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The reproduction of labor in a migration society : gender, kinship, and household in St. Vincent, West Indies

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The reproduction of labor in a migration society : gender, kinship, and household in St. Vincent, West Indies
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Gearing, Margaret Jean, 1954-
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xiii, 454 leaves : ill. ; 28 cm.

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Children ( jstor )
Gender roles ( jstor )
Houses ( jstor )
Kinship ( jstor )
Labor ( jstor )
Men ( jstor )
Mothers ( jstor )
Parents ( jstor )
Slavery ( jstor )
Women ( jstor )
Anthropology thesis Ph.D
Dissertations, Academic -- UF -- Anthropology ( lcsh )
Emigration and immigration -- Caribbean Area ( lcsh )
Social conditions -- Saint Vincent ( lcsh )
City of Gainesville ( local )
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bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

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Thesis:
Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1988.
Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references.
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Also available online.
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Typescript.
General Note:
Vita.
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by Margaret Jean Gearing.

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University of Florida
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THE REPRODUCTION OF LABOR IN A MIGRATION SOCIETY:
GENDER, KINSHIP, AND HOUSEHOLD
IN ST. VINCENT, WEST INDIES













By

Margaret Jean Gearing













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 1988









OF F LI-BAR

































Copyright 1988

by

Margaret Jean Gearing




































To my son,
Phillip Eugene Connor,
and my mother,
Margaret N. Gearing

















ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The research upon which this dissertation is based was funded by a Fulbright Grant awarded by the Institute of International Education. To the Institute and to the staff of the U. S. Embassy in Barbados, I am grateful.

My committee chairman, Allan F. Burns, has stood by me

throughout my years in graduate school. For his intellectual guidance and his confidence in my abilities as an anthropologist, I shall always be indebted.

My committee members have also been steadfast in their

encouragement and support. My deepest thanks go to Professors Helen Safa, Robert Lawless, and Terry McCoy. I am especially grateful to Jorge Duany for his editorial review and insightful comments on drafts of this dissertation. To Linda Wolfe, my very good friend, I extend my appreciation for the use of your computer at key times and your unflagging support.

I would also like to acknowledge my intellectual debt to several other faculty members of the University of Florida, including Charles Wagley, for stimulating my interest in anthropological studies of kinship; Charles H. Wood for his knowledge of demography and development theory which I shamelessly stole; and Marianne Schmink, Anita Spring, and Susan Poats for




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sharing their wealth of experience about gender issues and intra-household dynamics.

My long tenure (some say endless) in graduate school was

financially supported, in part, by assistantships and fellowships provided by the Department of Anthropology, the Center for Latin American Studies, the Women in Agricultural Development Program, and the Graduate School of the University of Florida. I would also like to thank Carl Van Ness and Carla Kemp at the University of Florida Archives for their kindness and understanding in permitting me time off from my current job to put the finishing touches on the dissertation.

The emotional support I have received from my graduate student colleagues and friends has been equally important in "getting through." I would like to acknowledge Barbara Reilly, Diana and Richard Walker, Ron Kephart, Jim McKay, Betsy Randall-David, Jim Lett, Shoko Hamano, John Wilson, John Butler, David Reddy, Brian Fisk, Kathy Gladden, Beth Higgs, Emine Incirglioglu, Julio Chang, Sharon Bienert, Tom Eubanks, Claudine Payne (who also drew my maps), Manuel Vargas, Nina Borremans, Mary Ellen Warren, Jane Gibson-Carpenter, Jan Tucker, Fred Desmond, and especially Barbara Hendry, for their friendship and encouragement.

My family, especially my mother, have unstintingly and most generously supported me during graduate school. Without my mother's financial assistance, this dissertation would never have



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been finished. To my husband, Phillip Elroy Connor, I offer my gratitude for all his help with my fieldwork and analysis, and I hope that this depiction of life in St. Vincent reflects some of spirit of the Vincentian people he conveyed to me. My son, Phillip, is too young now to understand why Mommy has been so busy, but his love has been strong and unconditional regardless.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge my debt to my many

Vincentian friends and the residents of the community in which I lived nearly two years. In countless ways they helped me adjust to and understand what life in St. Vincent is like from their perspective. For their patience, generousity, and good humor I will always be grateful. I would like to extend special thanks to Jeffrey Venner, Earle Kirby, Mike Browne, Pearl Herbert, Leo Jack, Nelcia Robinson, Mark Cumberbatch, the Durrant family, Yvonne Francis-Gibson, and the honorable John Horne. St. Vincent may be poor by economic measures, but the country possesses an incomparable treasure in its people and their culture.


















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TABLE OF CONTENTS

Page

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS............................... ................... iv

LIST OF TABLES AND FIGURES................................x

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

CHAPTERS

ONE INTRODUCTION .....................................

The Problem. ........................................ 1
Feminist Perspectives on Gender, Kinship, and
Household...........................................6
Historical-Structural Theories of Migration..........13
Integrating Feminist Analyses of the Household with
Historical-Structural Perspectives on Migration......20 Migration and Households in the Caribbean............24
Notes......... ....... ............................... 29

TWO METHODOLOGY.... .......................... ....... 30

Initial Methodological Assumptions....................30
Choosing a Field Site.................... ............31
The Community of Arnos Vale..........................35
Presentation of Self.................................41
Entry Problems.......................................44
Finding a Research Assistant...................... 45
Collection and Analysis of Ethnographic Data.........47 The Process of Fieldwork.............................55
Collection of Archival and Census Data...............58
Analysis of Historical Material......................63
Applicability of Results.............................64
Ethnographic Style.................................. 65

THREE EVOLUTION OF THE MIGRATION SOCIETY..............66

History and Demography ..............................66
St. Vincent as a British Colony During Slavery.......67 Slave Society in St. Vincent.........................71
Reproduction of Labor in a Slave Society.............76


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Establishment of the Migration Tradition:
1838 to 1881 .....................................83
Immigration of Indentured Labor......................90
Nineteenth Century Migration Patterns................93
Migration and the Reproduction of Labor During
the Nineteenth Century.............................97

FOUR MIGRATION FROM THE LATE NINETEENTH CENTURY
TO THE TWENTIETH CENTURY .....................102

The Great Emigration from 1881 to 1931..............103
Retrenchment, Reaction, and Renewed Migration:
1931 to 1946.......................................113
The Exodus to England...............................119
Migration to Canada and the United States............123
Population Change in St. Vincent from
1960 to 1980....................................125
Post-War Changes in the Political Economy...........128
Contemporary Class Structure........................ 142
Notes................. ............................. 147

FIVE CONTEMPORARY MIGRATION: PATTERNS AND
STRATEGIES...s.................. ............. 149

Contemporary Migration Patterns.....................149
Alternate Migration Strategies...................... 161
Class Differences in Migration Strategies............167
The Role of Returned Migrants.......................170
"Vince Mas:" Carnival in St. Vincent................174
Carnival and Migration................................. 178
The Migration Ideology in Contemporary Society......182
Contemporary Migration and the Reproduction of
Labor................. ............... ............ 185
Notes................. ........... ............. ...... 187

SIX THE SYSTEM OF GENDER IN ST. VINCENT............ 188

The Definition of Gender............................188
Gender Roles Over the Life Cycle....................192
The Gender Division of Labor........................199
Gender Division of Labor: Production................202
Gender Division of Labor: Reproduction..............207
Social Significance of the Domestic Division of
Labor .......................................... 210
Sexuality and Gender...............................213
The Double Standard of Sexual Conduct............... 218
Jealousy and "Getting Horned".......................222
Sexual Relationships.................................225


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Sexuality and Fertility................. ...............239
Childbearing and Sexual Relationships...............241
Gender Ideology.....................................240

SEVEN THE SYSTEM OF KINSHIP IN ST. VINCENT...........261

Descent and the Kindred................................261
A Vincentian Kindred ................... .............265
Vincentian Kinship Terminology.......................271
Kinship Relationships................................277
Kinship and Reciprocity............................291
Kinship and the Authority of Age....................295
Kinship as a Social Compass.........................298
Kinship as Metaphor.................................302
Class Variation in Kinship..........................305
Kinship and Production ........................ .........310
Kinship and Reproduction.......................... 314
Women and the Domestication of Kinship in
St. Vincent.......... ................... ........317

EIGHT THE VINCENTIAN HOUSEHOLD SYSTEM..............327

Social Significance of House Ownership..............327
Tenure and Settlement Patterns......................332
The House and Yard..................................334
Vincentian Definitions of Public and Private........350 The Vincentian Household System... ........................356
Co-Residence and Household Composition..............356
Household Personnel. ............. .... .. ..362
Role of the Household Head..........................365
Household Fissioning.................................369
Shifts in Household Membership Over the Life
Cycle...........................................371
Membership in Multiple Households...................374
Class Variation in Household Composition............376
Household Strategies........................ ...... 378
Households and the Reproduction of Labor..............396

NINE SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS .......................400

Cultural Duality in St. Vincent.....................411
Gender, Kinship, and Household in St. Vincent.......417
Migration and the Reproduction of Labor: Strategies
of Male and Female-Headed Households ............423

BIBLIOGRAPHY........... ................................. 434

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.......................................454



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LIST OF TABLES AND FIGURES List of Tables Page

3-1 Components of Population Change,
St. Vincent, 1763-1880 .....................89

4-1 Components of Population Change,
St. Vincent, 1881-1980.......... ............06

4-2 Population of St. Vincent, 1980,
By Age and Sex..............................127

4-3 Age Structure of the Population
of St. Vincent, 1946-1980..................129

4-4 St. Vincent External Trade Balance.............136




List of Figures

1-1 St. Vincent, West Indies.................... 3

2-1 Arnos Vale, St. Vincent.........................36























x


















Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

THE REPRODUCTION OF LABOR IN A MIGRATION SOCIETY:
GENDER, KINSHIP, AND HOUSEHOLD IN ST. VINCENT, WEST INDIES By

Margaret Jean Gearing

December, 1988

Chairman: Dr. Allan F. Burns
Major Department: Anthropology

Ethnographers have debated the origin and function of the

unique features of Afro-Caribbean families which contrasted with the nuclear family model believed to be universal. An explicit assumption guiding research was that the "deviant" features of lower-class Caribbean families were aberrations induced by conditions of social and economic deprivation. The behavior of the middle and upper classes was seldom critically studied, and historical analyses of Afro-Caribbean gender, kinship, and household systems were absent.

This study uses a transactional approach to analyze gender,

kinship, and household dynamics in a middle-class community in St. Vincent, West Indies. A majority of residents are upwardly mobile lower-class individuals now part of the "new middle class." This






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class hierarchy. The Vincentian lower class depends upon international labor migration as an alternative to the restrictive conditions of the local economy.

The gender, kinship, and household patterns of the new

Vincentian middle class are generated by unique cultural systems, not merely reflections of straitened economic circumstances. These systems were shaped by Creole values formed from the interaction of West African and European cultures during slavery and further adapted to the "migration society" after Emancipation.

The gender system of St. Vincent emphasizes the social

inequality between men and women. Under the gender division of labor, women are responsible for the work required for the reproduction of labor. The kinship system emphasizes the authority of seniors over juniors; the solidarity of the kindred; and reciprocal exchanges between kin. The household system emphasizes the authority of the household head over other household members. Vincentian households survive through contributions of members and exchanges created by gender and kinship ties with migrants and other households.

The gender division of labor and reliance on male migration keep Vincentian women economically dependent on men. Femaleheaded households in St. Vincent are a survival mechanism for women unable to secure permanent relationships with men capable of supporting them.



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headed households in St. Vincent are a survival mechanism for women unable to secure permanent relationships with men capable of supporting them.


















































xiii

















CHAPTER ONE
INTRODUCTION

The Problem

This dissertation analyzes the gender, kinship, and household systems that structure the reproduction of labor in St. Vincent, West Indies. "The reproduction of labor" refers to the bearing, care, and socialization of children, as well as those activities that maintain the lives of adults, including domestic labor and subsistence production (Mackintosh 1981; Young et al. 1981). An important component of the reproduction of labor is the transmission across the generations of the ideologies that support the social relations between and within classes (Stivens 1981).

In all societies, the reproduction of labor occurs through the actions of domestic groups, although the composition of such ,groups varies cross-culturally. In capitalist societies, the survival of the domestic group and the reproduction of labor depend upon some members of the domestic group contributing income earned through wage labor. In some areas of the world, employment possibilites in the local economy are limited and wages are low, and the opportunity exists to migrate to countries in which employment is readily available and wages are high (Portes 1978). This situation creates another way for domestic groups to ensure





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their survival and reproduction: participation in international labor migration.

St. Vincent, in the lower Eastern Caribbean (Figure 1.1), provides an excellent case study for an analysis of the reproduction of labor in a society dependent upon international labor migration. St. Vincent has been a migrant-sending society since the early nineteenth century. Vincentians have participated in every migrant movement within the Caribbean region and between the Caribbean and most migrant-receiving countries. St. Vincent has become a "migration society" in which every member has been a migrant or has a migrant relative in the present or the memorable past (Richardson 1983; 1985). The long history of reliance upon migration has produced an "ideology of migration" in which migration is positively valued and migrants are expected to fulfill social obligations to non-migrants (Philpott 1973). Migration, a process sometimes considered psychologically and socially disruptive by researchers, has become the way Vincentian society maintains and reproduces itself.

Vincentian society relies on the migration of some of its

members to support those who do not migrate and to relieve demand on its scarce resources. Emigrants gain access to economic and social resources in the international capitalist system and funnel them back to the island. By infusing capital into the local economy through remittances and investments, migrants sustain






















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their relatives and sexual partners during their absences and even improve their own social status through the acquisition of land and other property (cf. Philpott 1973; Richardson 1983, 1985; Rubenstein 1987). Those left behind in St. Vincent also must work within the local economy to supplement remittances that are seldom sufficient to cover all of their expenses. The adults must perform both the productive activities the migrants would have accomplished if they had not left as well as the tasks involved in the caring and socialization of the next generation.

Underlying the movement of people and resources to and from St. Vincent are the social relationships embedded in the "reproduction of labor," which generate cultural and emotional ties binding men and women, parents, children, and siblings across time and great distances. These social relationships do not reflect biological reproduction or the "natural" place of women and men in society, but are the product of cultural systems affected by many other cultural domains, including religion, nationality, ethnicity, and class (Collier and Yanigasako 1987:6; Schneider 1968). The cultural systems that structure the reproduction of labor in a migrant-sending society assume additional functions: they keep migrants integrated into their domestic groups; they reinforce migrants' continued contributions as if the migrants were still physically present; and they also adjust to their actual absence. These systems also must









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promulgate and justify the "migration ideology" that keeps emigrants going away, sending back remittances, and eventually returning. In a "migration society" these social relationships bear a paradoxical burden: people must be encouraged to leave, yet they must remain attached emotionally and continue to feel obligated to support those left behind. Migration thus simultaneously threatens and maintains the social relationships within the reproduction of labor.

This dissertation will focus on how domestic groups in St. Vincent resolve these paradoxes to ensure their survival and reproduction. The analysis of the cultural systems that structure the reproduction of labor will be based on a three-dimensional model of domestic groups composed of a gender system, a kinship system, and a household system. This analytic model of domestic groups is an extension of a two-dimensional model proposed by Anthony T. Carter (1984). Each system includes cultural principles used as guidelines for action and the interpretation of social interaction, as well as a supporting ideology for these rules (Carter 1984; Yanigasako 1979). The three systems generate observable patterns of social behavior as well as more deeply held beliefs and values whose meanings may not be as easily articulated by members of a society. The three components of this model of domestic groups derive from feminist analyses of gender, kinship, and household discussed in more detail in the following section.









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Feminist Perspectives on Gender, Kinship, and Household

All societies exhibit a gender division of labor, which Kate Young and her associates (1981:x) define as "the system of allocating particular tasks to men and others to women." Such a division includes cultural conceptions of the genders, their qualities and capacities, their virtues and vices. A complete description of the division of labor by gender not only comprises the actual labor performed by members of each gender but also the attitudes, expectations, and preconceptions about the task, the doer, and the assessed social value assigned to both the task and the doer.

Young et al. (1981:x) note that in nearly all societies "women are allocated those tasks (broadly defined as domestic work) which are neither given value nor commensurated by the market." Such tasks include childbearing; childrearing (including childcare, socialization, and education); care of other dependents (elderly and ill); domestic work (processing food, cooking, cleaning, making, washing and mending clothing, shopping, etc.); and often some part of subsistence production (household gardens, small livestock). These financially unremunerated labors form the material basis on which society reproduces both individuals and classes.

Another element of feminist theories is the recognition of men's control over women's sexual and reproductive capacities.










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This control extends over sexual expression, choice of partner, timing of sexual contact, and acceptance or rejection of pregnancy. It includes physical control over women's freedom to associate with men and move freely in society; punitive sanctions for transgressions; and ideological justifications for the sexual code. This ideology is often internalized by women themselves who then control their own and other women's behavior. Rosalind Petchesky (1980) has proposed the concept of the "social relations of reproduction" to describe the pervasive control men exert over women. Petchesky argues that the actions entailed in human reproduction, including sexuality and childbearing, are not "natural" or "instinctive" but are embedded in a complex sociocultural matrix.

Feminist critiques have forced many Marxists to reexamine the concept of "reproduction" and broaden the concept of the "material" beyond the economic to include sexuality and human reproduction in their social context (Petchesky 1980). Maureen Mackintosh (1981:9-10) distinguishes three separate meanings for the term "reproduction." From the narrowest to the broadest sense, she defines the concept in the following ways:

(1) Human reproduction refers to "the relations of marriage and kinship in a society," which determine patterns of sexuality, fertility, childcare, and socialization.










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(2) The reproduction of labor refers not only to rearing

children but also to the maintenance of adults, processes which insure the continuation of society into the next generation.

(3) Social reproduction is the continual recreation of all the main production relations in society, including the reproduction of capital itself and the class system in capitalist societies.

Maila Stivens (1981) examines the relationships between

women, kinship, and capitalist development in urban areas of the First and Third Worlds. She argues that kin relations in capitalist societies tend to become female-centered rather than restricted within isolated male-headed "nuclear" families, as earlier theorists had proposed. Stivens terms this process the "domestication of kinship." As societies become capitalist, the dominance of kin structures in the political system is eroded and the economic importance of kinship is reduced. Social relations of kinship remain dominant in the domestic group and in some geographical areas in subsistence production as well. Although the importance of kin relations in the wider political economy has declined, kinship ties remain important in social reproduction.

Kin relations structure the social processes necessary to

social reproduction and the reproduction of labor, processes that are not "incorporated into the direct capital-labor relation" (Stivens 1981:114). Kinship relations are not solely determined










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by economic forces but are the product of a complex combination of economic, political, and cultural factors.

Stivens observes that the "domestication of kinship" is tied to labor migration in the new international division of labor. The relegation of women to domestic labor and/or subsistence production creates a reserve labor force and supports the reproduction of labor power. Women may withdraw from production or enter it as wage laborers, but in nearly all cases, their domestic work and subsistence production intensify. In order to cope with increased demands, women rely more on their relatives, especially other female relatives, for help. As kinship relations become increasingly "domesticated," kinship becomes closely associated with women ideologically and women assume the role of mediator in kinship relations.

Kinship ideology is closely tied to that of gender and the idealization of the "feminine." Girls incorporate these conceptions about gender and kinship during the socialization process, then pass them along to their own children when they become mothers, perpetuating the ideology that supports their own subordination. Stivens also describes the inherent contradictions in kin relations, which provide support for women through solidarity with female relatives. However, female solidarity based on kinship ties "sustains the ideological coherence of kin










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structures and thus increases women's submission to male control" (Stivens 1981:115).

Gender and kinship relations are situated within domestic groups in all societies. The structure of domestic groups has been the subject of intensive inquiry (Yanigasako 1979). Unfortunately, much analytical confusion has arisen from disagreements over the terms and definitions applied in the analysis of domestic groups. Social scientists have used the term "household" to refer both to the residence of the domestic group and the physical site of the reproduction of labor power as well as to the social organization of the day-to-day production and consumption activities which make the process possible.

In North American and European societies, the household often coincides with the nuclear family. Insights into the operation of the household as separate from kinship have come from the study of non-Western cultures in which families and households may not be identical. Household relations are based on ownership and control over property, authority over decision making, and shared tasks of production and consumption; whereas kinship relations are "defined by the origins of the links between members, links that have their source in culturally defined relations of birth, adoption, and marriage, regardless of whether those who are so linked live together or engage in any shared tasks" (Carter 1984:45).










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Kinship and household roles can be analytically separated even if they are held by the same person. In cultures in which family members may not be coresident or may not share production and consumption, differentiating between the two levels explains both patterns of cooperation and conflict within and between domestic groups as well as different developmental histories.

Jane Guyer (1981) describes households as systems of resource allocation in which women and men have separate responsibilities, access to distinct resources, and control over the returns from their own activities. This model of "intra-household dynamics" accepts that "the possibility of competing goals or priorities may require negotiation among household members" (Poats, Schmink, and Spring 1988:8). Households, as groups of individuals tied together by participation in shared tasks, respond to both external and internal conditions. Households adjust to changing economic conditions by increasing or decreasing the numbers of members through altering fertility decisions; participating in migration; diversifying their economic activities; or changing consumption patterns. Stages of the domestic life cycle and composition of members affect a household's ability to adopt different strategies.

In this dissertation, the Vincentian gender, kinship, and household systems are described within an historical analysis of the transformation of the society since its beginnings. In










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support of the historical perspective in gender and kinship studies, Sylvia Yanigasako and Jane Collier have written:

...grounding our analysis...within particular
historical sequences will enable us to see how the
dynamics of past actions and ideas have created
structures in the present...A historical perspective
also highlights the interaction of ideas and practices
as dialectical, ongoing processes and so avoids the
teleological bent of those models that seek a single
determinant, whether material or ideational, for
social reproduction (1987:47).

Individuals living in domestic groups are affected

simultaneously by the gender, kinship, and household systems of their culture. These systems are separate but interconnected, possessing inherent contradictions, reinforcing yet also pulling against each other in the dynamics of everyday life. Within a particular society, these systems of social relations vary by class and reflect the different strategies classes use to gain access and control over social and economic resources.

These systems vary between societies with different

economies. For example, gender, kinship, and household relations found in societies based on subsistence agriculture differ from those found in a capitalist society. Some capitalist societies have become dependent on international labor migration to ensure the survival of the domestic group and the reproduction of labor. In these societies, adoption of migration as an economic strategy has affected the gender, kinship, and household systems. International migration cannot be explained simply by listing the









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"push" factors of the local society and the "pull" factors of the international scene. Only by placing migration within its historical context and by analyzing the relationship between the sending society and the broader world system can one understand the mechanisms which keep migrants "on the move." The next section discusses historical-structural theories of international labor migration and their relationship to the concept of the reproduction of labor.

Historical-Structural Theories of Migration

In international labor migration, migrants leave their own society to live and work in another. According to historicalstructural theories of international migration, population movement occurs as a result of pressures on national economies occupying unequal positions within the world capitalist system (Portes 1978). Migration both reveals and accentuates underlying disparities between geographic regions.

The inequalities between migrant sending and migrant

receiving areas do not reflect "natural" differences in resources such as technology or labor but rather the historical development of capitalism. This process has created a system in which the countries of the Third World, often referred to as "the periphery," depend on the Western, developed countries, termed "the center" (Beckford 1972; Cardoso and Faletto 1979; Portes 1978). The countries in the periphery were often colonies of the










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countries in the center, and supplied the center with raw materials and agricultural commodities. The center retained control over manufacturing and trade in manufactures. Terms of trade between the center and the periphery have become increasingly unequal as the center has accumulated more capital and the periphery has remained underdeveloped. As a result of this process of capital accumulation at the center and economic stagnation at the periphery, labor is attracted to the center from the periphery. As monopoly capital from the center penetrates the economies of the periphery and transforms peasant and plantation structures into agribusiness, labor is forced out of rural areas (Amin 1974). The initial demand for labor to transform these peasant economies may create a short-term "population explosion," but as the process continues this surplus becomes a drain on the shrinking peasant sector of the economy. The conditions are set into motion for large-scale migration from the countryside, both internally into the urban areas of the periphery and internationally to the center (Burawoy 1976; Portes 1978; Sassen-Koob 1980).

Individual migrants are able to participate in the

international system of production under more favorable returns for their labor than are available in the local economy. Although migrant workers elude local constraints, they sell their labor elsewhere under conditions equally unresponsive to their needs.









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Migration represents an individual and familial response to local conditions, but migrants remain marginal workers within the international system of labor and capital (Amin 1974; Portes 1978; Sassen-Koob 1980).

Migrant labor in the center serves the interests of late capitalism. Migrant labor acts as a "reserve army" willing to work for lower wages and endure poorer working conditions compared to workers from the center. Migrants, especially illegal migrants, are usually a more docile workforce because they are politically powerless and fear deportation and other reprisals. The existence of separate ethnic and national groups within the working class in the center also inhibits organization of labor (Nikolinakos 1975).

The world capitalist system benefits directly and indirectly from migrant labor because the costs of the reproduction of migrant labor power are subsidized by the sending society. Migrants' wages are divided between their own daily maintenance and the support of their dependents in the sending society. The two components of the reproduction of labor, the daily maintenance of workers and the bearing and rearing of a new generation, are separated and allocated to different economies (Burawoy 1976). Costs of replacement of workers are borne by the sending economy while costs of maintenance alone are borne by the receiving economy. This separation enables the receiving economy to reduce











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the wages paid migrants. The sending economy thereby subsidizes the costs of labor to the receiving economy. The subsidization of the replacement of labor is even more expensive when the workers in question are skilled. In this case, not only has the sending economy provided generational replacements but also has trained these workers or improved their value as human capital. These workers may be in very short supply in the sending countries and worth relatively more there than in the receiving societies.

An historical-structural analysis reveals both the evolution of the external forces structuring the relationship between countries as well as how participation in migration has affected each country's internal social dynamics. The sending society must adapt to two sets of political and economic forces: those of the world capitalist system and those of its own economy. The sending society pays a price reproducing migrant labor power and runs the risk that the expected returns will not cover the actual cost. Returns are dependent upon migrant workers fulfilling the obligations they incurred before migrating. Workers in the sending society must learn both the necessity of emigrating and the importance of sending back remittances.

The historical-structural approach shares several shortcomings with equilibrium theory, the other major paradigm for the study of migration. (1) First, most theory and research on migration focuses on migrants as individuals or as representatives of groups










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such as the "working class." By definition, "migrants" have left some place to live some place else. Migrants as moveable units, and migration as a before and after sequence, have dominated the literature. As a result, once the migrant leaves the sending society, the impact on the sending society is ignored or dismissed except in the studies of "return migration" (Gmelch 1983). Migration as a process or system that operates in two directions connecting individuals, groups, or cultures or even economies simultaneously has not been the dominant conceptual motif.

Second, our understanding of the backward linkages between migrants and their homelands is not as great as our knowledge about the process of adjustment migrants undergo in their new society. If examined at all, these backward linkages or social networks have been seen as parts of a "migration chain" by which new migrants enter a new society with the assistance of migrants who have previously settled there (Turittin 1976).

Furthermore, most migration theories have not examined in

depth the dynamics of a society geared towards migration. How do migrants fit into their societies before they migrate? How do societies compensate for their absence? How does such a system perpetuate itself from generation to generation? Little work has been done on how members of sending societies conceptualize the migration process or perceive the role of the migrant within the sending as well as the receiving society. Many migration










18


theorists discuss contemporary migration streams, especially those with the United States as a destination, in the same terms as the population movements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in which migrants left the sending society for permanent resettlement in the receiving one. This outlook ignores a different kind of population movement made possible by the mid-twentieth century revolution in transportation and communications. Contemporary migrants frequently move back and forth between societies and maintain close, meaningful connections in a way not possible earlier.

The study of migration as permanent removal overlooks

migrants who eventually return to their sending societies and who

consider themselves "sojourners" rather than permanent "settlers." The meaning of the migration experience and the nature of the relationship a "sojourner" establishes with the receiving society may be quite different from that of the "settler" making a new home.

The fundamental limitations of the historical-structural approach are its overly deterministic perspective and its inability to discriminate between individuals or groups within broader social categories (Wood 1982). Not all the members of the working class within sending societies emigrate, and not all those who emigrate remain in the receiving societies. Historicalstructural theorists do not attempt to explain how migrants'










19


actions might influence the migrant labor system, beyond referring to "the class struggle" (Bach and Schraml 1982). Finally, historical-structural theorists of migration have not looked closely at the smaller group processes in which individual migrants are involved such as households, kinship groups, and other social networks.

Historical-structural theorists of migration have been concerned with the global context of international migration within the world capitalist system. Although theorists of migration have tended to use the framework as broadly as possible, this does not preclude its application to a more restricted setting, such as a single society. Within this narrower context, closer attention can be paid to the internal dynamics of migrant-sending societies. When integrated with a cultural analysis of the migration ideology, the historical-structural approach can include an examination of the meaning attached to migration.- Without the broader framework supplied by the historical-structural perspective, however, the actions of individual migrants make little sense because there is no explanation for the shifting political and economic circumstances to which migrants respond.










20


Integrating Feminist Analyses of the Household with

Historical-Structural Perspectives on Migration

Charles Wood (1982) has argued that a complete theory of

migration must bridge the analytical gap between the structural factors limiting economies in the world system and the factors motivating individual actors. He has proposed the household as an intermediary unit of analysis between the individual and the larger social group. Wood defines the household as "a group that ensures its maintenance and reproduction by generating and disposing of a collective income fund" (Wood 1982:339). Households use a series of "sustenance strategies" to respond to changing external conditions and internal shifts over the domestic life cycle. These "sustenance strategies" are the ways "the household actively strives to achieve a fit between its consumption necessities, the labor power at its disposal, and the alternatives for generating monetary and non-monetary income" (Wood 1982:339). Although economic and political conditions are largely determined by structural forces beyond their control, households are able to respond dynamically by varying their sustenance strategies, controlling fertility, recruiting additional labor, or migrating.

Wood's concept of "household sustenance strategies" presents some theoretical problems. Wood collapses more extensive sociocultural systems, such as kinship and gender relations, into










21


the household, because they complicate the analysis by bringing in non-household members who relate in some unspecified way to household members. Wood replaces one collective, the class, with another, "the household," without explaining adequately the articulation of individuals within households nor the articulation of households with larger groups such as classes. Household members are assumed to pool their incomes into a joint fund which is then disbursed to meet household needs by some mutually recognized household head.

In their critique of Wood's argument, Robert L. Bach and Lisa Schraml (1982) point out that defining the household by cooperative economic activities strips it of all other activities. As such, the household assumes the same cost-benefit calculus of the neoclassical "individual" and little has been gained by shifting the analysis from the individual to the group. Wood's model does not explain why individuals within households cooperate nor how conflicts between members are resolved.

Marianne Schmink (1984:89) presents a modified definition of the household as "a coresident group of persons who share most aspects of consumption, drawing on and allocating a common pool of resources (including labor) to ensure their material reproduction." Like Wood, Schmink suggests that studies of household economic strategies offer a way to bridge social and individual levels of analysis, although she cautions against










22


confusing the household as an analytic device with a universally occurring social group (Schmink 1984:87). She also warns against reducing domestic units to purely economic functions and states that "the primary basis for the cohesion of the household unit is in fact a set of social relations and mutual obligations that are defined by kinship or other reciprocal relationships" (Schmink 1984: 93).

Patricia Pessar (1982a, 1982b) has incorporated feminist concepts about the "reproduction of labor" into an analysis of migrant households. Pessar followed households that emigrated from the Dominican Republic and compared household relations before and after settling in New York. Pessar defines the "kinship relations of production" that structure household formation and activity as:

...the social relations between males and females, and
elders and youth that govern 1) access to the
resources in goods and persons necessary to establish
new households; and 2) control over the decision
making and strategies for the reproduction,
appropriation and allocation of labor and its products
subsequent to the creation of the domestic unit.
Inheritance, marriage, reproduction, and the sexual
and generational division of labor are expressions of
and arenas for struggle over these productive
relations and the scarce resources they generate, and
the meanings and values that legitimate and guide
these social relationships (Pessar 1982:6).

For Pessar, migration is a strategy used by households to increase their income. Pessar's work represents an attempt to bridge the chasm between migration theories based on individual










23


motivations and those based on the international division of labor in the world economy. As suggested by Wood (1982), Pessar's unit of analysis is the household; households which move as migrant units. Although the members of the households she studied contributed to the support of other domestic groups in the Dominican Republic, they formed separate units of reproduction as well. She suggests that this form of "household migration" is a middle class strategy of international migration. Her analysis does not overcome the problem of uniting individual migrants to households in sending societies. However, if the analysis of domestic groups is extended beyond the household to include gender and kinship systems, the entire process of the reproduction of labor can be analyzed, even when individual members of domestic groups are separated through international migration.

Although international labor migration is increasing rapidly all over the world, contemporary sending societies do not display the same migration rates nor have they participated in labor migration for the same length of time. Some regions have relied extensively on labor migration for long periods of time, and demonstrate the internal dynamics the reproduction of labor assumes under such conditions. The next section discusses research in one such area of the world, the Caribbean.










24


Migration and Households in the Caribbean

The small nations of the Caribbean share a long tradition of labor migration due to the peculiar historical development of their political economies. Despite differences in colonial systems, the legacy of slavery, plantation agriculture, and post-Emancipation underdevelopment was similiar in its broad details throughout the Caribbean. The socioeconomic and political features of Caribbean societies were shaped by their dependent position within the capitalist world system (Mintz 1974). Especially in the smaller islands, economic opportunities and upward mobility have been severely constrained by limited physical resources and the political control of small groups of elites (Marshall 1987; Segal 1987).

Studies of West Indian societies have traced a long history of migration, going to back to slavery and the immediate post-Emancipation period in the early 19th century (Gonzalez 1969; Frucht 1968; Philpott 1973; Hill 1977; Tobias 1975; Richardson 1983, 1985). These ethnographies portray individuals and families manipulating a flexible array of choices against a backdrop of the socioeconomic, political, demographic, and ecological conditions beyond their immediate control. Migration always has been the response most favored by Caribbean peoples in overcoming or eluding the structural conditions they could not change directly: the control of the islands' political economies by small elites,










25


and increasing population pressures on limited and eroding island ecosystems, degraded by plantation monoculture and peasant subsistence agriculture. Bonham Richardson (1983; 1985) characterizes the small island countries of the Caribbean as "migration societies" in which every person has been a migrant or is related to one.

Caribbean societies have produced an "ideology of migration" that affects social relations between and within classes, and social relations between the sexes and the generations (Philpott 1973). Especially for men, migration is linked to the attainment and maintenance of status and prestige amongst male peers (Wilson 1973). In one sense, the migration tradition represents a positive aspect of the Afro-Caribbean peoples' efforts to resist domination and oppression. However, the migration tradition and the colonial heritage have combined to produce a tendency for West Indians to consider overseas societies as more advanced, progressive, and "better" than their own, and to seek the solution to their individual, familial, and social problems off the island rather than trying to change their circumstances on the island.

Ethnographic studies of Caribbean migration have been

criticized for being largely atheoretical, focusing on historical or descriptive analyses of particular communities that have not been placed within a broader theoretical paradigm of migration (Chaney 1985; Watson 1982). Moreover, the ethnographies cited










26


above focused on men as migrants and the meaning of migration to men, while women were mostly invisible.

The invisibility of women in Caribbean migration studies contrasts strongly with the prominence they assume in ethnographies of Caribbean family and household structure done prior to the 1970s (cf. Clarke 1957; Gonzalez 1969; Smith, R. T. 1956). Early ethnographers assumed Caribbean family patterns were derivative and degenerate forms of either African or European family structures (Greenfield 1966; Herskovits 1937, Herskovits and Herskovits 1947; Rodman 1971). Theorists debated the origins of socially acceptable multiple forms of mating, a high incidence of consensual unions and illegitimacy, the predominance of femaleheaded households, and a family value system described as "matrifocal" (Horowitz 1967; Otterbein 1966; M.G. Smith 1962b). Nancie L. Gonzalez (1970) defined "matrifocality" as a family pattern in which mother-child bonds are stronger and more durable than husband-wife ties. Relationships between family members are defined and maintained through the mother-child dyad. Kinship ties are strongest between women. Men occupy a marginal role to the family/household and may relate simultaneously to several women in different households--their mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, and former and current sexual partners (Brana-Shute 1979; Wilson 1973). Despite their fascination with the unique features of Afro-Caribbean families, researchers seldom examined










27


the underlying system of beliefs about kinship, gender, and the household (Brana-Shute 1980; Smith 1978, 1984).

Compared to the later studies of migration, the early ethnographies of families and households focused almost exclusively on women, while treating men as peripheral and intermittent social actors. Moreover, researchers rarely mentioned migration as a significant event and generally overlooked possible relationships between family patterns and migration. The theoretical perspective that dominated Caribbean family studies has made it difficult for contemporary researchers to incorporate their findings into the migration paradigm. Family studies focused on "structure" whereas analysts of migration tend to describe a "process." Connections between the two social domains have been left largely unexplored. Missing from the Caribbean ethnographic tradition is a theoretical framework that can tie migration and family patterns together in a meaningful way.

This dissertation proposes that a feminist, historicalstructural analysis of the reproduction of labor can help develop such a framework. This dissertation uses St. Vincent as a case study of this method of analysis and asks three main questions:

1) How did the evolution of St. Vincent into a "migration society" affect the reproduction of labor?









28


2) How do the systems of gender, kinship, and household relations structure the reproduction of labor in a "migration society" such as St. Vincent?

3) How is the "migration ideology" perpetuated in St. Vincent?

In answering these questions, I hope to contribute to the study of migration, Afro-Caribbean culture, and kinship. Historical-structural theories of migration emphasize the structural forces within the world capitalist system that propel the movement of people. It cannot explain how individuals respond to these structural forces. By analyzing the systems that structure the reproduction of labor within a sending society, this dissertation will show how individuals' actions are mediated by groups capable of responding to external and internal forces. The vast body of literature on the Afro-Caribbean family and household has tended, with a few notable exceptions, to ignore the migrant orientation of most Caribbean societies, whereas the literature on migration in the Caribbean has not dwelt overmuch on the migrant's "support system" or integration into kinship networks within the sending society. In this dissertation, I will analyze migration and Caribbean gender and kinship patterns as closely linked variables. Finally, this dissertation will contribute to kinship studies by proposing an analytical model of domestic groups based on the sociocultural systems that structure the reproduction of










29


labor within a particular culture. These systems--gender,

kinship, and household--create and maintain powerful yet elastic

bonds between sexual partners and kinsfolk that can outlast time

and stretch across continents.

Chapter Two discusses the methodology used to collect and

analyze the data on which this dissertation is based, including

historical, demographic, and ethnographic materials.


Notes


(1) The two major paradigms for the study of migration are equilibrium theory and the historical-structural perspective (Portes 1978; Wood 1982). Both theories perceive migration as an economically motivated action. Equilibrium theory is a microeconomic approach that emphasizes the rational decision-making processes of the individual actor. According to this model, labor moves from low to high productivity zones until conditions between the two become balanced or in equilibrium. Equilibrium theory sees the geographic maldistribution of the factors of production-land, labor, and capital--as "natural" and not as the product of historical forces. Migrant workers perceive these inequalities and "naturally" desire to move out of low-wage areas to high-wage areas. Migration is a result of "push" factors in the sending areas and of "pull" factors in the receiving areas. Remittances and return migration foster development and modernization in migrant-sending zones. Over time, migrant-sending and -receiving areas approach economic and social equilibrium (Spengler and Myers 1977).

















CHAPTER TWO
METHODOLOGY

Initial Methodological Assumptions

I went to St. Vincent to study the "impact of migration on women," armed intellectually with the dominant biases of demographic and social science research on migration. The sending society was one place, the receiving society another, and migration was the movement of individuals pushed and pulled between them. Return migration was an anomaly. Feminist convictions inspired me to study "women's roles" in St. Vincent and how these roles were shaped by an accommodation to migration. Women had been overlooked in migration studies (Castro, Gearing and Gill 1984) or they were treated as mere appendages to men who went along for the ride during migration.

I felt that by focusing on households I could integrate the study of migration and its impact on women's roles. The household had been suggested as a useful level of analysis for migration studies (Wood 1982). Households had been the subject of focus of many Caribbean ethnographers, but few investigators approached gender and kinship beliefs and practices as part of a unique culture. I wanted to describe Vincentian kinship and gender practices from as "emic" a perspective as possible.


30











31


I planned on learning about the Vincentian perspective on kinship, gender, and migration primarily through classical anthropological techniques--participant observation, key informant interviewing, and informal interviews. I also wanted to use methods derived from sociolinguistics and ethnosemantics to analyze naturally occurring speech. I was interested in hearing what Vincentians had to say about their relatives, their partners, their migration experiences. I intended to use both the content of Vincentians' utterances and the ways in which discourse was structured and interpreted to construct the cultural systems of beliefs, attitudes, and values which guided Vincentians social interactions.

I hoped to combine these techniques with a household survey

to compare "migrants" versus "non-migrants." I also wanted to consult archival and reference materials available through the local library, records office, and government ministries. I planned on collecting folklore and items from popular culture, especially music and the media, to round out the information gathered through qualitative methods and the survey.

Choosing a Field Site

My original dissertation proposal was to study the women's perspective of migration on the small West Indian island of Carriacou. Unfortunately, international politics intervened in my plans. Carriacou is part of the multi-island nation of Grenada,










32


and relations between the socialist government of Maurice Bishop and the government of the United States were tense during the spring of 1983. In March 1983, when I received notification that my proposal had been approved for funding, I was told that my proposed research was excellent and topical, but that I could not go to Carriacou. The agency administrator alluded to the 1979 Iranian crisis and said that the agency was afraid that another hostage situation might develop.

I modified my plans accordingly and chose St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the nearest island country north of Carriacou, as an alternate field site. St. Vincent, like Carriacou, had a long history of dependence on international migration and a similiar demographic profile. St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a small multi-island nation in the southern Eastern Caribbean located at latitude 13 degrees North and longitude 61 degrees West. Independent since 1979, the total land area of St. Vincent is 150 square miles and the total resident population was approximately 98,000 in 1980. By most economic indices, St. Vincent is ranked with Dominica as the second poorest nation in the English-speaking Caribbean. The economy is based on agriculture; bananas are the major export crop. Remittances from emigrants provide a major source of income for many Vincentians and offset the limitations of the economy to some extent. St. Vincent's history shares many similiarities with Grenada and Carriacou. The early Amerindian










33


inhabitants were displaced by African and Europeans, although a small remnant group of Caribs still remains. The economy was shaped by European-controlled, estate-organized sugar monoculture and slavery. After Emancipation in 1838, the freed blacks resisted estate labor by emigrating and turning to small farming. The estate owners coped with the resulting labor shortages by importing indentured laborers, including Portuguese from the Madeiran Islands, East Indians, and liberated Africans. Although small in size, the population is still ethnically and racially diverse. Vincentians speak an English Creole as well as standard West Indian English.

Hymie Rubenstein and Roger Abrahams had both done research in St. Vincent in the 1960s, and their published work provided a basic description comparable to that available for Carriacou. Two friends of mine had either worked or done research in St. Vincent and offered to provide me with introductions to possible contacts. Gary Brana-Shute, an anthropologist who was working as a consultant on a rural development project in St. Vincent, cautioned me at great length on personal safety, and these warnings were repeated by officials in the U.S. government. I learned that two Peace Corps volunteers had been raped in St. Vincent in 1982. My initial Vincentian contacts also recommended that I not stay in the guest house I had intended to use as a preliminary base of operations. Instead, they told me to ask the










34


island Peace Corps director, Mr. Van Keene, if he knew of a place I could stay. Mr. Van Keene helped me locate a house in a suburb of the capital and I moved in within a week of my arrival.

I debated moving to a smaller, more remote village to do a traditional community study as I had planned on Carriacou. Several factors influenced my decision not to move. I had gotten to know some of my neighbors and they were getting to know me. My house and neighborhood were reasonably secure and I felt safe. After living in St. Vincent only a few weeks, I realized that without having my own "transport" or vehicle, my freedom of movement would be severely restricted in a village. The suburban area in which I was living was linked to the capital and nearby communities through a reliable network of private vans that operated day and night. From my neighborhood I could go into "town" everyday to visit the Library, Registrar's Office, government ministries, and still make field trips into the countryside.

The location of field sites chosen by previous researchers also affected my decision to remain where I was. I learned shortly after my arrival that I had been immediately preceded in St. Vincent by Corrine Glesne, an anthropologist who had lived and worked in a small village in the Buccament Valley on the Leeward Coast while studying agriculture and educational policy. Hymie Rubenstein and Brian Betley had both worked in towns on the









35


Leeward Coast during the late 1960s. Roger Abrahams had collected his data in the mountains near the Mesopotamia Valley in the southeastern interior. The suburban area I lived in represented a new form of Vincentian community, not a rural village nor a small town nor the capital. I had already learned through initial talks with my neighbors that many of them were either returned migrants from overseas or rural-urban migrants. I found that my neighborhood represented a "natural sample" of Vincentians from several types of communities with a variety of migration experiences. Most research in St. Vincent and in the English-speaking Caribbean has concentrated on the poorer members of society living in exclusively black communities. I thought that a description of the middle strata of Vincentian society would help complete gaps in the ethnographic record.

The Community of Arnos Vale

Arnos Vale, the community in which I lived for twenty-two

months and where I collected the majority of the data used in this dissertation, typifies the new Vincentian suburban community. Arnos Vale is situated due east of the capital, Kingstown, in the valley and foothills of the Greathead River and directly on the Windward Highway (Figure 2.1). Sion Hill and Cane Garden lie east of Arnos Vale, while the communities of Cane Hall and Fountain are north and Villa and Indian Bay are located further west. There are no clear-cut physical boundaries or areas of unsettled open








36












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37


land between these communities, although elevation seems to serve as the clearest line of demarcation. Arnos Vale occupies the flat and foothills of the river valley, while the surrounding communities are on the tops of the ridges above the valley.

Arnos Vale was one of the largest estates in the southern

part of the island, consisting of 449 acres and 309 slaves in 1827 (Shephard 1971:xi). The site of the largest sugar mill during slavery times, Arnos Vale was one of the most profitable estates in St. Vincent until debt forced the owner to abandon cultivation in 1854. It was sold in 1858 for 10,500 pounds, and returned to production (Spinelli 1973:109). In the early twentieth century, the original estate was divided in two separate holdings, referred to as Arnos Vale and Greathead. In the 1920s, Greathead was sold in small lots to estate workers, who established a small community along the banks of the Greathead River. Arnos Vale continued to be operated as a sugar and cotton estate until the late 1950s, when the estate was subdivided and the land was sold to the national government and private individuals (St. Vincent Annual Report 1962-1963). The entire community is now referred to as "Arnos Vale." The contemporary community contains several concentrations of government and private business activity and residential neighborhoods.

Arnos Vale is the largest community in the Calliaqua census district. The total population of Arnos Vale in 1980 was 2,867










38


persons, representing 16% of the total population of Calliaqua district of 17,493 (St. Vincent 1980 Census, Provisional Figures). Calliaqua is a large district comprising most of the southern tip of St. Vincent, and contains 18% of the total population of the country. Calliaqua district has an area of 11.8 square miles with a population density of 1,478 persons per square mile. Arnos Vale's population is growing rapidly with the addition of new members through births, rural-urban migration, and return migration from overseas.

Although figures for race and ethnicity are not available

separately for Arnos Vale, the entire district of Calliaqua is one of the most diverse in the island. In 1980, Calliaqua's population was 79% black, 14% mixed, 2.5% white, .5% Portuguese,

2.5% East Indian, .1% Amerindian or Carib, and .4% other. The proportion of blacks is slightly lower than the national figure of 82%, but the proportions of whites (including Portuguese) and East Indians are slightly higher than the national figures of 1.6% for whites and 1.6% for East Indians. The percentage of respondents reporting mixed race in Calliaqua district is the same as the national figure (14%). My neighborhood in Arnos Vale included representatives of almost every Vincentian racial group except for elite whites, who lived in more prestigious communities or in the capital. Living in close proximity to my house were East Indians, Portuguese, Caribs, poor whites, Syrians, as well as Vincentians









39


of African and mixed African ancestry of every possible skin shade.

Arnos Vale functions primarily as a bedroom community for the capital, and the majority of people resident there commute to work in "town" daily. Some agricultural and fishing activity persists, but Arnos Vale is no longer a peasant village or an estate community. Economically, my neighbors ranged from the very poor, completely dependent upon remittances and meagre informal sector earnings, to a Government minister and member of St. Vincent's political elite. Most of my neighbors could best be described as lower-middle class persons, who held secure, full-time positions with private businesses or with the civil service, and small to mid-level entrepreneurs. Most residents of Arnos Vale can be described as members of the "new middle class." This group has grown since the end of the Second World War with the expansion of educational opportunities on the island; the growth of jobs in the government civil service and the tourist industry; and increased migration to the industrializing Caribbean countries of Trinidad and Aruba and the industrialized countries of Great Britain, Canada, and the United States. The "new middle class" consists of upwardly mobile individuals born into the lower class who have made it into the middle class largely through their own efforts rather than through the inheritance of property or position.










40


The choice of Arnos Vale as my major field site provided an interesting test of the theory proposed by many ethnographers of Afro-Caribbean countries that lower class lifestyles represent an adaptation to conditions of harsh poverty and discrimination. Although some community residents are from the traditional middle class and inherited their status, the majority of residents are members of the "new middle class," and others are in the lower class. Thus, Arnos Vale provided a setting in which I could observe the effects of shifting class status on beliefs and behavior and observe inter-class as well as intra-class relations. This setting contrasts with that of most Caribbean ethnographies which have focused on smaller, island-wide societies (Hill 1977; Wilson 1973; Berleant-Schiller 1977; Philpott 1973); on rural villages composed almost exclusively of lower class members (Horowitz 1967; Rubenstein 1987; R. T. Smith 1956); or on poor neighborhoods within large cities (Austin 1983; Brodber 1975; Bolles 1981).

Physically, Arnos Vale has many attractive features. Most houses are small to medium-sized concrete block structures, although there are some small wooden houses and a few mansions. Most houses are painted and in good repair. Yards are large, well maintained, and contain a mixture of grass, small kitchen gardens, livestock pens, many fruit and shade trees, and decorative flowering plants and shrubs. Chickens, sheep, goats, cattle,










41


ducks, cats, and dogs abound. Large open fields still exist, some in pasture and some cultivated, although the open areas are shrinking as new houses continue to go up. Roads are well maintained and there are streetlights. Children are well fed and clothed, and do not beg. Residents work hard and try to lead "respectable" lives. The community is neither a slum nor an upper-class enclave, but the home of many striving working and middle class Vincentians.

The feature of Arnos Vale that sets it aside from every other community in the minds of most Vincentians is the presence of the national airport. Through this airport the vast majority of Vincentian migrants depart when they leave their country and arrive when they come home. Arnos Vale is the last or the first place in St. Vincent they see. The activity of the airport-planes coming and going--forms a rhythm of noise against which life in the community goes on everyday, a constant reminder to those who listen of faraway places to see and absent relatives and friends to remember. This dissertation, therefore, is set in a Vincentian community that bears constant witness to the migration process.

Presentation of Self

My Vincentian neighbors' prior contacts with resident

foreigners were primarily with tourists or with volunteers serving with the Peace Corps of the United States, the Volunteer Service










42


Organization of Great Britain, or the Crossroads Organization of Canada. Because I did not want to be typecast as a rich tourist but could not change my skin color or American accent, I modeled aspects of my dress and demeanour on recommendations given to Peace Corps volunteers and advice I had read in fieldwork books. I wore simple dresses or skirts and blouses with sandals, no makeup, and very little jewelry. I did not hire a servant and did all my housework myself. I tried to observe Vincentian forms of courtesy, such as greeting everyone in my neighborhood when I passed them on the street and not entering anyone's yard without their permission.

I usually introduced myself as a student or researcher from the United States who had come to St. Vincent to study women's roles and the importance of migration. Education is highly valued in St. Vincent, and both terms of self-identifcation were received with respect. When I first moved in, my neighbors assumed I was a Peace Corps volunteer, but because I visited Vincentians' homes, invited them over to my home, and asked questions about Vincentians' own opinions, I was eventually accepted as a non-threatening, mildly amusing neighborhood diversion. Many of my neighbors were materially much better off than I was. I lacked a television set, a car, most household appliances, and did not hire a servant. Because I conformed to the "Peace Corps model" of living standards and Peace Corps volunteers were known to be










43


living on incomes pegged to the local economy, I was seldom approached for monetary help. On the contrary, my neighbors occasionally gave me gifts of produce and fish, because I lacked the kinship and friendship networks that helped keep them supplied with commodities.

Race played a factor in my relationships with my neighbors

and other Vincentian contacts. Even though St. Vincent has a more racially diverse population than many other Caribbean societies, the natives usually accord white people a higher status. I was always greeted with formal courtesy whenever I first met a Vincentian, and people made an effort to use standard English when talking to me. By conforming to a lower middle class lifestyle, however, I was eventually accepted in the community. After six months, I asked my next-door neighbor what Vincentian racial term she would use to describe me, and she replied, "Clear-skin because you don't have the kind of money white people have and you don't act so snobbish."

Another factor to be considered in my acceptance with my informants was their prior experiences living overseas as migrants. Although I heard many stories about racial discrimination abroad, I also was told about friendships and kindnesses received. Vincentians pride themselves on their friendliness and hospitality with good reason, I found. I suspect that my neighbors extended such warm courtesy to me because of










44


their own knowledge of the hardships faced adapting to a strange land and new customs.

Entry Problems

Soon after I arrived I became aware of the pervasive

influence of politics on Vincentian life. When I entered the field in October 1983, the government was under the control of the St. Vincent Labour Party (SVLP). I had been warned by the Political Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Barbados and by contacts in the United States that the Labour government was difficultpto approach. Although the government approved my project, it did little to assist me. In particular, the 1980 census, which I dearly wanted to use for my research, was not available. I initially thought that it was delayed in processing, but I soon found out that it was being suppressed. I also learned that some government statistics cited in official publications were suspect, especially those relating to population. Fearing possible expulsion from St. Vincent, I muted the emphasis on the study of migration and instead talked more about my interest in "women's roles" and "development."

Several months passed before I could gain permission to

access official records. Even then, personal relationships with government officials helped enormously. I followed the excellent advice proffered me by both these "strategic" informants and my ordinary neighborhood contacts to keep a very low profile so far









45


as my research activities were concerned. After the general election of July, 1984, and the ascension of the New Democratic Party to power, the political atmosphere improved greatly and I received assistance with my research. Difficult as my experiences were during the first eight months on St. Vincent while the Labour Government was in power, they proved valuable in increasing my understanding of the conditions of life Vincentians faced and the mechanisms they employed to cope with the bureaucracy, mechanisms which are generally referred to as "pull string."

Finding a Research Assistant

My decision to employ a research assistant was based on my concerns for my personal safety and my frustration with the resulting lack of mobility. Another factor was the difficulty I was having learning to speak Vincentian Creole English fluently. The local dialect of English, based on African grammatical forms and English vocabulary items, was not as easy to learn as I had hoped, although my comprehension was improving. A major problem was getting informants to speak "bad," as they referred to their Creole use, in my presence. Instead, they would attempt to correct their speech to more standard forms. I was learning idioms and thought most people could understand what I was trying to say.

Two months after arriving in St. Vincent I was introduced to a young Vincentian named Elroy Connor, who was recommended to me










46


as a potential research assistant. Elroy was from one of the small towns on the Windward Coast. Self-educated and very articulate, he had a deep interest in Vincentian history and folklore. Elroy had been a performer with a folkloric dance group and an acting troupe, and had also developed his own comedy routine in Vincentian Creole and wrote and sang his own calypsoes. Although he had never travelled abroad, several members of his immediate family had emigrated to England, Canada, and Trinidad.

My new assistant was perfectly bi-dialectical and able to

translate from Creole to Standard English with great proficiency. In his company I could attend events at night and not be harassed by men. Through his family and friendship networks I met and interviewed many individuals from outside my neighborhood. Without his assistance in setting up interviews and establishing my credibility, many of my informal interviews, especially with men, would not have been possible. Our association also provided me with an excellent "sounding board" to discuss my developing interpretations of Vincentian gender and kinship roles.

My relationship with Elroy Connor developed into friendship, partnership, and something much stronger. We decided to marry and we had a child before I left St. Vincent in August of 1985. My husband continued to act as my research assistant after our marriage and continues to provide me with an insider's commentary on my analysis.










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I worried initially what impact my deepening relationship with Elroy would have on my relationships with my neighbors and other informants. My closest informants admitted later that they had been worried about me, because my new "friend" was not from their neighborhood, and they did not know his family or his background. They were afraid that he might be taking advantage of me financially. However, they were glad that I was not alone anymore and had found a Vincentian boyfriend. They had been disturbed about my living alone and had wondered whether I was really "normal," because I had seemed to be avoiding men. My concerns about their opinions of the propriety of the relationship proved to be groundless.

