essential to matrifocality.










The fact that the father's family is important in the

lives of his children at all requires a reexamination of

earlier statements made by R.T. Smith. He originally argued:


children derive nothing of any importance from
their fathers, who are marginal and ineffective
members of their families of procreation, even when
resident. It is indeed indifferent whether these
husband-fathers live with their families or not, or
even whether their children know them personally
(R.T. Smith 1956:147).


It has already been pointed out that many disagree with this

view of men in Caribbean society. If the concept of

"matrifocality" is to be retained then it will continue to

imply that men have a diminished role in the household

although they are not completely absent. George, Ebanks, and

Nobbe (1978), whose study also focuses on household rather

than family organization, note that most households in

Barbados are headed by males and it is considered the duty of

men to provide for the family.

Gonzalez (1969) points out that if a young man wants

to "make time" with a girl he will get on the good side of an

older man who is acting in the role of "father" or an older

brother who is "father" to his younger sister. This

statement indicates that the "father" role may at times be

filled by different individuals. However, earlier statements

by Herskovits (1937) of the time spent in arranging

consensual unions in Haiti, and his observations, as well as

those of other scholars, that these relationships evolve into

more and more commitment ending often in legal marriage at










later ages, indicates that men continue to maintain some role

in the household.



Mating Patterns in the Caribbean

The patterns of mating are generally agreed upon by

most ethnographers of Caribbean society. The three types of

unions described by Leridon and Charbit (1981) for Guadeloupe

and Martinique have been found throughout the Caribbean

although they may be discussed under different terms. In

this discussion, relationships that exist without shared

residence are referred to as "extra-residential unions;"

while relationships in which residence is shared with no

legally recognized marriage are discussed as "consensual

unions."5 The nature of Caribbean marriage will also be

examined. It should be noted that, even though these

relationships are considered separately, many relationships

will evolve from extra-residential through consensual to

marriage unions (although the reverse does not appear to be

the case).6 Therefore these relationships are interconnected.



Extra-Residential unions Extra residential relationships,

although considered the most common type of sexual union in

the Caribbean (M.G. Smith 1966, Gonzalez 1969, Ebanks,

George, and Nobbe 1974), can easily be overlooked, as they

were by early ethnographers of Caribbean life, because the

partners do not live together and there is no outward public

indication of their relationship. These relationships are










such that cohabitation occurs on a regular basis and economic

resources are shared, but the couple does not live in the

same residence living, usually, with family members. R.T.

Smith (1988:142) has defined these unions as "based on

'giving' one to another rather than joint unions; exchange

between two entities which are distinct." M.G. Smith (1966)

points out that this is the most common form of mating and an

almost universal practice in early unions among "lower class"

Jamaicans. Gonzalez (1969) adds that extra residential

mating is also the most frequent of all mating relationships

among the Black Caribs. (She calls it a "marital

arrangement," however, rather than a mating relationship.

She also sees "marriage" as occurring later on in a continuum

of a single relationship). Gonzalez adds that such an

arrangement is related to the age of the individuals: young

people start out living separately and then build a house and

move in together; then as age increases the individuals

either marry or separate. M.G. Smith (1966:xxiv) points out

that in his experience "non-domicilary" or extra-residential

unions are "often casual and promiscuous rather than sexually

exclusive." But among the Black Carib even if two

individuals never reside in the same house the union is

considered "proper" as long as the man contributes to the

support of the woman and her children (Gonzalez 1969). In

Haiti these types of unions are seen as the least stable

(Williams, Murthy, and Berggren 1975).










Consensual unions Ebanks, George, and Nobbe (1974) note

that in Barbados a pregnancy often turns an extra-residential

union into a consensual union which they see as a more stable

relationship. Consensual unions differ from extra-

residential relations in that the same residence is shared by

two individuals. Gonzalez (1969) indicates that extra-

residential mating often leads to consensual unions and

therefore is temporary only in the fact that it often quickly

becomes redefined as the residence of the participants

changes. Despite the evidence that some extra-residential

unions evolve into other types of unions, however, it also

appears that many unions are dissolved as different unions

are created. Gonzalez (1969) points out that when an

individual decides to marry she or he may return to the

original partner, if that partner is not already married.

This indicates that the relationships under discussion may be

transitory in nature.

Gonzalez points out that the "ideal mode of behavior"

in a consensual union, as well as in marriage, is sexual

exclusiveness. But this ideal is not always met and a

woman's partner "may at anytime leave her" (Gonzalez

1969:62). She argues that a number of magical devices exist

for a woman to keep her partner from leaving her or moving on

to another union. This is because there is an unequal

position of men and women in regard to maintaining marital

stability and the feeling that a woman should have sexual










relationships with one man during her lifetime is counter-

balanced by a recognition of economic need (Gonzalez 1969).

In R.T. Smith's early work (1956) he viewed "common-

law" unions and legal marriage as sociologically identical,

at least in the "lowly" strata of West Indian society,

stating that it is neither necessary nor appropriate to

distinguish between them. However, his own evidence

contradicts this assumption by indicating that the incidence

of legal marriage increases as age increases. (R.T. Smith

claimed that distinctions in age were "trivial" as well, and

did not examine them in detail; they are examined more

thoroughly below as legal marriage is discussed). Others

have seen distinctions between these relationships as well.

Clarke has shown that attitudes towards the acceptability of

different forms of unions vary from one community to another.

For example, she notes that in Sugar Town there is "no social

disapprobation of concubinage nor bias towards marriage"

(Clarke 1966:82), in Orange Grove "concubinage is

disesteemed" (Clarke 1966:92), and in Mocca "the conjugal

pattern is concubinage for life" (Clarke 1966:77). However,

no matter what the local attitudes towards consensual unions

may be, these unions exist in every Caribbean society.



Marriage unions Some include consensual unions in a

subcategory of marriage. Herskovits (1937) described the

family in Haiti with detail lacking in some later

ethnographies. He described plagage (or consensual unions)









as a union that can be the result of "affairs between young

people" (1937:116) the same way that Gonzalez (1969) has

described the evolution of visiting relations to consensual

unions. Herskovits considers placage as a "marriage" that is

not sanctioned by the church but is sanctioned by the family.

He argues that as couples move in together contracts are

worked out similar to marriage contracts forged in West

Africa. Even though he sees this type of union as a

"marriage," he does not consider it equal to a church

sanctioned marriage as R.T. Smith (1956) later did.

Herskovits points out that a marriage that is sanctioned by

the church is seen as better or more elite than one that is

not sanctioned and therefore has a qualitative difference.

He does not discuss the duration of these unions, but since

he views them as equal in all ways other than the status a

church sanctioned union can give, it is likely that he would

have argued that placage is not a less stable union than is a

church sanctioned union.

Herskovits' observations that a consensual union can

be the result of extra-residential unions (or "affairs") has

been extended by later researchers to legal marriage.

Consensual unions can result in or evolve into legal

marriage. R.T. Smith (1988:88) points out that in Jamaica as

early as 1789 couples would settle into "stable unions" as

they grow older. But, he adds, increasing age does not

always lead to "legalized unions" (R.T. Smith 1988:129).

Gardiner and Podolefsky (1977) point out that in Dominica










marriage is usually delayed until the middle to later years

of life, but it is regarded highly as an institution. M.G.

Smith (1966:xxviii-xxix) notes that "age is the most

important correlate [to marriage], marriage increasing and

visiting decreasing with age in every instance." This

phenomenon has been observed in other parts of the Caribbean

as well and in some areas it appears to be very frequent.

Marks (1975:17-18) points out that in Curagao "practically

all marriages had been contracted at an early age as first

coresidential unions." Gonzalez gives a more detailed

picture of how this process works, based on her work in

Honduras and Belize.


By the time a young man reaches the age of thirty
or so, his life may take on a radically different
form, in that he may have achieved a fairly high-
paying job. Now he may find it possible and
desirable, for purposes of increasing his prestige,
to build a house in which to place his wife and
children. By this time he will probably have had a
series of alliances with different women, and he
will usually have some children. He may set up
housekeeping with his current favorite, or he may
still feel loyalty for his first wife [i.e. mating
partner], if she does not have another husband
(1969:61) .7

Gonzalez' realization a man will marry "for purposes of

increasing his prestige" expands our understanding of

Clarke's (1966:78-84) observation that marriage is delayed in

part until a man has a house and "preferably a bit of land."

A further reason for the delay is that "contracting parties"

must approve of one another sufficiently to risk the change

in status and responsibilities that marriage implies. R.T.










Smith (1988:104) adds that "Many West Indians defer marriage

until they have several children, but not just to accumulate

resources for a proper ceremony." Evidence from other

ethnographers seems to corroborate Gonzalez' assertion that

older couples may legalize marriage to provide security in

inheritance or more importantly to enhance status. R.T.

Smith (1988) points out that those few black members of the

upper class in Jamaica (the upper class consisted almost

exclusively of whites at one time but most have since left)

place an emphasis on property and status in relationships and

always marry (in a legal union). This is also reflected in

the lower class of the Black Carib. Gonzalez (1969:69) found

that "Ideally, permanent monogamy, neolocal residence, and

the nuclear family are held to be the most desirable forms.

However, these ideals are seldom achieved in this society."8

As ideal relationships are achieved, the number of

children in a union is influenced. Ebanks (1973) argues that

legal unions in Barbados are more stable than other unions

and the lower the number of partners a woman has the fewer

children she will bear. This phenomenon can be understood in

terms of the importance of children in common in Caribbean

unions.



The Importance of Children in Common

In Jamaica "it is rare for childless unions to endure;

as rare as for marriage to occur before the birth of

children" (Clarke 1966:107). Clarke (1966:95) points out










that "the childless woman is an object of pity, contempt or

derision." Why this is the case is not made clear; however,

it may, in part be connected to a rite of passage into

adulthood. For these Jamaicans "a woman is only considered

'really' a woman after she has borne a child, [and] the proof

of a man's maleness is the impregnation of a woman" (Clarke

1966:96). Once these women have demonstrated their ability

to bear a child some will "attempt to avert the economic

burden of children" by using drugs or "bush medicines" to

induce a miscarriage (Clarke 1966).

Murray (1975) notes that in Haiti couples want to have

children in common even if they have children from another

person. Women in Guadeloupe and Martinique who change union

types, regardless of which kind they have, will also have

higher levels of fertility than other women (Leridon and

Charbit 1981). Although women who enter a visiting union in

Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, and Jamaica have fewer children

on the average than do other women (Harewood 1984), this is

likely due to the fact that couples in visiting unions have a

lower frequency of intercourse and therefore a lower risk of

pregnancy than other women in the same societies (Roberts and

Sinclair 1978). If women who have multiple visiting unions

are examined, they as a group are found to have the greatest

number of children and there is also a correlation between

the number of partners and the number of children (Harewood

1985, Wright and Madan 1988). Since visiting unions with a

single partner produce the lowest number of children, while










visiting unions with multiple partners produce the greatest

number of children, these results suggest a relationship

between fertility and the importance of having children in

common with a partner in certain types of relationships.

The number of children a woman has also influences her

activity in the economic sector. In Jamaica childless women

are much more economically active than women with children

(McKenzie and Powell 1975). Women who are already employed

appear to have lower fertility rates than unemployed women

(Powell 1976, 1986; Durant-Gonzalez 1982 views bearing

children as increasing the need to find employment). These

factors can be explained in terms of the Caribbean ideal that

a man contribute money towards the raising of his children.

If a woman bears a child in common with a man then that man

is more likely to contribute goods and money to her

household. This may also explain why a pregnancy seems to

turn an extra-residential union into a consensual union as

discussed above. Higher levels of employment with fewer

children cannot be simply explained by considering that a

woman will have more time available to work, although this

may be a factor, since "child-transfer" or allowing other

family members to care for children is common throughout the

Caribbean.

Clarke (1966) points out that "step-children" are most

frequently found in situations where a union is childless.

Herskovits (1937) states that "child-transfer" among Haitian

parents can take place for economic reasons (i.e. another










family is better equipped financially to care for the child).

Clarke (1966) noted that households based on consensual

unions are equally divided according to the presence or

absence of children, while those based on marriage were

without children in only one-fifth of the cases. Although

this could indicate that children serve to strengthen a

relationship which might lead to marriage, the facts that it

is older couples who tend to marry (who have had more time to

bear children) could also explain the correlation between

marriage and children.

The permanence of these relationships varies, as has

been mentioned, and an adopted girl in Jamaica who becomes

pregnant may be put out of the house. Gonzalez (1969) notes

that among the Black Carib "child loaning" may be long term

but these child will not have inheritance rights as other

children do. "Child transfer" in Haiti, on the other had,

appears as a complete transfer of rights and

responsibilities. Herskovits (1937) states that if the

adopted Haitian child is abused the original parents can do

nothing to help that child. In the British West Indies in

general, it has been found that 25% of all children are not

living with their parents but almost all of these children

are living with another family member (Sanford 1974). In

Jamaica, children who are not taken in by another person are

occasionally abandoned (Broadber 1974).

All children can receive a new "step-parent" as

relationships change. However, if marriage occurs the










children might not be included in that new relationship.

Clarke (1966) points out that the exclusion from the

household of outside children of either parent was more

marked in the case of married couples than in families in a

consensual union. This was not a strict rule but more

outside children from women were included in the home when

compared with those of the men.9 Children do not

automatically go with the mother, but there is a tendency for

boys to go with their fathers in new relationships and girls

to go with their mothers. If under fifteen years of age both

boys and girls are more likely to go with the mother.



Illegitimacy in the Caribbean

Illegitimacy, as noted in Marks' summary of the

Caribbean family cited above, is generally considered to be

not only common in the Caribbean but it carries with it no

social disability or disparagement like it might in other

societies. Herskovits and Herskovits (1947:82-83) state that

in Trinidad "there is no social disability imposed by the

community because of legitimacy or illegitimacy." While in

reference to the concept of legitimacy they point to a "false

perspective on the thinking of people given by the

application of legal terms such as 'legitimate' and

'illegitimate' to the offspring" (Herskovits and Herskovits

1947:17). But they still see these terms as useful to

distinguish between concepts in Caribbean society if an

attempt is made to understand how the concepts differ from










their general use in European society. Slater (1977) takes a

different viewpoint.10 She argues (Slater 1977:155) that in

Martinique: "There simply is no rule of legitimacy." Slater

considers legitimate children, as do others who have dealt

with this issue, to be children born to married parents

rather than those with a recognized pater, as in my

definition. If Slater's data is examined it indicates that

some important distinctions between children are made in

Martinique. She notes that

"although illegitimate births outnumber the
legitimate, recognized children usually outnumber
the nonrecognized .A man need not live with
a woman to recognize one of her children, but if he
lives with her he is forced to recognize her
children unless he wishes to go to court to dispute
paternity" (Slater 1977:159-160).

Recognized children also have a different status from

unrecognized children. "By law, recognized children inherit

along with legitimate children from the father. Unrecognized

children, then are at a disadvantage ." (Slater

1977:160).

Goode (1960:30) argues that the Caribbean does not

contradict Malinowski's views and concludes that

"Malinowski's Principle of Legitimacy is generally

valid." Part of the evidence he gives for this assertion is

the fact that mothers severely chastise daughters who get

pregnant. This indicates that although pregnancies outside

of a marital union are common they are not considered

acceptable. Goode (1960) also states that marriage is

considered the ideal form of mating in the Caribbean and most










people enter marriage at some point in their lives. This he

argues can be held as the "norm" or value of the Caribbean

although there is a high rate of deviance from this ideal

form of mating. He criticizes Slater's assertion that there

is no distinction between legitimacy and illegitimacy based

on these factors. Goode also argues against the

characterization of consensual unions as "sociologically as

legitimate" as legal unions. He concludes: "If this

interpretation is correct, Malinowski's principle would be

erroneous, and one of the apparently major functions of the

father would have to be redefined as unessential" (Goode

1960:23). Goode does not state why he came to this

conclusion and it is difficult now to say exactly what

motivated him to state it. But, if legitimacy is not defined

as necessarily derived from "marriage" but rather in the

terms given in chapter one, then what is and is not

technically a marriage becomes less relevant to the issues.

Slater's (1977) addendum to her dissertation in

published form castigates Goode for not distinguishing, as

she felt he should, between the "upper" and "lower" strata of

society. Slater feels that Goode was relying on the values

of the "upper" strata, to describe the behavior of the lower

strata. She argues that the elite may attempt to discourage

illegitimate births but there is no concept of "shame" among

the non-elite or at most it is fleeting. Slater's

conclusions that there is no concept of illegitimacy in the

Caribbean has been adopted and referenced in subsequent










descriptions of Caribbean family life (e.g. Halberstein 1986,

1990).

If legitimacy is not considered in terms of children

born into a marriage but children who have a socially

recognized father, then the conflict between the perspectives

of Goode and Slater can be reconciled. But before an attempt

is made to do this the views of others on Caribbean

illegitimacy will be considered.

There is some disagreement among various ethnographers

as to the extent of illegitimacy in the Caribbean. This

disagreement is best contrasted by the views of Marks and

R.T. Smith. Marks (1975:16) argues that "illegitimacy should

be regarded as virtually an exclusive 'product' of the lower

strata." R.T. Smith's (1956) earlier arguments were less

polemical. He felt that the distinction between legitimate

and illegitimate children, like that between union types, was

sociologically irrelevant. Currently, however, he attacks

(R.T. Smith 1988:104) "economic determinists theories [which]

have made illegitimacy appear to be an exclusively lower

class 'problem'." His rebuttal to these theories is based on

the efforts of Bishop Nutal in Jamaica to stem "immorality"

among higher class whites who were producing many

illegitimate offspring. Therefore, illegitimacy, he argues,

was an upper class (and white) phenomenon in the Caribbean

just as much as a lower class black phenomenon.11 On the

other hand, Marks' assertion that illegitimate births are

"high" in the Caribbean does appear to reflect empirical










observation if births outside of marriage are considered

illegitimate.

The response of parents to a daughter's discovered

pregnancy indicates that not all pregnancies are treated with

indifference. Simpson (1942:665) notes that daughters in

Haiti are "beaten" when their pregnancy is discovered. A

Jamaican girl's initiation into womanhood appears to follow

several "ritualized" stages that have been described by

Clarke.


The mother's behavior when she discovers her
daughter's condition falls into four almost
ritualized stages. The girl's misconduct is always
said to have been carried on surreptitiously
without her knowledge and brought to her attention
only when the signs of pregnancy become apparent.
The discovery is greeted with noisy upbraiding, the
girl is severely beaten, and in many cases turned
out of the house. In the second stage the girl
takes refuge with a neighbour or kinswoman. After
a period, which may be quite short, the kinsfolk
and neighbours intercede with the mother on her
behalf, and the girl is taken back into her
mother's home for the birth of her child (Clarke
1966:99).

One exception to the rule that a Jamaican mother accepts her

pregnant daughter is with adopted girls who must leave if

they become pregnant. "They could not expect to be kept on

as one's own might be in such an event" (Clarke 1966:177).

There are other occasions when a mother accepts with no

disapproval a daughter's pregnancy. Clarke points out that a

girl working as domestic help returned home for the birth of

her child; the child was left for the mother to raise and no

disapproval was voiced. The reasons for this difference in










treatment were not made clear by Clarke. It appears that in

certain circumstances a pregnant girl, or woman, can meet

with marked social disapproval and at other times be treated

with indifference--each a phenomenon focused on by Goode and

Slater respectively. Rawlins (1984) has also noted that

teenage pregnancy is likely to be lower when parents,

especially mothers, have greater interaction with their

daughters. How much this influences response to pregnancy is

unclear.

Manyoni's (1977:418) comment in reference to the

Caribbean that "illegitimacy is largely considered from the

perspective of maternity rather than both maternity and

paternity" is generally accurate in that men are rarely

chastened or visibly punished in relation to issues of

legitimacy (for a similar perspective see Allman 1985). This

may be due to the fact that paternity is less clear. This is

generally given as the reason why property is only inherited

by a child if it is considered "legitimate." But, as we have

seen for Martinique, a child can inherit property from the

father if the father acknowledges paternity. Therefore,

although a mother may be easier to identify, because of the

pregnancy, paternity can still be determined on a

sociological level if not a biological one (unless

sophisticated techniques are made available).

An approach at reconciliation of the dispute between

Goode and Slater based on this evidence should consider that,

although many children are born in unions other than marriage










relationships and are not socially disapproved of as

"illegitimate," there are a class of children who do not have

a person they can identify as their "father" and these

children do have lower status than others. Relationships

carried on surreptitiously, which result in a child without

an identifiable father, result in sharp social disapproval by

the community. These children do not have claim to support

from their fathers or those men who have established a social

contract with a child as discussed by Malinowski.

In the following ethnography of pregnancy and

childbirth among Creoles in Suriname it will become evident

that there are a number of different ways men can assert

paternity or women can ritually identify the father of their

child.

Although this analysis of the Caribbean as a region

has suggested general characteristics of Caribbean society,

Lewis (1985:226) argues "it is misleading to think of the

[Caribbean] region as a single, monolithic whole a delusion

present in much of the scholarly literature on this area."

This study is not dealing with the Caribbean as a whole but

only with the the coastal region of Suriname. It is not

necessary, however, to treat each society in the Caribbean as

a completely separate entity devoid of any connections with

other regions that have undergone similar historical and

cultural processes. Much of what has been found in other

societies in the Caribbean has relevance for Suriname.










Summary

Although the origins of the Caribbean family are

probably drawn from many different influences, there are

distinctive characteristics of the Caribbean family that can

be found in most Caribbean societies. There is a

"matrifocal" tendency in Caribbean societies which can best

be viewed as a tendency towards slightly greater emphasis on

women and the maternal kin of a family when relationships are

considered as a whole. The perspective of men as "marginal"

to the household is overdrawn if one considers this to mean

they are constantly absent and do not contribute economically

to the household. Yet men are less prominent in daily

household activities than are women. There is also a

distinctive mating system that has developed in Caribbean

societies.

Mating in the Caribbean generally begins as an extra-

residential union; it then evolves into a consensual union;

and later, usually after children are born, a legal marriage

is solemnized. Having children in common seems to strengthen

relationships in each of these patterns of mating.

The family system in the Caribbean is one in which

children are generally born outside of a legally recognized

union. Some of these births receive marked social

disapproval while others are treated with excitement and

expectation. A distinction between these types of

pregnancies can be made on the basis of association with a

presence or lack of a socially recognized father. This











distinction will be explored in the following ethnography of

pregnancy and childbirth among the Creole in Paramaribo,

Suriname.

1Most scholars have focused on the "lower class" while lumping the
middle and upper class into a single group where legal marriage is
consistently found. R.T. Smith's recent work indicates that, although
this is generally the case, it is not a rule. He points out "the
distribution of union types reflects the class composition of the
genealogies, with common law and visiting unions being rare, but not
absent from, established middle class genealogies" (R.T. Smith 1988:67).
Henriques, although he saw the upper class as differing from the lower
and middle class, argued that these patterns were not derivations of the
European ideal but forms that existed in their own right. Henriques
notes in reference to the relation between the upper and middle classes

The attitude of the middle class towards this practice [i.e.
of bearing children outside of marriage relationships] is
not only one of tolerance but of actual approval. This is
interesting as the twin household violates the canons of
this class's sexual morality, and in addition the female
partner is often drawn from its own class. The middle class
girl who becomes the mistress of an upper class man is
condemned, but the action of the man is approved (Henriques
1953:154).

Henriques sees these relationships as having roots in slavery when an
upper class male would have an "outside" relationship with a woman in a
lower status position than himself.

2Class, as it is used by most Caribbean scholars, is consistent with the
concept of socioeconomic status. Not only is one's income level
included in this but also language use (Creole verses Metropolitan
language), skin color (the darker one's skin the lower one's status),
and education (the lower one's education the lower one's status).

3Beet and Sterman (1978) also argue that "male absenteeism" influences
family life and fertility among the Matawai Maroons in Suriname but no ---
conclusions are drawn as to its effects on the structure of the Matawai
family.
It is noteworthy that the recent emigration from Suriname has been
disproportionately Creole men. This has increased the female to male
ratio dramatically.

4The author does not present data to support his conclusions.

5A variety of different terms have been used to describe specific
relationships that exist in the Caribbean family. I have chosen to use
"extra-residential" unions as defined in the text because other terms
such as "affair" or "visiting union" tend to down play the fact that
many of these relationships evolve into co-residential relationships and
possibly marriage. Likewise the term "consensual union," as defined in
the text, is used rather than "concubinage" which reflects a lower
status to the relationship than is often the case in Caribbean











communities. Therefore "consensual union" is used to refer to co-
residential relationships where legal marriage is not found. These may
exists as "common law" marriages or as "living together" relationships
which may or may not lead to legal marriage. Legal marriage is
generally a marriage that is sanctioned by the churches in the community
and the law of the country. This definition is, of necessity, much
narrower than the definition I gave in the first chapter for marriage.
The societies dealt with in this discussion have a much narrower
definition of marriage and the research discussed is based on a much
narrower definition. Therefore, I use this narrower definition of
marriage throughout this chapter.
All of these labels are imposed from the outside although they
have occasionally been adopted by those to whom they apply. Some of the
terms that members of these societies use for their relationships will
be discussed in the text.

6Stoffle (1977b) has argued that industrial employment slows down the
time it takes to move through these patterns of relationships.

7This is only the first stage of a marriage according to "Western
tradition" for the Black Carib. A legal union, or what Gonzalez refers
to as a "Western-type marriage" does not transform a consensual union
with the performance of a ceremony recognized by law, but that is the
culmination of several steps taken to give the relationship higher
status.

8This discussion of the motivations for marriage is admittedly strongly
biased towards the male perspective and what the motives of men are in
these relationships. This is not intentional but is unavoidable due to
the lack of consideration by ethnographers of women's intentions.

9Although this may be expected in European societies, in West Africa
children generally go with the men after separation as part of rights in
genetricem which men hold.

10This work was originally a dissertation done under the authors maiden
name of Kreiselman in 1958.

11R.T. Smith hints in his discussion, in fact, that illegitimacy in the
Caribbean originated with the slave owners and from them became a
persistent part of the structure of "lower class" families.
















CHAPTER 3
AN OVERVIEW OF THE RESEARCH SITE:
THE REPUBLIC OF SURINAME



Historical Overview

Suriname is on the northern border of South America.

Brazil is just south, while French Guiana is east and Guyana

is west of Suriname. The Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean

form the northern border. Because of its historic,

geographic, and ethnic character, Suriname is considered part

of "plantation America" (Wagley 1957), and is specifically

included in the Caribbean region (Mintz and Price 1985).

Paramaribo, the capital and only major city in the country,

is located on the coast of Suriname and is the general site

of early European activity.



European Domination

Suriname's original inhabitants were Native Americans

who, according to current evidence, were in the area in large

numbers at least 5,000 years ago (National Planning Office of

Suriname 1988). Although the coastal Carib and Arawak groups

appear to have had contact with Europeans from the time of

their first arrival, encounters and exchanges slowly spread

to other groups, with the last recorded "first" contact being

with the Akuri who used their stone axes to destroy the










outboard motor of a "curious traveler" in 1968 (Bubberman

1972:11).

The first European contact appears to have been in

1499 when the Spanish navigators Alonzo de Hojeda and Jean de

la Cosa are reputed to have scouted some parts of the

northeast coast of South America during their navigation of

what later would be called "the Wild Coast." One year later,

Vincent Juan Pinzon claimed the region in the name of the

king of Spain.

This region, which came to be known as Guiana ("land

of many streams or waters")1 is situated between the Atlantic

Ocean and the Amazon, Rio Negro, Cassiquiare and Orinoco

rivers. It soon became known for its mythical Dorado, or

land of gold, and Lake Parima--a fabled lake of gold. This

region was possessed in the sixteenth and seventeenth

centuries in whole or in part by Spain, the Netherlands,

England, France, and Portugal in turn. As part of the

imperialistic jousting of the time, the territory became

divided into five regions: Spanish Guiana (now part of

Venezuela), British Guiana (now Guyana), French Guiana,

Portuguese Guiana (now part of Brazil) and Dutch Guiana

(which, of course, is now Suriname).

The Dutch founded the first trading centers on the

coast (in 1530 and 1542) and in 1581, a year after their

independence from Spain, they established the first

settlement in Pomeroon, which later became part of British

Guiana (Mitrasing 1975:5-6). The Dutch became so active in









the Caribbean region that the Spanish governor of Venezuela

recommended they be kept out through poisoning the salt pans

they frequented in the neighboring Antilles (Williams

1984:75). The activities of the Dutch were eventually

curtailed by the British who, under the direction of Lord

Willoughby, established the first permanent settlement in

Suriname in 1651.

Fort Willoughby was built on the remains of a French

fort dating from 1640, and the English began trading with the

indigenous Carib while turning against the Arawak--

traditional Carib enemies. In 1667, sixteen years later, the

Dutch took Fort Willoughby as part of their global war with

England and still held it a year later when a peace treaty

was signed in Breda. In exchange for keeping Suriname, the

Dutch gave New Amsterdam (New York) to the British. The

Dutch, everyone felt at the time, got the better end of the

deal, even though they argued both sides should take equal

burden for the war (i.e. "Dutch treat"). The British

immediately began applying the Dutch hate term jong kaas

(i.e. Yankees) to the inhabitants of New Amsterdam and the

Dutch began to reshape the colony of Suriname.



Slavery in Suriname

The British period was crucial to the development of

Suriname. Most notably, the importation of slaves from

Africa began during this period. The languages originally

spoken by the slaves and the Maroons, or runaway slaves,









still retain much of the basic lexicon and syntax developed

during the period when English was the dominant language.

As the Dutch took control of Suriname, they changed

the name of the fort to Zeelandia. The fort remained central

in importance as is reflected in the Sranantongo word foto,

which now means "city." The Dutch expanded the importation

of African slaves beyond earlier levels. Most of the slaves

were brought from West Africa, but slavers moved down the

coast of Africa as villages were decimated and societies

destroyed. Herskovits (1939) reports that some of the last

slaves brought to Suriname were from Mozambique--clear around

the Cape.

The world shipping capitals of Amsterdam and

Rotterdam, from the provinces of North and South Holland,

respectively, controlled much of the slave trade, while

Europe's leading medical school in Leiden provided most of

the attending physicians on the slave ships and colonies of

the Netherlands and other nations (Calder 1958). Nassy, as

quoted by Price and Price (1988:xiv), stated in 1788 that the

Dutch colony in Suriname was "the envy of all the others in

the Americas" likely because of its economic output.

Suriname remained the most important colony of the

Netherlands until well into the eighteenth century when

Indonesia, or the Dutch East Indies, surpassed it.

The "envy" of the Americas was built at a price.

Essed (1984:1) reports that slaves died at the rate of four a

day from 1682 to 1863 when emancipation was declared. A









contemporary of this period, John Stedman (1796:373), guessed

the entire slave population became "extinct" every twenty

years or in other words that the high death rate led to a

complete overturn in the population every twenty years. In

addition to this, beginning as early as the British period,

many of the slaves had begun escaping into the Amazon rain

forests and establishing communities led by a granman or

"chief." Although the forests were hazardous and called

dedekondre or "country of death" by the slaves, many were

willing to risk malaria and other perils in exchange for

freedom. These enclaves of Maroons, who now call themselves

Busunengre or "Bushnegroes," established themselves along

major rivers and continued to raid plantations until peace

treaties were signed with separate groups in 1760, 1762, and

1767 making them the first peoples in the Americas to gain

independence from Europe.2

Until the importation of slaves was made illegal,

there was always a higher concentration of Africanborn slaves

than Surinameborn slaves (called Creoles) in the colony.

Because of this, the Creole population continued in many

different ways to have contact with their African past until

the importation of slaves was abolished. On July 1, 1863,

the slaves were given their freedom. This event is still

celebrated every first of July as ketikoti or manspasi

("emancipation" day).










The Post-Slavery Period

For years after emancipation, former slaves flocked to

the city, refusing to continue in agriculture.3 This left a

shortage of labor in the plantation areas of Suriname. In

order to fill their labor needs, the Dutch turned to the

British East Indies and began importing indentured labor--

largely from the northeastern provinces of India. These East

Indians are called Hindustanis in Suriname (and the

Netherlands as well). Most of these contract laborers

arrived in Suriname between 1873 and 1917 and are now the

largest of the many ethnic groups in the country. Many of

the Hindustani were tricked into embarking on ships or did

not quite understand the consequences. Suddenly they found

themselves pulling out of their home cities, sometimes not

even having had time to say farewell to family members or

tell them what was happening (Diepraam 1978). In 1890 the

Dutch turned to the East Indies to supplement and later

replace the inflow of Hindustanis on the remaining sugar

plantations. They brought laborers to Suriname from the

Indonesian island of Java until 1939. Of the ethnic groups

in the coastal lowlands the Javanese remain the most

impoverished and least exposed to formal education. Although

the Hindustani have been much more likely to move into

sectors of the economy other than agriculture, they continue,

along with the Javanese, to dot the agricultural regions of

the country.










More recently Maroons have flocked into the city as

well, seeking opportunity and as refugees from rebel fighting

in the interior. The Chinese world diaspora has brought

immigrants from Hong Kong and elsewhere who tend to run small

shops or winkels4 and restaurants. Significant numbers of

Dutch, Lebanese, and Guyanese live in Paramaribo, as do some

Jews from Germany and Portugal and a smattering of North

Americans (often missionaries of various Christian

denominations). The general nature of Suriname is such that

the city of Paramaribo is dominated by the Creole population

with a large Hindustani presence as well, while the coastal

agricultural regions are populated with the Hindustani and

Javanese and the rainforests are the territory of the Maroons

and Native Americans.



The Current Picture

The Republic of Suriname gained independence from the

Netherlands in 1975. Many of the changes that have taken

place since then have been influenced by the newly

independent status of the country. But, as with all

societies, Suriname reflects its historical and cultural

roots.



Population Growth

The population of Suriname has undergone dramatic

fluctuation as a result of independence. Many Surinamers

retained their Dutch citizenship and went to the Netherlands.










Recent figures indicate that the steady decline in population

leading up to and following independence has been reversed

and population growth is again occurring (see table 1).

The population of Paramaribo is 48% of the entire

country's population5 and much of the remaining population

surrounds and has ties with the city. Three other population

centers of note are: Nieuw Nickerie, next to the Guyana

border; Albina, next to the French Guyana border; and Mungo,

a region south of Paramaribo where bauxite mining takes place

for the aluminum industry. Smaller villages are scattered

along many of the major rivers in the interior.


Table 1
Population Growth and Growth Factors 1980-1987


Year Population* Births** Deaths Immigration Emigrat

1980 361,040 9,848 2,192 2,282 18,988
1981 351,990 10,094 2,441 3,338 4,432
1982 358,549 11,205 2,506 3,706 3,431
1983 367,523 11,823 2,811 2,805 5,225
1984 374,115 11,503 2,873 3,393 3,488
1985 382,650 11,704 2,674 1,902 5,321
1986 388,261 10,176
1987 404,962 9,660

*Total as of January 1.
**This figure only includes live births.6
Source:National Planning Office, Suriname (1988) and the
Suriname Department of Public Health statistical office,
1991.


ion









Ethnic Makeup of the Population

One of the distinctive characteristics of Suriname is

the social and cultural diversity of its population. Most of

the population identifies with specific ethnic labels that

signify similar historical and cultural roots. Each of the

large or influential ethnic groups will be discussed

separately. The percentages of each group given from the

"hospital" sample refer to the sample from which part of the

research for this work was derived. The sample is discussed

in the following chapter.



The Hindustani

The Hindustani population of Suriname made up 37.8% of

the total population of Suriname in 1980 (Health Conditions

in the Americas 1990:257).7 In 1991 they made up 32.7% of the

delivering population at s'Lands, the public hospital

(n=340).8 The Hindustani are generally considered to be the

largest ethnic group in Suriname when those of African

descent are separated into Creole and Maroon groups. (If

those with African ancestry are considered as one group, then

they make up 39.1% of the population in the Health Conditions

in the Americas report [1990:257] and 47.3% of the delivering

population at s'Lands in this study).

The Hindustani have cultural and ancestral ties to

India. They prefer use of the Dutch term Hindustani to refer

to themselves as a group. In Sranantongo, they are called

Kuli a word retained from the British period or occasionally










Hustani derived from the Dutch. The Hindustani, as a whole,

hate being referred to as Kuli. (All of the Hindustani women

in the postpartum study said they did not like the term

Kuli.) The Creole, on the other hand, say most Hindustani do

not mind being called Kuli and when groups of Creoles are

together they invariably used Kuli when talking about

Hindustanis. When other ethnic groups are in on the

discussion, Hindustani is generally used. Hindustanis of

both Muslim and Hindu religions find the Dutch term

acceptable.

The recent characterization of Suriname as a place

where harmony exists between divergent ethnic and religious

groups overstates the situation (French 1990). Some ethnic

tensions do exist. For example, Hindustani will occasionally

complain about the Creole population and claim all the

Creoles are interested in is prisiri pleasure, a good time,

or parties. Although most Hindustani will claim everyone can

marry everyone, they tend to discourage or even express

disdain at relationships with Creoles. A child that is born

of Creole and Hindustani parents is called a Dogla and is

generally classified as a Creole (see below).

Many Hindustani still strongly identify with India and

are interested in events in India. A statue of the Mahatma,

Mohandas Karamchand Ghandi, stands in a busy section of the

city and many of the city's streets reflect Indian ties--

including the recent changing of the name of one of the two

major roads from Pad van Wanica to Indira Ghandi Weg.












The African-American population

Although all of Suriname's population of African

descent are descendants of African slaves, historical

separation of two segments of the population have created

cultural and linguistic differences. The Creole population

consists essentially of the descendants of those who were in

the city or on plantations at the end of slavery while the

Maroon population is made up of the descendants of those who

escaped into the rainforests.



Creole. Creole Surinamers are called Creool in

Dutch and Nengre in Sranantongo.9 There has been a major

movement towards the use of the term Creole by Surinamers as

opposed to the term Nengre which is viewed by some as having

negative connotations. There is not only a linguistic

category Nengre to designate the lower class Creoles in

Sranantongo, but historically persons could also be Mulata,

(a Kleurling in Dutch) if part of their ancestry was

European. These distinctions are no longer made, however.

But distinctions are still made in reference to admixture

with other ethnic groups. A Dogla is theoretically the

offspring of a Hindustani mother or father and Creole spouse

but even if parentage is not known a Creole with wavy hair

might be called Dogla. For example, American Blacks seen on

television are occasionally referred to as Dogla.










Of the women who deliver at s'Lands Hospitaal 24.1%

identified themselves as Creole. The percentage of African-

Americans is 39.1% for the entire population but how many of

these identify themselves as Creole is difficult to

determine. There was a movement to identify the Maroon

population with the Creole population based on a common

African ancestry. The intentions were to increase political

clout (see Wooding 1981) but it has also influenced

statistical information on the population. This movement has

not had as devastating an impact on information, however, as

has a more recent trend.

There has been a recent movement to completely ignore

ethnicity in the gathering of official data. The general

opinion is that if ethnicity becomes less important national

unity will increase and this will benefit everyone. The goal

is admirable but it is no longer possible to get such

information as a break down of infant mortality by ethnic

groups. This obfuscates real differences in ethnic groups in

important areas (like birth weight as discussed in chapter

8). It would be better if inequalities between ethnic groups

were made explicit so that changes can be made to improve

specific sections of the population rather than ignoring such

differences under a guise of nationalism.



Maroons. The Maroons are known as Bosland Creool in

Dutch or Busu Nengre in Sranantongo. The Maroons are made up

of six distinct groups. The Saramaccaners are perhaps the










least acculturated to city life of all the Maroons. This is

generally due to the fact that they have historically lived

the furthest from the city. The Aukaners or Ndjuka are the

largest group and are geographically the closest to

Paramaribo. When talking about Maroons, this is the group

most Creole are referring too. Djuka, a term that Aukaners

now disdain, is used by the Creole as a term for impolite

behavior or social ineptitude.

Other small groups of Maroons listed largest to

smallest include Paramaccaners, Matuaridrs (or Matawais),

Kwintis, and Bonnis or Alukus.

Although Djuka has become a term of criticism, the

Creole generally admire the Maroon population. Many of the

Creole see their own culture and society as being derived

from that of the Maroons and they feel the Maroon population

represents the Creole past. Of the women who delivered at

s'Lands Hospitaal, 23.2% identified themselves as Bosland

Creool or Maroon.



The Javanese

The Javanese are called Yapanees in Sranantongo and

Javaans in Dutch. They find both terms acceptable although

both terms are occasionally used in disparaging ways such as

viewing breast-feeding as Javaans or referring to outhouses

as Javaanse toilets. The Javanese only make up 18.4% of the

total population.10 Out of the women from the s'Lands sample,

they make up 12.4% of the total.










The general image that the Javanese have of themselves

and that others have of them is that they tend to get along

with everyone, (although there are exceptions). Many of the

Javanese and especially the older population maintain an

interest in what happens in Indonesia and the small group

that can afford it will attempt to visit the country at least

once. A cultural center has recently been built for the

centennial of Javanese immigration and public events are

occasionally held to celebrate the Javanese heritage.



The Native Americans

Native Americans are referred to as a group in

Sranantongo by the term Ingi or as Indiaan in Dutch. They

only make up 1.5% of the total population and most of this

small group live in rural or remote areas. Native Americans

made up 2.7% of the women who delivered at s'Lands Hospitaal

in January, 1991. Those who do live in the city tend to be

the coastal Carib and Arawak. Other Native Americans include

the Wajana (a total of 397 individuals) and the Trio (a total

of 822 individuals) with just under 700 individuals

identified as "other."



The Chinese

The Chinese are called Sinesi in Sranantongo and

Chinees in Dutch. There are more Chinese in Suriname than

Native Americans with 1.7% of the population, but only .6% of

the women delivering at s'Lands Hospitaal defined themselves










as Chinese. Most of the Chinese own businesses in the city

and are generally successful. (One of the two Chinese women

that delivered at s'Lands had delivered her first child in

the United States and she was the only woman in the entire

sample to have a "class A" delivery which is explained in

chapter 8).



The Europeans

Although the current European population of Suriname

is about 0.5%, their presence is felt in larger proportion

than their numbers. (There were no Europeans in the hospital

sample). Europeans are generally Dutch and are always

considered so unless one knows this not to be the case. The

Dutch are classified into two categories in Sranantongo. A

Buru is specifically applied to descendants of Dutch farmers

in Suriname and the name comes from the Dutch word for

farmer. It is also generally applied to any White who

appears to work hard or is a native Surinamer. The other

class of Dutch are the Bakra. These are the urban, well to

do, or foreign Dutch. For some speakers the use of Bakra has

a negative tinge.

If a person's nationality is known then it is

generally indicated in referring to that person. An American

male becomes Amekan boy or pikin Bush "a child of Bush" (the

U.S. president during the period of this research).









The "mixed" population

The final category is called gemenged in Dutch and

moksi in Sranantongo (or "mixed"). This group made up the

final 4.4% of the total hospital population. Those who would

like ethnic distinctions to disappear in Suriname are hoping

that this group will eventually expand to include all

Surinamers. But presently even those who are called moksi by

friends will often identify with one of the major ethnic

groups.



The Political Situation

In the years following the second world war, when many

former colonies gained independence, Suriname got more

political freedom and control over internal affairs, but it

did not become completely autonomous from the Netherlands.

In 1975 Suriname gained its independence. Events surrounding

its independence have changed the country of Suriname

dramatically. More than 100,000 individuals (mostly Creole)

kept their Dutch citizenship and went to the Netherlands in

the period approaching independence--meaning that a country

the size of the U.S. State of Georgia, with fewer than

400,000 individuals mostly concentrated in one large urban

region, underwent a dramatic population reduction. The large

numbers who emigrated has resulted in many Surinamers having

family members in the Netherlands that can send money or

other goods (although some complain that relatives do not

send much if anything). High levels of emigration (mostly of









males) have contributed to current demographics where more

than 50% of the population is under 20 years of age and

disproportionately female. During the same period of time

there was also a large increase of migration from the

interior into Paramaribo.

Independence has also been followed by political

upheavals. Suriname went through a coup d'etat in 1980, less

than three years after the first elections in 1977, followed

by a series of political assassinations in 1982, and the rise

of the Jungle Commando, a Maroon insurgency. The military

government stepped down in 1987 when democratic elections

were held. A Native American military insurgency split in

1990 from their alliance with the Maroons to create the

Tucayanes Amazones. On Christmas eve of 1990 a "telephone

coup" by military leaders toppled the government. The

military again stepped down in 1991 allowing democratic

elections to be held.

Hopes of pending agreement between insurgents in the

interior and the Suriname government officials as well as

warnings by the Netherlands and U.S. against another coup

attempt may lessen the political turmoil in the country.

However, Brana-Shute's (1987) characterization of a

"surprising Suriname" may continue to express itself in the

political arena.