After our marriage and during my pregnancy, I was able to learn first-hand about Vincentian values about fertility, childbearing, and marriage. I gained an "insider's" perspective while retaining my outsider's awareness of the anthropolgical significance of my new status. My female informants were eager to share stories about their pregnancies and childbirth experiences, and offer advice on childrearing practices.

Collection and Analysis of Ethnographic Data

In my pursuit of knowledge about Vincentian culture, I used many different kinds of "bits" or "strips" of information, to borrow Michael Agar's (1986) terminology. As Agar states (1986:36), "strips" vary in several ways, including the degree of










48


control exerted by the ethnographer in their elicitation, the way in which they are recorded, and the level or self-analytic quality of such "strips." I relied heavily on "strips" collected by directly observing the actions of individuals in domestic groups and by listening to naturally occurring conversations between these individuals, conversations about their daily actions (level 1 strips), and conversations about the quality of their relations to each other (level 2 strips). I even listened to some comments these individuals made about their talk about each other (level 3 strips).

In some instances the individuals concerned had no awareness of my observation of them. My favorite vantage point to conduct neighborhood observations was my front porch. My house was located near the top of a very steep hill and I could see most of my neighbors' houses and yards clearly. Because Vincentian women sit on their porches during the day doing chores, resting, visiting with kin and friends, and watching the world go by, I could sit on my porch jotting down notes and attract very little notice. Indeed, by observing the comings and goings in the neighborhood I was conforming to normal Vincentian behavior.

In other situations, I was a participant as well as an

observer. Most strips gathered from these situations were not recorded on the spot (except when I was watching or listening without the person's awareness), but were written down as










49


fieldnotes later. I did not want to interrupt the flow of events with notetaking nor to violate the privacy of individuals by tape recording them without their permission.

I was able to observe and participate in a variety of

settings, including private houses and yards, public streets, shops and stores, on public transport, beaches, churches and churchyards, schools and schoolyards, restaurants, movie theatres, and nightclubs, government buildings and offices, the courts, the hospital, clinics and the pharmacy, and the library. Most of my time was spent in my community or in Kingstown, or commuting between them, but I also took fieldtrips to all the other towns and several villages.

My use of naturally occurring speech to study Vincentian culture was prompted by Roger Abrahams' and Richard Bauman's research on the ethnography of speaking on St. Vincent, from which they concluded:


Talking...bears all the earkmarks among the Vincentian peasants of a cultural focus... Speech behavior is one
of the most crucial keys to social life in every
culture, but such is the degree of interest and
self-consciousness among the Vincentians, and such the
degree of cognitive importance that speaking assumes,
that the ethnographic elucidation of the use of
language in Vincentian peasant society can yield
insights of the most direct and immediate kind into
the Vincentian culture as a whole (1983:88).

Vincentians have identified and labelled many types of talk, and use these terms when discussing events and individuals










50


(Abrahams and Bauman 1971; Abrahams 1970, 1968, 1983). Many forms of social interaction are categorized primarily on the basis of the type of talk which took place.

"Commess" or gossip carries a negative connotation yet most Vincentians love to hear and tell it. In addition to "commess," which is usually about "private" matters and personalities, Vincentians enjoy telling stories about public events, some which happened locally, others which happened elsewhere, some which happened in the immediate past and others which were more remote.

While listening to the telling and re-telling of gossip and

stories and the attendant analysis and commentary, I realized that not everything one heard could be assessed with the same degree of veracity. First, in their desire to give a good performance, Vincentians might leave out or amplify some details. The story and its telling were an entertainment event as much as an information source to the Vincentian audience, and the "truth" was not always a critical factor for enjoyment.

Secondly, although Vincentians enjoy being tellers of tales

(the man or woman of words) and therefore in control of the speech event, they do not want to be the subject matter of gossip told at their expense. This means that the naive ethnographer can usually obtain secondhand information about "other people's bidness" more readily that direct information from the interviewee. Firsthand information may be deliberately distorted to put the interviewee









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in a positive light. I often obtained several different versions of the same event from different respondents, all of which contained "the truth" as the recounter perceived it, but which emphasized different aspects depending on the recounter's relationship to the protagonist or his or her own involvement in the event. Field analysis usually consisted of hearing and recording several versions of the same occurrence, such as a neighbor's family quarrel, then sifting through the stories to determine what had happened and how it was affecting the different participants (cf. Tobias 1975). My willingness to participate in Vincentian speech events helped establish me as an acceptable person in Vincentian terms.

Outside of my neighborhood I often pretended not to understand Vincentian Creole and was thus able to hear uncensored conversations and exchanges. I learned on these occasions of the usefulness of the "non-standard" or Creole language in a bi-dialectal society since participants felt free to express themselves assured of the outsider's ignorance.

My in-field analysis of naturally occurring social events

suggested topics that I explored with informants through informal and formal interviews, some of which consisted of a few questions interjected during the flow of events that helped me understand ongoing actions. Others were discussions or re-plays of events that I or the other person had personally witnessed earlier. Some










52


questions were designed to determine normal bounds of action or interpretation. These types of questions included queries such as, "Has your husband's outside child ever lived with you?" and "What times of year do your overseas relatives come home to visit?" Other informal interviews were designed to extract information about activities that I could not observe--historical events such as the 1979 eruption of La Soufriere, or life history events such as the circumstances surrounding an individual's first sexual encounter. These informal interviews were usually encapsulated into standard daily conversation or scheduled interviews. Some topics came up because of my research agenda while others emerged because of events occurring spontaneously that related to my interest in gender, kinship, and household relations. I could not have predicted, for example, nor would ever have thought to ask, what a neighbor's reaction would be when his sister was raped and murdered, but when the tragedy occurred it provided me with an opportunity to learn about Vincentian attitudes towards rape and sexual violence.

I also asked my informants questions of a more abstract or

general nature, such as "How do men treat women here?" or "How has life changed in St. Vincent since you were a child?" The purpose of these questions was to elicit opinions and attitudes, value judgments and commentaries, rather than statements of fact. These types of questions were often inserted into fact-finding










53


interviews, such as life histories, and were also used when several informants were gathered together to stimulate general talks in which participants were not asked for self-disclosing details.

I usually isolated statements, comments, and individual terms that one informant used and would then ask another informant if I had heard or understood correctly. I would ask the new informant to tell me other possible meanings or contexts of use for these phrases or terms. Sometimes this tactic elicited a yes or no response, or a yes but also this or a yes and that too, and then the informant would provide another anecdote or example in which the term or expression was used. Of course, in some cases my interpretation was way off, prompting considerable ridicule at my expense.

When I wanted to feel some closure about emerging cultural domains such as sexuality, kinship, race, and class, I conducted structured ethnosemantic interviews using repetitive question frames to establish exact definitions of terms and the relationships between terms and classes of terms. I occasionally tried to elicit definitions of terms that I knew were incorrect in order to check my own understanding and my informants' desire to please. Again, my errors were generally the ready basis for laughter.









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Formal interviews, usually conducted in my own or the

informant's house, were taken down at the time on paper or were tape recorded with the informant's permission. These included both genealogies and life histories and the ethnosemantic interviews.

Altogether, I relied on three sets of informants. One set consisted of members of my neighborhood and included about 20 adults and about 15 children. Four of these individuals served as "key informants." Another set included "instrumental" informants: government workers, politicians, and other prominent citizens whom I initially approached with requests for information on specific subjects, such as vital statistics. As time went on, my relationships with some of these individuals expanded to include personal and social matters unrelated to the original subject. This group consisted of about 30 individuals, of whom five served as key informants. The third set consisted of "incidental" informants, whom I met on the street in my neighborhood, in town, or in other communities. Some of these individuals I saw regularly, at least once a week, while others I talked to only once. This set was the largest, and consisted of well over 50 people. I consider six of this group to have served as key informants as well.










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The Process of Fieldwork

I began fieldwork by collecting information about my

immediate neighborhood and the surrounding community. I walked about, usually accompanied by a neighbor, mapping houses and introducing myself to their inhabitants. I learned the appropriate ways of initiating conversation with strangers and Vincentian hospitality customs. My next-door neighbor introduced me to most of my immediate neighbors and also gave me helpful "background" about the neighborhood. I observed the daily routines of several nearby households and began stopping over to "chat" with several neighbors as often as possible. I participated in neighborhood life, going to church, shopping at the different small shops, walking about and exploring.

Patterns of daily activities varied during the week and

seasonally. I observed similiar patterns when I visited other neighborhoods in the same community, in the capital and other suburbs, and in villages in the countryside. Variations in daily routines appeared to be due to wealth and the ability to hire servants, as well as the composition of individual domestic groups. Ethnic and racial differences did not matter as much as income.

The more time I spent observing and visiting Vincentian homes and talking and listening to talk about family life, male-female relationships, and migration experiences, the more I became









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convinced that a "household" survey as originally planned would not be a productive use of my time. As I talked to Vincentians about their lives, and watched their day-to-day activities and interactions, I became concerned with the usefulness of the "household" as it has been defined by Wood (1982) or Pessar (1982) as a conceptual device. I plotted fluctuations in the composition of several households over a period of a few weeks and realized a single synchronic survey would not tell me why such fluctuations occurred. My interest was increasingly focused on understanding the logic or value systems which underlay these relationships between people--relationships defined through "blood" or kinship ties and those between sexual partners. I decided to concentrate on building up case studies of a few families I could know intimately rather than do a formal survey of a large number of "households" that I would not be able to know as well. I also realized that even if I could come up with an operational definition of a "household," none of my neighbors could be put into a "non-migrant household" category, because every single "household" group contained members who had gone abroad or who were related by kinship ties or sexual relationships to migrants.

I selected five domestic groups that I could observe

unobtrusively and that represented a variety of combinations of sexual partnerships and kinship relationships. I collected genealogies from my selected households and began gathering life










57


history information. I continued my observations of daily activities, noting seasonal and other variations, and my casual "chats" with different family members. I also continued to observe and talk with other persons in my neighborhood who were not in my small case study sample.

I used materials from popular culture for information on the symbolic aspects of family, sexuality, and migration in the wider society. Calypso lyrics provided a rich source of information on commonly expressed and accepted values about gender and sexuality. I listened to the local radio station constantly, collected all available newspapers, and attended political rallies and cultural shows.

The annual Carnival is the most popular cultural event in St. Vincent. Carnival is now celebrated during a ten day period at the end of June and beginning of July to to attract tourists during the slow summer season and to avoid competition with the much larger and better known Trinidadian Carnival. Many Vincentians living overseas return home for Carnival. During the two Carnival seasons I spent in St. Vincent (1984 and 1985), I spent hours doing participant observation in Kingstown, listening to returned migrants, observing their interactions with residents, and talking to many of them directly.










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Collection of Archival and Census Data

I alternated days spent in my neighborhood collecting and analyzing data on domestic groups with trips to Kingstown to consult sources at the Public Library, Registrar's Office, the Government Statistics Office, and the Government Information Center, created in 1984 while I was in the field. The Government Information Center represented an attempt to gather together and organize documents and records from different ministries to assist the Government Planning Office's efforts. Prior to its establishment, no central government archives existed. During the British colonial administration, the majority of official government records were kept in England and little local record keeping was maintained in St. Vincent. As a result, it was extremely difficult to obtain any official statistics.

No statistics were kept on migration except for a record of "arrivals and departures" by the airport and police. These figures include non-Vincentian tourist arrivals and departures and cannot be used to measure Vincentian emigration or return migration. The Labor Commissioner had records of participants in the H-2 farmworkers program only for the late 1970s and early 1980s because his predecessor had not kept any official records at all. The teachers' union, nurses' association, and civil servants' union did not keep any records that showed membership









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losses due to migration, although officials of each group reported that turnover was high because so many members left each year.

The 1980 census results have still not been officially

released by the government nor published. I was given access to the provisional computer printouts by the government in October 1984 and I have used these provisional figures in my own calculations. I also used the Registrar's Records to compile my own vital statistics and rates.

The 1980 census was suppressed by the Labor government of St. Vincent because the total population recorded by the census was much smaller than the figures released as government estimates, which ranged as high as 125,000 persons. Several confidential discussions with government employees about the suppression of the census led me to believe that these estimates had been padded upwards. The creation of inflated estimates was inspired by the government's need to secure foreign aid, which is often allocated on the basis of per capita income. The higher the population, the lower the resulting per capita income. Accurate population figures might threaten St. Vincent's status as an "LDC" when applying for aid.

The 1980 census in St. Vincent was coordinated through the University of the West Indies, and the same standardized form is used throughout the English-speaking Caribbean. Census takers are teachers and other civil servants familiar with and respected by










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their communities. Cooperation with the census is mandated by law and compliance is high. However, the instrument contains no questions about migration and the census measures only resident population. It does not ask respondents about movement during the inter-censal period and the resulting census figures do not indicate the extent of return migration or short-term migration.

I interviewed three individuals who had been census takers either in 1970, 1980, or both. I discussed the results of the censuses of 1970 and 1980 with government officials and asked questions about Vincentian population policy. In addition, I consulted the published work of other demographers (See Proudfoot 1950; Byrne 1969; Spinelli 1973).

The vital statistics on births, deaths, and marriages found in the Registrar's Office are reasonably accurate, because registration is required by law; children cannot attend school without a birth certificate, burials cannot take place without a death certificate, and weddings will not be performed without a marriage certificate. Age of mother at birth was first recorded on birth certificates in 1960.

In addition to the published census figures available for

1946, 1960, and 1970, the provisional results for the 1980 census, and vital statistics figures obtained from my search of the Registrar's records, I used the work of previous Caribbean demographers, including Malcolm Proudfoot (1950), Joycelin Byrne









61


(1969), and Joseph Spinelli (1973) in my analysis of St. Vincent's population history. Joseph Spinelli, a population geographer, did his research in St. Vincent in the late 1960s. Spinelli related the population dynamics of Vincentian society to changes in land use and principal cash crops from the country's beginnings as a British colony in 1763 until 1960. Spinelli's dissertation contains a wealth of information on St. Vincent's population and economy, compiled from original records and hard-to-find secondary sources. However, Spinelli did not tie these demographic and economic changes to the structure of Vincentian society or culture. His research, although an excellent source of information on St. Vincent, is largely atheoretical. I relied heavily on Spinelli's research for historical information on the population and the economy.

I wanted to move beyond the numbers recorded in the census to make some sense of what migration meant to Vincentians. To do so, I turned back to my case studies of domestic groups and my own neighborhood. I realized that everyone to whom I had been talking also had stories to tell about migration. I collected family migration histories and discussed individuals' experiences overseas as well as their relationships with migrant relatives, partners, and friends. My questions focused on motivations for leaving and returning, perceptions of self identity overseas, lifestyle differences abroad and at home, and overall assessment











62


of the impact of migration on the Vincentian economy. I was searching for a consensus about migration as well as the attitudes and expectations people held about migration and migrants.

Migration proved a much more elusive subject than gender, kinship, and household. I had to spend some time and effort persuading my informants to isolate "migration" as an event. My questions about why Vincentians chose to emigrate were met with polite disbelief at my stupidity. For Vincentians, migration is such a deeply entrenched part of the social field, an "unmarked category," as Charles Carnegie (1987) refers to it, that people do not discuss it heatedly or debate it or make it into anything remarkable. Emigration is so basic and motivations so selfevident, that my informants initially thought I was either simple-minded or had some ulterior motive, such as working for the U.S. Embassy Visa office.

In addition to my pre-existing contacts, I sought out new informants and did four detailed life history interviews with returned migrants. I was able to talk at length with two individuals both before and after they returned from "overseas." I discussed experiences overseas in detail with a total of 28 returned migrants, and had informal interviews with an additional 30 Vincentians about their overseas experiences. I overheard or listened in on at least 100 conversational exchanges between Vincentians when migration was discussed.











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One interesting source of data on both kinship and migration were the death notices played on the local radio station every day, which I listened to and recorded for several weeks. These death notices included the particulars of death and told the age, occupation, and other significant social affiliations of the deceased. Then they listed survivors and where the survivors currently reside. Death announcements sometimes included information about the deceased's place of birth and time spent overseas.

Analysis of Historical Materials

My description of St. Vincent's history is based largely on secondary sources, including Joseph Spinelli's dissertation and published materials of contemporary historians and political scientists, including Bernard Marshall, Barry W. Higman, Michael Craton, Kenneth John, and Phillip Nanton. Unfortunately, St. Vincent has attracted the attention of far fewer contemporary Caribbean historians than the older and more populous colonies of Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad, and Antigua. I was fortunate to discover a rich trove of contemporary travellers' accounts of life in St. Vincent from the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in the Latin American Collection of the University of Florida.

Two authors of travellers' accounts, Mrs. Carmichael and F.W. N. Bayley, provide remarkable descriptions of daily life in St. Vincent in the early nineteenth century prior to Emancipation as










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well as historical information about life in the colony during the late eighteenth century. While neither observe can be said to be unbiased, their testimonies include negative and positive comments about all segments of Vincentian Creole slave society from the perspective of the European outsider. Although the authors' self interest must be taken into account when evaluating these materials (e.g., Mrs. Carmichael was a planter's wife), much remains of value that is especially useful to a discussion of gender and kinship relations in slave society. These travellers' accounts were supplemented by the early history of the West Indies written by Bryan Edwards (1794) and the description of life in the post-Emancipation period written by William Sewall (1861).

Applicability of Results

Because I did not conduct a sample survey over the entire island, I cannot generalize my research findings beyond the middle- and lower-class Vincentian inhabitants of the suburban neighborhoods. However, given the diversity of the residents in terms of their place of birth, ethnic/racial identification, socioeconomic status, and migration experiences, and my three independently sampled sets of informants' agreement with each other on appropriate and inappropriate behavior, my results are an accurate representation of the middle-class segment of Vincentian society.










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Ethnographic Style

This dissertation relies heavily on the case studies of domestic groups I compiled from observations of and interviews with my neighbors with the addition of material gathered from other informants and other types of sources, such as official records and popular culture. I want this ethnographic account to be true to the unique flavor of Vincentian life but I do not want to cause anyone there embarrassment or harm through this dissertation. As a consequence, I have changed the names of individuals and families and altered some details of their lives. Several individuals described in following chapters are composites. Incidents that involved one person have been ascribed to others. I have not falsified any data nor changed any quotes.

The next two chapters provide a description of St. Vincent's evolution into a "migration society" and how Vincentian social structure has affected the reproduction of labor during the country's history. Chapter Four also presents a brief description of contemporary Vincentian society.


















CHAPTER THREE
THE EVOLUTION OF A MIGRATION SOCIETY History and Demography

This chapter describes St. Vincent's beginnings as a

migration society in the nineteenth century; how the dependence on migration evolved and how it affected the reproduction of labor within Vincentian society. Vincentians' participation in labor migration is not a recent phenomenon; indeed, labor migration has a one hundred and fifty year history in St. Vincent. One cannot understand why migration is so important in St. Vincent today without examining the history of its political economy within the larger world capitalist system. St. Vincent, like the rest of the West Indies, was colonized by Europeans and transformed into a producer of tropical commodities for export to Europe. The indigenous population was either killed or deported by 1797, and replaced by slave and indentured laborers. After 1802, the majority of the arable land was devoted to the production of export crops and controlled by a small minority of individuals (Rubenstein 1987: 26-42; Shephard 1831). The beginning of St. Vincent as a migration society lies in its origins as a British West Indian sugar colony with a political economy and rigid class system based on slavery.





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Even after slavery was abolished in 1834, local conditions of production altered very little. The major crop changed, but the Vincentian economy continued to be dependent on a single export crop, first arrowroot, then cotton, and now bananas. Agricultural technology and working conditions remained primitive. The island could not become self-sufficient because local manufacturing and subsistence agriculture were never intensively developed. St. Vincent's small size and limited physical resources compounded its economic problems (Spinelli 1973).

The history of St. Vincent can be divided into several stages according to the major social and demographic processes occurring at the time. These stages include the British sugar colony during slavery; the post-Emancipation period from 1838 until the 1880s; the first great emigration from the 1880s until the Great Depression of the 1930s; and the resumption of migration during World War II until the present. This chapter will trace the beginnings of the migration society in the nineteenth century and Chapter Four will trace the history of migration from the 1880s until the present.

St. Vincent as a British Sugar Colony during Slavery

St. Vincent did not become a British colony until the end of the Seven Years' War (1756-1763) between England and France. At that time, St. Vincent was inhabited by a small group of French smallholders and their slaves; Yellow or Island Caribs; and the











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Black Caribs (Shephard 1831; Kirby and Martin 1972; Gonzalez 1988). This Afro-Amerindian group were the descendants of African slaves shipwrecked off the Vincentian coast, runaway slaves from other colonies, and Island Caribs. By the early eighteenth century, the Black Caribs were the dominant force on the island and controlled most of the land (Gonzalez 1988; Kirby and Martin 1972).

The British government declared St. Vincent Crown property in 1763, had the island surveyed in 1764, and put the land up for sale. In an attempt to avoid the problems of land management encountered in the older British islands and encourage a yeoman class of farmers, the maximum acreage of a parcel of land was set at 500 acres. Only British subjects could purchase land outright. The 1,300 French settlers were allowed to remain on their properties for 40 years but could not keep them freehold (Spinelli 1973:52).

In 1763, the year Britain obtained St. Vincent, the total

population (not including the Caribs) was estimated at 7,100. By 1764, the population grew to 9,518 due to the movement of British planters and their slaves from the older islands of Jamaica, Barbados, and the Leeward Islands to the new colony (Spinelli 1972:227). Most immigrants were small and medium-sized sugar planters who intended to re-establish themselves as sugar planters on St. Vincent. Despite the intentions of the British government,









69


as soon as the land was sold, more affluent planters began to buy up the property of the small farmers and the French planters and establish large estates (Spinelli 1973:55).

British settlement on St. Vincent grew slowly during the remainder of the eighteenth century. From 1764 to 1795, the British planters cleared the tropical forest cover, expanded their sugar estates, and imported large numbers of African slaves. Two wars with the Black Caribs in 1772-1773 and 1795-1797 were necessary before their violent resistance to the British occupation of the island was ended. In 1797, the surviving Black Caribs, about 5,000 men, women and children, were rounded up and shipped to a small island off the coast of Central America (Gonzalez 1988:19-22; Kirby and Martin 1972). A few hundred Caribs eluded the roundup and were confined to three small reservations in the mountainous northern interior of the island.

The flat and fertile Carib lands on the eastern or Windward Coast were opened up for settlement in 1802 (Shephard 1831; Spinelli 1973:64-65). St. Vincent rapidly took on the typical configuration of a British West Indian colony devoted to sugar monoculture on large plantations. St. Vincent's heydey between 1802 and 1828 as a sugar colony was brief, during the last flowering of the British West Indian sugar industry. Although St. Vincent's history as a slave society was shorter than the older West Indian colonies settled in the sixteenth century, its social










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structure was similiar (Shephard 1831; Carmichael 1833; Bayley 1830). The transformation in the composition of the population, mode of production, and class structure during this period had a lasting impact on St. Vincent's subsequent history.

Between 1764 and 1812, the total population of St. Vincent

increased from 9,518 to 27,455, nearly tripling in size (Spinelli 1972:228). During this forty-year period the population of St. Vincent underwent considerable change. After two wars, the majority of the Caribs were dead or deported, leaving only a few hundred survivors. Poor and wealthy English settlers had joined the colony. But the major change in the population was the importation of large numbers of African slaves to work on the sugar estates.

As increasing numbers of African slaves were imported, the ratio of whites to blacks fell dramatically. In 1764, when the British first arrived in St. Vincent, whites formed 22% of the population while black slaves formed 78%. In 1805, 9% of the population were white, 2% were colored, and 89% were black slaves. Seven years later, the white population had fallen to only 4% of the total population, while the colored and black had increased to 5% and 91%, respectively. The actual number of whites fell from 2,104 in 1764 to 1,053 in 1812 (Spinelli 1972:331; Shephard 1831:iv).










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The expansion into the Carib Lands between 1802 and 1828 changed the scale of production from small to large estates. Sugar monoculture replaced a more diversified mixture of cash crops. A mixed society of large and small holdings became a society of large estates dependent upon slave labor (Spinelli 1973:63-65). Slaves were imported into St. Vincent, as in the rest of the Caribbean, to provide labor in the production of sugar for the profit of estate owners and merchants in England. The slaves were "industrial workers whose work was primarily agricultural," despite a deceptively agrarian appearance (Mintz 1974:47-48).

Slave Society in St. Vincent

The establishment of large estates dependent on slave labor in St. Vincent affected the settlement pattern on the island, class and gender relations, and the entire process of the reproduction of labor. The plantation was an economic enterprise geared to the production of sugar and other tropical crops for export (Mintz 1974:64-75). Each estate consisted of the lands cultivated and uncultivated, residential buildings for the owner, his family, employees, and the slaves, the factory buildings used in the production of sugar from raw cane and its storage, and other outbuildings necessary for the support of the estate's human and animal population (Rubenstein 1987:31-32; Thomas 1988:21-23). The best land was reserved for sugar cultivation, while the slaves










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were permitted to grow food on less desirable and more remote lands.

Other than the estates, the island contained the capital of Kingstown, the administrative and military center, where most retail trade was conducted, and where the island's professionals, craftsmen, and artisans resided. Many estate owners also owned homes in the capital and visited there to shop and participate in colonial "society" (Carmichael 1833:19; Bayley 1830:187-189). The only other settlements were the smaller coastal towns, which served as shipping points for processed sugar and military and administrative outposts. In no sense did the estates, small towns, and capital function independently of each other. All were necessary and integrated parts of the colonial sugar economy.

Under the political economy of plantation sugar mono-culture and slavery, Vincentian class structure was based on the ownership of property, race or color, and free or slave status (Rubenstein 1987:32-39). The upper class consisted of a small group of Europeans and white Creoles (born in the West Indies), who owned all the factors of production -- the land, machinery, and most of the labor force (the slaves) (Thomas 1988:25). Below the elite was another group of "secondary whites," which included the small planters displaced by the consolidation of estates, who were employed by the large estate owners as overseers, accountants, and managers. Other members of this group were the colonial










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administrators, professionals, clergy, and military (Carmichael 1833:19; Rubenstein 1987:39).

As the proportion of whites in the total population fell, both groups of whites closed ranks to form a small, close-knit community that socialized with each other, with the Creole elites in other West Indian islands, or with visiting Europeans. Society revolved around parties, dinners, and balls; the arrival or departure of the British regiment was a major social event (Bayley 1830:235-241; R. T. Smith 1987). Marriages occurred largely within the Creole elite group or with European and North American women because Creole males outnumbered females. The white Creole children born in St. Vincent were sent back to England for education at the age of 10 to 12 because no schools or tutors were available, and few returned to the islands (Carmichael 1833: 25-26). While the resident planter oversaw the production of sugar and the financial affairs of the estate, the planter's wife oversaw the management of the household, supervised the domestic servants, and assisted with the medical treatment of all the estate's slaves. Large numbers of domestic slaves helped keep the households of the elites running (Carmichael 1833:21-24).

The upper class remained loyal to their British heritage and maintained close ties to their native land. One observer wrote:

This word "at home" is the common expression of the
West India settlers. England, Scotland, or Ireland is
still their home. Unlike the inhabitants of the
French colonies, they look upon the island in which










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they reside as a place to which they are, as it were,
exiled for a certain period; as a place containing
their properties, and therefore, of the greatest
consequence to them; but very few of them expect to
die on those properties. Those who can afford it are in the habit of making trips every three or four years to the United Kingdom; and nearly all look forward to
spending their last days in the land of their birth
(Bayley 1830:291-292).

Indeed, once their estates were established, most of the large estate owners went back to England to live off their profits. St. Vincent in the early nineteenth century was noted for an extremely high rate of absentee proprietorship (Spinelli 1973:105). St. Vincent, one of the last British islands colonized, had few social or cultural attractions, no institutes of higher education, and rugged living conditions with few amenities. Those planters who could afford to retire to England with its more comfortable way of life did so. As absentee ownership increased, the subsidiary elites became more powerful (Rubenstein 1987:32). In time, they controlled most of the estates. The political and economic interests of the two groups of European/white Creole elites were quite similiar (Nanton 1983:223).

Between the two groups of whites and the black slaves was

another group, referred to as the "free colored," persons of mixed race descended from liaisons between white male slave owners and their black female slaves. It was customary for estate owners to manumit their mixed race children, educate them, and establish










75


them in a trade or small business (Carmichael 1833:91). Often, the slave mistress was also freed. The free colored were an intermediate group between the white and black elements of the slave society (B. Marshall 1982; Rubenstein 1987:33). Some observers argued they had inherited the worst of both worlds, others that they represented the best (Carmichael 1833:69-80; Day 1852:91). The free colored were the only group in the slave society in which women outnumbered men (B. Marshall 1982:8-9). The sex ratio amongst the free colored may have reflected an actual imbalance or an advantage women of mixed ancestry had over men in gaining their freedom. The majority of the free colored lived in the capital and worked as domestic servants, artisans, and small shopkeepers, although some of the free colored owned property and slaves (B. Marshall 1982:16-22).

The vast majority of the population during slavery were the slaves, both black and colored (mixed race). The slaves were not a monolithic block, however, but were divided into those born free in Africa and those born in slavery. Slaves were also categorized by occupation, age, and sex (Rubenstein 1987:34). The major occupational divisions amongst the slaves were house slaves, artisans who worked at trades or in the sugar mills, and fieldhands. Field gangs were composed of adult men and women; a gang of children worked at less arduous tasks in the fields and around the estate yard. Old men helped care for livestock and










76


other yard chores, while older women looked after infants, very young children, and the sick. Field gang drivers were also usually slaves, but overseers were white and free (Mintz 1974; Carmichael 1833:98-123; Bayley 1830:339-343; Rubenstein 1987).

A few hundred Caribs remained on St. Vincent, restricted to their reserves in the mountains in the north and interior of the island. They eked out an existence through subsistence agriculture and fishing, and made baskets which they traded in town for manufactured goods (Bayley 1830:284-289). Neither group played a significant role in the political economy of the sugar plantation.

Reproduction of Labor in a Slave Society

Under slavery, the slave owner owned the slaves outright for their entire lifetimes, unless they purchased their freedom or were manumitted. The slave owner provided the slaves with food, clothing, and shelter at a level required for survival. In exchange, the slave owner completely controlled the slaves' labor power. Physical force ultimately made the slaves comply. Slave owners were interested in extracting the maximum amount of work from every slave (B. Marshall 1982:27). In peak seasons, slaves worked around the clock up to seven days a week. The most desirable and highest priced slaves were young men, capable of a full day's work in the fields with many years of labor ahead during their lifetimes (Patterson 1976:54).










77


Until the abolition of the British slave trade in 1808, it was cheaper for estate owners to replace laborers through the purchase of new slaves than to subsidize the biological reproduction of the slave population (Thomas 1988; Spinelli 1973:227-231). When the opportunity arose in 1802 to expand production, Vincentian planters already knew that the growing British abolition movement would soon bring the slave trade to an end (Spinelli 1973:230). To effectively bring the new estates under production before the slave trade stopped required the importation of large numbers of slaves between 1802-1808. From 1764 to 1805, the number of slaves in St. Vincent increased 122%, from 7,414 to 16,500. Between 1805 and 1812, the slave population rose to 24,920, an increase of 51% in just seven years. Although the average annual number of slaves imported between 1764 and 1808 was 365, a total of 1,540 slaves arrived in 1803 alone (Spinelli 1973:230). The vast majority of African slaves transported in the last years of the British slave trade went to the new sugar colonies of St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Grenada, and Tobago (Spinelli 1973:227). This rapid influx of African slaves just 26 years before Emancipation meant that the majority of the population in St. Vincent was African or first generation Creole when slavery ended.

Due to the high mortality and low fertility rates among the slaves, the increase in the slave population of St. Vincent can be










78


attributed primarily to continual importations of slaves rather than natural increase (Spinelli 1973:227). After the slave trade was abolished in 1808 the annual rate of population growth plunged from 5.53% (1805-1812) to 0.13% (1812-1825) (Spinelli 1973:230). The abrupt decrease in the rate of population growth after the slave trade was abolished supports the contention that the biologically-based process of the reproduction of labor was thoroughly disrupted during slavery.

Slavery distorted the gender division of labor; tasks were assigned by the slave owner, not by the slaves. The division of labor imposed by the slave owner reflected both the need to maximize production and the European system of gender roles. Women as well as men did heavy field work, but women were not gang drivers (Carmichael 1833:98-113; Bayley 1830). Few women were employed as artisans or skilled sugar factory workers on the estates. Women were the majority of the domestic servants on the estates and in the towns. The division of labor in the only area of production under the slaves' control-subsistence food production--reflects a continuity with West African traditions. Women as well as men worked in the provision grounds and kitchen gardens growing subsistence crops. Women also played an active role in the trade in produce and small stock in the capital (Carmichael 1833:135-137,161-180; Bayley 1830).










79


The slave population came from different ethnic and

linguistic groups in Africa who were forced to live and work together on the estates. Although the slaves retained their African beliefs about gender, kinship, and household, the re-creation of traditional African gender or kinship relations was not possible (B. Marshall 1982:28; Higman 1978:45). Newly arrived slaves from Africa were assigned to older slaves, who helped teach them how to do the work required of them on the estate, how to grow subsistence crops to supplement their rations, and how to survive as a slave (Bayley 1830). Slaves were not encouraged to marry legally, live in nuclear families, or form larger kinship groups. Some estates permitted slaves to build their own huts, but others required field workers (the majority of the slaves) to live communally in large barracks. Childrearing and socialization were assigned to older women who were not necessarily biologically related to the children for whom they cared (Thomas 1988; Carmichael 1833:186-191; Bayley 1830).

The physical conditions of labor under slavery also worked against the reproduction of the slave population by normal biological means. Slave women were expected to do the same heavy field work as men and received little or no special treatment during pregnancy (Thomas 1988). Reports from other slave societies indicate that some slave women practiced abortion and infanticide rather than rear children as slaves (Mintz 1974:










80


75-76). Lengthy breastfeeding was discouraged and children were removed from their mothers' care at an early age and left with older women while the mothers returned to field labor (Carmichael 1833:187-190; Higman 1978:61).

The slaves' mating patterns during slavery were the subject of critical commentary. Both men and women were observed to have multiple partners, although this practice was more common among men than women. Slave relationships were seldom legalized and partners were frequently changed (Bayley 1830; Carmichael 1833: 182,199,297-298).

Slavery also gave white slave owners sexual access to black slave women, but deprived slave men of control over the sexual behavior of slave women (Ferguson 1987:9-16; B. Marshall 1982:28). Male slaves outnumbered females, and slave men could not compete economically with white men for slave women. The black slave and free colored women became "free agents" in respect to their sexual services. White men turned to black and free colored women for sexual relationships because there was a shortage of white women in the colony (cf. Patterson 1976:53-57). The whites who worked as overseers and accountants on the large estates received low wages which prevented them from marrying the colony's few white women and establishing their own households (Carmichael 1833:59-62). Concubinage was accepted so long as the black or









81


colored mistress was not brought into "society" (Carmichael 1833:62).

Many slave women achieved their freedom and economic

independence through sexual liaisons with white men, and many free colored women were also kept as mistresses by whites (Carmichael 1833:71-73; B. Marshall 1982:9-11). The black and free colored mistresses were said to "pride themselves upon the preference shown them by white men" (Quoted in B. Marshall 1982:10). They preferred an illicit, but economically secure liaison with a white man to an insecure union with a black or free colored man (cf. Patterson 1976:55-56). Although the black and free colored mistresses were criticized as immoral by the white women of the colony, such liaisons were acknowledged to be common, longlasting, and frequently marked by great affection by both partners (Carmichael 1833:71-72; B. Marshall 1982:9-10).

The normal, biologically based reproduction of labor did not truly begin in St. Vincent until the British slave trade was abolished and the Vincentian Slavery Amelioration Acts were passed in the early nineteenth century. These Amelioration Acts mandated slaves' working conditions and hours, as well as the food and clothing rations owners had to provide. Marriages between slaves were encouraged. A series of reforms in the care of pregnant slaves was also instituted; working hours and tasks were reduced, medical care was provided for mothers and infants, and mothers











82


were encouraged to breast feed. Rewards were paid for the successful rearing of children, and mothers having six children were exempted from hard labor (Shephard 1831). Slaves were also permitted to live in nuclear families and build their own houses. While the Amelioration Acts specified the improved conditions the owners had to provide for their slaves, it was in the slave owners' best interests to protect their human property investment once the slaves could not be replaced by purchasing new adult slaves (Spinelli 1973:227).

Several observers commented on conditions of slavery in St.

Vincent after the slave amelioration laws were passed. The slaves were allowed access to marginal estate lands to grow food crops and small livestock. They used their crops to supplement their estate-supplied rations and sold the surplus in the market at the capital on Sundays (Carmichael 1833:176-179; Bayley 1830:220). Money earned from the sale of produce and livestock was saved towards the purchase of their freedom, but slaves also purchased fancy clothing and jewelry to wear at social gatherings organized on Sunday afternoons after marketing (Carmichael 1833:142-150; Bayley 1830). Observers remarked on the persistence of African religious beliefs and practices, although these were usually recorded as evidence of the black population's superstitious and primitive nature (Carmichael 1833:253-256; Day 1852:84-87).










83


St. Vincent's slave population did not reproduce itself biologically until the turn of the nineteenth century. The abolition of the slave trade required the improvement of living conditions to facilitate human reproduction amongst the slaves. This period lasted only 26 years, approximately a generation. The results of these improved conditions can be judged by the age composition of the slave population in 1832, when Vincentian estate owners were compensated by the British government for their slaves. Immediately prior to Emancipation, 13% of the slaves were children under six, 5% were "aged," and the remaining 82% of the population were between six and "aged" (Spinelli 1973:75). After Emancipation, the new system of the reproduction of labor which had just begun to function had to adapt itself to a new development: the beginning of migration.

The Establishment of the Migration Tradition: 1838 to 1881

Slavery and the heyday of St. Vincent's sugar industry both came to an end in 1834. During a four-year Apprenticeship Period from 1834 to 1838, the former slaves were not permitted to leave their estates and were forced to work as wage laborers for their former owners. Conditions of agricultural production during the nineteenth century remained much the same as under slavery. The rugged topography and small size of St. Vincent made it difficult to introduce technical improvements and more efficient largescale production. The economy remained dependent on sugar but its









84


fortunes declined steadily on the world stage during the nineteenth century, as competition increased from Mauritius, Cuba, Brazil, and beet sugar growers in Europe (Spinelli 1973).

Emancipation only slightly affected the existing class

structure established during slavery. A racial ideology based on the idea of God-given, innate superiority of white skin was used by the elite to keep the mixed race and black segments of Vincentian society from gaining access to economic or political power. The upper class elite remained largely white and culturally oriented to Great Britain. Although the proportion of whites to the total population continued to shrink, their relative power did not decrease (Rubenstein 1987:27). The local economy remained firmly under the control of an ever smaller group who owned or represented more and more estates. By 1854, seventy out of 87 Vincentian estates wete absentee-owned. Six resident attorneys managed 64 of these 70 estates (Spinelli 1973:105-106). These same individuals were also merchants who owned the major import and retail businesses in the capital. This pattern often led to conflicts of interest and abuses in the management of the estates.

Most estate profits were sent out of the country to England to maintain absentee owners, pay off debts and entitlements incurred in earlier, more prosperous years, and to support the elites' extravagant lifestyles. Very little money was invested in










85


either capital improvements in the sugar industry, the island's infrastructure, or social services (Spinelli 1973:105-106; Marshall, W. 1983:86). Education and social services for the majority of the population, such as they were, were provided by the churches, especially the Methodists.

The descendants of the free colored of the slavery period continued to occupy a social and economic niche below the white upper class. They remained urbanized and took advantage of educational opportunities offered by the churches to move into professional and administrative positions left vacant by emigrating whites. Some became owners of estates themselves. As a group, they tended to ally themselves politically and culturally with the white upper class elite (B. Marshall 1982:23-24).

Poor whites from Barbados, the descendants of seventeenth century political deportees and indentured servants, joined Vincentian society in the 1860s. These poor whites settled in several small villages near the capital and survived through small-scale subsistence agriculture and fishing. Referred to as "Redlegs" in Barbados, the poor whites became known in St. Vincent as "Dorsetshire Hill Bajans" after the name of their major community. They lived in enclave communities mixing little with Vincentian whites, colored, or blacks (Roberts 1955:245-288). The Caribs living in the northern end of the island also increased in









86


number during the nineteenth century but their lifestyles changed very little (Ober 1880:209-219).

Although they became free men and women in 1838, the former slaves had few economic options. They were deeply enmeshed in St. Vincent's capitalist economy. The freed slaves now had to purchase the food and clothing formerly provided by their estates (W. Marshall 1983:96-97). At the time the slaves were emancipated, the only sources of cash income available to them in St. Vincent were estate labor and the sale of surplus food crops. Laborers who had access to land could grow enough food to supply their own needs, those of their dependents, and sell a surplus in the capital. However, no unalienated land was available in St. Vincent for the freed blacks to squat upon and create a separate "peasant" sector (Spinelli 1973:89-91). All land had to be purchased or rented from the estates. The fear of a selfsufficient peasantry that would not work on the estates, made estate owners resist land reform proposals and keep land prices high (Rubenstein 1987:43). The Vincentian upper class preferred to remove estate lands from production rather than make them available to peasants. As sugar prices fell, estate owners on St. Vincent reduced wages. At the same time, prices of commodities and manufactured goods available in the estate-owned stores rose (W. Marshall 1983:85-87).











87


Yet, by the early 1860s, twenty-five years after the end of slavery, half of the freed slaves had become peasant farmers and two-thirds had abandoned the estate "barracks" to live in "free" villages (Spinelli 1973:87-89; W. Marshall 1983:87). Villages were constructed on marginal estate land and took their names from the neighboring estates. Villages consisted of clusters of small houses strung along the tops of ridges, roadsides, or riversides. Small plots next to the houses were used to cultivate kitchen gardens, fruit trees, and small livestock; while village residents commuted "up the mountain" to grow "ground provisions" and other crops raised for sale and consumption.

This transformation occurred because men began emigrating in large numbers to earn cash in better-paying jobs off the island. Men returned to St. Vincent at intervals to work on their own small holdings and as wage laborers on the estates (Rubenstein 1987:43-45). In addition to food crops, the freed blacks began to cultivate arrowroot as a cash crop soon after Emancipation. Small farmers lacked access to the sugar processing facilities on the large estates, so they grew crops that required less expensive processing such as arrowroot, cotton, cocoa, coconuts, and spices instead of sugar (Spinelli 1973:91,142). While the men were abroad working, the women continued to feed themselves and their children through their subsistence production. Freed black women resisted working on the estates, preferring to stay home to care




Full Text
321
support during crises, and serving as repositories for
genealogical and familial history.
The closest ties within the Vincentian kinship system are
those between mother and daughter, followed by those between
sisters and female cousins of the same age (cf. Barrow 1986;
Powell 1982, 1986; Gonzalez 1969; Rubenstein 1987; R. T. Smith
1956; Wilson 1973; Stack 1974; Moses 1977). Living with or close
by their female relatives benefits women by making the sharing of
domestic work and childcare easier and by providing a source of
emotional support. This advantage reinforces a matrilocal
residence pattern in which a mother and daughters share the same
house or live near each other. The importance of women's kinship
ties to their economic survival also helps explain why Vincentian
women do not insist on legal marriage with their sexual partners,
even though it is perceived as the highest status form of union.
If a woman marries a man without property, she not only keeps
herself from meeting a "next man" who might be more financially
successful, she also has a more difficult time obtaining the
support and assistance of her relatives, especially if she moves
away from her natal community (cf. Brown 1975; Stack 1974; Roberts
and Sinclair 1978). A married woman's husband is expected to
support her and if he does not, she has a harder time asking
relatives for help than an unmarried woman whose partner is
assumed to be less dependable. A married woman's relatives also


12
support of the historical perspective in gender and kinship
studies, Sylvia Yanigasako and Jane Collier have written:
...grounding our analysis...within particular
historical sequences will enable us to see how the
dynamics of past actions and ideas have created
structures in the present...A historical perspective
also highlights the interaction of ideas and practices
as dialectical, ongoing processes and so avoids the
teleological bent of those models that seek a single
determinant, whether material or ideational, for
social reproduction (1987:47).
Individuals living in domestic groups are affected
simultaneously by the gender, kinship, and household systems of
their culture. These systems are separate but interconnected,
possessing inherent contradictions, reinforcing yet also pulling
against each other in the dynamics of everyday life. Within a
particular society, these systems of social relations vary by
class and reflect the different strategies classes use to gain
access and control over social and economic resources.
These systems vary between societies with different
economies. For example, gender, kinship, and household relations
found in societies based on subsistence agriculture differ from
those found in a capitalist society. Some capitalist societies
have become dependent on international labor migration to ensure
the survival of the domestic group and the reproduction of labor.
In these societies, adoption of migration as an economic strategy
has affected the gender, kinship, and household systems.
International migration cannot be explained simply by listing the


137
volcano, and two devastating hurricanes in 1979 and 1980, which
destroyed much of the banana crop. Today, the agricultural sector
is stagnating (Brana-Shute and Brana-Shute 1984, 1985; Economic
Intelligence Unit 1986; Rubenstein 1987; World Bank 1979).
The Vincentian government has tried to develop the
agricultural sector of the economy by passing land reform,
improving extension services, and encouraging small farmers to
grow a wider diversity of crops. The country is fortunate to
possess a mild climate, abundant rainfall, moderately fertile
soil, and long growing season but the rugged topography and
fragile tropical ecology ensures that only a small proportion of
the island's land is suitable for farming. Conservation efforts
so far have successfully prevented the deforestation and extensive
soil erosion experienced by many other Caribbean islands. Most of
the small amount of cultivable land is still owned by a few large
estates and the government. Ironically, some of the land best
suited to cultivation currently is not in production or is
under-utilized, while small farmers squat in the mountains on
lands that would be better left under natural vegetation.
Expansion of cultivation efforts might be possible if more estate
lands were made available to small farmers. However, the ability
of the island to carry a much larger population or sustain more
intensive cultivation is limited without incurring serious
environmental damage.


449
Sassen-Koob, Saskia
1980
The Internalization of the Labor Force. Studies in
Comparative International Development 15:3-25.
1981
Exporting Capital and Importing Labor: The Role of
Women. In: Female Immigrants to the United States:
Caribbean, Latin American, and African Experiences,
Delores Mortimer and Roy S. Bryce-LaPorte, eds.
Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institute. Pp. 203-234.
Schmink, Marianne
1984
Household Economic Strategies: Review and Research
Agenda. Latin American Research Review 19:3:87-101.
Schneider, David M.
1968 American Kinship: A Cultural Account. Englewood
Cliffs, N.J. : Prentice-Hall, Inc.
Segal, Aaron I.
1987
The Caribbean Exodus in Global Context: Comparative
Migration Experiences. In: The Caribbean Exodus,
Barry B. Levine, ed. New York: Praeger Publishers, Inc.
Pp. 44-64.
Sewell, Wm. G.
1861
The Ordeal of Free Labor in the British West Indies.
New York: Harper & Brothers.
Shephard, Charles
1831
An Historical Account of the Island of St. Vincent.
London: Ridgeway & Sons, Ltd.
Simey, Thomas
1946
Welfare and Planning in the West Indies. Oxford:
Clarendon Press.
Smith, Michael G.
1962a
Kinship and Community in Carriacou. New Haven, CT:
Yale University Press.
1962b
West Indian Family Structure. Seattle: University of
Washington Press.
Smith, Raymond T.
1956 The Negro Family in British Guiana. London: Routledge
and Kegan Paul.


453
Yanigasako, Sylvia Junko and Jane Fishbourne Collier
1987 Toward a Unified Analysis of Gender and Kinship. In
Gender and Kinship: Essays Toward a Unified Analysis
Jane Fishbourne Collier and Sylvia Junko Yanigasako,
eds. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Pp.
52.
Young, Kate, Carol Wolkowitz, and Roslyn McCullogh
1981 Introduction. Of Marriage and the Market: Women's
Subordination in International Perspective. London:
CSE Books. Pp. vii-xi.
14-


206
technical positions and are mid-level and senior administrators.
The majority of the police force is male, although a few women
have been recruited into the lower ranks.
The Vincentian clergy in the major denominations, Anglican,
Methodist, and Roman Catholic, still tend to be expatriate white
men. The various Christian fundamentalist churches also rely on
men as preachers and ministers, but these are usually Vincentians.
Women are very influential and hold many leadership positions in
the indigenous Vincentian sect known as the Spiritual Baptists or
"Shakers" (Henney 1980).
Middle-class Vincentians also find employment as managers,
clerks, and tellers in the small commercial and banking sectors in
Kingstown. Retail stores and banks in Kingstown are owned by
either the local merchant elite or by foreign corporations.
Color, ethnicity, and kinship ties seem to be more important than
gender in securing employment in such establishments. Many
middle-class Vincentians own and operate small shops in the
villages and suburbs. These small shops are usually built next to
the owner-operator's house and are open only a few hours a day,
selling a limited number of food and household articles.
Rum-shops are also licensed to serve alcoholic beverages and
cooked food. Many shop owners I interviewed were return migrants
or had other economic resources, such as farm lands, full-time


104
Royal commission, sent by the British government to examine social
conditions in the West Indian colonies after the collapse of the
British West Indian sugar industry cited St. Vincent as the worst
in commission annals for the treatment of workers and wage levels
(John 1971). In 1898, Robert T. Hill wrote that in St. Vincent,
"wages are very low and constantly being reduced, and there is a
lamentable want of employment even at the price of less than a
shilling a day for able-bodied men, who are constantly emigrating,
leaving the women and children to shift for themselves" (Hill
1898:362).
Unfortunately for St. Vincent, two natural disasters at the
turn of the century compounded the economic crisis. A severe
hurricane in 1898 killed 288 people and left 30,000 homeless.
Sugar and arrowroot works were destroyed. Only four years later,
the Soufriere volcano erupted, killing between 1,300 and 2,000
people, covering the island's most fertile lands with volcanic
debris, and destroying many of the remaining sugar mills. The
island's economy was completely devastated, affecting estate
owners, smallholders, and laborers alike (Spinelli 1973:124-126).
Many laborers were forced to emigrate immediately to support their
families. Small holders also needed cash to restore the property
devastated by the hurricane and volcanic eruption because no local
funding except charity was available to the lower class.


82
were encouraged to breast feed. Rewards were paid for the
successful rearing of children, and mothers having six children
were exempted from hard labor (Shephard 1831). Slaves were also
permitted to live in nuclear families and build their own houses.
While the Amelioration Acts specified the improved conditions the
owners had to provide for their slaves, it was in the slave
owners' best interests to protect their human property investment
once the slaves could not be replaced by purchasing new adult
slaves (Spinelli 1973:227).
Several observers commented on conditions of slavery in St.
Vincent after the slave amelioration laws were passed. The slaves
were allowed access to marginal estate lands to grow food crops
and small livestock. They used their crops to supplement their
estate-supplied rations and sold the surplus in the market at the
capital on Sundays (Carmichael 1833:176-179; Bayley 1830:220).
Money earned from the sale of produce and livestock was saved
towards the purchase of their freedom, but slaves also purchased
fancy clothing and jewelry to wear at social gatherings organized
on Sunday afternoons after marketing (Carmichael 1833:142-150;
Bayley 1830). Observers remarked on the persistence of African
religious beliefs and practices, although these were usually
recorded as evidence of the black population's superstitious and
primitive nature (Carmichael 1833:253-256; Day 1852:84-87).


345
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and were used to construct
churches, government buildings, warehouses, and some estate "big
houses."
Next to their clothing and physical appearance, a
Vincentian's house and yard provide the most visible measure of
class standing and social status (cf. Abrahams 1983:137-138).
Only the poorest Vincentians still live in trash houses. Lower-
and lower middle-class Vincentians live in small board and wall
houses. Most middle- and all upper-class Vincentians live in
large old board houses or large wall and stone houses. Lower-
class houses are smaller than middle- and upper-class houses.
Space is minimal within most board houses, and most household
activities take place in the yard. Large lower-class households
living in small houses use the entire house for eating, sleeping,
and the storage of clothing. Parents and children share the same
beds and total privacy is difficult to obtain (cf. Davenport
1968:435-437).
High household densities, however, are not necessarily
perceived as disagreeable by lower-class Vincentians. Privacy may
prove elusive, but company and help with domestic work are always
available. Vincentians believe that people should not live alone;
living with others is better socially and psychologically. The
individual who deliberately lives alone is reputed to be
disagreeable, strange, unusual, and perhaps even a practitioner of


307
businesses and political influence. For example, the Prime
Ministers of St. Vincent and St. Lucia are cousins, and the Prime
Minister of St. Lucia is also related by marriage to several
leading political figures in Barbados. Two of the men elected to
government office in the 1984 election in St. Vincent were
brothers-in-law (one is now deceased) as well as business
partners. Another minister is married to the daughter of a former
party leader. Many other such connections could be established.
Rather than demonstrating the extent of Vincentian nepotism,
however, I am emphasizing that kinship networks are used by all
classes to secure access to resources (cf. Alexander 1978, 1984;
R. T. Smith 1987).
One difference between the upper and middle classes and the
lower class is in the importance of links established through
marriage (cf. Wilson 1973; Alexander 1976, 1978; R. T. Smith
1987). Since legal marriage is the norm and marriages are stable
amongst the upper and middle classes, ties between affines are
much stronger and more reliable. Marriage is a family affair in
the upper and middle classes, rather than an individual concern,
as it is amongst the lower class. The family of the bride throws
the wedding fete in the upper and middle classes, not the husband,
as in the lower class. As discussed in Chapter Six, the sexual
activity of upper and middle class girls is much more closely


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54
Formal interviews, usually conducted in my own or the
informant's house, were taken down at the time on paper or were
tape recorded with the informant's permission. These included
both genealogies and life histories and the ethnosemantic
interviews.
Altogether, I relied on three sets of informants. One set
consisted of members of my neighborhood and included about 20
adults and about 15 children. Four of these individuals served as
"key informants." Another set included "instrumental" informants:
government workers, politicians, and other prominent citizens whom
I initially approached with requests for information on specific
subjects, such as vital statistics. As time went on, my
relationships with some of these individuals expanded to include
personal and social matters unrelated to the original subject.
This group consisted of about 30 individuals, of whom five served
as key informants. The third set consisted of "incidental"
informants, whom I met on the street in my neighborhood, in town,
or in other communities. Some of these individuals I saw
regularly, at least once a week, while others I talked to only
once. This set was the largest, and consisted of well over 50
people. I consider six of this group to have served as key
informants as well.


248
anyting, dat na nombody" [you can say anything to thatthey are
nobody]. A person who does not deserve respect is referred to not
as a "man" or "woman" [adult human being], but as a "ting"
[thing]. A person who has this low status is greeted with
perfunctory politeness, outright rudeness, or completely ignored;
is gossiped about maliciously and generally; and avoided socially.
Again, this status is earned by individuals through their own
actions in their lifetime, and is not based on class.
Miss Susie typifies a woman who is not worthy of "respect."
Miss Susie seldom stays home, preferring to hang out on the
street, either in a rum shop or village store or the corner,
gossiping and flirting with men. She drinks rum in public,
swears, and wears tight-fitting, low-cut dresses. She gets into
frequent fights and arguments (causes "confusion") with her
relatives and neighbors. Miss Susie has one illegitimate child, a
teenage daughter. She entertains a different man each week, but
none stays with her for very long. Miss Susie lives off her
relatives and partners, going from one to the other asking for
money, housing, or other assistance, but does not reciprocate when
she has money. Her neighbors talk about her activities and
perceive her as lazy, shiftless, dishonest, manipulative, and
irresponsible.
Joe has lost "respect" because he can not control his
indulgence in rum. He is always in the rum-shop, begging drinks


252
Women in all classes enhances their status if they are able
to increase the economic and social success of their households.
For lower-class women, this may be through extra-domestic economic
efforts, such as marketing produce or a skilled trade, or through
her extra-domestic social efforts, especially by attending church.
Middle- and upper-class women use their participation in political
and civic clubs and social entertaining to enhance their social
status (cf. Moses 1977; Durant-Gonzalez 1982).
However, the gender role prescriptions of the colonial
ideology and the folk ethos are not identical for women. The folk
ethos enables lower class women to earn "respect" through their
own work and economic accomplishments, while the colonial ideology
emphasizes woman's role as her husband's "helpmate" (cf. Moses
1977; Brodber 1986). Secondly, upper- and middle-class women are
expected to restrict their sexual behavior to marriage, one
partner for life, while lower-class women can participate in
several types of relationships but are expected to be faithful to
each partner while each relationship lasts. Finally, upper- and
middle-class women must confine their childbearing to marriage,
while lower-class women have children in a variety of accepted
relationships without losing status. Although lower-class women
consider being married and having children to be more desirable,
most lower class women believe it is better to have children than
to forego them because one is not yet married (Powell 1986).


306
create kinship networks laterally within their own classes and
vertically downward into the lower class. This pattern goes back
to slavery (cf. R. T. Smith 1987; Alexander 1984). Many of the
contemporary colored middle-class families can trace their
ancestry back to informal unions between white male estate owners
and black female slaves.
While the lower-class "outside" family is not socially
acknowledged nor brought into "polite" society, upper- and middle-
class men assist their outside children socially and economically,
paying for their educations, giving them low-ranked jobs in the
"family" business, setting them up in trades, or helping them
emigrate. Legitimate children, of course, share all these
benefits, as well as inherit the bulk of their fathers' property
and businesses.
Although the upper and middle classes do not need an extended
kinship network for basic survival, they manipulate their broader
kinship ties for economic, political, and social advancement (cf.
Wilson 1973; Alexander 1976, 1978, 1984). The upper and
traditional middle classes are a small and closely related group
of people, who have inherited their position in Vincentian
society. They must be distinguished from the "new" middle class,
many of whom are return migrants and the upwardly mobile educated
children of lower-class individuals. The upper and traditional
middle classes of St. Vincent have close ties to the upper and


253
There is a much wider difference between the ways that men
achieve social status through the colonial or folk ideologies.
Upper- and middle-class men have a distinct advantage over lower-
class men in accruing prestige according to the colonial ideology
because they control the economic and political resources of
Vincentian society, and can readily display all the markers of
wealth and high status such as accumulated property, marrying
legally, attending church, and behaving decorously in public.
Lower-class men cannot easily achieve "respectability" in the
colonial ideology, but they can attain prestige through the folk
ethos (cf. Abrahams 1983; Wilson 1973). Men achieve prestige in
the folk ethos through emigrating and returning with enough money
to buy their own land and house, meet their obligations towards
their children, and pay for their recreation. However, migration
takes a man away from the male peers who measure his status. A
man's achievements as a migrant rely solely on his own testimony
and on his financial state upon return. To reap the status reward
of his migration, a migrant must keep returning (cf. Philpott
1973; Wilson 1973). Upon return, however, the migrant becomes
subject to the same constraints that blocked his upward mobility
before he left. Vincentian men rely on an alternative way of
establishing their status within society that produces a visible
result for others to see: their sexual conquests of women and
fathering many children.


215
no matter what his history, is considered much more unusual and
abnormal.
Romantic love, classically conceived as a passionate
attachment to and idealization of an unobtainable object, is not a
normal part of Vincentian experience nor would it be considered a
desirable one. Neither men nor women perceive a schism between
the type of partner with whom one can have sexual relations and
the type of partner one can love and marry. Love is viewed as a
strong attachment based initially on a physical or sexual
attraction to the other person. Couples progress from non-sexual
social contact towards physical intimacy and perhaps emotional
attachment (cf. Sutton and Makiesky-Barrow 1977).
Vincentians describe and distinguish their relationships on
the depth of feeling between the partners as well as on the
expected duration of the relationship. Vincentians make a
distinction between partners who "live bad" (don't get along
together, are always quarrelling), "live well" (get along
together), and "live loving" (get along well and seem very
emotionally attached to each other). Vincentians distinguish
relationships that are "now for now" or "just now" (short term,
transitory) from those that are "now and later" (long term).
Vincentians, both men and women, hope someday to find a
partner with whom they can "live loving" or at least "live well"
in a union that will endure. They are aware, however, that such


CHAPTER SEVEN
THE SYSTEM OF KINSHIP IN ST. VINCENT
Descent and the Kindred
This chapter describes the system of kinship in St. Vincent,
including the rules or principles for determining descent, terms
of reference and address, kinship relationships, kinship ideology,
and the social functions of kinship. The kinship ideology can be
defined as "the normative system composed of those interrelated
norms which define the proper modes of interaction between persons
performing familial roles" (Yanigasako 1979:187).
Vincentians trace descent through both biological parents or
bilaterally. The same kinship terms are applied to both sets of
relatives. Every individual has a unique kindred composed of all
those persons whose kinship tie to him or her is known and
recognized. Only full siblings have identical kindreds.
Vincentian kinship organization is sirailiar to that reported in
other English-speaking Caribbean countries (Alexander 1976, 1977,
1978, 1984; Clarke 1956; Gonzalez 1969; Greenfield 1966; Hill
1977; Olwig 1985; Otterbein 1966; Paul 1983; Philpott 1973; Rodman
1971; Rubenstein 1987; M. G. Smith 1962a, 1962b; R. T. Smith
1956).
When Vincentians discuss kinship they speak in terms of
"family," saying "he is family to we," "we are all family," or
261


278
dependent children of the group (cf. Durant-Gonzalez 1982).
Usually, but not always, this is the children's biological mother.
This female caretaker can also be the child's grandmother (on
either the mother's or father's side), an aunt, or an older sister
or half-sister (cf. Rubenstein 1987:245). Men do not assume sole
caretaking responsibility for young children (cf. Durant-Gonzalez
1982). Men who are widowed or abandoned by their partners turn to
their female relatives to foster their children. Wealthy men hire
nurses or nannies. Thus, every child grows up in a relationship
to a mother or mother figure.
Vincentians consider the relationship between mother and
child to be very special and close. A mother must endure the pain
of childbirth for her child and then devote long hours to its
care. Mothers work hard to keep their children fed and clothed,
often with little or no help from the children's fathers (cf.
Rubenstein 1987:245; Powell 1986). Women become mothers because
it is expected, because that is how women achieve adult status and
"respect," and because they enjoy the role and derive emotional
satisfaction from it (cf. Durant-Gonzalez 1982, 1986; McKenzie
1982). Most mothers I observed were very affectionate and loving
with their children, particularly infants and toddlers, but also
with their older children as well. Women are also quite strict
with their children and insist on their respect and obedience.
The emotional distance is very close, however, and I watched women


220
If a woman is involved with a man in a publicly acknowledged
relationship, that is, they are seen together openly and known to
be sexually involved, the man usually claims paternity readily, or
"owns" the child. Indeed the man will usually boast of it to his
friends and relatives. However, if the relationship was
clandestine or if the man does not wish to assume the obligations
of fatherhood, he may deny it. If her partner refuses to "own the
child," the woman usually attempts to prove it by claiming he was
the only man she was seeing at the time she got pregnant. If
others in the community support her assertion, public and familial
pressure may eventually make the man acknowledge the child. Once
paternity is determined, the woman can take the man to court for
payment of child support if family pressure fails to get him to
take responsibility. In some cases, the man's mother may
actually take the child to raise to shame her son into providing
support. However, if a woman is known to be seeing more than one
man at a time they may each attribute paternity to the other and
she may not be able to establish which one fathered the child.
Men do not want to accept responsibility for another man's child,
a lifelong reminder they were cuckolded by another man (cf.
Rubenstein 1987:241-243; Freilich 1971).
Therefore, being faithful is insurance for women that men
will accept, or can be forced to accept, parental responsibility.
Even in cases in which the man does not support the child, the


71
The expansion into the Carib Lands between 1802 and 1828
changed the scale of production from small to large estates.
Sugar monoculture replaced a more diversified mixture of cash
crops. A mixed society of large and small holdings became a
society of large estates dependent upon slave labor (Spinelli
1973:63-65). Slaves were imported into St. Vincent, as in the
rest of the Caribbean, to provide labor in the production of sugar
for the profit of estate owners and merchants in England. The
slaves were "industrial workers whose work was primarily
agricultural," despite a deceptively agrarian appearance (Mintz
1974:47-48).
Slave Society in St. Vincent
The establishment of large estates dependent on slave labor
in St. Vincent affected the settlement pattern on the island,
class and gender relations, and the entire process of the
reproduction of labor. The plantation was an economic enterprise
geared to the production of sugar and other tropical crops for
export (Mintz 1974:64-75). Each estate consisted of the lands
cultivated and uncultivated, residential buildings for the owner,
his family, employees, and the slaves, the factory buildings used
in the production of sugar from raw cane and its storage, and
other outbuildings necessary for the support of the estate's human
and animal population (Rubenstein 1987:31-32; Thomas 1988:21-23).
The best land was reserved for sugar cultivation, while the slaves


199
Reviewing the relationship between gender and life stage in
St. Vincent, it is noteworthy that gender emerges as a significant
attribute in those stages when an individual is most sexually and
procreatively active. Infants and young children are generally
referred to without using gender-marked terms, but in adolescence,
when children mature physically and become sexually active, they
become "boys" and "gels." Upon having children and assuming
responsibility for them, Vincentians become "men" and "women."
However, when one's children are grown and having children, one
becomes a "big man" or "big woman" and the emphasis shifts to the
age/status marker "big" away from the gender term. In old age, an
individual is referred to with an affectionate and respectful kin
term or still termed "big." After death, men and women become the
genderless "Old Parents" or ancestors.
The Gender Division of Labor
The division of labor by gender applies in St. Vincent to
both productive and reproductive (domestic) work. Productive work
includes wage work as well as subsistence activities.
Reproductive work includes childcare, socialization of children,
housework, food processing and preparation, and care of the sick
and elderly. The division of labor by gender in St. Vincent is
not as rigid as in many more traditional societies, but resembles
that found in Western, capitalist, industrialized nations. There
are no inflexible, sex-based occupations, job categories, or types


324
In the kinship system, men earn status by establishing a
subordinate patrilocal kindred. The instability of multiple
sexual relationships acts against men's attempts to develop
patrilocal kindreds, while it increases women's reliance on
networks of female kin and matrilocal residence. Resolution of
this conflict in part explains why lower class men marry their
partners when they acquire property and build their own houses.
By marrying his sexual partner, a man insures that she will stay
with him, and along with her, their children. Legal marriage
removes the woman from her kindred and makes a man's legitimate
children his primary heirs (cf. Brown 1975; Clarke 1957; Moses
1977; Otterbein 1966). Legal marriage keeps children near their
father. Visiting relationships, "keeping," and co-habitation in a
house owned by the woman keep children near the mother's kindred.
Migration also hampers the development of patrilocal
kindreds. Vincentians emigrate to acquire the means to establish
themselves as property owners, instead of remaining in St. Vincent
under their fathers' control until they inherit the fathers'
property. When successful migrants return, they can buy their own
land and not live near their family on "family" land. Migration
thus promotes neolocal residence.
Migration also increases women's dependence on their
relatives and the tendency towards matrilocal residence. Women
left behind by migrant partners rely on their relatives for


113
and invest. Young men perceived migration as an opportunity to
gain the resources to establish themselves as independent heads of
households. Successful migration had become a masculine rite of
passage into higher status in Vincentian society (Thomas-Hope
1978:76-77; Otterbein 1966; Wilson 1973). When economic
depression and natural disasters struck at the end of the
nineteenth century, emigration became the only alternative to
starvation, the only way to rebuild the property hard-won by
earlier generations of migrants.
Retrenchment, Reaction, and Renewed Migration: 1931-1946
The 1930s represent the beginning of the modern era in St.
Vincent, although adult suffrage was still 20 years away and
political independence would not come for another 50 years.
Changes in class relations during this decade can be traced to the
return of working class migrants. The great world depression
stopped emigration overseas, and many who had left St. Vincent
during the early part of the century came home (D. Marshall 1987:
24).
Migrants returning from Panama and the United States had
participated in labor unions while working overseas and had
absorbed the ideas of Marcus Garvey through the Universal Negro
Improvement Association (cf. Richardson 1983:140-144, 1985:
233-245). They organized the first Vincentian labor unions and


I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion
it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and
is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the
degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Terry L. McCoy
Professor of Latin American
Studies
This thesis was submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the
Department of Anthropology in the College of Liberal Arts and
Sciences and to the Graduate School and was accepted as partial
fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of
Philosophy.
Dean for Graduate Studies and
Research
December 1988


84
fortunes declined steadily on the world stage during the
nineteenth century, as competition increased from Mauritius, Cuba,
Brazil, and beet sugar growers in Europe (Spinelli 1973).
Emancipation only slightly affected the existing class
structure established during slavery. A racial ideology based on
the idea of God-given, innate superiority of white skin was used
by the elite to keep the mixed race and black segments of
Vincentian society from gaining access to economic or political
power. The upper class elite remained largely white and
culturally oriented to Great Britain. Although the proportion of
whites to the total population continued to shrink, their relative
power did not decrease (Rubenstein 1987:27). The local economy
remained firmly under the control of an ever smaller group who
owned or represented more and more estates. By 1854, seventy out
of 87 Vincentian estates were absentee-owned. Six resident
attorneys managed 64 of these 70 estates (Spinelli 1973:105-106).
These same individuals were also merchants who owned the major
import and retail businesses in the capital. This pattern often
led to conflicts of interest and abuses in the management of the
estates.
Most estate profits were sent out of the country to England
to maintain absentee owners, pay off debts and entitlements
incurred in earlier, more prosperous years, and to support the
elites' extravagant lifestyles. Very little money was invested in


been finished. To ray husband, Phillip Elroy Connor, I offer my
gratitude for all his help with my fieldwork and analysis, and I
hope that this depiction of life in St. Vincent reflects some of
spirit of the Vincentian people he conveyed to me. My son,
Phillip, is too young now to understand why Mommy has been so
busy, but his love has been strong and unconditional regardless.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge my debt to my many
Vincentian friends and the residents of the community in which I
lived nearly two years. In countless ways they helped me adjust
to and understand what life in St. Vincent is like from their
perspective. For their patience, generousity, and good humor I
will always be grateful. I would like to extend special thanks to
Jeffrey Venner, Earle Kirby, Mike Browne, Pearl Herbert, Leo Jack,
Nelcia Robinson, Mark Curaberbatch, the Durrant family, Yvonne
Francis-Gibson, and the honorable John Horne. St. Vincent may be
poor by economic measures, but the country possesses an
incomparable treasure in its people and their culture.
vi


281
not record any instances, however, of men experiencing false labor
pains. Men do not witness or assist in childbirth.
Men play with infants and toddlers but leave most childcare
to their partners. I saw men in my nieghborhood show off their
new babies to their male friends and to their relatives (cf.
Wilson 1973). A father is expected to play a more active role in
discipline and guidance when a child reaches school age. Fathers
expect their children to treat them with deference and respect.
Although Vincentian men are affectionate with their children, they
keep a greater emotional distance from them than do mothers. Men
are more likely to be physically absent as well, because
migration, their work, their involvements with other women, and
their social life with their male friends, all take men away from
the household (R. T. Smith 1956; Brana-Shute 1979; Wilson 1973;
Abrahams 1983; Gonzalez 1969). The father considers himself a
patriarch, the master of the household, who has authority and
"control" over his partner and his children. However, the father
is a frequently absent patriarch (cf. Clarke 1957; Durant-Gonzalez
1982; Massiah 1982; Rubenstein 1987; R. T. Smith 1956; Wilson
1973). In contrast, the norms of gender roles, as well as women's
greater domestic responsibilities and their closeness to female
relatives, all keep women at home with their children much of the
time (Powell 1986).


96
Vincentians and other West Indians travelled further in search of
work, going to Venezuela to work in the gold fields, to Brazil to
work in the Amazon as road construction workers, and to Central
America to work in the banana plantations (D. Marshall 1987:19-22;
Thomas-Hope 1978:70). Migration became well established as a
prestigious alternative to remaining on St. Vincent. Although
potentially risky, successful migration resulted in an improved
economic and social position upon return. Vincentians emigrated
to avoid the negative working conditions in St. Vincent, and
because decent jobs in the local economy for blacks were scarce.
Estate laborers made barely enough money to survive, and wages
were constantly reduced during the nineteenth century. In
contrast, returned migrants had the cash to buy or rent land from
the estates, build houses, and support families. They avoided
total dependence upon the estates and had the status of being
landowners themselves (cf. Richardson 1983:172-174).
Labor migration to Trinidad and Guyana immediately after
Emancipation meant travelling a relatively short distance;
migrants could return to St. Vincent frequently. The work
Vincentian migrants did on Trinidadian and Guyanese sugar estates
was the same as they had done on Vincentian sugar estates, but for
higher wages. By the end of the century, Vincentians were
travelling much longer distances and were doing a variety of
manual jobs as well as agricultural work. Construction work and


109
(Spinelli 1973:239; D. Marshall 1987:22). Some Vincentians went
to Trinidad and Barbados as well. Between 1916 and 1929,
Vincentians emigrated to Venezuela to work in the oil fields
there. Shell Oil established a refinery in Curacao in 1915, and
large-scale migration from the Windward Islands to Curacao began
in 1925 (Marshall, D. 1987:23). Between 1900 and 1924, some
Vincentians emigrated to the United States and Canada (Proudfoot
1950:15-16). Men worked in the American and Canadian merchant
marine and in the industrial sector. By the 1920s, Vincentian
women had joined the migration formerly dominated by men, seeking
employment as domestic servants in the neighboring West Indian
colonies, the United States, and Canada.
Population growth resumed slightly between 1911 and 1931, a
period of improved economic conditions in St. Vincent with the
establishment of the Sea Island Cotton industry, the growth of
arrowroot production, and a brief resurgence of the sugar industry
(Spinelli 1973:238). The population increased from 41,877 to
47,961, and the annual growth rate increased to 0.76% between 1921
and 1931. The total natural increase between 1911 and 1931 was
17,500 and the total net migration was -11,416, considerably lower
than the figure of -15,667 recorded for the previous twenty-year
period. The number of migrants per decade between 1911 and 1931
declined to the levels of the 1880s, but the net migration rate
was lower because the population in the 1920s was larger than in


358
partner; Vincentians say "two man-crab can't live in the same
hole" (Abrahams 1983:138; cf. Rubenstein 1987; Mintz 1974;
Davenport 1968). Adult household members can be sexually active
and have children, but they do not bring their partners into the
household with them. This applies to adult children living with
their parents and to adult siblings living together. Although two
couples should not reside in the same dwelling, it is very common
for adult children or siblings to live near by or even share the
same yard with their parents (cf. Mintz 1974; Clarke 1957;
Abrahams 1933). When Louis Cuffey's girlfriend's mother emigrated
to the United States, Isobel and their little girl moved into the
household Louis shared with his parents and two younger brothers.
In two months, Louis' parents moved out of the house into another
home they owned in another community.
Vincentians also believe that young shildren should live with
their parents if their parents co-reside. When the parents do not
live in the same household, the children usually live with their
mother. Gender and kinship pull the household in different
directions when the parent-child relationship conflicts with the
sexual relationship. The accomodation of a woman's "outside"
children in the same household as her current partner and their
joint children often creates difficulties. The current partner
suspects that his wife's previous partner is still be trying to
"get to her" sexually through money sent to support the child.


132
politicians from working class origins used patronage and graft to
build private fortunes, acquire businesses, and buy land
(Rubenstein 1987:62; Fraser 1975).
The Vincentian political system has contributed to migration
in several ways. Disgruntled and disaffected civil servants,
passed over for promotion, have emigrated. Vincentians seeking to
remain in their country but unable to find a job because they have
all been given to politicians' relatives and supporters, have also
gone overseas. Vincentian politicians have themselves maintained
dual residency, at home and abroad, "just in case," something bad,
like an indictment, should happen.
The Vincentian economic system, like the political system,
has undergone fundamental changes during the transition to
independence. As a colony, St. Vincent was nearly self-
sufficient financially because little was spent on developing the
island's infrastructure or social services, or on government
salaries (Nanton 1983:229). As an associated state in the 1960s
and 1970s, the country's finances continued to be subsidized by
the British government. During the transition to self-rule, Great
Britain provided the Vincentian government with economic aid to
improve the island's infrastructure and social services (Nanton
1983:230). Between 1951 and 1984, St. Vincent had several
development plans and received assistance from the international
donor community (D. Marshall 1985; Economic Intelligence Unit


90
Immigration of Indentured Labor
Estate owners responded to the labor shortage of the
mid-nineteenth century by importing indentured laborers who would
work for less than the freed slaves (W. Marshall 1983:85). The
first group brought in between 1845 and 1850 were 2,100 Portuguese
from the Madeiran Islands (Spinelli 1973:233). The Portuguese,
however, refused to renew their indentures once they expired.
Some Portuguese emigrated to Trinidad and North America, but many
remained in St. Vincent and took over clerical and low-level
administrative positions on the estates and moved into retail
trade, opening small shops in the free villages, towns, and the
capital (Spinelli 1973:96; Ciski 1973:10). The estate owners and
managers then brought in "liberated" Africans intercepted by the
British Navy from slave ships bound for Cuba and Brazil. Between
1849-50, 809 Africans arrived in St. Vincent. Unfortunately for
the estate owners, the supply of Africans was limited (Spinelli
1973:97-99).
The last attempt to bring in indentured laborers involved
2,429 East Indians, brought to St. Vincent between 1861 and 1880.
The East Indians, like the Portuguese, did not renew their
indentures when they expired. Nearly 30% of the East Indians who
came to St. Vincent had emigrated to other Caribbean territories
by 1875. Relatively few returned to India. The East Indians that
remained bought small parcels of lands near their former estates


218
Women also discuss men's physical appearance and abilities in
graphic detail when alone with other women. Women can be very
scornful of a man who is an incompetent or unsatisfying lover, and
they brag about the accomplishments of men who are good lovers.
Women seem more likely than men to discuss how they feel about
their partners and about how they are getting along. Women also
seem more willing to disclose their suspicions that their partners
might be seeing other women. Women do not brag about the
multiplicity of their sexual conquests nor their own physical
attributes.
Men and women also discuss other people's sexual
relationships in gossip, or "coramess." Although commess is
considered bad and malicious gossips are thought to be extremely
wicked, everyone listens to commess and both men and women spread
it. Commess is a very powerful community mechanism to sanction or
acknowledge relationships, as well as other kinds of social
behavior. The fear of commess keeps many couples secretive about
their relationships (cf. Month 1973:73-79; Abrahams 1983:77-87).
The Double Standard of Sexual Conduct
Vincentians have a "double standard" by which appropriate
sexual behavior differs according to gender. The Vincentian
double standard does not apply to whether women want and enjoy sex
as much as men, or even whether men but not women can freely
indulge in premarital sex. Instead, the Vincentian double


447
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University of Chicago Press.
Freeman, Gary P.
1987 Caribbean Migration to Great Britain and France: From
Assimilation to Selection. In: The Caribbean Exodus,
Barry B. Levine, ed. New York: Praeger Publishers, Inc.
Pp. 185-203.


51
in a positive light. I often obtained several different versions
of the same event from different respondents, all of which
contained "the truth" as the recounter perceived it, but which
emphasized different aspects depending on the recounter's
relationship to the protagonist or his or her own involvement in
the event. Field analysis usually consisted of hearing and
recording several versions of the same occurrence, such as a
neighbor's family quarrel, then sifting through the stories to
determine what had happened and how it was affecting the different
participants (cf. Tobias 1975). My willingness to participate in
Vincentian speech events helped establish me as an acceptable
person in Vincentian terms.
Outside of ray neighborhood I often pretended not to understand
Vincentian Creole and was thus able to hear uncensored
conversations and exchanges. I learned on these occasions of the
usefulness of the "non-standard" or Creole language in a
bi-dialectal society since participants felt free to express
themselves assured of the outsider's ignorance.
My in-field analysis of naturally occurring social events
suggested topics that I explored with informants through informal
and formal interviews, some of which consisted of a few questions
interjected during the flow of events that helped me understand
ongoing actions. Others were discussions or re-plays of events
that I or the other person had personally witnessed earlier. Some


62
of the impact of migration on the Vincentian economy. I was
searching for a consensus about migration as well as the attitudes
and expectations people held about migration and migrants.
Migration proved a much more elusive subject than gender,
kinship, and household. I had to spend some time and effort
persuading my informants to isolate "migration" as an event. My
questions about why Vincentians chose to emigrate were met with
polite disbelief at my stupidity. For Vincentians, migration is
such a deeply entrenched part of the social field, an "unmarked
category," as Charles Carnegie (1987) refers to it, that people do
not discuss it heatedly or debate it or make it into anything
remarkable. Emigration is so basic and motivations so self-
evident, that ray informants initially thought I was either
simple-minded or had some ulterior motive, such as working for the
U.S. Embassy Visa office.
In addition to ray pre-existing contacts, I sought out new
informants and did four detailed life history interviews with
returned migrants. I was able to talk at length with two
individuals both before and after they returned from "overseas."
I discussed experiences overseas in detail with a total of 28
returned migrants, and had informal interviews with an additional
30 Vincentians about their overseas experiences. I overheard or
listened in on at least 100 conversational exchanges between
Vincentians when migration was discussed.


157
Britain are bleak. Jobs are not readily available. The riots and
racism of recent years also scare away prospective migrants
(Freeman 1987:198). Even those who might go, cannot emigrate
because of the restrictiveness of Britain's immigration laws.
Emigrants from England are coming back to St. Vincent in
increasing numbers, if only to visit and explore local
opportunities (Freeman 1987:188). Three visitors were interviewed
by the local media during my fieldwork. They commented on the
improvements in the Vincentian economy and the decline in the
British economy. Men and women who emigrated to England in the
late 1950s-early 1960s were in their twenties and thirties then.
Now, nearly thirty years later, this cohort has reached either
their economic peak or is nearing retirement age. Members of both
groups are motivated to return to St. Vincent. One group intends
to invest their savings in property and businesses and become an
active part of the economy, while the other group wants to retire.
Some of the potential returned migrants from England may decide to
go on to the United States instead of coming back to St. Vincent.
The Alleyne family illustrates a pattern of migration and
return. Mr. Walter Alleyne emigrated to England in the late
1950s. He sent for his then-girlfriend to marry him and join him
in England. He also found work as a mechanic in a factory in
England. His wife worked as domestic. They had two children,
both boys. Mr. Alleyne struck it rich and won a football pool in


323
a large group of adult sons and daughters who live near him and
help him, his status within his community is enhanced. When
Vincentians become "big men," they can call upon their adult sons
and daughters for free labor and the children comply, in part to
ensure their inheritance and in part from filial duty (cf. Clarke
1957). Men have several reasons to keep their children together:
to establish their status as a patriarch, a "big" man; to maintain
"control" over their adult children's labor; and for emotional
satisfaction and security in old age. These reasons all help
explain why men offer their adult "outside" children part of their
"family land" to live on and use, even though their legal wives
object to the evidence of their husband's "outside" relationships
placed literally in their backyards. The use of "family land"
promotes patrilocal residence and keeps adult children close to
their fathers' residence (cf. Clarke 1957; Wilson 1973; Hill
1977). Fishermen, tradesmen, and businessmen also try to keep
their adult children living and working near them by bringing them
into the family economic enterprise.
The way men try to build up a patrilocal kinship group to
enhance their status, however, conflicts with the way women rely
on their relatives to share domestic work and gain emotional
support. Men are also caught between two contradictory ways of
earning social prestige. In the gender system, men earn status by
having relationships with many women and fathering many children.


287
the interpersonal relationship between the aunt/uncle and the
parent of the nephew/niece; how close they live to each other; and
their relative economic positions. Children may grow up not even
knowing an aunt or uncle who emigrated before they were born.
Brothers and sisters who remain close to each other in adulthood
and live nearby, usually maintain close relationships with their
nieces and nephews, taking them in occasionally, helping to look
after them, contributing to their financial support, and sending
them presents from overseas.
Cousins are often very close, sometimes more like siblings,
because they often grow up in the same household belonging to a
mutual grandparent, or as close neighbors. They play together, go
to school and church together, and often "hang out" together as
adolescents. However, sexual relationships between cousins are
considered incestuous, perhaps because they so often grow up
together as pseudo-siblings. Adult cousins, like adult siblings,
share resources through reciprocal exchanges.
All the relationships thus far described are based on the
existence of a genealogical relationship. There are also several
other ways individuals are incorporated into kinship networks in
St. Vincent. One form of incorporation results in the
establishment of a relationship between the two persons that
operates exactly as if they genealogically related to each other.
The other type of relationship is a metaphorical extension of


259
contributes to the hostility between the sexes in St. Vincent and
to women's perception of men as undependable and irresponsible.
Male migration historically produced an imbalanced sex ratio
that has only recently been corrected by the high emigration of
women since World War II. The imbalanced sex ratio has led to a
popular folk belief that there are seven women for each man, and
that men have the right, almost the obligation, to have multiple
relationships rather than leave women without access to men and
thus children. Although middle- and upper-class men have not
traditionally been wage-labor migrants, a certain percentage of
men from the upper classes have always been permanently lost to
migration. Young men sent overseas for higher education or
training have not always returned, reducing the pool of
marriageable men for upper- and middle-class women. The upper-
and middle-class men who remain in St. Vincent marry wives within
their class and take concubines or "keepers" from the lower class.
Upper- and middle-class women who do not marry, however, cannot
take lower-class men as lovers without risking social censure and
ostracism.
The gender ideology in St. Vincent reinforces women's
economic dependence on men and female sexual subordination. The
gender ideology also fulfills another important social function:
it channels sexual behavior into relationships that produce
children. Through the birth of children, men and women create


163
profession as opportunities opened in non-traditional fields,
creating a shortage of nurses filled in many American cities by
emigrants from the West Indies and the Phillippines (Bolles 1981).
Young men and women in the Vincentian police force have gone on to
join the United States military. When the Vietnam War ended, and
along with it the draft, the American military accepted many
recruits who were not citizens or even permanent residents.
Serving in the U.S. armed forces permits one to apply for
citizenship after only three years. The "furthest migrant" I met
in St. Vincent had served in Antarctica with the U. S. Navy!
Vincentian police had several advantages in securing enlistment:
they are in good physical condition, fluent in English, skilled in
weapons use, and well-drilled in military discipline. Other
Vincentian police officers have become security guards, prison
workers, and police men in the United States and Canada.
Opportunities for police work expanded in the 1970s and 1980s as
crime rates rose in North America.
Teaching is another profession that contributes many
Vincentians to the contemporary migration. Vincentian teachers
represent a better educated proportion of the population. With
few opportunities available in the local economy for white collar
workers, teaching attracts many intelligent young Vincentians who
want to avoid agricultural work. The pay is reliable but not
high, and teaching is considered a very respectable profession.


195
When children become adolescents, parents begin to apply
different standards of behavior to boys and girls. Boys are
permitted more freedom at adolescence than they were given as
small children while girls are more restricted once they begin to
menstruate. For boys, middle to late adolescence, after finishing
school (usually after 15), is a period of exploring sexuality and
relationships, trying to find a job or emigrate overseas, and
enjoying one's self at parties, dances, church youth affairs,
Carnival, etc. Adolescent girls must be more circumspect in their
relationships to avoid getting a reputation as "fast" or
"forward," one who is sexually promiscuous. Girls hope to secure
the affections of a steady boyfriend, one who will treat them
well, support them financially, take responsibility for any
pregnancies that might occur, and eventually marry them. Young
people are expected to help out around the house, financially if
they are working and with chores, but they usually are not
completely self-supporting and they continue to live in a parental
household. Neither boys nor girls are considered adults until
they reach their mid-twenties (cf. Wilson 1973; Rubenstein 1987;
Moses 1977).
A boy or girl who tries too hard to be an adult, who seems
too serious or too strongly interested in the other sex at too
early an age, is criticized for being "too mannish" or "too
womanish." A boy who becomes sexual active in his early


28
2) How do the systems of gender, kinship, and household
relations structure the reproduction of labor in a "migration
society" such as St. Vincent?
3) How is the "migration ideology" perpetuated in St.
Vincent?
In answering these questions, I hope to contribute to the
study of migration, Afro-Caribbean culture, and kinship.
Historical-structural theories of migration emphasize the
structural forces within the world capitalist system that propel
the movement of people. It cannot explain how individuals respond
to these structural forces. By analyzing the systems that
structure the reproduction of labor within a sending society, this
dissertation will show how individuals' actions are mediated by
groups capable of responding to external and internal forces. The
vast body of literature on the Afro-Caribbean family and household
has tended, with a few notable exceptions, to ignore the migrant
orientation of most Caribbean societies, whereas the literature on
migration in the Caribbean has not dwelt overmuch on the migrant's
"support system" or integration into kinship networks within the
sending society. In this dissertation, I will analyze migration
and Caribbean gender and kinship patterns as closely linked
variables. Finally, this dissertation will contribute to kinship
studies by proposing an analytical model of domestic groups based
on the sociocultural systems that structure the reproduction of


298
considerable ambivalence about remaining in St Vincent managing
his father's business because he resented his father's
interference in his decisions. He frequently debated emigrating
to the United States to work and save enough money to start his
own business. However, he knew that if he left the island, his
sister would take complete control over the business and would
probably inherit it when his father died.
Kinship as a Social Compass
Vincentians also use kinship as a "social compass," a way of
orienting their interpersonal relationships when they first meet.
Children learn the kinship ties between residents of the villages
where they grow up. When people from different villages, or from
town and a village first meet, they exchange information about
their relatives during preliminary conversation, and attempt to
establish a mutual kinship tie. I watched one such exchange when
a young woman from a village on the Leeward Coast met an older
woman from a village in the interior. The young woman, Althea
Burke, was well known in the capital for her political and social
activities, but the older woman, Rose Henderson, did not recognize
her name. Instead, she asked the younger woman if she knew a
"Mrs. Thomas," who had married a man from Althea's natal village,
and added, "Mrs. Thomas must call me Auntie, she is my sister's
oldest daughter." Althea did know Mrs. Thomas, and said that she
was related to Mrs. Thomas' husband, "on her father's side." Once


404
combination with an historical analysis of the transformations of
Vincentian society.
This approach is similiar to that advocated by R. T. Smith
(1978, 1984, 1987), who has argued that family and kinship studies
in the Caribbean must begin with the "hierarchies of colour and
class" deeply rooted in the history of the Caribbean. Smith
writes that the "structures of social categorization, of relations
between social groups, of marriage, kinship, and domestic life
developed very early in the formation of these societies and have
continued to exercise a profound influence in the constitution and
processes of social life" (1978:355). Smith later went on to
encourage researchers to pay "more attention to the particularity
of the historically generated cultural forms characteristic of
this area [Latin America and the Caribbean], and to the social
practices through which these forms operate in the specific
conditions of contemporary society" (Smith 1984:4).
Following R. T. Smith's suggestions, I have described
Vincentian society as a "process in time, structured by principles
that are historically constituted, reproduced, and transformed"
(Smith 1984:6). In Chapters Three and Four of this dissertation,
I described the history of St. Vincent in terms of changes in its
political economy, class structure, and the reproduction of labor.
Changes in St. Vincent's history followed upon the country's
deteriorating dependent position within the world capitalist


124
This represented the first time women were recruited as contract
workers. Many Vincentian women who applied for positions as
domestic workers in Canada had been schoolteachers, nurses, and
store clerks in St. Vincent. These women took advantage of job
training and placement services offered by the Canadian government
to find clerical, teaching, and nursing jobs in Canada. They then
brought more of their relatives into the country. The Canadian
government also offered sholarships to West Indian students for
study at Canadian universities. Like the domestic workers, many
students got jobs and applied for permanent resident (landed
immigrant) status. Another group of immigrants to Canada were
Vincentians who had amassed some capital in the Netherlands
Antilles, who were attracted to business opportunities in the
Canadian migrant communities. Like Great Britain earlier, Canada
eventually changed its migration laws in the late 1970s making it
more difficult for West Indians to emigrate permanently or take
jobs as students (Marshall 1987:28). However, landed immigrants
can still bring up their relatives.
United States immigration law reform in the mid-1960s
provided the impetus for a major migration flow from St. Vincent
that has yet to subside. The family reunification basis of
American immigration laws, amended in the mid-1960s, makes it
easier for Vincentians in the United States to bring their
relatives into the country (McCoy 1987:228). St. Vincent's small


360
children, until each establishes his or her own separate household
or emigrates (cf. Gonzalez 1969). However, if siblings did not
grow up together or know each other as children, they will not
normally come together as adults to share the same household.
When Martin Burroughs' younger brother Edward returned to St.
Vincent after leaving university in Canada, he moved in with
Martin, who was living in a house still owned by their parents.
Edward lived with Martin for several months until he decided to
return to Canada for further schooling.
Aged parents who can no longer support themselves or look
after themselves live with their children, grandchildren, or
another relative designated as their "caretaker." Other
relatives, including aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces and
nephews, can all be incorporated into households as circumstances
demand (cf. Gonzalez 1969, 1984; R. T. Smith 1978). When Leroy
was twelve he won a scholarship to attend the prestigious grammar
school in Kingstown, a three hour commute from his grandmother's
household in Gerogetown. He moved in with a distant relative of
his grandmother who lived in Kingstown and went home on weekends
and holidays.
Co-residence strengthens emotional bonds and reinforces
kinship ties between those who share a household. Children become
closest to their caretaker and whatever other relatives live with
them when they are growing up, whether these other relatives are


431
parallels that w'tain the slave society, when a small minority of
men controlled all the wealth and power. Now, the men who can
afford concubines or "keepers" or girlfriends as well as wives are
upper- and middle-class men, and returned lower-class migrants who
have made it into the "new middle class." Women today have a
broader range of partners, but the number of men available capable
of forming and supporting their own households is still smaller
than the number of women seeking such men. Lower-class women who
do not find husbands rely on visiting or keeping relationships
instead.
Although lower-class Vincentian women prefer marriage if
their partners can give them a house and support them and their
children, they do not sacrifice themselves to an "ideal" of
marriage if economic support is lacking. Women know that even if
they do marry they will still be sharing their partners' resources
with other womeneither his female relatives or other sexual
partners. Vincentian women do not marry just to be more
"respectable" but to gain their own households and achieve long-
lasting economic and emotional security.
Lower-class Vincentian women do not need to marry to become
adults, because they acquire that status when they give birth to
their first child. Women trade the short term insecurity of the
visiting relationship for its immediate sexual and financial
benefits. While they may end up sole supporters of their children


196
adolescence is referred to as a "force-ripe man." This is
considered as inappropriate as an adult still acting like a child
or an adolescent. These expressions carry a connotation that goes
beyond "precocious" to mean a person acting above him or herself
and in some way flaunting authority or the natural order.
Adulthood is achieved when a "boy" or "gel" has a child.
Both sexes refer to having a child as the event which "makes" them
a "man" or "woman." Men say "she make me a man" to refer to the
first woman who had a baby "for me." Most of my informants felt
that one's late teens or early twenties is the best time to begin
having children. An adult is more than just physically capable of
impregnating a woman or bearing a childan adult is also ready to
assume the responsibilities of parenthood, to financially support
the child and to raise it.
Adulthood for Vincentian men and women thus begins when they
have their first child and continues through the establishment of
a stable union and a separate household, independent of either
partner's parents. Men may have several children by multiple
partners before marrying or establishing a common-law relationship
and setting up their own households. Women may also have more
than one child by the same or different men, but until they are in
a separate household, either with their partner or on their own,
they are not considered completely adult and independent. The
late twenties, thirties, and early forties are the stage of early


110
the 1880s. The birth rate declined slightly between 1911 and 1931
from the high levels recorded between 1881 and 1911. The death
rate began to drop in the 1920s due to improvements in public
sanitation and health undertaken by the government during the
1920s (Spinelli 1973: 237-241).
The age structure and sex ratio of the Vincentian population
between 1881 and 1931 reflect the impact of the great emigration.
The proportion of the population aged 20-39 fell from 32% in 1871
to 29% in 1881, fell again to 26% in 1891, then rose slowly back
to 29% in 1931. The sex ratio fell gradually from a peak of 90
males per 100 females in 1871 to reach a low of 76 per 100 in
1921 (Spinelli 1973:288,328).
The massive emigration at the turn of the century reinforced
the gender and kinship systems established after Emancipation.
The migration stream was dominated initially by men. Labor
recruiters for Panama, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Central
America paid the passage of the young men who signed contracts
agreeing to work for specific periods of time (Richardson
1985:111-123). At their destination, men lived in barracks
provided by their employers (D. Marshall 1987:21-22). Women also
emigrated to these destinations to join their men or independently
to work in the informal sector of the migrant communities, as
prostitutes, laundry women, or small shopkeepers. However, the
women had to pay their own passage and secure their own


413
deference and obedience, the rules of plantation life that
controlled their freedom of movement and association and their
work habits. Slaves who worked as domestic servants also learned
the intimate habits of their masters, and acquired styles of
cooking, dressing, talking, childcare, and house management.
Slaves learned all of these things because of their position
within slave society, not because they were expected to organize
their lives outside of their work this way. Slave owners enforced
all of these "lessons of slavery" with physical force and other
forms of punishment. Slaves learned how to be slaves primarily
from other slaves, the ones who "seasoned" new arrivals from
Africa, and from the slave population in general in everyday
interaction (Mintz and Price 1976).
The elements of West African culture that the slaves shared
enabled them to create their own social order. The culture of
slavery included these common elements, reinterpreted as closely
as possible under the circumstances, as well as ways to use the
system against the slave owner. Slaves learned ways to shirk
work, malinger, sabotage equipment, and in myriad other ways to
resist the oppression of slavery. Time and time again, slaves
rose up all over the Caribbean in revolt. The culture of the
slaves was an amalgam, predominantly African in its roots adapted
to the slave society, and directed towards survival and resistance
(Olwig 1985; Sutton and Makiesky-Barrow 1977; Mintz and Price


348
peanuts and cocoa beans, or drying corn, take place in the yard or
on the roof of the house, but not indoors.
The lower-class yard is the scene of much productive
activity, household functions, and social life, while the house is
small and reserved for sleeping, storage, and entertaining the
occasional important visitor. The yard is used for growing
produce and sheltering livestock; food preparation and cooking;
laundry; bathing; sanitation; resting; and casual visiting and
entertaining (Davenport 1968; Mintz 1974; Austin 1984).
As one moves up the socioeconomic scale, "domestic
activities such as food preparation, bathing, sanitation, and
laundry, move into the house itself, which becomes correspondingly
larger with more specialized inner rooms, and the yard becomes
more decorative and a status symbol reserved merely for occasional
informal entertaining, no longer a productive arena. Instead of
raising their own produce and livestock, middle- and upper-class
households purchase already processed food. The amount of time
spent by household members in the house or yard reverses from most
time spent in the yard for the lower class to most time spent in
the house for the upper class.
The middle class occupies an intermediate point on this
scale. More activities take place in or close to the house, such
as cooking, laundry, bathing, but middle-class households still
use the yard for small vegetable gardens, fruit trees, and small


354
the house and yard. While there is a trend away from home
deliveries to hospital deliveries in St. Vincent, many women still
give birth at home attended by the midwife and female relatives.
The placenta and umbilicus or "navel string" are traditionally
buried in the yard under a fruitbearing tree (cf. Mintz 1974:246).
The mother and child remain at home immediately after the birth,
until the infant is christened. Relatives and friends come to
visit the mother and infant at home, bringing presents for the
baby. The party or fete held after the christening is held at the
parent's or mother's home. After the christening fete, the mother
and baby are able to participate in community life. Wedding
ceremonies are performed at churches, but many wedding fetes occur
at the house of the bride's parents or the newly married couple's
home. Parties for departing and visiting migrants are held at
their houses as well (cf. Hill 1977; Abrahams 1983; Philpott
1973).
Most deaths also occur at home. The body is prepared for
burial and remains laid out at home until it is removed to the
churchyard for burial with great ceremony. Death is marked by the
observance of a wake or "nine nights" of mourning, that occurs in
the deceased's house and yard. The wake is observed with
feasting, drinking, singing hymns, and telling stories,
especially "Anansi" stories (cf. Abrahams 1983; Hill 1977).


171
or years, while others had come back to retire after spending
their entire working life overseas (Thomas-Hope 1985:160-161;
Rubenstein 1982). In my discussions with these returned migrants,
gender differences emerged that reflect a difference in how the
migration ideology affects men and women. Women talked to me
about coming home to be reunited with their families, especially
their own mothers and the children they had left behind, despite
the ease of their lives overseas compared to the hardships of
their lives in St. Vincent. Men mostly talked to me about
success, prestige, political ambitions, and the attractions of
life in St. Vincent for men. Both women and men discussed the
value of being home, in a place that they felt was theirs, where
they were not foreigners. Some individuals I spoke with felt they
were home to stay, while others were already planning to leave
again. All of them spoke about the personal value of going
overseas, seeing new things, experiencing different ways of life,
and proving to one's self that one could adapt or survive (cf.
Tobias 1975). Also mentioned were the changes that had occurred
in St. Vincent, and how things back home were not what they had
imagined they would be.
Potential migrants receive information about conditions and
customs of their destinations through their migrant relatives and
from returned migrants. One informant's uncle was briefed by a
neighbor on how to pass through Customs at the airport and locate


350
prestige, but they do not rely on them for daily survival. The
privatization of middle- and upper-class women's activities should
not be interpreted as social isolation. The removal of productive
activities from the yard and the seclusion of women within the
household symbolizes the contrast between middle- and upper-class
women and lower-class women (cf. Moses 1977; Austin 1984).
Vincentian Definitions of Public and Private
The house and yard form the core of the private domain in St.
Vincent (cf. Abrahams 1983:133-156). There is general agreement
in St. Vincent on what spaces are considered public and which are
private, as well as on the behavior appropriate to each social
domain. In town and in the countryside, public areas include the
street and docks; stores and shops; bars, restaurants, and
rum-shops; government buildings (although individual offices
within government buildings are private); service institutions
such as hospitals, clinics, the government pharmacy, schools and
schoolyards; churches and churchyards; the beach, open fields, and
the roadside. All public spaces are areas where anyone can come
and go without requiring a property owner's permission.
In contrast, private spaces include people's houses and
yards, offices and workplace interiors, and private lands that are
fenced or otherwise bounded. Private areas cannot be entered
without the permission of the owner of the property. Private
places are assumed to be protected from outside interference (cf.


44
their own knowledge of the hardships faced adapting to a strange
land and new customs.
Entry Problems
Soon after I arrived I became aware of the pervasive
influence of politics on Vincentian life. When I entered the
field in October 1983, the government was under the control of the
St. Vincent Labour Party (SVLP). I had been warned by the
Political Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Barbados and by contacts
in the United States that the Labour government was difficult*to
approach. Although the government approved my project, it did
little to assist me. In particular, the 1980 census, which I
dearly wanted to use for ray research, was not available. I
initially thought that it was delayed in processing, but I soon
found out that it was being suppressed. I also learned that some
government statistics cited in official publications were suspect,
especially those relating to population. Fearing possible
expulsion from St. Vincent, I muted the emphasis on the study of
migration and instead talked more about my interest in "women's
roles" and "development."
Several months passed before I could gain permission to
access official records. Even then, personal relationships with
government officials helped enormously. I followed the excellent
advice proffered me by both these "strategic" informants and my
ordinary neighborhood contacts to keep a very low profile so far


381
additional cash income. Mr. Clarke was a part-time lay minister
for his fundamentalist Protestant church. He received no cash
compensation for his preaching, but received gifts of produce and
labor assistance from church members. As a young man, Tom Clarke
had worked several seasons as an agricultural laborer in the
United States, harvesting oranges in Florida. He saved the money
he earned overseas to purchase his house spot and build his home.
Mrs. Prudie Clarke would have described herself as a
"housewife" if asked directly for her occupation. However, she
also works as a seamstress and does some petty trading. Prudie
took advantage of a trip she made to the United States for medical
treatment to purchase stocks of clothing. Every banana packing
day, Prudie carries two large suitcases packed with clothing to a
village high in the mountains. She spreads her wares on the
ground next to the banana packing plant and sells items to the
people as they unload their bananas and receive payment for their
fruit. Prudie also sells fruit-flavored "popsicles" she makes
from fruit grown in her garden during her trips to the country.
Prudie goes into town regularly to buy things for her customers
and makes additional trips to the country to deliver these goods,
collect outstanding payments, and sell door to door. Also active
in her husband's church, Prudie obtains produce and domestic help
from other church members. Prudie learned how to sew from her
mother. Before beginning her petty trading, she made clothing at


426
Although women save their own earnings towards house purchase,
most women obtain houses through inheritance or as the gifts of
living relatives or sexual partners. Women who are heads or
members of female-headed households contribute financially only to
themselves and to relatives, usually their own children and
relatives with whom they grew up or still co-reside. Few lower-
class women in St. Vincent earn as much as men; the jobs available
to women in the Vincentian labor market pay less than men's jobs.
Vincentian women are handicapped by lower educational and job
skills. Lower-class women in female-headed households cope with
domestic work and childcare by sharing the responsibility with
their female relatives, neighbors, and friends. By relying on
their female kinship network to reduce their domestic obligations,
Vincentian women participate in subsistence agricultural
production and wage labor in the local economy. The women who are
earning wages or growing food share these resources with their
dependents and the women caring for them.
The increasing migration of young single women can best be
understood as an extension of their search for wage income to
support their dependents. Like women who remain on St. Vincent,
working as domestics, factory workers, or in the tourist industry,
these migrant women rely on their female relatives to care for
their dependents while they earn wages that are remitted back


141
agroprocessing and other manufacturing industries to help
diversify the Vincentian economy. St. Vincent's transportation
networks are oriented to the movement of people, but not goods.
Even the airplanes carrying passengers to and from St. Vincent are
small, however, because larger aircraft cannot land at the Arnos
Vale airport. While current air service to St. Vincent can easily
accommodate several thousand Vincentians traveeling between North
America and the Caribbean, it could not cope with the hundreds of
thousands of tourists who arrive in Barbados annually.
Problems in obtaining access to the appropriate inputs for
development are mirrored by similiar difficulties in marketing
products from St. Vincent. Because the island's internal market
is so small, most production is geared to regional or
international export. But everything exported must be shipped out
or airfreighted off the island by the unreliable agents mentioned
above. There is a complete lack of refrigerated storage or
shipping facilities for produce, the island's current main export.
This affects the quality of the exports and the prices Vincentians
obtain in the regional markets. Even if the country could produce
enough agriculturally or industrially to market and recover the
costs of production, a dubious proposition at best given the lack
of an economy of scale, there is no way at present to export the
island's products in quantity.


282
When children grow up in households where their fathers do
not reside they are less under their control and dominance. They
are seldom without a male role model, however, since a grandfather
or uncle is usually nearby. The type of relationship they have
with their non-resident fathers varies tremendously (cf.
Rubenstein 1987: 243-244). Several informants told me they never
knew or spoke with their fathers and had no positive feelings for
them at all. Others had lived with their fathers intermittently
and felt very close to them. The depth of feeling varied with the
quality of interaction and the amount of time they had spent with
their fathers.
If many Vincentian children grow up without experiencing a
close relationship with their fathers, few if any grow up without
knowing their grandparents, especially their grandmothers,
intimately. Many young women continue to live in their parents'
households after they begin having children. Many young children
thus grow up in their grandparents' household. Sometimes a
grandmother assumes a surrogate mother role while the biological
mother emigrates or works on the island to support her children
financially (cf. Rubenstein 1987; Philpott 1973; Massiah 1983; R.
T. Smith 1956; Gonzalez 1969). In these instances, the child's
relationship with the grandmother is much like the mother-child
relationship described earlier, and the relationship with the
biological mother may be more like that with a sibling. In other


370
children. Splitting also occurs when the household head refuses
to accomodate and support a household member any longer.
Households also break up when adult children migrate and leave
their children in their grandparents' household (cf. Philpott
1973; Sanford 1975; Gonzalez 1969, 1984). Households also divide
when the household head and household members quarrel. Most
disagreements concern the distribution of household resources or
household members' conduct. The household head thinks the member
is spending too much money on him or herself, on a sexual partner,
or on non-resident children. Most disapproved conduct, such as
drinking, gambling, and assorting with bad company also represent
unsanctioned expenditures of money and a drain on household
resources. For example, a male household head kicks his wife out
of the house if he catches her with another man, his daughter if
she becomes pregnant while still in school, or his son if he
refuses to get a job or becomes a "Rasta." A female household
head does the same if she discovers her partner has a "keeper" or
mistress, a daughter who spends all her money on clothes and not
on her children's food, or a son who is a thief.
Dependents who have problems with their household head
because he or she is a drunkard, physically abusive, or not
providing financially often leave the household to join another.
Women leave physically abusive partners to rejoin their parental
households, taking their children with them (cf. Saint Victor


41
ducks, cats, and dogs abound. Large open fields still exist, some
in pasture and some cultivated, although the open areas are
shrinking as new houses continue to go up. Roads are well
maintained and there are streetlights. Children are well fed and
clothed, and do not beg. Residents work hard and try to lead
"respectable" lives. The community is neither a slum nor an
upper-class enclave, but the home of many striving working and
middle class Vincentians.
The feature of Arnos Vale that sets it aside from every other
community in the minds of most Vincentians is the presence of the
national airport. Through this airport the vast majority of
Vincentian migrants depart when they leave their country and
arrive when they come home. Arnos Vale is the last or the first
place in St. Vincent they see. The activity of the airport
planes coming and goingforms a rhythm of noise against which
life in the community goes on everyday, a constant reminder to
those who listen of faraway places to see and absent relatives and
friends to remember. This dissertation, therefore, is set in a
Vincentian community that bears constant witness to the migration
process.
Presentation of Self
My Vincentian neighbors' prior contacts with resident
foreigners were primarily with tourists or with volunteers serving
with the Peace Corps of the United States, the Volunteer Service


47
I worried initially what impact my deepening relationship
with Elroy would have on ray relationships with my neighbors and
other informants. My closest informants admitted later that they
had been worried about me, because ray new "friend" was not from
their neighborhood, and they did not know his family or his
background. They were afraid that he might be taking advantage of
me financially. However, they were glad that I was not alone
anymore and had found a Vincentian boyfriend. They had been
disturbed about ray living alone and had wondered whether I was
really "normal," because I had seemed to be avoiding men. My
concerns about their opinions of the propriety of the relationship
proved to be groundless.
After our marriage and during my pregnancy, I was able to
learn first-hand about Vincentian values about fertility,
childbearing, and marriage. I gained an "insider's" perspective
while retaining ray outsider's awareness of the anthropolgical
significance of ray new status. My female informants were eager to
share stories about their pregnancies and childbirth experiences,
and offer advice on childrearing practices.
Collection and Analysis of Ethnographic Data
In my pursuit of knowledge about Vincentian culture, I used
many different kinds of "bits" or "strips" of information, to
borrow Michael Agar's (1986) terminology. As Agar states
(1986:36), "strips" vary in several ways, including the degree of


320
the rum-shop (cf. Abrahams 1983; Wilson 1973). This does not mean
that Vincentian women remain within their own homes exclusively,
but that much of their leisure activities occur in the private
homes of relatives, neighbors, and friends. Women of all classes
maintain regular routines of "visiting" to socialize with
relatives, friends, and neighbors. A tremendous amount of
socializing, information exchange, and mutual emotional support
occurs when women visit each other, ostensibly to help with the
laundry, see a new baby, or exchange produce. Thus, sharing
domestic work with female relatives not only eases the burden of
work, it also gives women a chance to discuss their lives, talk
about men, comment on current political and social events, to
laugh and joke, and enjoy themselves. Women also maintain their
social networks through participation in church-related
activities. Middle- and upper-class Vincentian women are active
in a wide range of charitable, social, and political
organizations. Through their extensive, regular contact with
their female relatives and friends, Vincentian women maintain the
social relationships between domestic groups that form the links
in the kinship network (cf. Durant-Gonzalez 1982; Stack 1974; R.
T. Smith 1956; Powell 1982, 1986; Olwig 1985; Wilson 1973; Barrow
1986; Safa 1986). Women stay in constant contact with other
relatives, circulating information through the network, mobilizing


375
older man would consider the house he owns by himself or the one
which he shares and owns with his legal wife to be his primary
residence. If he also owns the house in which his keeper lives,
he considers himself head of both households. However, his
household shared with his legal wife and family is the only one
socially recognized. If a man leaves his wife and moves in with
his keeper, his wife becomes head of their former household.
During my field stay the Vincentian Parliament tried to pass a law
requiring men to legally declare a single primary resident to
establish their membership in an electoral district. This law met
with considerable opposition from men. Women I interviewed said
that the law would never be passed, and it still had not by the
time I left St. Vincent in 1985.
Migrants also maintain ties to multiple households and retain
their former roles within their households. A migrant remains a
member of the household in St. Vincent for as long as economic
obligations to kin and sexual partners are fulfilled and emotional
involvement in relationships continues. When emigrants return
permanently they may rejoin their original households or establish
a separate household of their own. Migrants remain members of
their households for as long as they maintain the relationship
with the household by sending remittances and maintaining
communication (cf. Philpott 1973; Frucht 1968; Rubenstein 1982,
1983; Griffith 1985; Manners 1965). A migrant maintains closest


236
Younger women under the age of thirty-five were more likely to
respond that two to four children was a good family size,
providing that one had at least one son and one daughter.
The social and economic value of having children was heavily
stressed by lower-class people and older people of all classes.
Children provide social security, and comfort and protection
against the infirmities of old age. It was important to have many
children, older women said, because so many died during infancy
and young childhood (cf. Laufer 1973). Women also emphasized that
some children might emigrate and leave one alone. If a woman had
many children, at least one could stay in St. Vincent, and the
others would send remittances. If one child stopped sending
remittances, maybe another would be more faithful. Thus, women
thought that having many children provided a hedge against
childhood mortality and emigration. Young children were also
perceived as economically useful. Children help out around the
house by performing chores, caring for smaller children, rearing
livestock, running errands, and substituting around the house for
adults who could be released for productive work outside the
household (cf. Berleant-Schiller 1977; Olwig 1985).
Finally, in addition to the social and economic value of
children, babies and children are valued for the company, solace,
and emotional satisfaction they offer, especially for women. Many
women commented on the inconstancy of men and the lack of


23
motivations and those based on the international division of labor
in the world economy. As suggested by Wood (1982), Pessar's unit
of analysis is the household; households which move as migrant
units. Although the members of the households she studied
contributed to the support of other domestic groups in the
Dominican Republic, they formed separate units of reproduction as
well. She suggests that this form of "household migration" is a
middle class strategy of international migration. Her analysis
does not overcome the problem of uniting individual migrants to
households in sending societies. However, if the analysis of
domestic groups is extended beyond the household to include gender
and kinship systems, the entire process of the reproduction of
labor can be analyzed, even when individual members of domestic
groups are separated through international migration.
Although international labor migration is increasing rapidly
all over the world, contemporary sending societies do not display
the same migration rates nor have they participated in labor
migration for the same length of time. Some regions have relied
extensively on labor migration for long periods of time, and
demonstrate the internal dynamics the reproduction of labor
assumes under such conditions. The next section discusses
research in one such area of the world, the Caribbean.