The Economy

Politics continue to intact with the economy. The

mining sector (mainly bauxite) dominates the economy, since

it accounts for almost 75% of the total export earnings for

the country. Its successes and failures are felt by almost

everyone. Rice, tobacco, bananas, tropical woods and other

agricultural products as well as some oil production are

important exports for the country.

When Suriname became independent it received the

famous "golden handshake" from the Netherlands. A promise of

almost one billion dollars U.S. in aid over a ten-year period

would have had a phenomenal impact in such a small country.

But after the first coup d'etat this aid was held by the

Netherlands in an attempt to influence the internal affairs

of Suriname and still has not been released.

Suriname continues to be plagued with problems. In

the past year there have been at least five flour shortages

which meant no bread or bami (egg noodles), two of the

country's staple foods. During these shortages American

officials, in televised speeches, stated that Suriname needed

to pay for the last wheat shipment before the next one would

be sent. Rice, the third and most important staple, always

seemed in plentiful supply, although many rumors were passed

around that it would also be difficult to get soon. It is

doubtful that events would progress that far, but fears that

rice would disappear were very real.










The country's economy has accelerated its decline in

the past several years and is experiencing a chronic shortage

of foreign currency. Production declines since 1987 have led

to soaring unemployment which currently makes up almost 34%

of the total work force. Suriname's dependence on imports

and a limited supply of foreign currency has led to soaring

prices and a scarcity of a wide range of goods. There is a

large parallel or "black market" and most imported goods such

as medicines and consumer items are purchased paying the high

rates asked for foreign currencies. Despite the parallel

market, the official exchange rate has been held at about a

constant 1.77 guilders per dollar and an even trade of one

Suriname guilder per Dutch guilder. In contrast to this,

during 1989-1990 the blackmarket rate was generally reported

at about sixteen to eighteen guilders per U.S. dollar or

eight to nine Dutch guilders per U.S. dollar with some

reporting exchanging Canadian dollars for as high as twenty

guilders per dollar and others reporting similar rates for

U.S. dollars.11



Languaaes

There are many languages spoken in Suriname. They are

generally defined by different ethnic and cultural

boundaries, although these boundaries are not distinct. The

"best spoken language" of an individual will generally be

defined by ethnic and cultural affiliations, but either










Sranantongo or Dutch is known by almost everyone with Dutch

as the official language (see table 2).12



Sranantongo

One of the most widely used languages in Suriname is

Sranantongo (literally "Suriname-Tongue"). The language is

sometimes referred to as Negerengels in Dutch (or "Negro

English"). This term is incorrect, although accepted by many

Surinamers, since Sranantongo is not a type of English but

has a unique syntax and a modified English lexicon with

considerable contributions from Dutch, Portuguese and West

African languages.



Table 2
The Best Spoken Language of the Suriname
Population Six Years Old and Above by Ethnic Group


Dutch Sranan- Sarnami Javanese Other Total
tongo Hindustani
Creole 61,389 27,939 195 90 1,318 90,931
Hindustani 11,250 1,496 71,505 23 443 84,717
Javanese 2,724 561 22 34,766 35 38,108
Amerindian* 980 944 1 447 2,372
Chinese 2,581 237 1 5 1,663 4,487
European 3,455 15 1 4 144 3,619
Other 1.558 156 2 37 528 2.281

Total 83,937 31,348 71,727 34,925 4,578 226,515
% 37.1 13.8 31.7 15.4 2.0 100.0

*not living in tribal groups

Source: Edward Dew 1978:11










The term Taki-taki regularly appears in English

language publications--even academic ones (e.g. Alleyne 1985)

as the name of a language in Suriname. It is generally used

to refer to Sranantongo, although it has been used for Maroon

languages too. The term is a Sranantongo word meaning "to

gab" or "to chatter" but it is not a complementary one and it

is not used by Surinamers.

Sranantongo's resilience over the years has been

remarkable despite the fact that children are neither allowed

to speak it at school nor in the homes of the upper class or

many of the middle class. There have been increasing

attempts to write in Sranantongo although to date most of the

material produced has been fiction or poetry (e.g. van Kempen

1986, Grot 1987). Recently, a news program has been produced

in Sranantongo which is aired on one of the two television

stations.13 While most of the broadcasting is still done in

Dutch--the official language.



Dutch

Since the emancipation of slaves on July 1, 1863

Christian missionaries and others have taught schools in

Dutch and it is still the official language of Suriname. The

Dutch spoken in Suriname differs from that spoken in the

Netherlands (or the numerous local dialects spoken in the

Netherlands) not only in the accent given to it but also in

some grammar constructions and vocabulary. Besides producing









television shows in Dutch, both of the national newspapers

and the most popular radio station in Suriname use Dutch.

The two major languages of the city (Dutch and

Sranantongo) are both spoken on the streets and most of those

who were born and raised in the city are proficient in both

languages. For the Creole population 69% have indicated that

Dutch is their "best spoken language" while 31% have

indicated that Sranantongo is their "best spoken language"

(Dew 1978:11). Both Sranantongo and Dutch were used during

interviews to gather data for this research and Dutch was

used exclusively in the mailed questionnaires.



Other languages

Other languages spoken in Suriname include Sarnami

Hindustani a derivative of two Hindi dialects--Avadhi and

Bhjpuri. This language has incorporated elements of

Sranantongo and Dutch as well as some English because of the

large number of East Indian immigrants from Guyana. Javanese

is also spoken although it differs from its parent language

in Java, Indonesia in that loan words are not only drawn from

Bahasa Indonesia but also Sranantongo and Dutch. English is

spoken by some immigrants as are Chinese (Manderin, Hakka,

and Pundhi), Arabic (a larger number using it in ritual

contexts), Native American languages (including Arawak,

Carib, Wajana, Trio, Akurio and others), and a variety of

Maroon languages the most influential of which are Saramaccan

and Aucaans.











The Religions of Suriname

The religious beliefs of Surinamers are as varied and

complex as are their languages. Native American animistic

religions are still found in Suriname, although indigenous

religions take a less prominent position in the lives of

Native Americans currently than Catholicism in coastal

regions and Protestantism in the interior.

Although a little missionary activity was conducted by

the Moravian Bretheren from as early as the eighteenth-

century among Native Americans and slaves, proselytizing only

began in ernest after the emancipation of slaves in the late

nineteenth-century. Before this cime the religious life of

the slaves had become in part a syncretization of beliefs

drawn from their divergent African pasts and the Native

American groups around them and in part completely new ideas

and experiences that dealt with the situation in which they

found themselves. This religion has become known as Winti

from the word for "wind" or "spirit." Wooding (1981) points

out that, although this religion is similar to others in the

Caribbean in that it syncretized beliefs from a variety of

sources, it differs from other Caribbean religions in that

Christianity was never included in the syncretization

process. The slaves who escaped into the interior and

established Maroon societies took religious beliefs with them

that are similar to Winti.









Although Winti has been termed "the Creole religion,"

this is not completely accurate. Most Creoles are Roman

Catholics or Moravian with many adherents to other Protestant

denominations. However, participating in a Christian

religion does not preclude the participation in Winti

activities as well and many are involved in both religions.

Some Christian denominations denounce participating in

Winti and the leader of a small revivalistic denomination

(the Mosterd Zaad), who had formerly been a traditional

healed, decries Winti as serving the devil. It is not

uncommon to find Creole men and women who have not been to

Winti ceremonies in years although most have participated in

or seen a ceremony at some point in their lives. For others

Winti serves as a social function, a place to go dance and

meet people, although religious feelings may exist as well.

Winti religious observance involves serving

supernatural beings called Winti and in turn receiving aid

from them in everyday or special circumstances. Using

special protective charms is also viewed as part of these

beliefs as are a variety of healing practices. Those that

involve pregnancy will be dealt with in greater detail in

subsequent chapters.

Maroons have also been influenced by a Christian

presence although to a lesser extent than the Creoles. They

also define their religious beliefs to outsiders in terms of

organized religions. Maroons who do not belong to a specific

Christian denomination will consistently reply "no religion"









in surveys rather than asserting other beliefs. They have

also experienced various prophetic movements and religious

revivals (Thoden van Velzen 1977, 1978; Thoden van Velzen and

van Wetering 1975, 1982). The other segments of the

population have also been influenced by various Christian

denominations and a small number have joined specific groups.

About 60% of the Hindustanis belong to the orthodox

Sanatan Dharm and another 20% the reform Arya Samaj Hindu

faiths. Most of the rest are Muslims. Islam is also the

religion of almost all the Javanese. Both groups are Sunni

Moslems with the Javanese belonging to the Shafi'ite school

and the Hindustani the Hanifite school. There is evidence

that some of the Africans brought over in slavery were also

Moslems but there are no apparent members now among their

descendents.14 In the late eighteenth century and into the

nineteen century there were also many "free people of color"

and later freed slaves who were Jews. The Jewish influence

on Suriname was important and historically there were large

numbers of both Sephardic and Ashkenazian groups in Suriname.

Although some Jews still live in Suriname, their numbers have

dramatically declined to the point that they currently fill

an insignificant niche in the society. There are other

religious creeds in Suriname of course but their influence on

the society is small enough to warrant their exclusion from

this discussion.










The religious affiliation of women who delivered at

the hospital was recorded but there is no indication of the

extent of religious activity (see table 3).


R i~i rn


Table 3
of D live rina Women


Creole n=79
Catholic
Moravian
Full Gospel
Jehovah's Witness
Other
None

Javanese n=43
Muslim
Catholic
Moravian


(52%)
(29%)
(4%)
(4%)
(5%)
(6%)


38 (88%)
4 (9%)
1 (2%)


Source: s'Lands Hospitaal Delivery
1991
Note: Some percentages may not add
rounding.


Hindustani
Hindu 96
Muslim 11
Christian 3
Moravian 1
Catholic 1


n=112
(86%)
(10%)
(3%)
(1%)
(1%)


Maroon n=80
None 29 (36%)15
Catholic 28 (35%)
Moravian 18 (23%)
Full Gospel 5 (6%)

Records, January,

up to 100 due to


For the African-American population there is also no

indication of participation in non-organized religions (note

specifically the Maroon response to religious affiliation).

It should be remembered that this population represents only

the women who delivered at s'Lands Hospitaal. The small

population of "other" religions may be influenced by the fact

that some of the other religions in Suriname (i.e. Dutch

Reform) have congregations that may be better off financially

and/or are less likely to have children.


P 11 -innI 1- Y ---)---










Summary

Suriname's initial development under colonial rule was

as a plantation economy where slavery was the major source of

labor. After the emancipation of the African-American

slaves, contract laborers were brought in from India and Java

(Indonesia). Suriname has since developed into a very

diverse population with a variety of languages, religions,

and racial groups. Ethnic identity is largely based on race

and language spoken but also includes other factors. The

self identified ethnicity of women who delivered at s'Lands

Hospital January 1991 is illustrated in table 4.

Suriname has undergone a series of economic and

political crises and continues to struggle to preserve its

democratic government, its economic independence, and its

national identity.



Table 4
Ethnic Identity of Hospital Sample

Hindustani 32.7% Mixed 4.4%
Creole 24.1% Native American 2.7%
Maroon 23.2% Chinese .6%
Javanese 12.4% European -

Source: s'Lands Hospitaal Delivery Records January, 1991.





1Guiana is presumably a word of Native American origin.(Mitrasing
n.d.:9).

2The reader will note the difference between the term used for the
escaped slaves in this text (i.e. Maroons) and the term they use for
themselves (i.e. Bush Negroes). The term Bush Negro does have a long










past in the region and van Velzen and van Wetering (1983:99) point out
that informants rejected the term Maroon as another attempt by outsiders
to put a label on them. I have not ignored this caution but have still
adopted Richard Price's use of the term Maroon (see R. Price 1976).
Although Bush Negro is a literal translation of the Sranantongo Busu
Nengre, it brings with it negative connotations not generally held in
Sranantongo. Maroon was derived from romance languages but developed
its English form in Jamaica in reference to run-away slaves there. It
does not bring the negative connotations with it that Bush Negro does
and so will be used in this text to refer to African-Americans in the
Amazon rainforests of Suriname.

3There is some suggestion that the Creole population had sought after
city life for a long time. The Sranantongo proverb Tangi foe Pans boko
mi si beni foto means "Thanks to the Spanish bok [a whip used for
punishments] I got to see inside the city." Although this proverb (or
odo) is currently used to illustrate that their is a positive side to
horrible situations, it also indicates the contrasting excitement of
city life in juxtaposition to the doldrums of plantation tasks (R.
Brana-Shute 1990:133).

4see Brana-Shute (1975, 1979) for a discussion of the winkel and its
importance in male Creole life.

5The National Planning Office of Suriname 1988) has published these
figures as 169,798 inhabitants for 47.8% of the population. They do not
give the specific year from which these numbers are derived but when
47.8% of the national population is taken for each of the years listed
by the planning office a slightly higher number is derived than the
169,798 figure given by the planning office.

6Infant mortality is discussed in chapter 8. The birth totals for 1988,
1989, and 1990 are, respectively 9,094; 10,217; and 9,545, although the
rest of the data for these years is not available.

7These figures add up to 99.0% due to rounding.

8These figures add up to 100.1% due to rounding.

9Although the Creole are generally not more specifically defined,
sometimes they are narrowed to Stads Creool or Foto Nengre both terms
which refer to 'City Creoles.'

10Total population percentage is based on the report Health Conditions
in the Americas (1990:257).

11The higher rates were always reported by the news when black market
rates were discussed but regular questioning of the young men who bought
foreign currencies in the large waterfront market never elicited such
high figures. But the young men in the market in turn sold their money
to another person for higher rates and others claimed they got the
reported high rates through their contacts and they had every reason to
lower their quotes of rates since they were giving these rates to family
members outside the country when requesting more foreign currency.











12More recent data on language use is not as inclusive as that included
in the text. One recent study looked at the media languages spoken by
mothers of children with diarrhea but it did not include Asian
languages. The results were as follows:

Languages Understood and Read in Suriname

Language Understand Read

Dutch 94% 92%
Sranantongo 92% 40%
English 44% --
Aucaans 21% 0%
Others 21% (e.g. Saramaccan) 6% (English or French)

Source: Krishnadath and Caff4 1991:20-21.

The number of respondents for this survey was n=48.

.13There are still a variety of variations of spelling in Sranantongo.
The variety used in this book is the the one used by De Drie (1984,
1985) because it tends to use fewer letters than the spellings based on
Dutch pronunciation.
14The evidence is mentioned by Voorhoeve (1962) who notes that in 1700s
there was a Sranantongo term for a Black Moslem.
15Follow-up questioning of Maroon women who told the midwives they did
not have a religion indicated that they did participate in religious
ceremonies associated with the historical religions of the Maroons.
Their response to this question was in terms of organized religions.















CHAPTER 4
METHOD



Population Studied

Although the Creoles of .Paramaribo, Suriname were the

focus of this research, much of the data presented has been

derived from the narrower population of women who delivered

at the public hospital (s'Lands) in Paramaribo. Since this

is the hospital where publicly funded births take place, the

lower strata of society are the main clients of the hospital.

Approximately half of all births in the entire country take

place at s'Lands which makes for a larger uniform sample than

would be the case at the private hospitals.

There are four other hospitals in Paramaribo that

serve the surrounding area, but they are not nearly as

influential as is s'Lands. The military hospital deals with

an insignificant number of deliveries. The Protestant

hospital (Diakennessen Ziekenhuis) do not generally deliver

infants of lower income mothers. The teaching hospital

(Academische Ziekenhuis) generally deals with unusual cases.

Women rarely deliver babies at home in Paramaribo.

Those births that do occur at home are usually unplanned and

the baby is brought to the hospital immediately afterwards.

Occasionally a woman will call on a midwife from the hospital

and pay for a home delivery. These women are usually









relatively wealthy or illegal immigrants, both groups that do

not fall under government subsidized funding for births

(discussed in chapter 8).



Methodolocgy

Several research methodologies were used to gather

data. These are discussed under separate categories for

clarity and organization but in some cases more than one

research method was used to elicit data on a specific topic.

The source of a specific set of data is mentioned in

connection with the presentation of the results in the

appropriate chapters.



Language Use

The most important research technique used to gather

data for this dissertation was thorough preparation in the

languages used by the Creole of Suriname. Dutch was studied

in an academic setting and used for several years with native

speakers in the Netherlands (including speakers from the

Republic of Suriname). I have been rated completely fluent

in an official language evaluation by a native speaker and

language instructor at the University of Florida.

Preparation in Sranantongo, the other major language

used by Creole women, was not as easy since it is not taught

in an academic setting outside of Suriname (an only

occasionally within the country). All of the literature

available on the language was consulted before visiting










Suriname from July-August 1990. While in Suriname during

this period of time, Sranantongo was used as often as

occasion permitted and spoken Sranantongo was recorded for

listening and preparation for improved language ability

during the June-December 1991 period of research. Efforts to

improve my ability to speak and understand Sranantongo were

continued throughout the research period.

Research was conducted using both Dutch and

Sranantongo, depending on the preference of the informant and

the nature of the topic. Sometimes both languages were used

in the same interview for clarification of concepts. There

was not a single informant that did not use fluent Dutch.

Only a few upper middle class individuals stated they did not

speak Sranantongo (although they were later observed to

understand it perfectly well when used by other individuals).

Sranantongo became important when interviews were conducted

with Maroon women at the hospital.



Participant Observation

A major component of the methodology used to gather

information for this study was participant observation. This

method was continually used throughout the research periods

of July-August 1990 and June-December 1991. An attempt was

made to "participate" in as many activities as possible

within the community setting. This activities included

social gatherings, such as four weddings, a funeral, birthday

parties, and religious services (these included Winti dances









and gatherings of several Christian denominations). Other

activities were on a more personal level, such as trading

turns weeding yards, fishing by kerosene lamps in the

Suriname river, or other daily tasks made easier by the

opportunity to swap stories and discuss issues. Some

activities were on a more private level. Births and

postpartum recovery fit in this category. Participating in

deliveries allowed me to learn information that would be

difficult to get any other way. I was also able to ask

questions about the activities of the midwives during the

deliveries as they were actually carrying out their duties.

Participation in daily activities was important for

two major reasons. First, it created friendships and mutual

respect. When people saw me or family members on the street

they would come out and ask if we were the ones they saw at

the dance or other event. As I became well known, the trust

level was higher than would have been the case had I shown up

on the door (as I sometimes did) as an unknown person wanting

to ask questions. The second benefit provided by

participation was the information it generated. I was often

able to ask questions about activities in a setting in which

the activity was being carried out. Observing activities

also served to reinforce or modify information given by

informants often based on what they saw as typical or ideal

behavior rather than what was actually done.









Hospital Records

Data was also gathered from hospital records for women

who delivered at s'Lands Hospitaal. The records of all women

who delivered in January 1991 were examined for specific

information. January was chosen since it was long enough

before research was begun that all the records for that month

would be gathered and available in the hospital archives and

yet it was recent enough that the information would be

current. These records yielded data for three hundred and

seventeen women (n=317). This was the group presented in the

characterization of the ethnic identity of the hospital group

presented in the previous chapter (chapter three) and much of

the data presented in the rest of the dissertation. The

ethnic identity of this population was approximately 33%

Hindustani, 24% Creole, 23% Maroon, 12% Javanese with other

groups making up the rest.

The information in these records was given by the

women to midwives. The midwives would ask a series of

specific questions as each woman was brought into the

delivery area of the hospital. There was generally no

attempt to keep this information private. The midwives would

sit at the desk and loudly ask each question on the form

while the laboring woman would respond between contractions.

Although a few of the responses, such as ethnic identity,

were generally recorded without outside verification, many of

the responses required verification by law. Those

specifically checked carefully included method of payment and




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AGREEMENT_INFO ACCOUNT UF PROJECT UFDC
FILES


THE SOCIAL LEGITIMIZATION OF CHILDREN IN SURINAME SOCIETY: AN
ETHNOGRAPHIC ACCOUNT OF PREGNANCY AND CHILDBIRTH AMONG THE
CREOLE IN GREATER PARAMARIBO
By
MARK L. STAKER
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
1992

To my Father and Mother
who have a great deal of experience with childbirth and the
responsibilities of paternity and maternity
ii

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
I would like to express my gratitude to Kim Staker for her
many contributions to this work. She gained her understanding
of pregnancy in Suriname through experience. Joshua and Anna
Staker also contributed by enduring long walks, eating
unfamiliar foods, and patiently letting the incessant throngs of
people in the market run fingers through their hair and teach
them Dutch.
Many others contributed to this work as well. Dr. M.G. Lie
Hon Fong, the Minister of Health, gave me permission to do the
study. Dr. Sonja Caffé of the Department of Public Health
graciously took responsibility for my work and gave invaluable
aid throughout the research process. The medical staff at
s'Lands Hospitaal allowed me to watch them work, shared their
knowledge, and provided support during the work. Doctor A.
Mungra, a hospital gynecologist/obstetrician and Sister Wandi,
the head nurse/midwife at the hospital, lent invaluable support.
Dr. Linda Wolfe, Dr. Leslie Lieberman, Dr. Molly Dougherty,
and Dr. Sharlene Simpson all contributed invaluable input during
various stages of this research. Dr. Brian du Toit gave immense
amounts of time and insight towards the completion of this
project. A University of Florida Grinter Fellowship made some
of the preliminary research for this work possible and a
iii

University of Florida Goggin Award contributed towards the
travel expenses during research.
Most of all I am indebted to the women and men in Suriname
who graciously shared their experiences and knowledge. Many of
them are sincere friends and association with them will always
be a fond memory.
iv

TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS iii
LIST OF TABLES i*
ABSTRACT *i
CHAPTERS
1 LEGITIMACY: ISSUES AND QUESTIONS 1
The Principle of Legitimacy 1
Marriage 3
Legitimacy 9
Research Questions 13
Why study in the Caribbean? 14
Why study Suriname in particular? 14
What in Creole society should be the foci of this
study? 15
Summary 16
2 THE CARIBBEAN FAMILY SYSTEM 19
Introduction 19
The Caribbean Family 19
Origins of the Caribbean Family System 21
The Nature of the Current Caribbean Family 27
Men in Household Groups 27
The Matrifocal Family 31
Mating Patterns in the Caribbean 35
Extra-Residential unions 35
Consensual unions 37
Marriage unions 38
The Importance of Children in Common 41
Illegitimacy in the Caribbean 45
Summary 52
3 AN OVERVIEW OF THE RESEARCH SITE:
THE REPUBLIC OF SURINAME 55
Historical Overview 55
European Domination 55
Slavery in Suriname 57
The Post-Slavery Period 60
The Current Picture 61
v

Population Growth 61
Ethnic Make-Up of the Population 63
The Hindustani 63
The African-American population 65
The Javanese 67
The Native Americans 68
The Chinese 68
The Europeans 6 9
"Mixed" population 70
The Political Situation 70
The Economy 72
Languages 73
Sranantongo 7 4
Dutch 75
Other languages 7 6
The Religions of Suriname 77
Summary 81
4 METHOD 84
Population Studied 84
Methodology 85
Language Use 85
Participant Observation 86
Hospital Records 88
Interviews 89
Structured interviews 90
Semistructured and unstructured interviews 92
Summary 95
5 THE MATING SYSTEM OF SURINAME 97
Interaction Between Men and Women 97
The Development of Relationships 97
School Relationships 98
Street Relationships 99
Established relationships 99
New relationships 100
Social Events 101
Character 102
Proper Intimate Behavior 103
Proper Intimate Knowledge 104
Being Socially Sensitive 107
The Range of Unions 108
Marriage 109
Marriage rates Ill
Legitimacy in marriage 112
Consensual Unions 114
Is "Suriname style marriage" a form of
marriage? 115
The legitimation of children 116
Extra-Residential Unions 117
The Importance of Paternal Recognition and
"Legitimacy" 119
vi

The Economic Status of Reproductive Age Women....121
Summary 123
6 CONCEPTION 12 9
Conception and Issues of Paternity 129
A Woman's reproductive Capabilities 129
Menstruation 129
Etiology of Illness and Menstruation 130
Is There a Motive Behind Pregnancy? 132
Sexual Relations as a Rite of Transition 133
Children as Part of Long-Term Relationships 134
The Use of Contraception and its Relationship to
Pregnancy 135
Contraceptives 135
Reasons for Using Temporary Contraceptives 138
The Importance of Children as They Mature 139
Concept ion 140
Signs of Pregnancy 140
Menstruation and pregnancy 140
Other signs of pregnancy 141
Response to Discovery of Pregnancy 144
The Response of Others Towards the Pregnancy... 149
False Pregnancies 151
Improving Fertility 152
Aborting the Pregnancy 153
Spontaneous Abortions ("Miscarriages") 153
Induced Abortions ("Abortions") 155
The Creole Use of Abortions 159
Summary 160
7 PREGNANCY 165
A Woman's Appearance and Pregnancy 165
Pregnancy as an Event 166
A Mother's Contribution to the Child 166
A Father's Contribution to the Child 166
Pregnancy Induced Changes in the Body 167
Diet During Pregnancy 168
Diet and Pregnancy 169
Food Cravings and Avoidance Patterns 170
Prenatal Care During Pregnancy 172
Illnesses During Pregnancy 173
Inherited From the Ancestors 174
Fyo-Fyo 175
Summary 177
8BIRTHING 181
Delivery and Paternity 181
The Term of Pregnancies 181
Premature Births 181
Postterm Births 182
vii

General Gestation Length 183
Anticipation of Delivery 186
Paying for the Delivery 187
The Setting for Birth 190
Where to Deliver 190
The Hospital 191
Getting to the Hospital 195
Labor in the Hospital 196
Delivery 202
Family Support During Delivery 205
Special Births 206
Age of Mother at Delivery 207
Day of Delivery 207
The Afterbirth 208
Variation in Birth Weight 210
Summary 211
9 MATERNAL POSTPARTUM RECOVERY AND INFANT
EXTEROGESTATION 215
Postpartum Recovery 215
The Hospital Period 215
Recovery at Home 218
Ritual Cleansing Baths 219
Introducing the Child to its World 223
Preperation for Walking 223
Protection from the Evil Eye and Other Harm 224
Infant Feeding 225
Infant Mortality 227
Infant Diarrhea 228
Infant Funerals 228
Birth Anniversaries 229
Summary 229
10 SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS 232
Summary 232
Implications for Understanding Events in Suriname.... 235
Implications for Caribbean Society 238
Implications for Understanding the Concept of
Legitimacy 240
REFERENCES 243
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 257
viii

LIST OF TABLES
gaga
1. Population Growth and Growth Factors, 1980-1985 62
2. The Best Spoken Language of the Suriname Population
Six Years Old and Above by Ethnic Group 7 4
3. Religion of Delivering Women 80
4. Ethnic Identity of Hospital Smaple 81
5. Marriage Rates of Women Delivering at the Hospital... Ill
6. Official Poverty Level 123
7. Number of Tubal Ligations Performed by Ethnic Group..137
8. Reaction of Women to Their Pregnancy 144
9. Reaction of the Child's Father to the Pregnancy 144
10. Women's Response to Their Pregnancy 146
11. Ethnicity of Women and Response to Pregnancy 146
12. Men's Response to Pregnancy by Ethnicity 148
13. Men's Response to the Pregnancy 148
14. Number of Abortions in Population of Delivering
Women 157
15. Total Number of Abortions Specified as Induced in
Delivery Records by Ethnic Group 158
16. Number of Prenatal Visits to a Clinic or the
Hospital 173
17. Woman Reports that Her Menstrual Cycle is "Not Normal"
by Ethnic Group 184
18. Length in Days of a Typical Menstrual Cycle by Ethnic
Group 184
19. Length in Days of a Typical Menstrual Period by Ethnic
Group 185
IX

20. The Gestational Age of Infants by Ethnic Groups 186
21. Method of Payment for Birth by Ethnic Group 189
22. Frequency of Water Breaking Before Admission 196
23. Number of Previous Deliveries by Ethnic Group 202
24. Condition of Perineum by Ethnic Group 204
25. Average Age of Mother at Delivery by Ethnic Group....207
26. Kra Names 208
27. Sex of Child Born by Ethnic Group 210
28. Average Infant Weight in Grams by Ethnic Group 210
29. Number of Low Birth Weigths (>2,500 grams) and High
Birth Weights (<4,000 grams) by Ethnic Group 211
30. Still Births and Infant Deaths 227
x

THE SOCIAL LEGITIMIZATION OF CHILDREN IN SURINAME SOCIETY: AN
ETHNOGRAPHIC ACCOUNT OF PREGNANCY AND CHILDBIRTH AMONG THE
CREOLE IN GREATER PARAMARIBO
By
Mark L. Staker
December 1992
Chair: Brian M. du Toit
Major Department: Anthropology
A review of the concept of legitimacy as developed and
used in anthropology is followed by an analysis of research
on the Caribbean family system and the view of scholars on
legitimacy within this system. The view of some Caribbean
scholars that there is no concept of legitimacy in the lower
levels of Caribbean society is critiqued.
Based on previous definitions of legitimacy and
exceptions to those definitions, a more encompassing view of
legitimacy is presented. This view defines children as
legitimate if they are born into a socially approved union
and receive public acknowledgement of paternity by their
father. In the context of an attempt to shed light on these
two concepts, an ethnographic account of pregnancy and
childbirth within the Creole population of greater
Paramaribo, Suriname, is presented.
For the Creole it is concluded that a relationship has
social approval if it is open and public. Although paternity
can be acknowledged by publicly legitimizing a child through
xi

legal registration, it can also be done in rituals and other
types of behavior. One of the most important ways of
indicating paternity is participation in ritual healing for a
pregnant woman and her child of an illness called fyo-fyo.
Another is experiencing couvade-like symptoms known as yepi
or "helping" during the pregnancy or delivery. This evidence
indicates legitimacy is common within Creole society, and
some of the responses to illegitimacy within this context are
considered.
Based on these findings, it is important for
anthropologists to examine accepted definitions of
"legitimacy" and "illegitimacy." Legitimacy implies that a
child is born into a union that is socially approved and it
receives public acknowledgement of paternity.
xii

CHAPTER 1
LEGITIMACY: ISSUES AND QUESTIONS
The Principle of Legitimacy
Early in this century Malinowski developed a concept he
labeled the "principle of legitimacy." He argued that
In all human societies . . . there is universally
found what might be called the rule of legitimacy.
By this I mean that in all human societies a girl
is bidden to be married before she becomes
pregnant. Pregnancy and childbirth on the part of
an unmarried young woman are invariably regarded as
a disgrace .... I know of no single instance in
anthropological literature of a community where
illegitimate children, that is children of
unmarried girls, would enjoy the same social
treatment and have the same social status as
legitimate ones (Malinowski 1927:187).
In later writings he retained the view that "the main
sociological principle embodied in these rules and
arrangements is that children should not be produced outside
a socially approved contract of marriage" (Malinowski
1929a:6-7). Malinowski (1930) recognized that having a
sociological father was central to the concept of legitimacy.
He viewed the acknowledgment of a sociological father as
critical to parenthood in all societies. "Parenthood, to be
normal [i.e. the "norm" or usual practice of a society], must
be made legitimate, that is, based on a socially approved,
but individual marriage contract" (1929b:407).
1

2
Malinowski was aware that every child has a biological
father and most people recognize this fact.1 But he saw the
concept of a sociological father as equally important
although not necessarily connected. "Physiological
paternity, the begetting of a child, is not, as a rule,
sufficient and may even be irrelevant in determining social
fatherhood" (Malinowski 1929b:406). This distinction between
a biological and sociological father has been retained by
anthropologists in the use of the terms genitor and pater,
respectively. The genitor is the biological father of a
child. The pater is the legally or socially recognized
father of a child that fulfills the duties this role requires
in his society. It is the possession of a pater that makes a
child legitimate.
According to this perspective, not every child possesses
a pater and some are born illegitimate; but illegitimacy is
expected to be unacceptable and unusual in all societies.
The idea of a child being born without a pater is separate
from the concept of a woman getting pregnant without a
husband. Malinowski was aware that premarital intercourse
can occur in all societies and that in some societies it is
institutionalized. But he asserted that "conception is not
left to the chance of free intercourse, even where this is
allowed, but its necessary condition is marriage" (Malinowski
1929b:406) . He argued that children are either not born of
these unions because of abortion or other unknown factors or

3
the resulting offspring prove the fertility of a couple and
they marry.2
The concept of legitimacy, as described above, has
generally been accepted as valid for all societies as
indicated in Davis' statement that:
. . . without this rule there would be no family . . .
the legitimacy rule prevails no matter what other
conditions prevail. Children may be an asset or a
liability, pre-nuptial or extra-nuptial intercourse may
be forbidden or sanctioned, still the rule runs that a
father is indispensable for the full social status of
the child and its mother. Otherwise the child is
illegitimate and the mother is disesteemed (1966:79).
Although its validity has not generally been examined, this
"universal" concept is occasionally worked into the theories
or writings of anthropologists (e.g. Fortes 1969:258-259,
Houseman 1988:660).3 Most anthropologists, however, have
generally ignored the concept completely as evidenced by the
relative lack of discussion surrounding legitimacy in the
literature. Legitimacy has been given indirect consideration
in discussions of marriage (a topic that has been given
considerable attention) and an examination of the
anthropological discussion surrounding marriage will shed
further light on the views scholars have expressed concerning
the concept of legitimacy.
Marriage
The connection between legitimacy and marriage is
evident in the way anthropologists define marriage. The
well-known Notes and Queries in Anthropology (1951)

4
definition is still frequently referred to by anthropologists
and Mair (1972:82) calls it a "useful working definition."
Notes and Queries (1951:110) published a definition of
marriage as "a union between a man and a woman such that
children born to the woman are recognized legitimate
offspring of both parents."
Upon reflection it is evident that this definition does
not apply to every type of marriage. The Nuer institution of
woman-marriage-to-a-woman illustrates this point. Evans-
Pritchard (1960:108-109) has argued that the legal provisions
of this type of union are the same as those for a marriage
between a man and a woman. The only difference is that a
Nuer in a woman-marriage-to-a-woman will use a proxy male
(generally her own husband) to "father" children for her
while all of the children born of such unions are strictly
under the control of the woman who fills the paternal role.
The children call her "father" and she fulfills the role of
pater for them. Therefore the part of the Notes and Queries
definition that requires both a woman and a man does not
apply to all marriages.
Another part of the definition that states marriage is a
union has previously been called into question by Sarana
(1968) who has pointed out that if one considers that the
word connotes physical contact it does not apply to some
relationships. For example, Nuer ghost marriages to not fit
this requirement. A Nuer woman may marry a man who is
already dead while another man fulfills the role of genitor.4

5
When children are born they are incorporated into the lineage
of the dead man who is their pater. Children born of these
relationships are considered legitimate (Evans-Pritchard
1960) .
The second half of the Notes and Queries definition,
which states if the children of a union are recognized as
legitimate the relationship is a marriage, was considered
problematic by Leach (1968); but his argument does not hold
up. He draws on his knowledge of the practice of polyandry
in various societies. He concedes that in some polyandrous
societies, such as that of the Britons as described by
Caesar, "wives are shared between groups of ten or twelve
men, especially between brothers and between fathers and
sons; but the offspring of these unions are counted as the
children of those to whom the maid was conducted first"
(Leach 1968:73; see Fischer 1952 for additional comments on
marriage among the ancient Britons). Leach acknowledges that
this type of marriage still produces children who are
legitimate since, although the genitor may by obscure, the
child has a recognized pater. He also concedes that the
Todas, another polyandrous society, have a single recognized
pater for each child (Leach 1968). Therefore, the only
polyandrous society that Leach sees as a real exception to
the rule is the Nayar studied by Gough (1952, 1955). Leach,
relying on two papers by Gough, stated that the Nayars
historically have not had marriage "in the strict sense of
the term" (i.e. the Notes and Queries concept of marriage)

6
but only a "relationship of perpetual affinity" between
linked lineages (Leach 1968:75). Leach also argued that the
Nayar did not have a notion of fatherhood since Nayar
children use a term of address meaning "lord" or "leader" to
all of their mother's lovers irrespective of paternity and
the term does not imply a notion of paternity. Leach does
concede that a notion of affinity is present, however, since
Nayar women were required to observe pollution at their
ritual husband's death. Leach concludes in his paper that
the only marriage characteristic among the Nayar is the
establishment of "a socially significant 'relationship of
affinity' between the husband and his wife's brothers" (Leach
1968:77). Leach expands the definition of marriage to
include ceremonies to establish one of ten specific rights
(one of which is the relationship of affinity mentioned
above) but he claims the list can be expanded further. These
ten rights are:
1. To establish the legal father of a woman's children.
2. To establish the legal mother of a man's children.
3. To give the husband a monopoly in the wife's
sexuality.
4. To give the wife a monopoly in the husband's
sexuality.
5. To give the husband partial or monopolistic rights
to the wife's domestic and other labor services.
6. To give the wife partial or monopolistic rights to
the husband's labor services.
7. To give the husband partial or total rights over
property belonging or potentially accruing to the
wife.
8. To give the wife partial or total rights over
property belonging or potentially accruing to the
husband.
9. To establish a joint fund of property—a
partnership—for the benefit of the children of the
marriage.

7
10. To establish a socially significant relationship of
affinity between the husband and his wife's
brothers.
Although each of these rights may exist in some
circumstances, only rights one and two on the list can be
considered to occur universally.5 Number one on the list is
considered universal by Gough, who disputes Leach's assertion
that Nayar polyandry is an exception of the legitimacy
principle.
Gough (1968) describes marriages of Nayar girls as
taking place every few years. A lineage held a grand
ceremony at which all of its girls who had not attained
puberty, about seven to twelve years old, were on one day
ritually married to men drawn from their linked lineages.
After four days of ceremonies the ritual husbands left the
house and had no further obligations to their brides. The
only further obligation a bride had to her ritual husband was
at his death when she and her children, "by whatever
biological father," would observe death-pollution for him
(Gough 1968:55) . Death-pollution was a ritual that would
otherwise only be observed for matrilineal kin.
After this ceremony a Nayar girl is then able to take
part in the rites of adult women and she is called by the
respectful title amma meaning "mother." Gough reports that
although the ritual husband need have no further contact with
his ritual wife, if both parties were willing, he might enter
into a sexual relationship with his ritual bride about the
time of her puberty. This man did not remain a woman's sole

8
partner, however, and a woman usually had from three to eight
regular husbands but might receive other men of her own or a
higher caste when desired. Gift giving was an important part
of these relationships and when men no longer gave the
expected gifts it was assumed that they had ended the
relationship.6 However, "when a woman became pregnant it was
essential for one or more men of appropriate sub-caste to
acknowledge probable paternity" (Gough 1968:57). This was
accomplished by a man, or several men, paying the midwife for
the birth—a duty of the father.7 Since the Nayar believed
that numerous acts of intercourse were required for the
growth of the fetus, several men could in fact be the
biological father of a Nayar child. The legitimacy and
status of children depended on the status of the "visiting
husbands" who acknowledged paternity, not that of the ritual
husbands (see Sarana 1968:163-164). These men had no other
responsibilities towards the woman or her child. If no man
of a suitable caste would consent to make a gift then the
mother and the child would either be killed or sold into
slavery. If the woman were driven away then her kin would
perform funeral rites as if she had died.
In reference to this mating system Gough says:
In these circumstances the exact biological
fatherhood of a child was often uncertain,
although, of course, paternity was presumed to lie
with the man or among the men who had paid the
delivery expenses. But even when biological
paternity was known with reasonable certainty, the
genitor had no economic, social, legal, or ritual
rights in nor obligations to, his children after he
had once paid the fees of their births. Their

9
guardianship, care and discipline were entirely the
concern of their matrilineal kinsfolk ....
(Gough 1968:58)
Gough concludes "Nayar unions [were] marriage because they
involved the concept of legal paternity." She then defines
marriage in the following manner:
Marriage is a relationship established between a
woman and one or more other persons, which provides
that a child born to the woman under circumstances
not prohibited by the rules of the relationship, is
accorded full birth-status rights common to normal
members of his society or social stratum. (Gough
1968:68) 8
Because the Nayar marriage system has generally been
considered marginal and an important test case, this
definition has important broader implications. These
implications will be considered in the context of the
following discussion of legitimacy.
Legitimacy
In the case of the Nayar, Malinowski's (1929b:407)
assertion that legitimacy is based on a "socially approved,
but individual marriage contract" continues to hold. Part of
the Nayar concern for a man acknowledging paternity is based
on their concern for proper "breeding," although this is not
based on an understanding of genetic inheritance. The Nayar
say that if no one will acknowledge paternity then the father
must be a Christian or a Muslim, or "even worse" a woman has
had sexual relations with a member of her own lineage—an act
of incest. Gough points out that the Nayar fear their
children will inherit poor qualities in such circumstances.

10
The concept of "higher breeding" in legitimate relationships
exists in a number of societies (Teichman 1978:60-61).
But although the discussion surrounding the Nayar case
does indicate that legitimacy is inherited by children as a
part of all marriages, this does not mean that all children
who are legitimate are born into marriages. This can be seen
in the case of the Ashanti in West Africa.
Formally . . . the condition of bastardy is not
recognized in Ashanti law and custom. But jural
sufficiency does not make the whole person; he must
be morally and spiritually complete as well. For
this, a freeborn person must have a known, freeborn
pater. If he cannot name a father who has
acknowledged him, this is tantamount to admitting
either slave-paternity or a condition akin to
bastardy. (Fortes 1969:196).
For the Ashanti marriage is not a prerequisite for legitimate
paternity. However, the genitor must make public
acknowledgement of his paternity, notably by exercising his
paternal role of naming the child, by supporting the mother
during pregnancy, and by giving customary gifts to the mother
at the time of delivery. Admitting paternity does not bind
the father and child in legal terms but it creates moral and
sentimental loyalties, claims, and privileges and these are
defined and sanctioned by custom and public opinion (Fortes
1969). Legitimate paternity is also essential as a sign of
manhood for the Ashanti. If a man does not have a child to
claim after a lengthy marriage, he is considered defective in
some way and is prohibited from election to office in the
lineage system.9

11
The Ashanti, then, have a concept of legitimacy that can
exist separate from marriage. In order for Malinowski's
definition of legitimacy to still apply to them it must be
restricted to being derived from a "socially approved, but
individual . . . contract," with marriage taken out.
If marriage is separated from legitimacy as a concept
then it requires a more precise definition of legitimacy
since its opposite--illegitimacy--is usually defined as
including all children born outside of marriage.10 An attempt
to define illegitimacy in terms of sexual relations is also
problematic. Teichman's (1978:53) assertion that "an
illegitimate child is one whose existence is the result of an
unsanctioned sexual act" overlooks the fact that in many
societies if a woman is married all children born to her are
considered legitimate and her husband is their pater—even if
the genitor is another man from an illicit relationship.11
Teichman's definition also overlooks many sanctioned sexual
acts where the children conceived from the union are
considered illegitimate.12 In fact, the origins of
Malinowski's principle of legitimacy lies in his recognition
that premarital relationships among the Trobriand Islanders
were expected and even encouraged although children born as a
result of these unions evidently did not exist and would not
have been accepted if they did exist.
The importance of Malinowski's assertion that social
approval is essential to legitimacy can be seen in a number
of industrial societies. For example, in the United States a

12
child born in most states is only considered legitimate if
born into a marriage, born to a mother who subsequently
marries the father, or is adopted after birth (The Guide to
American Law 1984). In Great Britain, even when a child is
born into a marriage, if the father does not acknowledge the
child as his it may be considered illegitimate. Especially
if the father's actions and public sentiment do not support
the mother's contentions (Teichman 1978). In these
situations it is not marriage that is the fundamental
component of legitimacy, but public acknowledgement of
paternity.
In the Ashanti case legitimacy is created through the
public acknowledgement of paternity. This coincides with the
Nayar view that paternity needs to be acknowledged for a
child to be legitimate. Marriage, or the giving of gifts to
the mother, is not important for obtaining legitimacy. It is
only when gifts are given to the midwife at birth that
legitimacy is conferred on the Nayar child.
It seems then, in an attempt to define legitimacy, that
the social approval of a relationship (whether it is
considered marriage, as Malinowski believed, or not) is
important in conjunction with public acknowledgement of
paternity. Keeping this in mind we can now approach a
definition of legitimacy.
A child is legitimate when it receives public
acknowledgement of paternity and is born from a
union that is socially approved.

13
This definition separates the concept of legitimacy from that
of marriage. Although an attempt to define marriage in terms
separate from legitimacy has not been successfully done, such
a definition might be approached through a modification of
existing definitions to restrict marriage to those
relationships that give legitimacy to children without the
necessity of public acknowledgement of paternity (i.e. the
very nature of the relationship is one in which everyone
knows who the pater should be).
Research Questions
Based on the definitions presented, two questions
arise: first, how is a relationship outside of legal marriage
recognized as having social approval while other nonlegal
relationships may not have such approval? Second, how does
public acknowledgement of paternity take place and what is
accepted as valid proof of paternity?
I will explore these questions in the following
chapters in the context of an ethnographic account of the
perinatal period for a specific society in the Caribbean—the
Creole population in greater Paramaribo, Suriname. Because
the history of Suriname is connected historically and
culturally to that of other Caribbean societies, research
examining the patterns of family life throughout the
Caribbean has bearing on our understanding of Surinamese
society and so this information will also be considered in a
separate chapter.