290
1971; Rubenstein 1987; Powell 1982, 1986; Barrow 1986; Goody 1975;
Sanford 1975). Again, the foster child is usually related to the
foster parents as a niece, nephew, grandchild, or "outside" child
from a former union. Fostering varies from short-term to
long-term, and usually occurs because the natural parent is
financially or physically unable to care for the child; fostering
is very common with migrants. Many migrants to England, Canada,
and the United States left their children in St. Vincent with
relatives. Migrant parents are expected to send back money,
clothing, and other supplies for their children (cf. Philpott
1973). Parents may eventually send for the children to join them,
typically when the child is school-age or teenage and requires
less supervision and attention (cf. Goody 1975).
However, many migrants have effectively abandoned their
children, neither sending support money for them nor staying in
touch with them. Interviews with several individuals revealed
that they have had no contact with their parents in over twenty
years. Despite the problem of abandonment, migrants are not
expected to take small children or infants with them. Staying
home and caring for young children hampers attainment of the major
goal of migrants: earning as much money as fast as possible (cf.
Philpott 1973). Mrs. Martin disclosed that she had received much
criticism from her relatives when she took her children to England
with her and worked only part-time so that she could be with them.


372
parents' household with her infant (cf. Clarke 1957; R. T. Smith
1957; Wilson 1973; Roberts and Sinclair 1978). After the birth of
a child, the young woman achieves adult status. Her parents do
not attempt any longer to "control" her, although continued
residence in their household depends on her maintaining
appearances. Her parents encourage her relationships with men who
contribute to her support (Barrow 1986).
As long as a young man contributes financially to his
parents' household, his parents do not interfere with his sexual
relationships. Until a young man cohabits or marries, setting up
his own household, he remains a member of the household in which
he was raised. His conduct or relationships with women do not
affect his household directly unless he moves out. In contrast, a
young woman's sexual relationships usually cause a temporary or
even permanent split in her original household. If her parents'
household does not break up, it increases in size through the
addition of the daughter's children.
By their early thirties, Vincentian men have either
emigrated, married, are living with a woman and their children in
a household they head, or are still in a parental home. Middle-
aged men also have children from earlier or concurrent visiting
relationships living with their mothers and also may be
maintaining a "keeper" and her children in another household. By
their early thirties, women have had more diverse experiences of


68
Black Caribs (Shephard 1831; Kirby and Martin 1972; Gonzalez
1988). This Afro-Amerindian group were the descendants of African
slaves shipwrecked off the Vincentian coast, runaway slaves from
other colonies, and Island Caribs. By the early eighteenth
century, the Black Caribs were the dominant force on the island
and controlled most of the land (Gonzalez 1988; Kirby and Martin
1972).
The British government declared St. Vincent Crown property in
1763, had the island surveyed in 1764, and put the land up for
sale. In an attempt to avoid the problems of land management
encountered in the older British islands and encourage a yeoman
class of farmers, the maximum acreage of a parcel of land was set
at 500 acres. Only British subjects could purchase land outright.
The 1,300 French settlers were allowed to remain on their
properties for 40 years but could not keep them freehold (Spinelli
1973:52).
In 1763, the year Britain obtained St. Vincent, the total
population (not including the Caribs) was estimated at 7,100. By
1764, the population grew to 9,518 due to the movement of British
planters and their slaves from the older islands of Jamaica,
Barbados, and the Leeward Islands to the new colony (Spinelli
1972:227). Most immigrants were small and medium-sized sugar
planters who intended to re-establish themselves as sugar planters
on St. Vincent. Despite the intentions of the British government,


Establishment of the Migration Tradition:
1838 to 1881 83
Immigration of Indentured Labor 90
Nineteenth Century Migration Patterns 93
Migration and the Reproduction of Labor During
the Nineteenth Century 97
FOUR MIGRATION FROM THE LATE NINETEENTH CENTURY
TO THE TWENTIETH CENTURY 102
The Great Emigration from 1881 to 1931 103
Retrenchment, Reaction, and Renewed Migration:
1931 to 1946 113
The Exodus to England..... .......119
Migration to Canada and the United States 123
Population Change in St. Vincent from
1960 to 1980 125
Post-War Changes in the Political Economy 128
Contemporary Class Structure 142
Notes 147
FIVE CONTEMPORARY MIGRATION: PATTERNS AND
STRATEGIES 149
Contemporary Migration Patterns 149
Alternate Migration Strategies 161
Class Differences in Migration Strategies..... 167
The Role of Returned Migrants 170
"Vince Mas:" Carnival in St. Vincent .....174
Carnival and Migration 178
The Migration Ideology in Contemporary Society 182
Contemporary Migration and the Reproduction of
Labor 185
Notes............. 187
SIX THE SYSTEM OF GENDER IN ST. VINCENT 188
The Definition of Gender 188
Gender Roles Over the Life Cycle 192
The Gender Division of Labor .199
Gender Division of Labor: Production 202
Gender Division of Labor: Reproduction ...207
Social Significance of the Domestic Division of
Labor 210
Sexuality and Gender 213
The Double Standard of Sexual Conduct 218
Jealousy and "Getting Horned" 222
Sexual Relationships... 225
viii


308
chaperoned and premarital pregnancy is severely punished, so that
girls can make a good marriage within their class.
Upper- and middle-class Vincentians help their lower class
relatives by employing them, in low-ranked positions in business
or as domestic servants; by letting them farm part of their land;
and by allowing them to build houses on large estate properties
(cf. Wilson 1973). For example, there was a very beautiful, large
house behind mine on the top of the hill on which I lived in Arnos
Vale. Right next to this house, almost in the garden, was a small
wooden house. When I asked another neighbor why the family in the
large house tolerated the rather dilapidated shack so close to
their property, I was told that it belonged to a cousin who worked
for them as a gardener. Such "poor relations" are often
descendants of illegitimate branches of the family, although
sometimes they are merely the less successful.
Upper- and middle-class families occasionally take in a child
of such "poor relations" and raise the child as one of their own.
More commonly, the child becomes an unpaid family servant (cf.
Sanford 1975; Goody 1975; Clarke 1957; Powell 1982; Gonzalez
1975). Middle- and upper-class households usually include several
servants. In the truly well-to-do, servants often assume
quasi-kinship roles, especially the servants who take care of
babies and small children. These domestic servants, nearly always
women, live in the same household as their employers. While the


145
fishermen, clerks, low level government employees, and some
domestic workers. These people work with their hands but own
their own land or have a trade. Below this group are farmers of
rented or sharecropped lands, seasonal estate workers, some
construction workers and laborers, most domestics, vendors in the
informal sector, and those who depend exclusively on remittances
from overseas. On the bottom are the completely indigent, those
who depend on the government dole, charity, who beg or steal and
live on the streets, and the feeble-minded or insane. The
lower/working class comprises about 88% of the population, with
perhaps 10% at the very bottom, 24% at the top, and 44% between.
Determination of class membership in contemporary Vincentian
society is based on a combination of ascribed and achieved
features. To a certain extent, one inherits the class status of
one's family. This is especially true of members of the upper and
middle classes. Other factors which influence class membership
are economic achievements, occupation, education, race/color, and
personal demeanour. It is possible for an individual who was born
to very poor parents to move upward into the middle or upper
classes if he or she amasses great personal wealth during his or
her lifetime. It is also possible for a person born into the
middle class to fall into the lower class as a result of losing
one's wealth. Occupation is correlated with economic achievements
and education, but some occupations have high status without being


129
Table A.3
AGE STRUCTURE OF THE POPULATION
OF ST. VINCENT, 1946-1980
Age
1946
* m
1960
# [%]
1970
# [%]
1980*
# [%]
<5
9418
[15.3]
16211
[20.3]
14390
[16.7]
14228
[14.6]
5-1A
17855
[29.0]
23094
[28.9]
29813
[34.5]
28570
[29.2]
<15
27273
[44.2]
39305
[49.0]
44203
[51.2]
42858
[43.8]
15-25
11421
[18.5]
13322
[16.7]
15067
[17.5]
22310
[22.8]
<25
38694
[62.8]
56627
[65.8]
59270
[68.67]
65168
[66.6]
25-44
13374
[21.7]
14945
[18.7]
13218
[15.3]
16603
[17.0]
45-64
6696
[10.9]
8999
[11.3]
9636
[11.2]
10437
[10.7]
>65
2876
[A.7]
3377
[4.2]
4192
[4.9]
5613
[5.7]
<15 +
>65
30149
[48.9]
42682
[53.4]
48395
[56.1]
48471
[49.5]
15-64
31491
[51.1]
37266
[46.6]
37921
[43.9]
49350
[50.5]
TOTAL
POPULATION:
61647
79948
86314
97845
DEPENDENCY
RATIO:
95.7
1
14.5
127.6
98.2
* Figures are based on the provisional returns of the 1980 census
and do not include the institutional population.


302
Kinship as Metaphor
Vincentians also use kinship metaphorically, as a model of
ideal social relations. This idealized view emphasizes the ways
kinship promotes group solidarity, cohesion, and cooperation.
Kinship places all relatives on an equal footing and overcomes
class differences (cf. Olwig 1985; Wilson 1973; Alexander 1976).
Vincentians employ this idealized metaphor of kinship in two
important social organizations: the church and the lodge. Members
of Protestant fundamentalist churches, the indigenous Spiritualist
Baptist sect, and the various freemasonry lodges all employ
kinship terms to address fellow members and urge members to behave
as if they were all "family."
Members of the fundamentalist Protestant churches and the
Spiritualist Baptists refer to each other as "brothers" and
"sisters." The Spiritualist Baptists also call the senior church
women who initiate new members "mothers" and treat them with great
deference and respect (cf. Henney 1980). The majority of members
of both religious groups are from the lower class, and the kinship
values they espouse in their churches are based on the folk ethos.
Church members stress fellowship and mutual help between members
because "we are all family (in God)." Some churches also tell
members that they should socialize only with other members and
should proslytize friends and relatives who are not members.
Sanctions are often imposed against younger members who form


444
McCoy, Terry L.
1985 The Impact of U. S. Temporary Worker Programs on
Caribbean Development: Evidence from H-2 Workers in
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Westview Special Studies. Pp. 157-177.
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Barry B. Levine, ed. New York: Praeger Publishers.
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McCoy, Terry L. and Charles H. Wood
1982 Caribbean Workers in the Florida Sugar Cane Industry.
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Gainesville, FL: Center for Latin American Studies,
University of Florida.
McKenzie, Hermione
1982 Introduction: Women and the Family in Caribbean Society.
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Project, Vol. 2. Barbados: ISER, University of the West
Indies. Pp. vii-vxi.
Midgett, Douglas K.
1979 West Indian Ethnicity in Great Britain. In: Migration
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1974 Caribbean Transformations. Chicago, IL: Aldine.
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1976 An Anthropological Approach to the Afro-American
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1973 Coraraess: Traditional and Official Forms of Social
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1978 The Family and the Modern World System: The Caribbean.
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39
of African and mixed African ancestry of every possible skin
shade.
Arnos Vale functions primarily as a bedroom community for the
capital, and the majority of people resident there commute to work
in "town" daily. Some agricultural and fishing activity persists,
but Arnos Vale is no longer a peasant village or an estate
community. Economically, my neighbors ranged from the very poor,
completely dependent upon remittances and meagre informal sector
earnings, to a Government minister and member of St. Vincent's
political elite. Most of my neighbors could best be described as
lower-middle class persons, who held secure, full-time positions
with private businesses or with the civil service, and small to
mid-level entrepreneurs. Most residents of Arnos Vale can be
described as members of the "new middle class." This group has
grown since the end of the Second World War with the expansion of
educational opportunities on the island; the growth of jobs in the
government civil service and the tourist industry; and increased
migration to the industrializing Caribbean countries of Trinidad
and Aruba and the industrialized countries of Great Britain,
Canada, and the United States. The "new middle class" consists of
upwardly mobile individuals born into the lower class who have
made it into the middle class largely through their own efforts
rather than through the inheritance of property or position.


331
largely due to the investment of remittances and savings in better
housing by migrants and their relatives. As such, it is a
definite benefit resulting from migration in the past thirty
years.
Differences in attitudes towards home ownership between the
lower class and the middle and upper classes are reflected in the
way Vincentians dispose of their property when they emigrate.
Class differences in migration patterns are also reflected in
these different property arrangements. If a lower-class
Vincentian already owns a house prior to emigrating, he or she
will not ordinarily sell it before departing. Instead, a relative
occupies it. If no relative wants to use the house, it will be
rented out or even left empty for the migrant's occasional visit
and eventual return. Lower-class Vincentians do not consider
selling their houses before migrating because houses represent
security if economic circumstances overseas change. Also, because
the lower-class Vincentian usually emigrates as an individual
leaving relatives behind to receive remittances, it is more likely
that some relative can use the house in the migrant's absence.
In contrast, the Vincentian newspaper regularly carried
advertisements offering for sale large houses, often complete with
their entire furnishings and even a car. The sales were usually
handled by attorneys or real estate agents. These houses belonged
to middle- and upper-class Vincentians, were located in well-to-do


25
and increasing population pressures on limited and eroding island
ecosystems, degraded by plantation monoculture and peasant
subsistence agriculture. Bonham Richardson (1983; 1985)
characterizes the small island countries of the Caribbean as
"migration societies" in which every person has been a migrant or
is related to one.
Caribbean societies have produced an "ideology of migration"
that affects social relations between and within classes, and
social relations between the sexes and the generations (Philpott
1973). Especially for men, migration is linked to the attainment
and maintenance of status and prestige amongst male peers (Wilson
1973). In one sense, the migration tradition represents a
positive aspect of the Afro-Caribbean peoples' efforts to resist
domination and oppression. However, the migration tradition and
the colonial heritage have combined to produce a tendency for West
Indians to consider overseas societies as more advanced,
progressive, and "better" than their own, and to seek the solution
to their individual, familial, and social problems off the island
rather than trying to change their circumstances on the island.
Ethnographic studies of Caribbean migration have been
criticized for being largely atheoretical, focusing on historical
or descriptive analyses of particular communities that have not
been placed within a broader theoretical paradigm of migration
(Chaney 1985; Watson 1982). Moreover, the ethnographies cited


182
annual display these visitors make of the rewards for migration
acts to renew the migration ideology within Vincentian culture.
The Migration Ideology in Contemporary Society
A migration ideology is a deeply rooted part of Vincentian
history, as Chapters Three and Four demonstrated. The same
factors that kept it alive in past eras are still present today.
In fact, the contrast between the poverty of St. Vincent and the
wealth overseas has been made even more dramatic since the
development of tourism and the penetration of the North American
media into the region. Tourists unknowingly flaunt their wealth
in the faces of Vincentians, paying more to rent a room in a
luxury resort for a week than the average Vincentian makes in a
year. Images of luxury leap off the cinema screen and flicker on
the televisions conveniently placed in downtown shop windows and
left on all night. The ease and relative cheapness of air travel
from North America to the Caribbean also make it possible for more
emigrants to return home to visit. Emigrants in earlier years who
travelled to Aruba or Trinidad were able to come home frequently,
but the economic and cultural contrast between St. Vincent and
Aruba is nothing compared to that between St. Vincent and New
York. When one understands how deeply rooted poverty and economic
injustice are in the Vincentian political economy, it is easy to
understand why migration remains a major goal of most Vincentians.


311
family members' use when they return from overseas. Family land
in the countryside is more likely to be still cultivated (cf.
Rubenstein 1987).
The preferred settlement pattern also reflects the importance
of kinship. The clustering of houses built on family land gives
rise to entire neighborhoods related by kinship ties (Wilson 1973;
Olwig 1985; Rubenstein 1987). Down the other side of the hill
from my house, for example, was a cluster of five houses,
including a large, modern two story built of concrete block, an
old house built of tabby and wood, two small wooden houses, and a
small concrete block house. All of the inhabitants were related
to the original purchaser of the land from the estate. In the
modern large house lived the widow and the youngest son of the man
whose family had bought the land from the estate in the early
1900s. In the old tabby house, the original "family house," lived
the man's "outside" daughter and her two young children. The two
wooden houses were occupied by the man's brother, in one, and the
daughter of the man's sister, in the other. The small concrete
block house was occupied by the man's oldest legitimate son, his
wife, and their child.
Kinsfolk work together as well as live together. Relatives
assist each other in housebuilding and in productive work (cf.
Clarke 1957; Olwig 1985; Berleant-Schiller 1977). In the
countryside, small farmers work together on their plots with all


256
system probably dates back to slavery, when slave men competed
with white slave owners for sexual access to slave women. Upper-
and middle-class men gain sexual access to lower-class women
easily because of their financial and social resources, but they
also must give more financially because women know they have it to
give. Upper- and middle-class men display a pattern approaching
true polygyny, by maintaining both a legal wife and one or more
"keepers" or concubines.
The different ways the genders attain social prestige in the
colonial ideology and the folk ethos creates tension and
antagonism between men and women in all classes. Middle- and
upper-class women enjoy higher social status and greater economic
security than lower-class women because middle- and upper-class
men marry within their own class and establish their wives and
legal children in comfortable households to fulfill the colonial
ideology of "respectability." However, upper- and middle-class
women must restrain their sexuality much more than lower-class
women throughout their lives: prior to marriage to establish their
eligibility and desirability as wives; and after marriage, to
secure their "respectability" and to keep their husbands socially
obligated to support them. A middle- or upper-class woman who is
discovered in an affair runs the risk of being divorced or
abandoned, and will not readily find another middle- or upper-
class man to marry her. At the same time, however, middle- and


255
If a man indulges in quick, multiple relationships with many
different women he may gain a reputation amongst women as an
unsuitable candidate for a relationship, but he also gains stature
with his male partners for his success with women. A man who
spends all his time chasing women and having sex with different
partners may be referred to as the "village ram" or a "heavy
goat," terms which are simultaneously derogatory, because of the
reference to being animalistic in one's urges, and flattering,
because of the reference to the individual's assumed excessive
virility. A man's "reputation" or prestige amongst his peers is
measured both by the number of his conquests (and ensuing progeny)
as well as by his skill in persuading women who are "hard to get"
to have sex. A woman may hold out on a man for many reasons: she
does not find the man attractive, she wants more evidence of his
sincerity and more financial remuneration, or she may be already
involved with someone else. Such women are more desirable than
women who are readily available. Women who have too many partners
too quickly or at the same time will gain a reputation for being
"easy." They lose status and respect from men and other women.
Men seek them out for sex, but do not form longer lasting
relationships with them (cf. Rubenstein 1987:258).
Although they marry women of their own class and maintain a
front of "respectability," upper- and middle-class men also
compete in the "sex-fame game." Indeed, the sexual prestige


266
West Germany. Sharon returned to St. Vincent with her daughter,
Ruby, in the early 1960s. Sharon gets along better with Zilpha
(her aunt, her mother's sister) than her biological mother, and
she addresses Zilpha as "Mother." Leroy knew Sharon since she came
back from Trinidad, a few years after he was born. He calls
Sharon "Aunt," and her daughter, Ruby, "cousin." Ruby left St.
Vincent to stay with Hettie in Trinidad. Ruby married a man in
Trinidad and lives there now with her two children, but she comes
back to St. Vincent regularly to visit her mother and other
relatives. When Hettie's common-law husband died in the late
1970s, she returned to St. Vincent and settled in Arnos Vale. She
has little contact with Zilpha, Sharon, or the rest of Leroy's
family. Leroy refers to Hettie as an "aunt," but prefers not to
visit her.
Leroy's grandmother, Zilpha, had two children for the Irish
overseer of the estate on which she was raised. Although the
overseer, Charles O'Donnell, never married Zilpha, their union
lasted several years, and O'Donnell gave her lands and a house.
Zilpha named her son Charles, but he kept her title, Byron.
Zilpha's daughter Juanita, Leroy's mother, used her father's title
O'Donnell. Leroy's grandfather, Charles O'Donnell later married a
"clearskin" woman from a colored middle class family in Kingstown.
They lived in Dorsetshire Hill. O'Donnell had four children with
his wife, three sons and a daughter. He also had another


193
age. These stages include infancy and childhood, adolescence,
young adulthood, mature adulthood, the elderly, and the ancestors.
During infancy and early childhood, both sexes are referred
to as "baby," "pick-me" and "chile." These terms may be modified
with "boy" and "girl" to respond to a specific inquiry or denote a
specific child out of several. Small infants and young children
of both sexes receive equal attention and affection from their
caregivers. Both men and women were observed caring for and
playing with young children of both sexes. At different times and
at different occasions, ray informants, men and women alike,
expressed preferences for children of both sexes.
While special sex-typed outfits, such as frilly dresses or
little suits, are worn by babies on special occasions such as
christening or birthdays, most infants wear a diaper and simple
shirt most of the time. Toddlers, while being toilet trained, may
wear only the shirt. Once past toilet training, little boys wear
shorts and shirts, while little girls wear skirts and shirts or
simple dresses. Little children play together. Most toys are
simple and homemade, such as hoops and sticks, jump ropes, and
bats and balls. Sports, including cricket, are played by children
of both sexes.
Once children start school at age five most of their time is
spent either in school, doing homework, or helping out with chores
around the house. Participation in household chores is not


176
without stopping. Participants crawl away in the afternoon to
rest and prepare for the grand finale, Mardi Gras.
On Tuesday (Mardi Gras) morning, the large fancy mas'
(masquerade) bands perform in the Sports Stadium in downtown
Kingstown, competing for prize money and prestige. When the
judging is over, the fancy mas' bands follow the music out into
the streets of Kingstown. The public watches from the sidewalks
and from the windows of buildings. When all the bands have left
the stadium and paraded around town, the public begins "jumping
up" in the streets behind the bands. Carnival ends Tuesday
evening with the "Last Lap" around Kingstown in which all who are
still standing jump up behind the steel bands and sound systems.
Then the celebration is over until the following year.
Carnival presents a contrast to everyday life in St. Vincent.
Kingstown is transformed from a sleepy, run-down little town to a
bustling, frenetic, noisy, colorful, wild, dusk-to-dawn party.
All sorts of behavior normally not allowed in public or even
permitted at all flourish in the street for everyone to witness,
and no one is punished. Large amounts of alcoholic beverages,
especially rum, are consumed. The music is loud and its insistent
calypso beat keeps everyone dancing in abandon. All Vincentians,
except the minority whose moral beliefs or physical infirmities
keep them away, participate in Carnival. Government ministers,
politicians, businessmen, and professionals drink and dance in the


70
structure was similiar (Shephard 1831; Carmichael 1833; Bayley
1830). The transformation in the composition of the population,
mode of production, and class structure during this period had a
lasting impact on St. Vincent's subsequent history.
Between 1764 and 1812, the total population of St. Vincent
increased from 9,518 to 27,455, nearly tripling in size (Spinelli
1972:228). During this forty-year period the population of St.
Vincent underwent considerable change. After two wars, the
majority of the Caribs were dead or deported, leaving only a few
hundred survivors. Poor and wealthy English settlers had joined
the colony. But the major change in the population was the
importation of large numbers of African slaves to work on the
sugar estates.
As increasing numbers of African slaves were imported, the
ratio of whites to blacks fell dramatically. In 1764, when the
British first arrived in St. Vincent, whites formed 22% of the
population while black slaves formed 78%. In 1805, 9% of the
population were white, 2% were colored, and 89% were black slaves.
Seven years later, the white population had fallen to only 4% of
the total population, while the colored and black had increased to
5% and 91%, respectively. The actual number of whites fell from
2,104 in 1764 to 1,053 in 1812 (Spinelli 1972:331; Shephard
1831:iv).


83
St. Vincent's slave population did not reproduce itself
biologically until the turn of the nineteenth century. The
abolition of the slave trade required the improvement of living
conditions to facilitate human reproduction amongst the slaves.
This period lasted only 26 years, approximately a generation. The
results of these improved conditions can be judged by the age
composition of the slave population in 1832, when Vincentian
estate owners were compensated by the British government for their
slaves. Immediately prior to Emancipation, 13% of the slaves were
children under six, 5% were "aged," and the remaining 82% of the
population were between six and "aged" (Spinelli 1973:75). After
Emancipation, the new system of the reproduction of labor which
had just begun to function had to adapt itself to a new
development: the beginning of migration.
The Establishment of the Migration Tradition: 1838 to 1881
Slavery and the heyday of St. Vincent's sugar industry both
came to an end in 1834. During a four-year Apprenticeship Period
from 1834 to 1838, the former slaves were not permitted to leave
their estates and were forced to work as wage laborers for their
former owners. Conditions of agricultural production during the
nineteenth century remained much the same as under slavery. The
rugged topography and small size of St. Vincent made it difficult
to introduce technical improvements and more efficient large-
scale production. The economy remained dependent on sugar but its


443
Mackintosh, Maureen
1981Gender and Economics: The Sexual Division of Labor and
the Subordination of Women. In: Of Marriage and the
Market: Women's Subordination in International
Perspective, Kate Young, Carol Wolkowitz, and Roslyn
McCullogh, eds. London: CSE Books. Pp. 1-15.
Maingot, Anthony P.
1985 Political Implications of Migration in a Socio-Cultural
Area. In: Migration and Development in the Caribbean,
Robert A. Pastor, ed. Boulder, CO: Westview Special
Studies. Pp. 63-90.
Manners, Robert A.
1965 Remittances and the Unit of Analysis in Anthropological
Research. Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 21:3:
179-195.
Marshall, Bernard
1982Social Stratification and the Free Coloured in the Slave
Society of the British Windward Islands. Social and
Economic Studies 31:1-39.
Marshall, Dawn
1984 Vincentian Contract Labour Migration to Barbados:
The Satisfaction of Mutual Needs? Social and Economic
Studies 33:3:63-93.
1985 Migration and Development in the Eastern Caribbean. In:
Migration and Development in the Caribbean, Robert A.
Pastor, ed. Boulder, CO: Westview Special Studies. Pp.
91-116.
1987 A History of West Indian Migrations: Overseas
Opportunities and "Safety-Valve" Policies. In:
The Caribbean Exodus, Barry B. Levine, ed. New York:
Praeger Publishers, Inc. Pp. 15-31.
Marshall, Woodville K.
1983"Vox Populi:" The St. Vincent Riots and Disturbances of
1862. In: Trade, Government, and Society in Caribbean
History, 1700-1920, B. W. Higman, ed. Kingston,
Jamaica: Heinemann Educational Books, Ltd. Pp. 85-115.
Massiah, Joycelin
1983 Women as Heads of Households in the Caribbean: Family
Structure and Feminine Status. Paris: UNESCO.


429
their social and economic positions, has reinforced women's
dependence on kinship networks to survive and to effect the
reproduction of labor. Migration as the ideal way for men to
achieve economic success and social status physically removes men
from Vincentian society and reduces their contribution to their
household to their remittances. Their labor for subsistence
production or domestic work is no longer unavailable.
International labor migration gives men the opportunity to
accumulate resources which they alone control and dispense. The
gender division of labor allocating domestic work and childcare to
women frees men to migrate while perpetuating the reproduction of
labor in the sending society. The "domestication of kinship" in
St. Vincent reflects not so much male marginality to the
"matrifocal family" but women's use of kinship relationships as a
survival strategy for themselves and their dependents under the
uncertain conditions of the local economy and international
migration.
Male migration heightens the uncertainty of gender
relationships and increases women's reliance on kinship in two
ways:
First, migration makes all relationships more uncertain
because the conditions of migration are beyond the migrants'
control. Migrants cannot predict how long they will be gone, how
successful their efforts will be, nor what expenses they will


330
Migrants return briefly to oversee the purchase or
construction of a house. In my neighborhood, three migrants
returned during my fieldwork to either build or renovate houses.
Relatives occupy houses owned by absent migrants and raaint-in
them, paying little or no rent. Sometimes the tenant keeps the
migrant's children or looks after their lands or business
interests, and the provision of free housing is part payment for
these services. Migrants also rent out their houses to non
relatives.
Migrants' relatives invest remittances not immediately needed
for living expenses in land and housing for themselves. These
houses, in contrast to those discussed above, are owned by those
receiving the remittances, not the migrants. The migrant child
who remits money so a parent can build or renovate their house is
considered to be a "good child" who has fulfilled the duties and
obligations expected of the successful emigrant. The migrant
child who abandons the parent and does not see that the parent has
decent housing is scorned.
Return migrants, especially those who had gone to England in
the late 1950s and returned in the early 1980s, often commented
upon the improvements in housing on St. Vincent in their absence.
The number of wall houses increased tremendously in this interval
all over the island. While there have been several government
housing improvement schemes, this improvement in housing is


170
emigrating than the lower class and more to lose. Today, a wide
range of employment opportunities is open, including the
professions and business. Middle-class Vincentians who emigrate
to North America can make more money than they ever could in St.
Vincent, and live a much more comfortable lifestyle (Thomas-Hope
1983:54). Immigration laws in Canada and the United States also
favor the middle-class and better educated members of Vincentian
society, contributing to the problem (McCoy 1987; D. Marshall
1985; Thomas-Hope 1983). Migration remains attractive to the
lower class but it is becoming more difficult. Migration, which
helped expand the middle class during the early and middle part of
the twentieth century, now threatens to deplete the middle class
in the late twentieth century (D. Marshall 1985). It remains to
be seen if returned migrants or non-migrant Vincentians will move
up into the places vacated by today's middle-class migrants.
The Role of Returned Migrants
Contemporary returned migrants do not conform to a single
pattern or role in Vincentian society. Members of every twentieth
century migration movement have returned to take up residence
again in St. Vincent (Thomas-Hope 1985). I met and talked to men
and women who had gone to Trinidad, Cuba, Aruba, Curacao, England,
Canada, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Antigua, the Virgin Island, the
United States, and Australia, as well as countries in Africa,
Europe, and Asia. Some had stayed overseas for only a few months


243
individuals." The ideology epitomized by the ideal of
"respectability" is based on values derived from European society
and promulgated to members of all classes in St. Vincent through
the established churches and schools. As a consequence, all
Vincentians idealize and attach a higher social value to
particular abilities, attributes, and behaviors. These ideals
include: the attractiveness of white or light-colored skin and
Caucasian features; a preference for professional or white collar
occupations; the desirability of being educated, literate, and
able to speak "proper" or Standard English; the necessity of
attending church regularly and adhering to principles of
"Christian" living; and the social importance of owning property
and legal marriage. Fulfillment of these ideological
prescriptions marks the attainment of "respectability" and middle-
or upper-class status. Members of the Vincentian upper- and
middle- classes assert the moral superiority of colonial values
and attribute the inability of the lower class to fulfill the
prescriptions of the colonial ideology to inherent immorality or
weakness of character rather than a lack of economic resources or
racial discrimination.
However, as Wilson, Austin and others have pointed out
repeatedly, members of the lower class in Afro-Caribbean societies
have been blocked from obtaining access and control over the
economic resources necessary to fulfill the prescriptions of the


393
Competition and inequal distribution of resources also occurs
within the household as well as between households. Often, income
from non-resident relatives or partners is earmarked for specific
purchases or for the use of some individuals within a household.
A non-resident father may contribute money only for the school
fees of his child when the child's mother's household contains
other children she had for different fathers. A girl's boyfriend
sends her money only for clothing or for their child's medical
expenses even though she and the baby are still living in her
parental household. Migrants send money back for their aged
parents or for their children, but not to the caretaker looking
after their dependents (cf. Philpott 1973; Griffith 1985). In
these situations, the individual who receives the income controls
how much of it is contributed to the shared expenses of the
household. These unequal income streams produce households in
which only one child out of several attends secondary school or
even receives adequate medical treatment, or households where a
favorite sibling may receive gifts of clothing or accessories from
a migrant brother or sister while the other children receive
nothing.
Even in households not receiving income from earmarked
outside sources, however, resources may not be allocated equally.
Vincentian parents are aware that light-skinned, educated children
get access to better employment opportunities. As adults, these


164
Teaching also sharpens the skills needed to negotiate the
complicated emigration procedures. I was told by members of the
teachers' union that every year a small but significant proportion
of Vincentian teachers goes away on summer holidays in August and
never returns. Teachers, like nurses and police, have been able
to take advantage of shortages in their professions in Canada and
the United States (cf. Thomas-Hope 1983:42). Many teachers also
use their literacy and numeracy skills to obtain clerical and
computer jobs in the growing white collar sector of the North
American economies.
The Vincentian migrant communities of Toronto and New York
contain organizations of former Vincentian nurses, police, and
teachers (cf. Justus 1983:132). Members of these organizations do
not have to be currently practicing their professions to belong.
These organizations have links to their corresponding associations
in St. Vincent and keep their non-migrant fellows informed of job
opportunities overseas. These organizations also contribute to
the support of their Vincentian counterparts, and help those who
do want to emigrate to find sponsors. They provide scholarships
for secondary school education for Vincentian children and have
donated equipment, supplies, and financial assistance to
Vincentian schools and the public hospital. After the 1979
eruption of the Soufriere volcano, these organizations provided an
alternative mechanism for the organization of relief efforts.


175
and dances. The streets of Kingstown are lined with temporary
wooden facades that serve as bars and discos. Sound systems blare
that season's calypsos all day and all night. The party
atmosphere does not stop. The celebrations reach a climax during
the five day period from Friday through Tuesday of the next week.
Friday night features a calypso show held in the Kingstown sports
stadium with well-known calypsonians from St. Vincent, Trinidad,
Antigua, and Barbados. In recent years, most successful
calpysonians are based in Trinidad or New York, where the major
recording studios for Caribbean music are located. They come back
"direct from New York" to perform during Carnival. Panorama, the
steelband competition, is scheduled for Saturday night. On the
second Sunday is the competition for the "Calypso King" of
Carnival, when the performer of this Carnival's seasons most
popular calypso is selected and crowned. Also featured Sunday
night is a competition for the best individual costumes from the
fancy masquerade bands. Monday is J'Ouvert, or 01' Mas (oldtime
carnival), when people take to the streets in rags and old
clothes, men often wear women's clothing and make-up, and the
comic masquerade bands compete. People "jump up" or dance in the
streets from midnight until noon J'ouvert morning. Steelbands and
"sound systems" mounted on the backs of the banana transport
trucks lead the procession through the streets of Kingstown


356
The Vincentian Household System
This section will discuss the household system of St. Vincent
including how households are formed, the composition of Vincentian
households, and the relations between those individuals who form
the householdthe obligations, responsibilities, and roles
attendant upon co-residence. Following Anthony T. Carter's
generative model of the household, the Vincentian household system
is described as:
...the cultural principles of household formation and
management. The household system generates patterns
of observable social arrangements, including household
size, composition, and development... in conjunction
with the other cultural systems and in response to
variable circumstances (1984:47-48).
Kinship and gender are the other major cultural systems
operating in conjunction with the household system to effect the
reproduction of labor in Vincentian society. Carter goes on to
separate household systems into two kinds of elements, rules and
strategies which he defines as follows: "household rules specify
the manner in which culturally defined resources and personnel
properly may be combined to form household units" and "household
strategies are concerned with the optimal use of available
personnel and resources to achieve individual goals and group
tasks" (1984:48).
Co-Residence and Household Composition
There are no formally expressed "residence rules" in
Vincentian culture dictating who lives together in the same


286
aspect of self-sacrifice in the support that siblings extend to
each other and more an aspect of mutual gain. Although there is
an expectation that siblings will automatically share with each
other, a man or woman who does not share with siblings is not
necessarily criticized. In contrast, adult children who neglect
their aged parents or grandparents are roundly condemned. Between
siblings, reciprocity depends more on the quality of the
interpersonal relationship between them, whether the sharing is
mutual, and on what other obligations the siblings have. Men and
women are not expected to continue supporting their siblings if
they never receive anything back or if the sibling does not act
properly grateful of the gift. Siblings are not expected to
support each other instead of their own children (cf. Stack 1974).
Relationships between aunts/uncles and their nephews/nieces
also vary according to the makeup of the child's natal household.
A parent's half siblings may not acknowledge their nieces/nephews
if the they grew up in different households. In households that
consist of a grandmother, her adult children, her younger
children, and her grandchildren, the aunts/uncles and the
nieces/nephews may have a relationship similiar to that between
older and younger siblings. Aunts who rear their siblings'
children have a surrogate mother relationship with them. In other
cases, the relationship between the aunt/uncle and the
niece/nephew depends on other factors, including the quality of


407
on the estates, the skilled trades, fishing, and in ever
increasing numbers, to wage labor migration. The scarcity and
high price of land for purchase led Vincentians to the adoption of
a "migration adaptation" like the freed slaves of the other small
islands of the British West Indies (Philpott 1973; Richardson
1983, 1985). Migration emerged as a way of going outside the
constraints of the local economy to gain economic resources.
Money sent back as remittances helped migrants' partners and
relatives survive as the Vincentian economy declined over the
nineteenth century. Money brought back by returned migrants and
invested in land, houses, and other productive resources helped
establish a small peasant sector outside of the estates' control.
The Vincentian estate owners responded to the labor shortage
produced by male migration and female abandonment of estate labor
by bringing in Portuguese and East Indian indentured workers. The
introduction of indentured laborers in the mid-nineteenth century
kept wages down on the estates. By moving into "middle man"
positions between the white estate owners and the freed blacks,
these two groups also effectively blocked the emergence of a black
entrepreneurial class in the countryside, thus supporting the
color/class hierarchy established during slavery. Both effects
contributed to the increasing reliance on migration by black,
lower-class men.


411
forras, illegitimacy, fluid household composition, and a reliance
on extended kinship networks. The traditional middle and upper
classes of St. Vincent show a continuation of practice with their
Creole elite forebears and a maintenance of the "dual marriage
system"legal marriages within their class and "keeping"
(concubinage) and casual liaisons with women in the lower class.
Neither the lower nor the traditional middle and upper classes
adhere to "European" values but to Creole values shaped during the
slave society of the eighteenth century. These Creole values were
formed from the interaction of West African and European cultural
systems within the peculiar social relations of a slave society
divided by color and class.
Cultural Duality in St. Vincent
Vincentian culture, as 1 have described it in this
dissertation, is marked by a duality between the colonial ideology
and the folk ethos, between the use of standard West Indian
English and Vincentian Creole, between the values of the upper and
traditional middle classes and those of the lower class. This
duality lies at the heart of Vincentian culture and society. It
cannot be resolved solely by attributing it to a conflict between
West African and European cultural systems, to a lower class
adaptation to a "culture of poverty," nor to differences between
men and women. Understanding the dynamics of this contradiction
requires an understanding of West Indian history, of the structure


344
electrical appliances, including televisions, VCRs, stereo
systems, etc. Some houses have private generators to provide
electricity. All meals are prepared indoors, except for the
occasional outdoor barbecue. Large wall and stone houses have
luxurious indoor plumbing and sanitation facilities. Even in
upper class homes, the laundry may be washed by hand by servants
and not machine washed, given the relative cost of washing
machines and the wages of laundresses. In upper-class homes,
however, the laundry is tucked away at the back of the house so as
to not detract from the appearance of the yard. Upper middle- and
upper-class houses are also likely to have a portocochere or
garage built next to or underneath their house for the ultimate
Vincentian status symbol, the private car. In Kingstown and the
surrounding suburbs, these households are also be on the telephone
exchange.
Houses made exclusively of stone tend to date before the
twentieth century or belong to the wealthy expatriate, resident
tourist, or upper-class Vincentian. Stone is locally quarried but
quite expensive. Considerable more skill is required for stone
masonry than for laying concrete blocks, and it is a time-
consuming process. Thus, not only are the materials expensive,
but the cost of labor to construct a stone house is also the
highest of all house types. Brick houses are rare and were built
before World War I. Bricks arrived as ship ballast in the


87
Yet, by the early 1860s, twenty-five years after the end of
slavery, half of the freed slaves had become peasant farmers and
two-thirds had abandoned the estate "barracks" to live in "free"
villages (Spinelli 1973:87-89; W. Marshall 1983:87). Villages
were constructed on marginal estate land and took their names from
the neighboring estates. Villages consisted of clusters of small
houses strung along the tops of ridges, roadsides, or riversides.
Small plots next to the houses were used to cultivate kitchen
gardens, fruit trees, and small livestock; while village residents
commuted "up the mountain" to grow "ground provisions" and other
crops raised for sale and consumption.
This transformation occurred because men began emigrating in
large numbers to earn cash in better-paying jobs off the island.
Men returned to St. Vincent at intervals to work on their own
small holdings and as wage laborers on the estates (Rubenstein
1987:43-45). In addition to food crops, the freed blacks began
to cultivate arrowroot as a cash crop soon after Emancipation.
Small farmers lacked access to the sugar processing facilities on
the large estates, so they grew crops that required less expensive
processing such as arrowroot, cotton, cocoa, coconuts, and spices
instead of sugar (Spinelli 1973:91,142). While the men were
abroad working, the women continued to feed themselves and their
children through their subsistence production. Freed black women
resisted working on the estates, preferring to stay home to care


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
Margaret Jean Gearing was born in San Antonio, Texas, in
1954. As a child, she travelled with her family to Florida,
England, Texas, and California. She graduated from high school in
Coral Gables, Florida, in 1971. She attended the University of
Florida, in Gainesville, and received a B.A. in Psychology with
High Honors in 1974. Jean completed an M.A. in Clinical
Psychology at the University of Florida in 1978. Her masters
thesis was entitled Effects of Choosing Homebirth, Androgyny, and
Employment on Couples' Division of Family Responsibilities. After
working for Planned Parenthood, Jean entered the Department of
Anthropology at the University of Florida in 1979. She spent two
years in St. Vincent, West Indies, from 1983 to 1985, doing the
research upon which this dissertation is based.
454


Table 3.1
COMPONENTS OF POPULATION CHANGE, ST. VINCENT, 1763-1880
Year
Time
Interval
Total
Populotion
Absolute
Change
lrth
Death!
Natural
Increase
Eat treated
Net
Migration (1)
Crude
Birth Rate
(per 1,000)
Crude
Death Rate
(per 1,000)
Rate of
Natura 1
Increase
Rate of
Net
Migration
Se* Ratio
(per 100)
Pre-Censal Estimates:
17 63
7,100

1764
i
9,518
2,418
.
1787
23
13,603
4,085
1805
18
18,550
4.947
1812
7
27,455
8,905
1825
1J
27,905
405
Census
Enumerations, 1844-1081:
1844
19
27,248
-657








86
1851
7
30,120
2,880



i




86
1861
10
31,755
1,627
12.0B0
10,925
1,155
472
39.04
35.31
3.73
1.53
90
1871
10
35,688
3,933
13,520
8.240
5,280
-1,347 [2,9171
40.09
24.44
15.65
-3.99
90
18HI
10
40,548
4,860
16,320
9,610
6,710
-1,850 [417J
42.81
25.21
17.60
-4.85
89
|l| Figure In bracket* Indicate total number of Indentured worker* Imported Into St# Vincent
during that lnter-censal Interval.
Vital atatlatlc* estimate* from 1861-1960 taken from Joyceltn Byrne, "Population Crovth In
St. Vincent," 1969.
Other population figures and rate from 1763-1960 used In thla table are taken from Joseph
Splnelll, "Land Use and Population In Stl Vincent, I763-I96U," 1973.


403
she has observed in Garifuna communities. Gonzalez concludes that
ethnographers of Afro-Caribbean societies should abandon the
effort "to correlate this or that characteristic with the
different "types" [of households] since, in effect, the later
really exist only in the minds of the ethnographers" (1984:11).
My data support Gonzalez' new position that categorizing
households by some fixed structural "type" is unproductive because
household composition is fluid and changes too often. Gonzalez
seems to arguing, however, that anthropologists abandon the study
of the Afro-Caribbean family/household because there is no way to
make sense of West Indian people's actions except by alluding to
individual psychological motivations or global "transformational
themes." However, I do not believe that there is no underlying
system organizing the social choices West Indians perceive and
make; and I cannot accept that Vincentians, or the Garifuna for
that matter, have no culture generating such an organizational
system. Rather than criticizing Afro-Caribbean households for not
conforming to some idealized Euro-centric model of social
"structure," I believe it to be far more productive and
anthropologically sound to examine what Vincentians do and say,
and to try to understand their perceptions of their circumstances,
the choices open to them, and the consequences attendant upon each
choice. I have used this approach in this dissertation in


387
Bolles 1985). Relatives are expected to assist each other
financially. The closest tie is between parents and children;
parents support their children when they are young and children in
turn support their parents when they are old. Siblings are
expected to help out or support younger and less-well-off
siblings. Migrants and those who have been successful in St.
Vincent are expected to help out relatives who are less
financially well-off. The amount and regularity of financial
support provided depends on the emotional closeness of the kinship
relationship. Thus, the obligation to support partners and
relatives extends beyond the household group with whom an
individual lives (cf. Olwig 1985; Stack 1974; Barrow 1986; Powell
1986; Bolles 1985).
Sexual and kinship relations create ties within and between
households, but they also cause conflicts over distribution of
resources and income. Understanding a household's pattern of
income provision and distribution requires a complete description
of the sexual and kinship relations connecting household members
to each other as well as those relations extending to other
households. How a household relates to the economy of St. Vincent
and the international economy accessed through migration also
affects inter- and intra-household dynamics (cf. Rubenstein 1983,
1987; Griffith 1985).


184
overseas, leaving the less imaginative and less able behind.
Lower-class Vincentians view their prospects of upward mobility
from within the society as extremely limited. However, if an
individual can move outside the system by emigrating, accumulate
capital or gain skills, he or she can return and overcome the
system's barriers.
The final component of the migration ideology is the belief
that migrants will return and assume a higher status position in
Vincentian society (Thomas-Hope 1985:159; Rubenstein 1979:21-38,
1982: 20-27). Even though migrants evade the economic constraints
of their society, they do not escape its value system. Emigrants
may be economically successful by Vincentian terms, and even by
the terms of the receiving society, but the members of the
receiving society do not recognize their achievements. Vincentian
migrants often must assume a lower-class status in the receiving
country and are treated as members of a despised racial minority.
By returning to St. Vincent, the migrant fulfills the premise
of the ideology. An individual who returns as a successwho can
buy a house, or land, establish a business, or secure a good
government jobis accorded high status in St. Vincent (Rubenstein
1979). The standard of living of most returned migrants may be as
good as that enjoyed overseas, especially if one receives a
pension in U.S. dollars. It will certainly be better than if the
migrant had stayed in St. Vincent and never gone overseas.


340
inherited, purchased locally, or sent from overseas by migrant
household members or other relatives. Displayed on the walls and
on the top of the cupboard are photographs of family members,
religious pictures, calendars, and small decorative items, often
souvenirs of trips overseas or presents sent by migrants. Plastic
or fabric curtains hang at the windows and in the doorways between
living and sleeping rooms. Lighting in most board houses is
provided by kerosene lanterns and lamps.
Like the residents of "trash houses," residents of small board
houses cook outside in the yard, on a coal pot or over an open
fire under the shelter of a "cook-shack" or lean-to (cf. Abrahams
1983:139). Water for cooking and cleaning is obtained from a
public standpipe or one in the yard. Residents bathe and do
laundry in the river or at the public baths. Clothes are brought
back to the yard to dry hanging from bushes or left to dry on the
riverbank while the laundresses bathe. Sanitation facilities
consist of an outhouse in the rear of the yard. A larger board
house has an indoor kitchen with a sink and bottled gas stove, and
perhaps a bathroom with a toilet and shower.
Older board houses in Vincentian towns have two stories,
attached upper and lower porches, peaked tin roofs, and decorative
"gingerbread" trim. These houses are called "Panama" or "Curacao"
houses, reflecting the source of the money used to build them in


167
Class Differences in Migration Strategies
Two patterns of international migration have emerged in St.
Vincent, affected both by immigration laws in the receiving
countries and by class differences in St. Vincent. Legal
migration depends on either having relatives already overseas with
permanent status or possessing the characteristics deemed
desirable by the receiving country in awarding immigrant visas
(McCoy 1987:228). Illegal migration depends on outwitting the
system and on contacts with relatives and friends overseas to help
the migrant find a job and housing once in the country. Neither
category of migration is mutually exclusive and both groups merge
together in the overseas migrant communities.
Middle-class Vincentians are much more likely to be able to
emigrate legally. Many middle-class Vincentians can apply
directly for immigrant visas because they have the skills and
economic resources required to qualify for immigrant status.
Others have emigrant relatives with permanent status. Many go
back and forth between St. Vincent and North America regularly on
business or for recreation (cf. Thoraas-Hope 1983:50). They can
use these trips to build up the connections that make transferring
their businesses or professions easier. Middle-class Vincentians
have the literacy, skills and experience to negotiate with the
migration bureaucracy.


361
genealogically their parents, grandparents, full or half siblings,
aunts, uncles, or cousins. The household group becomes the center
of the child's kindred, but the entire kinship network extends far
beyond the immediate household (cf. Olwig 1985; Rubenstein 1987).
The Vincentian household system supports the kinship system
primarily, not the gender system (cf. Durant-Gonzalez 1982;
McKenzie 1982). Emphasis is placed on the co-residence of
consanguineal relatives, not sexual partners, unless the partners
are legally married. Unmarried sexual partners put obligations
for the care of their kin over co-residence with each other. The
basic distinction amongst Vincentian households is between those
that contain a legally married couple, their children, and other
relatives, and households without co-resident sexual partners
which contain consanguineal kin (cf. Gonzalez 1969, 1970, 1984; R.
T. Smith 1956; Rodman 1971; Otterbein 1966; Rubenstein 1987).
However, because of the prevalence of male migration, households
based on legal marriage come to resemble "consanguineal
households" when the husband migrates. Both kinds of households
are flexible units whose composition is extremely responsive to
external contingencies, such as employment or educational
opportunities and to changing interpersonal relationships within
the kindred (cf. Rubenstein 1987; Gonzalez 1984; Durant-Gonzalez
1982)


373
household membership. Women and their children from visiting
relationships may still be members of parental households; or they
may head their own household and be self-supporting; live as a
man's keeper; or, be married or co-habiting with her husband and
children (cf. Otterbein 1966; Wilson 1973; Philpott 1973; Massah
1983).
By their early fifties, men are still in their marital
households with some adult and younger children still at home.
By this time in their lives, women are still with their husbands
or common-law spouses, in a keeping relationship, or living alone
with their children, grandchildren, and their own mother or other
relatives. Women's visiting relationships have ended or become
keeping, cohabitation or legal marriage. Households of both men
and women in late middle-age may have lost members through death,
emigration, or the marriage of sons or daughters. Households have
increased through the birth of parents' own children and through
the birth of their children's children (cf. Massiah 1983; White
1986; Powell 1985).
By old age, men are either still living with their sexual
partner or with a child, grandchild, or other caretaker. Elderly
women are more likely to be living with a child, grandchild,
sibling, or other caretaker, although some may still be living
with a spouse. Because women outlive men, widows outnumber
widowers in St. Vincent. Male migration has exacerbated the


217
When a man and a woman want to begin a sexual relationship,
they are careful to arrange meetings that can not be observed or
overheard Couples often use a go-between, known as a "tru-lo,"
to carry messages back and forth. The "tru-lo" is usually a
mutual friend or a relative who can be trusted not to gossip.
Favorite places for sexual assignations are the beaches or up on
mountain lands. Most Vincentians live in houses that are too
small, too densely occupied, and too close to each other in most
communities to be used as meeting places.
This pattern of circumspection does not mean that public and
private events are sex segregated in St. Vincent. Men and women
greet each other when they pass each other on the street, or when
they meet at a shop. Couples in established relationships "move
together" or accompany each other in public and attend social
events together.
Despite the emphasis on maintaining public distance between
men and women, in private, sex is a major topic of conversation
among Vincentians of the same sex (Rubenstein 1987:257). Men
discuss the women that pass by them on the street, or with whom
they work, or who live in their communities. They discuss past,
present, and potential partners in terms of their physical
appearance, sexual abilities, and relationship history. Men boast
of their stamina and their ability to satisfy many different
women.


326
Durant-Gonzalez 1982; Moses 1977; McKenzie 1982; Barrow 1986;
Powell 1982, 1986).
The gender and kinship systems operate simultaneously with
the household system in St. Vincent. The household acts
simultaneously as the physical setting for the reproduction of
labor and as a system to organize the daily activities necessary
to the process. The household system is the subject of the next
chapter.


189
differences between the genders more as a matter of degree rather
than kind. No personality or character traits are associated with
solely one sex or the other, nor are traits dichotomized between
the genders (e.g., weak versus strong). Vincentians emphasize the
relative degree of difference between the sexes, not absolute
differences. Both sexes are judged on weakness or strength of
character using similiar standards.
Although Vincentians do not describe men and women in terms
of oppositions, this does not imply that Vincentians perceive the
two genders as identical or equal, nor are relations between the
two egalitarian. There is a well-elaborated concept of male
superiority and dominance. While women have the same qualities or
skills as men their capacities are not as well developed, making
it "natural," therefore, that men should be in charge. Women are
described as "the weaker vessel" lacking the same degree of
physical power and emotional self-control as men. Vincentians say
"the man should control the woman" and "woman should not be above
man." Men "control" women and men also "control" themselves. The
principle organizing gender relations is that of a "natural"
hierarchy. The underlying metaphor of Vincentian gender relations
is not one of opposition but of ruler and subordinate. Women are
perceived as attempting to avoid, subvert, or even overturn male
dominance.


150
Contemporary migrants manipulate their kinship and friendship
ties, sexual relationships, and political allegiances to secure
migration opportunities. Migrants often use a "stair-step"
technique, using money and contacts gained through earlier
short-term emigration to launch later moves.
The Burroughs (1) family demonstrates the stair-step nature
of contemporary migration as well as the diversity of migration
opportunities available today. Mr. Edward Burroughs emigrated
with his wife, Anita, to Aruba in the early 1950s. He was
employed as a mechanic in an oil company there, while his wife
worked as a shop clerk. They left their two oldest daughters in
St. Vincent. Two other children, a girl, Rosa, and a boy, Martin,
were both born in Aruba. Mr. Burroughs left Aruba to return to
St. Vincent, where he bought a hardware store from a man
emigrating to England who was a distant relative of his family.
Another boy, Robert, was born in St. Vincent after they returned.
Mr. Burroughs decided to emigrate to Canada in the mid-1970s. He
secured employment with an oil company in Canada, and his wife and
youngest son accompanied him. They were joined in Canada by their
oldest daughter, Marian, and her little boy. Left behind in St.
Vincent were the other two daughters and one son. Mr. and Mrs.
Burroughs made frequent trips back to St. Vincent and maintained
their business there. At the time of my fieldwork, the other two
daughters had married American Peace Corps volunteers and


295
could not take Annaraae's baby. Annamae's boyfriend's parents had
no other "grans" at home and were very happy to have the baby to
raise.
The diffuse nature of the Afro-Caribbean kinship network and
its tremendous flexibility has been interpreted by social
scientists as evidence of social "disorganization" or
"degeneration" because it does not replicate Euro-American nuclear
family patterns (cf. Simey 1946; Greenfield 1966; Rodman 1971;
Henriques 1953; Frazier 1939). However, the Afro-Caribbean
kinship system is admirably well adapted to ensuring the
reproduction of labor under conditions of extreme poverty and high
levels of out-migration (cf. Olwig 1985; Philpott 1973; Rubenstein
1987; Clarke 1957; R. T. Smith 1956; Gonzalez 1969). The broad
kinship network keeps individuals and the society going when
reliance upon discrete, independent nuclear family structures
would result in rapid social disintegration.
Kinship and the Authority of Age
The other principle guiding kinship relations in St. Vincent
is reverence for one's elders, especially those who have attained
the status of "big men and women," and respect for their
authority. The oldest living members of the kindred are treated
with great respect and deference. The old are assumed to be wiser
than the young because of their accumulated life experiences and


235
action is required to dissolve such relationships. In contrast,
partners who are legally married can inherit from each other,
their children are legitimate and inherit from both parents, and
wives who are abandoned can claim maintenance.
Sexuality and Fertility
Vincentians place a very high value on fertility. Men and
women expect and want to have children, and someone who cannot
have children is tragic, sad, and pitiable. Achieving adulthood
for both sexes is dependent on having children. Men refer to the
woman who first "had a baby for me" as the one who "made me a man"
(cf. Laufer 1973:49). Both sexes enhance their social status
through having children, but fathering many children is especially
important in demonstrating men's virility. 1 recorded several
instances of men who had fathered over thirty children by as many
as twenty women, and heard of other cases (not established) of men
who had over fifty children. Men with many children were often in
the upper-, middle-, and upper-working classes, who had regular
incomes and owned property.
Fertile women also receive social approval for having many
children, so long as the children were well behaved. When
interviewed, older women said that the ideal number of children
was "up to God" and that they had had children for as long as God
had continued to send them (cf. Laufer 1973). Many were proud to
report that they had had "their twelve apostles and more."


class hierarchy. The Vincentian lower class depends upon
international labor migration as an alternative to the restrictive
conditions of the local economy.
The gender, kinship, and household patterns of the new
Vincentian middle class are generated by unique cultural systems,
not merely reflections of straitened economic circumstances.
These systems were shaped by Creole values formed from the
interaction of West African and European cultures during slavery
and further adapted to the "migration society" after Emancipation.
The gender system of St. Vincent emphasizes the social
inequality between men and women. Under the gender division of
labor, women are responsible for the work required for the
reproduction of labor. The kinship system emphasizes the
authority of seniors over juniors; the solidarity of the kindred;
and reciprocal exchanges between kin. The household system
emphasizes the authority of the household head over other
household members. Vincentian households survive through
contributions of members and exchanges created by gender and
kinship ties with migrants and other households.
The gender division of labor and reliance on male migration
keep Vincentian women economically dependent on men. Female
headed households in St. Vincent are a survival mechanism for
women unable to secure permanent relationships with men capable of
supporting them.
xii


233
overnight or on weekends, or visit during the day or evening. He
usually pays the utility bills, buys groceries and other household
furnishings, buys the woman's clothing and assumes financial
responsibility for their children. Many liaisons between upper-
and middle-class men and lower-class women evolve into "keeping,"
but lower-class men also have "keepers." Some men maintain these
relationships for many years and have two or more separate sets of
children, who are referred to as the man's "outside children" or
"outside family."
Matilda Mackenzie is the "keeper" of a well-known Vincentian
politician. She and her two children live in a modest, two
bedroom concrete block house in another Arnos Vale neighborhood.
Her partner lives with his wife and their children in a house in
Cane Garden. He comes by to visit Matilda several times a week.
Matilda met her lover when she worked in a shop downtown near the
government ministry building. Since becoming "Mr. Big's" keeper,
however, she has not had to work. "Mr. Big" gave her the title to
the house and lets her use an old car of his. He pays the school
fees for their two children and sometimes takes them on outings.
In all socially acceptable sexual relationships, the man is
expected to contribute towards or completely provide the woman's
financial support. This obligation continues for as long as the
couple remains together. If a couple have children together, the
man is expected to contribute towards their support until they are


204
raised by both men and women. At home, women and children care
for chickens and other fowl, and the small stock (goats and sheep)
and occasional pig, while men raise cattle and donkeys. Men do
most of the butchering.
Most food processing for domestic consumption and local
markets is done by women, including: splitting coconuts and drying
them for copra; parching, roasting, and preparing cocoa beans;
drying corn; processing cassava and arrowroot into flour; and
gathering and drying herbs and spices used in cooking and
medicinally. Commercial, large-scale food processing plants are
owned and operated by local entrepreneurs, the majority of whom
are men.
Many lower-class Vincentians combine small-scale agriculture
with part-time informal sector activities. Petty street trade in
cooked food, such as peanuts, candy, small pastries, fruits, and
juices, is dominated by women. Both men and women sell jewelry,
toiletries, clothing, accessories, and small household items,
purchased by traffickers in Trinidad and Barbados on their trips
to sell Vincentian produce. Many lower-class women work as
domestic servants in private homes and tourist facilities. Women
work as maids, housekeepers, nannies, cooks, maids, and
laundresses. Although some men are also employed as gardeners,
drivers, and handymen, domestic service is largely a woman's
occupation. Several hundred lower-class women work in the handful


86
number during the nineteenth century but their lifestyles changed
very little (Ober 1880:209-219).
Although they became free men and women in 1838, the former
slaves had few economic options. They were deeply enmeshed in St
Vincent's capitalist economy. The freed slaves now had to
purchase the food and clothing formerly provided by their estates
(W. Marshall 1983:96-97). At the time the slaves were
emancipated, the only sources of cash income available to them in
St. Vincent were estate labor and the sale of surplus food crops.
Laborers who had access to land could grow enough food to supply
their own needs, those of their dependents, and sell a surplus in
the capital. However, no unalienated land was available in St.
Vincent for the freed blacks to squat upon and create a separate
"peasant" sector (Spinelli 1973:89-91). All land had to be
purchased or rented from the estates. The fear of a self-
sufficient peasantry that would not work on the estates, made
estate owners resist land reform proposals and keep land prices
high (Rubenstein 1987:43). The Vincentian upper class preferred
to remove estate lands from production rather than make them
available to peasants. As sugar prices fell, estate owners on St
Vincent reduced wages. At the same time, prices of commodities
and manufactured goods available in the estate-owned stores rose
(W. Marshall 1983:85-87)


228
A girl's parents tolerate her boyfriend's visits if he
declares to them that his intentions are serious and if he
supports her and any children financially. The couple may
maintain their visiting relationship for several years and several
children until they marry, begin to cohabit, or break up. As
young women grow older, and accumulate children from a either a
long-lasting single visiting relationship or a series of them,
they usually want move into their own households. There may be
increasing friction between the woman and her own parents due to
competition over scarce resources. Some young women emigrate,
leaving their children behind in St. Vincent with their parents or
other relatives. They send back remittances of cash, and gifts of
clothing, toys, food, and school supplies. Other women marry
their partners or move into common-law marriages. Some women move
out on their own and support themselves with their own earnings,
remittances from overseas relatives, or money from former and
current partners.
Henriette and Louis have been "friendly" for five years and
both say they want to get married "sometime." Henriette works as
a bartender at a restaurant and Louis is employed by the regional
airline. Henriette lives with her two children by Louis,
rent-free in a small house next door to her older sister, Sylvie.
The house belongs to a relative of Sylvie's husband who emigrated
to Trinidad. Louis travels much of the time, and stays with


224
Name-calling and spreading gossip about the other woman are more
common than physical violence. Because women who are legally
married are in a much more secure position than a common-law wife
or girlfriend, they are usually much more tolerant of their
husband's affairs. As long as the husband maintains them
economically and keeps up a social front of married
respectability, many married women make little "noise" over other
relationships (cf. Freilich 1971). The outside girlfriend is also
expected to "respect" the legal wife, and not name-call her.
One memorable incident demonstrates how women are expected to
tolerate their partners' involvements with other women. Neighbors
of mine repeatedly engaged in late night arguments in their house
about the husband's affair with another, younger woman. One night
the wife locked her husband out of the house. He left and came
back with the couple's adult daughter and son, who took the
father's side against their mother. The daughter and the son both
remonstrated with the mother about the public scene ("confusion")
she was causing, and how embarrassed they were for her that she
could not control herself better. When she responded that she had
witnessed their father visiting the other woman, they responded
that it was her own fault for sneaking around after him and spying
on him! She had no right to lock him out of his own house, no
matter what he had done. Since they had been together so many


343
considerably the time and energy women and children of the
household must expend carrying water. Laundry is usually washed
in a concrete basin attached to the side or back of the house or
at a laundry basin inside the house, then hung on lines in the
yard to dry.
The flooring of a wall house is commonly tile or linoleum
laid over concrete; area rugs of natural fiber or imported
carpeting are also used. Curtains of fabric, plastic, or beads
hang at windows and in hallways. Furnishings include tables,
chairs, china hutches, upholstered couches and chairs, bedsteads,
mattresses, dressers, cupboards, and desks. Kitchens and
bathrooms have built-in cabinets and shelves. Decorative items
displayed include family photographs, religious pictures, china
and plastic figurines, needle and crochetwork, artificial flowers
and real potted plants. Again, many of the decorative items are
souvenirs of trips overseas or gifts sent by migrants.
Upper middle- and upper-class houses are similar to the wall
houses described above, but are more likely to be built of stone
as well as concrete block; to be multi-storied with larger and
more numerous rooms; and to have wood floors, paneling, expensive
imported carpeting, and screened windows. Burglar bars cover all
windows. Curtains are made of fabric not plastic. Furniture and
other decorative items are more expensive and more likely to be
imported. More well-to-do homes are also apt to be filled with


135
resistant varieties of bananas, and the formation of a centralized
system in St. Vincent, which organized production and export of
the fruit. In 1954, a Dutch-owned fruit shipping company, Geest
Industries Limited, became the purchaser and shipper of the entire
banana crop from all of the Windward Islands (Dominica, St. Lucia,
St. Vincent, and Grenada) (Spinelli 1973: 187-188).
Small farmers turned readily to the production of bananas.
Banana cultivation suited the steep slopes of small farmers'
hillside lands and was less labor intensive than cotton, sugar, or
arrowroot. The fruit is harvested year-round guaranteeing a
steady and reliable income. Government control over the Banana
Growers' Association protected the interests of the small farmers
and made inputs available to them at reasonable prices (Spinelli
1973:218). The Lome Convention protects West Indian bananas in
the European market. Bananas have remained the only crop with a
guaranteed market and an organized support sector. Although
bananas are still St. Vincent's major cash crop today, the banana
boom did not last long (Spinelli 1973:189-190). When banana
prices began to fall in the late 1950s, many Vincentians decided
to take advantage of new emigration opportunities, and another
wave of migrants went overseas.
The inter-island trade between St. Vincent and Trinidad in
ground provisions and small livestock increased in importance as
the Trinidad economy boomed during the 1960s and 1970s. Other


Table 4.1
COMPONENTS OF POPULATION CHANGE, ST. VINCENT, 1881-1980
Year
Time
Interval
Total
Population
Absolute
Change
Births
Deaths
Natural
Increase
Estimated
Net
MigratIon
11]
Crude
Birth Rate
(per 1,000)
Crude
Death Rate
(per 1,000)
Rate of
Natura 1
Increase
Rate of
Net
Migration
Sex Ratio
(per 100)
Census Enumerations,
1881-1980:
1881
10
40,598
4,860
16,320
9,610
6,710
-1,850
(417|
42.81
25.21
17.60
-4.85
89
1891
10
41,054
506
16,940
10,490
6,450
-5,944 (1
,302|
41.52
25.71
15.80
-14.57
84
1911
20
41,877
823
34,580
18,090
16,490
-15,667
(8681
41.70
21.81
19.88
-18.89
78
1921
10
44,447
2,570
16,520
8,360
8,160
-5,590
3B.27
19.37
18.90
-12.95
76
1931
10
47,961
3,514
17,660
8,340
9,340
-5,806
38.22
18.05
20.17
-12.57
79
1946
13
61,647
13,686
32,840
13,350
19,490
-5,804
39.95
16.24
23.17
-7.06
83
I960
19
79,948
18,301
44,180
14,730
29,450
-11,149
44.57
14.86
29.17
-11.25
89
1970
10
86,314
6,366
37,190
9,150
28,040
-21,670
38.5
8.5
30.0
-24.9
89
1980
10
98,124
11,810
33,170
7,250
25,920
-14,110
31.3
7.4
23.9
-12.5
94
|l) Figuren In brackets ludiente total number of Indentured workers Imported Into St. Vincent
during that lnter-censal Interval.
Vital statistics estimates from 1861-1960 taken from Joycelln Byrne, "Population Growth In
St. Vincent," 1969.
Other population figures and rates from 1763-1960 used in thin table are taken from Joseph
Spinel 11, "Land Use and Population in St. Vincent, 1763-1960," 1973.
Population figures and rates from 1970-1980 are derived from the author's calculations
baaed on census returns.
106


270
Leroy's other sister, Pearl, and his brother Andrew, both
emigrated to Canada where they live with their families. Jack
emigrated to the United States leaving his wife and children
behind. Charles is making plans to join his girlfriend and their
little boy in New York in a year. His other little boy lives with
his mother in St. Vincent. Leroy's brother Edward just got a job
in Kingstown in the civil service.
Through his father, Leroy is connected to another branch of
his "family." Although the relationship between Juanita and
Leroy's father, Alexander Johnson, did not endure, Leroy's father
contributed to his support. Leroy stayed at his father's house on
weekends after he joined the police force. Alexander Johnson
reputedly had thirty-two children, none of them legitimate.
Twenty-eight were girls, and four were boys. Except for Leroy and
his brother Charles, all of Alexander's children were by
diffferent mothers, and they live scattered all over St. Vincent.
Leroy knows only four of his father's daughters, and none of them
well. He also knows his father's sister, whom he calls "aunt,"
and her children, most of whom have emigrated to the United
States.
Leroy also considers "family" his grandmother's adopted
sister, her daughter, and the daughter's children. He stayed with
this branch of his "family" when he was attending grammar school
in Kingstown and could not commute daily to his home in Sugar


162
married Vincentians while 1 was in St. Vincent. I do not want to
imply that all such relationships are formed just because the
Vincentian wants to emigrate; many factors of attraction and
compatibility play a part in human relationships. I heard female
Vincentian friends talk about meeting an attractive American who
would fall in love with them, marry them, and take them back to
America to live. Such fantasies had similiar overtones to those I
have heard among American women fantasizing about meeting a movie
star or a wealthy professional whose love would transform their
lives. Just having an American for a friend means being close to
the glamour of life overseas and having such an American or
Canadian friend gives Vincentians higher status.
Still other Vincentians avidly pursue education and training
that would make them eligible for work visas in Canada and the
United States. Three professions in St. Vincent have become
popular amongst the youth because the skills acquired in them make
migration easier. These professions also carry the promise of
secure incomes through government jobs and high social status in
St. Vincent should migration not prove possible.
Nursing has become a popular career choice among young
Vincentian women. Student nurses 1 interviewed knew that nurses
were in short supply in the United States, and they hoped to
obtain emigrant visas when they qualified as nurses (cf. Thomas-
Hope 1983:42). Women in the United States have left the nursing


225
years, she should overlook his foolishness. Finally, she calmed
down and let him back in.
Men, of course, would prefer it if their women did not know
of the existence of others. One way of ensuring this is to keep
girlfriends physically separate in different communities. Men
also lie, and use excuses or male friends to provide alibis.
Women seem to prefer not to know the truth and to avoid
confrontations; as long as the man still visits them regularly and
is generous financially, they ask few questions and seem willing
to accept plausible-sounding excuses. Women's ultimate defense
against male infidelity, however, seems to be to find their own
"next man," and begin seeing an outside lover.
When I asked my informants what causes relationships to break
up, most respondents answered "infidelity." It was hard for
Vincentians to understand a couple's breaking up just because the
two partners were incompatible; they always assumed there was
another partner on the scene. Women often are economically unable
to leave one partner without first having found a "next man,"
while male status-seeking ensures that men have a "next woman" in
mind.
Sexual Relationships
Socially acceptable sexual relationships in St. Vincent
conform to well-defined patterns. The most common types of
relationships are referred to as visiting or "friending,"


279
strike their children for some infraction of the rules and then
cuddle them. Mothers remind their children often of the
sacrifices they have made for them when they demonstrate their
love and when they admonish them to be better behaved. Vincentian
women encourage their children to feel obligated to repay these
maternal sacrifices when they are grown. Love and sacrifice were
the two related themes my informants frequently touched upon when
discussing their mothers.
When grown, adult children maintain close relationships with
their mothers. Many women live in the same household as their
mothers for their entire lives. Women who move into their own
households continue to visit their mothers frequently. Although
most men eventually move into their own households, many continue
to contribute financially to their mothers until they die. Men
also visit their mothers regularly to help with chores (cf. Clarke
1957; R. T. Smith 1956; Gonzalez 1969; Stack 1974; Rodman 1971;
Durant-Gonzalez 1982; Saint Victor 1986). Adult children feel
obligated to their mothers for the gift of life and the pain she
endured to bestow it upon them, as well as for the efforts she
made to "real" (raise) them. Most Vincentians I interviewed spoke
of their mothers with deep respect and warm feelings. Vincentians
who grew up without knowing their biological mothers spoke of
missing the special closeness they felt existed between mother and
child


148
undercount to be at least two to three thousand persons. This
would mean, of course, that net emigration was lower for this
period.
My informants in the Statistics Office believed that the 1980
census had been an accurate enumeration of the population. Rather
large gains in certain Windward districts confirms their belief
that the 1970 census may have been an undercount. Whether or not
the 1970 census is accurate, the total net loss from 1960 to 1980
remains the same. However, the pattern of migration would be
different. Net emigration from 1960 to 1970 would be lower, as
would be the absolute difference between 1970 and 1980. The net
emigration from 1960 to 1980 would be the same.


247
go to school every day, and do not hang about the street after
school. Mrs. Clarke is a good cook and careful manager. She has
a small business selling clothing and household items in a remote
rural village door-to-door and at the banana packing shed. Except
for her work and church, Mrs. Clarke either stays home or visits
her relatives and close friends. She is never seen out at the
shops, gossiping in public. Prudie stays out of disputes with her
neighbors and her husband. Although she had an "outside" child as
a teenager, she married her next partner and has been a faithful
wife. Prudie regularly sends her aged mother gifts of money and
food. Mrs. Clarke has earned the respect of her neighbors by
fulfilling her obligations and being "responsible." Most of her
time is occupied with work, either her job, her house and garden,
or her family.
Tom Clarke, also considered worthy of "respect," shares many
of his wife's virtues. He owns his house and has a steady job.
He supplements his wages with odd jobs and is known as a good
provider. He attends church with his wife and children. He is a
stern father and strict disciplinarian. His neighbors can always
ask him for help or advice. Mr. Clarke accepts his social
responsibilities and fulfills his obligations, works hard, and
doesn't get into trouble.
In contrast, a person who is not worthy of "respect," is
described by Vincentians by the saying "yo can tell dat-dey


209
the children scaled-down implements to play with and use, and by
verbally teaching them directly and with proverbs. Both parents
are said to "mind" (support) their children and "real" (raise or
rear) them. It is commonly recognized that many men do not assume
financial responsibility for their children and that women must
financially support them as well as take care of them (cf. Sutton
and Makiesky-Barrow 1977; Massiah 1983; Durant-Gonzalez 1982).
The senior female member of the household is usually
responsible for money management and budgeting, shopping and
trading. Women pay rent, utilities, buy food, clothing, medicine,
and pay for school fees, uniforms, and books out of this
"household money." Only major household expenses, such as buying
a house or land, furniture or major household items, and buying
livestock, are decided upon by the man or jointly by the couple.
Vincentians admire a woman who is a good money-manager, who makes
the money last and spends wisely. Women who cannot manage their
household budget or who are extravagant and wasteful are not well
regarded (cf. Moses 1977).
Middle- and upper-class women hire domestic servants to do
their housework and childcare for them. In St. Vincent, it is
much cheaper to hire a laundress or maid than it is to buy and
operate a washing machine or vacuum. Having a servanteven just
hiring a laundress one day a weekis a mark of middle-class
status. Middle-class women still do much of the childcare,


201
worked as domestic servants or artisans. Elderly slave women
cared for slave children. For the white middle and upper classes,
gender played a much more important role in determining the
division of labor. Men ran the estates, the colonial government,
and the military. Women assumed a managerial function within the
household, relegating much of the actual domestic work to slaves
or freed domestics, while they supervised, managed the budget, and
did the purchasing. Women in the upper and middle class were not
involved in childcare; slave "mammies" looked after infants and
small children, and older children were usually sent back to Great
Britain to attend school (Carmichael 1833). A major function of
upper- and middle-class women was arranging social events, such as
dinners, parties, or church affairs, that helped maintain social
cohesion among the elites.
After Emancipation in 1834, the former slaves created a new
division of labor. Men engaged in cash crop farming, estate
labor, and labor migration, while women turned to subsistence
farming and petty trade in food crops. The gender division of
labor today follows the pattern established after Emancipation.
The middle class has expanded to include more black and brown
Vincentians, but economic activities of the different classes and
the division of labor by gender within classes in St. Vincent has
remained much as it was. The lower class depends on agriculture,
both small farming and estate work, fishing, petty trading and


97
seafaring provided new skills that migrants acquired overseas but
could also use back home.
Although women emigrated to join their partners in Trinidad,
Guyana, and other places, the work available overseas was not
primarily women's work, but heavy manual labor. Men were hired on
contract and could not keep their families in the housing
accomodations provided (D. Marshall 1987:19). Both of these
factors, plus the necessity for women to remain behind and keep
subsistence production going, militated against the migration of
women. Migration was established as a male economic strategy.
The ready acceptance of migration may be due, in part, to the
absence of deep roots the African-born and first generation Creole
blacks had in St. Vincent. They were not the masters of the land,
but slaves held in bondage there under brutal conditions.
Ironically, by leaving St. Vincent as labor migrants, black
Vincentians were able to buy land, build houses, establish their
own communities, and develop their own village-based, Creole
culture in counterpoint to the metropolitan-based culture of the
upper class whites and the free colored.
Migration and the Reproduction of Labor
During the Nineteenth Century
Migration influenced the patterns of gender, kinship, and
household relations that emerged among the Vincentian lower class.
The gender division of labor established on the estates


THE REPRODUCTION OF LABOR IN A MIGRATION SOCIETY
GENDER, KINSHIP, AND HOUSEHOLD
IN ST. VINCENT, WEST INDIES
By
Margaret Jean Gearing
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
1988


57
history information. I continued my observations of daily
activities, noting seasonal and other variations, and my casual
"chats" with different family members. I also continued to
observe and talk with other persons in my neighborhood who were
not in ray small case study sample.
I used materials from popular culture for information on the
symbolic aspects of family, sexuality, and migration in the wider
society. Calypso lyrics provided a rich source of information on
commonly expressed and accepted values about gender and sexuality.
I listened to the local radio station constantly, collected all
available newspapers, and attended political rallies and cultural
shows.
The annual Carnival is the most popular cultural event in St.
Vincent. Carnival is now celebrated during a ten day period at
the end of June and beginning of July to to attract tourists
during the slow summer season and to avoid competition with the
much larger and better known Trinidadian Carnival. Many
Vincentians living overseas return home for Carnival. During the
two Carnival seasons I spent in St. Vincent (1984 and 1985), I
spent hours doing participant observation in Kingstown, listening
to returned migrants, observing their interactions with residents,
and talking to many of them directly.


16
the wages paid migrants. The sending economy thereby subsidizes
the costs of labor to the receiving economy. The subsidization of
the replacement of labor is even more expensive when the workers
in question are skilled. In this case, not only has the sending
economy provided generational replacements but also has trained
these workers or improved their value as human capital. These
workers may be in very short supply in the sending countries and
worth relatively more there than in the receiving societies.
An historical-structural analysis reveals both the evolution
of the external forces structuring the relationship between
countries as well as how participation in migration has affected
each countrys internal social dynamics. The sending society must
adapt to two sets of political and economic forces: those of the
world capitalist system and those of its own economy. The sending
society pays a price reproducing migrant labor power and runs the
risk that the expected returns will not cover the actual cost.
Returns are dependent upon migrant workers fulfilling the
obligations they incurred before migrating. Workers in the
sending society must learn both the necessity of emigrating and
the importance of sending back remittances.
The historical-structural approach shares several shortcomings
with equilibrium theory, the other major paradigm for the study of
migration. (1) First, most theory and research on migration
focuses on migrants as individuals or as representatives of groups


72
were permitted to grow food on less desirable and more remote
lands.
Other than the estates, the island contained the capital of
Kingstown, the administrative and military center, where most
retail trade was conducted, and where the island's professionals,
craftsmen, and artisans resided. Many estate owners also owned
homes in the capital and visited there to shop and participate in
colonial "society" (Carmichael 1833:19; Bayley 1830:187-189). The
only other settlements were the smaller coastal towns, which
served as shipping points for processed sugar and military and
administrative outposts. In no sense did the estates, small
towns, and capital function independently of each other. All were
necessary and integrated parts of the colonial sugar economy.
Under the political economy of plantation sugar mono-culture
and slavery, Vincentian class structure was based on the ownership
of property, race or color, and free or slave status (Rubenstein
1987:32-39). The upper class consisted of a small group of
Europeans and white Creoles (born in the West Indies), who owned
all the factors of production the land, machinery, and most of
the labor force (the slaves) (Thomas 1988:25). Below the elite
was another group of "secondary whites," which included the small
planters displaced by the consolidation of estates, who were
employed by the large estate owners as overseers, accountants, and
managers. Other members of this group were the colonial


48
control exerted by the ethnographer in their elicitation, the way
in which they are recorded, and the level or self-analytic quality
of such "strips." I relied heavily on "strips" collected by
directly observing the actions of individuals in domestic groups
and by listening to naturally occurring conversations between
these individuals, conversations about their daily actions (level
1 strips), and conversations about the quality of their relations
to each other (level 2 strips). I even listened to some comments
these individuals made about their talk about each other (level 3
strips).
In some instances the individuals concerned had no awareness
of my observation of them. My favorite vantage point to conduct
neighborhood observations was ray front porch. My house was
located near the top of a very steep hill and I could see most of
my neighbors' houses and yards clearly. Because Vincentian women
sit on their porches during the day doing chores, resting,
visiting with kin and friends, and watching the world go by, I
could sit on my porch jotting down notes and attract very little
notice. Indeed, by observing the comings and goings in the
neighborhood I was conforming to normal Vincentian behavior.
In other situations, I was a participant as well as an
observer. Most strips gathered from these situations were not
recorded on the spot (except when I was watching or listening
without the person's awareness), but were written down as


416
institutions of society that the upper and middle classes
controlled. The whites and free colored also maintained their
class position by adhering to a self identity as "Europeans" and
by denigrating the folk ethos of the black lower class. The
values shared by all classes that kept the entire social structure
intact were obscured. The British colonial administration
encouraged this division and the identification of the West Indian
elite and middle class as Europeans.
The majority of the Vincentian people are black and lower
class. Their "folk ethos" represents the continuation of their
West African cultural heritage transformed under slavery and
carried on as a way to survive under the conditions of economic
deprivation after Emancipation. The most enduring quality of the
lower class is their ability is to take whatever is given them and
transform it into their own, to adapt to new circumstances, and to
resist oppression by not completely relinquishing their own value
system. The Vincentian people are bi-cultural as well as bi-
dialectical, meaning they make whatever behavioral responses are
appropriate to their circumstances. They can codeswitch their
behavior as well as their speech styles. This ability is tied to
"strategic flexibility" and can be traced back to the dualistic
nature of slave life, when one repertoire was used for
interactions with the master and another repertoire with the other
slaves (cf. Carnegie 1987). This ability to move back and forth


166
farthest flung constituency, still vitally connected to Vincentian
society (cf. Maingot 1985:84).
The continued emigration of Vincentian nurses, police, and
teachers creates new openings in the lower middle-class labor
force on the island. However, the high rates of turnover hinder
the development of Vincentian educational and health care systems.
It also costs the government money, because the government funds
the training of new professionals but does not retain more than a
small cadre of experienced workers. For example, the Head Tutor
of the St. Vincent nursing school told me that a high percentage
of her graduating class had remained on the island. However, when
I asked her how many a "high percentage" was, she told me five out
of twenty-five! Other classes, she said, had only one or two
nurses still practicing on the island. The government officials I
interviewed felt that this price was worth paying if unemployment
rates in St. Vincent were kept down and remittances were sent back
to the island. They felt it was far better to permit migration
than to control the political and social unrest that would result
from higher unemployment and greater poverty. This is the dilemma
that contemporary migration poses for all Caribbean politicians,
government administrators, and development planners (D. Marshall
1987)


333
gardens, fruit trees, fowl or livestock pens, and other productive
resources. Clustering of houses facilitates intra-household labor
exchange.
The land down one side of the hill I lived on had originally
been owned by the Walker family. On that hillside, there were
fifteen houses. Eight of these houses were occupied by people who
were descendants of the original Walker or related by marriage to
him. The oldest living members of the Walker family were the six
children of the original Walker who had purchased the land from
the Greathead estate in the early twentieth century. Three
brothers had emigrated to Trinidad, leaving a feeble-minded
brother and two sisters behind in St. Vincent. The oldest brother
later returned to St. Vincent with a Trinidadian woman he had
married, but the other two brothers remained in Trinidad.
The oldest brother lived at the bottom of the hill with his
wife and family in a house he had built himself. He operated a
tire repair shop located across from his house. Directly in front
of his house was a small shop that sold food and household
supplies. This shop was owned and operated by his eldest
daughter. She and her husband lived in a house above her
father's. The feeble-minded brother, one of the Walker sisters,
and the sister's children occupied the old Walker "family house"
located above the oldest brothers tire shop. Other portions of
the hillside were owned outright by the three different brothers,


301
other crimes perpetrated hy ; V- same alleged thief against them.
I also heard, through the same sources, that the entire Cordice
family was no good: his father had been imprisoned for
embezzlement, his mother had defrauded tourists she befriended
sexually, Dan's younger brother sold marijuana, and his sister was
a part-time prostitute. These character defects were attributed
to "bad blood," a presumed hereditary taint, not to a poor home
environment.
"Families" could also be good, and a good family background
often influenced people's positive opinions of individual members,
despite their actions to the contrary. One acquaintance of mine,
Harry "Rasta" Boyce, had progressed from selling prepared snacks
by the roadside near the airport to having his own kiosk near the
technical college where he sold complete meals. Even though he
wore dreadlocks and affected a Rastafarian speech style, his hard
work and accomplishments were much admired in the neighborhood,
even by my more conservative neighbors. Mr. Alleyne told me that
Harry came from a "good" family; he predicted Harry would get over
this "Rasta bidness" as he matured. Interestingly, Harry did cut
his "locks" before I left the field. Whether he did it because he
was getting over the "Rasta bidness" or because his appearance
discouraged customers to his new kiosk, I do not know.


433
men and dependent economically on them yet still makes women
responsible for most of the work involved in the reproduction of
labor. In response, women historically have turned to wage work
in St. Vincent, subsistence production, and the formation of
female-headed households to survive in the absence of men. Male
wage migration and the local political economy exacerbated the
inequalities created by the gender system. Ethnographers
searching for an ideal patriarchal "nuclear family" within
Afro-Caribbean societies have labelled women's survival strategies
the female-headed household and matrifocalitydeviant and
indicative of cultural deprivation. By so doing, they have helped
obscure the accomplishments of Caribbean women and their essential
role in the maintenance and survival of society. It is my hope
that this dissertation has revealed the importance of women within
the reproduction of labor in St. Vincent and highlighted the
remarkable achievements of Vincentian women who are thrice
oppressedby color, class, and gender.


194
restricted by gender (cf. Olwig 1985; Moses 1977; Durant-Gonzalez
1982). Both boys and girls are expected to be obedient, polite to
their elders, respectful, and do their chores and schoolwork.
They are considered bad if they are sassy or disrespectful,
disobedient, lazy, and shirk work. Children who disobey or act
disrespectfully receive corporal punishment both at home and at
school. Discipline is taken seriously by parents and people
believe it is an important part of the parental role to "control"
one's children. Badly behaved children reflect negatively on
their parents' character.
Not until adolescence do parents begin to reinforce gender
differences in their children. Adolescents are referred as "boys"
and "gels," no longer merely as "pick-mes." Girls spend more time
at home doing housework and childcare while boys help care for
livestock and begin hanging out "on the block" with their friends,
playing sports seriously, or beginning to go to work. Contacts
between the sexes are much more closely supervised. Girls are
actively discouraged by their parents from paying attention to
boys or letting boys pay attention to them (cf. Wilson 1973). The
only socially acceptable social meeting place for young
adolescents is church, and church youth activities are well
attended by both sexes. During adolescence, both boys and girls
begin to pay more attention to their appearance and clothing.


192
desirable. Conversely, a white woman of the upper class would
risk considerable social disapproval if she took a brown or black
man of the lower class as her lover or husband.
The next section of this chapter describes how gender roles
vary by age. Then, a description of the division of labor by
gender is presented, followed by a discussion of sexual
relationships and the code which guides sexual behavior. Finally,
this chapter presents an analysis of the ideology of gender
relations in St. Vincent that supports and reinforces the gender
division of labor and the sexual relations of human reproduction.
Gender Roles Over the Life Cycle
Age interacts closely with gender to influence Vincentians
expectations of appropriate behavior. When my informants
discussed the actions of men as men and women as women, they
nearly always specified the age of the person under discussion.
Vincentians perceive the life course as proceeding through
specific stages or periods. During each period certain ways of
behaving, attitudes, and comportment are expected and considered
appropriate. If individuals act differently, either by acting
overly maturely when they are young or continuing to act
immaturely when they are older, they are criticized. During some
stages, expected behavior is differentiated by gender but at
others it is not, and many of the differences between age grades
are greater than differences between males and females of the same


85
either capital improvements in the sugar industry, the island's
infrastructure, or social services (Spinelli 1973:105-106;
Marshall, W. 1983:86). Education and social services for the
majority of the population, such as they were, were provided by
the churches, especially the Methodists.
The descendants of the free colored of the slavery period
continued to occupy a social and economic niche below the white
upper class. They remained urbanized and took advantage of
educational opportunities offered by the churches to move into
professional and administrative positions left vacant by
emigrating whites. Some became owners of estates themselves. As
a group, they tended to ally themselves politically and culturally
with the white upper class elite (B. Marshall 1982:23-24).
Poor whites from Barbados, the descendants of seventeenth
century political deportees and indentured servants, joined
Vincentian society in the 1860s. These poor whites settled in
several small villages near the capital and survived through
small-scale subsistence agriculture and fishing. Referred to as
"Redlegs" in Barbados, the poor whites became known in St. Vincent
as "Dorsetshire Hill Bajans" after the name of their major
community. They lived in enclave communities mixing little with
Vincentian whites, colored, or blacks (Roberts 1955:245-288). The
Caribs living in the northern end of the island also increased in


232
house. When he left the island to continue his education in the
United States after the baby was born, Prudie avoided men for four
years. She met her husband Tom at church. He courted her for
months before she agreed to marry him. They got married when they
began building their house in Arnos Vale together. Tom legally
adopted Prudie's daughter and has forbidden her to correspond with
the child's biological father. Since they married, Tom and Prudie
have had four children together.
In addition to visiting relationships, cohabitation, and legal
marriage, Vincentians recognize a third kind of long-lasting
serious sexual relationship, referred to as "keeping." Only the
woman in a "keeping" relationship is called a "keeper" not the man
who "keeps" her (cf. Rubenstein 1987 for a different usage of this
terra). A keeper is supported by a man who is living with another
woman, usually his legal wife. In this sense, a "keeper" is
similiar to a mistress and the phrase resembles that used in
American English, "a kept woman." However, this type of
relationship is very prevalent, and there is no stigma attached to
either partner in a keeping relationship nor to any children born
to the union.
A "keeper" is provided with a house by the man who "keeps"
her; he either buys it, builds it, or rents it for her. This
house is the woman's and her children's residence, while the man's
primary residence is elsewhere. He may stay with the keeper


AO 1
exceptions. Interestingly, these two works also emphasize the
importance of international labor migration to the societies
studied, a feature often ignored by other family studies. The
structural-functionalist theoretical perspective favored by
earlier ethnographers contributed towards the oversight of both
historical change and the importance of geographic mobility within
Caribbean societies.
In the 1970s, ethnographers shifted away from the
construction of rigid typologies of household and family
"structure" to analyses of community life based on adaptation and
flexibility. The strategic theoretical approach developed by
Fredrik Barth (1966a, 1966b) and the social network theorists
became more popular. With this approach, the Caribbean
ethnographic emphasis shifted away from the family/household to
the male world of friendship (Wilson 1973; Brana-Shute 1979).
Migration also came into focus as a research topic, with an
emphasis on the Caribbean man as migrant (Hill 1977; Philpott
1973; Richardson 1983, 1985; Tobias 1975; Wilson 1973).
Dependency theory, which in the Caribbean was formulated as
the plantation economy model by George Beckford (1972), also
gained popularity in the mid-1970s. Sidney Mintz (1974) has most
clearly articulated the new ethnographic perspective incorporating
dependency theory and the transactional perspective of Barth.
Researchers using this perspective do not describe Caribbean


446
Paul, Max
1983 Black Families in Modern Bermuda. Gottingen,
W. Germany: Edition Herodot.
Payne, Anthony and Paul Sutton, eds.
1984 The National Level. In: Dependency Under Challenge.
Manchester, U.K.: Manchester University Press. Pp. 13-
17.
Peach, Ceri
1968 West Indian Migration to Britain: A Social Geography.
London: Oxford University Press.
Pessar,
1982a
.'I
s Jf & !
f \ jL-'"
Patricia R.
The Role of Households in International Migration and
the Case of U.S.-Bound Migration from the Dominican
Republic. International Migration Review 16:2:342-
364.
1982b Kinship Relations of Production in the Migration
Process: The Case of Dominican Emigration to the United
States. Center for Latin American and Caribbean
Studies Occasional Paper No. 32. New York: New York
University.
Petchesky, Rosalind Pollack
1980 Reproductive Freedom: Beyond "A Woman's Right to
Choose." Signs 5:4:92-116.
Philpott,
1968
Stuart B.
Remittance Obligations
Montserration Migrants
476.
Social Networks
in Britain. Man
and Choice Among
(N.S.) 3:1:465-
1973 West Indian Migration: The Montserrat Case. London
School of Economics Monographs on Social Anthropology,
No. 47. London: Athlone Press.
11
11 /
Poats, Susan, Marianne Schmink, and Anita Spring
1988 Introduction. In: Gender Issues in Farming Systems,
Research, and Extension. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Pp. 1-18.
Portes, Alejandro
1978 Migration and Underdevelopment. Politics and Society 8:
1-48.


CHAPTER ONE
INTRODUCTION
The Problem
This dissertation analyzes the gender, kinship, and household
systems that structure the reproduction of labor in St. Vincent,
West Indies. "The reproduction of labor" refers to the bearing,
care, and socialization of children, as well as those activities
that maintain the lives of adults, including domestic labor and
subsistence production (Mackintosh 1981; Young et al. 1981). An
important component of the reproduction of labor is the
transmission across the generations of the ideologies that support
the social relations between and within classes (Stivens 1981).
In all societies, the reproduction of labor occurs through
the actions of domestic groups, although the composition of such
groups varies cross-culturally. In capitalist societies, the
survival of the domestic group and the reproduction of labor
depend upon some members of the domestic group contributing income
earned through wage labor. In some areas of the world, employment
possibilites in the local economy are limited and wages are low,
and the opportunity exists to migrate to countries in which
employment is readily available and wages are high (Portes 1978).
This situation creates another way for domestic groups to ensure
1


210
shopping, and cooking in their households. Domestic servants
enable middle-class women to work outside the home as civil
servants, professionals, or in business. While upper-class women
may also work, primarily in managing family businesses, most spend
their time in social activities and leisure.
Social Significance of the Domestic Division of Labor
When a man and a woman form a lasting sexual relationship,
they begin exchanging financial help and domestic services. This
pattern of exchange helps bring the relationship into public
knowledge. Men give their sexual partners direct financial
assistance, as well as other services and goods such as groceries
or fresh fish, clothing, jewelry, household appliances, a bottle
of gas or a sack of charcoal. Men come by their sexual partners'
houses and do minor house repairs, mend furniture, build a new
fowl coop or fence, or help prepare land for a new kitchen garden.
If a relationship becomes more serious, the man will eventually
build the woman a house of her own, if she does not already have
one, and provide new furnishings (cf. Wilson 1973; Otterbein 1966;
Clarke 1957; R. T. Smith 1956; Moses 1977; Berleant-Schiller
1977).
In exchange for his financial assistance, the woman begins
cooking for the man, at first only occasionally when he stops by
to visit, and then more regularly. She takes his lunch to the
fields where he is working. The woman also begins washing and


318
non-resident sexual partners. The grandmother looks after the
young children while the mother works, and the two women divide or
share the other domestic chores, such as cooking, cleaning, and
laundry (cf. Brodber 1975; Bolles 1984, 1985). I seldom observed
two women actually cooking together, but I witnessed women doing
food processing together, and cleaning and laundry are routinely
shared.
This pattern of sharing work extends across domestic groups,
especially when female relatives live close to each other (cf.
Powell 1982; Wilson 1973; Gonzalez 1984). Children move back and
forth between relatives' houses, taking meals and sleeping at
both. The women work outside together doing laundry or mending,
and help each other with the heavy house cleaning. When a woman
is sick, in the advanced stages of pregnancy, or has just given
birth, she may receive additional assistance. Relatives,
neighbors, and friends send over pots of cooked food or even come
in and cook, bring by groceries, help wash out the baby's nappies,
or invite the older children to stay with them for awhile. Such
aid is quickly extended during any family crisis, but especially
when a relative is sick, injured, or in some other way disabled.
This pattern of support exists in all classes in St. Vincent, but
is most critical to survival amongs the lower class.
Under the gender division of labor in Vincentian society,
women bear a greater responsibility than do men for domestic work


227
declare their intention to marry and have a date set and begin
wedding plans, they will be referred to as "engaged."
While "friending" a couple does not live together in the same
household. The woman often lives with her parents or
grandparents, occasionally in her own house. The man may also
still be living with his parents. Contact between the couple is
regular and frequent, even daily. If the woman gets pregnant, the
man will acknowledge the baby as his, as will the community. He
is expected to help provide the baby's layette if the woman gets
pregnant and help with hospital and doctor bills (cf. Rubenstein
1987:266-272).
However, in a visiting relationship the woman also receives
support from the household in which she resides. She is expected
to pass along and share the gifts of money and food she receives
from her boyfriend, and her parents and other household members
may encourage her to keep seeing a particularly generous partner
(or discourage her from seeing a poor one). A man in a visiting
relationship divides his financial resources between his
girlfriend, his residential household, and himself. He is not
completely dependent upon his girlfriend for her domestic
services, because he can sleep and eat in his parental home when
he chooses, and his mother or grandmother does his laundry for
him.


362
Household Personnel
Personnel or roles within Vincentian households consist of
the household head and household members. Headship can be jointly
held between a married or co-habiting couple but not between a
parent and child. Households cannot have two heads that are not
sexual partners (husband and wife). Thus, each household contains
a single or joint household head and a set of members; there are
no joint households consisting of parents and adult children with
their partners, nor adult siblings living with their partners (cf.
Mintz 197A; Rubenstein 1987; Clarke 1957). However, a household
can exist without containing a set of co-resident sexual partners
and consist of a parent and children or siblings and children. A
household can consist of a single person, who is automatically the
household head (cf. Massiah 1983; White 1986).
The household head is the person, man or woman, who owns,
rents, or is responsible for occupying the house (cf. Rubenstein
1987:164; Massiah 1983; White 1986). The household head is
usually also the most senior economically active person who
contributes the largest share of household income, although other
members and even non-members also contribute. House ownership,
seniority, and economic support normally coincide in the same
individual, a mature man or woman (cf. Rubenstein 1987; M. G.
Smith 1962a). In situations in which these factors do not
coincide in the same individual, the determining factors of


TABLE OF CONTENTS
Page
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS . iv
LIST OF TABLES AND FIGURES
ABSTRACT xi
CHAPTERS
ONE INTRODUCTION 1
The Problem..... 1
Feminist Perspectives on Gender, Kinship, and
Household .6
Historical-Structural Theories of Migration .13
Integrating Feminist Analyses of the Household with
Historical-Structural Perspectives on Migration 20
Migration and Households in the Caribbean ......24
Notes 29
TWO METHODOLOGY......... 30
Initial Methodological Assumptions 30
Choosing a Field Site 31
The Community of Arnos Vale 35
Presentation of Self... 41
Entry Problems .....44
Finding a Research Assistant.. 45
Collection and Analysis of Ethnographic Data 47
The Process of Fieldwork 55
Collection of Archival and Census Data .....58
Analysis of Historical Material 63
Applicability of Results 64
Ethnographic Style..... 65
THREE EVOLUTION OF THE MIGRATION SOCIETY 66
History and Demography 66
St. Vincent as a British Colony During Slavery 67
Slave Society in St. Vincent 71
Reproduction of Labor in a Slave Society 76
vii


67
Even after slavery was abolished in 1834, local conditions of
production altered very little. The major crop changed, but the
Vincentian economy continued to be dependent on a single export
crop, first arrowroot, then cotton, and now bananas. Agricultural
technology and working conditions remained primitive. The island
could not become self-sufficient because local manufacturing and
subsistence agriculture were never intensively developed. St.
Vincent's small size and limited physical resources compounded its
economic problems (Spinelli 1973).
The history of St. Vincent can be divided into several stages
according to the major social and demographic processes occurring
at the time. These stages include the British sugar colony during
slavery; the post-Emancipation period from 1838 until the 1880s;
the first great emigration from the 1880s until the Great
Depression of the 1930s; and the resumption of migration during
World War II until the present. This chapter will trace the
beginnings of the migration society in the nineteenth century and
Chapter Four will trace the history of migration from the 1880s
until the present.
St. Vincent as a British Sugar Colony during Slavery
St. Vincent did not become a British colony until the end of
the Seven Years' War (1756-1763) between England and France. At
that time, St. Vincent was inhabited by a small group of French
smallholders and their slaves; Yellow or Island Caribs; and the


198
the majority of men and women have married or head their own
household. Most men have spent some time overseas, as have many
women. Their positions within their communities have been
established. Most Vincentians become "big people" when they are
still physically vigorous, economically active, and socially
involved. Given the early age at which most Vincentians of both
sexes begin having children, many men and women become
grandparents by their late thirties or mid-forties. Being a
grandparent does not necessarily connote an elderly person but
often refers to an individual still in the prime of life.
Men and women continue to gain respect and status as they
age. Individuals' status increases along with the number of their
grand and great-grandchildren. A common expression used is
"having enough grans to provide my own funeral." Older people of
both genders talk proudly of their descendents and display their
pictures. After death, men and women enter a final stage. As in
Carriacou (Hill 1977), those who die in old age are called
collectively the "Old Parents" or "Old Ones," i.e., the ancestors.
The "Old Parents" are referred to with extreme deference and
respect. Whenever Vincentians gather together to drink socially
or to mark any ceremonial occasion, a libation of rum is poured
out on the ground for the "Old Parents." No distinction in
terminology with respect to gender is made when referring to the
"Old Parents."


277
There is little variation between classes in kinship terms or
their use at home, although the middle and upper classes are more
careful in their use of standard English terras of reference and
are more formal in addressing relatives in public. They are less
likely to use some of the slang terras of reference. Members of
the legitimate families of upper- and middle-class men are much
less likely to acknowledge men's "outside" children as kinsfolk.
Conversely, the lower-class offspring of these liaisons
acknowledge their upper-class relatives and consider them "some
kind of family to we," even though they are aware that the upper
class prefers to ignore or deny their existence.
Kinship Relationships
Kinship relationships within an individual's kindred vary
with the type of gender relationship that exists between an
individual's biological parents. For example, children born to
short term visiting unions are less likely to experience close
relationships with their fathers than are children born to legally
married or co-habiting parents. Children born to short-term
visiting unions may be more likely to have a close relationship
with their maternal grandparents, since they are more likely to
grow up in the same house with them than are the children of
legally married parents.
In domestic groups formed through all types of unions,
however, there is some female adult caretaker looking after the


428
However, few women in St. Vincent can count on being the only
woman their man supports. Vincentian women of all classes must
constantly compete with other women for access to their partners'
and male relatives' resources and attention. Marriage does not
imply that men restrict their sexual behavior; it only gives the
wife the right to her maintenance and inheritance of her husband's
property. Married women's husbands contribute to their mothers,
to "outside" children, and to concurrent sexual partners. Women
in visiting or keeping relationships share their partner's
economic resources with either his mother, his wife, or other
girlfriends. Mothers and sisters share their sons/brothers'
incomes with their sexual partners and children. The Vincentian
gender and kinship systems thus keep men's resources circulating
to multiple women (and through them, multiple households).
Although the system operates to redistribute resources widely,
such a wide distribution reduces the amount any one recipient
receives. Married women have more economic security than female
heads of household because they receive the largest share of their
husbands' incomes and live in housing provided by their partners.
Because female heads of household must provide their own housing
and at most receive only a share of any man's income, they must
secure additional sources of income.
The adoption of wage labor migration by Vincentian men as an
alternative to low-paying estate labor and as a means of improving


131
of the 1950s were based on labor unions (Nanton 1983: 227-228).
The white elites were forced "behind the scenes" as no white
candidates for political office proved electable (Hourihan
1975:57-58; John 1971; Rubenstein 1987:63). The balance of power
since then has swung back and forth between a series of political
parties controlled by middle- or working-class leaders. Each
party, no matter what the rhetoric of its leadership, has had to
appeal to the rural lower class for popular support but has also
had to accomodate the economic interests of the upper class and
growing middle class (John 1973:86-88). No matter which party has
been in power in the last thirty-seven years, the social and
economic status quo has altered only slightly (John 1971;
Rubenstein 1987:53-57).
Since the ruling party has control over the government and
its access to resources such as employment and foreign aid monies,
political patronage and corruption consequently have affected
hiring, promotion, allocation of resources, and government policy
over the past forty years (Hourihan 1975: 60-65). All Vincentian
politicians have used the power of the public purse to placate
their followers. Jobs, government contracts, overseas educational
or work opportunities, and promotions all tend to be awarded on
the basis of party membership and kinship or marital ties, which
often coincide. Politics, long associated with prestige and
power, proved to be another pathway to elite status, as


216
relationships are in the minority and come along infrequently. In
most relationships, the partners are not so compatible and the
union is not so durable. Since so many relationships do not work
out, most Vincentians believe that it is a good idea to wait
awhile before rushing into marriage with a partner. It is better
to marry only after the relationship is firmly established, and
the partners know each other well (cf. Sutton and Makiesky-Barrow
1977).
Sexual fidelity does not automatically concur with a casual
or serious relationship. Vincentians assume fidelity between
separated partners is uncommon if the separation lasts any length
of time. The motives Vincentians ascribed to persons who were
faithful were a fear of the consequences if infidelity was
discovered rather than a desire to be virtuous or out of some
notion of romantic love.
Vincentians assume that any encounter between a man and a
woman is a potentially sexual one. Only kin are not considered
potential sexual partners. Non-sexual friendships between adults
of the opposite sex are considered rare. The expectation that all
encounters between men and women (who are not relatives) can have
sexual consequences means that men and women are very careful
talking to each other in public, preferring instead to send
messages back and forth through intermediaries, usually relatives
or mutual friends.


9
by economic forces but are the product of a complex combination of
economic, political, and cultural factors.
Stivens observes that the "domestication of kinship" is tied
to labor migration in the new international division of labor.
The relegation of women to domestic labor and/or subsistence
production creates a reserve labor force and supports the
reproduction of labor power. Women may withdraw from production
or enter it as wage laborers, but in nearly all cases, their
domestic work and subsistence production intensify. In order to
cope with increased demands, women rely more on their relatives,
especially other female relatives, for help. As kinship relations
become increasingly "domesticated," kinship becomes closely
associated with women ideologically and women assume the role of
mediator in kinship relations.
Kinship ideology is closely tied to that of gender and the
idealization of the "feminine." Girls incorporate these
conceptions about gender and kinship during the socialization
process, then pass them along to their own children when they
become mothers, perpetuating the ideology that supports their own
subordination. Stivens also describes the inherent contradictions
in kin relations, which provide support for women through
solidarity with female relatives. However, female solidarity
based on kinship ties "sustains the ideological coherence of kin


346
obeah or witchcraft. The old person who lives alone without a
single "gran" because the children have all emigrated, is
considered a sad and pitiable figure. A house full of people,
especially many children and grandchildren, may be crowded, but it
is also a source of comfort and pride.
The appearance of the house and yard denote status among the
folk as well as class. Maintaining the attractive appearance of
the house and yard is important regardless of class. A house that
is always kept well repaired, painted, clean, and tidy, and is set
in a yard that is swept every day and is abloom with flowers,
indicates the pride that inhabitants have in themselves and their
concern with earning the "respect" of their neighbors (cf.
Abrahams 1983). Poverty is not considered an excuse for
slovenliness amongst Vincentians.
The YardA Description
The yard, or outside space surrounding the house, is an
integral part of the Vincentian household. The yard is physically
separated off from the street and from the yards of other houses,
except when houses are built by relatives on family or inherited
land. This separation is accomplished by a barricade or fence,
built of concrete block, stone, board, or shrubbery (cf. Mintz
1974:245). There is a gateway from the street or path into the
yard, always kept latched or closed (cf. Abrahams 1983:136-137).
A path leads from the gate to the doorway or steps of the house;


2
their survival and reproduction: participation in international
labor migration.
St. Vincent, in the lower Eastern Caribbean (Figure 1.1),
provides an excellent case study for an analysis of the
reproduction of labor in a society dependent upon international
labor migration. St. Vincent has been a migrant-sending society
since the early nineteenth century. Vincentians have participated
in every migrant movement within the Caribbean region and between
the Caribbean and most migrant-receiving countries. St. Vincent
has become a "migration society" in which every member has been a
migrant or has a migrant relative in the present or the memorable
past (Richardson 1983; 1985). The long history of reliance upon
migration has produced an "ideology of migration" in which
migration is positively valued and migrants are expected to
fulfill social obligations to non-migrants (Philpott 1973).
Migration, a process sometimes considered psychologically and
socially disruptive by researchers, has become the way Vincentian
society maintains and reproduces itself.
Vincentian society relies on the migration of some of its
members to support those who do not migrate and to relieve demand
on its scarce resources. Emigrants gain access to economic and
social resources in the international capitalist system and funnel
them back to the island. By infusing capital into the local
economy through remittances and investments, migrants sustain


299
a connection was established through a mutually recognized kinship
relationship, the conversation between Althea and Mrs. Henderson
moved on to other topics in a friendly and enthusiastic manner.
I witnessed many similiar exchanges when unknown individuals
first met and they all followed the same form: first, the exchange
of names or "titles", the Vincentian term for one's last name and
courtesy title of address; second, identification of the natal
villages of both participants; and finally, an exploration of
kinship lines on the maternal and paternal sides of each
participant in an attempt to establish a mutual contact (cf.
Abrahams 1983). If introduced to each other by a third party,
kinship information was usually included as part of the
introduction.
Vincentians use this form of conversational exchange to
transform the initial contact from one between strangers to one
between individuals of known ancestry and affiliation.
Vincentians learn two types of information about others through
their knowledge of kinship ties, specific information about the
individual and more general information about the person's entire
kindred (cf. Abrahams 1983). This background information then
colors the developing relationship between the two individuals who
have just met. For example, I first met Mrs. Browne when 1 was
seven months pregnant when I needed to have some forms copied.
Mrs. Browne asked me whether I was having a "Vinci baby" or


395
child, a son, emigrated to Canada. They both send remittances to
their mother and gifts to their siblings still at home. Another
son worked as a merchant seaman for many years, returned to St.
Vincent and ran a small rumshop/restaurant, and then emigrated to
the United States. He supports his wife and children, but does
not contribute to his mother's household. Juanita's oldest
daughter, Anita, is divorced. Anita and her two children live in
the house next door to the house Juanita and Zilpha share. Anita
works as a bookkeeper at the estate and supports her family with
her earnings and child support her former husband pays. She helps
her mother and grandmother with their housework and they look
after her children. Another of Juanita's sons works as an
electrician. He still lives at home and gives part of his salary
to his grandmother to cover household expenses. Two other adult
sons work for the government and live in the capital; they both
send their mother money. Since emigrating to the United States,
Leroy has also sent money back to his mother, grandmother, and
oldest sister.
Juanita's household history also illustrates the effects of
earmarked income streams. Her children did not have the same
opportunities because their fathers did not have the same
resources available and were not equally conscientious. The young
man who went to Canada was able to attend secondary school and
emigrate because his father paid his school fees and arranged his


34
island Peace Corps director, Mr. Van Keene, if he knew of a place
I could stay. Mr. Van Keene helped me locate a house in a suburb
of the capital and I moved in within a week of my arrival.
I debated moving to a smaller, more remote village to do a
traditional community study as I had planned on Carriacou.
Several factors influenced my decision not to move. I had gotten
to know some of my neighbors and they were getting to know me. My
house and neighborhood were reasonably secure and I felt safe.
After living in St. Vincent only a few weeks, I realized that
without having my own "transport" or vehicle, my freedom of
movement would be severely restricted in a village. The suburban
area in which I was living was linked to the capital and nearby
communities through a reliable network of private vans that
operated day and night. From my neighborhood I could go into
"town" everyday to visit the Library, Registrar's Office,
government ministries, and still make field trips into the
countryside.
The location of field sites chosen by previous researchers
also affected ray decision to remain where I was. I learned
shortly after ray arrival that I had been immediately preceded in
St. Vincent by Corrine Glesne, an anthropologist who had lived and
worked in a small village in the Buccament Valley on the Leeward
Coast while studying agriculture and educational policy. Hymie
Rubenstein and Brian Betley had both worked in towns on the


388
Household income is derived from contributions of the
household head and employed household members, as well as
non-resident relatives and partners. The household head owns the
major productive resources available to most householdsthe
house, the yard, and farm landsand provides the largest share of
household income (Rubenstein 1987; M. G. Smith 1962a; Berleant-
Schiller 1977). This income is earned directly or is available
because of the sexual or kinship relations the head has with
others. For example, a non-working woman retains head status
because she contributes the largest share of the household's
income from remittances she receives from migrant children. Adult
children contribute a share of their earnings or their labor to
household enterprises. Young children provide income for the
household from work in the informal sector, such as selling
peanuts or candy after school, catching fish, working as servants,
or raising livestock or fowls. In addition, children's non
resident father(s) or migrant parents contribute to their support.
The household and adult household members and the household
head keep part of their individual incomes for personal use.
Decision making about income disbursement is an individual
function, not a joint household decision (cf. Rubenstein 1987:
163; Gonzalez 1984; Moses 1977). The household head does not
control completely adult household members' incomes, although he
or she may demand a certain amount for room and board. The adult


398
broader kinship networks work against the permanence of any
particular household configuration. Households try to retain
members and through them, access to the resources they contribute.
However, to gain access to additional resources, household members
must either emigrate or form ties with other households through
sexual and kinship relationships. Migration and extra-household
ties act simultaneously to increase household resources and
heighten household instability. This is the contradiction
contained within the Vincentian household system and the
reproduction of labor within a migration society such as St.
Vincent. This is also why a focus on the household group alone,
without consideration of the gender and kinship systems which
structure inter- and intra-household dynamics, is analytically
unproductive. Indeed, "the household" as a permanent unit with an
independent existence separate from gender and kinship
relationships proves a slippery construct, one with more meaning
in the mind of the observer than in the mind of Vincentians (cf.
Gonzalez 1984).
Vincentian households represent just a "slice of life" in a
single period of time for domestic groups whose membership is
constantly shifting. The formation of households, their
functioning, and their dissolution, is structured by the
Vincentian gender and kinship systems and is directed towards the
survival and replication of the group. However, individual


415
slaves and absorbed without acknowledging it a portion of African
culture and lifestyles (Mintz and Price 1976). However, the
whites maintained the color/class hierarchy by insisting upon
their superiority as white Europeans, and vehemently denied any
similarity between themselves and their slaves. Absenteeism and
the emigration of white estate owners during the nineteenth
century reduced the possibility of a pure "European" culture in
St. Vincent and increased the absorption of folk values and
practices by all segments of society. To maintain the color/class
hierarchy even though slavery was abolished, the upper class
continued to proclaim themselves white Europeans and not Creoles.
The white upper class passed on their value system to their
free colored children by sending them to Europe to be educated and
by providing them with the economic and social means to be
property and slave owners themselves (Carmichael 1833; R. T. Smith
1987). The free colored were not given equal status with the
whites, but they were placed above the blacks. The free colored
sought equality upwards with the white elites, not downwards with
the freed blacks. By emphasizing their educational attainments
and "European" values they asserted their rights. Both the
colored and the whites maintained their privileged positions by
distancing themselves from the blacks, by denying them access to
economic and social resources, and by inculcating the blacks
themselves with the values of the colonial ideology through the


64
well as historical information about life in the colony during the
late eighteenth century. While neither observe can be said to be
unbiased, their testimonies include negative and positive comments
about all segments of Vincentian Creole slave society from the
perspective of the European outsider. Although the authors self
interest must be taken into account when evaluating these
materials (e.g., Mrs. Carmichael was a planter's wife), much
remains of value that is especially useful to a discussion of
gender and kinship relations in slave society. These travellers
accounts were supplemented by the early history of the West Indies
written by Bryan Edwards (1794) and the description of life in the
post-Emancipation period written by William Sewall (1861).
Applicability of Results
Because I did not conduct a sample survey over the entire
island, I cannot generalize my research findings beyond the
middle- and lower-class Vincentian inhabitants of the suburban
neighborhoods. However, given the diversity of the residents in
terms of their place of birth, ethnic/racial identification,
socioeconomic status, and migration experiences, and my three
independently sampled sets of informants' agreement with each
other on appropriate and inappropriate behavior, ray results are an
accurate representation of the middle-class segment of Vincentian
society.