14
In the concluding chapter, I will return to the
concepts discussed above and especially to Malinowski's
characterization of legitimacy and reexamine the issues in
light of the data presented.
Why study in the Caribbean?
An examination of a Caribbean society is important in
furthering the understanding of illegitimacy. Since some
have argued that illegitimacy as a concept does not exist in
the Caribbean and others have argued that it exists but is of
little concern to those living there, the region is important
as a borderline case for testing the construction of
legitimacy as presented.
Whv study Suriname in particular?
Although the Republic of Suriname has historical and
cultural similarities to other Caribbean societies, it is
unique in its cultural diversity in the Caribbean due to the
importation of a diverse pool of labor (discussed in chapter
three). This allows for the examination of the Creole
population in Suriname in the context of a wide diversity of
beliefs and practices that serve to highlight distinctive
beliefs and practices and thereby foster an emic view of
Creole society.
Suriname is also distinctive in the Caribbean in that
it inherited the Dutch legal system.13 Dutch law differs from
British law (common in much of the Caribbean region) in that

15
Roman-Dutch law declares that "a mother makes no bastard" or
in other words that a child is always legitimate in terms of
its mother while British law declares that a child is "filius
nullius" or "the child of no one" which means the child does
not have claim on either its mother or its father (Teichman
1978). The distinction made within Dutch law separates the
issues of maternity and paternity so that paternity can be
focused on more precisely.14
What in Creole society should be the foci of this study?
The development of the approval of relationships
outside of legal marriage and the subsequent paternity of a
child are described relying on rituals and activities
surrounding birth. Paige and Paige (1981), in their cross-
cultural study of 114 non-industrial societies, have argued
that ritual is used by fraternal interest groups to gain
control over children through asserting paternity. Although
the authors do not consider issues of legitimacy directly in
their work, they do argue that "legitimacy ... is
determined . . . by social consensus and contractual
agreements" (Paige and Paige 1981:167). The authors argue
that ritual surrounding reproduction is used by men in
societies with loose fraternal organizations to gain the
social consensus that a child belongs to the fraternal
interest group and, indirectly, is legitimate.

16
Summary
Malinowski originated the concept of "principle of
legitimacy" which is essentially the emphasis of all
societies on having legitimate children with the result that
illegitimate children are unusual. In his view, it was the
possession of a pater that makes a child legitimate. This
concept has been accepted as valid by other scholars and is
occasionally worked into theories of parenthood. Views of
marriage have also revolved around the idea of legitimacy.
Marriage has generally been defined as a legitimizing
relationship.
The Ashanti have relationships that are not considered
marriage and yet a child born in these unions is legitimate
as long as someone acknowledges paternity. Such
relationships require that the concept of legitimacy be
redefined such that:
A child is legitimate when it receives public
acknowledgement of paternity and is born from a
union that is socially approved.
Based on the definitions presented, two questions
arise: first, how is a relationship outside of legal marriage
recognized as having social approval while other non-legal
relationships may not have such approval? Second, how does
public acknowledgement of paternity take place and what is
accepted as valid proof of paternity? These questions are
explored in the remainder of this dissertation in the context
of the Creole population in Suriname with reference to

17
Caribbean societies in general. An examination of this
region is warranted because of the apparent uniqueness of
concepts of legitimacy and illegitimacy in the Caribbean.
Doing research in Suriname allows for the examination of a
population that in some ways has hightend cultural awareness
because of the ethnic diversity in the capital. Since the
events surrounding the conception and birth of children and
the period shortly after the birth all seem to be important
in determining issues of paternity, these events will be
specifically focused on in the discussion of the Suriname
family.
^â– The Trobriand Islanders that Malinowski studied were one of the two
known groups where a biological father was not recognized (see
Malinowski 1929; Fortune 1932) . The other group is a segment of the
Australian Aborigines (see Ashley-Montagu 1937) .
2The possible biological influence on this phenomenon that Malinowski
guessed at has since been shown to be valid. Many women do not begin to
ovulate until sometime after menstruation takes place. This delay would
mean that in some societies women would not conceive during premarital
relations even though they were menstruating. Later, when ovulation
begins, women were more likely to be married.
30ne possible exception to this trend has been Spiro's (1954)
examination of life on the kibbutzim in Israel. In a kibbutz children
are separated from their (unmarried) parents to live in separate
housing. However couples do seem to marry soon before or soon after a
child is born so that the child will be considered legitimate. How
often this happens is not stated. In a later addendum (1968) Spiro
states that he does consider the family to exist on the kibbutz since,
among other things, terms of affinity (father, mother, son, daughter)
are used.
'’This practice is not the levirate since the genitor is not necessarily
a brother but the practice of levirate would also apply to this same
argument.
5Right number two, "to establish the legal mother of a man's children"
is very clearly connected with he first right of establishing a legal
father to a woman's children. Since in what Hall (1983) calls high
context societies the mother of a child is always known due to the
outward physiological signs of pregnancy and the act of birth, the
mother of a child is rarely in doubt. Only in those situations where a
child is "left on the doorstep" or abandoned in some way is maternity

18
generally in question. Such abandoned children may be a special case
since both their father and their mother are legally in doubt. Since
the father in such cases is also unknown, the lack of a pater or
sociological father is apparently important in all issues of legitimacy.
6Gough does not state how a Nayar woman went about ending a
relationship, or even if they were allowed to do so.
7The Nayars believed several acts of intercourse "feed" the embryo and
assist it to grow. This would allow more than one man to be the
biological father of a child although it was only essential that one man
acknowledge paternity.
8Although Gough does not discuss it in her paper, this definition is
also important because it allows for the exclusion of children from
legitimacy who are born to a married woman if a man other than the
husband is the father. Although in many cases this is unimportant and a
child is considered legitimate if a woman is married regardless of who
the father is, in other circumstances this is not the case. Having said
this, Gough's definition should not just say "a woman and one or more
other persons" since besides the polyandrous unions she dealt with there
are also polygynous unions
9Fortes (1969:196) notes that public and continuous living together of a
man and a woman without the formalities of marriage but generally with
the consent of the woman's guardian is very common among the Ashanti.
Children of such unions, acknowledged by their fathers, are in every
respect considered equal with those born within a marriage.
10An example of this is found in Unitea States law where "nonmarital
child" is considered equivalent in meaning to "illegitimate child" (The
Guide to American Law 1984:110).
11This is considered in West Africa among the Dahomey in terms of rights
in genetricem and rights in uxorem (Bohannon 1949) . That is rights over
a woman as a mother and as a wife respectively. When rights in
genetricem are held by a man, or the patriline as in many West African
societies, then all of the children born to a woman belong to the man or
patriline.
12An example of this is the orgies held by the Areoi, a religious
society described by early explorers in Polynesia. Women who joined the
Areoi society had to promise to destroy at birth any infants that they
might bear while members (Williamson 1924) .
13The Dutch were also influential on some of the Caribbean islands—
notably Aruba, Bonair, Curasao, Saba, and St. Martin.
14It has been pointed out that only a child "left on a doorstep" does
not have a mater or sociological mother. Although this is true for most
societies, British society at one time did not require the mother of an
illegitimate child to take care of it since legally that child did not
have parents. This is an interesting phenomenon that should be examined
in more detail although it is not the focus of this dissertation.

CHAPTER 2
THE CARIBBEAN FAMILY SYSTEM
Introduction
The concept of legitimacy in the Caribbean can only be
understood in the context of the Caribbean family system.
The family has probably been examined more thoroughly than
any other social phenomenon in Caribbean society. This
research has reflected two major concerns of ethnographers:
the first is an attempt to accurately describe the family
system; the second is an attempt to understand the forces
that have created and shaped this family system to its
current form. Both of these themes are intricately
intertwined. One cannot understand the forces that have
shaped the family system in the Caribbean without an accurate
understanding of the nature of that system and, conversely,
one cannot understand fully the Caribbean family system
without an understanding of the forces that served to create
and shape it. An exploration of these themes places the
concept of legitimacy within its social context.
The Caribbean Family
As research continues on the Caribbean family, an
accurate description of its many facets becomes more
19

20
feasible. Marks has distilled eight points which he
considers to be "general" characteristics of the Caribbean
family.
1. the co-residence of a man and a woman as sexual
partners often takes place in the form of a
concubinage;
2. the relations between a man and a woman are
often weak and the period of their co-residence
is not infrequently brief;
3. sexual and economic relations without co¬
residence are frequently found;
4. the various forms of man-woman-relationship[s]
such as marriage, concubinage and non-co-
residential unions are not equivalent in
status, durability and sexual exclusiveness;
5. the percentage of illegitimate births is high
in comparison with figures for e.g. European
countries;
6. the husband/father as a co-residential member
of the household group is often lacking;
7. the mother, or in some cases the grandmother,
plays a key role in the management of the
household's affairs and in the children's
upbringing; and
8. household groups are only in relatively few
cases composed of a man and woman and their
joint offspring. (Marks 1975:4)
Marks restricts these descriptive terms to areas where the
process of industrialization is in its "first stages". (He
notes that Curasao, where he studied, is in a "later stage"
of industrialization, and therefore does not fit this
pattern). Most other scholars, however, have restricted
similar descriptions of the Caribbean family to the "lower-
classes" of Caribbean society. (A notable exception is R.T.
Smith [1988], who points out that scholars have generally
neglected other "classes" of society. He argues there may be
fewer differences between the various social strata than
previously thought).1 Since almost all of the research done

21
on the Caribbean family focuses on the "lower class" of
Caribbean society, the description of the Caribbean family
system which follows is necessarily restricted to the lower
strata of society, although the discussion may apply to the
more wealthy members of Caribbean society as well.2
Origins of the Caribbean Family System
Although there is general agreement as to the make-up
and nature of the Caribbean family, there has been little
agreement about the social forces that have given the
Caribbean family its form. The explanations offered can
generally be attributed to two perspectives of the situation.
The first of these is Herskovits', the first serious
student of Caribbean family life. He viewed the foundation
of the Caribbean family as a West African derivation through
which slaves had retained and reinterpreted a "cultural
focus." The West African "cultural focus" was, for
Herskovits, found in the realm of supernatural sanctions. He
argued that this was why "African religion has shown greater
resistance to white influence than any other phase of African
culture" (Herskovits 1937:55). Herskovits noted that
religion was not the only aspect of society which drew from
the African past; essentially every aspect of Caribbean
society had drawn from West Africa, ranging from the combite,
or communal work patterns, to marriage contracts.
The other contributor to the specific cultural milieu
shaping the "cultural focus" was the colonial power dominant

22
in each region. For example, "African tribes" and "types of
Frenchmen" were "forged into the structure of Haitian life"
(Herskovits 1937:17). Herskovits argues against the idea
that the French were the only ones to give and the Africans
the only ones to take but concludes that each influenced the
other. Many have viewed his theory as one focused on
"African retentions" or "reinterpretations"; although these
are important components of his perspective, those who are
critical of Herskovits' notion of African retentions have
overlooked the fact that Herskovits makes it clear he
understands there are European influences as well. As an
example, he mentions the "lack of sanitation" and "poor
hygiene" found in Haitian cities as characteristic of French
eighteenth century cities and not those found in West Africa.
Herskovits does, however, tend to focus more attention
on the importance of Africa in his examination of the
Caribbean family than he does to the importance of Europe.
His views on the "origins" of the Caribbean family illustrate
this. He argues that it is the result of the social forces
brought to bear during slavery on the "African" polygynous
form of mating. Also the matrifocal nature of Caribbean
families emphasizes the connection between mother and
children in a polygynous society as the male's importance
declines. Herskovits does not attempt to say why the
Caribbean family has changed from its African roots, he
simply attempts to discover the historical sources of the
current Caribbean family.

23
The second influential perspective is that of Frazier,
another early student of the Afroamerican family. He argued
against African origins. Based on research done in the
United States he pointed to the disintegrative effects on the
Black family of such socioeconomic factors as slavery,
discrimination and urbanization (Frazier 1965). Frazier
argued that economic and social forces have "determined" the
shape of Black household structure. He saw the attempt to
explain the family life of Afroamericans within the context
of African culture as unfounded. Frazier did acknowledge
some exceptions, noting "among some isolated groups of
Negroes in the New World as for example in Haiti and Jamaica,
it appears that elements of African culture have been
retained in the Negro Family" (Frazier 1965:306).
Although scholars have set these two perspectives up
as diametrically opposed to each other, there appears to be a
greater degree of agreement between Herskovits and Frazier
than either they or later scholars have conceded. Frazier
did not discount the influence of the African past although
he may have emphasized the influence of external conditions
on the Afroamerican family. Herskovits likewise may have
focused on the historical roots of the Afroamerican family
and ignored the social forces which brought about change and
"retention" of some elements. However, neither of them saw
the current family system in the Caribbean as completely
devoid of an historical past.

24
Most examinations of the family system in various
Caribbean societies made after these two groundbreaking
scholars have been derivations in some form of Frazier's
perspective. These scholars generally discount the African
roots of the slaves family system without attempting to
answer why some aspects of the African past had more
relevance than others in the slaves' subsequent environment.
They also do not attempt to explain why some elements of the
African past are more frequently found than others in the
post-slavery Caribbean. These are not only difficult
questions to deal with but they also may not be very
productive in terms of providing insight into the Caribbean
family system if one agrees with most current arguments that
credit economic conditions with shaping the family.
All current research on the Caribbean family has been
influenced by R.T. Smith's work done in Guyana. R.T. Smith
(1956) concluded that matrifocality and the associated
marginality of men as husbands and fathers was characteristic
of the "lower class" in a class stratified society. He
viewed this situation as directly associated with low rates
of social mobility, restricted public roles for adult men,
and an absence of "managerial" functions, political
responsibilities and status differentiation among them.
In later research, Gonzalez (1969) views the economic
forces on local demography as the important factor in
household structure. She observes that in the Black Carib
population which she studied there has almost always been an

25
excess of females over males. The "draining of men" from the
system brought "additional burden" on women (Gonzalez
1969:54). This led the women to compete, in a sense, for
economic resources from men. This competition led to
increased instability in the relationships of the younger
women who were mating with younger men, since the younger men
were the ones involved in migratory labor. In contrast M.G.
Smith (1966:xxvii) states this argument is "filled with both
unnecessary errors and conceptual blunders. He argues that
one of the fatal errors of this perspective is the assumption
of a uniform constitution of family system. He shows from
data obtained in rural Jamaica that communities there have a
balance in sex ratio and yet have a similar system. Despite
this evidence, Gonzalez's argument illustrates that the long
term temporary migration of males can have an effect on the
family system.3
Based on her research in Jamaica, Clarke (1966) argues
that the "nuclear family" is the most prevalent and stable in
areas where the land pressure is least. The Caribbean family
system from her perspective is an efficient means of
allocating land. (Clarke's attempts to tie this pattern of
land allocation to African origins by arguing that Jamaican
inheritance through the name of the father and the blood of
the mother fits Ashanti inheritance patterns. R.T. Smith
[1988] does not see the relationship between the two as
significant).

26
Based on an examination of Curasao's family system,
Marks (1975) attempts a synthesis of Herskovits' historical
perspective and the economic perspective taken by others .
He observes that social status (which is operationalized as
lighter skin color verses darker skin color), as well as
economic status, correlate with legal marriage. He concludes
that the lack of consensual unions in Curasao is due to
"equal economic and social status" and argues that it is only
in cases where status is unequal that "African influences"
play a role. Marks does not attempt to explain why unequal
economic and social status allows more "African influences."
He explains why Curasao is an "equal" society in terms of the
historical view taken by the Dutch on the island that they
were natives of the island and compatriots with those of
African descent in opposition to the Dutch in the Netherlands
who were part of the political yoke to be broken; but he
excluded the oil industry in Curasao and other important
economic factors in his assessment of the differences between
Curagao and the other societies in the Caribbean.
From their Jamaican data, Dirks and Kearns (1976)
argue that the frequency of different types of mating systems
is correlated with the economic situation and environmental
conditions in a country and both tend to change together.
Olwig (1977) found a similar situation in the Virgin Islands;
while Stoffle (1977) concluded that in Barbados
industrialization reinforced rather than disrupted historical
patterns of mating. M.G. Smith (1962) has noted that the

27
mating patterns in Carriacou and Grenada are generally the
same as they were during slavery and he credits the structure
of slave society for the current family in the Caribbean.
There has been no real consensus on the factors that
have led to the creation or retention of the Caribbean family
system. But it seems evident that although the African
origin of the slaves was undoubtedly important in shaping
their response to slavery, the structure of slavery itself
had a large impact on shaping the family while post¬
emancipation economic conditions (including male migration)
may have served to reinforce an existing system of
reproduction.
The Nature of the Current Caribbean Family
There is much more consensus on the nature of the
family as it exists in the Caribbean than there is on its
origins. But that does not mean there is not disagreement
about many of the generalizations made, such as those cited
from Marks (1975). Several areas of family life are
considered important if not distinctive to the Caribbean
region. Each of these is considered separately.
Men in Household Groups
The exact role of the husband or father in the
household has been disputed by some. R.T. Smith (1956:221)
saw men filling an economically induced marginal role in
Guyana. He saw "a correlation between the nature of the

28
husband-father role and the role of men in the economic
system." In relation to R.T. Smith's findings, M.G Smith
(1966:xiv) points out: "nowhere in this Caribbean region has
any other student [than R.T. Smith] found men to be always
'marginal' as husbands and fathers." But after this
statement was made, Alexander (1977:369) concluded that the
middle class male in Jamaica is "marginal," "irresponsible"
and "weak" because he does not have the level of commitment
to his family expected of him by his society. Gregory
(1985:7) viewed the "marginal" male as a psychological
disadvantage to Jamaican children—especially young boys.4
The difference in perspectives may be based on the
fact that although Caribbean men are not "marginal" in terms
of lack of presence in the household and lack of economic
contributions to the household, their presence and
contributions fall short of the Caribbean ideology of the
male provider. Either male ineffectiveness in economic
endeavors or female reliance on male economic support may be
emphasized in a specific society. In Montserrat, Moses
(1977) found that no matter what women contributed
economically, their status was always lower than the status
of men. This circumstance created a conflict between the
ideology of male superiority and the reality of their
inadequacy as providers. Clarke goes so far as to hint that
this conflict is in part the source of the mating system in
Jamaica. She states:

29
[t]he husband's liability for the maintenance of
his wife and his responsibility for her debts are
fully understood . . . one reason why men say they
live in concubinage [is] because 'marriage is not
for the poorman' (Clarke 1966:76-77).
Whitehead (1976) later makes this perspective explicit,
arguing that men who fail in the economic role create
insecurities in the household (as a deliberate act) and seek
to find success as individuals through fathering children.
This specific view is unique in the literature. Most
scholars tend to place more emphasis on the nature of male
economic support.
Gonzalez (1969) found that men from the Black Carib
population are responsible for the economic well being of
women with whom they are having sexual relations and they are
responsible for the economic needs of their own children as
well (if they have acknowledged paternity). Men will often
contribute money simultaneously to several women. Flinn
(1986) found that in a village in rural Guyana males with
more land had a higher mating success because they were able
to contribute money to more women than could other men.
Davenport (1968), who studied in Jamaica, found male
interaction with their offspring, which he terms the father-
child dyad. But he views it as a weaker relationship than
the mother-child dyad.
Black Carib men are also responsible for the care of
their mothers and sisters, and as Gonzalez' points out, this
relationship is often overlooked when ethnographers have only
examined men in sexual relationships. In Curagao, a husband

30
is responsible for the care of his children (Marks 1975) .
The responsibilities of his wife and her kin are restricted
to specific aspects of the children's care such as education.
Since legal marriage in Curagao is not only common among the
upper classes but is "by far the prevailing man-woman-
relationship" among the lower class as well, these economic
relationships are found throughout that society.
Although the exact nature of the responsibilities of
men in Aruba has not been stated, De Waal-Malefit and
Helleman (1973) found that women there were economically
dependent on men for support. This does not mean that women
are not active in economic pursuits even though men play an
important economic role in their lives. Barrow (1986) notes
that, although women throughout the Caribbean participate
less in the labor force than men, they continue to fill non-
familial roles including economic ones.
The relative lack of research on men and male/female
relationships has been decried by scholars such as Remy
(1973) . As information is published, it suggests that men
are not as marginal in Caribbean society as they are
sometimes characterized. Wilson, one of the few to examine
men in the Caribbean, asks:
if the emphasis on the household by anthropologists
is any measure of its importance as a social unit,
we may well ask whether this means that males have
a marginal role in the society of the community,
and whether they have a subordinate position in the
social system of the Caribbean lower class? To my
knowledge, no anthropologist has reported a society
anywhere in the world in which males take a
subordinate position in the practical affairs of

31
the community or in the ideological system of
values by which social relationships are conducted.
Is the Caribbean an exception? (Wilson 1971)
Wilson argues that males are not subordinate in Caribbean
life. Although the role of men within the household and
within Caribbean society as a whole needs to be examined in
greater detail, it is clear they have a place somewhere
within the "matrifocal" family. This characteristic of the
family system is clearly one of the most important
conceptually and one of the most central to Caribbean family
life.
The Matrifocal Family
Herskovits and Herskovits (1947:15) pointed out that
in the Caribbean the "nuclear grouping with a woman as its
effective head, has everywhere persisted—to such a degree
that students sometimes speak of the New World Negro family
as 'matriarchal' in character." The view of a "matriarchal"
society in the Caribbean sometimes still appears in the
literature, such as Ducossen's (1976:58) discussion of the
"matriarchal" family in Guadeloupe—the author also states
that "fathers always retain authority" and "mothers exhibit
extreme dependence on them." Although most researchers
contend that Caribbean households are not matriarchal, the
central importance of women in the formation of these
households is also evident. This phenomenon has generally
been referred to as matrifocal. R.T. Smith argued that most
if not all Afro-Caribbean "lower class" households are

32
"matrifocal" and dominated by women in their combined roles
of mother and wife. This situation is exaggerated as women
grow up and have children of their own while still living in
their mother's household.(R.T. Smith 1956). It is not
uncommon to find three generations of women living in the
same house.
More recently R.T. Smith has argued against the use of
the term "matrifocal" since it has at times led to a
misunderstanding of the prevalence of various mating types.
If the concept of the matrifocal family is to have
any useful meaning it must be redefined to purge it
of the functionalist assumptions embedded in its
earlier use. Nothing can prevent its being used to
mean 'female-headed household' but if that becomes
an accepted usage it would be better to abandon the
term (R.T. Smith 1988:180).
R.T. Smith argues that "matrifocal" cannot be used in
contrast to a "normal nuclear family" since there is
"considerable doubt" as to the normalcy of the nuclear family
worldwide as well as in the Caribbean. This observation was
probably made in reference to conclusions such as those of
Pollard and Wilburg (1978) who view the mother-child family
and matrifocality in Guyana as an incomplete family form as
part of the breakdown of the family system. They argue that
male headed households are superior in performance and have a
higher status in the community. These conclusions, however,
ignore the general consensus that the practice of

33
economically successful males of establishing more permanent
relationships will influence the performance of households.
Rubenstein (1983) points out that studies of kindred
and family have been neglected in the Caribbean in favor of
studies of the household and that the distinction between the
two has not generally been made. This failure to distinguish
between the two is reflected in Blumberg's (1978) argument
that matrifocality is prevalent among urban residents in all
wage labor societies and not just in the Caribbean, when she
is really discussing female headed households rather than
matrifocal households.
What exactly is a "matrifocal household" if it is not
a female headed household? R.T. Smith argues that it is a
household where the mother and the "maternal" family are more
visible or involved than the man and his family. Eliciting
kinship relationships from individuals in Guyana and Jamaica,
he notes that "[t]he proportion of more distant relatives
increases slightly on the maternal side if all cases are
taken together" (R.T. Smith 1988:61). Melville and Frances
Herskovits' (1947) work supports this view as they observed
that the maternal grandmother figures most importantly in the
lives of grandchildren; although they get along with all of
their grandparents, and although they will go to their
father's family if the mother's family cannot help,
Trinidadians always go first to the mother's family for help.
Slater (1977) views a similar phenomenon in Martinique as
essential to matrifocality.

34
The fact that the father's family is important in the
lives of his children at all requires a reexamination of
earlier statements made by R.T. Smith. He originally argued:
children derive nothing of any importance from
their fathers, who are marginal and ineffective
members of their families of procreation, even when
resident. It is indeed indifferent whether these
husband-fathers live with their families or not, or
even whether their children know them personally
(R.T. Smith 1956:147).
It has already been pointed out that many disagree with this
view of men in Caribbean society. If the concept of
"matrifocality" is to be retained then it will continue to
imply that men have a diminished role in the household
although they are not completely absent. George, Ebanks, and
Nobbe (1978), whose study also focuses on household rather
than family organization, note that most households in
Barbados are headed by males and it is considered the duty of
men to provide for the family.
Gonzalez (1969) points out that if a young man wants
to "make time" with a girl he will get on the good side of an
older man who is acting in the role of "father" or an older
brother who is "father" to his younger sister. This
statement indicates that the "father" role may at times be
filled by different individuals. However, earlier statements
by Herskovits (1937) of the time spent in arranging
consensual unions in Haiti, and his observations, as well as
those of other scholars, that these relationships evolve into
more and more commitment ending often in legal marriage at

35
later ages, indicates that men continue to maintain some role
in the household.
Mating Patterns in the Caribbean
The patterns of mating are generally agreed upon by
most ethnographers of Caribbean society. The three types of
unions described by Leridon and Charbit (1981) for Guadeloupe
and Martinique have been found throughout the Caribbean
although they may be discussed under different terms. In
this discussion, relationships that exist without shared
residence are referred to as "extra-residential unions;"
while relationships in which residence is shared with no
legally recognized marriage are discussed as "consensual
unions."5 The nature of Caribbean marriage will also be
examined. It should be noted that, even though these
relationships are considered separately, many relationships
will evolve from extra-residential through consensual to
marriage unions (although the reverse does not appear to be
the case).6 Therefore these relationships are interconnected.
Extra-Residential unions Extra residential relationships,
although considered the most common type of sexual union in
the Caribbean (M.G. Smith 1966, Gonzalez 1969, Ebanks,
George, and Nobbe 1974), can easily be overlooked, as they
were by early ethnographers of Caribbean life, because the
partners do not live together and there is no outward public
indication of their relationship. These relationships are

36
such that cohabitation occurs on a regular basis and economic
resources are shared, but the couple does not live in the
same residence — living, usually, with family members. R.T.
Smith (1988:142) has defined these unions as "based on
'giving' one to another rather than joint unions; exchange
between two entities which are distinct." M.G. Smith (1966)
points out that this is the most common form of mating and an
almost universal practice in early unions among "lower class"
Jamaicans. Gonzalez (1969) adds that extra residential
mating is also the most frequent of all mating relationships
among the Black Caribs. (She calls it a "marital
arrangement," however, rather than a mating relationship.
She also sees "marriage" as occurring later on in a continuum
of a single relationship). Gonzalez adds that such an
arrangement is related to the age of the individuals: young
people start out living separately and then build a house and
move in together; then as age increases the individuals
either marry or separate. M.G. Smith (1966:xxiv) points out
that in his experience "non-domicilary" or extra-residential
unions are "often casual and promiscuous rather than sexually
exclusive." But among the Black Carib even if two
individuals never reside in the same house the union is
considered "proper" as long as the man contributes to the
support of the woman and her children (Gonzalez 1969). In
Haiti these types of unions are seen as the least stable
(Williams, Murthy, and Berggren 1975).

37
Consensual unions Ebanks, George, and Nobbe (1974) note
that in Barbados a pregnancy often turns an extra-residential
union into a consensual union which they see as a more stable
relationship. Consensual unions differ from extra-
residential relations in that the same residence is shared by
two individuals. Gonzalez (1969) indicates that extra-
residential mating often leads to consensual unions and
therefore is temporary only in the fact that it often quickly
becomes redefined as the residence of the participants
changes. Despite the evidence that some extra-residential
unions evolve into other types of unions, however, it also
appears that many unions are dissolved as different unions
are created. Gonzalez (1969) points out that when an
individual decides to marry she or he may return to the
original partner, if that partner is not already married.
This indicates that the relationships under discussion may be
transitory in nature.
Gonzalez points out that the "ideal mode of behavior"
in a consensual union, as well as in marriage, is sexual
exclusiveness. But this ideal is not always met and a
woman's partner "may at anytime leave her" (Gonzalez
1969:62). She argues that a number of magical devices exist
for a woman to keep her partner from leaving her or moving on
to another union. This is because there is an unequal
position of men and women in regard to maintaining marital
stability and the feeling that a woman should have sexual

38
relationships with one man during her lifetime is counter¬
balanced by a recognition of economic need (Gonzalez 1969).
In R.T. Smith's early work (1956) he viewed "common-
law" unions and legal marriage as sociologically identical,
at least in the "lowly" strata of West Indian society,
stating that it is neither necessary nor appropriate to
distinguish between them. However, his own evidence
contradicts this assumption by indicating that the incidence
of legal marriage increases as age increases. (R.T. Smith
claimed that distinctions in age were "trivial" as well, and
did not examine them in detail; they are examined more
thoroughly below as legal marriage is discussed). Others
have seen distinctions between these relationships as well.
Clarke has shown that attitudes towards the acceptability of
different forms of unions vary from one community to another.
For example, she notes that in Sugar Town there is "no social
disapprobation of concubinage nor bias towards marriage"
(Clarke 1966:82), in Orange Grove "concubinage is
disesteemed" (Clarke 1966:92), and in Mocea "the conjugal
pattern is concubinage for life" (Clarke 1966:77). However,
no matter what the local attitudes towards consensual unions
may be, these unions exist in every Caribbean society.
Marriage unions Some include consensual unions in a
subcategory of marriage. Herskovits (1937) described the
family in Haiti with detail lacking in some later
ethnographies. He described plapage (or consensual unions)

39
as a union that can be the result of "affairs between young
people" (1937:116) the same way that Gonzalez (1969) has
described the evolution of visiting relations to consensual
unions. Herskovits considers plagage as a "marriage" that is
not sanctioned by the church but is sanctioned by the family.
He argues that as couples move in together contracts are
worked out similar to marriage contracts forged in West
Africa. Even though he sees this type of union as a
"marriage," he does not consider it equal to a church
sanctioned marriage as R.T. Smith (1956) later did.
Herskovits points out that a marriage that is sanctioned by
the church is seen as better or more elite than one that is
not sanctioned and therefore has a qualitative difference.
He does not discuss the duration of these unions, but since
he views them as equal in all ways other than the status a
church sanctioned union can give, it is likely that he would
have argued that plapage is not a less stable union than is a
church sanctioned union.
Herskovits' observations that a consensual union can
be the result of extra-residential unions (or "affairs") has
been extended by later researchers to legal marriage.
Consensual unions can result in or evolve into legal
marriage. R.T. Smith (1988:88) points out that in Jamaica as
early as 1789 couples would settle into "stable unions" as
they grow older. But, he adds, increasing age does not
always lead to "legalized unions" (R.T. Smith 1988:129).
Gardiner and Podolefsky (1977) point out that in Dominica

40
marriage is usually delayed until the middle to later years
of life, but it is regarded highly as an institution. M.G.
Smith (1966:xxviii-xxix) notes that "age is the most
important correlate [to marriage], marriage increasing and
visiting decreasing with age in every instance." This
phenomenon has been observed in other parts of the Caribbean
as well and in some areas it appears to be very frequent.
Marks (1975:17-18) points out that in Curagao "practically
all marriages had been contracted at an early age as first
coresidential unions." Gonzalez gives a more detailed
picture of how this process works, based on her work in
Honduras and Belize.
By the time a young man reaches the age of thirty
or so, his life may take on a radically different
form, in that he may have achieved a fairly high-
paying job. Now he may find it possible and
desirable, for purposes of increasing his prestige,
to build a house in which to place his wife and
children. By this time he will probably have had a
series of alliances with different women, and he
will usually have some children. He may set up
housekeeping with his current favorite, or he may
still feel loyalty for his first wife [i.e. mating
partner], if she does not have another husband
(1969:61).7
Gonzalez' realization a man will marry "for purposes of
increasing his prestige" expands our understanding of
Clarke's (1966:78-84) observation that marriage is delayed in
part until a man has a house and "preferably a bit of land."
A further reason for the delay is that "contracting parties"
must approve of one another sufficiently to risk the change
in status and responsibilities that marriage implies. R.T.

41
Smith (1988:104) adds that "Many West Indians defer marriage
until they have several children, but not just to accumulate
resources for a proper ceremony." Evidence from other
ethnographers seems to corroborate Gonzalez' assertion that
older couples may legalize marriage to provide security in
inheritance or more importantly to enhance status. R.T.
Smith (1988) points out that those few black members of the
upper class in Jamaica (the upper class consisted almost
exclusively of whites at one time but most have since left)
place an emphasis on property and status in relationships and
always marry (in a legal union). This is also reflected in
the lower class of the Black Carib. Gonzalez (1969:69) found
that "Ideally, permanent monogamy, neolocal residence, and
the nuclear family are held to be the most desirable forms.
However, these ideals are seldom achieved in this society."8
As ideal relationships are achieved, the number of
children in a union is influenced. Ebanks (1973) argues that
legal unions in Barbados are more stable than other unions
and the lower the number of partners a woman has the fewer
children she will bear. This phenomenon can be understood in
terms of the importance of children in common in Caribbean
unions.
The Importance of Children in Common
In Jamaica "it is rare for childless unions to endure;
as rare as for marriage to occur before the birth of
children" (Clarke 1966:107). Clarke (1966:95) points out

42
that "the childless woman is an object of pity, contempt or
derision." Why this is the case is not made clear; however,
it may, in part be connected to a rite of passage into
adulthood. For these Jamaicans "a woman is only considered
'really' a woman after she has borne a child, [and] the proof
of a man's maleness is the impregnation of a woman" (Clarke
1966:96). Once these women have demonstrated their ability
to bear a child some will "attempt to avert the economic
burden of children" by using drugs or "bush medicines" to
induce a miscarriage (Clarke 1966).
Murray (1975) notes that in Haiti couples want to have
children in common even if they have children from another
person. Women in Guadeloupe and Martinique who change union
types, regardless of which kind they have, will also have
higher levels of fertility than other women (Leridon and
Charbit 1981). Although women who enter a visiting union in
Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, and Jamaica have fewer children
on the average than do other women (Harewood 1984), this is
likely due to the fact that couples in visiting unions have a
lower frequency of intercourse and therefore a lower risk of
pregnancy than other women in the same societies (Roberts and
Sinclair 1978). If women who have multiple visiting unions
are examined, they as a group are found to have the greatest
number of children and there is also a correlation between
the number of partners and the number of children (Harewood
1985, Wright and Madan 1988). Since visiting unions with a
single partner produce the lowest number of children, while

43
visiting unions with multiple partners produce the greatest
number of children, these results suggest a relationship
between fertility and the importance of having children in
common with a partner in certain types of relationships.
The number of children a woman has also influences her
activity in the economic sector. In Jamaica childless women
are much more economically active than women with children
(McKenzie and Powell 1975). Women who are already employed
appear to have lower fertility rates than unemployed women
(Powell 1976, 1986; Durant-Gonzalez 1982 views bearing
children as increasing the need to find employment). These
factors can be explained in terms of the Caribbean ideal that
a man contribute money towards the raising of his children.
If a woman bears a child in common with a man then that man
is more likely to contribute goods and money to her
household. This may also explain why a pregnancy seems to
turn an extra-residential union into a consensual union as
discussed above. Higher levels of employment with fewer
children cannot be simply explained by considering that a
woman will have more time available to work, although this
may be a factor, since "child-transfer" or allowing other
family members to care for children is common throughout the
Caribbean.
Clarke (1966) points out that "step-children" are most
frequently found in situations where a union is childless.
Herskovits (1937) states that "child-transfer" among Haitian
parents can take place for economic reasons (i.e. another

44
family is better equipped financially to care for the child).
Clarke (1966) noted that households based on consensual
unions are equally divided according to the presence or
absence of children, while those based on marriage were
without children in only one-fifth of the cases. Although
this could indicate that children serve to strengthen a
relationship which might lead to marriage, the facts that it
is older couples who tend to marry (who have had more time to
bear children) could also explain the correlation between
marriage and children.
The permanence of these relationships varies, as has
been mentioned, and an adopted girl in Jamaica who becomes
pregnant may be put out of the house. Gonzalez (1969) notes
that among the Black Carib "child loaning" may be long term
but these child will not have inheritance rights as other
children do. "Child transfer" in Haiti, on the other had,
appears as a complete transfer of rights and
responsibilities. Herskovits (1937) states that if the
adopted Haitian child is abused the original parents can do
nothing to help that child. In the British West Indies in
general, it has been found that 25% of all children are not
living with their parents but almost all of these children
are living with another family member (Sanford 1974) . In
Jamaica, children who are not taken in by another person are
occasionally abandoned (Broadber 1974).
All children can receive a new "step-parent" as
relationships change. However, if marriage occurs the

45
children might not be included in that new relationship.
Clarke (1966) points out that the exclusion from the
household of outside children of either parent was more
marked in the case of married couples than in families in a
consensual union. This was not a strict rule but more
outside children from women were included in the home when
compared with those of the men.9 Children do not
automatically go with the mother, but there is a tendency for
boys to go with their fathers in new relationships and girls
to go with their mothers. If under fifteen years of age both
boys and girls are more likely to go with the mother.
Illegitimacy in the Caribbean
Illegitimacy, as noted in Marks' summary of the
Caribbean family cited above, is generally considered to be
not only common in the Caribbean but it carries with it no
social disability or disparagement like it might in other
societies. Herskovits and Herskovits (1947:82-83) state that
in Trinidad "there is no social disability imposed by the
community because of legitimacy or illegitimacy." While in
reference to the concept of legitimacy they point to a "false
perspective on the thinking of people . . . given by the
application of legal terms such as 'legitimate' and
'illegitimate' to the offspring" (Herskovits and Herskovits
1947:17). But they still see these terms as useful to
distinguish between concepts in Caribbean society if an
attempt is made to understand how the concepts differ from

46
their general use in European society. Slater (1977) takes a
different viewpoint.10 She argues (Slater 1977:155) that in
Martinique: "There simply is no rule of legitimacy." Slater
considers legitimate children, as do others who have dealt
with this issue, to be children born to married parents
rather than those with a recognized pater, as in my
definition. If Slater's data is examined it indicates that
some important distinctions between children are made in
Martinique. She notes that
"although illegitimate births outnumber the
legitimate, recognized children usually outnumber
the nonrecognized .... A man need not live with
a woman to recognize one of her children, but if he
lives with her he is forced to recognize her
children unless he wishes to go to court to dispute
paternity" (Slater 1977:159-160).
Recognized children also have a different status from
unrecognized children. "By law, recognized children inherit
along with legitimate children from the father. Unrecognized
children, then are at a disadvantage . . . ." (Slater
1977:160).
Goode (1960:30) argues that the Caribbean does not
contradict Malinowski's views and concludes that
"Malinowski's Principle of Legitimacy ... is generally
valid." Part of the evidence he gives for this assertion is
the fact that mothers severely chastise daughters who get
pregnant. This indicates that although pregnancies outside
of a marital union are common they are not considered
acceptable. Goode (1960) also states that marriage is
considered the ideal form of mating in the Caribbean and most

47
people enter marriage at some point in their lives. This he
argues can be held as the "norm" or value of the Caribbean
although there is a high rate of deviance from this ideal
form of mating. He criticizes Slater's assertion that there
is no distinction between legitimacy and illegitimacy based
on these factors. Goode also argues against the
characterization of consensual unions as "sociologically as
legitimate" as legal unions. He concludes: "If this
interpretation is correct, Malinowski's principle would be
erroneous, and one of the apparently major functions of the
father would have to be redefined as unessential" (Goode
1960:23). Goode does not state why he came to this
conclusion and it is difficult now to say exactly what
motivated him to state it. But, if legitimacy is not defined
as necessarily derived from "marriage" but rather in the
terms given in chapter one, then what is and is not
technically a marriage becomes less relevant to the issues.
Slater's (1977) addendum to her dissertation in
published form castigates Goode for not distinguishing, as
she felt he should, between the "upper" and "lower" strata of
society. Slater feels that Goode was relying on the values
of the "upper" strata, to describe the behavior of the lower
strata. She argues that the elite may attempt to discourage
illegitimate births but there is no concept of "shame" among
the non-elite or at most it is fleeting. Slater's
conclusions that there is no concept of illegitimacy in the
Caribbean has been adopted and referenced in subsequent

48
descriptions of Caribbean family life (e.g. Halberstein 1986,
1990) .
If legitimacy is not considered in terms of children
born into a marriage but children who have a socially
recognized father, then the conflict between the perspectives
of Goode and Slater can be reconciled. But before an attempt
is made to do this the views of others on Caribbean
illegitimacy will be considered.
There is some disagreement among various ethnographers
as to the extent of illegitimacy in the Caribbean. This
disagreement is best contrasted by the views of Marks and
R.T. Smith. Marks (1975:16) argues that "illegitimacy should
be regarded as virtually an exclusive 'product' of the lower
strata." R.T. Smith's (1956) earlier arguments were less
polemical. He felt that the distinction between legitimate
and illegitimate children, like that between union types, was
sociologically irrelevant. Currently, however, he attacks
(R.T. Smith 1988:104) "economic determinists theories [which]
have made illegitimacy appear to be an exclusively lower
class 'problem'." His rebuttal to these theories is based on
the efforts of Bishop Nutal in Jamaica to stem "immorality"
among higher class whites who were producing many
illegitimate offspring. Therefore, illegitimacy, he argues,
was an upper class (and white) phenomenon in the Caribbean
just as much as a lower class black phenomenon.11 On the
other hand, Marks' assertion that illegitimate births are
"high" in the Caribbean does appear to reflect empirical

49
observation if births outside of marriage are considered
illegitimate.
The response of parents to a daughter's discovered
pregnancy indicates that not all pregnancies are treated with
indifference. Simpson (1942:665) notes that daughters in
Haiti are "beaten" when their pregnancy is discovered. A
Jamaican girl's initiation into womanhood appears to follow
several "ritualized" stages that have been described by
Clarke.
The mother's behavior when she discovers her
daughter's condition falls into four almost
ritualized stages. The girl's misconduct is always
said to have been carried on surreptitiously
without her knowledge and brought to her attention
only when the signs of pregnancy become apparent.
The discovery is greeted with noisy upbraiding, the
girl is severely beaten, and in many cases turned
out of the house. In the second stage the girl
takes refuge with a neighbour or kinswoman. After
a period, which may be quite short, the kinsfolk
and neighbours intercede with the mother on her
behalf, and the girl is taken back into her
mother's home for the birth of her child (Clarke
1966:99).
One exception to the rule that a Jamaican mother accepts her
pregnant daughter is with adopted girls who must leave 'if
they become pregnant. "They could not expect to be kept on
as one's own might be in such an event" (Clarke 1966:177).
There are other occasions when a mother accepts with no
disapproval a daughter's pregnancy. Clarke points out that a
girl working as domestic help returned home for the birth of
her child; the child was left for the mother to raise and no
disapproval was voiced. The reasons for this difference in

50
treatment were not made clear by Clarke. It appears that in
certain circumstances a pregnant girl, or woman, can meet
with marked social disapproval and at other times be treated
with indifference—each a phenomenon focused on by Goode and
Slater respectively. Rawlins (1984) has also noted that
teenage pregnancy is likely to be lower when parents,
especially mothers, have greater interaction with their
daughters. How much this influences response to pregnancy is
unclear.
Manyoni's (1977:418) comment in reference to the
Caribbean that "illegitimacy is largely considered from the
perspective of maternity rather than both maternity and
paternity" is generally accurate in that men are rarely
chastened or visibly punished in relation to issues of
legitimacy (for a similar perspective see Allman 1985) . This
may be due to the fact that paternity is less clear. This is
generally given as the reason why property is only inherited
by a child if it is considered "legitimate." But, as we have
seen for Martinique, a child can inherit property from the
father if the father acknowledges paternity. Therefore,
although a mother may be easier to identify, because of the
pregnancy, paternity can still be determined on a
sociological level if not a biological one (unless
sophisticated techniques are made available).
An approach at reconciliation of the dispute between
Goode and Slater based on this evidence should consider that,
although many children are born in unions other than marriage

51
relationships and are not socially disapproved of as
"illegitimate," there are a class of children who do not have
a person they can identify as their "father" and these
children do have lower status than others. Relationships
carried on surreptitiously, which result in a child without
an identifiable father, result in sharp social disapproval by
the community. These children do not have claim to support
from their fathers or those men who have established a social
contract with a child as discussed by Malinowski.
In the following ethnography of pregnancy and
childbirth among Creoles in Suriname it will become evident
that there are a number of different ways men can assert
paternity or women can ritually identify the father of their
child.
Although this analysis of the Caribbean as a region
has suggested general characteristics of Caribbean society,
Lewis (1985:226) argues "it is misleading to think of the
[Caribbean] region as a single, monolithic whole — a delusion
present in much of the scholarly literature on this area."
This study is not dealing with the Caribbean as a whole but
only with the the coastal region of Suriname. It is not
necessary, however, to treat each society in the Caribbean as
a completely separate entity devoid of any connections with
other regions that have undergone similar historical and
cultural processes. Much of what has been found in other
societies in the Caribbean has relevance for Suriname.