359
This conflict can lead to the household breaking up, or the mother
will send her "outside" child to live in another household,
perhaps with its grandparents (cf. Otterbein 1966; Barrow 1986;
Sanford 1975).
Children often live in several households while they are
growing up, depending upon the relationship between their parents;
whether either parent emigrates; or if death, illness, or
financial distress affects their parents (cf. Goody 1975; Sanford
1974, 1975; R. T. Smith 1956; Gonzalez 1969, 1984; Rubenstein
1987; Safa 1986; Powell 1986; Barrow 1986). If the mother has
migrated or lives in as a servant, her children usually live with
the mother's mother or other maternal relatives, the father, or
with paternal relatives. A young child or infant usually lives
with its mother or maternal relatives, while older children live
with their fathers. Adolescent and young adults continue to live
with their parents or other relatives until they marry, establish
their own households with a partner or their own children, or
migrate. Attaining adulthood, by itself, is not usually
sufficient reason for a child to leave home and establish a
separate household (cf. Rubenstein 1987; R. T. Smith 1956;
Otterbein 1966).
Usually, full siblings grow up together in the same household
as children, as do half siblings who share the same mother. Adult
siblings continue to live together, along with their respective


452
1985 Return Migration and Its Implications for Caribbean
Development. In: Migration and Development in the
Caribbean, Robert A. Pastor, ed. Boulder, CO:
Westview Special Studies. Pp. 157-177.
Tobias, Peter M.
1975 "How You Gonna Keep Em Down in the Tropics Once
They've Dreamed New York? Some Aspects of Grenadian
Migration. Ph.D. Dissertation, Rice University.
Turittin, Jane Sawter
1976 Networks and Mobility: The Case of West Indian Domestics
from Montserrat. Canadian Review of Sociology and
Anthropology 13:3:305-320.
Watson, Hilbourne A.
1982 Theoretical and Methodological Problems in Commonwealth
Caribbean Migration Research. Social and Economic
Studies 31:165-205.
West India Royal Commission
1945 Report of the West India Royal Commission, appointed
1938. HMSO, CMD 6607, 6608. London: His Majesty's
Stationery Office.
White, Averille
1986 Profiles: Women in the Caribbean Project. Social and
Economic Studies 35:2:59-82.
Wilson, Peter J.
1973 Crab Antics. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Wood, Charles H.
1981 Structural Changes and Household Strategies: A
Conceptual Framework for the Study of Rural Migration.
i Human Organization 40:4:338-344.
^ -s
1982 Equilibrium and Historical-Structural Perspectives on
Migration. International Migration Review 16: 298-319.
World Bank
1985 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: Economic Situation
and Selected Development Issues. Washington, D. C.
World Bank.
Yanigasako, Sylvia J.
1979 Family and Household: The Analysis of Domestic Groups.
Annual Review of Anthropology 8: 161-205.


419
kinship system simultaneously stresses, however, the solidarity of
the entire kinship network and the principle of reciprocal
exchanges between kin. The kinship system reinforces the gender
division of labor by emphasizing women's roles in domestic work
and childcare, but it also provides women a way to alleviate the
burden of work by sharing it with female relatives. Kinship in
some measure compensates for the competition between women over
men produced by the gender system and acts overall to promote
cooperation between kin.
The household system emphasizes the power of the property
owner and resource provider. Usually, this power is doubly
reinforced by gender and kinship, as most household heads are
senior men who own their own homes. However, in female-headed
households and in houses owned by migrants, the three attributes
of headship may be allocated to separate individuals. Such
households appear to be more unstable and household membership
more fluid. Within the context of St. Vincent's political economy
and the lower class's reliance on international migration for
survival, however, female-headed households function as a survival
mechanism for women unable to secure a co-resident relationship
with men capable of supporting them and their children in their
own households.
The household system organizes the goal-directed behavior of
the domestic group. The household's goal is the survival and


325
financial assistance and help with domestic work and childcare.
This assistance enables women to continue subsistence production,
local marketing, and other economic activities in the absence of
their migrant partner. When women migrate, they leave their
dependent children with a relative to be fostered (cf. Rubenstein
1987; Philpott 1973; Bolles 1981; Massiah 1983; Moses 1977).
Thus, several factors overlap to make women central in
Vincentian kinship relations and to keep kinship relations closely
associated with the "domestic" sphere, a process Maila Stivens
(1981) refers to as the "domestication of kinship." First, the
gender system with its acceptance of different sexual
relationships leads to the formation of asymmetrical kindreds
heavily weighted towards female kin. Second, the gender division
of labor and the kinship organization of reproduction doubly
determine the association of women with domestic work and
childcare. Third, the historic importance of male wage migration
has meant the physical absence of men from daily life for much of
the time. Men are intermittent visitors, who spend time overseas,
with other women, or with male friends, but women relatives are
always there. The maintenance of the reproduction of labor in St.
Vincent in the absence of men requires cooperation between women
and their relatives. Finally, women's reliance on their female
relatives for assistance and emotional support reinforces the
ideological identification of women with the kinship system (cf.


222
their wives to marry their lower-class mistresses, nor do they
usually travel in polite society in their company. These women
are not expected to harass the legitimate wife nor expect equal
treatment for themselves and their children. The man is expected
to provide financially for the woman and her children.
Jealousy and Getting "Horned"
Vincentian beliefs about sexual relationships tend to foster
intense feelings of jealousy. Jealousy is more problematic for
men, who are expected to enhance their status amongst their peers
by simultaneously seducing many women while keeping their own
women under "control." A man who cannot "control" his partner's
sexual activities and is cuckolded is said to have been "horned."
The man has been "horned" by his partner's male lover, and "giving
horns" establishes the lover's superiority as a man over the one
getting "horns." The lover takes "control" over the woman and by
so doing emasculates her partner.
The underlying reason for male jealousy is the realization
that while one may be trying to seduce another man's partner, he
or someone else may be trying to seduce your partner. Since women
are weak in self control and by nature sexually "hot," their
fidelity is not expected and many men live in constant suspicion
of their partners. They often are equally distrustful of their
male friends. When a man successfully seduces another man's
woman, it increases his status but also confirms his beliefs about


4
their relatives and sexual partners during their absences and even
improve their own social status through the acquisition of land
and other property (cf. Philpott 1973; Richardson 1983, 1985;
Rubenstein 1987). Those left behind in St. Vincent also must work
within the local economy to supplement remittances that are seldom
sufficient to cover all of their expenses. The adults must
perform both the productive activities the migrants would have
accomplished if they had not left as well as the tasks involved in
the caring and socialization of the next generation.
Underlying the movement of people and resources to and from
St. Vincent are the social relationships embedded in the
"reproduction of labor," which generate cultural and emotional
ties binding men and women, parents, children, and siblings across
time and great distances. These social relationships do not
reflect biological reproduction or the "natural" place of women
and men in society, but are the product of cultural systems
affected by many other cultural domains, including religion,
nationality, ethnicity, and class (Collier and Yanigasako 1987:6;
Schneider 1968). The cultural systems that structure the
reproduction of labor in a migrant-sending society assume
additional functions: they keep migrants integrated into their
domestic groups; they reinforce migrants' continued contributions
as if the migrants were still physically present; and they also
adjust to their actual absence. These systems also must


371
1986). Grandparents and other relatives intercede when dependent
children are being abused by removing them from their parents'
household and adding them to their own (cf. Otterbein 1966).
Shifts in Household Membership Over the Life Cycle
How Vincentians are incorporated into households varies over
the life cycle by gender. Individuals are born into a household.
Infancy and early childhood are usually spent in the same
household as one's mother, or both parents, or other primary
female caretaker. Children move from one household to another due
to changes in the parents' relationship, economic circumstances,
and emigration of household members. Since the child is part of
the larger kinship network, movement from one household to another
is not disruptive or psychologically disturbing (cf. Olwig 1985;
Sanford 1974, 1975; Stack 1974, 1975; Barrow 1986; Safa 1986).
As a child approaches adolescence, his or her role in the
household shifts from being a dependent to being a contributor of
money and labor to the household. Gender roles being affecting
household membership when a boy or girl begins sexual
relationships. When a girl gets pregnant in an unsanctioned
relationship, her parents often beat the girl and throw her out of
the house. She then goes to another relative and seeks shelter.
Other relatives try actively to bring about a reconciliation
between the girl and her parents during her pregnancy or after the
birth of the child. If they reconcile, the girl returns to her


21
the household, because they complicate the analysis by bringing in
non-household members who relate in some unspecified way to
household members. Wood replaces one collective, the class, with
another, "the household," without explaining adequately the
articulation of individuals within households nor the articulation
of households with larger groups such as classes. Household
members are assumed to pool their incomes into a joint fund which
^ is then disbursed to meet household needs by some mutually
recognized household head.
In their critique of Wood's argument, Robert L. Bach and Lisa
Schraml (1982) point out that defining the household by
cooperative economic activities strips it of all other activities.
As such, the household assumes the same cost-benefit calculus of
the neoclassical "individual" and little has been gained by
shifting the analysis from the individual to the group. Wood's
model does not explain why individuals within households cooperate
nor how conflicts between members are resolved.
Marianne Schmink (1984:89) presents a modified definition of
the household as "a coresident group of persons who share most
aspects of consumption, drawing on and allocating a common pool of
resources (including labor) to ensure their material
reproduction." Like Wood, Schmink suggests that studies of
household economic strategies offer a way to bridge social and
individual levels of analysis, although she cautions against


139
incentives (St. Vincent Development Corporation 1977). Most of
the new factories imported partially finished materials which were
assembled by Vincentian workers, then exported to the United
States. Textile and electronic factories predominated. The
majority of workers employed by these foreign-managed firms were
young women. A few Vincentian-owned factories began manufacturing
goods for local and regional markets (Nanton 1983:235).
The post-war period also saw the enlargement of the
retail-oriented import-based business sector and the growth of a
vigorous informal sector concentrated in the capital, Kingstown.
Both sectors have increased Vincentians' dependence on imported
consumer goods. Despite the weak performance of the local
economy, remittances from migrants in England, Trinidad, Canada,
the United States, Europe, and Saudi Arabia have kept the overall
standard of living improving (D. Marshall 1985).
The problems of the agricultural sector are shared with other
economic sectors. The island faces problems associated with its
small size and population as well as insularity. Indeed, West
Indians and political scientists alike argue that St. Vincent and
the other nations of the Eastern Caribbean are just too small in
too many critical ways to maintain an independent existence (Dems
1965; D. Marshall 1985; Thomas 1988). The islands cannot support
large-scale agriculture, tourism, or manufacturing. The small
size of the islands' internal markets cannot sustain expanded


101
both sexes, marriage did not occur until men had acquired some
property and built their own houses (cf. Dirks and Kerns
1976:49-51; Otterbein 1966:131; Carmichael 1833:131; Olwig
1985:121-129). Until a man had emigrated and returned, this was
difficult to accomplish. Early marriage, before the man had
emigrated, made little sense, since he could not build his own
house without money.
This chapter presented an overview of St. Vincent's early
history from its beginning as a British West Indian slave society
through the transition after Emancipation and the beginning of the
migration tradition. Vincentian society was organized along a
color/class hierarchy. Blocked from upward mobility by the
elite's control over most of the arable land, the lower class
adopted a "migration adaptation." The next chapter continues to
trace the evolution of St. Vincent as a migration society from the
end of the nineteenth century to the present. Migration became
even more important at the turn of the century, as economic
depression, natural disasters, and employment opportunities
elsewhere combined to produce the largest emigration of
Vincentians yet seen.


265
the mother's side" in which they have more contact with their
mother's relatives than with their father's (cf. Clarke 1957; R.
T. Smith 1956; Rubenstein 1987; Gonzalez 1969, 1970; Stack 1974).
If the father terminates the sexual relationship with the mother
and never helps "real" (rear) the child, the child may grow up
knowing little or nothing about the father and his relatives. I
recorded several instances when a person met a half-sibling or
other relative for the first time at their mutual father's
funeral, when other relatives of the deceased explained the
relationship to them.
A Vincentian Kindred
Leroy O'Donnell's "family" provides a good example of a
Vincentian kindred. Although Leroy can trace his ancestry back to
the early nineteenth century and a former slave woman, "Gold Chain
John," when he speaks about his "family" he is talking about
relatives he either knows personally or through still living
relatives. Leroy's grandmother, Zilpha Byron, is the oldest
living member of his kindred.
Through Zilpha, Leroy is tied to his grandmother's sister,
Hettie, and Hettie's children. Hettie emigrated to Trinidad where
she lived for many years. Hettie had a daughter, Sharon, with a
common-law partner in Trinidad. Sharon emigrated to England,
where she married and had two children. Her son remained in
England, enlisted in the British Army, and is now stationed in


151
emigrated to the United States. The oldest son was living alone
in the Burroughs' house in St. Vincent and managing the family
business. The oldest daughter came back to live in St. Vincent
with her child and to attempt a reconciliation with her husband.
When interviewed, Mr. Burroughs and his wife said they both
intended to return to St. Vincent to retire.
Temporary wage labor programs still exist, in which the
worker signs a contract agreeing to work at a specific job for a
certain period. Travel to and from St. Vincent and housing
accomodations at the destination are provided by the labor
contractor. The best known of these programs is the H-2 farm
workers program in the United States. Approximately 500
Vincentian men go every year to cut sugar cane in Belle Glade,
Florida (McCoy and Wood 1982; McCoy 1985). In previous years, the
program also sponsored workers to pick apples in Virginia and
citrus fruit in central Florida. Political pressure, automated
harvesting techniques, and an increase in the migrant labor
population resident in the United States have reduced the H-2
program to the East Coast apple pickers and the Florida cane
cutters (McCoy and Wood 1982:6-7).
The Clarke family history illustrates how Vincentian men have
used the temporary labor migration programs to save money to buy
property and build houses. Mrs. Clarke's family history also
illustrates how migration has sent family members in many


116
travelled together as well as independently. Parents left their
young children behind in St. Vincent in the care of their
grandparents. Babies born to Vincentian parents in Trinidad,
Curacao, and Aruba were brought back to their grandparents (St.
Vincent Census 1970, 1980). Leaving the children behind permitted
both parents to work and send back remittances. This practice was
an extension of a long established tradition of older female
relatives caring for young children while their mothers worked in
subsistence production and their fathers emigrated. Because the
distances involved were short and inter-island transportation
inexpensive, parents could come to visit their children during
holidays and Carnival. Men who intended to stay on in Trinidad
sent for their wives and children to join them.
Vincentians who remained at home during "Curacao Time" and
"War Time" abandoned estate labor to produce food crops for the
expanded markets in Trinidad, Antigua, and the Netherlands
Antilles (Spinelli 1973:213,243). A flourishing inter-island
trade in "ground provisions," small livestock, and tropical fruits
began. Reflecting their continued importance in food production
and marketing, this inter-island trade was organized and operated
primarily by women. Women traders, known as "traffickers," used
their kinship ties to resident migrants to enter Trinidad,
Antigua, and the Netherlands Antilles, set up marketing


197
and mid-adulthood, when both men and women settle down to one
partner and have children. There are no special words or phrases
used to describe this stage, but a person who prolongs his or her
adolescence is still referred to as a "boy" or "girl" rather than
as a "man" or "woman."
A man who is reluctant to become sexually active is referred
to as a "paugh-paugh boy," a reference to a particular variety of
bananas which when ripe resembles the genitalia of an immature
male. Men or women who reach their mid-twenties without having
children are still called "boys" and "girls" not "men" and
"women." A lower class woman or man who never has had a child is
accorded lower social status than a woman who has a child out of
wedlock. A person without children has a hard time establishing
his or her identity as a fully adult member of the community.
Middle adulthood lasts until a man or woman has grown
children who have given them grandchildren. Once a man or woman
has grandchildren, they are referred to as a "big person," a "big
man," a "big woman," or collectively, as "big people." At this
point, men and women have entered their most powerful and most
respected stage. If their parents are still living they have
become so old that they have become dependent again, and have
turned over control over family resources to the new generation of
"big people." Their children are beginning to establish their own
households but remain subordinate. By the time they are "big,"


268
gave Juanita's daughter away when she married in Montreal. Leroy
called Murray "uncle," and refers to his children as "cousins."
Although Percy O'Donnell preferred not to acknowledge his
kinship ties to Juanita O'Donnell and her children, his oldest
daughter Margaret, who also returned to St. Vincent to live, is on
very good terms with Leroy and calls him "cousin." Percy's other
two children remained in the United States. Leroy knows both of
Margaret's sons, one of whom has gone to Canada while the other
attends college in the United States. He calls both boys
"cousin."
Leroy does not know anything about O'Donnell's other two
legitimate children except where they emigrated. Although he knows
the other "outside" daughter and her children, he prefers not to
acknowledge them publicly as family because they are quarrelsome,
lazy, and in frequent trouble with the police.
In addition to the branches which extend from his
grandparents, Leroy's family also includes his mother's brother,
Charles Byron, and Charles' three children. Two of Charles'
children, both daughters, were born before Charles emigrated to
England. Both of these girls have emigrated to Trinidad, but
Leroy knew them as a child and called them "cousin." Both girls
lived with their mother, Charles' girlfriend. Charles married
another Vincentian woman in England and had a son with her. Leroy
knows of this boy but has only met him once, when he came to St.


75
them in a trade or small business (Carmichael 1833:91). Often,
the slave mistress was also freed. The free colored were an
intermediate group between the white and black elements of the
slave society (B. Marshall 1982; Rubenstein 1987:33). Some
observers argued they had inherited the worst of both worlds,
others that they represented the best (Carmichael 1833:69-80; Day
1852:91). The free colored were the only group in the slave
society in which women outnumbered men (B. Marshall 1982:8-9).
The sex ratio amongst the free colored may have reflected an
actual imbalance or an advantage women of mixed ancestry had over
men in gaining their freedom. The majority of the free colored
lived in the capital and worked as domestic servants, artisans,
and small shopkeepers, although some of the free colored owned
property and slaves (B. Marshall 1982:16-22).
The vast majority of the population during slavery were the
slaves, both black and colored (mixed race). The slaves were not
a monolithic block, however, but were divided into those born free
in Africa and those born in slavery. Slaves were also categorized
by occupation, age, and sex (Rubenstein 1987:34). The major
occupational divisions amongst the slaves were house slaves,
artisans who worked at trades or in the sugar mills, and
fieldhands. Field gangs were composed of adult men and women; a
gang of children worked at less arduous tasks in the fields and
around the estate yard. Old men helped care for livestock and


largest share of the joint household income. In other words,
Vincentian men marry when they can be heads of households. There
are three ways that men achieve this economic position: (1) the
inheritance or gift of property from their parents or other
relatives, or access to "family land" on which they can build a
house; (2) by earning enough money in a job or livelihood in St.
Vincent; or (3) through temporary or long-term wage migration.
Men in the upper and traditional middle class achieve economic
security in the first and second ways and are able to marry early
in life. Lower-class men have primarily followed the third way
and have relied on wage labor migration to acquire the economic
means to set up households. Lower-class men who emigrate to earn
money to establish a household often continue to rely on short
term migration to support their households. While earning money
for their own consumption needs overseas, and for their goal of
house-owning, migrants also send remittances back to relatives
with whom they lived prior to emigrating and to partners and
children with whom they did not necessarily reside.
Women aim to be the managers of households provided to them
by men, rather than become heads of their own households. When a
lower-class woman marries legally, her husband provides her with a
house and financial support. However, the married woman gives up
any income she receives from other men except her relatives, and
she is expected to devote her energies to maintaining her


448
1982b The Impact of Remittances in the Rural English-
Speaking Caribbean: Notes on the Literature. In:
Return Migration and Remittances, William F. Stinner
and Klaus de Albuquerque, eds. Washington, D. C.:
Smithsonian Institute. Pp. 237-266.
1983 Remittances and Rural Underdevelopment in the English-
Speaking Caribbean. Human Organization 42:295-306.
1987 Coping with Poverty: Adaptive Strategies in a
Caribbean Village. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Safa, Helen I.
1980 Export Processing and Female Employment: The Search for
Cheap Labor. Presented to the Burg Wartenstein
Symposium No. 85, Wenner Gren Foundation for
Anthropological Research.
1986 Runaway Shops and Female Employment: The Search for
Cheap Labor. In: Womens Work: Development and the
Division of Labor, Eleanor Leacock, Helen I. Safa,
and Contributors. Massachusetts; Bergin & Garvey
Publishers, Inc.
1986 Economic Autonomy and Sexual Equality in Caribbean
Society. Social and Economic Studies 35:3:1-22.
1987 Popular Culture, National Identity, and Race in the
Caribbean. Nieuwe West-Indische Gids 61:3&4:115-126.
Saint Victor, Rosalind
1986 Family Relations and Support Systems. In: Women of
the Caribbean, Pat Ellis, ed. Kingston, Jamaica:
Kingston Publishers, Inc. Pp. 84-87.
Sanford, Margaret
1974 A Socialization in Ambiguity: Child-Lending in a
British West Indian Society. Ethnology 13:393-400.
1975 To Be Treated as a Child of the Home: Black Carib
Child Lending in a British West Indian Society. In:
Socialization and Communication in Primary Groups,
Thomas R. Williams, ed. The Hague: Mouton. Pp.159-
182.


Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
THE REPRODUCTION OF LABOR IN A MIGRATION SOCIETY:
GENDER, KINSHIP, AND HOUSEHOLD IN ST. VINCENT, WEST INDIES
By
Margaret Jean Gearing
December, 1988
Chairman: Dr. Allan F. Burns
Major Department: Anthropology
Ethnographers have debated the origin and function of the
unique features of Afro-Caribbean families which contrasted with
the nuclear family model believed to be universal. An explicit
assumption guiding research was that the "deviant" features of
lower-class Caribbean families were aberrations induced by
conditions of social and economic deprivation. The behavior of
the middle and upper classes was seldom critically studied, and
historical analyses of Afro-Caribbean gender, kinship, and
household systems were absent.
This study uses a transactional approach to analyze gender,
kinship, and household dynamics in a middle-class community in St.
Vincent, West Indies. A majority of residents are upwardly mobile
lower-class individuals now part of the "new middle class." This
xi


263
"brother-in-law." It is much more common, however, to refer to
these relatives by saying "my wife's mother/father/sister/
brother/etc." Another way of describing these collateral
relatives is by saying "my wife's/husband's family" or "family to
me through my wife, not really my family." Usually, Vincentians
make is a sharp distinction between consanguineal and collateral
relatives, and only consanguineals are perceived as true "family."
Vincentians do not consider their sexual partners to be
"family." By definition, sexual partners stand outside the
"family" because sex between relatives is defined as incest and
forbidden under all circumstances. The kinship system depends
upon the establishment of sexual relationships between
non-relatives for the birth of new members, through whom the
kinship network or "family" grows, but sexual relationships are
not part of the kinship system. Legal marriage does not create a
kinship tie between husband and wife. The birth of a child
creates a connection between the mother's and father's kindreds,
but does not make the parents each other's relative. Vincentians
distinguish "family on my father's side" from "family on my
mother's side" when discussing how a person is related to them.
The variety of accepted sexual relationships in St. Vincent
can give rise to numerous household compositions. The definition
of "family" as a network that extends beyond the household and
encompasses the whole kindred, however, ensures that all


267
"outside" child, a daughter, by a "Bajan" woman from Dorsetshire
Hill. Leroy knows two of ODonnell's sons and both his other
daughters, but he never knew O'Donnell because he died before
Leroy was born. One of O'Donnell's legitimate sons, Murray, was
very close to Juanita, Leroy's mother, and to Zilpha, and visited
their house often. Murray acknowledged Juanita as his "sister"
and helped her and her family as much as possible.
All of O'Donnell's legitimate children migrated, Murray,
William, and Percy to Canada, and his daughter Maureen to St.
Croix. The "outside" daughter Cynthia still lives in Dorsetshire
Hill with her four children. The youngest son, Percy, went to the
United States from Canada. He lived in Hollywood for years. He
returned to St. Vincent in the early 1970s to live. In contrast
to Murray, Percy tried to avoid acknowledging any of O'Donnell's
"outside" children, although in recent years he has helped one of
Juanita's youngest sons to get a civil service job.
Murray had two children in Canada that Leroy knows about
through letters his mother received from Murray. Murray's
daughter now has two children. Leroy does not know any of
Murray's children or grandchildren personally. Murray came back
to visit St. Vincent several times before he died and always
stopped to visit Juanita and her mother. He also helped Juanita's
two children who emigrated to Canada find places to live, and he




sharing their wealth of experience about gender issues and
intra-household dynamics.
My long tenure (some say endless) in graduate school was
financially supported, in part, by assistantships and fellowships
provided by the Department of Anthropology, the Center for Latin
American Studies, the Women in Agricultural Development Program,
and the Graduate School of the University of Florida. I would
also like to thank Carl Van Ness and Carla Kemp at the University
of Florida Archives for their kindness and understanding in
permitting me time off from my current job to put the finishing
touches on the dissertation.
The emotional support I have received from my graduate
student colleagues and friends has been equally important in
"getting through." I would like to acknowledge Barbara Reilly,
Diana and Richard Walker, Ron Kephart, Jim McKay, Betsy
Randall-David, Jim Lett, Shoko Hamano, John Wilson, John Butler,
David Reddy, Brian Fisk, Kathy Gladden, Beth Higgs, Emine
Incirglioglu, Julio Chang, Sharon Bienert, Tom Eubanks, Claudine
Payne (who also drew my maps), Manuel Vargas, Nina Borremans, Mary
Ellen Warren, Jane Gibson-Carpenter, Jan Tucker, Fred Desmond, and
especially Barbara Hendry, for their friendship and encouragement.
My family, especially my mother, have unstintingly and most
generously supported me during graduate school. Without my
mother's financial assistance, this dissertation would never have
v


337
available locally, gathered for free by the builder. The most
expensive houses are those built from mostly imported materials by
hired craftsmen.
"Trash" Houses
Few wattle-and-daub structures or "trash" houses are still in
use as primary dwellings outside of the Carib Country in the
northern tip of the island. 1 saw an occasional "trash" house
used as a storage shed or kitchen in rural villages. Trash houses
are also built as overnight shelters in the mountains on a distant
piece of cultivated land. Two groups of Rastafarians squatting on
land near Greathead Bay beach had built trash houses out of a
plant related to bamboo known as roseau (Bambui roseas).
Materials used to build trash houses are locally produced or
grow wild, such as bamboo, elephant grass, palm fronds, red clay,
stones, sand, and salvaged driftwood or other lumber. The skill
required to build a trash house is in the folk repertoire and does
not require hiring labor; a trash house can be built in a day or
two. The typical trash house is a small one or two room structure
with a low roof. The walls are woven from bamboo and other fibrous
vegetation and then plastered over with red clay; the roof is
thatched with elephant grass and palm fronds. Pieces of scrap
lumber or wood from the raintree (Glirlcidia sepicum) may be used
to make a more substantial frame for the house itself and for
doors and windows. The trash house lacks indoor plumbing and


335
building construction techniques. Physical features, such as
building materials, are described as they relate to socioeconomic
status or as they affect social interaction, such as intra
household labor sharing and density.
Many people build their own houses in St. Vincent, using
their own labor and the unpaid labor of relatives and friends.
Skilled tradesmen, such as masons, carpenters, electricians,
plumbers, or painters are hired as needed or may be used
exclusively if the person building the house can afford it. The
wealthier the family, the less likely they are to do any of the
actual house construction themselves, and the more likely they are
to have the house built for them or to purchase a house already
constructed.
Building a house may be done all once or on an intermittent
basis, as money or other employment permits. Small trash and
board houses can be constructed rapidly in a few days time. People
often move into a wall house before it is finished and continue
building on additional rooms as the household changes over time or
as additional money is obtained. It is common to see a pile of
blocks or heap of sand lying beside an existing house for several
months until the owner can afford to finish the work.
Prudie Clarke described how she and her husband, Tom, built
their house. They began work on it before they married, working
on it in the evenings, after Tom finished his regular job, and on


161
shop/restaurant. He emigrated to the United States by signing up
for the H-2 Workers program and then leaving illegally for New
York. The next oldest son, Andrew, emigrated to Canada, then
arranged for his older sister, Pearl, to join him. The middle
son, Leroy, married an American Peace Corps worker and emigrated
to the United States. Three other sons are employed in St.
Vincent, two in the civil service, the other as an electrician.
The youngest son lives at home and attends school.
How do Vincentians emigrate if they cannot use kinship or
gender ties? A variety of means demonstrates the ingenuity and
determination of would-be migrants.
Alternate Migration Strategies
Vincentians who work in the tourist industry establish
relationships with visiting Americans, Canadians, and Europeans.
They ask these foreigners for jobs, offering to work for them at
reduced wages for a certain period of time in exchange for
sponsorship. These relationships with foreigners include strictly
business ones in which the Vincentian gets to know the foreigner
by working for him or her, as well as friendship and sexual
relationships. These tactics have succeeded often enough to have
become part of popular culture. Resident foreigners, such as
tourists, Peace Corps volunteers, off-shore medical college
students, and development agency workers are also potential
contacts. I knew of three cases in which foreign volunteers


77
Until the abolition of the British slave trade in 1808, it
was cheaper for estate owners to replace laborers through the
purchase of new slaves than to subsidize the biological
reproduction of the slave population (Thomas 1988; Spinelli
1973:227-231). When the opportunity arose in 1802 to expand
production, Vincentian planters already knew that the growing
British abolition movement would soon bring the slave trade to an
end (Spinelli 1973:230). To effectively bring the new estates
under production before the slave trade stopped required the
importation of large numbers of slaves between 1802-1808. From
1764 to 1805, the number of slaves in St. Vincent increased 122%,
from 7,414 to 16,500. Between 1805 and 1812, the slave population
rose to 24,920, an increase of 51% in just seven years. Although
the average annual number of slaves imported between 1764 and 1808
was 365, a total of 1,540 slaves arrived in 1803 alone (Spinelli
1973:230). The vast majority of African slaves transported in the
last years of the British slave trade went to the new sugar
colonies of St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Grenada, and Tobago (Spinelli
1973:227). This rapid influx of African slaves just 26 years
before Emancipation meant that the majority of the population in
St. Vincent was African or first generation Creole when slavery
ended.
Due to the high mortality and low fertility rates among the
slaves, the increase in the slave population of St. Vincent can be


245
for personal benefit is the equally high value placed on the
fulfillment of social obligations to one's sexual partners,
children, other kinfolk, friends, neighbors, and community
members.
The folk ethos places a high value on language skills in both
"proper" English and Creole. The ability to speak "proper"
English opens doors to better jobs and economic opportunities.
However, lower-class individuals who neglect their verbal skills
in Creole also lose status because these skills are essential to
successful performance in the oral culture (cf. Abrahams 1983).
These verbal skills include the ability to tell tales, recite
appropriate proverbs and idioms, use metaphor and double entendre
successfully, and engage in verbal duelling in play or in serious
argument. Men are also expected to be able to "talk sweet" to
persuade women into sexual relationships with them (cf. Abrahams
1983 for a different usage of "talk sweet").
The folk system emphasizes a person's ability to work hard,
no matter what the job, and to be proficient at it. Through hard
work, often undertaken outside the society as a migrant, a man can
obtain ownership of property and establish his own household. A
woman, by establishing a relationship with a man and assisting his
efforts, also secures her own household. However, an empty house
is not the desired goal, but one that is filled with one's


152
different directions over the past thirty years. Mr. Tom Clarke,
currently employed as a repairman, went to Florida in the
mid-1960s to pick oranges as an H-2 worker. He spent three
seasons in Florida altogether. He saved his money and invested it
in a plot of land in Arnos Vale. He and his wife, Prudie, built
their house together. Prudie's family consisted of her mother,
three older brothers, and three sisters. They were from the Carib
country on the northern end of St. Vincent. Prudie's two oldest
brothers emigrated to Trinidad with their father when Prudie was
still an infant; she has no real memories of them, but they still
correspond with her mother and have sent their mother money and
presents. The other older brother emigrated to England, and
disappeared from sight. His family thought that he was dead.
However, during my field stay he returned to St. Vincent to visit
his mother and his family and investigate the possibility of
buying land and building a house. He had married an English woman
and raised a family in England, but now he was divorced and would
soon be retiring. One of Prudie's sisters had married a man from
St. Lucia and moved there with him. One other sister was married
and living in St. Vincent with her husband. The other sister, the
youngest, was still living with her mother.
Vincentian cane cutters also travel to Barbados every year as
contract laborers. Another contract labor program appeared in the
1970s and 1980s to sponsor the migration of Vincentian men and


368
near my house was owned by woman working in Trinidad, who
permitted her mother, her sister, and the sister's five children
to live in her house in her absence. The mother received
remittances from the migrant daughter, made candy to sell on a
street corner in Kingstown, and did laundry for some of her
neighbors. The daughter received money from two of her children's
fathers and her husband with whom she did not wish to live. The
mother and daughter quarrelled, and both complained to the woman
who owned the house about the other. The woman returned from
Trinidad, threw both her mother and her sister out of the house,
and boarded it up for awhile. The mother went to live with
another adult child and the sister returned to her husband after
parcelling out her children to their various fathers. After a few
weeks, the mother returned to live in the house and two of the
sister's children also returned to live there and help their
"gran" with her housekeeping.
When the household head dies, becomes too infirm to fulfill
his or her obligations, or emigrates, the household may completely
disperse. Members emigrate, form their own households, or join
other households as dependents. Or, another household member
assumes the position of head of household and the original
household continues. Gender, age, and financial responsibility
are weighted factors in determining household headship under
succession conditions.


205
of export-processing factories clustered near the capital. The
supervisors and managers of these factories are men, usually white
expatriates.
Public transportation is an important segment of the informal
sector dominated by men. Public transportation in St. Vincent
consists of privately owned taxis, mini-vans and buses, and large
flat-bed trucks used to haul both passengers and produce. The
mini-vans operate in the capital and the suburbs, bringing
commuters and schoolchildren into Kingstown. Taxis service the
tourist market. The large flat-bed trucks bring people and their
goods from the rural areas into town. Most drivers of all types
of transport are men, although some vehicles are owned by women.
Middle-class status is more important than gender in securing
access to employment in the professions or the civil service.
Medicine and law are open to both sexes and male and female
practitioners exist and have active clienteles. Included in the
civil service are nearly all teachers and nurses, as well as some
doctors. Teaching and nursing are dominated by women. These
professions are considered pathways to middle class status within
St. Vincent and a potential means of emigrating. Both men and
women enter teaching, but more men advance to become secondary
teachers, headmasters, and administrators (cf. Sutton and
Makiesky-Barrow 1977). Women predominate in clerical positions at
all the government ministries, while men occupy the majority of


389
worker's right to control his or her money extends between
husbands and wives and between parents and adult children (cf.
Berleant-Schiller 1977; Moses 1977).
Household members provide part of their own consumption needs
and contribute to the expenses of several households in addition
to the one in which they reside. Men support other women and
children from previous relationships, and spend money on drinking
or gambling. Women use their money for clothing or for the
assistance of non-resident relatives. Adult members also use
their own money to pay for their clothing, transportation,
entertainment, and other incidentals. Young children usually turn
over all their earnings and receive back small sums to cover the
purchase of snacks and candy or school supplies.
Joint household expenditures include money spent for housing,
such as mortgage payments, rent, and taxes; household furnishings
and supplies; food; medical care; transportation-related costs;
school fees, uniforms, and school books for children; and clothing
for dependent members. Farm households spend money on land,
inputs, transportation of produce, and other related production
expenses. Other self-employed tradespersons have similiar
expenditures for equipment and supplies. Professionals and civil
servants purchase everything their households consume, except what
is received from relatives (cf. Griffith 1985; Wilson 1973;
Rubenstein 1987; Olwig 1985).


178
Carnival and Migration
Carnival has also assumed an important function for
Vincentian migrants. Despite the hopes of the government, tourist
revenues from Carnival have increased only slightly, even though
there are more and more Carnival time visitors each year.
Revenues at hotels and guesthouses have not increased
substantially because at least half the people who come to St.
Vincent for Carnival are returned migrants who stay with their
relatives and friends for free (St. Vincent Tourist Bureau 1985).
For migrants, returning home for Carnival has become a way to
renew ties and self-identity. For those who have not yet gone
overseas, contact with visiting migrants during Carnival increases
the desire to leave and the conviction that emigration opens the
door to excitement and economic opportunity.
Visiting migrants are easy to identify during Carnival time.
They are the men and women wearing the latest clothing and hair
styles off the streets of New York and the gold necklaces,
bracelets and earrings. They are the ones speaking Vincentian
Creole with American, Canadian, and British accents and slipping
in the latest slang. They are the ones burdened down with bags of
presentsclothing, small appliances, electronic equipmentupon
arrival at the airport. The men sit at the rumshops and
restaurants buying drinks for their friends, telling stories about
their exploits overseas. The men go out at night to the clubs


REFERENCES
Abrahams, Roger D.
1968 Public Drama and Common Values in Two Caribbean
Islands. Trans-Action 5:62-71.
1970 A performance-centered approach to gossip.
1983 The Man-of-Words in the West Indies. Baltimore, MD:
Johns Hopkins University Press.
Abrahams, Roger and Richard Bauman
1983 Sense and Nonsense in St. Vincent: Speech Behavior and
Decorum in a Caribbean Community. In: The Man-of-
Words in the West Indies, Roger Abrahams. Baltimore,
MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. Pp. 88-97.
Agar, Michael H.
1986 Speaking of Ethnography. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage
Publications, Inc.
Alexander, Jack
1976 A Study of the Cultural Domain of "Relatives." American
Ethnologist 3:17-38.
1977 The Role of the Male in the Middle-Class Jamaican
Family: A Comparative Perspective. Journal of
Comparative Family Studies 8:369-389.
1978 The Cultural Domain of Marriage. American Ethnologist
5:5-14.
1984 Love, Race, Slavery, and Sexuality in Jamaican Images of
the Family. In: Kinship Ideology and Practice in
Latin America, Raymond T. Smith, ed. Chapel Hill, NC:
University of North Carolina Press. Pp. 147-180.
Amin, Samir
1974 Introduction. In: Modern Migrations in Western
Africa. London: Oxford University Press. Pp. 64-124.
434


316
but they continue to use Vincentian Creole and absorb the folk
ethos at home. The rapid expansion of primary and secondary
education since the 1950s means that many lower-class children's
parents and grandparents were not educated. Middle- and upper-
class children do not experience a dichotomy between the culture
of school and the culture of the home, since their parents were
educated in the few secondary schools in existence prior to the
1950s. However, middle- and upper-class children are not isolated
from the folk culture; they also learn Creole at home, from their
parents and servants, and from fellow students at school.
To summarize the role of kinship in reproduction in St.
Vincent, all childbearing and early socialization is carried out
in domestic groups by individuals related by genealogical ties to
the children. The child's biological mother does not always
perform the role of primary caretaker, although the relationship
is modelled on the idealized mother-child bond. Childcare is not
women's exclusive duty, but one that is integrated with their
other work (cf. Olwig 1985; Durant-Gonzalez 1982; Powell 1982,
1986; Moses 1977). Nor is childcare restricted to one woman
within a single household, but is shared by adults of both sexes
amongst the "family" or broader kinship network. This sharing
occurs both between and within domestic groups. For example, in
the Clarke's home, childcare was, at different times, the
responsibility of Prudie, the mother; Tom, the father; Susannah,


329
buys a house (cf. Mintz 1974; Otterbein 1966; Wilson 1973;
Abrahams 1983). A man who moves into his partner's house instead
of building or buying his own loses status. A man's status is
increased if he establishes his keeper and "outside" family in a
house. A woman who becomes a "keeper" does well in the
relationship if she secures title to the house and land in her own
name, especially if the man is already married to someone else and
therefore unlikely to ever marry her.
Many returned migrants told me that their major goal had been
to earn enough money overseas to buy or build a house in St.
Vincent when they returned. Home ownership improves migrants'
social status and provides security for their retirement.
Migrants send back money to build houses as well as to support of
partners and relatives. I heard sad stories about remittances
sent back by migrants to purchase housing that were appropriated
for personal use by the recipients. Vincentians are aware of the
continuing increase in the value of land and the cost of housing,
and would rather own as absent migrants than pay more later when
they return to retire. During Carnival time, special
advertisement campaigns on radio, television and in the newspaper
were aimed at visiting migrants, urging them "to own a piece of
the rock" and buy a house lot in one of the more desirable areas
now before it was too late.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The research upon which this dissertation is based was funded
by a Fulbright Grant awarded by the Institute of International
Education. To the Institute and to the staff of the U. S. Embassy
in Barbados, I am grateful.
My committee chairman, Allan F. Burns, has stood by me
throughout my years in graduate school. For his intellectual
guidance and his confidence in my abilities as an anthropologist,
I shall always be indebted.
My committee members have also been steadfast in their
encouragement and support. My deepest thanks go to Professors
Helen Safa, Robert Lawless, and Terry McCoy. I am especially
grateful to Jorge Duany for his editorial review and insightful
comments on drafts of this dissertation. To Linda Wolfe, my very
good friend, I extend my appreciation for the use of your computer
at key times and your unflagging support.
I would also like to acknowledge my intellectual debt to
several other faculty members of the University of Florida,
including Charles Wagley, for stimulating my interest in
anthropological studies of kinship; Charles H. Wood for his
knowledge of demography and development theory which I shamelessly
stole; and Marianne Schmink, Anita Spring, and Susan Poats for
iv


172
a bus or taxi if relatives did not meet him when he arrived in
England in the early 1960s. In this fashion, potential migrants
learn socially acceptable and unacceptable patterns of behavior in
their new cultures. They learn much that helps ease the shock of
arrival before they leave. Migrants already there continue to
help new migrants adjust.
In some ways, this process of information gathering and
transmittal is similiar to the "seasoning" that newly arrived
slaves went through as they learned how to conform to life on a
sugar estate (Bayley 1830). Like the African slaves, would-be
migrants learn how to adjust to an alien culture while surviving
and maintaining their own identity. Like the slaves, migrants
must learn how to manipulate a migration bureacracy not of their
creation, one that is designed to keep them at permanent
disadvantage. Again, as in slavery, the migrants' definition of
success is outsmarting the "system." The ultimate judges of one's
success as a migrant are other members of the sending society, not
those who control the system.
Thus, St. Vincent has become a "transnational society" whose
members move back and forth between sending and receiving
societies (cf. Gonzalez 1988:10; Richardson 1983:171-182).
Vincentians in St. Vincent can be thought of as potential
migrants, returned migrants, visiting migrants, and non-migrants,
although even many of the "non-migrants" have visited overseas.


120
West Indian islands collecting passengers, then began the Atlantic
crossing.
This massive West Indian exodus to the colonial mother
country represented a new kind of migration for Vincentians.
Previous migrations had been composed primarily of young, lower-
class men. The major destinations of earlier migrants had been
within the confines of the Caribbean Basinnearby, to Trinidad,
Guyana, Venezuela, and the Dutch Antilles, or further afield, to
the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Central America, and Panama.
Migration to metropolitan centers in the United States began in
the early and mid-twentieth century but the number of Vincentians
who participated was small compared to migrants to Caribbean
destinations. Earlier migrants went overseas primarily to work as
agricultural and manual laborers. Migrants left with the idea of
making enough money to come home as soon as possible, buy some
land, build a house, and marry.
The emigration to Great Britain was different in several
important ways. First, a larger and more representative cross-
section of the population participated. Soon after the movement
began, many men sent letters home asking their girlfriends to
marry them and join them in England because of a widespread belief
that single immigrants were going to be deported but married men
with wives would be permitted to stay (Peach 1968:48-49;
Rubenstein 1987:199). Many women emigrated, both to join their


208
able to hire lower-class women as domestic servants so that they
can pursue economic and social activities outside the household.
Amongst the lower class, domestic work is more divided by
gender than work outside the household, but again, lines are not
rigidly drawn between "men's work" and "women's work." Children
of both sexes grow up helping out with housework and childcare.
Of the major domestic chores, cooking and laundry are most closely
associated with women, while men do building, repairs, and
maintenance. Women do most of the house cleaning with the help of
children. Children, women, and men look after the yard; children
sweep and pick up trash, women plant flowers and care for the
kitchen garden, men maintain the livestock and fowl pens, trim
trees and bushes, and keep up fencing (cf. Moses 1977; Sutton and
Makiesky-Barrow 1977; Paul 1983; Olwig 1985; Berleant-Schiller
1977). Domestic work is not rigidly sex typed; men as well as
women cook, clean, do laundry, take care of children, and women
are capable of doing household repairs and caring for livestock.
Women look after infants and toddlers until the oldest child
is old enough to look after the younger ones, then mothers tend
mostly to the babies. Men are usually quite involved with their
children, playing with them, looking after them if the mother must
run errands. Both parents, and other related adults, supervise
and discipline children. Adults instruct children in necessary
skills and social rules by modelling appropriate behavior, giving


367
dependent ill recover and become economically active, they
continue to live in the household, receiving shelter and food, for
as long as their presence is acceptable to the household head.
Household headship or membership is not automatically
relinquished when Vincentians emigrate, especially if they leave
for a short period of time, such as a stint cutting cane in
Florida (cf. Otterbein 1966; Wilson 1973; Philpott 1973). The
migrant household head still controls household membership and
expenditures at a distance, through letters, telephone calls, or
third party messengers. When the household head is returning
soon, their wishes are respected. The migrants relatives in St.
Vincent keep him informed if his partner misspends his money or
has an affair with another man (cf. Philpott 1973).
For as long as these men continue to communicate with their
partners and send remittances, they remain head of their
households. When the head of household is gone for years rather
than weeks or months, and he stops communicating and sending
remittances, he loses his status. Headship status devolves to
whoever is resident and supporting the household. Migrants regain
headship status if they return or if they resume sending
remittances (cf. Philpott 1973; Otterbein 1966).
The following example illustrates the interrelationship
between house ownership and headship, and the continuing role
migrants play in household decision making. A small board house


74
they reside as a place to which they are, as it were,
exiled for a certain period; as a place containing
their properties, and therefore, of the greatest
consequence to them; but very few of them expect to
die on those properties. Those who can afford it are
in the habit of making trips every three or four years
to the United Kingdom; and nearly all look forward to
spending their last days in the land of their birth
(Bayley 1830:291-292).
Indeed, once their estates were established, most of the
large estate owners went back to England to live off their
profits. St. Vincent in the early nineteenth century was noted
for an extremely high rate of absentee proprietorship (Spinelli
1973:105). St. Vincent, one of the last British islands
colonized, had few social or cultural attractions, no institutes
of higher education, and rugged living conditions with few
amenities. Those planters who could afford to retire to England
with its more comfortable way of life did so. As absentee
ownership increased, the subsidiary elites became more powerful
(Rubenstein 1987:32). In time, they controlled most of the
estates. The political and economic interests of the two groups
of European/white Creole elites were quite similiar (Nanton
1983:223).
Between the two groups of whites and the black slaves was
another group, referred to as the "free colored," persons of mixed
race descended from liaisons between white male slave owners and
their black female slaves. It was customary for estate owners to
manumit their mixed race children, educate them, and establish


363
headship status are house ownership and financial support.
Situations in which all three factors do not coincide are usually
considered jointly headed households (cf. Massiah 1983). In some
cases, all three factors are separated; a migrant owns a house in
which the oldest family member lives with another family member
who provides financial support. The house owner is considered the
final authority in these situations.
Vincentians think that a married man should be head of his
own household (cf. Rubenstein 1987; Massiah 1983; Otterbein 1966;
White 1986; Powell 1986). If a man, in his lifetime, is unable to
establish his own household, he never becomes a "big" man or
successful adult. Within a household occupied by a married or
cohabiting couple, the "natural" order is for the man to be
dominant, the woman subordinate. When a woman's husband dies, she
inherits the house and becomes the household head. Some married
women are also considered heads of the household if their husbands
are elderly, infirm, or otherwise disabled, and they have assumed
major financial and decision making responsibility (cf. Rubenstein
1987; Otterbein 1966; M. G. Smith 1962a; Massiah 1983; White 1986;
Barrow 1986; Safa 1986).
However, Vincentian women also own houses through inheritance
from a parent or through purchase with earnings or remittances.
Women who own houses are the head of their household because they
own the house; their headship status has nothing whatsoever to do


8
(2) The reproduction of labor refers not only to rearing
children but also to the maintenance of adults, processes which
insure the continuation of society into the next generation.
(3) Social reproduction is the continual recreation of all
the main production relations in society, including the
reproduction of capital itself and the class system in capitalist
societies.
Maila Stivens (1981) examines the relationships between
women, kinship, and capitalist development in urban areas of the
First and Third Worlds. She argues that kin relations in
capitalist societies tend to become female-centered rather than
restricted within isolated male-headed "nuclear" families, as
earlier theorists had proposed. Stivens terms this process the
"domestication of kinship." As societies become capitalist, the
dominance of kin structures in the political system is eroded and
the economic importance of kinship is reduced. Social relations
of kinship remain dominant in the domestic group and in some
geographical areas in subsistence production as well. Although
the importance of kin relations in the wider political economy has
declined, kinship ties remain important in social reproduction.
Kin relations structure the social processes necessary to
social reproduction and the reproduction of labor, processes that
are not "incorporated into the direct capital-labor relation"
(Stivens 1981:114). Kinship relations are not solely determined


288
kinship, in which the two persons act as kin to each other in more
limited ways. This second type of kinship is discussed in a
subsequent section of this chapter.
An important kinship role designated within the domestic
group is that of "caretaker." A caretaker is usually, but not
always, a relative, sometimes the common-law spouse, child,
grandchild, niece, or "outside" child, of the person who is cared
for because of infirmities due to advanced age, disease or
disability, or mental retardation, senility, or insanity. The
term implies co-residence in the same household or as very near
neighbors. It indicates that the caretaker is completely
responsible for all the cooking, cleaning, washing, and nursing,
as well as running errands and conducting business on behalf of
the other. The caretaker is almost always a woman. The caretaker
role is acknowledged separately from that of other relatives.
Often, but not always, the other relatives of the individual being
cared for have migrated overseas or reside in other parts of the
island (cf. Philpott 1973). The caretaker may or may not be
financially responsible for the one cared for; sometimes, both
caretaker and the one cared for are being supported by other
relatives overseas. The caretaker may be the one to inherit the
other's house and personal possessions or receive some special
consideration when inheritance is being settled (cf. Berleant-
Schiller 1977; Rubenstein 1987). The caretaker usually receives


126
From 1970 to 1980 the population of St. Vincent increased to
approximately 98,124. The absolute increase in the population
between 1970 and 1980 was 11,810 while the natural increase
recorded for this period was 25,920, for a net emigration of
-14,110. The birth rate fell again, from 38.5 to 31.3, as did the
death rate, from 8.5 to 7.4. The sex ratio between 1960 and 1980
rose from 89 (also recorded for 1970) to 94, reflecting the
increasing participation of women in migration. The sex ratio of
Vincentian population is now the highest it has been since before
the end of slavery. Examination of the age and sex distribution
of the population (Table 4.2) shows the effects of wage labor
migration on the working age population. Breaking the 1980 figures
into broader segments, children under fifteen make up 43.6% of the
population, persons aged 15-64 (working age) make up 50.3%, and
persons 65 and over make up 6.1%. This represents a decrease in
the percentage of persons aged under 15 from 1970, and increases
in the other segments of the population, reflecting the declining
birth rate. The increase in the percentage aged 15-64, however,
is concentrated in the segment from 15-25, a reflection of the
high birth rates of the late 1950s and early 1960s.
The impact of the rapid growth of the youthful segment of St.
Vincent's population is reflected in the number of persons 25 and
under in 1980 (65,168), higher than the total population in 1946


276
the junior with his/her first name. This continues from the time
a child begins to talk to adulthood, and grown men and women will
be severely criticized by their own family and by others for
failing to show proper respect and deference to their elders.
When referring to a particular relative, Vincentians usually
say, "he must" or "he have to call me..." with the appropriate
terra that the junior relative should use to address them, such as
"grandmother," "auntie," "uncle," etc. If they are junior to the
relative mentioned, they will say "I must/have to call she auntie
or grandmother." There is a preference for using this form
instead of saying "she is my aunt/grandraother or niece/
granddaughter" to describe the relationship to a third party (cf.
Rubenstein 1987; Philpott 1973). This form is used in response to
a direct question (how is "x" related to you?/is "x" your
relative?") or as a spontaneous reference in an exchange of
greetings when being introduced. This form "X must call Y..." is
used by males and females, older and younger. This usage
indicates that individuals expect to be addressed by their kinship
terras or employ them in discourse when greeted by relatives. When
relatives are actually the same age but on a junior/senior
generational level, such as sometimes occurs between aunts/uncles
and nieces/nephews, the appropriate term of address will still be
used but the tone of the exchange is less respectful and the
relationship is a joking one.


53
interviews, such as life histories, and were also used when
several informants were gathered together to stimulate general
talks in which participants were not asked for self-disclosing
details.
I usually isolated statements, comments, and individual terras
that one informant used and would then ask another informant if 1
had heard or understood correctly. I would ask the new informant
to tell me other possible meanings or contexts of use for these
phrases or terms. Sometimes this tactic elicited a yes or no
response, or a yes but also this or a yes and that too, and then
the informant would provide another anecdote or example in which
the terra or expression was used. Of course, in some cases my
interpretation was way off, prompting considerable ridicule at my
expense.
When I wanted to feel some closure about emerging cultural
domains such as sexuality, kinship, race, and class, I conducted
structured ethnosemantic interviews using repetitive question
frames to establish exact definitions of terras and the
relationships between terms and classes of terras. I occasionally
tried to elicit definitions of terms that I knew were incorrect in
order to check ray own understanding and my informants' desire to
please. Again, ray errors were generally the ready basis for
laughter.


384
living in St. Vincent. None of their household members goes
overseas to work temporarily. Mr. Clarke worked as a temporary
farm laborer in the United States as a young man to earn enough
money to buy land and build a house.
Other households I observed in my neighborhood had similiar
strategies combining wage employment, household production,
exchange with relatives and neighbors, and the receipt of
remittances. Remittances came in the form of regular and
irregular cash payments, barrels at Christmas containing clothing,
food, other gifts, and presents sent for birthdays, christenings,
and other special occasions.
Ms. Suzie had been living with her mother and her pre-teen
daughter in a small house in Kingstown. Ms. Suzie worked
irregularly as a domestic and factory worker, but the main source
of their household income came from remittances from Ms. Suzie's
brother Primus, who had emigrated to Canada several years before.
When their mother died, the emigrant brother no longer wanted to
pay the rent on the house Ms. Suzie and her daughter lived in.
Instead, he suggested that she move into another house he owned in
Arnos Vale. Another brother of Ms. Suzie, Edward, was already
living in this house with his wife and new baby. Ms. Suzie and
her daughter, Annette, moved in with Edward. Neither Suzie nor
Edward paid Primus any rent.


42
Organization of Great Britain, or the Crossroads Organization of
Canada. Because I did not want to be typecast as a rich tourist
but could not change my skin color or American accent, I modeled
aspects of my dress and demeanour on recommendations given to
Peace Corps volunteers and advice I had read in fieldwork books.
I wore simple dresses or skirts and blouses with sandals, no
makeup, and very little jewelry. I did not hire a servant and did
all ray housework myself. I tried to observe Vincentian forms of
courtesy, such as greeting everyone in my neighborhood when I
passed them on the street and not entering anyone's yard without
their permission.
I usually introduced myself as a student or researcher from
the United States who had come to St. Vincent to study women's
roles and the importance of migration. Education is highly valued
in St. Vincent, and both terms of self-identifcation were received
with respect. When I first moved in, ray neighbors assumed I was a
Peace Corps volunteer, but because I visited Vincentians' homes,
invited them over to my home, and asked questions about
Vincentians' own opinions, I was eventually accepted as a
non-threatening, mildly amusing neighborhood diversion. Many of
ray neighbors were materially much better off than I was. I lacked
a television set, a car, most household appliances, and did not
hire a servant. Because I conformed to the "Peace Corps model" of
living standards and Peace Corps volunteers were known to be


7
This control extends over sexual expression, choice of partner,
timing of sexual contact, and acceptance or rejection of
pregnancy. It includes physical control over women's freedom to
associate with men and move freely in society; punitive sanctions
for transgressions; and ideological justifications for the sexual
code. This ideology is often internalized by women themselves who
then control their own and other women's behavior. Rosalind
Petchesky (1980) has proposed the concept of the "social relations
of reproduction" to describe the pervasive control men exert over
women. Petchesky argues that the actions entailed in human
reproduction, including sexuality and childbearing, are not
"natural" or "instinctive" but are embedded in a complex
sociocultural matrix.
Feminist critiques have forced many Marxists to reexamine the
concept of "reproduction" and broaden the concept of the
"material" beyond the economic to include sexuality and human
reproduction in their social context (Petchesky 1980). Maureen
Mackintosh (1981:9-10) distinguishes three separate meanings for
the term "reproduction." From the narrowest to the broadest sense,
she defines the concept in the following ways:
(1) Human reproduction refers to "the relations of marriage
and kinship in a society," which determine patterns of sexuality,
fertility, childcare, and socialization.


414
1976). From this culture emerged the "folk ethos" of the lower
class that is still evolving in St. Vincent.
The white European slave owners who came to St. Vincent
brought their culture with them, as well. The whites also adapted
their values to the conditions of slave society as they learned
the role of the master class (Mintz and price 1976). Contemporary
observers of West Indian whites commented upon the effects of
slavery upon the whites. They noted that West Indian whites often
had higher status in the West Indies than in Great Britain; many
estate owners had not been members of the upper class in England
or Scotland. They enjoyed privileges of power and wealth in the
West Indian colonies that were not theirs in Britains social
order. Observers and white West Indians alike commented upon the
destructive effects of this sudden wealth and power on the values
and character of white West Indians (Carmichael 1833; Bayley
1830). The white elites justified their position as slave owners
ideologically by asserting their inherent superiority over blacks
and of European culture ("civilization") over African culture
("barbarousness").
Even as their European values were being transformed within
West Indian slave society, the white elites clung to their
self-identification as Europeans because that identity was the
ideological justification of their position at the apex of the
color/class hierarchy. The slave owners also learned from their


341
the early twentieth century (cf. Abrahams 1983:138; Richardson
1985). Board houses now being built are smaller, their owners
poorer. Today, a person who could afford to build a larger,
ornate wooden house would prefer a wall house. A board house,
unless it is quite large, is not equal in status to a wall house.
It is not as durable as a wall house and will not stand up to
hurricanes, and it is more susceptible to fire and insect damage.
"Wall" Houses
Materials for a wall or cement block housecement blocks,
stucco, metal window and door frames, glass windows, and wood
doorsare available from local and imported sources. Cement
blocks are manufactured on St. Vincent, and sand, lime, and water
for mortar are freely available. However, the fixtures (windows,
doors, etc.) are all imported. The cash required to build a wall
house is considerably more than that required to build a board
house, and building a wall house requires a more highly skilled
and specialized labor crew.
Wall houses are also built off the ground on pilings or built
on hillsides, and the area below the main floor is excavated and
used for additional living space, storage, or as a garage or
servants' quarters by the well-to-do (cf. Abrahams 1983:139). The
exterior and interior of a wall house are usually painted. The
house may be occupied for several months or years before this last
step in the construction process is accomplished because unpainted


Figure 1-1. St. Vincent, West Indies


300
whether I was going back to America to give birth. When I told
her that the baby was doubly a "Vinci baby," because its father
was Vincentian and I was going to deliver at a local hospital, she
immediately asked me what my husband's name was and where he was
born. When I told her, she told me that she had grown up in the
same community as my husband's mother and that she and my
mother-in-law were cousins. Her entire demeanour changed rapidly,
as I moved from the status of "white foreigner" to "clearskin some
kind of relative," and my forms were moved to the top of queue to
be processed.
Vincentians also use general information about each other's
"family" to formulate opinions of another's character. "Families"
as well as individuals are ranked on the principle of deserving
"respect" (cf. Abrahams 1983). The judgment of a "family's" worth
is based on the behavior of the entire kindred, both in the past
and at the present time. Vincentians believe that a portion of
character is heritable, and that individual members conform to an
overall pattern of the family. Individuals who exhibit a
different behavior pattern, either positively or negatively, are
judged exceptions.
When my house was "broke" (broken into and robbed), my
neighbors were quick to point the finger of accusation at a young
man living nearby, Dan Cordice. While receiving my neighbors'
sympathy for my property loss, I also heard several tales about


239
Childbearing and Sexual Relationships
Men and women expect to have children in all relationships
that matter emotionally and socially. A woman is said "to have a
baby for" her partner not "to be pregnant by" him. Men seem to
expect women with whom they are involved to have a child for them
to demonstrate their love. I spoke to several young women who
told me they had broken off relationships with men who were
pressuring them to have children for them. In all these cases,
these women already had children from previous relationships that
had ended. One women did not want to have another baby because of
previous painful deliveries, but the others seemed more concerned
that another child would mean additional work and financial
burdens for them. One woman said she had told her partner she
would have a child for him only if they got married. In this
instance, she was actually withholding pregnancy to pressure the
man into marriage.
Pregnancy is often a watershed in sexual relationships, and a
successful resolution affects the future of a couples
relationship. While anxious to establish their virility, young
men do not always feel ready to accept the responsibility or
obligations of parenthood. They abandon their partners to fend
for themselves. A young woman who has been abandoned by a lover
when she got pregnant may become embittered and withdraw from
relationships. She feels betrayed and that her partner's love was


280
In the sense that the mother-child relationship is primary
for all Vincentians, is revered, and enjoins the child with the
lifelong obligation to repay the mother, the Vincentian kinship
system can be said to be matrifocal (cf. R. T. Smith 1956;
Durant-Gonzalez 1982; Rubenstein 1987; Clarke 1966; Rodman 1971;
Wilson 1973; Gonzalez 1969, 1970). However, the existence of a
matrifocal bias should not be used as evidence that the role of
the father is unimportant.
Men who have many children with many different women seldom
enter a social relationship with all of their children. They may
not even contribute to their financial support or socially
acknowledge or "own" them as theirs. However, at some point in
their lives, most men enter at least one enduring relationship
through legal or common-law marriage. It is in these long-
lasting, co-resident relationships that men enact the role of
father in St. Vincent.
When his sexual partner gets pregnant, a man is expected to
help provide the baby's layette and pay the doctor or hospital
bill (cf. Sanford 1975; Roberts and Sinclair 1978). Several men I
interviewed revealed an even closer involvement in their wives' or
girlfriends pregnancies. They experienced a host of physical
symptoms, including nausea, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. In one
instance, a young woman's boyfriend experienced these symptoms and
then told her she was pregnant before she knew it herself! I did


417
between different value systems within their culture undoubtedly
has helped Vincentians preadapt successfully to life as migrants
as they move back and forth between their society and other
countries.
The reality that West Indians of all colors and classes
possess their own unique identity is a theme that emerged when
colonialism ended and when West Indians began migrating to the
"mother country," Great Britain. Once in Great Britain, West
Indians discovered that they were not "Europeans," but "niggers,"
black and Creole people. Ironically, it was only by leaving their
homes that West Indians, like other Caribbean peoples, have
discovered their true identity as Creole nations. (Safa 1987)
Gender, Kinship, and Household in St. Vincent
In this dissertation, I described the Vincentian cultural
systems of gender, kinship, and household from a Vincentian
perspective, rather than imposing upon their actions and
statements a "nuclear family/household" model derived from a
Eurocentric ideal. In my fieldwork, I sought the meaning of
Vincentian gender and kinship patterns within the flow of
relationships, not merely in individuals' distilled precepts of
"right and wrong." In so doing, I searched for the "informal
logic of actual life" manifested in social action, including
speech (R. T. Smith 1984:12-13; Geertz 1973; Abrahams 1983). I
demonstrated the conflicts created by the social ambiguities and


223
the weak nature of women and heightens his fears about his control
over his own woman (cf. Freilich 1971).
Men rarely fight each other over women. Instead, men attempt
to "control" their partners by physical violence and the threat of
violence. Unfaithful women are also threatened with the loss of
their partners economic support and the end of the relationship.
Since any encounter with another man might be an opportunity for
seduction, men often beat their partners for merely talking to
other men or flirting. Beating your partner or "givin' she licks"
is a male perogative. A woman who is caught having an affair and
is beaten by her partner will receive little sympathy unless she
is actually injured severely. A man who does not or cannot
control his partner will lose respect, but a man who beats his
partner when it is perceived as justified, will not. However, a
man who constantly beats a woman who does not have affairs, also
loses status. Women whose partners frequently beat them without
"justification" usually return to their parental households if
they can or turn to their male relatives for support and
assistance.
Female sexual jealousy is also very common, but women have
few direct ways of retaliating against men for infidelity; a woman
who nags or makes a public scene with her partner runs the risk of
alienating him further. Instead, women tend to fight other women
over men, both physically and verbally, directly and indirectly.


26
above focused on men as migrants and the meaning of migration to
men, while women were mostly invisible.
The invisibility of women in Caribbean migration studies
contrasts strongly with the prominence they assume in
ethnographies of Caribbean family and household structure done
prior to the 1970s (cf. Clarke 1957; Gonzalez 1969; Smith, R. T.
1956). Early ethnographers assumed Caribbean family patterns were
derivative and degenerate forms of either African or European
family structures (Greenfield 1966; Herskovits 1937, Herskovits
and Herskovits 1947; Rodman 1971). Theorists debated the origins
of socially acceptable multiple forms of mating, a high incidence
of consensual unions and illegitimacy, the predominance of female
headed households, and a family value system described as
"matrifocal" (Horowitz 1967; Otterbein 1966; M.G. Smith 1962b).
Nancie L. Gonzalez (1970) defined "matrifocality" as a family
pattern in which mother-child bonds are stronger and more durable
than husband-wife ties. Relationships between family members are
defined and maintained through the mother-child dyad. Kinship
ties are strongest between women. Men occupy a marginal role to
the family/household and may relate simultaneously to several
women in different householdstheir mothers, sisters, wives,
daughters, and former and current sexual partners (Brana-Shute
1979; Wilson 1973). Despite their fascination with the unique
features of Afro-Caribbean families, researchers seldom examined


134
quality of life for its citizens, these improvements are necessary
to attract outside investors. In the late twentieth century,
migration has assumed a dual role; it relieves pressure on
services by removing some of the population, but it also takes
away many of the better educated and more ambitious young
Vincentians, helping create a classic "brain drain" situation.
St. Vincent remains dependent on foreign experts and foreign
capital to aid its development efforts while Vincentian nationals
flourish overseas professionally and economically (D. Marshall
1985:112-114).
Agriculture, the mainstay of the Vincentian economy, has
changed slightly in the post-war period. Production remains
divided between large estates that still control most of the land
and smallholdings that support the larger number of farmers. The
peasant sector grew in size and importance in the 1950s as bananas
became the major export crop (Rubenstein 1987:49-50). Many
returned migrants from Aruba, Curacao, and Trinidad invested their
earnings in small businesses and land, becoming small farmers in
the rapidly developing banana industry (Spinelli 1973: 183-189).
Bananas, or "Green Gold," were first introduced as a cash
crop in St. Vincent in 1902 but did not achieve economic
importance until the 1950s. The emergence of bananas as the major
cash crop of St. Vincent depended on the return of reliable
shipping after World War II ended, the introduction of disease-


297
attain ownership over "family" property until their parents die.
By law, the widow or widower and legal children inherit the
deceased's estate. Both male and female legitimate children
inherit from their parents. "Outside" children must be
specifically acknowledged in their parent's will to inherit
legally. Often, a favored outside child receives a piece of land
or a house from a parent prior to death, to ensure that the child
does receive part of the parent's estate (Rubenstein 1987; Wilson
1973). Thus, to acquire control over economic resources,
Vincentians must either earn enough money to purchase buy their
own property or wait until their parents die. Mrs. Gordon's
mother was said "to have done well by her daughter" by turning
ownership of a part of her lands over to her daughter before she
died.
Only a minority of Vincentians are the products of legal
unions or have parents' with property to inherit, but it remains
the ambition of most Vincentians to be property owners and heads
of their own households. Vincentians who will not inherit
"w_
property perceive migration as the best means of acquiring it for
themselves (cf. Philpott 1973; Richardson 1983; Hill 1977). Even
Vincentians who will inherit from their parents after they die
often prefer to migrate to earn the money to purchase their own
property or start a business, thereby evading the control of their
parents over their lives. Young Martin Burroughs felt


309
servants take care of their employers'children, their own children
remain with their relatives. Sometimes the servants' children are
permitted to visit their mothers and play with the employers'
children; Leroy remembers receiving clothing and toys his mother's
employers' children had outgrown.
In the upper and middle classes, servants provide the
assistance with housework, childcare, and house repairs that kin
exchange with each other in the lower class. There is an
employer/employee relationship between master and servant rather
than a relationship of mutual reciprocity. Among the Vincentian
upper and middle classes, relationships with relatives are based
more on shared social life and economic mobility than on shared
work. However, middle and upper class ideas about the nature and
importance of kinship relations are very similar to those of the
lower class. Both stress the concept of identity based on shared
"blood" and the obligation to assist kin whenever possible (cf.
Alexander 1976, 1978, 1984; R. T. Smith 1987).
The extension of kinship networks across class lines acts to
keep the social distance between classes smaller in St. Vincent
than in Caribbean societies with much larger populations, such as
Jamaica and Trinidad. Kinship relations circulate social and
economic resources across class lines. The small size of the
island's population and its inter-relatedness also keeps the


190
Gender is only one of several social categories that
Vincentians use to rank individuals. Other attributes that affect
social status are age, class, and character. Older individuals,
members of the middle and upper class, and persons of good
character all receive deference from their peers and their social
subordinates, who are younger individuals, members of the lower
class, and individuals of bad character, respectively. Within
each category, a man is accorded higher status that a woman.
Thus, a higher class man has higher social status than a higher
class woman; an older man has higher status than an older woman;
and a man of good character has higher status than a woman of good
character. However, across categories, class, age, and character
can outweigh gender, so that a higher class woman has more status
than a lower class man, or an older woman has more status than a
younger man, and a woman of good character has more status than a
man of bad character.
Moreover, among men of all classes and ages, the sexual
"conquest" of multiple partners and the social subordination or
"control" of these partners contributes significantly to a man's
prestige amongst his male peers. In contrast, women of all
classes lose social status if they acquire a reputation of being
too sexually available, although the measure of such behavior and
the sanctions applied vary considerably by class.


441
Guyer, Jane
1981 Household and Community in African Studies. African
Studies Review 24:2/3:87-137.
Henney, Jeannette H.
1980 Sex and Status: Women in St. Vincent. In: A World of
Women, Erica Bourguignon, ed. New York: Praeger
Publishers. Pp. 161-183.
Henriques, F. M.
1953 Family and Colour in Jamaica. London: Eyre and
Spottiswoodie.
Henry, Frances
1987 Caribbean Migration to Canada: Prejudice and
Opportunity. In: The Caribbean Exodus, Barry B.
Levine, ed. New York: Praeger Publishers. Pp. 214-
222.
Henry, Frances and Pamela Wilson
1975 The Status of Women in Caribbean Societies: An Overview
of Their Social, Economic, and Sexual Roles. Social and
Economic Studies 24:165-198.
Herskovits, Melville J.
1937 Life in a Haitian Valley. New York: Knopf.
Herskovits, Melville J. and Frances S. Herskovits
1947 Trinidad Village. New York: Knopf.
Higman, Barry W.
1976 Slave Population and Economy in Jamaica, 1807-1834.
Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press.
1979 African and Creole Slave Family Patterns in Trinidad.
In: Africa and the Caribbean: Legacy of A Link,
Margaret Crahan and Franklin S. Knight, eds. Baltimore:
Johns Hopkins University Press. Pp. 41-64.
Hill, Donald R.
1977 The Impact of Migration on the Metropolitan and Folk
Culture of Carriacou, Grenada. New York: American
Museum of Natural History.
Hill, Robert T.
1898 Cuba and Porto Rico with the Other Islands of the West
Indies. New York: The Century Co.


272
females is "the Old Queen." Ego's male biological or adoptive
parent is referred to as "poppa" or "dad", and addressed as "Dah."
The informal terra of reference, "Old Man," parallels the usage of
"the Old Queen," but is used less often. An adoptive parent may
be distinguished from a biological parent by including "who realed
(reared) me" along with "mother" or "father." In cases where ego
was adopted or fostered by another relative, the kinship term
appropriate to that relative is usually retained along with "who
realed (reared) me" as a tag to mark the relationship, i.e., "me
tante who realed me," "me sissie who realed me," etc.
An individual does not usually refer to a stepparent as
"mother" or "father" unless that individual acted in lieu of the
biological parent. A stepparent is not referred to as a
"stepmother" or "stepfather", but as "my mother's husband/
boyfriend" or "Mr. So and So," or as "my father's wife/girlfriend"
or "Mistress So and So." Another form of reference is to say "my
brother/sister's father/mother", implying that the individual in
question is not also egos father or mother. Another way
Vincentians refer to stepparents is to call them "mother/father-
in-law" (cf. MacDonald 1973).
Ego's mother's or father's male siblings are referred to as
"uncles," female siblings are called "aunts," "aunties," or
"tante." These relatives are addressed as "uncle" and "aunt" or
"auntie" or "tante," respectively. Individuals married to ego's


179
dressed up, looking for women to impress and take home. The women
go visiting their relatives and old school friends in rental cars,
catching up on family news and community gossip, exchanging
pictures of children and grandchildren. Both men and women spend
much time looking up old friends, sexual partners, and, of course,
all their relatives, to renew their relationships with gifts from
overseas and the exchange of information. Visiting migrants
participate freely in the Carnival celebrations and can be heard
commenting loudly that only in St. Vincent do people really know
how to party and have a good time. Life overseas may be exciting
and adventurous, but only back home can one be truly one's self,
relax, and celebrate. Jobs and other worries are far away and
Carnival time is here, and will soon be gone.
At the same time that visiting migrants appreciate that they
are back home and can be themselves, visitors are also concerned
about the image they are projecting. They want to appear to be
glamorous and well-off, even if it means saving half the year and
doing without for months before coming to Carnival. Visitors
often stretch the truth or even lie about their circumstances
overseas to impress their friends and relatives. They omit
stories about discrimination or hardship from their repertoire of
tales, at least when they are in public and away from their
immediate family.


92
themselves to the merchants in the capital, and forestalled the
development of a black entrepreneurial class in the countryside
(Ciski 1973:10; W. Marshall 1983:100). The East Indians competed
directly with the black farmers in the production of food crops.
These factors helped made it more difficult for the freed blacks
to force changes in the local economy and reinforced their
reliance upon migration.
The freed blacks responded to worsening working conditions
with strikes and riots as well as increased emigration (W.
Marshall 1983:106-107). The estate riots of 1862 that spread
through the eastern half of the island were provoked by wage
reductions and the restriction of customary privileges extended to
workers (including access to idle estate lands for cultivation of
provisions) (W. Marshall 1983). In addition to estate owners and
overseers, the rioting blacks also targeted East Indian and
African immigrant workers, Portuguese shop owners, and the free
colored (W. Marshall 1983:90-91). After the riots were
suppressed, one Vincentian member of the white elite wrote that
harsh suppression of the riots had aggravated the "Colour
Question": "the White and Coloured People are as a class bitterly
denounced by the Blacks, and I am sorry to say that on the part of
the Whites and the Coloureds this feeling appears to be repaid
with interest" (John Barratt, 1862, quoted in W. Marshall 1983:
106)


33
inhabitants were displaced by African and Europeans, although a
small remnant group of Caribs still remains. The economy was
shaped by European-controlled, estate-organized sugar monoculture
and slavery. After Emancipation in 1838, the freed blacks
resisted estate labor by emigrating and turning to small farming.
The estate owners coped with the resulting labor shortages by
importing indentured laborers, including Portuguese from the
Madeiran Islands, East Indians, and liberated Africans. Although
small in size, the population is still ethnically and racially
diverse. Vincentians speak an English Creole as well as standard
West Indian English.
Hymie Rubenstein and Roger Abrahams had both done research in
St. Vincent in the 1960s, and their published work provided a
basic description comparable to that available for Carriacou. Two
friends of mine had either worked or done research in St. Vincent
and offered to provide me with introductions to possible contacts.
Gary Brana-Shute, an anthropologist who was working as a
consultant on a rural development project in St. Vincent,
cautioned me at great length on personal safety, and these
warnings were repeated by officials in the U.S. government. I
learned that two Peace Corps volunteers had been raped in St.
Vincent in 1982. My initial Vincentian contacts also recommended
that I not stay in the guest house I had intended to use as a
preliminary base of operations. Instead, they told me to ask the


27
the underlying system of beliefs about kinship, gender, and the
household (Brana-Shute 1980; Smith 1978, 1984).
Compared to the later studies of migration, the early
ethnographies of families and households focused almost
exclusively on women, while treating men as peripheral and
intermittent social actors. Moreover, researchers rarely
mentioned migration as a significant event and generally
overlooked possible relationships between family patterns and
migration. The theoretical perspective that dominated Caribbean
family studies has made it difficult for contemporary researchers
to incorporate their findings into the migration paradigm. Family
studies focused on "structure" whereas analysts of migration tend
to describe a "process." Connections between the two social
domains have been left largely unexplored. Missing from the
Caribbean ethnographic tradition is a theoretical framework that
can tie migration and family patterns together in a meaningful
way.
This dissertation proposes that a feminist, historical-
structural analysis of the reproduction of labor can help develop
such a framework. This dissertation uses St. Vincent as a case
study of this method of analysis and asks three main questions:
1) How did the evolution of St. Vincent into a "migration
society" affect the reproduction of labor?


254
Freilich (1971) referred to the way lower-class raen in
Trinidad gain prestige amongst their male peers as the "sex-fame
game" (Freilich 1971:48). The same "game" operates in St.
Vincent, although the terminology used is slightly different. As
Freilich points out men use women for immediate sexual
gratification and to achieve status amongst their male peers.
Vincentian men use a variety of techniques to gain sexual favors
and control over women, including "sweet talk" or verbal
persuasion, the promise or actual provision of financial reward
and economic security, and physical force. A man tries to get a
woman to become emotionally attached to him so that she will give
him exclusive sexual access and "control." Men lose status if
they give away too much to women emotionally or financially to
secure their sexual favors. A man should not be too willing to
please his sexual partner by curtailing behavior she does not
like, such as spending too much time and money drinking with "the
boys" or seeing other women. Lower-class men are engaged in a
constant strugglethey must gain sexual access to women to earn
prestige amongst their male peers without giving up too much
financially or emotionally, but if they do not give their sexual
partners enough security financially or socially through marriage,
they lose control over their women to other men and thus lose
status (cf. Freilich 1968).


219
standard applies to how many partners a man and a woman should
have at the same time. There is also a double standard concerning
the expression of sexual jealousy.
In St. Vincent, a man can have more than one partner at the
same time and be quite open about it, while a woman is supposed to
be sexually faithful and have only one partner at a time. A man
can be legally married to one woman and see one or more others as
well, and contribute financially to every one. While the women
concerned may not be happy about the arrangement, the man receives
little social censure from the community so long as he meets all
his responsibilities and provides for his children. The man's
partners will be criticized and lose status if they do not
tolerate the arrangement or pretend to ignore it.
Although women are not supposed to have simultaneous multiple
relationships, they are not penalized for practicing serial
monogamy. If they break off a relationship with a man, or he with
them, they are not expected to remain unattached. Having had
previous relationships does not affect a woman's attractiveness to
other men. Women maintain the sexual double standard not because
they fear social sanctions, but because they must be able to
establish paternity if they get pregnant. An illegitimate child
in St. Vincent is not one whose parents were not legally married,
but one whose father does not acknowledge him or her and whose
mother cannot establish any man as the father.


CHAPTER FIVE
CONTEMPORARY MIGRATION: PATTERNS AND STRATEGIES
Contemporary Migration Patterns
This chapter describes contemporary migration patterns and
the different strategies Vincentians use to take advantage of
migration opportunities. Brief case studies are presented to
illustrate different migration patterns. Next, this chapter shows
how Carnival, the most important Vincentian cultural festival, has
assumed a new function in the contemporary migration society. It
simultaneously renews visiting migrants' self identity as
Vincentians and helps perpetuate the migration ideology. The
chapter concludes with a discussion of the migration ideology
operative in contemporary Vincentian society.
Instead of using one particular phrase to refer to the
current era as was the custom in the past, Vincentians today say
that "now everyone wan' go oversea." Vincentian migration has
become increasingly diversified, dominated by international
migration to the metropolitan centers of Northern Hemisphere
countries, although regional Caribbean migration has continued.
Today's migrants leave for many different destinations and use a
variety of strategies to get there. Labor recruitment organized
by employers is less important, while individual initiative and
social networks have become critical to migration today.
149


202
shopkeeping, domestic service, and a few skilled trades. The
middle class is concentrated in the professions, government
service, and retail trade. The upper class remains involved in
large estate production, manufacturing, and tourism.
Gender Division of Labor: Production
Occupational categories are not closely tied to gender in St.
Vincent. There are no strict dividing lines between "men's work"
and "women's work" in productive activities (cf. Sutton and
Makiesky-Barrow 1977). Class, race or ethnicity, access to
education and capital, overseas experience, and kinship ties are
often much more important in finding work. A discriminatory
pattern exists, however, in which women tend to be relegated to
lower paid, less skilled, and less responsible positions in all
economic sectors, while men hold the majority of higher paid, more
skilled, and more responsible managerial positions in retail,
banking, industry, the professions, and the civil service (cf.
Sutton and Makiesky-Barrow 1977). Legally, wages are also
discriminatory, with women's wages less than men's for the same
work in both agriculture and industry. Certain low paid
occupations, such as domestic service, are heavily dominated by
women.
Most lower-class men and women work in agriculture. Men
control production of the major cash crops, bananas and arrowroot,
but women assist men with these crops and some women grow them on


ARNOS
VALE
ST. VINCENT
o ri l
i i i
Mill'S
Figure 2-1. Arnos Vale, St. Vincent


142
During the contemporary period, St. Vincent joined the
"global village," when the broadcast media began local operations.
In the mid-1960s, Windward Islands Broadcasting Service began a
radio station in St. Vincent. In 1975, the Vincentian government
took over operation of the radio station, and in 1979 began
operating a television station and satellite dish. Programming
for both stations depends heavily on international services such
as the BBC and CNN, although local shows are also offered. The
modern age reached directly into Vincentians' living rooms and
rumshops as TVs, transistor radios, and "boom boxes" became
ubiquitous. The glamour of life overseas, previously communicated
through the stories of returned migrants, was now available for
everyone to see and hear.
Contemporary Class Structure
Class barriers began falling after World War II as return
migrants from Trinidad and Curacao/Aruba invested their money in
businesses and land. The Civil Rights and Black Power movements
in the United States also affected ideologies of race and class in
the Caribbean. In St. Vincent, several radical political parties
emerged to champion the lower class. The color bar to elite
society fell when lower class politicians moved into the elite
(Rubenstein 1987:61). The middle class grew with the expansion of
government civil service and the island's educational and health
care systems.


251
behavior and through their achievements in the domestic sphere
(cf. Abrahams 1983; Brodber 1986; Durant-Gonzalez 1982; Powell
1982; Sutton and Makiesky-Barrow 1977; Moses 1977; Henry and
Wilson 1975). These standards are similiar to those prescribed
for women by the folk ethos. Both value systems emphasize the
restraint women must exert over their sexuality. In both systems,
women use their sexuality to gain access to men's economic
resources and establish their own households (cf. Wilson
1973:131). Middle- and upper-class women legally marry before
establishing households, and they are dependent on men to provide
this social and economic base. Among the lower class, men provide
the necessary cash to create the household base for women's
subsistence economic efforts and to pay for any extra needs of the
household. In all classes women's status and prestige is closely
tied to the appearance and success of her householdboth
physically, in the maintenance of the house and yard obtained
through her labor, and socially, in the behavior and achievements
of her children. Middle- and upper-class women can hire servants
to do much of their domestic work, but the woman is still held
accountable for how well her household is managed. Middle and
upper class women are considered even more responsible for
nurturing their children and ensuring their social success (cf.
Moses 1977; Brodber 1986).


CHAPTER NINE
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
Caribbean ethnographers debated for years the origin and
function of the unique features of Afro-Caribbean families which
contrasted strongly with the nuclear family model believed to be
universal (R. T. Smith 1978, 1984). Most early studies of the
Caribbean family focused exclusively on the largely black, lower
class of the region. An explicit assumption guiding research was
that the "deviant" features of the "typical" Caribbean family were
aberrations induced by conditions of social and economic
deprivation (Clarke 1957; Greenfield 1966; Rodman 1971; Rubenstein
1987; M.G. Smith 1962b; R.T. Smith 1956). The "ideal" family
pattern was ascribed to the middle and upper classes who were
assumed to conform to "European" values (Rodman 1971). The actual
behavior and ideology of the middle and upper classes was seldom
critically studied and inter-class relationships were largely
ignored (R.T. Smith 1978).
Although early ethnographers assigned African or European
proveniences to features of the Afro-Caribbean family, a
historical perspective that examined the actual development of
Af ro-Caribbean gender, kinship, or household systems was lacking.
Nancie L. Gonzalez' study of the Black Carib (1969) and Keith
Otterbein's study of the Andros Islanders (1966) were notable
400


203
their own lands. Men export the cash crops through marketing
associations dominated by the large land holders and the more
prosperous small farmers, the majority of whom are middle and
upper class men. Women produce root crops, vegetables, and some
spices which are consumed and sold domestically, and exported
regionally. Female traffickers control local and regional trade
in these commodities, although some men also participate.
Agricultural work is divided along gender lines but not
rigidly. Men clear the land using machetes and hoes, supervise
burning excess vegetation, prepare the soil for planting,
construct hillside terraces and irrigation ditches if necessary,
and put up fencing. Both sexes plant crops, although men do most
of the planting of bananas. Men administer the herbicides used
extensively with bananas, as well as fertilizer and insecticides
used on other crops. Women weed and thin crops by hand or with
the hoe and machete. Harvesting is done by hand or by machete
(bananas) by both sexes. Both men and women transport the crops
to market either on their heads or on donkey back. Many estate
workers in copra production are women. Men tend to be hired as
overseers, supervisors, and technicians.
Other lower class economic activities include charcoal making
and fishing. Both men and women make charcoal, often when land is
cleared for planting. Fishing is primarily a male activity,
although women assist in pulling seines to shore. Livestock are


49
fieldnotes later. I did not want to interrupt the flow of events
with notetaking nor to violate the privacy of individuals by tape
recording them without their permission.
I was able to observe and participate in a variety of
settings, including private houses and yards, public streets,
shops and stores, on public transport, beaches, churches and
churchyards, schools and schoolyards, restaurants, movie theatres,
and nightclubs, government buildings and offices, the courts, the
hospital, clinics and the pharmacy, and the library. Most of my
time was spent in my community or in Kingstown, or commuting
between them, but I also took fieldtrips to all the other towns
and several villages.
My use of naturally occurring speech to study Vincentian
culture was prompted by Roger Abrahams and Richard Bauman's
research on the ethnography of speaking on St. Vincent, from which
they concluded:
Talking...bears all the earkraarks among the Vincentian
peasants of a cultural focus... Speech behavior is one
of the most crucial keys to social life in every
culture, but such is the degree of interest and
self-consciousness among the Vincentians, and such the
degree of cognitive importance that speaking assumes,
that the ethnographic elucidation of the use of
language in Vincentian peasant society can yield
insights of the most direct and immediate kind into
the Vincentian culture as a whole (1983:88).
Vincentians have identified and labelled many types of talk,
and use these terras when discussing events and individuals


349
livestock and fowls. Middle-class houses usually have a front or
side porch which functions as a second living room for casual
entertaining and a vantage point from which household members
observe and comment on the world passing by outside the yard (cf.
Austin 1984). In this respect, the yard is still a vital part of
the household for the middle class, in contrast to the upper class
who have retreated into their houses and left the yard to the
gardener and other servants.
The amount of household activity that occurs in the yard, and
its visibility, varies by class as do patterns of labor exchange
and sharing. Women in the lower-class engage in household-based
productive and reproductive work and rely on labor shared and
exchanged with their female relatives. Physically shared yards
symbolize this pattern (cf. Davenport 1968; Brodber 1975). In
contrast, women in the middle and upper class participate in wage
work outside the household and domestic work within the household.
They rely on servants to perform domestic chores such as cleaning
and do not need to exchange labor with relatives. Middle- and
upper-class women are supported by their husbands, work for wages
themselves, or are entrepreneurs. For middle- and upper-class
Vincentian women the house becomes the center of family life and a
place to entertain female friends and relatives. Middle- and
upper-class women socialize with their kinship and friendship
networks and use them to enhance their families social status and


250
Up to this point, I have discussed the opposition between the
colonial ideology and the folk ethos without mentioning gender
differences, because the basic values of each system, as
described, are shared by men and women. The contrast I have tried
to highlight is between classes. The lower class concedes the
social desirability of the values of the colonial order but also
maintains a parallel system of values based on character rather
than wealth.
There are differences in the gender roles prescribed by each
value system that 1 would now like to describe. Both the colonial
ideology and the folk ethos prescribe similiar behavior for women,
which led Wilson (1973) to the conclusion that women in all
classes share the ethos of "respectability" promulgated by the
colonial order. However, Wilson never examined the folk ethos for
the ways women earn prestige. Outward dissimiliarities in the
behavior of upper/middle-class and lower-class men have supported
the impression that men of different classes have radically
different gender ideologies, when in fact they are quite similiar.
It is more difficult for lower-class men to obtain the status
markers of the colonial ideology than it is for lower-class women
because the achievement of high status for men requires access and
control over economic resources most lower-class men are blocked
from attaining. In contrast, women achieve status within the
colonial ideology by adhering to the norms of "respectable"


379
Every household in St. Vincent is tied into the country's
capitalist economy and dependent on cash income to meet some
expenses. Through migrant members, Vincentian households are tied
into the internalist capitalist economy as well (cf. Philpott
1973; Griffith 1985; Rubenstein 1982, 1983, 1987; Frucht 1968).
Households acquire access to cash in several ways. Household
members earn money as wages from jobs in the formal and informal
Vincentian economy and from working overseas; household residents
receive money as remittances from migrant relatives and spouses;
and household residents receive money from non-resident relatives
and partners who live in St. Vincent. To meet their consumption
needs, most Vincentian households combine some household-based
production with the purchase of other goods and services. In
addition, households are subsidized through the exchange of
services and products with other households tied by kinship or
gender relations to household members, and by the gift of items
that would otherwise have to be purchased or produced. These
gifts, like cash, come both from non-resident relatives and
partners who have emigrated overseas or those who continue to live
on St. Vincent but not in the same household as the recipient.
Households survive through combining these resources and
channeling them efficiently and productively (cf. Rubenstein 1987;
Olwig 1985; Griffith 1985).


144
residents. The middle class occupy an ambiguous position, since
members usually hold salaried jobs but are also small farm or
business owners. Members of the middle class struggle to maintain
their intermediate position by adhering to a strategy of
"occupational multiplicity" similiar to that of the lower class,
holding several jobs and business interests simultaneously, and
also engaging in some household based production. The Vincentian
middle class can be further differentiated into two groups: the
traditional middle class, descended from the urban free colored
and brown professionals and small business sector of the
nineteenth century, whose members have inherited their property
and class standing; and the "new" middle class, composed of
upwardly mobile individuals who entered the expanding civil
service or are successful returned migrants. The traditional
middle class identifies with the upper class culturally and
attempts to imitate their consumption style, while the new middle
class still shares many values with the lower class. Numerically,
both middle class groups together represent about 10% of the
Vincentian population (Rubenstein 1987:64-66; Fraser 1973:3).
As Rubenstein (1976, 1987) has demonstrated, the working or
lower class is not a monolithic block. Several subgroups exist,
including the "blue collar" working class, rural and urban, which
includes small farmers (less than ten acres; the vast majority
with less than five), some tradesmen, skilled craftsmen,


402
peoples merely as victims responding to the shifting conditions of
the world economy. Instead, contemporary ethnographers have
stressed that these Afro-Caribbean peoples have used their Creole
cultural heritage creatively to cope with their difficult
circumstances and forge a unique identity. A new vision has
emerged from the ethnographic literature of individuals and
families manipulating a flexible system of choices against a
backdrop of the socieconomic, political, demographic, and
ecological conditions beyond their immediate control. Caribbean
ethnographers and historians have begun reclaiming the actual
history of the "folk" from the slave society to the present (Mintz
and Price 1976; Price 1983; Olwig 1985; Higman 1976; R. T. Smith
1987; Craton 1978).
In light of this shift in perspective, Nancie L. Gonzalez,
the ethnographer of the Black Carib (or Garifuna), recently
re-examined her data collected over the past twenty-eight years.
Gonzalez (1984) has decided to abandon any attempt to classify
Garifuna households by structural "type." She now views Garifuna
households as "ephemeral, transitory agglomerations of kin who
cluster together when their personal needs compel them to seek
succor and subsistence, or when they can be drawn in (even
coerced) to help support others" (Gonzalez 1984:7). Gonzalez
posits that three "transformational themes"individualism,
matrifocality, and migrationproduce the diversity of kin grups


38
persons, representing 16% of the total population of Calliaqua
district of 17,493 (St. Vincent 1980 Census, Provisional Figures).
Calliaqua is a large district comprising most of the southern tip
of St. Vincent, and contains 18% of the total population of the
country. Calliaqua district has an area of 11.8 square miles with
a population density of 1,478 persons per square mile. Arnos
Vale's population is growing rapidly with the addition of new
members through births, rural-urban migration, and return
migration from overseas.
Although figures for race and ethnicity are not available
separately for Arnos Vale, the entire district of Calliaqua is one
of the most diverse in the island. In 1980, Calliaqua's
population was 79% black, 14% mixed, 2.5% white, .5% Portuguese,
2.5% East Indian, .1% Amerindian or Carib, and .4% other. The
proportion of blacks is slightly lower than the national figure of
82%, but the proportions of whites (including Portuguese) and East
Indians are slightly higher than the national figures of 1.6% for
whites and 1.6% for East Indians. The percentage of respondents
reporting mixed race in Calliaqua district is the same as the
national figure (14%). My neighborhood in Arnos Vale included
representatives of almost every Vincentian racial group except for
elite whites, who lived in more prestigious communities or in the
capital. Living in close proximity to ray house were East Indians,
Portuguese, Caribs, poor whites, Syrians, as well as Vincentians


240
not sincere since he did not accept her pregnancy and acknowledge
their relationship. Sometimes the woman does not want the child.
She may seek an abortion, give the infant away to relatives after
it is born, or in some cases, let the baby die through neglect or
even deliberate infanticide. This may happen when she has been
abandoned by her partner or if she feels she does not love him or
want to accept the obligations of parenthood. Both of these
negative outcomes demonstrate the underlying expectation that
serious relationships between men and women lead to them bearing
and rearing children together. Sexual partners consider children
the natural and positive outcome of their relationship.
Sexual relationships in St. Vincent are structured according
to principles of reciprocity. Men provide financial support to
their partners in exchange for sexual and domestic services. Men
and women both want to have children and believe that children are
the natural and expected outcome of sexual relationships. It is
difficult for a Vincentian, man or woman, to think of "love" for
another person without thinking in terms of a sexual relationship
whose ultimate physical expression is the birth of a child.
Children are perceived as "gifts" women have for their partners.
A child creates a permanent bond between sexual partners and
enables a woman to always exert an economic claim over the father
of the child. Relationships between men and women in St. Vincent


128
(61,647) (See Table 4.3). The number of persons aged 25 to 64 in
1980 was 27,040, only a third higher than the number aged 25 to 64
in 1946 (20,070). The dependency ratio has nearly doubled in 24
years, but the number of working age persons has grown by only a
third. Again, this reflects the increasing numbers of women as
well as men emigrating. Both men and women leave their children
behind in St. Vincent in the care of grandparents and other
relatives.
Increasing population exacerbates St. Vincent's economic,
social, and political problems. Social services and employment
have not been able to keep pace. St. Vincent has one of the
highest youth unemployment rates in the Eastern Caribbean
(Brana-Shute and Brana-Shute 1982). Population pressure on
limited resources and a lack of jobs in turn contribute to more
migration. The remainder of this chapter presents a brief
description of the changes in the Vincentian political economy
since World War II in order to demonstrate the continuities
between St. Vincent's contemporary social structure and in its
past, as well as forces creating change in the present.
Post-War Changes in the Political Economy
From World War II to the present day, political and economic
reforms, continued migration, and externally-funded economic
development efforts have combined to effect great change in the
Vincentian political economy and class structure. The government


14
countries in the center, and supplied the center with raw
materials and agricultural commodities. The center retained
control over manufacturing and trade in manufactures. Terms of
trade between the center and the periphery have become
increasingly unequal as the center has accumulated more capital
and the periphery has remained underdeveloped. As a result of
this process of capital accumulation at the center and economic
stagnation at the periphery, labor is attracted to the center from
the periphery. As monopoly capital from the center penetrates the
economies of the periphery and transforms peasant and plantation
structures into agribusiness, labor is forced out of rural areas
(Amin 1974). The initial demand for labor to transform these
peasant economies may create a short-term "population explosion,"
but as the process continues this surplus becomes a drain on the
shrinking peasant sector of the economy. The conditions are set
into motion for large-scale migration from the countryside, both
internally into the urban areas of the periphery and
internationally to the center (Burawoy 1976; Portes 1978;
Sassen-Koob 1980).
Individual migrants are able to participate in the
international system of production under more favorable returns
for their labor than are available in the local economy. Although
migrant workers elude local constraints, they sell their labor
elsewhere under conditions equally unresponsive to their needs.


5
promulgate and justify the "migration ideology" that keeps
emigrants going away, sending back remittances, and eventually
returning. In a "migration society" these social relationships
bear a paradoxical burden: people must be encouraged to leave, yet
they must remain attached emotionally and continue to feel
obligated to support those left behind. Migration thus
simultaneously threatens and maintains the social relationships
within the reproduction of labor.
This dissertation will focus on how domestic groups in St.
Vincent resolve these paradoxes to ensure their survival and
reproduction. The analysis of the cultural systems that structure
the reproduction of labor will be based on a three-dimensional
model of domestic groups composed of a gender system, a kinship
system, and a household system. This analytic model of domestic
groups is an extension of a two-dimensional model proposed by
Anthony T. Carter (1984). Each system includes cultural
principles used as guidelines for action and the interpretation of
social interaction, as well as a supporting ideology for these
rules (Carter 1984; Yanigasako 1979). The three systems generate
observable patterns of social behavior as well as more deeply held
beliefs and values whose meanings may not be as easily articulated
by members of a society. The three components of this model of
domestic groups derive from feminist analyses of gender, kinship,
and household discussed in more detail in the following section.


95
encouraging their relatives to join them, many eventually returned
home. The frequency of migration for individuals cannot be
determined either; some men made several trips during their
lifetimes while others went only once (cf. Richardson 1983:
85-92).
Vincentians, especially those from the Grenadines, became
involved in boat building and organizing labor migration from the
Leeward Islands, and gained valuable experience and a reputation
as seamen. Seafaring emerged as another option to agricultural
labor, as islanders sought jobs first on intra-island sailing
ships, then in steamships.
Thousands of freedmen from the entire Eastern Caribbean
joined the movement southward. Bonham C. Richardson wrote the
following about the establishment of the migration tradition
during this period:
...successful labor migration from small British
islands...was dangerous and required considerable
courage in dealing with both natural and human
hazards. When a successful migrant returned... it is
inconceivable that he or she was received with
anything but admiration and respect....Those who had
gone away and successfully returned...had beaten the
system, while those who had stayed behind had not.
(1983:18-19).
By the middle of the nineteenth century, competition for work
in Trinidad and Guyana increased when those colonies imported
%
indentured laborers from India, Java, and China. The decline in
the West Indian sugar industry also affected these newer colonies


187
became increasingly dependent on migration, making more migration
necessary. Contemporary international labor migration between St.
Vincent and the North American countries represents the extension
of the split between production and the reproduction of labor that
began after Emancipation. Over the past one hundred and fifty
years, the Vincentian gender, kinship, and household systems have
adapted to the social changes brought about by a dependence on
migration. The remainder of this dissertation will describe how
these sociocultural systems structure the reproduction of labor
with this "migration society."
Notes
(1) All names of individuals in this and in subsequent chapters
are fictitious.


79
The slave population came from different ethnic and
linguistic groups in Africa who were forced to live and work
together on the estates. Although the slaves retained their
African beliefs about gender, kinship, and household, the
re-creation of traditional African gender or kinship relations was
not possible (B. Marshall 1982:28; Higman 1978:45). Newly arrived
slaves from Africa were assigned to older slaves, who helped teach
them how to do the work required of them on the estate, how to
grow subsistence crops to supplement their rations, and how to
survive as a slave (Bayley 1830). Slaves were not encouraged to
marry legally, live in nuclear families, or form larger kinship
groups. Some estates permitted slaves to build their own huts,
but others required field workers (the majority of the slaves) to
live communally in large barracks. Childrearing and socialization
were assigned to older women who were not necessarily biologically
related to the children for whom they cared (Thomas 1988;
Carmichael 1833:186-191; Bayley 1830).
The physical conditions of labor under slavery also worked
against the reproduction of the slave population by normal
biological means. Slave women were expected to do the same heavy
field work as men and received little or no special treatment
during pregnancy (Thomas 1988). Reports from other slave
societies indicate that some slave women practiced abortion and
infanticide rather than rear children as slaves (Mintz 1974:


CHAPTER THREE
THE EVOLUTION OF A MIGRATION SOCIETY
History and Demography
This chapter describes St. Vincent's beginnings as a
migration society in the nineteenth century; how the dependence on
migration evolved and how it affected the reproduction of labor
within Vincentian society. Vincentians' participation in labor
migration is not a recent phenomenon; indeed, labor migration has
a one hundred and fifty year history in St. Vincent. One cannot
understand why migration is so important in St. Vincent today
without examining the history of its political economy within the
larger world capitalist system. St. Vincent, like the rest of the
West Indies, was colonized by Europeans and transformed into a
producer of tropical commodities for export to Europe. The
indigenous population was either killed or deported by 1797, and
replaced by slave and indentured laborers. After 1802, the
majority of the arable land was devoted to the production of
export crops and controlled by a small minority of individuals
(Rubenstein 1987: 26-42; Shephard 1831). The beginning of St.
Vincent as a migration society lies in its origins as a British
West Indian sugar colony with a political economy and rigid class
system based on slavery.
66


269
Vincent with his father for a visit in the late 1970s. Leroy
calls Charles "uncle" and his son, "cousin."
Through his mother, Leroy is related to seven half-siblings
and one full sibling. His mother gave birth to thirteen children,
but four died shortly after birth. She had five visiting
relationships but never married or co-habitated with any of her
partners. Leroy's mother worked as head housekeeper for and lived
on the nearby large estate, Sable Palm. Her children all grew up
in Zilpha's house. They call Zilpha, "Tante," because she
"realed" them, and call Juanita, "Sis," the term Zilpha uses to
refer to her daughter. Leroy has two older sisters (who are full
siblings to each other), Anita and Pearl, who each have two
children; two older brothers, Jack, who has three children, and
Andrew, who has two; one younger brother who is his only full
sibling, Charles, who has two children; and three more younger
brothers (who are full siblings to each other), Phillip, Edward,
and Murray, none of whom have any children yet. All of Leroy's
siblings by his mother he refers to as "brother" and "sister." He
refers to their children as "nephews" or "nieces," and the
children all call him "uncle." He is closest to his eldest sister,
Anita, who helped Zilpha "real" him. Now divorced, she lives with
her son and daughter in a house she built next door to the one now
shared by Zilpha, Juanita, and Juanitas sons, Phillip and Murray.


211
mending the man's clothes. If the couple begins living together,
the woman cleans the house they share. Some women choose not to
live with their sexual partners because they want to avoid
assuming additional domestic work. As long as the man is just
"visiting," the woman does not have to cook his every meal, clean
up after him, or wait on himchores she would assume if they were
to marry or live together (cf. Brown 1975; Massiah 1983; Sutton
and Makiesky-Barrow 1977; Durant-Gonzalez 1982).
This pattern of exchange continues for as long as the
relationship lasts. If a couple never exchanges these domestic
services with each other, the relationship never achieves
"serious" status but exists merely as a clandestine affair.
Exchanging these services thus establishes the seriousness of the
relationship publicly (cf. Rubenstein 1987; Freilich 1971).
When a man lives alone in his own house, he must look after
it himself. He may take his meals with a female relative or a
girlfriend, or he may cook for himself. He may have his laundry
done for him by a female relative or girlfriend, or he may do it
himself. Men do not always want to reciprocate for these services
in the expected manner, that is, financially, and choose to do the
work themselves. Only an aged father, uncle, grandfather, or even
brother, is cared for by his female relatives without having to
reciprocate.


121
husbands and as individuals. Some children went with their
parents, although many others were left behind in the care of
their grandparents. Migrants may have left St. Vincent for
England with the idea of making money to return, but the vast
majority did not come back.
Flooded with immigrants in the early 1960s, the British
government changed its immigration laws, effectively curtailing
West Indian migration (Freeman 1987:187-188). Many Vincentians
were afraid to go home, even for a visit, because they might not
be let back into England. Instead, Vincentians sent for their
families to join them and continued to send parcels and
remittances back to the island. The high cost of transportation
also made it difficult for West Indians in England to visit the
Caribbean. Instead, Vincentians settled into ethnic enclaves in
Britain (Peach 1968; Midgett 1979). The Vincentians in England
were submerged in the West Indian migrant stream, much as they had
been in Panama, and were generally referred to as "Jamaicans" by
the British.
Second, the emigrants' destination was one of the world's
major metropolitan centers, London and its environs, and the labor
market was industrial and service oriented. The kinds of jobs
that Vincentian emigrants found in England were not like seasonal
agriculture or short-term contract manual labor, which could be
left and then picked up again. Vincentians in Great Britain were


451
1975 Who Raises Black Children: Transactions of Child Givers
and Child Receivers. In: Socialization and
Communication in Primary Groups, Thomas R. Williams,
ed. The Hague: Mouton. Pp.159-182.
Stenning, D. J.
1958 Household Viability Among the Pastoral Fulani. In:
The Developmental Cycle in Domestic Groups, J. Goody,
ed. Cambridge Papers in Social Anthropology No. 7.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pp. 58-73.
Stivens, Maila
1981 Women, Kinship, and Capitalist Development. In:
Of Marriage and the Market: Women's Subordination in
International Perspective, Kate Young, Carol
Wolkowitz, and Roslyn McCullogh, eds. London: CSE Books.
Pp. 112-126.
Sutton, Constance and Susan Makiesky-Barrow
1977 Social Inequality and Sexual Status in Barbados. In:
Sexual Stratification: A Cross-Cultural View, Alice
Schlegal, ed. New York: Colombia University Press.
Pp. 292-325.
Sutton, Constance and Susan R. Makiesky
1979 Migration and West Indian Racial and Ethnic
Consciousness. In: Migration and Development, Helen
I. Safa and Brian DuToit, eds. The Hague: Mouton.
Pp.113-145.
Thomas, Clive Y.
1988 The Poor and the Powerless: Economic Policy and Change
in the Caribbean. New York: Monthly Review Press.
Thomas-Hope, Elizabeth M.
1978 The Establishment of a Migration Tradition: British West
Indian Movements in the Hispanic Caribbean in the
Century After Emancipation. In: Caribbean Social
Relations, Colin G. Clarke, ed. Liverpool: Centre for
Latin American Studies Monograph Series, No. 8,
University of Liverpool. Pp. 66-81.
1983 Off the Island: Population Mobility Among the Caribbean
Middle Class. In: White Collar Migrants in the
Americas and the Caribbean, Arnaud F. Marks and Hebe
M. C. Vessuri, eds. Leiden: Department of Caribbean
Studies, Royal Institute for Linguistics and
Anthropology. Pp. 39-58.