52
Summary
Although the origins of the Caribbean family are
probably drawn from many different influences, there are
distinctive characteristics of the Caribbean family that can
be found in most Caribbean societies. There is a
"matrifocal" tendency in Caribbean societies which can best
be viewed as a tendency towards slightly greater emphasis on
women and the maternal kin of a family when relationships are
considered as a whole. The perspective of men as "marginal"
to the household is overdrawn if one considers this to mean
they are constantly absent and do not contribute economically
to the household. Yet men are less prominent in daily
household activities than are women. There is also a
distinctive mating system that has developed in Caribbean
societies .
Mating in the Caribbean generally begins as an extra-
residential union; it then evolves into a consensual union;
and later, usually after children are born, a legal marriage
is solemnized. Having children in common seems to strengthen
relationships in each of these patterns of mating.
The family system in the Caribbean is one in which
children are generally born outside of a legally recognized
union. Some of these births receive marked social
disapproval while others are treated with excitement and
expectation. A distinction between these types of
pregnancies can be made on the basis of association with a
presence or lack of a socially recognized father. This

53
distinction will be explored in the following ethnography of
pregnancy and childbirth among the Creole in Paramaribo,
Suriname.
1Most scholars have focused on the "lower class" while lumping the
middle and upper class into a single group where legal marriage is
consistently found. R.T. Smith's recent work indicates that, although
this is generally the case, it is not a rule. He points out "the
distribution of union types reflects the class composition of the
genealogies, with common law and visiting unions being rare, but not
absent from, established middle class genealogies" (R.T. Smith 1988:67).
Henriques, although he saw the upper class as differing from the lower
and middle class, argued that these patterns were not derivations of the
European ideal but forms that existed in their own right. Henriques
notes in reference to the relation between the upper and middle classes
The attitude of the middle class towards this practice [i.e.
of bearing children outside of marriage relationships] is
not only one of tolerance but of actual approval. This is
interesting as the twin household violates the canons of
this class's sexual morality, and in addition the female
partner is often drawn from its own class. The middle class
girl who becomes the mistress of an upper class man is
condemned, but the action of the man is approved (Henriques
1953:154).
Henriques sees these relationships as having roots in slavery when an
upper class male would have an "outside" relationship with a woman in a
lower status position than himself.
2Class, as it is used by most Caribbean scholars, is consistent with the
concept of socioeconomic status. Not only is one's income level
included in this but also language use (Creole verses Metropolitan
language), skin color (the darker one's skin the lower one's status),
and education (the lower one's education the lower one's status).
3Beet and Sterman (1978) also argue that "male absenteeism" influences
family life and fertility among the Matawai Maroons in Suriname but no —
conclusions are drawn as to its effects on the structure of the Matawai
family.
It is noteworthy that the recent emigration from Suriname has been
disproportionately Creole men. This has increased the female to male
ratio dramatically.
4The author does not present data to support his conclusions.
5A variety of different terms have been used to describe specific
^®lstionships that exist in the Caribbean family, I have chosen to use
extra-residential" unions as defined in the text because other terms
such as "affair" or "visiting union" tend to down play the fact that
many of these relationships evolve into co-residential relationships and
possibly marriage. Likewise the term "consensual union," as defined in
the text, is used rather than "concubinage" which reflects a lower
status to the relationship than is often the case in Caribbean

54
communities. Therefore "consensual union" is used to refer to co-
residential relationships where legal marriage is not found. These may
exists as "common law" marriages or as "living together" relationships
which may or may not lead to legal marriage. Legal marriage is
generally a marriage that is sanctioned by the churches in the community
and the law of the country. This definition is, of necessity, much
narrower than the definition I gave in the first chapter for marriage.
The societies dealt with in this discussion have a much narrower
definition of marriage and the research discussed is based on a much
narrower definition. Therefore, I use this narrower definition of
marriage throughout this chapter.
All of these labels are imposed from the outside although they
have occasionally been adopted by those to whom they apply. Some of the
terms that members of these societies use for their relationships will
be discussed in the text.
6Stoffle (1977b) has argued that industrial employment slows down the
time it takes to move through these patterns of relationships.
7This is only the first stage of a marriage according to "Western
tradition" for the Black Carib. A legal union, or what Gonzalez refers
to as a "Western-type marriage" does not transform a consensual union
with the performance of a ceremony recognized by law, but that is the
culmination of several steps taken to give the relationship higher
status.
8This discussion of the motivations for marriage is admittedly strongly
biased towards the male perspective and what the motives of men are in
these relationships. This is not intentional but is unavoidable due to
the lack of consideration by ethnographers of women's intentions.
9Although this may be expected in European societies, in West Africa
children generally go with the men after separation as part of rights in
genetricem which men hold.
This work was originally a dissertation done under the authors maiden
name of Kreiselman in 1958.
llR.T. Smith hints in his discussion, in fact, that illegitimacy in the
Caribbean originated with the slave owners and from them became_a_
persistent part of the structure of "lower class" families.

CHAPTER 3
AN OVERVIEW OF THE RESEARCH SITE:
THE REPUBLIC OF SURINAME
Historical Overview
Suriname is on the northern border of South America.
Brazil is just south, while French Guiana is east and Guyana
is west of Suriname. The Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean
form the northern border. Because of its historic,
geographic, and ethnic character, Suriname is considered part
of "plantation America" (Wagley 1957), and is specifically
included in the Caribbean region (Mintz and Price 1985).
Paramaribo, the capital and only major city in the country,
is located on the coast of Suriname and is the general site
of early European activity.
European Domination
Suriname's original inhabitants were Native Americans
who, according to current evidence, were in the area in large
numbers at least 5,000 years ago (National Planning Office of
Suriname 1988). Although the coastal Carib and Arawak groups
appear to have had contact with Europeans from the time of
their first arrival, encounters and exchanges slowly spread
to other groups, with the last recorded "first" contact being
with the Akuri who used their stone axes to destroy the
55

56
outboard motor of a "curious traveler" in 1968 (Bubberman
1972:11).
The first European contact appears to have been in
1499 when the Spanish navigators Alonzo de Hojeda and Jean de
la Cosa are reputed to have scouted some parts of the
northeast coast of South America during their navigation of
what later would be called "the Wild Coast." One year later,
Vincent Juan Pinzón claimed the region in the name of the
king of Spain.
This region, which came to be known as Guiana ("land
of many streams or waters")1 is situated between the Atlantic
Ocean and the Amazon, Rio Negro, Cassiquiare and Orinoco
rivers. It soon became known for its mythical Dorado, or
land of gold, and Lake Parima--a fabled lake of gold. This
region was possessed in the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries in whole or in part by Spain, the Netherlands,
England, France, and Portugal in turn. As part of the
imperialistic jousting of the time, the territory became
divided into five regions: Spanish Guiana (now part of
Venezuela), British Guiana (now Guyana), French Guiana,
Portuguese Guiana (now part of Brazil) and Dutch Guiana
(which, of course, is now Suriname).
The Dutch founded the first trading centers on the
coast (in 1530 and 1542) and in 1581, a year after their
independence from Spain, they established the first
settlement in Pomeroon, which later became part of British
Guiana (Mitrasing 1975:5-6). The Dutch became so active in

57
the Caribbean region that the Spanish governor of Venezuela
recommended they be kept out through poisoning the salt pans
they frequented in the neighboring Antilles (Williams
1984:75). The activities of the Dutch were eventually
curtailed by the British who, under the direction of Lord
Willoughby, established the first permanent settlement in
Suriname in 1651.
Fort Willoughby was built on the remains of a French
fort dating from 1640, and the English began trading with the
indigenous Carib while turning against the Arawak—
traditional Carib enemies. In 1667, sixteen years later, the
Dutch took Fort Willoughby as part of their global war with
England and still held it a year later when a peace treaty
was signed in Breda. In exchange for keeping Suriname, the
Dutch gave New Amsterdam (New York) to the British. The
Dutch, everyone felt at the time, got the better end of the
deal, even though they argued both sides should take equal
burden for the war (i.e. "Dutch treat"). The British
immediately began applying the Dutch hate term jong kaas
(i.e. Yankees) to the inhabitants of New Amsterdam and the
Dutch began to reshape the colony of Suriname.
Slavery in Suriname
The British period was crucial to the development of
Suriname. Most notably, the importation of slaves from
Afri-ca began during this period. The languages originally
spoken by the slaves and the Maroons, or runaway slaves,

58
still retain much of the basic lexicon and syntax developed
during the period when English was the dominant language.
As the Dutch took control of Suriname, they changed
the name of the fort to Zeelandia. The fort remained central
in importance as is reflected in the Sranantongo word foto,
which now means "city." The Dutch expanded the importation
of African slaves beyond earlier levels. Most of the slaves
were brought from West Africa, but slavers moved down the
coast of Africa as villages were decimated and societies
destroyed. Herskovits (1939) reports that some of the last
slaves brought to Suriname were from Mozambique—clear around
the Cape.
The world shipping capitals of Amsterdam and
Rotterdam, from the provinces of North and South Holland,
respectively, controlled much of the slave trade, while
Europe's leading medical school in Leiden provided most of
the attending physicians on the slave ships and colonies of
the Necherlands and other nations (Calder 1958). Nassy, as
quoted by Price and Price (1988:xiv), stated in 1788 that the
Dutch colony in Suriname was "the envy of all the others in
the Americas" likely because of its economic output.
Suriname remained the most important colony of the
Netherlands until well into the eighteenth century when
Indonesia, or the Dutch East Indies, surpassed it.
The "envy" of the Americas was built at a price.
Essed (1984:1) reports that slaves died at the rate of four a
day from 1682 to 1863 when emancipation was declared. A

59
contemporary of this period, John Stedman (1796:373), guessed
the entire slave population became "extinct" every twenty
years or in other words that the high death rate led to a
complete overturn in the population every twenty years. In
addition to this, beginning as early as the British period,
many of the slaves had begun escaping into the Amazon rain
forests and establishing communities led by a granman or
"chief." Although the forests were hazardous and called
dedekondre or "country of death" by the slaves, many were
willing to risk malaria and other perils in exchange for
freedom. These enclaves of Maroons, who now call themselves
Busunengre or "Bushnegroes," established themselves along
major rivers and continued to raid plantations until peace
treaties were signed with separate groups in 1760, 1762, and
1767 making them the first peoples in the Americas to gain
independence from Europe.2
Until the importation of slaves was made illegal,
there was always a higher concentration of Africanborn slaves
than Surinameborn slaves (called Creoles) in the colony.
Because of this, the Creole population continued in many
different ways to have contact with their African past until
the importation of slaves was abolished. On July 1, 1863,
the slaves were given their freedom. This event is still
celebrated every first of July as ketikoti or manspasi
("emancipation" day).

60
The Post-Slavery Period
For years after emancipation, former slaves flocked to
the city, refusing to continue in agriculture.3 This left a
shortage of labor in the plantation areas of Suriname. In
order to fill their labor needs, the Dutch turned to the
British East Indies and began importing indentured labor—
largely from the northeastern provinces of India. These East
Indians are called Hindustanis in Suriname (and the
Netherlands as well). Most of these contract laborers
arrived in Suriname between 1873 and 1917 and are now the
largest of the many ethnic groups in the country. Many of
the Hindustani were tricked into embarking on ships or did
not quite understand the consequences. Suddenly they found
themselves pulling out of their home cities, sometimes not
even having had time to say farewell to family members or
tell them what was happening (Diepraam 1978). In 1890 the
Dutch turned to the East Indies to supplement and later
replace the inflow of Hindustanis on the remaining sugar
plantations. They brought laborers to Suriname from the
Indonesian island of Java until 1939. Of the ethnic groups
in the coastal lowlands the Javanese remain the most
impoverished and least exposed to formal education. Although
the Hindustani have been much more likely to move into
sectors of the economy other than agriculture, they continue,
along with the Javanese, to dot the agricultural regions of
the country.

61
More recently Maroons have flocked into the city as
well, seeking opportunity and as refugees from rebel fighting
in the interior. The Chinese world diaspora has brought
immigrants from Hong Kong and elsewhere who tend to run small
shops or winkels'1 and restaurants. Significant numbers of
Dutch, Lebanese, and Guyanese live in Paramaribo, as do some
Jews from Germany and Portugal and a smattering of North
Americans (often missionaries of various Christian
denominations). The general nature of Suriname is such that
the city of Paramaribo is dominated by the Creole population
with a large Hindustani presence as well, while the coastal
agricultural regions are populated with the Hindustani and
Javanese and the rainforests are the territory of the Maroons
and Native Americans.
The Current Picture
The Republic of Suriname gained independence from the
Netherlands in 1975. Many of the changes that have taken
place since then have been influenced by the newly
independent status of the country. But, as with all
societies, Suriname reflects its historical and cultural
roots.
Eopulation Growth
The population of Suriname has undergone dramatic
fluctuation as a result of independence. Many Surinamers
retained their Dutch citizenship and went to the Netherlands.

62
Recent figures indicate that the steady decline in population
leading up to and following independence has been reversed
and population growth is again occurring (see table 1).
The population of Paramaribo is 48% of the entire
country's population5 and much of the remaining population
surrounds and has ties with the city. Three other population
centers of note are: Nieuw Nickerie, next to the Guyana
border; Albina, next to the French Guyana border; and Mungo,
a region south of Paramaribo where bauxite mining takes place
for the aluminum industry. Smaller villages are scattered
along many of the major rivers in the interior.
Table 1
Population
Growth and
Growth
Factors 1980
-1987
Year Population*
Births**
Deaths
Immigration
Emigration
1980 361,040
9, 848
2, 192
2,282
18,988
1981 351,990
10,094
2,441
3,338
4,432
1982 358,549
11,205
2, 506
3, 706
3,431 ;
1983 367,523
11,823
2,811
2, 805
5,225
1984 374,115
11,503
2,873
3,393
3, 488
1985 382,650
11,704
2, 674
1, 902
5,321
1986 388,261
10,176
1987 404,962
9, 660
*Total as of January 1.
**This figure only
includes live births.6
Source¡National Planning Office, Suriname (1988)
and the
Suriname Department
of Public
Health
statistical
office,
1991 .

63
Ethnic Makeup of the Population
One of the distinctive characteristics of Suriname is
the social and cultural diversity of its population. Most of
the population identifies with specific ethnic labels that
signify similar historical and cultural roots. Each of the
large or influential ethnic groups will be discussed
separately. The percentages of each group given from the
"hospital" sample refer to the sample from which part of the
research for this work was derived. The sample is discussed
in the following chapter.
lh.e_Hindustani
The Hindustani population of Suriname made up 37.8% of
the total population of Suriname in 1980 (Health Conditions
in the Americas 1990:257).7 In 1991 they made up 32.7% of the
delivering population at s'Lands, the public hospital
(n=340).8 The Hindustani are generally considered to be the
largest ethnic group in Suriname when those of African
descent are separated into Creole and Maroon groups. (If
those with African ancestry are considered as one group, then
they make up 39.1% of the population in the Health Conditions
in the Americas report [1990:257] and 47.3% of the delivering
population at s'Lands in this study).
The Hindustani have cultural and ancestral ties to
India. They prefer use of the Dutch term Hindustani to refer
to themselves as a group. In Sranantongo, they are called
Kuli a word retained from the British period or occasionally

64
Hustani derived from the Dutch. The Hindustani, as a whole,
hate being referred to as Kuli. (All of the Hindustani women
in the postpartum study said they did not like the term
Kuli.) The Creole, on the other hand, say most Hindustani do
not mind being called Kuli and when groups of Creoles are
together they invariably used Kuli when talking about
Hindustanis. When other ethnic groups are in on the
discussion, Hindustani is generally used. Hindustanis of
both Muslim and Hindu religions find the Dutch term
acceptable.
The recent characterization of Suriname as a place
where harmony exists between divergent ethnic and religious
groups overstates the situation (French 1990) . Some ethnic
tensions do exist. For example, Hindustani will occasionally
complain about the Creole population and claim all the
Creoles are interested in is prisiri — pleasure, a good time,
or parties. Although most Hindustani will claim everyone can
marry everyone, they tend to discourage or even express
disdain at relationships with Creoles. A child that is born
of Creole and Hindustani parents is called a Dogla and is
generally classified as a Creole (see below).
Many Hindustani still strongly identify with India and
are interested in events in India. A statue of the Mahatma,
Mohandas Karamchand Ghandi, stands in a busy section of the
city and many of the city's streets reflect Indian ties—
including the recent changing of the name of one of the two
major roads from Pad van Wanica to Indira Ghandi Weg.

65
The African-American population
Although all of Suriname's population of African
descent are descendants of African slaves, historical
separation of two segments of the population have created
cultural and linguistic differences. The Creole population
consists essentially of the descendants of those who were in
the city or on plantations at the end of slavery while the
Maroon population is made up of the descendants of those who
escaped into the rainforests.
Creole. Creole Surinamers are called Creool in
Dutch and Nengre in Sranantongo.9 There has been a major
movement towards the use of the term Creole by Surinamers as
opposed to the term Nengre which is viewed by some as having
negative connotations. There is not only a linguistic
category Nengre to designate the lower class Creoles in
Sranantongo, but historically persons could also be Mulata,
(a Kleurling in Dutch) if part of their ancestry was
European. These distinctions are no longer made, however.
But distinctions are still made in reference to admixture
with other ethnic groups. A Dogla is theoretically the
offspring of a Hindustani mother or father and Creole spouse
but even if parentage is not known a Creole with wavy hair
might be called Dogla. For example, American Blacks seen on
television are occasionally referred to as Dogla.

66
Of the women who deliver at s'Lands Hospitaal 24.1%
identified themselves as Creole. The percentage of African-
Americans is 39.1% for the entire population but how many of
these identify themselves as Creole is difficult to
determine. There was a movement to identify the Maroon
population with the Creole population based on a common
African ancestry. The intentions were to increase political
clout (see Wooding 1981) but it has also influenced
statistical information on the population. This movement has
not had as devastating an impact on information, however, as
has a more recent trend.
There has been a recent movement to completely ignore
ethnicity in the gathering of official data. The general
opinion is that if ethnicity becomes less important national
unity will increase and this will benefit everyone. The goal
is admirable but it is no longer possible to get such
information as a break down of infant mortality by ethnic
groups. This obfuscates real differences in ethnic groups in
important areas (like birth weight as discussed in chapter
8). It would be better if inequalities between ethnic groups
were made explicit so that changes can be made to improve
specific sections of the population rather than ignoring such
differences under a guise of nationalism.
Maroons. The Maroons are known as Bosland Creool in
Dutch or Busu Nengre in Sranantongo. The Maroons are made up
of six distinct groups. The Saramaccaners are perhaps the

67
least acculturated to city life of all the Maroons. This is
generally due to the fact that they have historically lived
the furthest from the city. The Aukaners or Ndjuka are the
largest group and are geographically the closest to
Paramaribo. When talking about Maroons, this is the group
most Creole are referring too. Djuka, a term that Aukaners
now disdain, is used by the Creole as a term for impolite
behavior or social ineptitude.
Other small groups of Maroons listed largest to
smallest include Paramaccaners, Matuariérs (or Matawais),
Kwintis, and Bonnis or Alukus.
Although Djuka has become a term of criticism, the
Creole generally admire the Maroon population. Many of the
Creole see their own culture and society as being derived
from that of the Maroons and they feel the Maroon population
represents the Creole past. Of the women who delivered at
s'Lands Hospitaal, 23.2% identified themselves as Bosland
Creool or Maroon.
The Javanese
The Javanese are called Yapanees in Sranantongo and
Javaans in Dutch. They find both terms acceptable although
both terms are occasionally used in disparaging ways such as
viewing breast-feeding as Javaans or referring to outhouses
as Javaanse toilets. The Javanese only make up 18.4% of the
total population.10 Out of the women from the s'Lands sample,
they make up 12.4% of the total.

68
The general image that the Javanese have of themselves
and that others have of them is that they tend to get along
with everyone, (although there are exceptions). Many of the
Javanese and especially the older population maintain an
interest in what happens in Indonesia and the small group
that can afford it will attempt to visit the country at least
once. A cultural center has recently been built for the
centennial of Javanese immigration and public events are
occasionally held to celebrate the Javanese heritage.
The Native Americans
Native Americans are referred to as a group in
Sranantongo by the term Ingi or as Indiaan in Dutch. They
only make up 1.5% of the total population and most of this
small group live in rural or remote areas. Native Americans
made up 2.7% of the women who delivered at s'Lands Hospitaal
in January, 1991. Those who do live in the city tend to be
the coastal Carib and Arawak. Other Native Americans include
the Wajana (a total of 397 individuals) and the Trio (a total
of 822 individuals) with just under 700 individuals
identified as "other."
The Chinese
The Chinese are called Sinesi in Sranantongo and
Chinees in Dutch. There are more Chinese in Suriname than
Native Americans with 1.7% of the population, but only .6% of
the women delivering at s'Lands Hospitaal defined themselves

69
as Chinese. Most of the Chinese own businesses in the city
and are generally successful. (One of the two Chinese women
that delivered at s'Lands had delivered her first child in
the United States and she was the only woman in the entire
sample to have a "class A" delivery which is explained in
chapter 8).
The Europeans
Although the current European population of Suriname
is about 0.5%, their presence is felt in larger proportion
than their numbers. (There were no Europeans in the hospital
sample). Europeans are generally Dutch and are always
considered so unless one knows this not to be the case. The
Dutch are classified into two categories in Sranantongo. A
Buru is specifically applied to descendants of Dutch farmers
in Suriname and the name comes from the Dutch word for
farmer. It is also generally applied to any White who
appears to work hard or is a native Surinamer. The other
class of Dutch are the Bakra. These are the urban, well to
do, or foreign Dutch. For some speakers the use of Bakra has
a negative tinge.
If a person's nationality is known then it is
generally indicated in referring to that person. An American
male becomes Amekan boy or pikin Bush "a child of Bush" (the
U.S. president during the period of this research).

70
The "mixed" population
The final category is called gemenged in Dutch and
moksi in Sranantongo (or "mixed"). This group made up the
final 4.4% of the total hospital population. Those who would
like ethnic distinctions to disappear in Suriname are hoping
that this group will eventually expand to include all
Surinamers. But presently even those who are called moksi by
friends will often identify with one of the major ethnic
groups.
The Political Situation
In the years following the second world war, when many
former colonies gained independence, Suriname got more
political freedom and control over internal affairs, but it
did not become completely autonomous from the Netherlands.
In 1975 Suriname gained its independence. Events surrounding
its independence have changed the country of Suriname
dramatically. More than 100,000 individuals (mostly Creole)
kept their Dutch citizenship and went to the Netherlands in
the period approaching independence—meaning that a country
the size of the U.S. State of Georgia, with fewer than
400,000 individuals mostly concentrated in one large urban
region, underwent a dramatic population reduction. The large
numbers who emigrated has resulted in many Surinamers having
family members in the Netherlands that can send money or
other goods (although some complain that relatives do not
send much if anything). High levels of emigration (mostly of

71
males) have contributed to current demographics where more
than 50% of the population is under 20 years of age and
disproportionately female. During the same period of time
there was also a large increase of migration from the
interior into Paramaribo.
Independence has also been followed by political
upheavals. Suriname went through a coup d'etat in 1980, less
than three years after the first elections in 1977, followed
by a series of political assassinations in 1982, and the rise
of the Jungle Commando, a Maroon insurgency. The military
government stepped down in 1987 when democratic elections
were held. A Native American military insurgency split in
1990 from their alliance with the Maroons to create the
Tucayanes Amazones. On Christmas eve of 1990 a "telephone
coup" by military leaders toppled the government. The
military again stepped down in 1991 allowing democratic
elections to be held.
Hopes of pending agreement between insurgents in the
interior and the Suriname government officials as well as
warnings by the Netherlands and U.S. against another coup
attempt may lessen the political turmoil in the country.
However, Brana-Shute's (1987) characterization of a
"surprising Suriname" may continue to express itself in the
political arena.

72
The Economy
Politics continue to intact with the economy. The
mining sector (mainly bauxite) dominates the economy, since
it accounts for almost 75% of the total export earnings for
the country. Its successes and failures are felt by almost
everyone. Rice, tobacco, bananas, tropical woods and other
agricultural products as well as some oil production are
important exports for the country.
When Suriname became independent it received the
famous "golden handshake" from the Netherlands. A promise of
almost one billion dollars U.S. in aid over a ten-year period
would have had a phenomenal impact in such a small country.
But after the first coup d'etat this aid was held by the
Netherlands in an attempt to influence the internal affairs
of Suriname and still has not been released.
Suriname continues to be plagued with problems. In
the past year there have been at least five flour shortages
which meant no bread or bami (egg noodles), two of the
country's staple foods. During these shortages American
officios, in televised speeches, stated that Suriname needed
to pay for the last wheat shipment before the next one would
be sent. Rice, the third and most important staple, always
seemed in plentiful supply, although many rumors were passed
around that it would also be difficult to get soon. It is
doubtful that events would progress that far, but fears that
rice would disappear were very real.

73
The country's economy has accelerated its decline in
the past several years and is experiencing a chronic shortage
of foreign currency. Production declines since 1987 have led
to soaring unemployment which currently makes up almost 34%
of the total work force. Suriname's dependence on imports
and a limited supply of foreign currency has led to soaring
prices and a scarcity of a wide range of goods. There is a
large parallel or "black market" and most imported goods such
as medicines and consumer items are purchased paying the high
rates asked for foreign currencies. Despite the parallel
market, the official exchange rate has been held at about a
constant 1.77 guilders per dollar and an even trade of one
Suriname guilder per Dutch guilder. In contrast to this,
during 1989-1990 the blackmarket rate was generally reported
at about sixteen to eighteen guilders per U.S. dollar or
eight to nine Dutch guilders per U.S. dollar with some
reporting exchanging Canadian dollars for as high as twenty
guilders per dollar and others reporting similar rates for
U.S. dollars.11
LanananpR
There are many languages spoken in Suriname. They are
generally defined by different ethnic and cultural
boundaries, although these boundaries are not distinct. The
"best spoken language" of an individual will generally be
defined by ethnic and cultural affiliations, but either

74
Sranantongo or Dutch is known by almost everyone with Dutch
as the official language (see table 2).12
Sranantongo
One of the most widely used languages in Suriname is
Sranantongo (literally "Suriname-Tongue"). The language is
sometimes referred to as Negerengels in Dutch (or "Negro
English"). This term is incorrect, although accepted by many
Surinamers, since Sranantongo is not a type of English but
has a unique syntax and a modified English lexicon with
considerable contributions from Dutch, Portuguese and West
African languages.
Table 2
The Best Spoken Language of the Suriname
Population Six Years Old and Above bv Ethnic Group
Dutch
Sranan-
Sarnami
Javanese
Other
Total
tongo
Hindustani
Creole
61,389
27,939
195
90
1,318
90,931
Hindustani
11,250
1, 496
71,505
23
443
84,717
Javanese
2,724
561
22
34,766
35
38,108
Amerindian*
980
944
1
-
447
2,372
Chinese
2, 581
237
1
5
1, 663
4,487
European
3, 455
15
1
4
144
3, 619
Other
1.558
156
2
37
528
2.281
Total
83,937
31,348
71,727
34,925
4, 578
226,515
%
37.1
13.8
31.7
15.4
2.0
100.0
*not living
in tribal
groups
Source: Edward Dew 1978:11

75
The term Taki-taki regularly appears in English
language publications—even academic ones (e.g. Alleyne 1985)
as the name of a language in Suriname. It is generally used
to refer to Sranantongo, although it has been used for Maroon
languages too. The term is a Sranantongo word meaning "to
gab" or "to chatter" but it is not a complementary one and it
is not used by Surinamers.
Sranantongo's resilience over the years has been
remarkable despite the fact that children are neither allowed
to speak it at school nor in the homes of the upper class or
many of the middle class. There have been increasing
attempts to write in Sranantongo although to date most of the
material produced has been fiction or poetry (e.g. van Kempen
1986, Grot 1987). Recently, a news program has been produced
in Sranantongo which is aired on one of the two television
stations.13 While most of the broadcasting is still done in
Dutch—the official language.
Dutch
Since the emancipation of slaves on July 1, 1863
Christian missionaries and others have taught schools in
Dutch and it is still the official language of Suriname. The
Dutch spoken in Suriname differs from that spoken in the
Netherlands (or the numerous local dialects spoken in the
Netherlands) not only in the accent given to it but also in
some grammar constructions and vocabulary. Besides producing

76
television shows in Dutch, both of the national newspapers
and the most popular radio station in Suriname use Dutch.
The two major languages of the city (Dutch and
Sranantongo) are both spoken on the streets and most of those
who were born and raised in the city are proficient in both
languages. For the Creole population 69% have indicated that
Dutch is their "best spoken language" while 31% have
indicated that Sranantongo is their "best spoken language"
(Dew 1978:11). Both Sranantongo and Dutch were used during
interviews to gather data for this research and Dutch was
used exclusively in the mailed questionnaires.
Other languages
Other languages spoken in Suriname include Sarnami
Hindustani a derivative of two Hindi dialects—Avadhi and
Bhjpuri. This language has incorporated elements of
Sranantongo and Dutch as well as some English because of the
large number of East Indian immigrants from Guyana. Javanese
is also spoken although it differs from its parent language
in Java, Indonesia in that loan words are not only drawn from
Bahasa Indonesia but also Sranantongo and Dutch. English is
spoken by some immigrants as are Chinese (Manderin, Hakka,
and Pundhi), Arabic (a larger number using it in ritual
contexts), Native American languages (including Arawak,
Carib, Wajana, Trio, Akurio and others), and a variety of
Maroon languages the most influential of which are Saramaccan
and Aucaans.

77
The Religions of Suriname
The religious beliefs of Surinamers are as varied and
complex as are their languages. Native American animistic
religions are still found in Suriname, although indigenous
religions take a less prominent position in the lives of
Native Americans currently than Catholicism in coastal
regions and Protestantism in the interior.
Although a little missionary activity was conducted by
the Moravian Bretheren from as early as the eighteenth-
century among Native Americans and slaves, proselytizing only
began in ernest after the emancipation of slaves in the late
nineteenth-century. Before this uime the religious life of
the slaves had become in part a syncretization of beliefs
drawn from their divergent African pasts and the Native
American groups around them and in part completely new ideas
and experiences that dealt with the situation in which they
found themselves. This religion has become known as Winti
from the word for "wind" or "spirit." Wooding (1981) points
out that, although this religion is similar to others in the
Caribbean in that it syncretized beliefs from a variety of
sources, it differs from other Caribbean religions in that
Christianity was never included in the syncretization
process. The slaves who escaped into the interior and
established Maroon societies took religious beliefs with them
that are similar to Winti.

78
Although Winti has been termed "the Creole religion,"
this is not completely accurate. Most Creoles are Roman
Catholics or Moravian with many adherents to other Protestant
denominations. However, participating in a Christian
religion does not preclude the participation in Winti
activities as well and many are involved in both religions.
Some Christian denominations denounce participating in
Winti and the leader of a small revivalistic denomination
(the Mosterd Zaad), who had formerly been a traditional
healer, decries Winti as serving the devil. It is not
uncommon to find Creole men and women who have not been to
Winti ceremonies in years although most have participated in
or seen a ceremony at some point in their lives. For others
Winti serves as a social function, a place to go dance and
meet people, although religious feelings may exist as well.
Winti religious observance involves serving
supernatural beings called Winti and in turn receiving aid
from them in everyday or special circumstances. Using
special protective charms is also viewed as part of these
beliefs as are a variety of healing practices. Those that
involve pregnancy will be dealt with in greater detail in
subsequent chapters.
Maroons have also been influenced by a Christian
presence although to a lesser extent than the Creoles. They
also define their religious beliefs to outsiders in terms of
organized religions. Maroons who do not belong to a specific
Christian denomination will consistently reply "no religion"

79
in surveys rather than asserting other beliefs. They have
also experienced various prophetic movements and religious
revivals (Thoden van Velzen 1977, 1978/ Thoden van Velzen and
van Wetering 1975, 1982). The other segments of the
population have also been influenced by various Christian
denominations and a small number have joined specific groups.
About 60% of the Hindustanis belong to the orthodox
Sanatan Dharm and another 20% the reform Arya Samaj Hindu
faiths. Most of the rest are Muslims. Islam is also the
religion of almost all the Javanese. Both groups are Sunni
Moslems with the Javanese belonging to the Shafi'ite school
and the Hindustani the Hanifite school. There is evidence
that some of the Africans brought over in slavery were also
Moslems but there are no apparent members now among their
descendents.14 In the late eighteenth century and into the
nineteen century there were also many "free people of color"
and later freed slaves who were Jews. The Jewish influence
on Suriname was important and historically there were large
numbers of both Sephardic and Ashkenazian groups in Suriname.
Although some Jews still live in Suriname, their numbers have
dramatically declined to the point that they currently fill
an insignificant niche in the society. There are other
religious creeds in Suriname of course but their influence on
the society is small enough to warrant their exclusion from
this discussion.

80
The religious affiliation of women who delivered at
the hospital was recorded but there is no indication of the
extent of religious activity (see table 3).
Table 3
Reliaion
of Delivering
Women
Creole n=
=79
Hindustani
n=l 12
Catholic
41
(52%)
Hindu 96
(86%)
Moravian
23
(29%)
Muslim 11
(10%)
Full Gospel 3
(4%)
Christian 3
(3%)
Jehovah's
Witness 3
(4%)
Moravian 1
(1%)
Other
4
(5%)
Catholic 1
(1%)
None
5
(6%)
Javanese
n=43
Maroon n=80
Muslim
38
(88%)
None
29 (36%)15
Catholic
4
(9%)
Catholic
28 (35%)
Moravian
1
(2%)
Moravian
18 (23%)
Full Gospel
5 (6%)
Source: s'Lands Hospitaal Delivery Records, January,
1991
Note: Some percentages may not add up to 100 due to
rounding.
For the African-American population there is also no
indication of participation in non-organized religions (note
specifically the Maroon response to religious affiliation).
It should be remembered that this population represents only
the women who delivered at s'Lands Hospitaal. The small
population of "other" religions may be influenced by the fact
that some of the other religions in Suriname (i.e. Dutch
Reform) have congregations that may be better off financially
and/or are less likely to have children.

81
Summary
Suriname's initial development under colonial rule was
as a plantation economy where slavery was the major source of
labor. After the emancipation of the African-American
slaves, contract laborers were brought in from India and Java
(Indonesia). Suriname has since developed into a very
diverse population with a variety of languages, religions,
and racial groups. Ethnic identity is largely based on race
and language spoken but also includes other factors. The
self identified ethnicity of women who delivered at s'Lands
Hospitaal January 1991 is illustrated in table 4.
Suriname has undergone a series of economic and
political crises and continues to struggle to preserve its
democratic government, its economic independence, and its
national identity.
Table 4
Ethnic Identity of Hospital Sample
Hindustani
Creole
Maroon
Javanese
32.7% Mixed 4.4%
24.1% Native American 2.7%
23.2% Chinese .6%
12.4% European
Source: s'Lands Hospitaal Delivery Records January, 1991.
1Guiana is presumably a word of Native American origin.(Mitrasing
n.d.:9).
2The reader will note the difference between the term used for the
escaped slaves in this text (i.e. Maroons) and the term they use for
themselves (i.e. Bush Negroes). The term Bush Negro does have a long

82
past in the region and van Velzen and van Wetering (1983:99) point out
that informants rejected the term Maroon as another attempt by outsiders
to put a label on them. I have not ignored this caution but have still
adopted Richard Price's use of the term Maroon (see R. Price 1976).
Although Bush Negro is a literal translation of the Sranantongo Busu
Nengre, it brings with it negative connotations not generally held in
Sranantongo. Maroon was derived from romance languages but developed
its English form in Jamaica in reference to run-away slaves there. It
does not bring the negative connotations with it that Bush Negro does
and so will be used in this text to refer to African-Americans in the
Amazon rainforests of Suriname.
3There is some suggestion that the Creole population had sought after
city life for a long time. The Sranantongo proverb Tangi foe Pans boko
mi si beni foto means "Thanks to the Spanish bok [a whip used for
punishments] I got to see inside the city." Although this proverb (or
odo) is currently used to illustrate that their is a positive side to
horrible situations, it also indicates the contrasting excitement of
city life in juxtaposition to the doldrums of plantation tasks (R.
Brana-Shute 1990:133).
4see Brana-Shute (1975, 1979) for a discussion of the winkel and its
importance in male Creole life.
5The National Planning Office of Suriname 1988) has published these
figures as 169,798 inhabitants for 47.8% of the population. They do not
give the specific year from which these numbers are derived but when
47.8% of the national population is taken for each of the years listed
by the planning office a slightly higher number is derived than the
169,798 figure given by the planning office.
6Infant mortality is discussed in chapter 8. The birth totals for 1988,
1989, and 1990 are, respectively 9,094; 10,217; and 9,545, although the
rest of the data for these years is not available.
7These figures add up to 99.0% due to rounding.
8These figures add up to 100.1% due to rounding.
9Although the Creole are generally not more specifically defined,
sometimes they are narrowed to Stads Creool or Foto Nengre both terms
which refer to 'City Creoles.'
40Total population percentage is based on the report Health Conditions
in the Americas (1990:257).
11The higher rates were always reported by the news when black market
rates were discussed but regular questioning of the young men who bought
foreign currencies in the large waterfront market never elicited such
high figures. But the young men in the market in turn sold their money
to another person for higher rates and others claimed they got the
reported high rates through their contacts and they had every reason to
lower their quotes of rates since they were giving these rates to family
members outside the country when requesting more foreign currency.

83
12More recent data on language use is not as inclusive as that included
in the text. One recent study looked at the media languages spoken by
mothers of children with diarrhea but it did not include Asian
languages. The results were as follows:
Languages Understood and Read in Suriname
Language Understand Read
Dutch 94% 92%
Sranantongo 92% 40%
English 44% —
Aucaans 21% 0%
Others 21% (e.g. Saramaccan) 6% (English or French)
Source: Krishnadath and Caffé 1991:20-21.
The number of respondents for this survey was n=48.
.13There are still a variety of variations of spelling in Sranantongo.
The variety used in this book is the the one used by De Drie (1984,
1985) because it tends to use fewer letters than the spellings based on
Dutch pronunciation.
14The evidence is mentioned by Voorhoeve (1962) who notes that in 1700s
there was a Sranantongo term for a Black Moslem.
15Follow-up questioning of Maroon women who told the midwives they did
not have a religion indicated that they did participate in religious
ceremonies associated with the historical religions of the Maroons.
Their response to this question was in terms of organized religions.

CHAPTER 4
METHOD
Population Studied
Although the Creoles of Paramaribo, Suriname were the
focus cf this research, much of the data presented has been
derived from the narrower population of women who delivered
at the public hospital (s'Lands) in Paramaribo. Since this
is the hospital where publicly funded births take place, the
lower strata of society are the main clients of the hospital.
Approximately half of all births in the entire country take
place at s'Lands which makes for a larger uniform sample than
would be the case at the private hospitals.
There are four other hospitals in Paramaribo that
serve the surrounding area, but they are not nearly as
influential as is s'Lands. The military hospital deals with
an insignificant number of deliveries. The Protestant
hospital (Diakennessen Ziekenhuis) do not generally deliver
infants of lower income mothers. The teaching hospital
(Academische Ziekenhuis) generally deals with unusual cases.
Women rarely deliver babies at home in Paramaribo.
Those births that do occur at home are usually unplanned and
the baby is brought to the hospital immediately afterwards.
Occasionally a woman will call on a midwife from the hospital
and pay for a home delivery. These women are usually
84

85
relatively wealthy or illegal immigrants, both groups that do
not fall under government subsidized funding for births
(discussed in chapter 8).
Methodology
Several research methodologies were used to gather
data. These are discussed under separate catagories for
clarity and organization but in some cases more than one
research method was used to elicit data on a specific topic.
The source of a specific set of data is mentioned in
connection with the presentation of the results in the
appropriate chapters.
Language Use
The most important research technique used to gather
data for this dissertation was thorough preparation in the
languages used by the Creole of Suriname. Dutch was studied
in an academic setting and used for several years with native
speakers in the Netherlands (including speakers from the
Republic of Suriname). I have been rated completely fluent
in an official language evaluation by a native speaker and
language instructor at the University of Florida.
Preparation in Sranantongo, the other major language
used by Creole women, was not as easy since it is not taught
in an academic setting outside of Suriname (an only
occasionally within the country). All of the literature
available on the language was consulted before visiting

86
Suriname from July-August 1990. While in Suriname during
this period of time, Sranantongo was used as often as
occasion permitted and spoken Sranantongo was recorded for
listening and preparation for improved language ability
during the June-December 1991 period of research. Efforts to
improve my ability to speak and understand Sranantongo were
continued throughout the research period.
Research was conducted using both Dutch and
Sranantongo, depending on the preference of the informant and
the nature of the topic. Sometimes both languages were used
in the same interview for clarification of concepts. There
was not a single informant that did not use fluent Dutch.
Only a few upper middle class individuals stated they did not
speak Sranantongo (although they were later observed to
understand it perfectly well when used by other individuals).
Sranantongo became important when interviews were conducted
with Maroon women at the hospital.
Participant Observation
A major component of the methodology used to gather
information for this study was participant observation. This
method was continually used throughout the research periods
of July-August 1990 and June-December 1991. An attempt was
made to "participate" in as many activities as possible
within the community setting. This activities included
social gatherings, such as four weddings, a funeral, birthday
parties, and religious services (these included Winti dances

87
and gatherings of several Christian denominations).1 Other
activities were on a more personal level, such as trading
turns weeding yards, fishing by kerosene lamps in the
Suriname river, or other daily tasks made easier by the
opportunity to swap stories and discuss issues. Some
activities were on a more private level. Births and
postpartum recovery fit in this category. Participating in
deliveries allowed me to learn information that would be
difficult to get any other way. I was also able to ask
questions about the activities of the midwives during the
deliveries as they were actually carrying out their duties.
Participation in daily activities was important for
two major reasons. First, it created friendships and mutual
respect. When people saw me or family members on the street
they would come out and ask if we were the ones they saw at
the dance or other event. As I became well known, the trust
level was higher than would have been the case had I shown up
on the door (as I sometimes did) as an unknown person wanting
to ask questions. The second benefit provided by
participation was the information it generated. I was often
able to ask questions about activities in a setting in which
the activity was being carried out. Observing activities
also served to reinforce or modify information given by
informants often based on what they saw as typical or ideal
behavior rather than what was actually done.

88
Hospital Records
Data was also gathered from hospital records for women
who delivered at s'Lands Hospitaal. The records of all women
who delivered in January 1991 were examined for specific
information. January was chosen since it was long enough
before research was begun that all the records for that month
would be gathered and available in the hospital archives and
yet it was recent enough that the information would be
current. These records yielded data for three hundred and
seventeen women (n=317). This was the group presented in the
characterization of the ethnic identity of the hospital group
presented in the previous chapter (chapter three) and much of
the data presented in the rest of the dissertation. The
ethnic identity of this population was approximately 33%
Hindustani, 24% Creole, 23% Maroon, 12% Javanese with other
groups making up the rest.
The information in these records was given by the
women to midwives. The midwives would ask a series of
specific questions as each woman was brought into the
delivery area of the hospital. There was generally no
attempt to keep this information private. The midwives would
sit at the desk and loudly ask each question on the form
while the laboring woman would respond between contractions.
Although a few of the responses, such as ethnic identity,
were generally recorded without outside verification, many of
the responses required verification by law. Those
specifically checked carefully included method of payment and

89
marital status. The method of payment was always checked
carefully since the hospital was naturally concerned about
later billing procedures. Since most of the women received
some type of government support, a government representative
had visited them in their home, looked at income statements
and household items, and talked with neighbors and others
aware of work activities and likely sources of income. This
careful checking combined with the relatively low cost of
births (when compared to the Ü.S.) means this information is
probably highly accurate. Marriage records are also checked
carefully and each woman is required to present her "family
book" where this information is legally recorded. The
midwives said this was required since Hindustani women would
occasionally try to give birth listing a different man as the
father than their husband. Women generally do this as a
favor to childless relatives and friends because of the high
value they place on having children. Two women attempted to
do this while I was in the delivery room but they were
required to show their family books and it was not allowed.
It appears, because of this, that information on marital
status is also very accurate.
Interviews
Besides reliance on data gathered by the midwives at
s'Lands, I also conducted structured and unstructured
interviews.

90
Structured interviews
The hospital records used in the sample mentioned
previously, but of a later date, were also consulted in
conjunction with a more detailed extended interview
administered to a sample of women during postpartum recovery.
These interviews were conducted after the midwives
records were delivered to the nurses in the recovery area.
This was at least six or seven hours after the delivery, but
before women went home—typically 24-36 hours after delivery.
Since the women all ate their meals at a communal table in
the middle of the room, they had to get up and move about
during meal time. Most of the interviews were preformed
around lunch time when the wom^n were awake and active but
not while they were eating. Other interviews were completed
at another convenient time arranged by the women but before
they left the hospital.
Depending on the responses of the women, the
interviews could take anywhere from twenty minutes to an
hour. This included a short explanation of who I was, why I
wanted to interview the woman, and what would be done with
the information. Confidentiality was assured and any
questions the woman had were answered. Questions began with
simple inquiries on non-threatening topics. They then moved
into more detailed and personal areas and ended with more
straightforward areas. The answers given were compared to
similar information in hospital records, where this was
applicable.

91
The questionnaire had been pretested and revised seven
times before it was administered to the hospital sample to
make it more relevant to their experience and less
ethnocentrically biased. The first six pretests were given
to women in July and August 1990. The first two pretests of
the questionnaire indicated it was so out of the rfealm of
experience of Creole women it needed drastic revisions. This
after being administered to one woman each time. The next
four pretests were each given to two women and revised only
slightly. The final pretest was given to eight women
(including two nursing officials) in July of 1991. Some
slight modifications were made in wording and order of
questioning after which the questionnaire was administered to
women at the hospital.
From August 1 to August 14 extended interviews were
administered to women at s'Lands during postpartum recovery.
The first week every woman that delivered was interviewed.
Since it was a great time commitment, and some women almost
left without the chance to participate, it was decided to
just concentrate on the population of African decent to make
sure that all Creole women were interviewed. Since those
paying for their own births were likely to go home earlier
than other women, missing some of the women would have made
the data less representative. Interviews were ended on
August 14 due to a desire to avoid exposing mothers and
infants to a severe cold I had contracted during this time.

92
These interviews were administered in the recovery
rooms of the hospital (there were three large rooms with
approximately sixteen beds per room) or on the balcony where
women sat to watch the foot traffic below.
Although the tone and process of interviewing was much
less disruptive than those done in the delivery room, these
women were rarely completely alone during the interviews,
since the recovery areas had so many beds and there was
always more than one woman in each room. One interview was
translated by a family member. The woman interviewed, a
Saramaccan, did not speak Sranantongo or Dutch. During
visiting hours a sister translated from Sranantongo to
Saramaccan and back into Sranantongo.
A total of 41 women were interviewed: this included
seven Hindustani, two Javanese, two Native Americans (both
Carib), and one "mixed" woman. Out of the fourteen Maroon
women interviewed, eight were Saramaccan and six were Ndjuka
(or Aucaans). Fifteen Creole women were interviewed of which
two were primiparas. There were nine primiparas in the total
group of 41 women, while 32 were multiparas. Other
characteristics of this population are presented in
subsequent chapters.2
¿.emistruetured and Unstructured Interviews
Semistructured interviews were carried out during the
entire period of research. These interviews can be
characterized as those that were recorded. Generally a list

93
of questions or a specific topic of interests was the focus
of these interviews. A total of thirty-eight hours worth of
interviews were recorded on tape, some of which were wholly
or partially transcribed. Nine informants participated in
these semistructured interviews to varying degrees. Of the
five women who contributed information on this level, a 72
year old woman and a 74 year old woman each gave brief life
histories and details about the births and postpartum
recoveries they experienced. An 89 year old retired midwife
discussed her experience over the years. She also discussed
the experiences of her mother who had learned midwifery
through practice and sharing knowledge with other midwives in
the districts where she had worked. The last woman, a 30
year old who lived in a rural area some distance from the
city, had delivered six of her children at s'Lands Hospitaal.
She delivered her seventh child in a car on the way to the
hospital during the period of fieldwork. She contributed
many hours worth of work, talking with relatives, and
gathering plants and other artifacts like a binding cloth and
materials for postpartum recovery. She also recorded
interviews on specific topics agreed to in advance that she
would generally think about and discuss with others before
putting her information on tape.
Of the four male informants, one 89 year old man gave
a brief life history and discussed earlier experiences in
fathering children and parenting. Another informant, a 29
year old man, had been trained as a healer by his mother who

94
was well known by the community and often sought after for
advice. He contributed his knowledge of plants and his
experience as the father of a number of children. The third
informant, a 25 year old male, was studying nursing and
working at the hospital. He was in love with a girl who was
a nursing student in midwifery. They had wanted to get
married and received opposition from both their mothers.
This event continued throughout the research period. It was
discussed in a number of interviews along with other
information related to the topic. The final male informant
was a 42 year old man who contributed extensively to the
study. He was the father of a twelve year old daughter in
the city and an son was born during the research period by
another woman. He had spent some time in jail when several
cows from a government official were inexplicably "found" on
his land and was considered a marginal member of society by
some. During a period of about a month, when I was ill, he
came every evening to discuss specific prearranged topics.
He would ask others their views on the topics (especially
other family members) and he would write out information in
preparation for our interviews. He also arranged interviews
with a bonuman and accompanied me to Winti ceremonies and
other events.
A lot of unstructured interviews were conducted.
People were asked in the context of everyday events to
explain something going on or to express their views on
something. An example that bears directly on the focus of

95
this dissertation, was a discussion held on Dr. Sophie
Redmondstraat, one of the main streets of the city, about why
men do not want to acknowledge paternity. This interview was
not recorded (although statements were jotted down in a
booklet and written in detail later) and at one point up to
seven men participated in the discussion with several women
watching from the sidelines. These types of "interviews" or
discussions were numerous, informal, and arose out of
specific circumstances.
Summary
Research was confined to greater Paramaribo—the
population served by the public hospital in the city.
Methods used to obtain information from this population
consisted largely of participant observation during July-
August 1990 and June-December 1991, the collection of data
from hospital records for January 1991, and structured,
semistructured, and unstructured interviews conducted in
Dutch and Sranantongo.
1As an illustration of the nature of these activities, Kim Staker, my
wife and research partner, made a kotomisi, or women's outfit like those
worn during slavery, with the help of a good friend. She wore it to the
emancipation celebration intending to watch the other women get up and
dance in their costumes stating their reasons for competing. (The most
common reason they gave was that they wanted men to notice them) . Kim
was urged by several of the women to enter the competition and so she
got up and danced in her large dress too. (Some say the dresses were
intentionally designed large to make a woman look pregnant. Either to
hide the pregnancy from the slave owner's wife or to make the woman less
attractive to the slave owner. For other interpretations see, van
Putten and Zantinge 1988) .
Kim ended up winning the third prize of sf.50 in the competition.
After that, when she would walk down the street, she would occasionally
be approached by people who would ask if she was the one that had danced
in the competition; and later, when some of our friends would report on

96
e gossip about us and how we were bun sma or "good people," Kim's
participation in the emancipation day dress competition was mentioned.
2During the period of fieldwork, questionnaires were sent to 100 Creole
women who had delivered between July and September 1991 (see Appendix
C). At the same time 100 questionnaires were sent to another group,
this time the fathers of children born between July and September 1991.
There was no careful pretesting of these questionnaires like there had
been with the ones administered in the hospital and Dr. Caffé, of the
Department of Public Health, insisted that a mailed questionnaire would
not work in Suriname. The nine female and two male responses received
from this survey showed her initial judgement to be right. However,
the process of producing and mailing these questionnaires was
educational by itself, and the responses that were produced raised
important questions that could be asked informants.
Despite the low response rate, mailed questionnaires may
eventually prove useful in Suriname. With more careful pretesting and
careful wording of instructions and questions, in addition to a shorter
questionnaire on less threatening topics than the one mailed, a much
higher response rate should be achieved.

CHAPTER 5
THE MATING SYSTEM OF SURINAME
Interaction Between Men and Women
Many Creole women in greater Paramaribo live parts if
not long segments of their lives with their children and
their mothers. Men will also often live for long periods
with their mothers and siblings, but less often with their
children. They are more likely to spend much of their time
with male friends.1 This contributes to the general
perception that men and women lead separate lives in the
Caribbean (Wilson 1971). Although this may be true in part,
there is also a great deal of interaction between men and
women and some develop very close relationships.2 How these
relationships are established is perceived by many Surinamers
as indicative of the likelihood that men will acknowledge
paternity.
The Development of Relationships
The mothers of those who are establishing initial
relationships will often control, or at least exert a great
deal of influence, on the way those relationships are formed.
A Creole woman who commands respect should always be aware of
what her children are doing. She will attempt to prevent her
97

98
daughter from getting pregnant too young. This is generally
considered the mother's concern rather than that of her
daughter since it will likely be the mother who cares for
such a child. Pierce (1971) argues that most Creoles feel
below sixteen years of age is too young for someone to get
pregnant. (See the following chapter for a discussion of age
at first birth). Informants tend to agree, however, that
interest in relationships begins to develop around ten or
eleven years of age. This means that there is a long period
of time when mothers feel they should be protective and
concerned.
School Relationships
Early relationships will occasionally begin at school.
Informants indicated that clothing is important for
attracting the interest of others, although how influential
one's clothing is remains unclear. Everyone who goes to
school wears the required school uniform. The government
subsidizes these uniforms so that this can be expected. All
of the boys in the lower grade schools have green plaid
shirts and blue pants while all girls wear plaid shirts with
blue skirts. In the higher schools teens wear solid light
blue shirts and jeans or skirts. These uniforms are often
modified to fit the latest fashions and, for female students,
to exhibit sewing talents. Large groups of people are seen
going to or coming from school wearing a uniform but they
quickly disappear from the streets between 12:00 and 1:00

99
p.m. when all the students go back home and change. Clothes
worn after school while socializing on the streets will often
imitate styles worn by Black Americans on television shows.
Making sure that clothes are clean is seen as important.
At least as important as clothes, and probably more
so, is behavior. It is important to appear rustig. This
literally means "restful." Although many ascribe the same
connotation "cool" has in American English and folkculture to
rustig, the term also reflects its literal meaning.
Generally if people are rustig they do not have problems or
difficulties. They do not have cares or worries to burden
them causing their shoulders sag or slouch. Suriname body
builders will say that lifting weights helps them to look
like they have no cares or worries.3
Street Relationships
Although some relationships may develop in school,
these and many other relationships often blossom on the
streets of Paramaribo.
Established relationships
When male students get home from school they change
their clothes and go back on the streets. Others do not go
to school at all but will spend the day out on the streets—
joined by friends when school lets out. Almost 30% of those
who are out of school are unemployed and they too spend much
of their time on the streets. Even those who work often

100
spend their free hours on the street or in the waterfront
market place. Men frequently stand on street corners or in
front of shops around the city. They tend to congregated on
specific corners and in regular shops. Some sell loose
cigarettes, hard candy or shaved ice while participating in
discussions of the group.
Women who are alone or with other women generally get
comments from men in these groups as they pass by.
Invitations to accompany the men home or attempts to make
conversation with women are often made; some men will make
smacking sounds with their lips or other sounds that will
elicit laughter from friends. Occassionally men are
persistent in their advances. A woman in her late thirties
turned around and asked one man if he really wanted her; she
said he could have her if he would take care of her six
children too (she lied she only had two). When she retold
this story to her extended family, they laughed. She added
that the men on that corner never bothered her after that.
New relationships
Women and men occasionally meet lovers on the streets.
One of the most popular ways of tying an anisa or head
covering during emancipation celebrations means "meet me on
the corner." It was often used during slavery to arrange
trysts with other slaves without masters finding out. Now,
if a woman does not have a man with her while walking
downtown, men will say, she is generally considered

101
available. Attempts to initiate conversation with these
women include comments on various aspects of their appearance
or questions such as "Do you remember me?" if a man has
previously talked to a woman. Women are not generally
expected to initiate conversations but occasionally they will
ask a man a question and develop a conversation. Some men
avoid walking too closely to a woman they do not know. They
say if a woman has a male friend and the friend thought they
were walking together it could bring trouble. If a
relationship on the streets does begin to develop, it is
generally the woman that gives her address and invites a man
to come and visit her at her home.
Social Events
Relationships also develop at social events. One of
the most common places for relationships to develop is at a
dance.4 Dancing is a part of many social and religious events
and even young children are allowed--and occasionally
encouraged—to dance by themselves. But most adults will
dance with another person even if that person is a great deal
younger or older. It is not considered improper if a thirty
year old woman dances with a sixteen year old man (even if
she is married to another man who could not come to the
social event) or for an elderly man to dance with a woman in
her teens. But Herskovits' (1936) earlier report that these
dances are not viewed as erotic by the participants, even
though they appear so to an outsider, does not reflect the

102
experience of present day Creoles. Although participants do
not consider dances in which hips, thighs, and buttocks are
rubbed together as improper they see a clear erotic content
in the dancing.5 It is generally after dances are over and
people are leaving that interest in others is expressed and
relationships are established.
These relationships do not just develop casually with
anyone. Although clothing and rustig behavior continue to be
important, there are definite preferences for those with whom
one would most like to develop a relationship. Men generally
like a woman with an attractive buttock region—which they
described as relatively large and round. While appearance is
not generally as important for women as it is for men, women
do feel it can indicate other qualities about a man. If a
man has expensive looking gold chains or bracelets or
imported clothes, for example, he probably has a good source
of income. If he gives compliments, he may express good
behavior in other ways as well. Having good character, or
being a bunsma "good person," is important to the
establishment of relationships.
Character
The most important indication of good character for
the purposes of this discussion is a willingness to
acknowledge paternity. This is discussed separately below.
Other indications of good character can also support a
woman's belief that a man is likely to acknowledge paternity.

103
Some of these indications are exhibiting proper intimate
behavior and knowledge and being socially sensitive.
Proper Intimate Behavior
For the Creole population, a person with good
character will not be indiscriminate with intimate behavior
and does not "sleep around." The worst insults available are
attacks on the sexual behavior of an enemies mother.
"Fighting words" include Yu ma pangpang or Yu ma pola which
both mean "Your mother is a vagina." The implication is that
the mother sleeps with anyone and has no other interests than
sexual ones. Theoretically one could also insult a person by
saying Yu pa bal or "Your father is a penis" which would have
the same connotations; however, no one ever claimed to have
used this phrase.6
The fear of having a partner who is untrustworthy in a
sexual relationship was expressed by a number of informants
and during discussions on the street. A popular phrase used
by men is "when you go to work then your vrouw goes to work."7
Meaning that she sleeps with other men while you are away and
these men give her money (not necessarily to buy sexual
favors like a prostitute—but to help support her as their
"vrouw" too). Although male informants would sometimes claim
their partner was sleeping around and dissolve a
relationship, women would usually deny the fact. It
generally appeared that the women in question had not been
involved in another relationship. In fact women were twice

104
as likely as men to say they would have guilty feelings if
they had a relationship with someone other than their partner
(Babb n.d.:99). And almost half of the women in one study
reported they would like to have a relationship with another
man but did not dare; none of the men reported such feelings
(Babb n.d.: 95).
An important phenomenon associated with improper
intimate behavior is the expression of dyalusi or "jealousy."
A widely known example of this was reported in the papers. A
25 year old woman was fined sf.300 by a judge for spreading
slanderous letters. She had used paper from the Department
of Public Health and wrote a notice that her former boyfriend
had AIDS and women should avoid him. She included a picture
on the notice and posted it around town. The woman told the
judge that she had done it because the man had been keeping
several other vrouwen as well. Although the newspapers used
the woman's name they referred to the man as "playboy" rather
than by name (De Ware Tijd 1991:11).
Proper Intimate Knowledge
Although it is not viewed as good character to sleep
around, it also is not good character to be sexually naive or
gullable. This can be seen in the story told of Anansi the
spider and Doctor Mantwari.8
Shush! Harken well. In a country there was a
doctor called Doctor Mantwari. There wasn't a grander
doctor in that country. He received so many people
that he didn't have the hands to examine [all] the
patients.

105
Now then, Ba Anansi hears of that doctor, then
he takes Sa Akuba9 there. Sa Akuba is sick. Because
of the type of sickness that Sa Akuba is sick with, Ba
Anansi says "Oh my doctor, my wife Sa Akuba is here
and has a sore that won't go away."
For an hour the doctor Mantwari examines Sa
Akuba and tells Ba Anansi, "You are right. You are a
man of understanding because the woman is sick —
absolutely right. But I can't give you the woman here
to go away now. She must go to the hospital
immediately!" He takes Sa Akuba directly and admits
her.
"This sore that she has can fester and give her
an infection after which the woman can die," he says.
"But one thing I shall tell you, you must go and take
strong food and come here;" because you had to carry
your food to the hospital earlier, then cook by
boiling and give to the sick man [or woman].
Well, now you see, Anansi settles in his boat
and goes away and the doctor Mantwari comes outside.
He yells; he looks at Anansi paddling the boat and
going away to buy strong food. He looks at the river;
he looks. He yells:
Mantwar' oh, it is good, ooy.
Yes, I Mantwari look for the good that is given me,
bah!
In the smallest thing God had pity for me, oh,.
Mantwari oh, it is good, eei.
Shh! Hear! Well, the hour that Ba Anansi turns
to come back and sees Sa Akuba beautifully fat and
quite round, he says "Oh, I pray the doctor, how is it
with her?" The doctor says, "In the name of the
master all is coming beautifully because I treated her
to give you." He says "Her sore - I treated it - and
give you, Ba Anansi. There remains a small matter;
then the sore will decline. One small thing Ba
Anansi, then the sore could stop." He says, "But it
will last for weeks still." He [Ba Anansi] says, "My
doctor, so long?" He [Doctor Mantwari] says, "yes,
one must treat it a little; but then you must go buy a
little food you can give her." Anansi settles in the
boat and goes back away. Mantwari looks. He says:
Mantwari looks for the good that is given me, ooy.
Yes, I Mantwari look for the good that is given me.
A little thing that God had pity on me, oh!
Mantwari' oh. It's good, eeei.
Anansi goes. He cries. The sore of Sa Akuba still
has not come good. The sore is big; the sore is so
big! Anansi, he cries:

106
Wind blows, oh wind blows, oh I have seen things.
Wind blows, oh wind blows, oh I have seen things.
The named, he cries. That Anansi, he cries. "Sa
Akuba bears a child of Mantwari!" The named, he
cries. That Anansi, he cries. And then outside he
hears, waaaa! He runs and goes to look. He sees a
child of Mantwari sitting on the ground.
Thus, he [Ba Anansi] himself took Sa Akuba to go
to the doctor saying, he must go treat the sore. Then
Mantwari treated the sore given to him.
Some view the last lines of this story as an odo or proverb.
In order to understand the ending one must interpret the
story since the teller does not say what type of sore
Mantwari is asked to heal. The most common interpretation
given by both men and women was that the sore is Sa Akuba's
vagina. Ba Anansi did not understand much about women and
thought her vagina was a sore which he asked Mantwari to
treat. The ending then makes sense since Mantwari did treat
her vagina as asked.
An alternative interpretation given by one woman
credits Sa Akuba with an active part in this event. Sa
Akuba, she said, had pretended to have a sore so that she
could get away from Ba Anansi to have a relationship with
Doctor Mantwari. But most of those who hear this story tend
to overlook the feelings or intentions of Sa Akuba and focus
on the relationship between the two men. Specifically,
Doctor Mantwari fathered a child because of Ba Anansi's lack
of understanding of women. We can add that women can use
men's lack of understanding to their advantage as well.

107
Reina Socially Sensitive
A good person (bunsma) is often defined as one who is
socially sensitive to the needs of others. A person who is
ready to help others and helps them gladly fits into this
category. A bad person is defined as someone who only thinks
of himself and no one else. A bad person will use wisi to
achieve goals. Wisi is viewed as "doing evil to another
person." But it is also evil in a different—supernatural—
context. It has its roots in envy, usually the envy of a big
house, nice car, or attractive companion. It expresses
itself, however, as a destructive force. Usually a
relationship is split up or else it might be an injury at
work or accident on the street. Even those who told me they
did not believe in wisi, later, when something bad happened,
blamed someone's use of wisi as the source of trouble.
This power can be used in several different ways. A
small packet of objects can be left where the intended victim
will pass over or touch it; or a winti (metaphysical being)
can be sent to a person to do harm. If the person to be
harmed is too strong spiritually then the winti will return
to its sender and be given even greater power. The winti is
usually given a time period in which it does its harm (i.e.
within seven days kill this person). If the intended
victim's spiritual strength or power remains too strong, the
winti will choose another person in the area (preferably a
family member of the enemy) to strike-out at in order to

108
complete it's task. Wisi is generally carried out by a
bonuman and needs to be counteracted by another bonuman.10
Another way to split up two lovers is by using a piece
of the plant prat lobi. This plant is slipped into the house
of the couple and it causes them to separate. It is viewed
as extremely potent and most people will assiduously avoid
it. Using it is also considered antisocial behavior and not
acceptable.
The Range of Unions
As individuals sort out different characteristics of
other people and allow relationships to develop, there is a
range of specific ways in which the participants structure
these relationships. The patterns of unions in Suriname
follow in general terms those found in other parts of the
Caribbean as described in chapter two. There are extra-
residential unions, consensual unions, and legally recognized
marriages. Unions may evolve from one union type to another.
If these unions change, they generally move away from extra-
residential unions and towards legal marriage although as a
union dissolves a subsequent one may begin at a different
stage. At other times two different types of unions may
exist at the same time. For example, a married person may
have a dorosey or "outside" relationship with someone other
than the marriage partner. (These differ from casual
relationships in that they tend to be long-term relationships
and include financial maintenance of women by men. A person

109
keeps a knowledge of these relationships from the married
partner).11
Although these unions tend to move from extra-
residential to consensual and from consensual to marriage, I
deal with them in the opposite order in the following
discussion. This is because legitimacy is the focus of this
material and the concept of legitimacy becomes more complex
and its recognition more difficult as the structure of the
relationship becomes more complex and the acknowledgement of
paternity more indirect.
Marriage
Legal marriage is looked at positively by almost all
Creole men and women. It is something that they generally
wish to enter at some point in their lives but it should be
done properly. The couple should have a stable relationship
and a relatively high income. They should also have a few
appliances and other status symbols. Couples who marry and
do not fit these requirements are considered bigifasi
(literally "big face") or people who try to achieve a higher
status than circumstances dictate. Some will say of a person
who does this a du lek wan bakra or "s/he does like a Dutch
person." Some of those who marry to arrange inheritance for
their children but do not socially fit the requirements for
marriage will marry in secret so no one knows. Others will
only tell a few close family members or try to put blame on

110
another person for the act (i.e. "my boss wants me to marry
for insurance purposes").
Those who marry openly generally have a formal
elaborate affair. The best quality refreshments and drinks
are offered and imported whiskey is served (the highest in
status of available drinks). New outfits are also worn by
most of those connected with the event. The whole event can
be extremely expensive, and it is common for couples to go
into debt to finance the wedding. This may add stress to a
relationship. In addition, women are less likely to work
after marriage and more likely to avoid "menial" tasks that
do not fit their new status. They also become more assertive
in a relationship they feel is secure, and men claim their
wives will not "listen" to them after marriage. This may be
part of the reason that men are reluctant to marry until
later in life when they are making arrangements for
children's inheritance and are more financially secure.
Women also say it is harder to get rid of a husband who will
not work than it is a lover Although marriage brings added
stresses it also brings benefits. Historically it was
expected that others give gifts at weddings. Currently many
will just give an envelope with money. When asked how much
one should give, the universal response was to "give what you
can miss" and a specific sum of money was never mentioned.
However, the recipients of such gifts stated the envelopes
generally contain from ten to twenty guilders.

Ill
Marriage rates
It is unclear how common marriages have been in
Suriname historically. During slavery they were forbidden
but there is some evidence that the rate of marriage is
declining among the Creole population. Buschkens (1974)
notes that government marriage records indicate a higher
incidence of marriage in rural segments of the Creole
population than among urban residents.12 As indicated, the
rest of the Caribbean seems to follow a pattern that is the
opposite of this. Elderly Creole women consistently reported
Table 5
Marriage Rates of Women Delivering
at the Hospital
Married Unmarried Divorced Total
Hindustani
86
(77.5%)
24
(21.6%)
1 (1%)13
111
Creole
9
(11%)
73
(89%)
0
82
Maroon
1
(1%)
78
(99%)
0
79
Javanese
22
(52%)
20
(48%)
0
42
Unknown/Mixed
5
(33%)
10
(67%)
0
15
Native American
0
9
(100%)
0
9
Chinese
1
(50%)
1
(50%)
0
2
Total
125
(37%)
214
(63%)
1 (.3%)
340
Source: s'Lands Hospitaal Delivery Records for January»
1991.

112
that in their childhood a high value was placed on virginity
at marriage. A white cloth was placed under the newly wed
couple on their honeymoon and shown—blood stained—to family
members the following day. But these women added that they
had not followed the ideal and it may be that reality never
conformed to this ideal. These same invariably conformed to
the respectable practice of introducing boyfriends to parents
and having both sets of parents agree it was okay for their
children to see each other.14 This is discussed further in
the section on extra-residential unions.
Since marriages are generally entered into later in
life most of those bearing children are not married. Table 5
gives the rates of marriage for those delivering at the
hospital. These rates indicate that, although Creole
marriage rates are low during the childbearing years,
unmarried women delivering children are by no means confined
to the Creole population.
Legitimacy in marriage
Few would insist that there is no concept of
legitimacy in the Caribbean derived from legal marriage, as
is known in other regions of the world. Although Slater
(1977) has contended that this view is only found among the
wealthy in the Caribbean region, she only looked at the time
period surrounding birth and not the entire life span of a
family.

113
In Suriname all children automatically inherit land
and other property from their mothers. But in order to
inherit land from their fathers they must be either born into
a legal marriage or the father must legitimate the child
through filling out official forms of recognition (official
recognition is discussed in context under consensual unions
below). This concept differs from the social contract
developed by legitimization through public acknowledgement of
paternity within the context of a socially acceptable union
as discussed later.
The concept of being able to legally inherit from
one's father only in certain circumstances is clearly held in
Suriname. And, as parents get older and start making plans
for their death, this is one of the things they think about.
This was often reported as a reason why couples tend to marry
as they get older. The status of children was rarely a
concern and only became influential for those who were trying
to move into the higher social class of Suriname society
where legitimacy does exert influence as a concept.
For those who are seeking a higher social status being
born into a marriage may become more important. School
teachers, government employees and other members of the
middle class may be more prone to embarrassment or more
likely to hide the fact that they were born illegitimate (in
legal terms) if it appears on official documents since this
implies to them a lower social status. The connection
between status and legitimacy is not just something

114
associated with the upper class. Those of the lower strata
of society can have status influenced by legitimacy; but for
them it is social legitimacy rather than legal legitimacy
that influences their status. This concept is discussed in
the context of extra-residential unions.
Consensual Unions
Although almost 90% of the Creole women who delivered
at the hospital in January were not married, it is not clear
how many of these women had established consensual unions.
In the postpartum interviews conducted 47% were living in
consensual unions while 53% were living in extra-residential
unions.15 The general characterization of these types of
unions in other parts of the Caribbean has been that they are
unstable and not of long duration. This does not appear to
be the case for Suriname. In Speckman's (1965) examination
of marriage among the Hindustani he notes that their 30%
divorce rate is the same as the dissolution rate of
consensual unions in the Creole population.16 Therefore the
Creole population does not have less stable unions than
another major segment of Suriname's population. Buschkens
(1974) also notes that although consensual unions dissolve at
a faster rate during the first five years than do marriages,
marriage dissolution rates increase after this and after ten
years the rates for marriages and consensual unions are
approximately equal.

115
Although there is similar stability in consensual
unions and marriages the status is not the same. Marriages
always bring a higher level of status as discussed in the
previous section.
Ts "Suriname style marriage" a form of marriage?
Buschkens (1974) terms consensual unions "Suriname
style marriage." There may be some validity in this
perception. In rural areas after families agree that a young
man and woman can have a relationship the agreement is sealed
by the practice of set lobi or "establishing love." This
agreement is sealed when both of the fathers share a drink of
rum. Wooding (1981) notes marriages in West Africa were
sealed with similar behavior. Could it be that consensual
unions are another type of marriage that are just not
recognized as "marriage" although similar responsibilities
are implied in both types of relationships? It has already
been indicated that there is a similar dissolution rate for
consensual unions and marriages. This view is supported by
the response given by Maroon women when questioned about
marital status. Of the 79 Maroon women who delivered in
January, 1991, only one (1.3%) stated that she was married
while 78 (98.7%) responded that they were not married (see
table 5). Maroon women in postpartum interviews had similar
responses recorded in their records. When questioned

116
further, these women replied they had undergone a bustroo or
"bush wedding." (The same results were achieved with the
question of whether or not they had a religion). The nature
of the wedding is very different and so women did not
perceive what they had undergone as similar to a "marriage"
although they did participate in specific rituals to
legitimize their relationship.
The laws in Suriname recognize "Asian" weddings as
legal. Therefore the Javanese and Hindustani ceremonies that
are held are considered binding. Creoles, on the other hand,
follow the Dutch pattern. A church wedding, or any type of
religious ceremony, is not considered binding. They must
marry before a judge. Most Creoles who do marry legally will
marry before a judge and then in the church of their
particular denomination. If the practice of set lobi was
recognized as a legal relationship then there might be a
different public response.
Consensual unions, or "Suriname style marriages,"
cannot be considered completely equivalent to marriages,
however, since the legal status of children born from these
differs from that of marriages. But the status of children
born in consensual unions can be changed and frequently is
changed in regards to legitimacy.
The legitimation of children
Children who are not born in legal marriages may be
legitimated by the father. This operates on the same level

117
and is done for the same reasons as does legal legitimacy.
If the father goes to the public record office and fills out
forms acknowledging paternity then the child is considered
legitimate for legal purposes and will inherit property from
the father upon the father's death. In the Creole population
approximately 72% of Creole children in Suriname have been
either legitimately born or legitimized by their father.
Children who have been legitimized tend to be ones born in
consensual unions (see Buschkens 1974:193 for comment on the
relationship between the two). Children who have not been
legally recognized by their father tend to come from extra-
residential unions.
Extra-Residential Unions
Although a man and a woman may live in separate
households they still frequently interact with family members
of the partner. Informants stated a "good" boy does not lurk
about and only interact with their girlfriend and not her
family members. A boy should introduce himself to the mother
of his girlfriend. A girl's mother is highly suspicious if
her daughter is hanging about with young men who do not come
and introduce themselves. One eighteen year old was
prohibited from going to church for a month because she came
home after the service an hour late and the mother suspected
she spent her time with a boy. A grandmother complained that
her granddaughter's boyfriend had not introduced himself to
her. Those were the type of boys, she explained, who would

118
not claim paternity if the girl got pregnant. The Creole
generally feel those who are likely to claim paternity will
follow the accepted pattern of establishing relationships.
This pattern requires that both sets of parents agree that a
couple can see each other. If the boy is working he should
also give money to the girl and some to her mother. This is
given in addition to the money he already gives to his
mother.
Extra-residential unions are generally of short
duration. This is because they are either the first step
towards developing a consensual union or they dissolve. Most
relationships do not last long with the couple living apart
from each other. This is especially likely if a pregnancy
occurs since it will tend to change the nature of a
relationship. The women who were interviewed in the
postpartum sample and had extra-residential unions tended to
report a range of experiences. Of the seven women in this
type of union, two never saw the father again after they
became pregnant, two did not have interaction with the father
but his family helped during the pregnancy (giving clothes,
money, and helping with tasks), and three women had
considerable interaction with the father of the child; the
fathers helped with tasks (cooking and cleaning) and
contributed money.
In one of the reported cases where the sister and
mother of the father contributed to the needs of the pregnant
women, her mother had to demand that they help with the

119
pregnancy; in the other case the father of the child had
supported the woman through eight months of pregnancy when
they had an argument and he cut off contact. In both cases
the father was known by the community and his support was
expected. In the two cases where the fathers had no more
contact with the pregnant women, the role of these men in
paternity was not known by the community (one of the women
reported having so many sexual partners in the recent past
she could not count them; the other said it was her first
experience and she never saw the father again to tell him she
was pregnant).
These cases suggest that public knowledge of paternity
is helpful to the woman in getting assistance and support
from the father of the child. Men claim that women ask for
more money if they are pregnant than they would otherwise.
Women say they just try to get what they need to support
themselves but having a child with someone does increase
their chances of getting what they need. The exchange of
money also strengthens the relationship and creates ties
between families.
The Importance of Paternal Recognition and "Lecri t i mary"
The legitimacy of children born within extra-
residential relationships generally operates on the level of
the social contract rather than within the legal system. The
connection between legitimacy and children born of extra-
residential relationships is more complex than is legitimacy

120
in the previous two union types. If a father legally
declares paternity then the government can take support out
of his salary if he does not contribute willingly. But even
if he does not legally declare paternity, if paternity is
known by the community, then the father is socially obligated
to contribute money to both the pregnant woman and their
child when it is born. Children do not inherit legal rights
to a father's property if papers are not filled out by men
acknowledging paternity, even if they willingly admit to the
community they are the father and give support to the child.
This is where legitimization and/or marriage come into play
as a couple matures and their relationship solidifies. But
if a father acknowledges paternity to the community then it
appears that children have a moral right to his property
while he is alive if not a legal right. This right can be
important given the economic status of most of the women
living in extra-residential and consensual unions.
The importance of the social contract men develop in
relation to their children can be seen in the influence this
type of legitimacy has on status. Creole men can lose
significant status if they fail to follow through on
obligations of support for children they father. Children
also seem to have their status influenced by acknowledgement
of paternity. At least the Creole express the belief that it
is better to carry the last name of one's father than to not
have it.

121
The importance of having a father recognize a child is
implied in the use of the Sranantongo word basra (from the
English "bastard" or Dutch "bastaard"). Its meaning is not
the same as the English word that implies one who's parents
weren't married. It is used for one who does not have a
person they can identify as "father" or one who is of mixed
ethnic ancestry (Sordam and Eersel 1985) . This second use of
the term reflects the generally low status that exists in
relationships outside of traditional ethnic boundaries. But
it is evident these boundaries are becoming more vague and
many Surinamers at least claim they do not oppose marriages
or relationships between individuals belonging to different
ethnic groups.17
The Economic Status of Reproductive Age Women
One of the fundamental characteristics of Creole
unions is the exchange of money between partners. Exactly
how the money is distributed varies. One man said that his
father and grandfather had both told him he was required to
care for his partner. If both partners worked then his
partner's money still would not be enough to run the house.
He was told even if he just gave a little a month, he should
at least give something. He added, "If you can not give
anything then tell her you will give as soon as you can."
One woman stated that a man's money is to run the house and
the woman's money is to take care of her and the man. The

122
woman is criticized if her male companion walks around
looking uncared for since he's her responsibility.
The strategies presented for dividing money consider
that both partners earn it. Estimates of unemployment among
young men range from 30-50% of the total population
(Krishnadath and Caffé 1991). Based on delivery records the
highest employment rate is for Creole women of whom 12.5% are
employed and the lowest rate is for the Maroon women of whom
1% are employed.18 This research was done at the public
hospital and may therefore reflect artificially low
employment. Most of those who are employed as cleaners or as
laborers, for example, seemed to have sporadic work and
little in the way of steady income.19
Among the postpartum sample of 42 women, 36 (86%) of
the women received financial help for the baby they had just
delivered. (If the statements of women that it had been
different for an earlier child are included then the
percentages are still the same). These women reported
receiving a mean of 465 guilders per month (the mode was
similar at 450 guilders per month). Of this amount an
average of 290.91 guilders were given by the child's father
per month.20 This is well below the official poverty level
which has risen dramatically because of the rapid loss in
value of the Suriname guilder. Table 6 below gives the
official poverty level per month.

123
Table 6
Official Poverty Level
Year
Poverty Level
1969
sf. 152.44 1
1980
sf. 369.03
1986
sf. 612.26
1987
sf. 966.14
1988
sf.1030.95
(Source:
Essed and Frijmersun 1989)21
Since more than 50% of Surinamers live below the poverty
level and women with children are likely to be found more
frequently below the poverty level, it appears that most
women fit into the lower income groups and are rarely
employed. This means that they need to rely on whatever
income sources they have available to them. One of these
important sources of income is, of course, the money men
provide to care for there children. Since public
acknowledgment of paternity is important in influencing men,
or at times their families, to contribute money, this
acknowledgement is very important to pregnant women and women
with children. In the following chapters, that examine many
of the beliefs and behaviors associated with pregnancy,
delivery, and postpartum recovery, some of the ways in which
acknowledgment of paternity can occur are examined.
Summary
Although Creole men and women in Suriname do participate
in different spheres of activity they also interact with one

124
another at school, on the streets, and at social events and
this interaction leads to the formation of unions. Some of
the significant factors considered in forming unions are
appearance and character. One of the most significant traits
of a man's character is the likelihood that he will
acknowledge paternity. One indication that he will claim
paternity is his following of "good" behavior which includes
introducing himself to a woman's parents and gaining
permission for the relationship to continue. These
relationships often begin as extra-residential unions that
change into consensual unions, generally when a pregnancy
occurs, and end up as legal marriages as a couple matures and
becomes more financially stable. However, not every
relationship follows this pattern and some dissolve or do not
change in form. The type of relationship can have important
implications for legitimacy in children since only children
born in legal marriage unions are considered legitimate at
birth without any other action. Children can also be
legitimized for inheritance purposes after birth. Children
that are legitimized tend to be the ones born into consensual
unions. Children born into extra-residential unions are not
given this legal label right away but it tends to come later
as relationships evolve. However, they receive social
legitimacy through the public acknowledgement by the father
of paternity and his fulfillment of the role of pater.
Public opinion tends to reinforce the contribution of support
in such circumstances. Given the financial constraints of

125
many women and children it is to their advantage that a man
acknowledges paternity and contributes support. There may
also be increased social status associated with acknowledged
paternity.
Although this the general trend, there are some important exceptions.
Herskovits (1936) and Buschkens (1974) have both noted that as women get
older there is a very high incidence of female homosexuality among the
Creole population. Although these scholars are correct in saying it is
not viewed as horrible it is exaggerated that the community at large
finds the practice completely acceptable since people find it at times
humorous. They refer to a woman that has sexual relations with another
female as a grati or "she grates" (Sranantongo does not have male and
female pronouns and a can mean both "she" and "he"). Male
homosexuality, on the other hand, is clearly viewed as unacceptable. If
a man is called a buler or "male homosexual" then "those are fighting
words." If a man does not fight when someone calls him a buler then he
is accepted by all as one — refusal to fight is considered one of the
characteristics of a buler. Enjoying house cleaning, cooking, and
washing dishes are also characteristics of a buler. Although most men
wash clothes and clean they do it in what they describe as a masculine
manner — jerking one's arms up and down as the clothes are rubbed on the
washboard rather than graceful, smooth motions is an example of this.
2Brana-Shute (1979) records and incident where a man is killed and his
wife grieves intensely. People are critical of the close relationship
she developed with the man and consider it improper and unwise.
3Body building has become very popular in Suriname and is promoted by
the nationally published magazine Body Talk.
4Pierce (1971:106) includes dance attendance under the Sranantongo term
waka which literally means "to walk;" but this term is also applied to
the behavior that some men (and also occasionally women) exhibit. He
sees it as implying
"frequent attendance at dances and other celebrations where
one is conspicuous in the style of his dancing, his
generosity toward women, and his consumption of alcohol, and
also implies the ability to engage women in casual and/or
extra—residential sexual unions and high potency as
manifested in the fathering of numerous extra-residential
children by numerous extra-residential mates."
Although most women admire this quality in men they also add that they
do not want "their" man to behave like this. Although Pierce does not
mention it, waka behavior is also found in women. But most people tend
to look down on women who behave like this - especially other women.
5This was illustrated during a winti ceremony where two homosexual men
began dancing together. Although the dancing did not offend other
Participants it did elicit comments on their erotic interest in one
another.

126
6The Sranantongo bal is a word for the male external genitals but is
frequently used specifically for the penis since toli is seen as being
crude.
7 A vrouw means both "woman" and "wife" in Dutch. Since "wife" indicates
a legally sanctioned marriage in English, and "woman" can carry negative
connotations when used in reference to a relationship (i.e. "my woman"),
I have retained the Dutch word in many instances in this text. In
Sranantongo there are two words for "woman"—froo and uma. The first
coming from Dutch and the second from English. Attempts to test the
connotations of these words (see question 1 of Appendix A) proved
inconclusive.
A masra which can be a "master" or a "husband" need not be
officially married to a woman. A woman will call a man masra if they
are having a regular sexual relationship or she has conceived a child
with him.
Masra is also used in reference to slave owners when discussing
slavery or in reference to God when discussing religious matters.
8This version of the story is from De Drie and Guda (1985), similar
versions are also told regularly at events.
9The name of a woman born on Wednesday (see chapter 8).
10Informants would define bonu as "to give healing" and hence a bonuman
is a man who gives healing (there did not appear to be women involved in
this activity in Suriname). The similarity between bun "good" and bonu
"to give healing" is striking but I do not have evidence that they have
the same origins (bun finds it's origins in the Portuguese term for
"good"). However, a bonuman is generally believed to be good and
practicing wisi is viewed as a negative aspect of their activities.
Those bonuman in the market place all claimed abilities to counteract
wisi but no one would admit having ever done wisi on another person.
i:LSince Suriname is where Herskovits developed his ideas about the
Caribbean mating system being a modification of West African patterns of
polygyny, this type of relationship may be part of what he had in mind.
But these types of relationships are very rare for married men and are
considered improper.
12It is difficult to compare the more recent data from s'Lands Hospitaal
to these findings since they have been gathered in such different ways.
It is a well known fact, however, that the rural areas surrounding
Paramaribo are disproportionately Hindustani and Javanese in ethnic
make-up. These two groups are likely to marry in greater numbers than
the Creole population (see table 5). Since Buschkens did not have
indication of ethnicity but went on the nature of the last name of
individuals in records, this may have influenced his findings. It may
be that the high incidence of marriage among the non-Creole population
rural areas has influence the Creole population in their choice to
marry. These are important issues that should be examined further.
13Speckman (1965:127) states in regards to divorce among the Hindustani
that:

127
"in the Hindu world it is customary, after the first marriage has
been dissolved, not to repeat the wedding ceremony on entering
into a second marital relationship. This is connected with the
Hindu conviction that a marriage is eternally binding, especially
for the woman. Consequently, on contracting a second union she
simply takes up residence with the man, without any elaborate
wedding ritual."
He notes that these relationships differ from consensual unions among
the Creole population in that these relationships exist after marriage
rather than before.
14Pierce (1971) reports this practice as the "ideal" of the engagement
pattern where intercourse was abstained from until marriage. Although
it is difficult to judge whether even after agreement the couple
abstained from sexual relationships, in current relationships young
couples generally view the agreement of parents that they can see each
other as approval of sexual relations.
15The sample size is n=15. One case that was excluded from this group
and put into the extra-residential group was relationship with a waka
man that would come and go. Since he did not reside permanently with
the woman, this case was considered extra-residential.
16Pronk (1962) has derived similar conclusions.
17This claim needs to be qualified. The Creole and Maroon populations
have historically continued to have interaction with one another and
there has never been a stigma associated with relationships between the
two groups. The Javanese and Creole populations have had much more
interaction on this level than the Hindustani and Creole populations.
The Hindustani still frequently look at such relationships as tinged
with scandal or at least of a lower status than other types of
relationships.
18Because the government subsidizes birthing costs based on income there
is incentive to under report employment. But funding has already been
determined for most women by the time they give this information and a
careful screening process before hand improves the accuracy. Gloria
Wekker was just completing a study of women's economic strategies when
this work was begun and her results will add more information to this
area of focus.
19Another influence on the income of women is the belief that they
should not be working (for money) while pregnant. Many of the Creole
women interviewed had worked until they got pregnant and then they quit
working. They said they planned to go back to work a couple of months
after the baby was born and leave the baby with their mother. Some of
the women were also still in school and so employment was irrelevant to
their situation.
20The women who received no money from the child's father were excluded
from the second figure. One woman, who was unique in many ways,
received fl.1,000 or more from the Netherlands every month. She was
excluded when these figures were determined and, where it is pointed
out, she has also been excluded from other figures.

128
21This report does not define how many individuals these figures apply
to but based on experience it is assumed that they are for one
individual.

CHAPTER 6
CONCEPTION
Conception and Issues of Paternity
There are a number of important issues surrounding
conception that are influenced by issues of paternity. There
are concerns about preventing a pregnancy or ending a
pregnancy that are related to some of the reasons for wanting
a pregnancy. There is also a public awareness among
Surinamers about the ability of women to reproduce. These
issues are dealt with in the following sections.
A Woman's Reproductive Capabilities
A Creole woman's ability to reproduce is signified by
the changes that take place in her body during puberty. The
most significant of which is menarche.
Menstruation
Creole women in postpartum interviews reported a mean
of 12.8 years of age at menarche.1 First menstruation is
viewed as a sign of a woman's fertility and has sexual
implications. It is not, however, viewed as a sign of
transition from "girl" to "woman"; this transition comes
later. Women reported they were generally not prepared for
this event and would chide aging mothers for not preparing
them for the arrival of menarche. Topics that are viewed as
129

130
sexual in nature (and menstruation is one of those) are
generally kept from younger people.2 Occasionally an older
person will veil a discussion of menstruation, calling it na
futu or being "on the foot." Futu being a shortening of
mindrefutu "lesser foot" or "little foot"
—an indirect way of referring to one's genitals.3 When more
direct discussions about menstruation are held the Dutch term
menstruatie or the Sranantongo term munsiki or "moon
sickness" is used in reference to menstruation. Given this
situation one may think that a woman's menstruation would not
be known by outsiders when, in fact, the opposite is the
case. Menstruation and by analogy a knowledge of a woman's
reproductive abilities is a public issue. This is because of
its connection with certain types of illness.
Etiology of Illness and Menstruation
For Creoles the condition of the blood is reflected in
one's health. One can have thick/thin blood and clean/dirty
blood. Thick and clean blood is healthy while thin and dirty
blood is unhealthy. There are several treatments available
for different problems and a whole pharmacopeia of medicinal
plants can be used (see Appendix F). Illnesses can also be
caused through problems in relation to the the spirit world
although the discussion here is limited to non-spiritual
illnesses.
Menstruation is seen as one way women get rid of dirty
blood. (Men have dirty blood as well and are more likely to

131
take medicinal treatments for their condition. Although
informants did not offer an explanation as to why men do not
menstruate, except for the occasional textbook explanation
learned from school, it is generally viewed as a woman's
advantage that she menstruates out dirty blood). Menstrual
blood is not only dirty but it can also cause sickness. If
food is eaten prepared by a menstruating woman it can cause
soromofo or "sore mouth" a condition in which the corners of
the mouth are sore and dry or—more frequently—the throat is
sore. Although food influenced by a menstruating woman can
theoretically make anyone ill, I only knew one woman who was
moderately concerned about it. Most of the men at least kept
it in mind and many of them would make a great deal of effort
to avoid eating food prepared by a menstruating woman. This
was generally done subtly to avoid discussing their concerns.
They might say they were not hungry or did not like what was
being served when at the house of another person rather than
confront the person with their suspicions of menstruation.
When eating at a restaurant men will generally check to see
if an elderly woman prepared the food. Older Javanese women
are viewed as being especially trustworthy since it is
believed they will not cook while menstruating (if they are
still pre-menopausal). Everyone agrees that trying to earn a
living means that most women will continue to cook and sell
their wares during this time even if they think it might
cause a little illness. Even men who seem particularly
concerned about getting soromofo will occasionally eat at a

132
restaurant. Then, when they get sick they will avoid eating
out for a time.
Men claim that women use munsiki to their advantage.
Women will say they are menstruating if they do not want to
cook the meal or a mother may tell her son to clean up the
food after a meal because his sisters "can't" (a no man )
which he understands as a euphemism for "she is
menstruating." Women do admit that they have used the threat
of illness to their advantage. They have used it to keep
from doing some type of work or to avoid intimacy at times.
Although Creole women are aware that Maroon women in the rain
forest segregate themselves into a menstrual hut during
menstruation, they do not see this as necessary or even
useful for themselves. Women feel that men can just cook
their own food for short periods of the month to avoid
illness.
Is There a Motive Behind Pregnancy?
Men will often accuse women of intentionally getting
pregnant to force greater commitment on their part. Any
attempt to establish why Creole women get pregnant implies a
motive rather than viewing pregnancy as just an outcome of
other actions and not anything sought after of its own
accord. Although women might occasionally get pregnant to
achieve specific goals, women generally indicated their
pregnancy was just the byproduct of sexual activity with such
responses as "I'll take what God gives me."

133
Sexual Relations as a Rite of Transition
Dougherty (1978:88) points out that for rural African-
Americans in Florida pregnancy, delivery, and acceptance of
motherhood are parts of a rite of passage from childhood to
adulthood. Clarke (1966:96) contends that in Jamaica
pregnancy constitutes the transition phase from child to
adult for not only the mother but also the father of the
child. This appears to be partly the case in Suriname as
well. The term mati meaning "friend" is used for both women
and men. When a woman has a child with a man she no longer
calls him her mati but instead will say mi masra or "my
husband." The term carries a sense of respect and
weightiness that mati does not have. Although there does not
appear to be a specific term used for women in the same way,
women who had just delivered babies at the hospital all
insisted they were no longer a pikin or "child" and the term
was not applicable to them. The term pikin, however, seems
to lose its significance well before childbirth.4
Creole women generally report that they "felt" like an
adult several years before they became pregnant. This
perception seems to come around the same time that they have
sexual intercourse, which for many appears to be at 16 years
of age.5 Men frequently recall the details of relationships
to friends. It seems to increase their status as part of the
transition to adulthood. Although not done intentionally,
these boasting sessions also serve to strengthen claims of

134
paternity since public knowledge of a relationship before
conception strengthens the belief that the one boasting about
the relationship is the father. The importance of knowing
who the father is will often be supported by saying that
children need to know who their father is to avoid incestuous
relationships when they mature. Although this may be true to
an extent, it is also true that revealing their trysts
increases their status to the point that some men are accused
of having exaggerated the number or extent of their
relationships. Women also reported discussing their
relationships with friends, although not to the extent men
did. For women, as well as men, the fact that someone has
had a sexual relationship seems to bring them into the
"woman" or "man" status of adults rather than their original
"child" status. In this context many of the pregnancies of
women still in school (generally classified as "teenage
pregnancies") are an unplanned result of the status that
sexual relationships bring. It is seldom a result of the
status that bearing a child brings since the anger of
parents, disdain from the community, and loss of status for
bearing a child when young count more heavily.6
Children as Part of Long-Term Relationships
In postpartum interviews, women reported having had a
mean average of 3.21 "friends."7 This does not imply
relationships are unstable. These same women also reported
they had their current relationship for an average length of

135
6.3 years and their children were generally all from one
partner. Only three of the women had gotten pregnant at the
beginning of their relationship and all three of them were
extra-residential relationships. One of them reported that
her partner had disappeared when he discovered she was
pregnant; a second replied that the man came and went (he's a
"walking" man); and the third relationship was still
continuing. This has important implications for assertions
of paternity since the longer a relationship exists the more
likely that relationship will be widely known in the
community and the more likely the community will know the
probable father without the woman needing to make it known.
The Use of Contraception
and its Relationship to Pregnancy
Since children are generally a part of relationships
only after a period of stabilization that also allows the
community to become more aware of the relationship,
contraceptive use is important for many Creole women.
Contraceptives
All of the women who participated in postpartum
interviews reported that they had used "the pill" as their
contraceptive.8 Contraceptive pills are available at the
numerous neighborhood clinics in the city and surrounding
areas. Condoms are less accessible than the pill; but they
are the contraceptive with the most visibility in the media.

136
There are several advertisements on television and radio
intended to assist in the prevention of AIDS. Occasionally
someone would break out singing the ditty associated with the
advertisements "condoom erop." This was generally done for
humor and others would smile as the song was sung.
A television program on the condom was shown in
Suriname. It included a graphic demonstration on how to use
a condom and the reporter for the show stopped people
randomly in the streets and asked them if they used condoms.
Several young girls laughed and ran away and one middle-aged
man became angry and said it was none of the interviewer's
business.9 But generally people, when facing the camera,
insisted that they always used a condom during sexual
intercourse. Condoms were available at the Department of
Public Health and Stichting Lobi for a nominal fee, but
during the numerous occasions I was around these areas I very
rarely saw people purchasing them.10
The use of tubal ligation as a contraceptive method is
much easier to confirm since hospital records can be used.
Table 7 illustrates the four most prominent ethnic groups and
their comparative rates of sterilization. This information
is derived from delivery records and does not include women
who have never delivered nor more affluent women who deliver
at the other hospitals.

137
Table 7
Number of
Tubal Ligations Performed
by Ethnic Group
Not Sterilized
Sterilized
Creole
79 (96%)
3 (4%)
Hindustani
93 (83%)
19 (17%)
Javanese
39 (91%)
4 (9%)
Maroon
80 (100%)
0 (0%)
Source: Delivery records of s'Lands
Hospitaal January,
1991.
It is noteworthy that the three Creole women (3.6% of
the Creole women) who were sterilized were all married. The
Hindustani women had a significantly higher rate of
sterilization at 17% and not a single Maroon woman requested
sterilization after delivery.11
It appears that unmarried Creole women (the vast
majority of the Creole women) are reluctant to become
sterilized. It is plausible that this is related to the
importance of bearing children in common with a partner and
the possibility that always exists of a relationship
dissolving and necessitating the establishment of another one
as discussed in the following section. A woman's
reproductive capabilities are an important resource to her
that she does not want to limit.12
Some other types of contraceptives are also available
but it is uncertain how frequently they are used and women in
the postpartum survey had never used any of them. Some women
mentioned that abortifacients are used as contraceptives. A

138
woman can have an "abortion" before she is even certain she
is pregnant. (These are discussed in the section on
abortifacients below).
Reasons for Using Temporary Contraceptives
The reluctance of undergoing sterilization, and
occasionally the use of other contraceptives, may reflect in
part the role children play in relationships. Men will
generally give money to a women as part of their relationship
and women, in turn, will give money, although generally a
lesser amount, in return. It was also pointed out that the
longer a couple is together the more likely they are to have
children in common.
Generally, if a Creole couple has children in common,
the man is expected to give more money to the woman to
support her. Although many relationships are stable and long
term, one never knows when a relationship will sour and
dissolve. That is generally given as one of the reasons for
postponing marriage. A person can then guarantee that the
family land will only go to those they want to receive it.
If a person wants to increase the chances that money is given
by a partner and hope on getting more money, it is better to
have a child in common with that partner. Therefore even
older Creole women who do not want any more children may opt
for temporary contraceptives over sterilization in case they
choose to have children later on.

139
Even if a relationship has dissolved a child in common
can be an important claim by a woman to the income of a man.
It is true that many men counter that a woman gives the money
she receives from him to another man or her other children,
but even so she has a greater claim on him than she would
otherwise have and, as pointed out, the community as a whole
expects the child's father to give money if he can. This
means that identifying who the father is and strengthening
that claim by evidence if possible is important.
The Importance of Children as They Mature
As children get older they are also important as an
economic resource. If they have a job they are expected to
give at least some if not all of their earnings to their
mother. Although it is possible that some children give
money to their fathers as well, I never came across an
instance of this happening. Men are especially responsible
for providing financial help to their mothers. Most will
give what they earn to their mothers (after giving some money
to the other women in their lives) and then their mother will
buy the things that they need and give those things to them.
Daughters are generally responsible for contributing
labor around the house. They will do dishes and cleaning and
often they will rake the yard or do outside work around the
house. Normally, though, men will do the yard work.13

140
Conception
Whether planned or unplanned, prevented or
unprevented, conceptions do take place within all types of
mating unions. Indication that a conception has taken place
is generally derived from physical signs of pregnancy. Since
some of these involve the father of the child they are also
important for strengthening claims of paternity.
Signs of Pregnancy
Although there are a number of spiritual and physical
indications that a woman is pregnant, the most important of
these is the cessation of menstrual flow.
Menstruation and pregnancy
A disruption of the menstrual cycle can be a sign of
serious health problems and several bonuman have treated a
lot of women for menstrual problems. Most of the time,
however, amenorrhea is interpreted as a sign of pregnancy.
Pregnancy is a sign of good health. It is a sign that the
reproductive system is in good order and there is no worry
about a build-up of bad blood since a woman's blood goes to
her baby. The Creole believe that for most women the flow of
the blood can exert an influence on the appearance of the
infant. Although some women dispute this belief, most claim
that if a woman menstruates during pregnancy then the baby
will be born with lighter skin since the "dirt" goes out of
the body. Others who have menstruated in the early months of

141
their pregnancy will counter this belief by pointing at their
child and insist that the child is just as dark as their
other children. Despite the belief that it is "dirty" blood
that makes a child dark, all of these women felt that darker
skin was preferable to lighter skin and they also felt it was
not good to menstruate during pregnancy.14
Other signs of pregnancy
Although an interrupted menstrual cycle is considered
a sign of pregnancy for most women, they will generally look
for other signs to support this conclusion. There are a
number of ways that outside confirmation can take place. For
example, if a papasneki (a colored snake that also has
religious significance) is seen in the yard it is considered
a sign of pregnancy. Some women were confronted by family
members who saw a papasneki in the yard and this is how
others, especially parents came to know a daughter was
pregnant.
Another possible sign of pregnancy is an illness of
the father of the baby. If a man gets pustules on his back
or another unusual illness, then a woman says a yepi mi or
"he helps me." Sometimes a man may just be nauseous or not
feeling well and still be "helping" with the pregnancy. If a
man credited with being the father of a child is sick during
the pregnancy this strengthens the claim of his paternity.
These circumstances, in those cases where men question
whether or not they are the father, can also serve to limit

142
doubts and reinforce both the man's feelings and the
communities belief that he is the father. Although "helping"
during pregnancy occurs, the most common time for men to
"help" a woman is during the delivery of the child. This is
discussed in chapter eight.15
There are other signs of pregnancy as well, although
they are generally considered less important and not everyone
recognizes them as an indication of pregnancy. For example,
general tiredness and irritability are seen in retrospect as
an indication of pregnancy but they do not automatically lead
to the assumption that one is pregnant. One woman, who
delivered a premature girl at six months, was fairly large
and did not know she was pregnant until labor was in
progress. She felt retrospectively that she should have
known since she was always tired. Abdominal swelling, on the
other hand, is almost always viewed as an indication of
pregnancy, even if it declines after a month or so and comes
back later. Constant nausea is another indication of
pregnancy. Many women never experience nausea, but they
measure themselves against the expected norm of a continued
period of nausea during the first three months of pregnancy
(i.e. they did "better" or "worse" than they should if they
had less or more nausea respectively than the expected three
month period). Women do not confine the expected period of
nausea to the morning or some other part of the day but
expect it any time if not most of the time. It is common for
pregnant women to carry a bottle of alcolade around with them

143
in their purse. If they feel nauseous then they will open
the bottle and breath the contents for a short period of
time. They feel this helps. Even later during delivery some
women will breath alcolade as a relief for feelings of
nausea.
If signs of pregnancy other than a missed menstrual
flow appear, they do not generally lead a woman to announce
she is pregnant. She will watch quietly for other
indications to confirm the fact she is pregnant. Missing a
menstrual flow, however, almost always brings about further
action. Women rarely just assume they are pregnant and then
tell others, they generally will seek outside confirmation of
their feelings. There are no pregnancy tests available in
stores and no apparent tests available from doctors in
Suriname. The only place in the country where people can get
a pregnancy test is at Stichting Lobi which is an
organization that generally focuses on preventing teenage
pregnancies by making information available and selling
inexpensive contraceptives. The organization also gives
pregnancy tests but a woman must have missed two expected
menstrual flows and the results take several days to
finalize. It is generally women who want to be pregnant that
will go to Stichting Lobi for confirmation. Those who do not
want to be pregnant will generally delay seeking outside
confirmation until a boyfriend or parent notices general
outward signs of pregnancy which they feel happens at about
four months.

144
Response to Discovery of Pregnancy
Not every woman who discovers she is pregnant responds
in the same way. The response of the child's father may also
vary. Caffé's (1985) examination of teenage pregnancy (women
from 13 to 19), recorded two women who had an "unpleasant"
reaction to their pregnancy for every one that said she had a
"pleasant" reaction (see table 8).
Table 8
Reaction of Women to Their
Pregnancy (n=52)
Prettig (Pleasant)
14
Neutraal (Neutral)
10
Onprettig (Unpleasant)
28
Source: Caffé 1985:23
The fathers of the children responded a little more
positively with almost equal negative and positive responses,
although it is possible that fathers who were never told may
have increased the negative responses if they had been
informed (see table 9).
Table 9
Reaction of the Child's Father to
the PreqpanCY in = 4fi)*
Prettig (Pleasant)
15
Neutraal (Neutral)
14
Onprettig (Unpleasant)
17
*Six of the women reported
they had never told the
child's father of the pregnancy.

145
Source: Caffé 1985:23.
The current study did not focus on teenage pregnancy
but on all pregnancies. The questions posed on response to
pregnancy were open ended, asking how women felt about their
pregnancy and what their partners said when they knew the
woman was pregnant. Since Caffé (1985) did not separate the
responses of each ethnic group in her study, the responses
will first be considered as a group before they are separated
by ethnic group membership (see table 10). Of the 38 women
interviewed, 19 responded that they were happy they were
pregnant and ten stated they responded gewoon or "normally"
when they discovered they were pregnant (which is evidently,
taken in context, a positive response) .16 Nine of the women
were unhappy about the pregnancy. Those who stated they were
unhappy with their pregnancy said they were not economically
able to take care of the child or had just not planned on
another child.
Although the responses of these women have been placed
in one of three categories to allow for comparison with
Caffé's study, they varied tremendously. There was a woman
who did not think she could have children after six years of
trying and felt "enthusiastic" when she knew she was
pregnant. Another woman said she was glad to have the baby
since she knew there was a risk to having it "hauled" away
(i.e. aborted). Others responded "life's difficult" but you

146
cannot do anything about it or the pregnancy was "a little
bothersome, but.. . ." Some were unhappy in the beginning
but later were happy about their situation and some said they
were "afraid." Those that were especially unhappy were still
in school.
Table 10
Women's Response to Their Pregnancy (n=38)
Happy 19
Neutral (Gewoon) 10
Unhappy 9
Source: Postpartum Interviews, 1991.
Creole and Maroon women were less likely to be happy
than other ethnic groups. If the responses were separated
according to those of African ancestry and those of other
ancestry (see table 11) the responses for women of African
ancestry (n=26) were nine happy and eight unhappy while the
responses of the other women (n=12) were ten happy and one
unhappy (the one unhappy was a Native American who said she
wanted the child but was afraid).17
Table 11
Ethnicity of Women and Response
to Precmancv
Creole-Maroon Women
(n=2 6)
Happy
9
Neutral
9
Unhappy
8
: Other Women (n=12)
Happy
10

147
Neutral 1
Unhappy 1
Source: Postpartum Interviews/ 1991.
The response of men to the pregnancy was reported by
the women and so the data really reflects the perceived
response of men by women to the pregnancy. This is one case
where the language used by the informant seemed to make a
difference. I asked women if they wanted to do the interview
in Sranantongo or Dutch and had interview schedules in both
languages available. Those who responded in Dutch gave
answers that could be defined in terms of happy or unhappy.
Those who answered in Sranantongo consistently responded that
the man said nothing when he heard about the pregnancy. Some
would add, after questioning, that he said not to bother him
about those matters; others would say that he was happy.
Therefore the responses were difficult to interpret. Almost
aH °f the women who asked to be interviewed in Sranantongo
were Maroon women, some were refugees and some had left the
interior some time ago. It is possible that differences in
behavior were based on different cultural responses that were
missed since these women were not the focus of this research.
The responses given by Creole-Maroon men as perceived by
women for the question were: 10 of the men were happy with
the pregnancy, four were unhappy, and 11 neutral (see table
12) .
When all of the responses are considered together,
there were 18 men happy with the pregnancy, four unhappy, and

15 mixed, "normal," or "nothing" responses (see table 13).
(Of those who were net either Creole or Maroon none of the
men were credited with giving unhappy responses).
148
Table 12
Men's Resüonse to Pregnancy bv
Ethnicity
Creole-Maroon Men (n=25)*
Happy
10
Neutral**
11
Unhappy
4 i
Other Men (n=12)
I Happy
8
Neutral
4
Unhappy
0
*One man was never notified of
the pregnancy.
**Includes six men who "said nothing."
Source: Postpartum Interviews,
1991.
Table 13
Men's Response to the Pregnancy (n=37)*
Happy 18
Neutral** 15
Unhappy 4
* One man was never told of the pregnancy.
**This figure includes six men who "said
nothing."
Source: Postpartum Interviews, 1991.
One woman said she had wanted to abort the child but
the father told her it was a sin; while another gave a
similar response and the father said it was murder. Other
fathers were not so happy. One woman reported the father

149
disappeared after eight months because he did not have
"steady work." Another woman said her child was 16 years old
before the father knew he had a daughter. One respondent
said she never saw the father again after conception to tell
him she was pregnant.
Generally men want women to have children. They might
even ask a woman to bear a child for them. Although it is
not clear why this is the case, fathering a child at times
can increase their status as a man and make them a masra as
discussed in the previous chapter. Creole women are
frequently told that if they really love a man they will
"bear his child." If a relationship appears to be going
well, men will discourage women from using contraceptives.
It does appear that having a father for a child is important
and when a relationship dissolves some women knowingly abort
the pregnancy only to pregnant again in a subsequent
relationship as discussed in this chapter. The negative
responses of men towards pregnancy can indicate their
inclination to acknowledge a child. Those men who indicate
they are pleased or happy with a pregnancy are more likely to
claim paternity than those who are not happy with a
pregnancy.
â– The Response Of Others Towards the Pregnancy
Usually parents, and especially mothers, are told by a
daughter that she is pregnant. Those parents who are not
told about a pregnancy tend to discover it on their own early

150
in the pregnancy. Most women reported that their parents
knew within weeks of the time they themselves knew they were
pregnant. This was not the same with friends and neighbors.
Almost all of this group discovered their friend's condition
at four or five months into the pregnancy. This was because
the pregnancy became obvious at that point.
Pregnancy did not appear to be an event that was
announced to the community in a direct way. It appears that
the woman, her parents, the child's father, and occasionally
the father's parents are generally the only ones in the
social network of a woman that are told about the event if
even they are told. However, as pregnancies become known or
recognized by other members of the community, they contribute
to a pregnant woman's needs and help her when they can (see
chapter seven). Although many of these community members
feel free to ask a woman who the father of an expected child
is, most rely on behavioral indications. Such as which
males have been around the house a lot—especially if they
have bringing clothes or other gifts. If a man has "helped"
a woman through carrying an illness, this is convincing
evidence that he is the father. Men will often tell friends
and others that they are the father of a child and if they
are happy about the outcome they are not as reluctant as
women to announce a pregnancy when they know.about it. Later
on as the pregnancy progresses, during delivery, or following
delivery, there are other behavioral indications of
paternity.

151
False Pregnancies
There are times when a woman may appear to be
pregnant, or believe she is pregnant, when it is not the
case. Although amenorrhea or disrupted menstruation may at
times be a factor in this it does not occur very frequently
among those who deliver at the hospital (there may be higher
rates among those who can not conceive and are therefore not
delivering babies at the hospital). Of the 301 women in the
delivery records sample, only 2.99 % (or nine women) reported
abnormal menstruation.
One phenomenon that women sometimes associate with
pregnancy is abdominal swelling. Occasionally, (exactly how
often is still unknown) a woman's abdomen will begin to
swell. She believes she is pregnant. Her family and
attentive neighbors may also begin to notice. Then the
woman's abdomen will return to original size and everything
appears as it did before. This "pregnancy" has been reported
to last from three to six months but theoretically can last
any length of time. There is no name for this event but
these pregnancies are associated with the Bakru - a small,
dwarf-like male spirit with a large head and some say large,
wooden-like hands. He will occasionally visit women at night
in their dreams and have intercourse with them. A spiritual
child is conceived but never delivered. As the winti are
served and given special feasts the Bakru is appeased and the
spirit baby is withdrawn.

152
The Bakru is not only involved with women,
occasionally he will change himself into a woman and visit
men at night in their dreams. Men said that this happened
more often when they did not have a current relationship with
a woman.
Improving Fertility
Other than the attempts to attract a lover through
spiritual or natural means there does not appear to be any
means for Suriname women to improve fertility. There are
methods for men. There are a variety of vendors about the
city who sell bottles with pre-mixed herbs inside to which
water is added. These formulas cure a variety of problems
including general weakness, or unmanliness—one of the most
important expressions of which is impotency. It is believed
that the older someone gets the more necessary this treatment
becomes and the larger the dose needed. Small bottles are
available for men in their twenties and thirties, medium size
bottles for men in their forties and fifties, and large
bottles are available for men past their fifties. The fact
that these potions are also drunk to improve a man's
fertility while women have no means of improving fertility
may be related to the importance men place on fathering
children but this is not clear.

153
Aborting the Pregnanes
Even though children can be important to men and women
by enhancing the parents status as an adult or by giving
economic aid later in life, there are times when women choose
to abort the pregnancy. Although women do not often discuss
their reasons for undergoing an abortion, those who do so
often say they were having problems in their relationship.
This was usually stated as "I could not afford the baby," "He
left me," or "I decided I did not want to have his child."
Women who said they could not afford the baby often felt so
because it became clear the father was not going to support
the baby. He refused to acknowledge it as his or contribute
to the pregnancy.18 There was one reported case of a woman
who sought out an abortion when her relationship dissolved.
When she thought she might not be able to get an abortion she
committed suicide.19 Family members commented that it would
have been hard for her to get along if the child did not have
a father. Not all women abort because of problems with
relationships others reported in postpartum interviews that
they had previously aborted because they were still in school
or in the nursing program and would be expelled if it became
known they were pregnant.
Spontaneous Abortions ("Miscarriages")
Not all abortions are intentional. It appears from
hospital records that many of the abortions that happen occur
spontaneously. These are generally termed "miscarriages" in

154
the United States; miskraams in Dutch; and trowe-bere in
Sranantongo (literally "throw-away belly"). There is some
ambivalence about miscarriages among Creole women. In part
they are seen as unwanted events over which the woman has no
control, but in part they may be a result of improper
behavior. A woman may ride on the back of a moped or
motorcycle while she is pregnant and then have a miscarriage.
This is viewed as her fault or a result of her behavior, even
if she never intended on having a miscarriage, since she
participated in behavior "known" to cause it. Other behavior
that should be avoided during pregnancy includes eating
certain foods and lifting heavy objects.
An avoidance of lifting heavy objects is assiduously
followed. Many women who are employed will quit shortly after
they discover they are pregnant, even if they do not lift a
lot of heavy things, in order to avoid too much exertion.
Lifting things is also sometimes used to induce abortions and
so is also an abortifacient.
An angry winti or yorka (spirit of a dead person) may
also cause a miscarriage. If a woman has not properly
treated a winti which has served her, then it may retaliate
by causing her uterus to "throw away the baby" even though
she wishes to keep it. If a woman has experienced several
miscarriages then they are generally connected to
supernatural events. In order to mislead the winti the child
is "sold" to another person before it is born so that it will
no longer belong to the pregnant woman and will not be

155
harmed. This "selling" is only a token ceremony and Creoles
would never consider really selling another person. A few
cents is all that is paid to the mother and after the birth
the purchaser gives presents to the child and continues a
special relationship with the child.
Induced Abortions ("Abortions")
Induced abortions are referred to in the United States
as "abortions," while in Dutch they are referred to as
abortus and in Sranantongo as puru-bere (literally "to pull
the belly"). It is legal in Suriname for a physician to
perform an abortion. They are, however, socially disapproved
of by many of the Christian denominations supported by the
Creoles (which for the majority is Catholicism at 57% or
Moravian Brethren at 29%). If a woman undergoes an abortion
it is not readily admitted to the community although most
people are generally sympathetic to her predicament. One
young woman was taken by her mother to a private doctor and
she quietly got an abortion without anyone in the
neighborhood knowing.
Women may also undergo an abortion at home or
somewhere else outside the biomedical system. A woman may do
this not only to keep information about her abortion from
others, but a home remedy may also be less expensive—if it
works. If others already know that a woman is pregnant then
a home remedy can also be used to cause a "spontaneous"
abortion. Even though a woman may be blamed for doing

156
something improper, there is still a feeling that spontaneous
abortions, or miscarriages, are not sought and a woman may
receive less criticism.
It was mentioned that lifting heavy objects was
carefully avoided to prevent miscarriages. It is also the
most common abortifacient reported and one woman listed
lifting as the "contraceptive" that she used. Other
abortifacients used included eating pineapple rinds, okra,
and roasted cola nuts.20 Creole women are also aware of the
Javanese tradition of massaging the uterus to prevent
conception or induce an abortion but it is uncertain how
often they go to a Javanese masseuse.21
Of the women who delivered in January, 1991, 20%
reported having had at least one abortion.22 Although the
number of these that were spontaneous abortions was not
indicated and the number of induced abortions was not
indicated frequently enough by the midwives to allow for the
accurate derivation of spontaneous abortions, it is clear
that it is not unusual for Creole women to experience an
abortion.
The rate of all abortions experienced by women in the
delivery records is given by major ethnic groups in table 14.
The overall rate of abortion for Creole women is higher than
it is for any other ethnic group. Their rate of abortion is
almost twice the rate of the Hindustani and more than four
times the rate of the Javanese. These figures only include
abortions reported by women themselves. Their reporting may

157
be influenced by varying rates of the acceptability of
abortion in differing ethnic groups; there may be
physiological factors involved (the Maroon women had the
second highest rate of abortion and have the same ancestry as
Creole women, although there are many similar cultural and
economic factors that come into play as well); or there may
be a cultural bias to overlook miscarriages that take place
early in the pregnancy (although the ratio of reported
induced abortions is similar to, although lower in real
terms, than the numbers given here).
1 Table 14
Number of Abortions
in Population of Deliverina
Women
Mean Number
Standard Deviation
of Abortions
from the Mean
Creole (n=81) .43
.76
Hindustani (n=112) .23
.52
Javanese (n=41) .10
.38
Maroon (n=79) .33
.78
Source: Delivery records of s'Lands Hospitaal for
January, 1991
It is likely that even if the real number of abortions is
higher than listed and the ratios may differ somewhat due to
unforeseen factors, the high rate of abortions among Creole
women reflects real events. From the women who do have an
indication in their records of which type of abortion they
experienced (see table 15), none of those with spontaneous
abortions were Creole while three were Hindustani and five

158
were Maroon (which indicates that ancestry may not be
important in this case).23 Of those who had induced abortions
(listed as abortus provocatus in the records), two where
Hindustani, two were Maroons, and 12 were Creole two of these
women were brought to the hospital because of imperfect home
abortions. (None of the Javanese were classified in either
category).
Table 15
Total Number of Abortions Specified as Induced in_ Delivery
Records bv Ethnic Group
Induced Spontaneous
Creole (n=81) 12 0
Hindustani (n=112) 2 3
Javanese (n=41) 0 0
Maroon (n=79) 2 5
Totals*
35
26
4
26
* Includes induced and spontaneous abortions as well as
those not specified in either category.
Source: Delivery Records of s'Lands Hospitaal January,
1991.
All of the abortions reported as induced had been
performed at the hospital (the two home efforts were
completed at the hospital), thus it is likely that other home
abortions that succeeded and never ended up on hospital
records were never reported. Because Suriname laws prohibit
non-medical abortions and the cost at private clinics is more
than a month's salary for most women, about sf.600 (i.e.
sf.200 more than the delivery costs for the baby), it is
doubtful that many use other professional sources of

159
abortion. Based on the evidence there is every reason to
believe that the rate of induced abortions among Creole women
is much higher than for other segments of the population.
The Creole Use of Abortions
If one looks at the fact mentioned previously in this
chapter that Creole women are the group with the lowest
number of postpartum sterilizations and the fact that the
number of children born to Creole women is basically similar
to that of other segments of the population (see chapter
eight), the explanation for the higher rates of abortions
within the Creole population does not lie in the fact that
they want fewer children than do women in other ethnic
groups.
Creole women tend to view real or potential
instability in a relationship as a good reason for aborting a
pregnancy. Since a man is expected to give more money to
support a woman that has born his child, he is less likely to
acknowledge a child as his if he does not want a relationship
to last. Informing a man of the conception may split a
troubled relationship even further. (The man will insist
that the woman got pregnant by another man. This gives him a
reason to deny that the child is his as well as an excuse to
leave the relationship).
Being able to care for the baby after it is brought
home is also important. There is little concern about having
an extra room to put the baby in, since most infants will

160
share a room with their mother for years. There is, however,
some concern about clothing for the baby but support from
family and friends tends to contribute in this area. When
the father of the baby does not have the means to contribute
to the baby's upkeep or denies paternity, this seems to be a
reason to abort.24
Summary
Although menstruation is rarely discussed directly, a
woman's ability to conceive is public knowledge due to
perceptions of illness connected to menstruation.
Menstruation is also an important sign of pregnancy although
it is not as important to public acknowledgement of paternity
as a is sicknesses that a man may get as he "helps" a woman
with her pregnancy. If a man gets sick this supports the
belief of others that he is the father of the child.
Men often encourage pregnancy and view a child as
proof of their manhood and adult status. Having a child in
common also tends to strengthen relationships and this has
led unmarried Creole women to avoid sterilization so that
their reproductive capabilities will still be available.
If conception does occur as part of a relationship but
the relationship is not strengthened by the pregnancy or
difficulties develop in the early part of pregnancy, abortion
may be an option. If a man refuses to acknowledge paternity
this may influence a woman's choice of having an abortion.

161
1This figure is determined from n=14. One woman reported that she began
her menstruation at age 18 or 19 (she seemed uncertain as to the exact
age when menstruation began which made her response less valid). This
information was excluded since the high age was unique. If this woman
is included as menstruating at 18.5 years old, then n=15 means that the
mean age at menarche is 13.2 years old rather than 12.8 years old. The
mode age at menarche for this sample was 12 years old.
2This may be a disappearing practice since it was generally elderly
informants that expressed this idea. Younger informants would talk
freely in front of children and I repeatedly heard stories of explicit
instruction and visual displays by parents of very young children in
response to questions of a sexual nature. I did not have difficulty
discussing these matters. Older women would generally say that since we
were both bigisma (literally "big people" but in this context it means
"mature people"), we could discuss these topics.
3It appears that the term futu was historically used for both male and
female genitals but younger Surinamers generally only use the term for
male genitals.
4There may be a distinction between uma or "woman" and fro or "woman;
wife," but the list of words presented to women as part of the
postpartum interview to ascertain whether or not they applied to them
(see Appendix A) produced little in the way of results. It may be due
to the fact that it was the first question asked and it took some
adjustment for women to get used to my pronunciation (especially in
Sranantongo) or to the idea of listening and answering questions.
sThe mailed questionnaire, which had a very low response rate (n=9),
produced a mean age at first intercourse of 17.75 years, but the mode
age was 16 years with a few women much older.
6The term "teenage pregnancies" is accurate in the strict sense of all
pregnancies from 13-19 years of age. However, a pregnancy during this
period may mean different things for each population. I interviewed
several Hindustani women who were married at 14 or 15 and had a planned
child the following year. For the Creole population a "teenage
pregnancy" is roughly equivalent to an "unplanned pregnancy". This is
reflected, in part, in the average age of women that deliver (see
below).
7This result is out of 14 respondents. One woman said she had more
relationships than she could count. When asked if it was more than 10
she relied yes. None of these relationships lasted very long. This
woman also differed from the others in this sample in that she was well
educated, had been to the Netherlands several times, and had an income
much higher than that of the other women. She said she had delivered at
s'Lands Hospitaal because some of her friends worked there.
8I failed to ask whether or not the newborn child was intentionally
conceived. Even though all of the women had been using a contraceptive
earlisrr it does not mean that they did not want to get pregnant. In
fact, although all of these women also said they did not want any more

162
children (the interviews were done about 12 hours after they had
finished delivering) the mailed questionnaires to women who had
delivered nine months earlier generally produced responses of one or two
children with some saying it was up to God. It is likely that most of
the women in the postpartum interview were also open to having more
children, especially if their relationship changed. For more on this
see chapter 6 for a discussion of number of children born to Creole
women.
9I do not know the public response to this program. A program on
childbirth was aired on television shortly before my fieldwork that
garnered a number of letters from angry viewers that a birth should not
have been shown on television.
10Most informants were aware that HIV existed in Suriname but did not
think it concerned them. There was also misinformation given out by the
sources attempting to stop the spread of AIDS. The monthly newsletter
of Stichting Lobi reported that HIV could not be gotten from anal
intercourse but they discouraged it "for aesthetic reasons.” AIDS has,
in general, become associated with those who are waka-waka personality
types and an accusation of someone being HIV positive is considered an
insult (see example in the text).
11Since this study is only focused on Creole women no attempt will be
made to explain the rates of sterilization among the other groups.
However, it should be noted that the Hindustani rate would be even
higher but several women who had requested sterilization and had only
daughters asked not to be sterilized after another daughter was born.
12Lowenthal (1984) has argued that in Haiti a woman's reproductive
capabilities are as valuable to her economically as a large tract of
land.
13Washing dishes and doing other household chores are especially
important for female identity. One male informant was widely viewed by
the community as a homosexual. He would dance with men at late night
winti ceremonies. He specifically mentioned washing dishes and cleaning
the house as things he liked to do. Other men, when discussing dish
washing, would specifically mention that when they washed dishes they
did it in a "manly" way. This was illustrated as choppy, sharp
movements rather than flowing, graceful, dance-like movements.
14The general trend in the Caribbean is that lighter skin has a higher
status (Marks 1975, Hoetink 1971) but it appears that in the lower
strata of Suriname darker skin is at least preferable in some
circumstances and possible has little negative influence on status.
15These beliefs may have been adopted from the beliefs of Native
Americans in the region. The custom of the couvade is well known among
Native Americans in Suriname (Dawson 1929, Kloos 1971), although
Krumeich (1989) questions its existence.
16When women stated they responded "normally" to the pregnancy they
often responded to the following question about the man's response "He
was happy too." Which tends to indicate that a "normal" response for
these women was likely a positive response.

163
17Although Maroon women generally have more children than other ethnic
groups (see chapter seven), Creole women have about the same number as
other ethnic groups and so family size probably has little to do with
these figures.
18These statements are taken from two postpartum interviews and six
unstructured interviews with informants.
19The details of this case are such that a woman who was a member of the
extended family of several informants got pregnant at seventeen years of
age. The father of the child left her and went to the Netherlands
shortly afterwards. After writing several letters and attempting to get
him to help financially, the woman learned from someone else that he had
another girlfriend in Holland. She went to the hospital and asked a
doctor to perform an abortion. The doctor never told her she could not
get one but told her she would regret it and should wait to think about
what she was doing (according to subsequent police investigation and her
family members). She went back several weeks later and was again
apparently discouraged from going through with the abortion. After her
discussion with the doctor, she went into a hospital bathroom, locked
the door and drank a bottle of the caramel colored undistilled vinegar
sold in stores. Workers smelled the odor seeping through the crevices
and got the door open. Although the woman was treated for poisoning,
she died several days later.
It is possible that this woman only intended to induce an abortion
rather than commit suicide since a number of home abortifacients are
drunk. However, suicide is also common, especially among the Creole
population, and drinking vinegar is considered one way of achieving that
end.
20Since Okra is slimy it is believed to make the uterus more slippery so
the fetus will just slide out. (Okra is also mentioned as an
abortifacient in other parts of the Caribbean; Laguerre, 1987) . Roasted
cola nuts are also listed by Acsadi (1976) as an abortifacient for the
Yoruba in West Africa.
21Hammen and Sedney-Nirhoe (1989) have noted in their joint research as
students at the national university that extra-uterine gravidity in
Suriname is ten times higher than it is in the Netherlands. The highest
rates of extra-uterine gravidity were found among the Javanese while the
lowest were found among the Creole. There could be a relation between
these figures and the Javanese practice of flipping the fundus of the
uterus forward in massage to prevent conception or induce abortion.
This may also be related to the distinctly low number of abortions among
the Javanese in relation to the other groups, particularly the Creole,
as discussed in this chapter.
22There was only an 8% abortion rate in the Caffé (1985) study of
teenage pregnancy. Most of the women in the hospital sample who
reported abortions had undergone procedures at the hospital. They knew
that earlier records were available to the staff and this may have
influenced reporting. The teenage study also was more likely to have
women who were pregnant for the first time and was a younger population.
This means that these women had shorter relationships and therefore were
less likely to have undergone an abortion.

164
Since the women in the delivery records who reported abortions had
generally undergone the procedure at the hospital, there may be an
underreporting of other types of abortions and these figures may be
higher.
23If the rate of spontaneous abortions is indeed much higher among the
Maroon population this may be an indication of health problems. Most of
these women have come to the city as refugees because of guerrilla
warfare in the rain forest, they rarely spoke Dutch and occasionally I
spoke Sranantongo to a family member who then translated into Saramaccan
for those who had come from deeper in the interior or were very young
mothers. Most of these women had not been to school and reported very
low monthly incomes. Clearly there is a need for research on maternal
and infant care among the Maroon population in order to discover if any
of these factors are significant and to what extent.
24It is likely that there are limits on the length of a pregnancy in
relation to abortions and this may enter into the dynamics of
relationships; but this was not investigated.

CHAPTER 7
PREGNANCY
A Woman's Appearance and Pregnancy
Pregnancy is viewed by most women as a positive event,
a sign of good health, an indication that everything is
functioning as it should, and an event that will bring a
welcome child into the household. A pregnant woman is
generally considered attractive and feminine.1 When it is
known that a woman is pregnant community members generally
congratulate her and express approval of her condition.
Advice is given, help is offered, and there is often a shared
positive outlook. Since women rarely tell others that they
are pregnant, the visible growth of the fetus is what serves
to let most community members know that a woman is pregnant.
Maternity clothes are not sold in Suriname and most
women just wear what they wore before they were pregnant for
the entire pregnancy. These clothes may be modified if
necessary or something may be borrowed from a larger
relative. A small bookstore in Paramaribo had a book on
making maternity clothes; but even though it was very dog¬
eared and frequently perused, it stayed on the shelf for at
least a year and a half. Because women do not dress
differently when they are pregnant, and generally wear their
165

166
clothes until they are too tight, this serves to reinforce
size as the indicator of pregnancy.2
Pregnancy as an Event
Pregnancy is both a spiritual and physical event. A
child must receive a spirit in order to live but the actual
development of the child is a physical process that requires
both the mother and the father to complete.3
A Mother's Contribution to the Child
During pregnancy the mother contributes blood to the
child. This is considered essential and, as was mentioned
with skin color variations, the loss of even a little blood
can influence the appearance of a child. Although she is
healthy, the mother needs to continue to be watchful because
there are many things that she can do to harm the child. If
a child is born with problems, it is generally the mother who
is held responsible for causing the problems, although
sometimes the responsibility is given to the father or Gado
"God."4
The Father's Contributions to the Child
The father is also important to the growth of the
child. Semen is considered important for bone growth and so
the father should continue to have sexual relations until the
child is born. Although some informants still believe this
firmly, others strongly doubt its veracity or say they

167
believe the description of fetal growth they learned in
school but even they keep it in mind and try to make sure the
child's proper growth is cared for just in case it is
important. The belief that a father should continue to
support the growth of a child tends to support claims of
paternity. If a man continues to visit a woman's residence
when it has become clear to the community that she is
pregnant, then the chances that paternity will be credited to
him are increased. This is not always the case though.
Sometimes, as pointed out, a relationship dissolves on
discovery of pregnancy or a child's father may leave the city
to work in the interior or in another country. In these
cases a woman may develop a relationship with another man.
If the child's father is away and a woman has an affair with
another man this is not looked on as harshly as it might at
another time. This is generally recognized as due to the
fact that the man was fulfilling the "responsibilities" of
the child's father. In such unusual cases as this, the one
who is responsible for the conception is considered the
father.
Rregnancv Induced Changes in the Body
Increases in abdominal size are considered important
to the development of a pregnancy. Spiritual pregnancies, as
mentioned are largely determined by changes in abdominal
size. A pregnant woman is called a bere-uma (literally
"belly woman") and various references to pregnancy are made

168
with combinations of here in them. Although the uterus, or
muru, is also important it is largely emphasized in
postpartum recovery or problems with menstruation.5
Although changes in size during pregnancy can be
attractive for many, some of the changes that take place are
considered unattractive, even though it is felt that they are
inevitable. Stretch marks in the skin as a result of
pregnancy, for example, are seen as undesirable but
inevitable. They are referred to according to body region
such as bere marki or bobi marki ("belly marks" or "breast
marks"). Other undesirable results of pregnancy that women
reported include varicose veins, tiredness, and difficulty in
getting work done. Nausea, which was also mentioned as a
sign of pregnancy, can be a sign of problems if it continues
well into the pregnancy.
Diet During Pregnancy
A woman's diet during pregnancy can be important in
issues of paternity for two major reasons. The first is the
types of food women eat. Some are eaten more frequently
during pregnancy or almost exclusively during pregnancy. If
men are seen in the markets buying these types of good it is
assumed by many, rightly or not, that they are buying the
goods for the mother of their child (some will add they might
be buying for a sister). The second, and more direct
connection between diet and paternity is through the food

169
taboos that are specifically inherited by the father. An
inherited taboo can indicate paternity.
Diet and Pregnancy
In postpartum interviews Creole women were asked to
report everything they had eaten on the day before they went
into labor. Although Hindustani women tended to report a
diet of broths or light foods, Creole women tended to have
eaten substantial diets. Creole women generally ate bread
with a topping in the morning; they had rice with another
dish (e.g. pea soup or brown beans) in the afternoon; and
they had another meal of bread in the evenings.
If a pregnant woman expresses a desire for something
that is available it must be given to her. If it is not
given to her one of two undesirable things can happen. The
baby can be born with a birth mark (moeder's vlek or
"mother's mark" in Dutch and Gado marki or "God's mark" in
Sranantongo) or, more seriously, the child will die. One
pregnant woman had asked a neighbor if she could have a taste
of boiled plantain the neighbor was preparing but was denied.
Two days later the woman went into labor and delivered
stillborn twins. She said her children were born with their
mouths open because they did not get the plantains and she
blamed her neighbor for their deaths.
Pregnant women are more likely to get scarce foods
because of this belief although some people said they hide

170
foods they do not want to share when they see a pregnant
woman coming towards their house.
Food Cravings and Avoidance Patterns
The diet of a pregnant woman does not change
considerably from that before she was pregnant. Women will
generally state that they ate everything during their
pregnancy that they normally would have eaten at any other
time. The only woman who ever specifically mentioned having
cravings during her pregnancy had lived in the Netherlands
for years and experienced cravings there. Despite this other
women mentioned liking specific things even more during their
pregnancy—things such as sowa or "sours." This includes a
variety of pickled fruits that women make and sell on the
streets or from their windows that face the street.
Perhaps the most important and the most consistent
desire women reported experiencing during their pregnancy was
the desire to eat pemba. Pemba is a white clay that appears
to be mainly lime with a gritty sand-like substance in it.6
It is dug by Maroon men in the Upper Para District of
Suriname and sold in the market place by Maroon women. It
can be purchased in balls or oval shapes from approximately
four to six ounces in weight. Once a woman began selling red
clay and called it pembarediwan "red pemba" but it did not
seem to catch on since after a few days she quit selling it.
When I mentioned to other women that she was selling it, they
said they had never heard of it before and the topic

171
generated a big discussion which ended with the conclusion
that it must be white pemba with bauxite mixed in.
Although none of the doctors at the hospital had ever
heard of pemba or knew that Creole women were eating it, 53%
of the Creole women during postpartum interviews responded
that they had eaten pemba during their pregnancy and of those
who had eaten pemba 88% had eaten it every day during the
last months of their pregnancy. Women did not always have
pemba on hand and 50% of those who ate it also occasionally
ate uncooked rice or goma a starch used to stiffen clothing.
Some women ate uncooked rice in addition to their pemba and
one woman who had net eaten pemba at all also ate uncooked
rice .7
While some things are eaten more often during
pregnancy, others are generally avoided by pregnant women.
Some of these foods are avoided at other times as well and
some are avoided specifically because of the pregnancy. The
most common avoidance during pregnancy is peppers.
Surinamers generally enjoy food with hot peppers. They claim
with pride that they have the hottest peppers in the world.
It is considered best if a pregnant woman avoids eating
peppers during her pregnancy for the health of the baby.
Peppers are rarely given to newborn or young children either.
Although peppers are generally avoided only during
pregnancy, there are other things that a woman should avoid
based on inheritance that are more stringently avoided during
pregnancy. The specific food to be avoided is known as a

172
person's trefu.8 These trefu are foods that a person should
not eat. If they eat them, the foods cause symptoms similar
to allergies and can also influence the baby during
pregnancy.9 The most common trefu are fish without scales and
pork (restricted foods for Jews) but other trefu also exist,
including one woman's rice trefu--the staple food. Trefu are
inherited from the father in that most of the children of a
man will have the same trefu he has. If a woman avoids
particular foods known to be trefu of a specific man, her
behavior is considered a strong indication of paternity.
Later on, as a child starts eating foods, trefu avoidance
also strengthens community perceptions of paternity.
Prenatal Care During Pregnancy
Although pregnancy is considered a sign of health, it
is also a very vulnerable time and one during which women
need to be particularly careful. Prenatal care is called
controle or "control" and most women go for controle during
their pregnancy. These visits to the doctor, however, vary
dramatically, and most women do not go until towards the end
of their pregnancy. The highest number of visits to the
doctor was nine with the lowest zero (see table 16).
During postpartum interviews most of the women
responded that they generally went to prenatal visits for
reassurance that everything was all right rather than to get
specific information. When they were given instructions (for
example, to cut down salt intake) they rarely did as

173
instructed. They did not feel any different, they would say,
whether they followed instructions or not.
Table 16
Number of Prenatal Visits to a Clinic or the Hospital
Creole n=67
Hindustani
n=
103
0-3
visits
23
(34%)
0-3
visits
30
(29%)
4-6
visits
30
(45%)
4-6
visits
52
(51%)
7-9
visits
14
(21%)
7-9
visits
21
(20%)
Javanese n=
32
Maroons n=
69
0-3
visits
14
(44%)
0-3
visits
32
(46%)
4-6
visits
13
(41%)
4-6
visits
28
(41%)
7-9
visits
5
(16%)
7-9
visits
9
(13%)
Source: Delivery Records of s'Lands Hospitaal
January, 1991.10
During prenatal visits to the clinic, women were told
not to smoke or drink alcohol during their pregnancy. In
postpartum interviews every one of the women responded that
they did not smoke during their pregnancy. Pregnant women
walking the streets, however, were occasionally seen smoking
and so the instructions by the physicians may have influenced
responses. Use of alcohol on the other hand was generally
reported, but only in small amounts during social affairs.
Several women in postpartum interviews when asked how
the child's father had contributed to the pregnancy mentioned
that he had taken them to controle. They viewed his presence
during the process as comforting and supportive.
There is one ultra-sound with monitor available at the
hospital.11 As elsewhere in the world, Surinamers like the

174
ultra-sound to be able to determine the sex of their child,
but most ultra-sound examinations are given to help establish
a due date and the rest are given to check for potential
health problems and the majority of women do not have an
ultra-sound at all. Although the Javanese have methods of
determining the sex of a child, the Creole do not until the
actual delivery is underway when variations in labor are
credited to the different sexes (discussed in the following
chapter).
Illnesses During Pregnancy
Although women can get an illness that they might
usually get, there are some specific illnesses to which
pregnant women are particularly susceptible. These are
important because their supernatural nature may require
public acknowledgement of paternity, if it has not already
been forthcoming, and reconciliation of relationships.
Inherited from the Ancestors
When a woman is pregnant she is considered weakened
spiritually and this makes her more susceptible to problems.
One serious problem she may develop is a sickness from the
voorouders or afo the "ancestors." This problem is uncommon
now and only older women were even aware of it or had ever
known anyone who had experienced it. It has no specific name
and is not brought on by any actions of a woman. It is
inherited by a woman through her family spirits because her

175
"ancestors were possessed with something, you know, things
brought from Africa."12 These pregnancies are said to last
for more than a year, sometimes two or three years. One
elderly woman in a rural district had a sister who was
pregnant in this way. She said the doctors cut her open and
there was a snake inside. The doctor who cut her open went
crazy because of the incident.13 Although these types of
pregnancies are now uncommon in Suriname, their similarity to
pregnancies in other Caribbean communities and in West Africa
indicates that these experiences have a long history in
Suriname and these women say, with good reason, they were
brought with family spirits from Africa.14
Fvo-Fyo
There is another spiritual illness that every Creole
woman is familiar with and many have personally experienced.
It is called fyo-fyo. A fyo is literally a flea but in this
context the name refers to black flecks (or fleas) that are
symptoms of a more serious problem. (The symptoms may not
always be present when a woman is ill). A person does not
theoretically have to be pregnant to get fyo-fyo but that is
when all the cases informants knew of had occurred and it is
considered the most likely time for a woman to get it.
The illness is brought on by social discord and its
most common symptom is a pregnancy that goes beyond the due
date. It rarely continues over a long period since as soon
as fyo-fyo is suspected a woman is treated. Takru taki or

176
"evil talk" is, for some Surinamers, synonymous in meaning to
fyo-fyo. When actual cases of fyo-fyo were discussed, it was
always the father of the child who was the cause of the
illness. Even though theoretically anyone could cause the
illness.
Fyo-fyo is usually brought on during an argument. If
the man says "I wish the child would never be born," for
example, then his words will cause fyo-fyo. It is rare that
a woman will say at the time "you just gave me fyo-fyo."
Instead it is later, when it is determined that a woman has
fyo-fyo, that such a statement will be recalled and blame is
assigned.
The central therapy for the treatment of fyo-fyo
requires the offending party apologize for the evil words
they spoke and give money or show other types of concern.
The result is usually a strengthening of the relationship.
A ritual bath is also important in treating fyo-fyo,
as it is in the treatment of most illnesses. Part of the
bathing includes pouring a calabash of water with atsafisa
and sibiwiwiri over a woman (sibiwiwiri "sweeping leaf" is to
sweep the woman out inside) .15 The bonuman takes a hen's egg
and makes a cross over the navel while saying fa a foru e
meki eksi sondra wan pen sondra noti, so a pikin mus kon a
doro sondra wan pen sondra noti, which means "as a chicken
lays eggs without a pain and without nothing, so a child must
come through without a pain and without nothing."16 This is
viewed as an aid in easing the delivery.

177
When a woman has been treated for fyo-fyo the "fleas"
should leave her. It is important that the fleas walk away
if one is seen flying away then this is a bad sign. It means
the spirit harming a woman has escaped and it will come back
to kill her.17
Fyo-fyo may serve to strengthen public acknowledgement
of paternity since the treatment usually involves the child's
father. The father also generally promises to give support
to the child during treatment which is associated with the
legitimation of a child. Some informants reported that
treating a woman for fyo-fyo also increases the chances that
a man will "help" with the delivery as discussed in the
following chapter.
Summary
During pregnancy the community may be made aware of a
child's father through the continued visits of the father
filling his expected role in contributing to the growth and
development of the child during gestation. The father is
also expected to join the rest of the community in giving a
pregnant woman the things she wants to eat to insure the
child's survival. As a man goes to the market place to buy
things for a woman to eat, and especially pemba which is
often eaten every day, others begin to assume he is buying
the goods for a pregnant woman and he is the father of the
child. Trefu are inherited from the father. The reseblance
between a child's trefu and that of a man in the community

178
helps to strengthen claims of paternity. It will also
bolster assumptions about paternity when the man indicated as
the father denys the fact.
Perhaps the most significant and commonly occurring
setting for the acknowledgement of paternity is during the
treatment of fyo-fyo. A man must promise to help support a
woman and the expected child and he should confess his faults
in not taking the responsibilities of fatherhood that he
should have taken upon himself. These various beliefs can be
brought to bear to support a woman's specific claims of a man
being the father of her children and they might serve to
strengthen the involvement of the man later on during
delivery and in caring for the child.
1Although people insisted that a pregnant woman is attractive and
growing large is not negative, I never asked about obesity or largeness
in general. Many Creole women gain a lot in size physically as they
mature and weight was often carried disproportionately in the abdominal
region. It was sometimes difficult to tell if a woman was pregnant or
not and there were a number of accounts given by women who did not know
they were pregnant until the baby was due or labor began. However, in
everyday social interaction no one ever expressed disdain about
someone's size or regrets about their own and it never seemed to be an
important factor.
2Some women do express regret about size later on in the pregnancy,
sometimes for appearance sake but generally because of the difficulties
in getting around and getting things done.
3Some Creole informants expressed the idea that the spirit of a child
had lived before and was reincarnated. This belief may have come from
West Africa or from the local Hindu concepts many of the Creole's
neighbors have. It is not clear how common this belief is within the
Creole population.
4Generally the term Gado is used in reference to Christian deity rather
than to other deity.
5There are a variety of muru-dresi or "uterine medicines" available in
the market place for various menstrual problems. Some of these, such as
those for cramping, can be taken during pregnancy, while most should be
avoided during pregnancy.

179
6The eating of clays or other types of earth is known as pica or
geophagy and it is commonly done during pregnancy (Hochstein 1968, Jones
1985) .
7The sample size for the data on the pemba was n=15. Pemba is not just
eaten during pregnancy. It also has very important ritual functions.
During a winti ceremony it is sprinkled in powder form on individuals in
who have gone into "trance" or are possessed by a winti. This has an
immediate calming effect on the winti and can help a person to gain
control of themselves again. Pemba is also used as a healing agent and
is sometimes mixed in water with other things to be drunk.
eTrefu comes from the Hebrew for food prohibition. The Sranantongo word
kasher, which also has Hebrew origins, is occasionally used as an
antonym for trefu. This derivation might be related to the fact that
many of the early slave owners in Suriname were Portuguese Jews.
9These symptoms include breaking out in a rash and congestion. Fischer,
Fischer and Mahony (1979) see a relationship between food taboos and
food allergies in many cultures or societies where they exist.
10The number of women included in this question is slightly lower than
the numbers for other categories because the midwives had failed to
record this information for several of the women. (Some of these women
would just say they forgot their records and so nothing could be
recorded. It is not clear how many, but it is definite that some of the
women who said they had forgotten their records had never gone for
prenatal check-ups. Therefore the number of visits for controle is
probably actually lower than is recorded).
â– L1An ultrasound is called an echo in Dutch with no Sranantongo term.
12In Wooding's (1981) examination of the Winti religion, he also notes
the existence of this illness. He calls it winti-bere but women, when
asked about this, said they did not know of a name for it.
13This woman's daughter-in-law refused to believe the story when it was
told and said it was just an Anansi tori or "Spider story"—a folk tale,
often from slave times or earlier, that is told during dede oso "death
house" (or a wake) or at other important times. The woman insisted,
however, that the story was true. The fact that it was a snake that was
delivered is significant since snakes can be physical manifestations of
Winti spirits. Some of the most powerful and influential Winti the Vodu
will appear as snakes.
14In rural Haiti many women have suffered from an illness similar to the
one describe for Suriname (Herskovits 1937, Murray 1976, Singer et al.
1988). They call their illness pédisyó in Haitian Creole meaning
perdition' in English. Up to one-third of the female population claim
to have been afflicted with pédisyó at one time or another. They
describe the illness as a state in which a woman is pregnant for
considerable amounts of time and can, if not healed, even be pregnant
indefinitely (even after menopause is reached). Symptoms of this
illness are such that menstruation ceases for several months and a woman
tells others she is pregnant. The woman then begins to bleed again and
outward signs of pregnancy disappear. These women insist that they have

180
not had miscarriages (with which they are familiar) when pédisyó occurs
but, instead, that the fetus had begun to develop and then became
dormant at a certain point — not growing larger but remaining alive and
firmly lodged in its mother's womb. The blood that is lost each month
is viewed as necessary for an infant's growth and its loss is considered
the cause of the fetal dormancy. But, even though the blood loss is the
direct cause of pédisyó its ultimate cause can be one of a number of
sources, including cold winds, the lougarou (or werewolves), the dead,
or witches and sorcerers. The cause can only be determined by the
houngan or mambo (the vodoQ priest or priestess respectively).
Herskovits describes a similar phenomenon in Trinidad known as
jumby belly. A woman describes jumby belly as a state in which a
sufferer responds in such a way that "She tell husband she going to have
baby, an' believe so, too. Nine months, ten months, no baby"
(Herskovits and Herskovits 1947:111).
Although this illness has a long history and its origins are
obscure, it may serve a beneficial purpose as far as social support is
concerned. Evidence in Haiti (Murray 1976) indicates that this illness
is very prevalent among women who have not born a child in common with
their current partner. I have argued (Staker 1990) that this belief
serves to strengthen relationships. Since a relationship is more likely
to endure if a couple has a child in common, if a woman is pregnant with
a child from her current partner, even if that child is not born for
years or is never born, then the relationship is more likely to endure.
Lowenthal (1984) has seen a similar beneficial use of sexuality among
Haitian women. It is possible that this belief also served to increase
the stability of relationships in Suriname. If a couple had a child in
common, even though it was never born, the man could be required to give
more support to a woman and the relationship might tend to be more
stable.
15Atsafisa is not listed in dictionaries of Suriname plants and has no
apparent meaning other than as the name of a plant. Sibiwiwiri is from
the genus and species Scoparia dulcis.
16The word used for "lay" an egg is meki or "make" which is the same
word used for "deliver" a child.
I am not aware that fleas in Suriname have wings, but flying insects
are significant causes of illness. winti can come to a person as a
flying insect to harm them. The insects most likely to bring a Winti
are flies, some beetles, and a white butterfly with silver spots
that has several spike-like protrusions. The Winti typically only come
as insects at night and so if one were extremely careful she would make
sure the house was completely sealed off to keep all insects out. (A
task that is impossible for many of the sagging wooden homes in which
many of the Creole live).

CHAPTER 8
BIRTHING
Delivery and Paternity
Although men are rarely at the delivery of their
child, their response during delivery can strengthen
acknowledgement of paternity. Their response can be
considered in the wider context of activities and phenomena
surrounding the birth.
The Term of Pregnancies
The due date of a woman's pregnancy is important for
Creole women. If the baby comes sooner or later than
expected this can influence its health.
Premature Births
The views of other ethnic groups on the proper length
of gestation has become incorporated into Creole beliefs in
an inverse relationship. The Javanese view a seven month
gestation period as ideal and Javanese women will undergo a
ceremony at seven months that indicates the baby is "whole"
and "perfect." If the baby goes beyond the seven months, it
is not "perfect" again and it is considered best if the baby
is not delivered until after nine months gestation. Nine
months gestation is seen as good although not ideal.1 (The
181

182
number seven is very important in a variety of settings for
the Javanese). Hindustani women generally say nine months is
the best length to carry an infant but they add that seven
months is good too, and a baby born either seven or nine
months after conception is viewed as equally healthy (but
again not between these periods).
The Creole disagree with these views. For them a nine
month gestation is considered full-term and ideal. When a
Creole wants to insult someone they may call that person a
sebi mun pikin or "seven month child." The insult lies in
the fact that someone born at seven months is considered
weaker and less energetic than others.
Postterm Births
Going over the expected due date is also of special
note to the Creole. If a woman is overdue for delivery, it
is important that something be done. If a woman has gone
"several months" over her expected date then, naturally, fyo-
fyo is presumed. If fyo-fyo has been ruled out, usually by a
precautionary treatment, other things will be done to induce
labor.
Bita (a class of herbs that play an important role in
the postpartum cleaning of the uterus) may be drunk to
encourage labor. If labor has begun but it is inefficient
and the contractions are not forceful enough, bita is drunk
to increase the contractions. Usually one calabash bowl of
bita tea is recommended.2 Although not mentioned

183
specifically as a means of inducing labor, a number of women
stated they had intercourse up until the day the baby was
born. (They feel this improves the health of the baby).
This practice may have served to bring labor on sooner than
would otherwise have been the case.
General Gestation Length
Despite the expected or ideal gestation lengths, most
women carry their babies approximately the same length of
time. When recording gestation dates it is rare to get exact
calculations. Women may differ slightly in the day in their
menstrual cycle they ovulate or if a woman menstruates
irregularly then the first day of the last menstrual cycle
may have little meaning in determining the date. But if
menstrual cycles and menstrual periods are examined for each
of the four major ethnic groups, then it becomes clear that
the majority of women have a cycle of 28 days with an
important segment having 30 day cycles. Creole women seem
more likely to have variation than other groups do and are
more likely to report that their menstrual cycle is not
normal (see table 17).3
Most women also have a period that lasts from 3-5 days
long. The unusually high number of Javanese women who
menstruate for seven days may be related to the importance of
that number in their cultural beliefs while the largest
amount of variation seems to lie within the Maroon population
(see table 18 and table 19).

184
Table 17
Woman Reports that Her Menstrual Cycle is "Not Normal"*
by Ethnic Group
Normal :
Menstruation
Abnormal
Creole (n=67)
61
(91%)
6
(9%)
Hindustani (n=105)
103
(98%)
2
(2%)
Javanese (n=38)
37
(97%)
1
(3%)
Maroon (n=68)
68
(100%)
0
*Women were not given a definition for "normal" and so these
are self defined responses.
Source: Delivery Records of s'Lands Hospitaal January, 1991.
Table 18
Length in Days of a Typical Menstrual Cycle
by Ethnic.—Group
Creole n
= 64
Hindustani
n=96
15
days
0
15 days
1
(1%)
21
days
1
(2%)
21 days
0
(0%)
27
days
1
(2%)
27 days
2
(2%)
28
days
55
(86%)
28 days
79
(82%)
29
days
1
(2%)
29 days
1
(1%)
30
days
6
(9%)
30 days
13
(14%)
Javanese
n=
39
Maroons
n=
64
15
days
0
15 days
0
21
days
0
21 days
0
27
days
0
27 days
0
28
days
32
(82%)
28 days
49
(77%)
29
days
0
29 days
0
30
days
7
(18%)
30 days
15
(23%)
ce:
s' Lands
Hospitaal
Delivery Records
January,
1991
If, however, the number of women who report abnormal
menstrual cycles is examined then the Maroon population has
the lowest at 0% and the Creole population has the highest at

185
9%. (A total of 2% of the Hindustani women reported abnormal
menstrual cycles and 3% of the Javanese women).4
Table 19
Length in Days of a Typical Menstrual Period
by Ethnic Group
Creole n=70 Hindustani n=104
1
day
0
1
day
0
2
days
2
(3%)
2
days
3
(3%)
3
days
16
(23%)
3
days
32
(31%)
4
days
25
(36%)
4
days
27
(26%)
5
days
17
(24%)
5
days
29
(28%)
6
days
3
(4%)
6
days
6
(6%)
7
days
7
(10%)
7
days
7
(7%)
8
days
0
8
days
0
9
days
0
9
days
0
Javanese n
=39
Maroons
i n=
:70
1
day
0
1
day
1
(1%)
2
days
2
(5%)
2
days
0
3
days
4
(10%)
3
days
21
(30%)
4
days
10
(26%)
4
days
20
(29%)
5
days
15
(39%)
5
days
14
(20%)
6
days
1
(3%)
6
days
7
(10%)
7
days
7
(18%)
7
days
3
(4%)
8
days
0
8
days
3
(4%)
9
days
0
9
days
1
(1%)
Source: s'Lands Hospitaal Delivery Records January,
1991.
In the sample of gestational dates, the women who were
uncertain of there last menstrual cycle were excluded from
the population sample in order to make the results as
accurate as possible (see table 20).

186
The Creole-Maroon population has a slightly lower mean
for days from the first day of last menstruation to delivery
of the child but, just as importantly, both groups also have
the most variation in the number of days of gestation. This
might influence the variation in birth weights in the Creole-
Maroon population as is discussed below.
Table 20
The Gestational Age of Infants by Ethnic Groups.
Creole
n=64 (81% of total)
x=271 days
s=21
Javanese
n=33 (79% of total)
x=273 days
s=12
Hindustani
n=95 (95%of total)
x=275 days
s=l 6
Maroons
n=57 (70% of total)
x=2 71 days
s=19
Source: s'Lands Hospitaal Delivery Records January, 1991
Anticipation of Delivery
As the time of birth approaches, women will begin to
rely more heavily on family members. Although this reliance
will occasionally be a request for help with daily tasks or
just a listening ear to hear complaints about the heat or
other things, a woman who lives some distance from the city
and travels with the busses will also plan to be with family
members in the city for the last few weeks of he
r pregnancy;

187
or if she's already in the city a woman may move back in with
her mother or arrange to be with someone else who can help
after the delivery (see the next chapter for a discussion
what this entails). These actions may influence the number
of fathers who come to the hospital for delivery but it is
not clear how much influence is exerted.
As delivery time approaches medications may also be
taken to ease the delivery process. Most of these medicines
are the same ones used to purify or thicken the blood (see
Appendix F). Having one's blood system in good order is
considered common sense before something like delivering a
baby is undertaken.
Faying for the Delivery
Before a woman leaves the hospital there must be some
determination of payment, many women anticipate this and make
arrangements beforehand for payment. If an outside source
(usually government) has not been found to pay for the birth
then a woman is not able to take her baby home from the
hospital.
A "class B" birth costs approximately sf.400 at
s'Lands Hospitaal while a "class A" birth is approximately
sf.1,200.5 The lower charge would be about a month's salary
for most of the women (the average monthly income is reported
as sf.465). This charge theoretically includes a three day
stay in the hospital but women are generally released the
morning after they delivered if the delivery was during the

188
day and the following morning if they delivered during the
evening or night. This is done to to make room for all of
the women who deliver at the hospital since women will also
labor in the beds that are available.
There are two types of insurance available that pay
for births. One is private insurance from a Dutch or
Suriname insurance company and the other is the Staats Zieken
Fonds, usually called SZF, which is a government insurance
plan for government employees and their beneficiaries.6 If a
woman does not have insurance and is a Suriname citizen then
she can get government support to pay for her delivery. This
support is based on income levels. The general rule is that
if a woman earns (or has available) 0-335 guilders per month,
she is classified as onvermogen or "incapable" (which is in
reference to ability to pay); if a woman earns (or has
available) 335-500 guilders per month, she is classified as
mindervermogen or "less capable;" and if a woman earns over
500 guilders per month she is considered able to pay for her
delivery. Although these classifications are based on income
other factors also play a role. It is assumed that a family
could be earning unreported income. Bus drivers are always
mentioned as a specific example of people who make more than
they report since they never report all the money they get in
fares. Besides looking at reported income, an evaluator will
look at housing and the material goods an extended family has
and include this in her classification of a woman's ability
to pay.

189
Table 21 illustrates the classifications employed by
evaluators. The high employment of Creoles by the government
is reflected in the rates of their insurance by SZF. This
generally reflects the employment of men and women are able
to use the insurance of men in consensual unions even though
they are not married. It is also important to note that
those Creoles who are not insured are generally classified as
onvermogen rather than mindervermogen and 48% of Creole women
who deliver at the hospital have less than sf. 335 per month
available to them. Often women from Guyana or others who do
not have Suriname citizenship or cannot get support from the
government will leave the hospital shortly after birth to pay
as little as possible. They are included under the term
"self" for method of payment.
Table 21
Method of Payment
for
Birth
by.
Ethnic Group
Creole
Hindustani
Javanese
Maroon
(n
=82)
(n=112)
(n
=43)
(n
=80)
Self
6
(7%)
14 (13%)
7
(16%)
2
(3%)
Limited Ability
12
(15%)
49 (44%)
18
(42%)
9
(11%)
Inability
39
(48%)
26 (23%)
9
(21%)
57
(71%)
State Insurance
14
(17%)
16 (14%)
4
(9%)
5
(6%)
Private Insurer
9
(11%)
7 (6%)
4
(9%)
7
(9%)
Undetermined
2
(2%)
0
1
(2%)
0
Source: Delivery
Records s'Lands
Hospitaal January
, 1991.

190
The Setting for Birth
Many births in Suriname take place in a similar
setting. The narrow range of options influences where women
choose to deliver their babies.
Where to Deliver
Little historical material is available on midwifery
in Suriname. In 1784 an attempt was made to licence and
control white midwives although black midwives were excluded
from the licensing laws (Instructie voor het Collegium
Medicum 1784) . The fact that the attempt to licence midwives
was made again in 1824 indicates that even European midwives
had a large amount of independence in Suriname (Instructie
voor het Collegium Medicum 1824) . A retired midwife in
Suriname (age 83), reported that her mother had not had any
formal training in midwifery but had learned it from other
midwifes. By the time the retired midwife learned her trade
in the early 1900s there was formal training, although she
also learned a great deal from her mother.
There was a major move towards hospital deliveries in
Paramaribo in the 1940s and 1950s. Those who pushed for
hospital deliveries felt that Suriname homes were dirty and a
poor place to deliver babies (van der Kuyp 1970). Almost all
deliveries by women who live within a reasonable distance now
take place in a hospital. Women tend to choose hospital
births for financial reasons. The state and private sources
of funding for births will only pay for hospital deliveries

191
and government aid can only be received for deliveries in
s'Lands Hospitaal. Women occasionally call the midwives at
the hospital to ask about home deliveries. The midwives
perform home deliveries for about the same amount as it would
cost a woman to come to the hospital to deliver (the services
were roughly similar as well). Those who did opt for a home
delivery were generally women who were financially stable
enough that they would have to pay the full price for a
hospital delivery if they delivered there.
The Hospital
More than half of all the deliveries in Suriname take
place in s'Lands Hospitaal.7 s'Lands Hospitaal was originally
built in the 1700s as a military hospital and that is why it
retains its military name Hospitaal rather than Ziekenhuis or
"sick house" the term used for other hospitals. (The
Sranantongo word at-oso or "hot house" is used for all of the
hospitals).8 The hospital has gone through several
remodelings but most of the main structure was built around
or before the turn-of-the-century. The basement area is used
for archives and other storage. The first floor houses the
surgery facilities and the beds for those recovering from or
waiting for surgery. The second floor houses the rooms where
women wait to deliver and recover afterwards as well as the
delivery room9 The "hallways" are on the outside of the
building and also serve as balconies where recovering women
can lean over the railing to observe the foot traffic below.

The rooms are open without windows or complete doors to
separate them from the outside. This may allow an occasional
butterfly in to brighten the room but it also allows the all
important breeze to cross the rooms and counteract the view
of a "hot house." Each room has approximately twelve beds in
it with bassinets kept in one corner for most of the day. At
night the bassinets are covered by mosquito netting and
placed next to the mother's bed.. There is a large table
with chairs in the middle of the room where women sit to eat
their meals.
Getting to the Hospital
Transportation is important in most everyday
activities in Greater Paramaribo; getting about becomes even
more important when anticipating a delivery. Walking is the
most important source of everyday transportation. But, in
order to get from one section of the city to another, small
26 passenger busses are used by most women while bicycles and
motor bikes are generally used by men. Almost all cars are
driven by men)10. Women find it ludicrous when it's suggested
that they take a bus to the hospital to deliver. The long
stretches of walking required, the long waits, and the
unpredictable nature of the bus system makes it very
undesirable as a means of getting to the hospital. In
Paramaribo, taking a taxi is the most common way women get to
the hospital. Those who live outside of Paramaribo District
tend to avoid taking a taxi if they can help it, since it can
192

almost double the price of a delivery--depending on where a
woman lives. In outlying areas, such as Uitkijk, women will
make arrangements well in advance of delivery with a neighbor
or friend who owns a car to get them to the hospital.
Whether near or far from the hospital, having access to an
automobile is crucial to getting to the hospital on time.
Recent difficulties in the hard currency situation for
Suriname has influenced imports of tires, car parts and new
cars; this in turn restricts the ability to get
transportation when it is needed. Most women (and men as
well) try to keep on good terms with a taxi driver or a
private owner of a car. Taxi drivers will then charge less
money and others would be more likely to give a ride when it
was really needed.
The Marienberg clinic across the Suriname river, will
often deliver babies from Meerzorg, Nieuw Amsterdam, and the
surrounding regions, but during the day they will frequently
send patients over the river to Paramaribo in boats. The
midwives at s'Lands complain about this practice but the
clinic midwife said that the parturient women went for check¬
ups at s'Lands and since their records are there it is best
if they deliver there as well.11
Although women plan ahead and make all of the
necessary arrangements to get to the hospital when they need
to deliver, a number of infants are born in route to the
hospital (especially from the rural districts), at home, or
occasionally on the street. While doing my fieldwork, a
193

woman down the street delivered the baby of a woman just
passing her store. The parturient woman was brought into the
shop and a man that lived above the shop helped while they
delivered the baby. The forty year old shop tender said that
it was the third baby she had delivered in her store. Less
than 1% of all women recovering at the hospital had delivered
their babies before they came to the hospital, but there may
be women who deliver in route and then return home to
recover.
Labor
The first sign that delivery is imminent is the
establishment of uterine contractions. These contractions
are called weeén in Dutch (related to the English word "woe")
or pen "pain" in Sranantongo. When labor pains begin it is
considered time to go to the hospital. Women are aware that
the pains come closer together and last longer as the
delivery approaches, but they rarely time them as an
indication of when they should go to the hospital.
Surinamers do not see home as the place to labor and the
hospital as the place to deliver; they see the hospital as
the place where labor and delivery take place.
Labor pains are generally viewed in ambivalent terms.
The hospital does not administer any drug to counteract pain
during deliveries but when Hindustani or Javanese women are
questioned about what the midwives do to help ease the pain
they will often describe activities performed to deliver the
194

baby. Creole women will, with regularity, insist that
nothing is done to ease the pains of giving birth. On the
other hand strong labor pains are viewed as a positive sign
that labor is progressing and some women imbibe herbal teas
to increase the frequency of the pains. More painful
contractions are also associated with having a girl. While
admiring a newborn girl, a mother would occasionally respond
"I knew it was going to be a girl because it hurt so much".
It is almost viewed as a reward for a painful delivery since
baby girls are the sex of preference (discussed below).
When a woman gets to the hospital she has to check-in
and indicate method of payment. Family members frequently
take care of the arrangements for payment while a woman is in
the hospital if this had not been done beforehand. Women are
very rarely sent home if they have come to the hospital in
the early stages of labor. Instead they will stay in the
hospital to labor (possibly because of traveling times and
uncertainty regarding transportation).
Rupture of the Amniotic Membranes
If a woman arrives at the hospital to deliver and her
amniotic membranes have already ruptured, a large
verwaarlosed ("neglected") is stamped in blue ink across her
records. If her membranes are still intact, as most are,
then they are left alone during the delivery and they are not
broken to speed up the process. It is significant that the
Javanese and Hindustani women are more likely to live outside
195

196
of the city in agricultural districts and have a longer way
to travel than Creole women do, and yet Javanese women are
less likely to have ruptured membranes when they arrive at
the hospital (see table 22).
Frequency of
Table 22
Water Breakina
Before Admission
Water Broken
Water Not
Broken
Creole (n=82)
5 (6%)
77
(94%)
Hindustani (n=112)
9 (8%)
103
(92%)
Javanese (n=43)
0 (0%)
43
(100%)
Maroon (n=78)
2 (3%)
76
(98%)
Source: s'Lands Hospitaal Delivery
Records January,
1991.
Labor in the Hospital
Although labor for most women begins before they
arrive at the hospital, many of them go through their labor
on the second floor of s' Lands. Laboring women may walk
around the hallways or sit around in chairs while waiting to
go into the delivery area. They are brought into the
delivery area when their cervix has dilated five centimeters.
This is not always a precise measurement. Occasionally a
woman is checked by a midwife and assigned to a bed only to
be checked later by another midwife and told she has only
dilated three centimeters. A midwife will be jokingly chided
that her fingers are too fat and that is why she measured
wrong (this brings something like the response "I spent my
childhood planting cassava and bananas, what,s your excuse"

197
and it continues from there). Once a woman has reached five
centimeters she is generally in the delivery room until the
baby is born.
There are six beds in the delivery room. Each one is
sectioned off on the sides by thin partitions about seven
feet high (the ceiling is 10-12 feet high) and a plastic
curtain that can be drawn over the front for privacy. (This
generally is at least partially drawn). Two of the six beds
are off to the right of the others each little room has a
door that can be closed. These two rooms also have air
conditioning. These are the "class A" birthing rooms. A
"class A" birth can cost three times as much as a "class B"
birth. A "class A" birth allows a woman a little more
comfort during the birth and more privacy during recovery.
Out of the 341 women who delivered in January, 1991, only one
woman had a "class A" delivery. She was a Chinese woman who
had delivered her first child in the United States. The
"class A" rooms are not always kept empty though. Women are
regularly put into these rooms even when there is an
occasional bed empty in the "class B" section. On busy days,
however, all of the beds are filled and since there are
usually more than 10 births a day in the delivery room
several beds are used at least twice a day for deliveries.
When asked how they responded during labor, women
generally replied that they were afraid to cry out or make a
noise but most will add that it hurt so bad they could not
help themselves. A popular method of dealing with the pain

198
is to shake the hand with the index and middle finger
extended so that they make a snapping noise. This action
does not have a specific name but all Creole women agree that
it means "I am in pain". Women will also cry out various
extended vowel sounds in response to pain. The midwives who
are almost all Creole (except for the supervisor who is
Javanese) will continue to tell women crying from pain to be
quiet.12 These midwives will tell them they should be like
the woman in the next bed who is not making a sound. The
woman not making a sound is generally Javanese. They will go
through the labor quietly and only call the midwife when they
think they are about to deliver. Watching them clutch their
bedding with their hands at regular intervals and then
release it after a minute or so indicates that they do feel
pains although later they will often insist it was not very
painful at all. Creole women feel that crying out is an
appropriate response to pain and even one of the midwives who
recently delivered her own child replied that it was natural
she cried out since it hurt. She joined in with the others,
though, in asking the parturient women to be quiet, be like
the "others," or quit giving the midwives a headache.
Hindustani women would occasionally cry out, and would say
that they were ashamed to do so, just like the Creole women.
The Maroons were on the other end of the spectrum. They
would continue to yell loudly, I frequently saw them "fall"
out of bed and roll around on the floor. Midwives at other
hospitals said they responded in the same way at their

199
institutions. Some midwives who delivered in the interior
said that in their own villages Maroon women were much more
passive during delivery while others disputed this. The
response of Maroon women during delivery could be the result
of delivering in the hospital setting in contrast to the more
informal setting found in the interior. The midwives would
tell these women to get back in bed since the floor was
dirty. Creole women were usually much more sympathetic to
and similar to the Maroon style of birthing than they were to
the Javanese style of birthing.
While laboring, women were generally instructed to lay
on their right or left side after being admitted into the
delivery room and rolling over to the other side every 15
minutes or so. Laying on one's side is considered essential
if the delivery is to progress normally. (I interviewed a
retired midwife who claimed credit for this discovery. She
said she had never read it in any of the textbooks she had
seen). Creole women generally spend their labor in bed,
unlike the Maroon women who get out of bed frequently and
just stand or walk down the hall to take a shower. Some
women open packets of food brought with them and eat as a way
to pass the time. The hospital only served food to women
after they delivered. Sometimes they ate in the delivery
room; and sometimes they waited until they had gone into the
recovery room before eating.
While a woman is going through labor, the midwives
fill out her delivery records.13 The midwife will call out

loudly a woman's name and then ask her a question. The
parturient woman will yell the answer or ask back "What
200
sister?" If there is no response then the midwife asks "Are
you listening?" Some of the information used in filling out
the forms is derived from a "family book" that each woman is
required to bring to the delivery. The midwives say the
reason these books need to be brought to the delivery is to
determine marriage. This is in response to the occasional
practice of Hindustani women who will come to deliver a child
and give as the name of the father someone who was not their
husband. This man and his wife are generally a childless
couple who take this baby after the birth. I saw two women
attempt to do this during my period of observation. (The
midwives insisted they needed to put down the legal husband
of a woman as the father of the child even though these women
both said that another man had fathered the child and that
their husbands knew about the relationship with the other man
and said the other man should take the child since it was
his) .
While a woman is delivering she is often asked if she
knows how delivery will take place. This is not a rhetorical
question for Creole women. Their mothers are generally as
reluctant to tell them about birth as they had been to
discuss menstruation. One woman, who now has a Ph.D. in a
Social Science and two healthy teenage daughters, recalled
her first birth with humor. During her labor she told the
midwives that the pains felt intense and she was sure the

201
baby was about to come. She wanted the midwives to come and
cut her open to take the baby out—not knowing how the baby
would be delivered. The nurse then explained how births took
place. Her story was not unusual since I watched midwives
explain to other young women in labor how births take place.
Part of the explanation included instructions that they would
feel the urge to defecate and should then call the midwife
since that meant the baby was about to come. The groans of
laboring women were punctuated by the occasional cry of
Zuster, ik moet poepen or Zuster, ik poep ("Sister, I need
to poop"). After these cries a midwife goes to check the
parturient woman to see if the cervix has dilated (it usually
has not and a woman is told to wait and not push).
Not every woman who comes to deliver is naive about
how the delivery proceed. Multiparous women have had
experience with a previous delivery. This group makes up 69%
of those who deliver and 63% of the Creole women who deliver
at the hospital (see table 23).
The fetal heart rate is monitored by the midwives with
a long wooden funnel stethoscope. The midwife will push the
stethoscope firmly against the abdomen and listen intently to
see if the heart rate is beating too slow. This usually
happens once shortly before delivery occurs.

202
Table 23
Number of Previous Deliveries
by Ethnic Group
Creole
Hindustani
Javanese
Maroon
Number of
(n=82)
(n=112)
(n=43)
(n=
80)
Deliveries
0
30 (37%)
36 (32%)
16 (37%)
23
(29%)
1
18 (22%)
32 (29%)
18 (42%)
13
(16%)
2
15 (18%)
24 (21%)
4 (9%)
11
(14%)
3
9 (11%)
8 (7%)
3 (7%)
10
(13%)
4
4 (5%)
7 (6%)
1 (2%)
5
(6%)
5
3 (4%)
3 (3%)
1 (2%)
4
(5%)
6
1 (1%)
0
0
9
(11%)
7
2 (2%)
1 d%)
0
1
(1%)
8
0
1 d%)
0
1
(1%)
9
0
0
0
3
(4%)
Source: Delivery Records January, 1991.
Delivery
Naturally there is a great deal of individual
variation in the events surrounding the delivery of each
child just as there is for all of the events surrounding
childbirth. But the variation in behavior and response
surrounding delivery seems generally to be individual
variation. There are no apparent responses to delivery that
could be characterized as a typical "Creole" response besides
those mentioned for labor in general.
Delivery for some is a very quiet event. Although
women generally lay on their sides during labor they will be
on their back for the delivery. They are told to grab onto
their thighs and push. Women who have delivered in Guyana
will occasionally have discussions about how they should hold
their legs since in Guyana they are told to hold their ankles

203
during the delivery. The midwife will stand to the side of
the delivering woman and quietly encourage the woman to push.
This may be repeated a couple of times while the midwife
holds her hand over the perineum as if to keep the baby from
propelling across the room. The head crowns, then delivers,
and turns to the side as the body is delivered. The nasal
passage is often aspirated before the body is delivered.
At other times the delivery is not so quiet an event.
Several midwives (up to six) will surround the woman and they
generally give words of support. One midwife will hold each
thigh and another one will help a woman push her upper body
towards her thighs. There is often a chorus of "push!",
"push!", "push!". This seems to build as the delivery
progresses. These births end with sighs of relief by the
midwives and hearty congratulations or a "you did it" are
offered to the woman.
For the very rare occasion where a delivery has gone
on too long (which is viewed as over 24 hours) or some other
problem seems evident, the doctors are called in. These are
never quiet or uneventful occasions. One midwife will get
the large vacuum suction device that is used to pull the
child out, other midwives surround the woman and give her
comfort and encouragement, the doctor comes in, generally
gives an episiotomy as standard procedure, and inserts the
vacuum hose on the infant's head. He then begins to assist
the child out through the birth canal.

204
Although the responses of individual women may vary,
there are some specific physical outcomes that follow general
trends. Those ethnic groups who have historically been urban
residents tend to experience similar birth trauma (see table
24) .
Table 24
Condition of Perineum by Ethnic Group
Condition
Creole
Hi
ndustani
Javanese
Maroon
(n
= 65)
(n
= 93)
(n
=35)
(n
=62)
Intact, Whole
43
(66%)
56
(60%)
20
(57%)
51
(82%)
Slight Tears
3
(5%)
6
(7%)
5
(14%)
0
Episiotomy
3
(5%)
7
(8%)
3
(9%)
2
(3%)
1st degree rupture
5
(8%)
8
(9%)
3
(9%)
3
(5%)
2nd degree rupture
9
(14%)
14
(15%)
4
(11%)
4
(7%)
3rd degree rupture
0
0
0
1
(2%)
Episiotomy/rupture
0
0
0
1
(2%)
Subtotal rupture
2
(3%)
1
(1%)
0
0
Total rupture
0
1
(1%)
0
0
Source: s'Lands Hospitaal Delivery Records January, 1991.
Although I never observed a Caesarian section performed, the
one time a woman was taken from the delivery room to surgery
where a section would be performed the event was surrounded
with a lot of commotion. The woman, born in 1952, was
delivering her first child. Because of this the midwives
said it was a "kostbaar kind" ("valuable" or "expensive
child"). But it had also been determined that she had
toxemia (preeclampsia). In January 1991 only one woman (a
Maroon woman) was given a C-section (an average considerably

205
lower than 1% of all births starting in the delivery room end
in Caesarian sections).14
Family Support During Delivery
There is a bench outside of the delivery room that
generally has a few anxious people waiting to hear about a
birth. These are usually family members of Hindustani women.
Several times during observations the mother of a Hindustani
woman in labor was by her side for most of the labor. Some
mothers would have alcolade for the daughter to smell for
nausea. They all would touch their daughter, generally on
the arm, back or other part of the upper torso. These
mothers left the room for the actual births. Two Hindustani
husbands came in to visit their wives, bring food, and give
encouragement. They also left when the births took place.
One Maroon husband came in when his wife was in labor
and brought her some food and sat by her for a while. The
only Creole to come into the delivery room was the neighbor
of a Hindustani woman. There was some debate as to whether
she should be allowed in since she was not actually family
but eventually she was let in to visit for a few minutes.
Although Creole family members are rarely seen outside
waiting on the bench occasionally they come to the hospital
to wait. Several women mentioned coming to the delivery as a
way the child's father contributed to the pregnancy. The
general lack of Creole family members at the hospital does
not mean they are not concerned about the woman and the

206
outcome of her birth. Most wait intently at home for news of
the woman and her birth. The midwives are frequently asked
to call family after the birth and inform family about the
event. The sex of the baby is usually reported as well as
weight and the time of birth. During the birth a family
member may feel pains, nausea, or other "symptoms" of
birthing. It is generally the father of the child who feels
birth pains. When this happens the family will say that he
"helps" (yepi) her. Creole informants reported that a
husband who "helps" his wife through delivery is generally
one who is supportive of her and has a close relationship
with her.15 This is also a way to assert paternity since a
man who experiences pains during the delivery and who is not
a family member is generally considered the father of the
child.
Special Births
The circumstances surrounding a birth may indicate the
special nature of a child. For example, if a child is born
with a covering of the amniotic sac over its head this caul
indicates that a child will have special clairvoyant powers
and be able to see spirits and other things outside of the
average person's abilities. A set of twins is believed to be
endowed with similar spiritual powers. A person born after
twins is called a dosu (which also means "placenta"). A dosu
is particularly gifted with spiritual abilities.

207
Age of Mother at Delivery
Creole women are on the average slightly older than
others who deliver at the hospital, with an average age of
25.51 years (see table 25). This is partly due to the fact
that Creole women are more reluctant to undergo sterilization
and so have a longer reproductive period. Many of the Maroon
women who delivered were older with very large families but
there were also many young Maroon women delivering their
first child.
Table
25
Average Age of Mother at Delivery
bv Ethnic
Group16
Creole
Hindustani
Javanese
Maroon
x=25.51
years x=24.86 years
x=24.33 years
x=24.02
years
s=5.05
years s=4.70 years
s=5.60 years
s=6.2 6
years
Source
: s'Lands Hospitaal Delivery Records
January,
1991.
E.av of Delivery
The day of delivery has spiritual importance. Each
person has a kra which is their life force. This kra is
called by name during healing events and other rituals and
the name is determined by the day of the week on which a
person was born (see table 26). When the kra hears its name
called it will respond. Akuba is likely to be the most
common kra name for women born at s'Lands Hospitaal.17

208
Table 26
Kra Names
Day of Birth
Female Name
Male Name
Sunday
Kwasiba
Kwa s i
Monday
Adyuba
Kodyo
Tuesday
Abeni
Kwamina
Wednesday
Akuba
Kwaku
Thursday
Yaba
Yaw
Friday
Afi
Kofi |
Saturday
Amba
Kwami ;
The Afterbirth
After the birth is completed the umbilical cord is cut
and tied with a string. The baby is laid on the bed usually
between the mother's legs. The midwives like to ask the
mother if she wanted a girl or a boy before they tell her the
child's sex. Invariably a Hindustani mother replies she
wants a boy while a Creole mother replies she wants a girl.
Price (1984) points out that having girls is important to
Saramaccan women also. But if one looks at Maroon women as a
whole, they are less likely to be disappointed than Creole
women since they deliver 59% females to the Creole rate of
38% (see table 27). The mother will usually lay on her back
to rest while the midwife gently tugs on the umbilical cord.
Then, when it is clear the placenta has separated from the
uterine wall, the woman is told to push again and the
placenta is delivered. The placenta is checked to see that
pieces have not broken off and then put in a bucket to be

209
thrown away. Javanese women will generally bring a plastic
bucket to carry their placenta home with them where it is
ritually buried, but Creole women are no longer concerned
about this even though historically they would bury the
placenta.18 For the Creole burial of animal placentas is
still important since they believe that if the animal eats
the placenta it will not bear any more young.19
After a woman delivers the placenta attention turns to
the baby. It is picked up from were it was laid down and
held up for the woman to see (if she asks to see it). The
baby is then taken over to a large stainless steel sink and
washed off under running water. Gauze is wrapped around the
umbilicus stump and around the entire abdomen. Ideally the
baby is then given a diaper and dressed in a bright orange
gown. Since there is a shortage of diapers the gown
occasionally serves the purpose, or the baby will wait until
a diaper is found. Babies are then placed in a "crib" (i.e.
a weeg) which is three separate slots partitioned by boards.
Sometimes a baby may be left on a bed for up to an hour
before it is put in the crib since the midwives are generally
very busy.20 After delivery arrangements are made for a bed
in the recovery area. Generally a woman is taken in the
recovery area in a wheel chair although some women get up and
walk into the recovery area.

210
Table 27
Sex of Child Born by Ethnic Group21
Male
Female
Creole Hindustani Javanese
(n=81) (n=lll) (n=43)
50 (62%) 58 (52%) 18 (42%)
31 (38%) 53 (48%) 25 (58%)
Maroon
(n=80)
33 (41%)
47 (59%)
Source:
s'Lands Hospitaal Delivery Records
1991.
January,
Variation in Birth Weight
After the newborn is washed, and before it is dressed,
it is measured and weighed. The number of low birth weight
infants is 17% of all births (see table 28 and table 29).
After this is done the mother is taken into the recovery room
along with the baby and the postpartum period begins.
Table 28
Average ..Infant Weight in Grams
i by Ethnic Group
Creole
Hindustani Javanese
Maroon
(n=80)
(n=112) (n=43)
(n=78)
x=3,059
x=2,899 x=3,029
x=2,914
s=582
s=4 62 s=427
s=441
Source: s'Lands
1991.
Hospitaal Delivery Records
January,

211
Table 29
Number of Low Birth Weight (<2f500 grams)
and High Birth Weights 04,000 grams) bv Ethnic Group
Creole
Hindustani
Javanese
Maroon
Low Birth
(n=80)
(n=112)
(n=43)
(n=78)
Weights
13 (17%)
21 (19%)
5 (12%)
15 (19%
High Birth
Weights
2 (3%)
0
0
1 (1%)
Source: s'Lands Hospitaal Delivery Records January,
1991.
Summary
Most of the births in Suriname take place in s'Lands
Hospitaal where observations were made. Most Creole women
are either classified as onvermogen and the government pays
for the birth or they are in a consensual union with a man
who works for the government and the birth is paid for by
state insurance. During the birth Creole men do not come
into the delivery room and rarely wait outside with the
family; but they may be at home experiencing "pains" that
"help" a woman through the delivery. If a man experiences
this it strengthens the belief that he is the child's father
and it strengthens a woman's claim on his support for the
child.
1This ceremony, given to Javanese women, emphasizes the ease of the
delivery and reinforces the fathers role in the process. A coconut is
rolled off the gravid abdomen down through a woman's partially spread
legs and caught by the father. The coconut is then cut with a machete.
A straight cut that divides both halves equally indicates a girl will be
born and a cut to one side indicates a boy will be born. One Javanese
woman that had delivered three boys felt that, although this method may
not work for everyone, or every time, it had predicted all three of her

212
sons. After the ceremony a juice is drunk made with seven different
ingredients.
2The calabash is cut in half and a bowl formed. A calabash
approximately one pint in size is used (500 cc's) and a handful of dried
leaves from the finibita (Phyllanthus amarus from the Genus
Euphorbiaceae) plant is used.
3The intent of this question was essentially to determine whether or not
women miss a menstrual period regularly, which will make the
determination of their due date less valid. However, since the midwives
ask if their menstrual cycle is "normal" rather than regular, and they
do not define what "normal" is, the results of this question really
indicate how women feel their menstrual cycle compares to that of other
women.
4There were no consistent norms on which to base normal or abnormal
menstrual cycles. These are just figures based on the views that women
themselves had of their own menstrual cycles. It could be that Maroon
women just recognize a greater diversity in menstrual cycles and hence
consider all cycles normal while the Creole women have a specific
pattern in mind that they do not fit. In the rain forest Maroon women
separate themselves in the menstrual hut during menstruation and could
therefore be more aware of the diversity in cycles than are other ethnic
groups. It is also noteworthy that they have greater variation in the
number of days their cycle lasts than do other women in the sample and
yet they were more likely to consider their menstrual cycle "normal."
5I do not have specific rates for deliveries at the private hospitals
but they are reported as being significantly higher.
6Although relatively few women work while pregnant, only a small handful
of employers give maternity leave (Engkaar 1989)
7Although I have seen a record of the exact number of births per year at
the hospital, I neglected to transcribe it. The number of births for
January, 1991 was 341 and so extended to a year it would be
approximately 4,092 births per year at the hospital. National birth
records are only available up until 1987 but the trend has been a
declining total number of births. If this trend has continued then more
than 42% of all deliveries in the entire country would have been done at
s'Lands Hospitaal.
®"Hot house" was the term used for hospitals in Jamaica during slavery
as well (Dirks 1987). It is a descriptive term for the place where sick
slaves were taken to be nurtured. Other slaves with healing knowledge
were frequently sought out to oversee the healing and African healing
knowledge frequently had high status even among the European population
(Craton 1976).
9The hospital follows the Dutch pattern of not referring to the ground
floor in counting numbers of levels. They refer to the delivery area as
the first floor. I have used the American pattern here for clarity.

213
10Observations were made one day while waiting for a ride and of the
first 100 cars that drove by only one was driven by an Asian women. The
rest were driven by men.
uThe midwives "in the districts" (i.e. not in Paramaribo) complain that
they are the one's that do most of the deliveries and the doctors over
the districts take a large fee out for every delivery done. The
midwives say that if the delivery is at night, the doctor is more likely
to have them take care of the delivery too.
12The four gynecologists (who occasionally deliver in difficult births)
are all Hindustani or Chinese and the women in charge of the recovery
section are both Hindustani. Most of the nurses aids are Creole. There
is a distinct difference in professions at the hospital based on both
gender and ethnicity.
13These are the records used in my sample of all births in January,
1991.
l^This number represents only those women who came in to have a vaginal
delivery. Those who have scheduled a C-section in advance follow a
different process. It should be noted here that there is evidently a
very high maternal death rate during delivery in Suriname. Dr. Ashok
Mungra is currently examining the issue and preliminary findings are
that Suriname has a maternal death rate of 8 per 1,000 deliveries. I
never saw a death during my observations and there were no deaths in my
January, 1991 sample, although I saw some in records for other months.
It is noteworthy that these doctors and nurses work with very little
equipment, limited space and a lack of other resources.
15The couvade, as practiced among the Native Americans in Suriname, has
received some attention in anthropological works on specific groups.
Krumeich (1989) recently has argued that the couvade ritual may not
exist among the Carib but she gives little justification for this and it
may be that the practice has declined as a result of industrialization
(Paige and Paige's [1981] explanation that the couvade is a
reinforcement of male fraternal organization control over children may
explain this trend and is directly relevant to Creole "helping" and a
way of asserting paternity). Native American tradition may have
influenced Creole practices in this area.
16These figures were determined by using a program that used the
mother's birthdate and the child's birthdate to determine the mother's
age in days. These figures were divided by 365 to give years (leap
years were ignored).
17 In a sample of 1,184 births at the hospital there is a marked rise in
births on Wednesdays and a marked fall on Sundays, although no attempt
is made to explain why this is the case it does indicate that some birth
names will be more common than others for those born at the hospital.
18Buschkens gives a description of earlier practices surrounding the
care of the placenta. He states:
The umbilical cord and placenta are rolled up in a newspaper
and later buried near the house in a special pit, usually
behind the privy. It is believed that if this is not done
the child may become feeble-minded. The new mother, or the

214
female relatives present, subject the navelstring [umbilical
cord] to a close scrutiny, as the number of "knots" in it is
supposed to foretell the number of other children to which
the woman will give birth, as was mentioned above. There is
also a belief that the deeper the pit in which the
navelstring [umbilical cord] and placenta are buried, the
longer it will be before the woman has another child. So as
to make sure she will have more children a woman may in some
cases desire the navelstring [umbilical cord] to be buried
on top of the placenta, with a coin placed on top of it or
some salt scattered over it. The burial usually takes place
with the assistance of the midwife. These customs in
connection with the afterbirth are still so much alive as to
cause some women who have had hospital deliveries to ask to
be given the navelstring [umbilical cord] and placenta to
take home in order to be buried there. (Buschkens 1975:236)
(Although this may be the case I never observed a Creole woman ask to
take her placenta home while I did see Javanese women ask for the
placenta. The midwives said that women occasionally asked to take the
placenta home but they could not recall the ethnicity of these women).
19I once went hastily with an informant to see his cow after news came
that it had calved. The placenta was gone by the time we had arrived
but he said that other animals had probably come and taken it away and
so he was not worried that his cow had eaten it.
20I had intended on watching the mother's eye contact and first
interaction with the infant for a cross-cultural comparison to
Trevethan's (1981, 1982, 1983, 1987) work. Since this often took place
hours later and the time was unpredictable, the observations could not
be made.
2•'■Differences in sex ratios between the Creole and Maroon population may
be due to the "Australian antigen" associated with hepatitis B (Blumberg
1972, Blumberg, et al. 1972).

CHAPTER 9
MATERNAL POSTPARTUM RECOVERY
AND INFANT EXTEROGESTATION
Postpartum Recovery
The period after the birth is a time of recovery for
the mother and a critical period of development for the
infant. It has been termed a period of "exterogestation" by
Montagu (1961), Gould (1977), and Trevethan (1987).1 For the
"exterogestation" period the infant is called watra pikin in
Sranantongo a term used for the first 6-7 months of life.
Watra pikin literally means "water child" and refers to the
nursing period but is more narrowly defined since babies will
*
nurse beyond the watra pikin stage and just refers to the
period of time when infants historically were solely nursed
without food supplements. A watra pikin is considered very
vulnerable, tender, and in need of a great deal of care.
The Hospital Period
For approximately the first hour after the birth of an
infant the mother rests in the same bed in which delivery
took place while the midwife cleans the infant and places it
in a separate area while she completes her records. Then the
mother is moved into the recovery room where approximately
ten other women are also recovering from delivery. Women
215

216
bring a small bag or basket with them to the hospital, this
generally has a comb and a dress in it. (Women generally
sleep in a simple dress while in the hospital. Some women,
generally Hindustani women, bring night gowns to wear).
There are often other things in the bag as well, such as a
mirror or sometimes food. Meals provided by the hospital are
brought already dished on plates three times a day and women
eat at a table in the center of the room. The diet is
generally rice and beans, with the occasional addition of
meat. Many of the women spend most of their waking hours on
the balcony watching people pass below. Those who had
traumatic births will often spend most of their time in bed
and only get out to eat or bathe. There are two hours in the
morning and two hours in the evening when visiting is
allowed. It is common for women to go into their beds and
lay down while family members come around the bed to visit
during these periods. Some women will stay on the bench
outside and family (almost always an older woman—likely the
parturient's mother) will sit next to her. The newborns are
generally kept in bassinets covered with mosquito netting
gathered near the back entrance. They sleep most of the time
and are left alone unless they cry. The diapers are provided
for the babies while in the hospital but mothers are supposed
to bring their own diapers for the baby to wear home. Many
can not afford diapers and some manage to take a diaper home
from the hospital. This diaper is often used when the baby

217
is taken out on the town. The practice has led to a chronic
shortage of diapers at the hospital.
The hospital staff requires new mothers to breastfeed
their babies while they are in the hospital. Nursing
assistants will bring the babies to their mothers to feed and
then return them to the bassinets. Occasionally a woman will
keep the bassinet by her bed but this usually only happens
during visiting hours. Women are also more likely to hold
the baby during visiting hours when family is present. The
practice of returning to their beds and more frequent holding
of the baby by a new mother seems to imply there is an
expected recovering mother role. They perform this role in
front of other family members, but when the family is not
around it is less important.
Women rarely hold their babies while in the hospital
and almost never for any length of time during the first
hours after delivery. Mothers generally will hold their
babies only when they are feeding the newborns. All of the
mothers in postpartum interviews said that they planned on
combining breastfeeding with bottle feeding when they took
the baby home. The hospital staff generally encourages
breastfeeding but women are resistant to it. The most common
reason was that they did not want large sagging breasts.
Views on nursing women are reinforced by stories told of
Maroon women. Some of these stories border on the ludicrous
such as women having "milk fights" with their breast milk.

218
Other discussions that focus on the large, pendulous breasts
of Maroon women are based in fact but exaggerated.
Many of the older Creole women did breastfeed their
children and younger women frequently will attempt to
breastfeed for a couple of months but not much longer. It
appears that an important influence on the reluctance to
breastfeed is the fact that the grandmother is often
responsible, in part, for the care of the infant. It is
typically the grandmother who carries the baby out of the
hospital as the mother and daughter check out. Although the
father may occasionally visit at the hospital, he is rarely
involved in the care of the newborn and may not even have
contact with the mother or child during the recovery period.
Recovery at Home
New mothers rarely stay in the hospital for long.
Check-out time is 10:00 am each morning. There are four
categories of recovery in which women can be classified.
Women who spend the shortest possible time in the hospital
are those who must pay for their own delivery and will check
out the morning after regardless of what time the baby was
delivered. This reduces their expenses for the birth. The
second category consists of women who only pay for part of
the delivery. They are still motivated to leave early to cut
down costs. The third category of women are those who are
entirely covered by the state or insurance. Then tend to
remain for a 24 hour recovery period but they are encouraged

219
to leave after this time to free up beds for others. Only
those who have had extremely traumatic births will generally
stay in the hospital for more than two days.
Ritual Cleansing Baths
As women leave the hospital those who have had
stitches are told not to get the perineal region wet for
several weeks. The nurses say they tell the women this since
they know that most Suriname women will undergo a ritual
cleansing bath when they get home. Although this bath
originated with the Creole women, it is currently used by
many Surinamers in all ethnic groups. Most of the midwives
also approve of the practice as necessary to clean out all
that is "dirty" in a woman after her delivery.
When Creole women are asked about childbirth every one
of them will discuss the postpartum cleaning period as a
central theme of the childbirth process. As soon as a woman
comes home from the hospital and enters the house there are
important things that need to be done. She will get a tub or
large basin and fill it with hot water. Older women will say
that this tub has to be made of wood, preferably the cut off
section of an old barrel from the waterfront market. Younger
women say that a plastic container is acceptable if you
cannot find a wood container. Two wooden sticks are placed
on top of the tub running parallel as support for a woman to
sit on during the cleaning. Water is heated and lime leaves
are put into the water. The hot water is poured into the tub

220
and a woman sits on the sticks while the steam rises up to
her. She has taken all her clothes off and covers herself
with a blanket so that her entire body steams. The woman's
mother, brother, or other close relative will help steady her
over the tub and keep hot water in it to steam her. After
sitting over the tub for about an hour, the woman's body is
massaged with the herbal water. There is particular
concentration on her breasts to bring in her milk.2 A towel
is dipped into the water and wrung out then it is put on
different areas of the body. After this a white piece of
muslin about ten feet long and two feet wide is wrapped
tightly around the woman's abdomen. She is bound every day
during the recovery period.3 The cleansing and binding is
done twice a day as the sun comes up and as the sun goes down
(mofo dey "mouth of the day" and mofo neti "mouth of the
night").
For the first week postpartum the only thing boiled in
the water is lime leaves. After the first week a mixture of
dyara kopi (Siparuna guianensis), busanansi wiwiri (hairs
from a tarantula), and masusa wiwiri (Renealmia exaltata) is
put into the water and a woman washes twice a day with these
for three months. Only when a woman has completed this
process can she have intercourse with her husband again.
While a woman undergoes this cleansing process she
will drink herbal brews intended to clean out her
reproductive system. The brew is made of fini bita
(Phyllanthus amarus), luango titey (Aristolochia macrota),

221
and pedreku (Xylopia) .4 A little anise seed and salt are
added for flavoring. During the postpartum period this
mixture is drunk every morning, midday, and evening. When a
woman drinks this mixture she is supposed to hold her breasts
up so that the brew will not flow into her breasts since it
is considered bad for the baby and will give the baby stiff
or hard bones. Women undergo this process to make themselves
"pure" and "strong" inside. They say that a man does not
want a woman that is not "strong" (tranga) inside but it is
also good for the woman since she will take care of herself
better. Being "strong" refers in this case to sexual
relations. Women say that dyara kopi will make the vagina
"close like a flower" and it will become like that of a
"young woman." Some women undergo this process fairly
regularly as they mature.
A woman becomes "pure" (kaseri) as the postpartum
bleeding stops. The bitters (finí bita, luango titey) are
specifically intended to aid in this process. (The pedreku
is taken for cramping and is frequently used by women during
menstrual periods as well). The bitters are believed to "dry
up" the flow of blood. Some older women also put a folded
piece of newspaper soaked in rum up into the birth canal but
none of the younger women seem to do this. This practice is
also intended to help clean a woman inside. The postpartum
flow of blood is seen as dirty and is connected with the same
beliefs surrounding menstruation.

222
Dirty (doti) is seen as the opposite of clean (krin)
in more than a strictly hygienic sense. A person who
practices "clean living" (krinlibi) is one who is active in a
Christian denomination and adheres to it's dogmas. It also
includes living the principles discussed under character.
Having a clean body is also connected to the idea of a clean
life. Bathing is part of many of the healing strategies used
by a bonuman when treating a person. Things such as fleas
that are associated with uncleanliness are also associated
with illness. Body odor is also disdained. Florida water is
put on after intense dancing at a Winti ceremony to mask some
of the perspiration scent. The water is also used in ritual
baths and is poured over a persons head to help Cleary them
from evil.5
The herbs used for postpartum treatment have a
pleasant smell for many women. They say they know that a
woman has recently had a baby if they smell these herbs as
the woman walks by them on the street. The smells will
occasionally lead women to begin discussing their own
deliveries and recoveries.
Historically women would remain inside the house with
their child for about a month (until they stopped bleeding
and have recovered from the delivery). Now women are much
less concerned about staying in and will often go out within
days of the delivery.

223
Introducing the Child to its World
Although most Creole do not bother to take the newborn
child out and introduce it to the world, some of those in
rural areas still do this. Generally the baby's father will
take him or her out into the yard. The father will hold the
child out in both hands as he walks around and introduce the
child to the important plants around the house. The father
may even tell the newborn a little about each plant.
At this same time leaves from the alata tere ("rats
tail") are boiled and the baby is given a little of the broth
to drink.6 This is done to get rid of "infections and dirt"
inside the baby. The baby is also given a cleansing bath in
the remaining water. This is done as often as it is felt
necessary. If a baby develops diaper rash then the thick
white liquid of the merki wiwiri plant is rubbed on the
afflicted area.
Preparation for Walking
Along with introducing the child to its surroundings,
emphasis is placed on walking. Some parents will stroke the
bottom of the babies feet with a brush made of rice paddy
tied in a round bundle. Most parents will just put the
infants feet down in the grass and drag her or him along a
little ways in order to have the grass brush along the bottom
of the baby's feet. This is done in order to teach the child
about walking.

224
It is important that a child begin to walk before its
first birthday. Parents will often spank their child if it
has not walked by then. They cite as evidence that the
spanking works the fact that their children will walk shortly
after this is done.
Protection from the Evil Eye and Other Harm
Infants are considered especially vulnerable to the
"evil eye" (ogri aye). The evil eye is expressed in general
listlessness or unresponsiveness in an infant. It comes from
others looking at the baby. It is not necessarily evil
intent in a gaze as much as jealousy and envy from admirers
because the baby is so attractive. When infants are taken
out on the streets they are generally wrapped in a blanket
and their head is covered in a knitted cap despite the
beating of a hot tropical sun. This protects the child from
the gaze of others. As added protection, laundry bluing, is
used to wash the baby and a protective streak of bluing is
put across the navel and behind the ears while a dot of
bluing is put on the forehead. This practice is not unique
to the Creole and many infants from the most populous ethnic
groups in the city carry a blue dot on their forehead
Children are also protected from harm by tapu or
charms that may be worn about the neck or waist and sometimes
under the arm. Other tapu are put in bottles. Some of these
are hung from the rafters of the house and others can be seen
sticking partway out of the ground where they were buried in

225
the yard. These tapu are especially important if a child is
taken to the markets. The markets are considered full of
spirits and other metaphysical beings that are being used by
different individuals to sell their wares. One woman who has
become very well off selling ginger beer in the market place
(a spicy drink made of ginger root), is reputed to have an
especially powerful bakru working for her to get people to
buy her drink. These and other beings may harm children
since because of their youth children are especially
succeptible to the spirit world. If a child wears a tapu the
charm can help protect against these harmful influences.
When a child is first brought home from the hospital,
it may have a little congestion and make a rasping noise when
it breaths. This is treated by putting some rum soaked
cotton over the blo-presi (the "breathing place" or anterior
fontanelle). Informants stated that the baby breaths from
the blo-presi and the mouth until it begins to mature.
(Others countered this view, stating that what looked like
breathing was really the blood pulsing through a vein). The
fact that the infants breathing clears up several days after
being treated in this manner is offered as evidence that the
rum soaked cotton helps.
Infant Feeding
When asked if they planned on breastfeeding or bottle
feeding their child all of the women in the postpartum sample
responded that they planned on doing both. However, this

226
response does not mean that women will alternate between both
methods for a long period of time. They are required to
breastfeed while in the hospital and the medical staff
encourages that the women breastfeed. Breastfeeding is
discouraged by Creole women and their families. They tend to
view it as "Javanese" and not sophisticated. If women were
questioned beyond their response of "both" they generally
only plan on breastfeeding the child for a month or so. All
of the women plan on starting with a bottle within the first
few weeks of life and introducing solid foods within the
first few months. They do this, they say, because they do
not want to have sagging breasts or because it is "good for
the baby". The role of the grandmother in the care of the
baby may play a role in opting for bottle feeding.
It generally does not cost much for most of the
available infant foods. There are several canned formulas
brought in from the United States that are expensive but most
women buy a pap in the market or make one themselves. Pap is
a term used for several products fed to babies in their
bottles. They are made from dried produce that is ground
into a flour and mixed with water. The most common one is
made of cassava. The cassava is grated and then put into a
matapi (a long wicker container that will become narrower
when it is stretched) . The mat api is hung from the rafters
and a heavy stick is attached to the bottom. The water is
squeezed out this way and the remaining product is dried over
a fire. This is broken and sold in large pieces in the

227
market. Women will buy this and grate it into a powder that
is made into infant food. Banana meal is also popular.
Occasionally rice water and other products are also given to
the baby to eat.
Infant Mortality
Some babies do not survive birth. Others are born
healthy but fall victim to disease and illness shortly after
the birth. Infant mortality has dramatically declined in
Suriname in the last year that records are available but it
is unknown if this trend has continued beyond 1987. (table
30 gives an overview of stillbirths and infant deaths).
Table 30
Still Births* and Infant Deaths**
Year
Infant
Deaths* **
Stillbirths****
1981
26.6
(2.7%)
111
(1.1%)
1982
26.7
(2.7%)
129
(1.2%)
1983
25.1
(2.5%)
154
(1.3%)
1984
27.4
(2.7%)
135
(1.2%)
1985
26.8
(2.7%)
152
(1.3%)
1986
26.5
(2.7%)
114
(1.1%)
1987
17.6
(1.8%)
86
(0.9%)
*Still Births are totals per 1000 births.
**Infant Deaths are totals per 1000 live births
***Infant deaths includes all deaths from 7 days old to one
year old.
****This figure includes all children who die up to 7 days
after birth. Often babies who are born dead or who are
born anencephalic and are clearly going to die are never
given a number or registered in the books.
Source: Suriname Department of Public Health Statistics
Office.

228
Infant Diarrhea
The second major cause of death in Suriname is death
during the perinatal period and diarrhea is the major cause
of infant deaths.7 In 1989 20-30% of all visits to the clinic
for infants were as a result of diarrhea and from 1985-1986
deaths due to diarrhea were 11% of all infant deaths
(Krishnadath and Caffé 1991). There has been a recent
recognition that diarrhea levels are much higher during the
major rainy season (April-August) than during the major dry
season (August-December). This appears to be connected to
toilet facilities (Krishnadath and Caffé 1991). Creole folk
knowledge indicates that this connection has been understood
for some time. They say that if one indiscriminately
defecates around the yard the Spirits of the Ground (Gron
Winti) will become angry and make one sick. Children are
especially likely to become the targets of these spirits.
Infant Funerals
When a baby does die it is considered a tragedy but
the death is treated differently than other deaths.
Herskovits (1936:38) noted in his observations that funerals
are not held for babies and if a woman dies in childbirth
only a small wake is held by a few close relatives.8
Currently funerals are occasionally held for stillborn
infants or, more commonly, infants that die soon after birth.
But infant funerals differ from those of adults.

229
Only a few family members will come to an infants
funeral. Informants said that this is because the child did
not have any friends. The deaths of children are not
announced in the paper or on radio. Dede oso and ayti dey
ceremonies are dispensed with in infant deaths. (These are
special events held, in part, to "send off" the yorka or
spirit of the dead so that it will not come back to bother
the family) It is also very difficult to find a monument in
a cemetery that has been set up in memory of an infant.
Birth Anniversaries
Birthdays are important events. Parents are
congratulated on the birthday for "keeping the child alive"
another year. The person celebrating the birthday is also
congratulated for surviving another year and offered gifts of
flowers. Food is prepared for a lot of people and everyone
gathers around to talk and socialize. These events become
even more important as a person starts to have children of
their own and reaches specific stages in their life.9
Summary
During the postpartum period, a mother's proper
recovery is of central concern. The family assists her in
bathing and binds her tightly each day until she does not
bleed any more. The child is also cared for by bathing and
feeding. Most women do not breastfeed but this makes it
easier for the grandmother or other care givers to assist in

230
watching the baby. If the child dies little effort is placed
in funerals or monuments, and yet each birthday is a
celebration of the survival of the child. Fathers can be
involved in the postpartum cleansing and are generally
involved in introducing the child to its world.
Montagu (1961), Gould (1977), Trevethan (1987), and others have
suggested that the human gestation period is actually approximately 18
months, but the fetus must be delivered half way through that period in
order to be born at all because of the restriction placed on neonatal
cranial size by the narrow bipedal pelvis. They argue that if the
gestation period for humans is extended for 6-9 months then we are more
in line with some of the developmental stages of other animals.
2In order to "bring in" her milk a woman may drink a distillation of
kumbu seeds. Kumbu seeds have a white liquid in the center. The white
liquid is said to help give a woman breast milk. She should drink this
for three months or "as long as she nurses the baby." Women will also
drink a distillation of podoseri. Podoseri is said to be the same as
kumbu only it has a red center and is drunk to thicken ones blood and
restore the blood that was lost during delivery. As soon as a woman
comes home, her family should also have a cup of cocoa or soup for her
to drink.
Javanese women will also bind themselves but they weave the cloth and
braid it up their abdomen. Creole women will wind the cloth flat around
the body. Some women mentioned the type of binding that the other group
used as the one they had used. This indicates that there is some
borrowing of practices by these women.
4Pedreku fits under the genus Xylopia but it evidently has not been
described as a specific species.
5Florida water is a flower scented water that is sold in bottles at most
stores in the city.
6Those in the city have another name for alata tere.
7The ten major causes of death in Suriname for 1981 are:
1. All heart ailments
2. Perinatal Deaths
3. Strokes
4. Cancer
5. Accidents
6. Lung Congestion (influenza,etc.).
Jeath,
1981*
Male
Female
Total
Percent
153
12
274
12.9
129
89
218
10.3
80
93
173
8.2
85
83
168
7.9
102
39
141
6.7
79
56
135
6.4

231
7 .
Digestive Tract Illness
72
44
116
5.5
8.
Arterial Sclerosis
32
54
86
4.1
9.
Gastroentritis (diarrhea, etc.)
35
41
76
3.6
10.
Suicide
33
19
52
2.5
*Limited to those deaths where a certificate was filled out (2,117 or
86.7% of the total deaths for 1981.
Source: Department of Public Health, Suriname (Suriname in Cijfers 154,
1985) .
informants state that the reason fewer people probably attended the
funeral of a woman who died in childbirth was because she was younger
than most who die and had fewer friends.
9When a person starts having children of their own every fifth birthday
is especially noted and as a person gets older these events become
extremely important. When a person is 60 or 65 they will hold a
bigipoku. This celebration is a big event and children who have left
Suriname will fly in from the Netherlands to be at the event while the
rest of the family also gathers for the occasion. There are variations
on how it is celebrated but typically it will consist of a big dance all
evening where the best food and drink is given to everyone who attends
until they have their fill. The band will sing traditional songs (both
Winti and Christian) and occasionally popular songs as well. Late in
the evening Winti possessions may also take place. If these events are
not held on the actual day of birth then another gathering may take
place where a smaller group of people will come together to talk and
eat. Even when these separate celebrations are held, on the actual day
°i birth a brass band will come to play hymns and traditional songs at a
sunrise service made up of family members and very close friends. The
most important emphasis of these events is that the person being honored
managed to survive until that point in their lives and, especially for
the bigipoku, has reached old age—an honorable and sacred position.

CHAPTER 10
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
Summary
The question posed in chapter one—how is a
relationship outside of legal marriage recognized as having
social approval while other non-legal relationships may not
have similar approval?—was examined for the Creole
population of greater Paramaribo. It appears that in the
case of the Creole there are two ways in which a relationship
may be legitimized outside of legal marriage. In some rural
pockets of greater Paramaribo consensual unions are still
legitimized by the practice of set lobi, a ritual similar to
one found in Western Africa where the fathers of the couple
will get together and share a drink. However, this ritual is
no longer practiced by most Creole. They generally rely
instead on public knowledge that they live in the same house
as a means of making their relationship legitimate. Members
of extra-residential unions by definition do not share the
same house and therefore do not have the same clear public
indication of their relationship that members of consensual
unions enjoy. Extra-residential unions, in order to be
legitimate, are preceded by consent of the parents of both
members of the relationship as is the case for consensual
unions.1 As others observe that the relationship is open and
232

233
not carried out illicitly (i.e. in secret) the relationship
gains the approval of the community. These relationships
generally evolve into consensual unions when housing is
available or when a child is born by the couple.
Unions that do not have public approval are those that
are carried on without the knowledge of an important third
party (i.e. mother, wife, boyfriend, or others). One
possible exception to this, pointed out in the text, is the
case of a pregnant woman establishing a union with a man
while the child's father is away. Since this behavior is
still occasionally considered in the best interest of the
child's physical development and health it is accompanied
with less public outcry or disdain when discovered but even
these types of relationships are not completely acceptable.
Interracial unions may also be considered improper.
Especially if it is between a Hindustani and Creole.
Children born of such relationships are known as dogla while
any child born of a "mixed" relationship may occasionally be
called basra or "bastard." This concept tends to exemplify
the notion held in many other societies that relationships
with certain classes of individuals may enhance or deter
claims to legitimacy.2
The second question posed at the outset—how does public
acknowledgement of paternity take place and what is accepted
as valid evidence of paternity?—can also be answered on
different levels for Creoles in greater Paramaribo. In a
legal marriage, acknowledgement of paternity is not necessary

234
since children are automatically assumed to be fathered by
the husband. Legitimization through legal registration is
also possible in Suriname and occurs frequently. Generally
children born of consensual unions are legitimized by their
fathers. Those children born in extra-residential unions
are not as commonly legitimized legally but there are still
opportunities for the father of the child to acknowledge
paternity publicly and legitimize a child socially. One way
to do this is through sicknesses that a man may get as he
"helps" a woman with her pregnancy. If a man gets sick this
supports the belief of others that he is the father of the
child. During pregnancy the community may be made aware of a
child's father through the continued visits of the father
filling his expected role in contributing to the growth and
development of his child during gestation. The father is
also expected to join the rest of the community in giving a
pregnant woman the things she wants to eat in order to insure
the child's health and survival. As he goes to the market
place to buy things for a woman to eat, and especially pemba
which is often eaten every day, others begin to assume he is
buying the goods for a pregnant woman and he is the father of
her child. Trefu, or food taboos, are also inherited from
the father and so knowing the origins of a child's trefu
helps to strengthen claims of paternity. Perhaps the most
significant and direct means of acknowledging paternity is
during the treatment for fyo-fyo, a spiritual illness. A man
must promise to help support a woman and the expected child

235
and he confesses his faults in not taking the
responsibilities of fatherhood upon himself as expected.
These various beliefs can be brought to bear to support a
woman's specific claims that a man is the father of her
child. Furthermore, they might serve to strengthen the
involvement of the man later on during delivery and in caring
for the child.
During the delivery of his child, a Creole man does not
come into the delivery room and rarely waits outside with the
family; but, although not at the birth, he may be at home
experiencing "pains" that "help" the woman through the
delivery. If a man goes through this process, it strengthens
the consensus that he is the child's father. It also
improves a woman's claim to his support for the child.
Father's can also be involved in the postpartum cleansing of
a woman and are generally involved in introducing the child
to the world. If a father acknowledges his paternity of a
child, and the community accepts his role in the conception,
then it is viewed as his responsibility to provide for that
child by contributing money and goods to the mother.
Implications for Understanding Events in Suriname
An awareness of the importance of the acknowledgement
of paternity in Suriname increases our understanding of some
otherwise difficult to explain behaviors. For example, the
high rate of abortions found among Creole women coupled with
the absence of these same women choosing postpartum

236
sterilization—except when married—may, on the surface, seem
incongruous. Do women want to have children or do they not
want to have children? The answer to this question is that
circumstances dictate whether a child is wanted or not and
the father's willingness to acknowledge paternity can be an
important component in the unfolding of events. Women agree
that it is much better for a child to be born with a
recognized father than if this is not the case. And reasons
given for aborting generally revolved around problems in
relationships. The desirability of having a father was
illustrated in two messages in front of a house in friman
gron (a city neighborhood occupied by the Creole population
since before emancipation when freed slaves lived in the same
area). A woman had written neatly in the packed earth with
the end of a stick de kinderen huilen voor een vader and de
kinderen hebben honger voor een vader which mean respectively
"the children cry for a father" and "the children hunger for
a father" (a pun meaning either the children desire a father
or they are literally hungry because they do not have a
father). This women was not unusual in blaming the problems
of her children on an absence of a father and similar
feelings were expressed by others.3
Non-Creole Surinamers occasionally misunderstand the
actions of Creole women who realize they are left completely
responsible for a child with few means to care for it. This
is illustrated in the comparison of two separate events that

237
occurred in the same week and the response each event
received by some Surinamers.
While doing research at the public hospital, I arrived
one day to find everyone looking very concerned and
discussing something in tense, hushed tones. The previous
afternoon someone walked in and stole a baby from one of the
cribs. No one could remember anything like this ever
happening in Suriname before and everyone was clearly upset
by the event. The kidnaping became a front page story in the
newspaper along with a picture of the grieving husband and
wife—a young Hindustani couple. The hospital recovery room
supervisor, a Hindustani woman, complained that everyone was
saying they suspected a Hindustani woman of having taken the
child when no one really knew who took it and she thought
such accusations were unfair. Several days later the
kidnaper was found, it was a young Hindustani nursing student
who had taken the child to give to her brother and his wife
since they apparently could not have children.
About a week after this event a couple of individuals
brought a newspaper article to my attention. It was a short
article, with few details published in the back of the paper,
about a woman who had killed her own child shortly after it
was born. The two Javanese women who mentioned the article
asked "Did you read in the paper about the Creole woman who
killed her baby?" They mentioned it had happened a number of
times before because the mothers could not take care of the
child. Despite their statements the article did not mention

238
the ethnicity of the woman or why the child was killed. That
information was assumed by the women who mentioned the
article. The trial or punishment of the mother for her
"crime" was never mentioned in the papers.
It is significant in regards to these two events, as
well as various other discussions, that Surinamers tend to
perceive Hindustani women as wanting children and Creole
women as not wanting children. In the hospital sample there
was little difference in the number of children delivered by
Creole women and Hindustani women, although Maroon women
tended to have larger families than any other group in the
sample. The similarity between birth rates among Creole
women and Hindustani women indicate that the higher number of
reported abortions by Creole women may not be indications
that Creole women do not want children, or not even
necessarily desire fewer children than they already have, as
much as that it is important to them that men acknowledge
paternity and give the expected support for raising the
child. This public recognition of paternity makes the child
legitimate in the sense of a social contract. If a father
recognizes a child as his he is responsible for behaving
towards that child as he would towards any of his other
children.
Implications for Caribbean Society
The concept of legitimacy in Suriname and its
realization in the public acknowledgement of paternity also

239
increases understanding of Caribbean societies in general.
The portrayal of Slater (1977) that there is no concept of
legitimacy in Martinique, a statement which has been
generalized to the Caribbean at large (e.g. Halberstein
1986), does not apply in the case of Suriname. Slater, as
cited in chapter two, recognized that legitimization takes
place in Martinique. But she did not attempt to deal with
how this fact might influence her assertion that there is no
legitimacy in the Caribbean. If Martinique is the same as
Suriname (i.e. most legitimization takes place in consensual
unions), Slater's argument that legitimacy is only a concept
of the upper echelons of society and not applicable to most
of the Afro-Caribbean is not valid.
The consensual unions where legitimization takes place
may, in fact, be characterized as a type of marriage,
although operating on a different level than what has
historically been considered marriage in Caribbean research.
If this is the case, then Goode's (1966b) assertion that the
Caribbean represents a geographic region where Malinowski's
principle of legitimacy does not completely apply needs to be
reconsidered. Goode (1966b:172-173) views the Caribbean
region as one where mothers get angry with daughters who get
pregnant outside of marriage but it still continually happens
since "complete acceptance of Western standards" has failed
to take place leading to "incomplete socialization." If
legitimacy is not narrowly defined in the Caribbean to
operate the same as in "Western" societies (i.e. the European

240
countries which controlled the Caribbean region), but instead
is looked at in the context of a broader cross-cultural
perspective (with possibly a different concept of marriage),
then it appears that legitimacy is very important in the
Caribbean. This legitimacy is not achieved by legal means
but instead by a social contract. Such a contract includes
public acknowledgement of paternity and recognition of the
responsibilities that paternity brings. Understanding
legitimacy in Suriname and the Caribbean also increases our
understanding of legitimacy in general.
Implications for Understanding the Concept of Legitimacy
If we return to the definition of legitimacy given in
chapter one—that a child is legitimate when it is born from
a union that is socially approved and it receives public
acknowledgement of paternity, it is evident in the case of
Suriname that a socially approved union is also one that is
public and open. It is also evident that public
acknowledgement of paternity need not be a verbal statement
to the fact but can be participation in ritual or other
activities in the father role. If legitimacy is viewed in
these terms, Malinowski's "principle" continues to hold true,
although it would not if only "legal" marriage were
considered as he originally defined the principle. Since the
concept and importance of legitimacy do seem to be found in
every society it demands an explanation. However, such an

241
attempt is beyond the scope of this work and a large project
in and of itself.
The perspective that legitimacy may have a base other
than a legal one can be applied to our understanding of other
societies as well. Most of the research on
legitimacy/illegitimacy has been carried out in the United
States. Since those doing the research have used the
American legal definition of illegitimate being synonymous
with "born outside of marriage" this has influenced all the
research and results. This is especially important since
most "illegitimacy" occurs in minority groups and other
specific segments of the population (Roberts 1966). It is
possible that legitimization may be carried out on an
entirely different level and based on social contracts rather
than legal ones.
Although Malinowski's original conception of
legitimacy did view the mothers of illegitimate children as
likely to lose status in society, it is not clear how much
the mother is "disesteemed" (Davis 1966:79) or "stigmatized"
(Goode 1966a:47) by illegitimacy. Goode's (1966a:52)
assertion that "the parental anger aroused by a clandestine
pregnancy will not be repeated when the girl has entered a
consensual union" can be simply explained by the fact that
the clandestine pregnancy was illegitimate and the consensual
union was not.
If legitimacy provides the foundation for parenthood
and parenthood is the basis of social structure as Malinowski

242
(1930) claimed, then the importance of expanding and refining
our understanding of the concept of legitimacy is central to
developing an understanding of society and the social
structure. This examination has worked towards furthering
that goal.
lrrhe parents of the woman, and especially her mother, are most important
in this agreement process; and she, at least, must be aware of the
relationship and have met the man in order for the union to have an air
of legitimacy.
2Unions between Javanese and Creole individuals are generally considered
more acceptable, while unions between Creole and Maroon Surinamers have
always been considered completely acceptable.
3It is not my intention to explore whether these feelings were justified
or not but rather to understand the nature of these feelings and why
women express them the way they do.

243
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