147
dress; "comportment;" and concern with maintaining
"respectability" also affects determination of class status
(Rubenstein 1987, Wilson 1976).
Class barriers in contemporary St. Vincent are not as rigid
as they have been in the past. Shifting economic circumstances
can alter class membership during an individual's lifetime.
Successful migration experiences which improve an an individual's
education, skills, or personal wealth can be translated into an
improved class position upon return (Rubenstein 1987).
Strategically manipulated sexual relationships are also used,
especially by women, to improve their economic and social
position. Since kinship ties cross class lines, lower class
relatives may live as dependents of middle or upper class
relatives, employed by them or allowed to farm their lands.
Nepotism plays a major role in securing employment or advancement,
even within the civil service. Remittances from overseas
relatives enable the lower class to survive and the middle class
to maintain their lifestyles. The next chapter describes
contemporary migration patterns, including class differences in
migration strategies, in detail.
Notes
(1) The head of the Vincentian Government Statistics Office
indicated to me that the 1970 census results were not very
accurate due to undercounts of several census enumeration
districts on the Windward side of the island. He estimated the


52
questions were designed to determine normal bounds of action or
interpretation. These types of questions included queries such
as, "Has your husband's outside child ever lived with you?" and
"What times of year do your overseas relatives come home to
visit?" Other informal interviews were designed to extract
information about activities that I could not observehistorical
events such as the 1979 eruption of La Soufriere, or life history
events such as the circumstances surrounding an individual's first
sexual encounter. These informal interviews were usually
encapsulated into standard daily conversation or scheduled
interviews. Some topics came up because of my research agenda
while others emerged because of events occurring spontaneously
that related to my interest in gender, kinship, and household
relations. I could not have predicted, for example, nor would
ever have thought to ask, what a neighbor's reaction would be when
his sister was raped and murdered, but when the tragedy occurred
it provided me with an opportunity to learn about Vincentian
attitudes towards rape and sexual violence.
I also asked my informants questions of a more abstract or
general nature, such as "How do men treat women here?" or "How has
life changed in St. Vincent since you were a child?" The purpose
of these questions was to elicit opinions and attitudes, value
judgments and commentaries, rather than statements of fact. These
types of questions were often inserted into fact-finding


406
women, a pattern R. T. Smith (1987) has labelled a "dual marriage
system." Under slavery, black slave men could not control sexual
access to slave women but competed for women with the white slave
owners. In the slave regime, women worked with men in the sugar
cane fields. Able bodied women were not removed from production
to care for infants, children, the sick or the infirm. Instead,
elderly slave women performed these roles for the children and
sick of the entire estate, not just for their own kin (Sutton and
Makiesky-Barrow 1977; R. T. Smith 1987).
When slavery was abolished, the mode of production in St.
Vincent became more classically capitalistic. The estate owners
retained control over the land and the technology, and the freed
slaves became wage laborers. The estate owners monopoly over
arable land precluded the freed slaves from immediately
establishing a "peasant adaptation" (Hintz 1974). The
hierarchical arrangement between the different class/color groups
remained much the same, increasingly reinforced with an ideology
of inherent white superiority and black inferiority.
Gender and kinship relations amongst the freed blacks were
placed under their own control after Emancipation. Freed black
women immediately left estate labor and groups of related
individuals coalesced to form "free villages." Women turned their
energies increasingly to subsistence food production, local trade
in food crops, and the care of children. Men turned to wage labor


315
the insane and for juvenile offenders, there are no orphanages or
foundling homes. Babies and young children grow up with some
female caretaker, nearly always a woman with whom they share a
genealogical relationship. Childcare is often shared, however,
and is seldom either a woman's single task or the task of only one
woman within the domestic group. Other relatives of the child,
both women and men, assist in socialization. Socialization is
seldom localized within a single household or domestic group.
Children often grow up in several households or spend considerable
time in the households of relatives (cf. Sanford 1974, 1975; Stack
1974, 1975; Durant-Gonzalez 1982; Rodman 1971; Gonzalez 1969,
1975, 1984; Moses 1977; Powell 1982, 1986; Barrow 1986; Clarke
1957; R. T. Smith 1956).
All adults who participate in rearing a child are expected to
offer affection, discipline, and instruction. Children are seldom
referred back to a primary caretaker for punishment; I never heard
anyone say the Vincentian equivalent of "wait 'til your father
comes home." Instead, the adult caretaker who witnessed the
misbehavior punished the child immediately; if the offense was
serious enough, the child might be punished again when other
caretakers learned of it.
Socialization also occurs in St. Vincent through formal
education in the schools. Lower-class children first encounter
standard English, literacy, and the colonial ideology at school,


394
children can contribute more to their parents' household in the
future. Because children are the major source of support for
elderly parents in the lower class, such considerations enter into
decisions made about intra-household resource allocation. One or
two children in a household are often singled out on the basis of
their ability or physical appearance and they are the only ones
prepared to attend secondary school or be sent overseas.
Juanita O'Donnell's household history illustrates how
households manipulate income from multiple sources. Juanita
supported herself and her mother through her own wages from her
job as head housekeeper at a nearby great estate. Her mother,
Zilpha, looked after Juanita's children in her absence and also
farmed lands given to her by her common-law partner, Mr. Charles
O'Donnell. Now retired, Juanita collects a small pension. Zilpha
sold off the land she farmed because none of Juanita's children
wanted to farm it. Zilpha has a garden and raises chickens and
sheep for the households use and for sale. Their joint household
still receives remittances from Juanita's brother, Charles Byron,
who emigrated from England.
Juanita had nine children for five different men, all of whom
were middle class and fairly well-to-do. She no longer has any
male companions but the father of the three youngest boys still
contributes to the support of the two that are still in school.
Two of her children, her second oldest daughter and her fourth


234
grown, even if the parents' relationship does not endure. In most
instances, however, the father's support of the children stops
when the mother becomes involved with a new partner (cf.
Rubenstein 1987:243). If the man migrates, he is expected to
continue supporting his partner and his children. For as long as
communication between spouses is maintained, the relationship is
still socially alive. The man's relatives usually keep him
informed about his partner's activities in his absence: how she is
spending his money and minding his children, and if the woman is
suspected of having a new partner. If the man finds out that his
woman has been unfaithful, he usually stops sending her
remittances, although he may continue to send money for his
children through his relatives. If a man breaks off contact with
his partner while he is overseas and stops sending remittances,
however, no one will criticize the woman if she finds a new
partner.
Visiting, keeping, and common-law marriage are all non-legal
but socially accepted types of sexual relationships. Women and
men in these relationships do not have the same rights of
inheritance and property as do partners who are legally married.
The children in all of these relationships are legally
illegitimate and cannot inherit property unless specifically
mentioned in the father's will. Women in these relationships can
claim child support but not maintenance for themselves. No legal


Sexuality and Fertility 239
Childbearing and Sexual Relationships 241
Gender Ideology 240
SEVEN THE SYSTEM OF KINSHIP IN ST. VINCENT 261
Descent and the Kindred 261
A Vincentian Kindred 265
Vincentian Kinship Terminology 271
Kinship Relationships .277
Kinship and Reciprocity 291
Kinship and the Authority of Age 295
Kinship as a Social Compass 298
Kinship as Metaphor 302
Class Variation in Kinship 305
Kinship and Production 310
Kinship and Reproduction 314
Women and the Domestication of Kinship in
St. Vincent 317
EIGHT THE VINCENTIAN HOUSEHOLD SYSTEM 327
Social Significance of House Ownership 327
Tenure and Settlement Patterns ....332
The House and Yard 334
Vincentian Definitions of Public and Private 350
The Vincentian Household System 356
Co-Residence and Household Composition 356
Household Personnel 362
Role of the Household Head 365
Household Fissioning 369
Shifts in Household Membership Over the Life
Cycle 371
Membership in Multiple Households..... 374
Class Variation in Household Composition .....376
Household Strategies.... 378
Households and the Reproduction of Labor 396
NINE SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS 400
Cultural Duality in St. Vincent 411
Gender, Kinship, and Household in St. Vincent 417
Migration and the Reproduction of Labor: Strategies
of Male and Female-Headed Households .423
BIBLIOGRAPHY 434
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH. .454
ix


31
I planned on learning about the Vincentian perspective on
kinship, gender, and migration primarily through classical
anthropological techniquesparticipant observation, key informant
interviewing, and informal interviews. I also wanted to use
methods derived from sociolinguistics and ethnosemantics to
analyze naturally occurring speech. I was interested in hearing
what Vincentians had to say about their relatives, their partners,
their migration experiences. I intended to use both the content
of Vincentians' utterances and the ways in which discourse was
structured and interpreted to construct the cultural systems of
beliefs, attitudes, and values which guided Vincentians social
interactions.
I hoped to combine these techniques with a household survey
to compare "migrants" versus "non-migrants." I also wanted to
consult archival and reference materials available through the
local library, records office, and government ministries. I
planned on collecting folklore and items from popular culture,
especially music and the media, to round out the information
gathered through qualitative methods and the survey.
Choosing a Field Site
My original dissertation proposal was to study the women's
perspective of migration on the small West Indian island of
Carriacou. Unfortunately, international politics intervened in my
plans. Carriacou is part of the multi-island nation of Grenada,


442
Horowitz, Michael M.
1967 Morne-Paysan: Peasant Village in Martinique New York:
Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.
Hourihan, John J.
1975 Rule in Hairoun: A Study of the Politics of Power.
Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of Anthropology,
University of Massachusetts.
John, Kenneth R. V.
1971 Politics in a Small Island Territory: St. Vincent.
A Report. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of
Manchester.
1973 St. Vincent: A Political Kaleidoscope. In:
The Aftermath of Sovreignty: West Indian Perspectives,
David Lowenthal and Lambros Comitas, eds. Garden City,
NY: Anchor/Doubleday. Pp. 81-91.
Justus, Joyce Bennett
1983 West Indians in Los Angeles: Community and Identity.
In: Caribbean Immigration to the United States, Roy S.
Bryce-Laporte and Delores Mortimer, eds. Washington,
D.C.: Smithsonian Institute. Pp. 130-148.
Kirby, I. E. and C. I. Martin
1972 The Rise and Fall of the Black Carib. St. Vincent,
(privately published).
Knight, Franklin W.
1978 The Caribbean: Genesis of a Fragmented Nationalism.
New York: Oxford University Press.
Laufer, Deborah
1973 The Population Problem on St. Vincent. In: Windward
Road: Contributions to the Anthropology of St.
Vincent, Thomas M. Fraser, Jr., ed. Department of
Anthropology Research Reports No. 12. Amherst, MA:
University of Massachusetts. Pp. 43-57.
MacDonald, Judy Smith
1973 In-Law Terms and Affinal Relations in a Grenadian
Fishing Community. Caribbean Studies 12:44-60.


304
child's parents do. The kinship terms used to refer to godparents
are "godmother" or "godfather;" godparents refer to and address
their reciprocal as "godchild," "godson," or "goddaughter."
Godparenthood is a fictive kinship role recognized by the
established Vincentian churches and used by Vincentians to
strengthen pre-existing kinship and friendship ties between the
baby's parents and the individuals chosen to be godparents.
Within the established churches' congregations, however, kinship
is not used as a metaphor to describe the relationships between
church members. Church members emphasize their relationship to
God as "children" under the leadership of the minister, instead of
the ties between each other as "brothers" and "sisters." In the
established churches, internal organization is hierarchical and
most of the ministers are Europeans, not Vincentians.
The other major social group which uses kinship in a
metaphorical way to describe its organization are the lodges.
Vincentian lodges are all freemasons and are affiliated with
international lodges. Individuals are elected to membership by
current members and undergo secret rituals to join. Lodge
membership tends to follow actual kinship lines, and sons are
usually invited to join their fathers' lodges. Outstanding
younger men are also tapped for lodge membership even if their
fathers were not members. Some of the lodges are careful


107
absolute increase of only 1,329 persons (Table 4.1). Net
emigration for this period was -21,621, which represents more than
half of the population of 1881. The total number of migrants was
probably much higher, but no records exist of inter-censal
movement (Spinelli 1973:237-238).
The Vincentian economy was rebuilt during the first three
decades of the twentieth century. Land reform efforts released
limited amounts of abandoned estate land to small farmers. When
the sugar industry collapsed, many estate producers switched to
arrowroot production. By 1892 arrowroot had replaced sugar as the
major export crop of St. Vincent. Small farmers began planting a
new cash crop: long-stapled Sea Island cotton (Spinelli 1973:146-
147).
The local economy recovered somewhat during World War I, when
arrowroot and cotton both enjoyed brief periods of high prices.
During the war the disruption of the European beet sugar industry
and a rise in food prices in the West Indies led estate owners to
increase sugar production and peasant farmers to grow larger
amounts of food crops. At the end of World War I the United
States became the major buyer of arrowroot starch from St.
Vincent. Prices rose and Vincentian estate owners turned to
arrowroot production in large numbers. They organized the St.
Vincent Arrowroot Growers' Association to regulate production and
marketing of the starch. Small farmers were slowly squeezed out


105
While conditions were extremely bleak in the British West
Indies at the turn of the century, economic activity elsewhere in
the region was expanding. As the British colonial empire in the
Caribbean declined, West Indian workers moved to take advantage of
the expanding economic sphere of the United States in the
Caribbean Basin. The major labor market from the 1880s through
the 1910s was Panama, as first the French and then the Americans
worked on the construction of a canal through the Isthmus
(Proudfoot 1950:14; D. Marshall 1987:21-22; Thomas-Hope 1978:
71-72). Thousands of West Indians, including hundreds of
Vincentians, participated in the building of this engineering
marvel. Many West Indian migrants remained in Panama after the
canal was completed in 1914 working for the American
administration in the Canal Zone. Other Vincentian emigrants were
attracted to opportunities planting bananas in Mexico, Colombia,
Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, and Costa Rica, and building
railroads in Venezuela and Brazil (Proudfoot 1950:15; D. Marshall
1987:22; Thomas-Hope 1978:73-76).
No census was taken in St. Vincent in 1901 because repairing
the 1898 hurricane damage wiped out most of the island's
discretionary funds. The next census was taken in 1911, 20 years
after the 1891 census. During the thirty year period between 1881
and 1911, the population increased from 40,548 to 41,877, an


177
street with domestics, laborers, and beggars. The old as well as
the young turn out for Carnival. Ideas about propriety and
respectability are temporarily suspended, and the normal order of
prestige is inverted. Carnival provides an enormous release of
physical, sexual, and social tensions.
Getting everything ready for Carnival consumes a great amount
of time, money, energy, and attention every year in St. Vincent
that is truly astonishing when one considers the ephemeral nature
of the event. None of itnot the costumes, not the calypsos, not
the showsis permanent. When Carnival is over, everything and
everyone goes back to "normal." Until next year, when it starts
all over again.
Carnival has become the symbol for Vincentians at home and
overseas, of their identity as a people. The Vincentian
government describes Carnival as the "national cultural festival."
Several informants told me that Carnival is what made life
endurable in St. Vincent because it gave them something to look
forward to, something to talk about, and something to work for.
Carnival expresses the unconquerable spirit of the Vincentian
folk, their ability not only to survive but to create beauty and
joy in their society. Carnival gives the lower class their chance
to be the masters, the lords of misrule.


396
emigration; another son was able to join the police force because
his father had been a high-ranked policeman. The younger
children, whose father is not so well-off, have had to rely on
help from their older siblings instead.
Households and the Reproduction of Labor
Carter (1984:45) states that "household units...are defined
in terras of the culturally recognized tasks for which they are
responsible." The culturally recognized tasks that define the
Vincentian household are the shelter, protection, and provision of
adequate food, clothing, and health care for the household's
inhabitants. The household functions to meet the daily
maintenance needs of its resident workers and to care for
dependent members of the household head's kindred, including
children, the elderly, and the infirm. These tasks can also be
be described as "the reproduction of labor" in Vincentian society
(Mackintosh 1981; Young et al. 1981).
Households in St. Vincent can be considered viable when the
labor provided by the members of the household group "is suitable
for the exploitation of its means of subsistence, while the latter
is adequate for the support of the domestic unit" (Stenning
1958:92). The means of subsistence available to Vincentian
households are obtained through wage work, agricultural production
for the market and subsistence, and international labor migration
to the capitalist economies of the metropoles. A portion of the


410
and its effects on social status, the basic motivation remains
economic. At a public discussion of St. Vincent's "population
problem," during which I was the only person talking about
migration, I asked the audience, "Why do so many Vincentians
emigrate?" A man in his early sixties, who had been born in
Panama to Vincentian parents, replied patiently, "All I have to
sell is my labor. Why would I stay in St. Vincent and sell my
labor for $6.00 a day, when I can go to the United States and sell
it for $6.00 an hour?" St. Vincent always has been fundamentally
a capitalist society, and the values its people express concerning
human worth are heavily influenced by capitalist economics.
St. Vincent today remains a society structured by a color/
class hierarchy. The beliefs and practices of the "new middle
class" that I studied in Arnos Vale reveal, however, indicate that
the gender and kinship systems of the Vincentian lower class (from
which the "new middle class" originates) are not merely the result
of their straitened economic circumstances, but are the products
of the unique cultural systems that generate them. Class
variation in gender and kinship in St. Vincent reveals the effects
of increasing access and control over resources as well as a basic
cultural duality between values of the lower class and the
traditional middle and upper classes. The "new middle class" of
Arnos Vale still displays gender and kinship patterns usually
described as "lower class"the acceptance of multiple union


11
Kinship and household roles can be analytically separated
even if they are held by the same person. In cultures in which
family members may not be coresident or may not share production
and consumption, differentiating between the two levels explains
both patterns of cooperation and conflict within and between
domestic groups as well as different developmental histories.
- Jane Guyer (1981) describes households as systems of resource
allocation in which women and men have separate responsibilities,
access to distinct resources, and control over the returns from
their own activities. This model of "intra-household dynamics"
accepts that "the possibility of competing goals or priorities may
require negotiation among household members" (Poats, Schraink, and
Spring 1988:3). Households, as groups of individuals tied
together by participation in shared tasks, respond to both
external and internal conditions. Households adjust to changing
economic conditions by increasing or decreasing the numbers of
v members through altering fertility decisions; participating in
migration; diversifying their economic activities; or changing
consumption patterns. Stages of the domestic life cycle and
composition of members affect a household's ability to adopt
different strategies.
In this dissertation, the Vincentian gender, kinship, and
household systems are described within an historical analysis of
the transformation of the society since its beginnings. In


430
incur while working overseas. Migrants do what they can and send
whatever they can spare, but remittances seldom provide as regular
an income as a good local job. However, overseas employment is
better than the irregular and low-paying jobs available to the
majority of lower-class Vincentians and is the only way most
lower-class men gain access to sufficient capital to become heads
of households. Women tied to migrant men (whether they are sexual
partners, mothers, sisters, or wives) can never be completely
certain the migrant will maintain the relationship and continue
sending remittances; nor can they be certain how much support will
be sent nor when it will arrive. Migrants working overseas must
meet their own living expenses, save money to buy property upon
their return, and support partners and relatives left behind.
Second, male migration permanently reduces the number of men
in St. Vincent. Migrant men either return eventually or never
come back. Migrants who return are either successful enough to
have their own houses or they become members of others' households
again. For many reasons, a significant proportion of migrant men
never returned during the late nineteenth and early twentieth
centuries, leading to a marked imbalance between the sexes. This
imbalance has only recently been corrected by the emigration of
large numbers of young women, not by the return of men. Women in
St. Vincent have thus been left with a small group of men who can
support households and the majority who cannot. This situation


249
off of other customers. He drinks until he is drunk, then picks
fights and argues loudly until he gets thrown out. Joe now runs
around with women like Miss Susie, having abandoned his steady
girlfriend and his two children. However, Joe has a powerful
relative in government who keeps getting him jobs that he loses
after a few months.
The folk ethos and the colonial ideology overlap but do not
always agree on status ranking. For example, it is quite possible
for an individual to attain all the outward marks of
"respectability" within the colonial ideology but not to receive
"respect" within the folk ethos. The converse is also true: a
person may lack all the marks of "respectability" yet be treated
with considerable "respect." In public, lower-class Vincentians
automatically defer to higher-class Vincentians, and it is easy
for an observer to confuse "respect" with "respectability."
However, in private conversation a truer picture of the lower-
class individual's views on the other's character may emerge.
Higher-class individuals are judged on the same grounds as lower-
class individuals, by their own actions and character, not on
their wealth and class standing. For example, Mr. Johnson, a
highly placed civil servant, was always greeted deferentially by
his neighbors. However, in private the man was intensely disliked
because he was very stingy and because he had mistreated his wife,
now deceased.


264
individuals share similiar broad constellations of relatives or
"families" (cf. Olwig 1985). This, in part, explains why
Vincentians themselves do not make much of different household
configurations or sexual relationships since they are all embedded
in similiar kinship matrices. The characteristics of each
domestic group matter little.
Vincentians distinguish between the relatives one has grown
up with in the same household or neighborhood, with whom there is
ongoing and frequent interaction, and relatives with whom there is
little or no interaction. Relatives with whom there is an ongoing
relationship are called "near family," while those relatives with
whom there is no interaction are referred to as "far family" or
lumped into "some kind of family." This term also covers those
relatives who are related by distant degrees of kinship (see
Rubenstein 1987:223-224 for a contrasting definition of "near" and
"far" family). The exceptions to this designation are an
individual's biological parents, who are always recognized as
"near family," even if there is no ongoing relationship.
Although descent is reckoned on both the mother's and
father's side, in practice, when asked to list their relatives,
Vincentians I interviewed knew more relatives on the mother's side
than on the father's. As a result of the acceptance of visiting
and "keeping" relationships and migration, many Vincentians grow
up in households headed by their mothers or other relatives "on


390
The household head has final authority on how the pooled
household income is disbursed to meet household needs, but in most
Vincentian households, the household head and all working members
turn over their contributions to the household fund to the senior
female member of the household (cf. Massiah 1983; Durant-Gonzalez
1982; Barrow 1986). This may be the actual household head or the
head's spouse. Coping with multiple sources of income that may
arrive intermittently and may not be disbursed equally, requires
considerable budgetary skill on the part of the Vincentian women
who perform this task within the household economy.
Women make the day-to-day decisions about minor expenditures.
They make routine purchases for food and clothing, while larger
items such as furniture and school fees require consultation with
the household head. Responsibility over the household budget is
the source of considerable power and authority for many women and
gives them some leverage over their male partners (cf. Moses 1977;
Powell 1986; Barrow 1986). A particularly thrifty woman may be
able to stretch the household money into a small nest egg of her
own and use it to start a business or buy some property.
Inequal access to and control over sources of economic
support within and between households produces competition between
individuals in the same household as well as between individuals
in separate households. This competition produces intra-household
conflicts which can lead to changes in household composition.


169
migrating, and must live in constant fear of being deported.
Illegal migrants do whatever work they can, and cannot organize
nor fight discrimination or harassment. They also cannot return
to St. Vincent without going through the same risky process to
re-enter.
Other class differences in migration patterns have emerged.
Middle-class migrants tend to migrate in family groups, perhaps
because they can leave legally and because they do not intend to
return (Thomas-Hope 1983:54). Some middle-class families have
sold all their property and business Interests outright, but
others have left behind one or two family members to manage their
businesses and keep up their properties. Lower-class migrants
tend to leave as individuals, and most of their relatives remain
behind in St. Vincent. The two classes thus use migration
strategies which are the mirror image of each other.
The pool of potential middle-class migrants in St. Vincent is
smaller than that of potential lower-class migrants, because the
middle class is a much smaller portion of the total population.
However, the North American metropolitan destinations are much
more attractive to contemporary middle-class Vincentians than
earlier migration destinations in Panama, Cuba, or Trinidad.
Earlier migrants did heavy manual and agricultural labor, which
would have meant a severe loss in social status for middle-class
Vincentians at the turn of the century. They had less to gain by


17
such as the "working class." By definition, "migrants" have left
some place to live some place else. Migrants as moveable units,
and migration as a before and after sequence, have dominated the
literature. As a result, once the migrant leaves the sending
society, the impact on the sending society is ignored or dismissed
except in the studies of "return migration" (Gmelch 1983).
Migration as a process or system that operates in two directions
connecting individuals, groups, or cultures or even economies
simultaneously has not been the dominant conceptual motif.
Second, our understanding of the backward linkages between
migrants and their homelands is not as great as our knowledge
about the process of adjustment migrants undergo in their new
society. If examined at all, these backward linkages or social
networks have been seen as parts of a "migration chain" by which
new migrants enter a new society with the assistance of migrants
who have previously settled there (Turittin 1976).
Furthermore, most migration theories have not examined in
depth the dynamics of a society geared towards migration. How do
migrants fit into their societies before they migrate? How do
societies compensate for their absence? How does such a system
perpetuate itself from generation to generation? Little work has
been done on how members of sending societies conceptualize the
migration process or perceive the role of the migrant within the
sending as well as the receiving society. Many migration


339
utilitarian in design. Building a typical board house takes a
week or less, and does not require a large nor highly skilled
labor force. Although board houses can be electrified and
equipped with indoor plumbing, most are not. If a person could
afford electricity and plumbing, they would probably build a wall
house. The board house can be knocked down, moved, and rebuilt
easily.
Board houses are usually built off the ground on pilings,
with steps leading up to the front door and a small stoop or porch
at the top of the stairs (cf. Abrahams 1983:139-140). Windows are
commonly covered with wooden shutters. Doors are made of wood,
often in a "dutch" or two-piece design, with the top and bottom
opening separately. The outside of a board house may be painted
in bright or pastel colors, or left plain. The interior is painted
or left plain; an old tradition was to paper the walls with
decorative paper or newspaper and magazine advertisements.
Flooring in a board house is wood, covered with a piece of
linoleum or a small rag rug.
The typical board house consists of one to four rooms. One
room is used for a living room while the others serve as bedrooms.
The usual furniture consists of a table and chairs, wooden boxes
or a hutch for keeping foodstuffs, dishes, and linens, a small
settee or chair, a bedstead and mattress, and a small cupboard or
dresser for clothes. Furniture is handmade by the owner,


383
partial scholarships. Their parents pay for some of their fees,
books, uniforms, and their transportation into town.
The Clarkes own the land their house stands on, and built
their house themselves. They pay taxes annually on the land and
the house. They do not own a vehicle. For a few months, Mr.
Clarke had the use of a truck owned by his employer until it was
sold. They are considering buying a car to help Mrs. Clarke's
business and to help Mr. Clarke's church activities. The Clarkes
would also like to buy more land, some near their house and some
in the country they could rent to relatives.
The Clarke's have several sources of cash income at present
Mr. Clarke's job, Mrs. Clarke's trading and sewing, and Adela's
job. From time to time, they earn cash selling produce grown in
their garden or products made at home. They grow vegetables and
fruit in their garden, pigeon peas on a plot near their home, and
keep chickens and a goat. They obtain additional produce from
relatives in the country and members of Mr. Young's church. Women
from the church and Mr. Clarke's female relatives help Mrs. Young
with her laundry and household cleaning, freeing her to do her
trading. Adela and the boys help with household chores and tend
the chickens and sheep the household raises.
The Clarkes are an unusual Vincentian household because they
do not receive any income from non-resident relatives, either in
the form of remittances from overseas or from partners/relatives


103
since the end of World War II reflect the economic and
political changes occurring in the world capitalist system in the
late twentieth century. Economic development in the region is
transforming agricultural economies through tourism and export-
oriented manufacturing. Opportunities have expanded for migrant
labor in the booming service sectors of the industrialized
nations. By the end of the twentieth century, Vincentians would
be so accustomed to migration that they would refer to eras in
their history as "Panama Time," "Cuba Time," "Curacao Time," and
so on through "England Time."
The Great Emigration from 1881 to 1931
The political economy of St. Vincent began to change slowly
during this fifty-year period. The basis of the economy remained
agricultural, but the major crops shifted from sugar to arrowroot
and cotton. St. Vincent's dependent position in the world economy
remained unchanged, but the degree of dependency worsened as the
terms of trade grew increasingly unfavorable to the small West
Indian sugar producers. St. Vincent became a Crown Colony under
direct British administration, and certain long-overdue reforms
were instituted, including land reform and the initiation of
education and public health measures.
A disastrous economic depression struck the West Indies
during the 1890s. Over sixty percent of the Vincentian working
population was unemployed (Spinelli 1973:238). The West Indian


112
century. Despite limited reforms, the distribution of land was
still grossly unequal. The number of small farmers grew during
the period, but their control over the local economy did not. The
British colonial administrators and the estate owners shared
similar interests and remained oriented towards Great Britain.
The growing urban middle class, largely composed of the
descendants of the free colored and the Portuguese, began lobbying
for changes in the political system in the 1920s, but they argued
their case on the basis of their cultural and educational
superiority to the black lower class (Nanton 1983:226; John 1971).
Lower class Vincentians may have believed that the political and
economic system would never change to their benefit. Arrowroot
had been usurped as a cash crop by the large estates. The large
estate owners still controlled most of the land, all of the import
and retail trade, and blocked any significant political reform
through their close ties with the British administrators.
Migration continued to be a way to resist the domination of
local elites and gain status in the folk culture, and the means of
earning money and skills unavailable in St. Vincent. The new
opportunities in Panama, Cuba, and elsewhere were exciting and
financially rewarding (cf. Richardson 1985). Vincentian society
had become a migration society before this phase began. Each
generation since Emancipation had sent members out into the world.
Many had returned with adventures to recount and wealth to display


242
sexual conquest of women become a measure of prestige for men if
women did not "play the game" with men? Finally, why do men enter
into any long-term relationships with women if their prestige is
based on "scoring" with as many women as possible?
I believe that the answers to these questions lies in
distinguishing the opposition between the colonial ideology and
the folk value system or ethos from oppositions within the gender
ideology. My fieldwork in St. Vincent suggests that men and women
are each affected by both the colonial ideology and the folk
ethos, but the two genders are constrained in different ways in
the fulfillment of either ideology's role prescriptions. My
analysis of gender ideology in St. Vincent suggests some important
modifications to Wilson's model.
Diane J. Austin, in her article about ideology in the
English-speaking Caribbean (1983), adds an important contribution
by emphasizing the difference between the ideology actively
promoted by the colonial system and the less well-articulated
value system of the lower class. The value system of the lower
class is not supported by any formal institutions but represents
both a form of resistance and a creative re-interpretation of
cultural values. I am using the word "ethos" to describe this
value system in St. Vincent in the sense of the term originally
defined by Gregory Bateson (1972:108): "a culturally standardized
system of organization of the instincts and emotions of


136
cash crops of importance during the contemporary period include
coconuts for copra and oil; arrowroot; tobacco; and a variety of
fresh vegetables and fruits. Despite the continued importance of
agriculture, St. Vincent still imports much of its food in the
1980s. In addition, St. Vincent also has to import building
materials, petroleum, hardware and machinery, and textiles
(Rubenstein 1987:50). Unfortunately for Vincentian farmers, the
price of their agricultural products has dropped and the price of
imports, especially petroleum, has climbed (Table A.A). Ever
since the Oil Crisis of the early 1970s, St. Vincent's economy has
been losing ground steadily.
In a development reminiscient of the turn of the century, the
economic depression of the 1970s was made worse by a series of
natural disasters, including the 1979 eruption of the La Soufriere
Table A.A
St. Vincent External Trade Balance
Value External
Trade (EC $mn)
YEAR
EXPORTS
IMPORTS
197A
16.5
53.9
1977
26.8
81.9
1979
39.8
125.2
1981
65.8
157.1
1983
112.6
190.0
198A
1A5.7
207.0
1985
119.7
159.1
EC $1.00 = US $ .35
Source: Brana-Shute and Brana-Shute (198A,1985);
Economic Intelligence Unit (1986).


364
with their current union status or history (cf. Rubenstein 1987:
288; White 1986). If the woman's sexual partner moves into her
house, she remains the household head. A man does not become
household head when he moves into his partner's house unless she
is completely dependent on him financially (cf. Massiah 1983;
White 1986; Powell 1986; Barrow 1986; Safa 1986). When a man
moves into the woman's house, he loses social status because he is
perceived as being under the woman's "control." As owner of the
house, she can throw him out if they disagree, if she gets tired
of him, or if she discovers he has another woman. The fact that
she owns the house also reflects badly on the man as the provider
or major source of financial support.
If the status of household head is determined by house
ownership, seniority, and financial support, other household
members are the converse: they do not own the house, they are
junior, and they contribute less or even nothing to the household
expenses. Household members are usually, but not always,
relatives of the household head or the head's co-resident sexual
partner (cf. Rubenstein 1987:285). Household members help with
domestic chores and economically active members are expected to
contribute towards the household expenses as well as pay part of
their own individual expenses (cf. Olwig 1985).


130
of Great Britain began to consider relinquishing its West Indian
colonies after World War II and initiated a series of political
reforms. Universal adult suffrage and a limited form of
representative government based on British parliamentary democracy
were instituted in 1951 in the West Indies. At the time, Great
Britain did not envisage its colonies becoming independent
countries (D. Marshall 1985:92-93; Chernick 1978:5; Payne and
Sutton 1984:15). Rather, the British government favored the
establishment of a West Indian Federation.
The West Indies Federation proved short-lived as no workable
economic or governing system could be devised between "the Big
Four"Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, and Guyanaand
"the Little Eight"Grenada, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Dominica,
Antigua, St. Kitts and Nevis, Montserrat, and Anguilla (Knight
1978:204-206; Chernick 1978:5). After the Federation collapsed,
St. Vincent went through three phases of increasing self
government, culminating in complete independence in 1979. During
the transition to self-rule, the British civil servants were
replaced by Vincentians. The government bureaucracy has expanded
considerably since the 1950s (Nanton 1983:229; Rubenstein 1987).
By the 1980s, the Vincentian government had become the largest
employer on the island (Nanton 1983:236).
Universal adult suffrage released the latent political power
of the working class in St. Vincent. The first political parties


289
special acknowledgement in the death notice read on the radio and
at the wake and funeral.
While the caretaker is an adult who cares for another
dependent adult, another form of caretaking exists between an
adult caring for a dependent child who is not that adult's
biological child. This occurs through formal, legal adoption or
informal fosterage. Adopting and fostering children is very
common in Vincentian society, as it is in the rest of the
Afro-Caribbean (Clarke 1957; Gonzalez 1969; Greenfield 1966;
Horowitz 1967; Olwig 1985; Otterbein 1966; M. G. Smith 1962a; R.
T. Smith 1956; Wilson 1973). Usually, the children are related to
the adoptive parents, as nieces, nephews, or grandchildren.
Sometimes they may be "outside" children of either parent from a
previous union. Formal adoption requires filing papers with the
court and a name change of the adopted child. It is permanent and
non-reversible. Typically, It occurs because the child has been
orphaned or abandoned by one or both parents. Sometimes a couple
with more children than they can financially afford will let a
childless couple adopt one of their children. The adopted child
is absorbed Into his/her new family and not distinguished from
natural children in any way. The adopted child has the same
rights of inheritance as the legitimate, natural child.
Fostering children is more common than adoption, and does not
require any formal legal procedure (cf. Stack 1974, 1975; Rodman


427
home. However, instead of returning home at night or on weekends,
these female migrants return after weeks, months, or years.
Female heads of households in St. Vincent who cannot
emigrate, find work, and do not receive remittances from migrant
relatives, rely on the financial support of their sexual partners
and the help of other relatives on the island. Older women who
have never married and are no longer in a relationship rely on
their adult children. Older women also depend on whatever money
they have saved or property they have acquired for additional
financial support. They exchange assistance with child care and
domestic work with their daughters for financial support, and
impress upon their sons the sacrifices they made as mothers on
their behalf when they were small.
All Vincentian women try to supplement their incomes with
contributions from men, who are either their husbands or non-
co-resident sexual partners, or are their male relatives,
including fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins, and especially,
sons. In sexual relationships, women trade sexual favors for
financial support. The Mighty Sparrow, Trinidad's most famous
living calypsonian, recorded a song entitled "No Money, No Love."
In the song, the woman tells her man that unless he continues to
contribute financially to their household expenses, their
relationship is over. "Can't make love on hungry belly" is the
refrain.


382
home which she sold to neighbors and church members. She does
less sewing now, but still makes clothing for herself and some
neighbors.
During my field stay, Tom and Prudie Clarke obtained access
to a small piece of land adjoining their property owned by Mr.
Walker. They cleared the land and made charcoal which was sold in
Mr. Walker's daughter's shop for a small commission. Then they
planted the land in pigeon peas. Some of the crop was given back
to Mr. Walker, some was consumed by the Clarke household and
exchanged with neighbors and relatives, and some was sold to a
neighborhood restaurant. The Clarkes also told me that every year
a man comes by and buys the mangoes from their "Imperial" variety
tree and ships them to Barbadoes. The Clarkes currently keep
chickens and a few sheep which are slaughtered for household
consuraption.
Mrs. Clarke's oldest child, her daughter Adela, is 21 and has
finished secondary school. The Clarkes cannot afford to send
Adela to the University of the West Indies, but she is saving her
money to go eventually. Adela works for the Minstry of Finance as
a clerk in the Tax Department. Mr. and Mrs. Clarke's four sons
are all in school. The two youngest attend primary school in
Arnos Vale at no cost, although their parents must buy books and
uniforms. The two older boys are in secondary school and have


294
continue with little change. The flexibility of roles within the
kinship system frees individuals to take advantage of whatever
economic or migration opportunities develop (cf. Bolles 1981;
Philpott 1973; Rubenstein 1987; Stack 1974; Safa 1986). A woman
who takes a position as a live-in domestic or travels to Trinidad
as a trafficker can leave her children with her mother or sister,
knowing they will care for the children, whether she is gone for
days, months, or years.
The Vincentian kinship system provides an important
counterbalance to the instability of gender relationships,
especially for women and children. Women compensate for the
impermanence of their relationships with men by relying on more
permanent ties to their parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, and
uncles (cf. R.T. Smith 1956; Clarke 1957; Stack 1974; Powell 1982;
Saint Victor 1986; Roberts and Sinclair 1978). Unlike sexual
relationships, ties between relatives cannot be denied and the
relationship is not sundered until death. When a child is born to
a couple, a kinship tie is created linking the child to both the
father's and the mother's relatives. The mother can call upon the
child's father's relatives for assistance, as well as her own kin.
For example, when Annaraae, a young woman from the Grenadine island
of Mayero, was offered a job in a hotel in St. Vincent, she left
her ten-month-old baby with her "baby father's" parents. Her own
mother was still caring for several young children of her own and


61
(1969), and Joseph Spinelli (1973) in my analysis of St. Vincent's
population history. Joseph Spinelli, a population geographer, did
his research in St. Vincent in the late 1960s. Spinelli related
the population dynamics of Vincentian society to changes in land
use and principal cash crops from the countrys beginnings as a
British colony in 1763 until 1960. Spinelli's dissertation
contains a wealth of information on St. Vincent's population and
economy, compiled from original records and hard-to-find secondary
sources. However, Spinelli did not tie these demographic and
economic changes to the structure of Vincentian society or
culture. His research, although an excellent source of
information on St. Vincent, is largely atheoretical. I relied
heavily on Spinellis research for historical information on the
population and the economy.
I wanted to move beyond the numbers recorded in the census to
make some sense of what migration meant to Vincentians. To do so,
I turned back to ray case studies of domestic groups and my own
neighborhood. I realized that everyone to whom 1 had been talking
also had stories to tell about migration. I collected family
migration histories and discussed individuals' experiences
overseas as well as their relationships with migrant relatives,
partners, and friends. My questions focused on motivations for
leaving and returning, perceptions of self identity overseas,
lifestyle differences abroad and at home, and overall assessment


15
Migration represents an individual and familial response to local
conditions, but migrants remain marginal workers within the
international system of labor and capital (Amin 1974; Portes 1978;
Sassen-Koob 1980).
Migrant labor in the center serves the interests of late
capitalism. Migrant labor acts as a "reserve army" willing to
work for lower wages and endure poorer working conditions compared
to workers from the center. Migrants, especially illegal
migrants, are usually a more docile workforce because they are
politically powerless and fear deportation and other reprisals.
The existence of separate ethnic and national groups within the
working class in the center also inhibits organization of labor
(Nikolinakos 1975).
The world capitalist system benefits directly and indirectly
from migrant labor because the costs of the reproduction of
migrant labor power are subsidized by the sending society.
Migrants' wages are divided between their own daily maintenance
and the support of their dependents in the sending society. The
two components of the reproduction of labor, the daily maintenance
of workers and the bearing and rearing of a new generation, are
separated and allocated to different economies (Burawoy 1976).
Costs of replacement of workers are borne by the sending economy
while costs of maintenance alone are borne by the receiving
economy. This separation enables the receiving economy to reduce


347
this path is demarcated with plants, shells, fancy stones, or
paving. Watchdogs are kept in the yard to guard the household.
The yard in lower-class neighborhoods in towns or in rural
villages is usually hard packed swept earth. A coconut brush
broom is used daily to keep the yard clean (cf. Abrahams 1983:
137). Among the middle and upper class the yard is usually grass,
with more decorative flowering plants, shrubs and trees. The
yards of the upper class resemble parks, and may even have fish
ponds and caged birds.
Among the lower- and middle-class, the yard is the site of
many important household activities because of the small size of
most Vincentian houses. Various gardens are grown including small
vegetable gardens, medicinal plants, and spices, as well as
decorative flowering shrubs and tropical foliage. Fruit-bearing
trees, such as coconut, mango, avocado, guava, soursop, pawpaw,
Barbados Cherry, and others are planted in the yard (cf. Mintz
1974:245-246). Garden produce is consumed by household members,
exchanged with relatives or neighbors, or sold if there is a
surplus. Another area of the yard is usually reserved for the
"fowls" (chickens), turkeys, ducks, and guinea fowl, for small
livestock pens, and for storage of tools, animal feed, or surplus
produce. Other food processing and preparation activities such as
cleaning fish, butchering fowls and small livestock, parching


271
Town. On his mother's side, Leroy acknowledges a total of
fifty-five relatives, while on his father's side he has
thirty-one. His "near" family consists of his grandmother,
mother, siblings by his mother, his siblings' children that are
resident in St. Vincent, and the cousins that he grew up with in
Sugar Town.
Vincentian Kinship Terminology
This section presents the kinship terms used by Vincentians,
both terms of reference and terras of address. Terms may be used
by a male or female ego, unless otherwise noted. Vincentian
kinship terms apply to the social relationship between
individuals, not the biological relationship (cf. Rubenstein 1987:
234-241 for a discussion of kinship terminology in Leeward
Village, St. Vincent). For example, Leroy was raised by his
maternal grandmother, Zilpha, whom he addressed as "Tante." His
mother Juanita was employed as a live-in housekeeper for the large
estate nearby. She stayed with her mother on weekends, but spent
most of her time at her employer's. Leroy addressed Juanita as
"Sis," the same term that his grandmother used to refer to her
daughter, his biological mother.
In the first ascending generation, ego's female biological or
adoptive parent is referred to as "mumma" or "mammie," and
addressed as "mama," "mummy," or "moh." An informal term of
reference for one's mother more commonly used by males than


headed households in St. Vincent are a survival mechanism for
women unable to secure permanent relationships with men capable of
supporting them.
xiii


397
wages and goods brought into their residential households by
working members is pooled and redistributed to cover the
consumption needs of all members of the household, including
dependents. Households supplement inadequate wages and irregular
remittances with subsistence production and the exchange of goods
and services within the broader kinship group and neighborhood
(which is often the same network). Most Vincentian households
barely meet the criteria for viability and are dependent on
exchanges with other households to survive.
Household relations are controlled by the household head, the
person who owns the house and contributes the largest share to the
joint household income. Household relations, such as they are,
are a function of the ownership of property (the house and yard),
and the ability of the property owner to use, allocate, and
dispose of it. Ownership of the physical property which shelters
the domestic group overrides considerations of gender or kinship
in determining headship. Ties between members are also based on
economic considerations: the continuing contribution of resources
or labor to meet household needs.
The loose structure of Vincentian households increases the
ability of members to adjust to shifting economic circumstances
(cf. Rubenstein 1987; Olwig 1985; Stack 1974; Gonzalez 1970,
1984). The fluidity of household membership, the diffusion of
emotional bonds between household members, and strong loyalties to


191
The enactment of gender roles in St. Vincent also varies
according to the individual's age, class, and race. Thus,
children's behavior for either sex contrasts with that of
adolescents, adults, or the aged. Differences between age grades
are greater, in some cases, than differences between males and
females of the same age. Class also affects the definition of
appropriate gender behavior. What is acceptable or normal for
members of the lower class is not always acceptable or normal for
middle- and upper-class individuals, and vice versa. However, the
existence of class differences in gender behavior does not imply
that Vincentian classes form separate, non-mingling groups. On
the contrary, there are well-defined cross-class expectations that
operate in the area of gender relations.
Race is closely tied to class in St. Vincent and also
influences gender roles. Race, like gender, is believed to be a
physical quality that influences personality and social behavior.
Race is closely tied to Vincentian stereotypes about sexuality and
physical beauty. The existence of racial differences has not
inhibited the formation of relationships across racial lines.
However, race strongly affects the social desirability and
acceptability of certain sexual relationships. For example, it is
socially acceptable in St. Vincent for a white man of the upper
class to keep a brown or black woman of the lower class as his
mistress, but a marriage between the two would not be socially


437
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1976 The Functions and Reproduction of Migrant Labor:
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46
as a potential research assistant. Elroy was from one of the
small towns on the Windward Coast. Self-educated and very
articulate, he had a deep interest in Vincentian history and
folklore. Elroy had been a performer with a folkloric dance group
and an acting troupe, and had also developed his own comedy
routine in Vincentian Creole and wrote and sang his own calypsoes.
Although he had never travelled abroad, several members of his
immediate family had emigrated to England, Canada, and Trinidad.
My new assistant was perfectly bi-dialectical and able to
translate from Creole to Standard English with great proficiency.
In his company I could attend events at night and not be harassed
by men. Through his family and friendship networks I met and
interviewed many individuals from outside my neighborhood.
Without his assistance in setting up interviews and establishing
ray credibility, many of ray informal interviews, especially with
men, would not have been possible. Our association also provided
me with an excellent "sounding board" to discuss ray developing
interpretations of Vincentian gender and kinship roles.
My relationship with Elroy Connor developed into friendship,
partnership, and something much stronger. We decided to marry and
we had a child before I left St. Vincent in August of 1985. My
husband continued to act as ray research assistant after our
marriage and continues to provide me with an insider's commentary
on my analysis.


445
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1977 Female Status, the Family and Male Dominance in a West
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The Complexities of Change, Wellesley Editorial
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Nanton, Philip
1983 The Changing Pattern of State Control in the Caribbean.
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Robin Cohen, eds. London: Heinemann. Pp. 223-246.
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1975 Notes Toward a General Theory of Migration in Late
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1880 Camps in the Caribbees. Boston: Lee and Shepard,
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1985 Cultural Adaptation and Resistance on St. John.
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Otterbein, Keith
1966 The Andros Islanders. Lawrence, KS: University of
Kansas Press.
Passaris, Constantine
1983 Immigration to Canada in the Post Second World War
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Caribbean, Arnaud F. Marks and Hebe M. C. Vessuri,
eds. Leiden: Department of Caribbean Studies, Royal
Institute for Linguistics and Anthropology. Pp. 73-98.
Patterson, Orlando
1976 From Endo-deme to Matri-deme. In: Eighteenth Century
Florida and the Caribbean, Samuel Proctor, ed.
Gainesville, FL: University Presses of Florida. Pp. 50
59.
1978 Migration in Caribbean Societies: Socioeconomic and
Symbolic Resource. In: Human Migration: Patterns and
Policies, William H. McNeill and Ruth S. Adams, eds.
Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. Pp. 106-145


CHAPTER TWO
METHODOLOGY
Initial Methodological Assumptions
I went to St. Vincent to study the "impact of migration on
women," armed intellectually with the dominant biases of
demographic and social science research on migration. The sending
society was one place, the receiving society another, and
migration was the movement of individuals pushed and pulled
between them. Return migration was an anomaly. Feminist
convictions inspired me to study "women's roles" in St. Vincent
and how these roles were shaped by an accommodation to migration.
Women had been overlooked in migration studies (Castro, Gearing
and Gill 1984) or they were treated as mere appendages to men who
went along for the ride during migration.
I felt that by focusing on households I could integrate the
study of migration and its impact on women's roles. The household
had been suggested as a useful level of analysis for migration
studies (Wood 1982). Households had been the subject of focus of
many Caribbean ethnographers, but few investigators approached
gender and kinship beliefs and practices as part of a unique
culture. I wanted to describe Vincentian kinship and gender
practices from as "emic" a perspective as possible.
30


43
living on incomes pegged to the local economy, I was seldom
approached for monetary help. On the contrary, ray neighbors
occasionally gave me gifts of produce and fish, because I lacked
the kinship and friendship networks that helped keep them supplied
with commodities.
Race played a factor in my relationships with my neighbors
and other Vincentian contacts. Even though St. Vincent has a more
racially diverse population than many other Caribbean societies,
the natives usually accord white people a higher status. I was
always greeted with formal courtesy whenever I first met a
Vincentian, and people made an effort to use standard English when
talking to me. By conforming to a lower middle class lifestyle,
however, I was eventually accepted in the community. After six
months, I asked my next-door neighbor what Vincentian racial term
she would use to describe me, and she replied, "Clear-skin because
you don't have the kind of money white people have and you don't
act so snobbish."
Another factor to be considered in my acceptance with my
informants was their prior experiences living overseas as
migrants. Although I heard many stories about racial
discrimination abroad, 1 also was told about friendships and
kindnesses received. Vincentians pride themselves on their
friendliness and hospitality with good reason, I found. I suspect
that my neighbors extended such warm courtesy to me because of


352
the yard, a private place, but one that is still quite visible to
on-lookers (cf. Austin 1984). This much more public and more
visible life of the lower class has undoubtedly contributed to the
emphasis on elaborate courtesy in public interaction, the high
status awarded verbal performance skills, and the importance
attached to having one's own house in the folk ethos.
The house and the yard comprise the most private areas for
all Vincentians, but for members of the lower class the house and
yard are often the entire private domain, the only protected area
completely under their control (cf. Davenport 1968). The house
and yard has been the core of the private domain since slavery.
Constance Sutton and Susan Makiesky-Barrow wrote the following
about the importance of the house and yard during slavery:
...this more private "domestic" domain was the one
realm of plantation life that afforded slaves a
measure of autonomy. Here slaves worked long hours on
their own plots of land and developed a social life
separate from the regimentation of the plantation.
Here they garnered resources for resisting planter
power and ideology and struggled to protect their
sphere of autonomous activities. ...for the slave
population, the domestic arena was the one area of
life that for both sexes was associated with human
freedom and autonomy. (1977: 297-298).
Visitors stop at the gate to the yard, hail residents inside
the house, and do not enter the yard without permission (cf. Minzt
1974:247). This shows proper "respect." A person who attempts to
enter the yard without permission is considered ill-mannered,
potentially a thief or a worker of obeah. Communications across


185
However, as Philpott (1973) also observed, the process of
coming back is not simple nor always ends successfully. Returned
migrants do not always have enough capital to invest in a
business, nor are their ventures always productive. Relatives,
friends, and sexual partners make demands on returned migrants for
gifts, economic assistance, and jobs. The returned migrant may
have become so acculturated to life overseas that he or she cannot
adjust to life in St. Vincent. Many returned migrants decide to
re-emigrate after a few years; some individuals actually go away
and come back several times over the course of their lifetimes
(Rubenstein 1982:11-12). However, enough returned migrants remain
in St. Vincent to serve as exemplars and guides to potential
migrants.
Contemporary Migration and the Reproduction of Labor
The Vincentian definition of a "migrant" is based on the
reasons why someone leaves St. Vincent. Persons who go overseas
to travel for pleasure or for an education are not considered
migrants unless they decide to stay overseas and work. For
Vincentians, the definition of migration is totally bound to work
and the rationale given for migration is ultimately economic
individuals migrate to find work to support their dependents and
improve their social and economic status upon return. Migration
emerged in the early nineteenth century as a way for men to earn
wages to keep their relatives and sexual partners alive. The men


22
confusing the household as an analytic device with a universally
occurring social group (Schmink 1984:87). She also warns against
reducing domestic units to purely economic functions and states
that "the primary basis for the cohesion of the household unit is
in fact a set of social relations and mutual obligations that are
defined by kinship or other reciprocal relationships" (Schmink
1984: 93).
Patricia Pessar (1982a, 1982b) has incorporated feminist
concepts about the "reproduction of labor" into an analysis of
migrant households. Pessar followed households that emigrated
from the Dominican Republic and compared household relations
before and after settling in New York. Pessar defines the
"kinship relations of production" that structure household
formation and activity as:
...the social relations between males and females, and
elders and youth that govern 1) access to the
resources in goods and persons necessary to establish
new households; and 2) control over the decision
making and strategies for the reproduction,
appropriation and allocation of labor and its products
subsequent to the creation of the domestic unit.
Inheritance, marriage, reproduction, and the sexual
and generational division of labor are expressions of
and arenas for struggle over these productive
relations and the scarce resources they generate, and
the meanings and values that legitimate and guide
these social relationships (Pessar 1982:6).
For Pessar, migration is a strategy used by households to
increase their income. Pessar's work represents an attempt to
bridge the chasm between migration theories based on individual


78
attributed primarily to continual importations of slaves rather
than natural increase (Spinelli 1973:227). After the slave trade
was abolished in 1808 the annual rate of population growth plunged
from 5.53% (1805-1812) to 0.13% (1812-1825) (Spinelli 1973:230).
The abrupt decrease in the rate of population growth after the
slave trade was abolished supports the contention that the
biologically-based process of the reproduction of labor was
thoroughly disrupted during slavery.
Slavery distorted the gender division of labor; tasks were
assigned by the slave owner, not by the slaves. The division of
labor imposed by the slave owner reflected both the need to
maximize production and the European system of gender roles.
Women as well as men did heavy field work, but women were not gang
drivers (Carmichael 1833:98-113; Bayley 1830). Few women were
employed as artisans or skilled sugar factory workers on the
estates. Women were the majority of the domestic servants on the
estates and in the towns. The division of labor in the only area
of production under the slaves' controlsubsistence food
productionreflects a continuity with West African traditions.
Women as well as men worked in the provision grounds and kitchen
gardens growing subsistence crops. Women also played an active
role in the trade in produce and small stock in the capital
*
(Carmichael 1833:135-137,161-180; Bayley 1830).


155
where natives preferred to move into mid-level jobs associated
with the oil industry, manufacturing, commerce or banking; while
service sector jobs were left open to emigrants from poorer
islands, such as St. Vincent and Grenada. In the British Virgin
Islands, the native population was too small to provide enough
workers for the large resorts opened there by foreign capitalists.
Both the temporary labor programs and the regional movement
conform in many respects to patterns of earlier migrations, and
the social impact on Vincentian society is similiar. In temporary
labor programs, the workers are gone for short periods, then
return. Everything is organized and supplied by the employer; the
laborer provides only his labor power and has no control over the
terms of employment. Contemporary labor programs are also
oriented towards the agricultural sector. This movement is
reminiscient of the migrations to Panama, Cuba, and the Dominican
Republic during the early twentieth century. Like those earlier
movements, temporary labor programs are also predominantly
comprised of men.
The regional movement in search of tourism-related and other
service sector jobs is somewhat like the movement to Trinidad in
the nineteenth century and even more like the movement to Curacao,
Aruba, and Trinidad during the mid-twentieth century. Workers
organize their travel over relatively short distances, permitting
emigrants to come back to St. Vincent and leave again easily


238
its response, nor did any Vincentian to whom I mentioned it to
react negatively.
Vincentian beliefs about the relationship between sexual
desirability and fecundity are brought into relief when
contraceptive practice is examined. Contraception is used for
illicit relationships and by professional prostitutes. Women also
use contraception to space births and stop childbearing once they
had achieved their desired number of children, but they hide this
knowledge from their partners. If their partners' discovered
their actions, they ran the risk of having a serious fight,
potential physical abuse, and possible termination of the
relationship (cf. Laufer 1973). Women perceived men's opposition
to birth control to be tied to the male desire for many children
to establish their manhood.
Two women who had been voluntarily sterilized after having
several children told me that they had lied to their partners
about the nature of the operation and its effects on their
fertility. They were afraid that their partners would leave them
if they discovered they were actually sterile. Several health
care workers and women patients told me that many women preferred
to use the Depo Provera (progesterone) shot, which lasts for three
months, because they could lie about it or conceal its use more
successfully than other methods of birth control.


114
violently protested local working conditions and wages during the
1930s (John 1971; cf. Richardson 1985:239-244; Thomas 1988:
47-50). In response, the British Government sent the Moyne
Commission to the West Indies to investigate the riots. They
reported that conditions had changed little since before
Emancipation. Housing was dreadful, roads were in poor repair,
education and health care were lacking, and working conditions
bleak (West India Royal Commission 1945:242-243). They noted that
the alliance between the colonial administration and the local
elite had prevented the enactment of economic, political, and
social reforms recommended by the Royal West India Commission in
the 1890s (John 1971; Rubenstein 1987:43; Proudfoot 1950:5; Thomas
1988:50-56).
Vincentians in the 1980s who lived through the Depression
remember it as a hard time, when people barely survived. The
unions offered the lower class some hope, but the brutal response
to the 1930s riots by the colonial administration also made people
realize that social and economic changes would be slow in coming.
The limited political reforms that the British government
instituted during the 1930s benefitted primarily the colored
middle class, not the lower class majority. As at the turn of the
century, lower class Vincentians chose to emigrate in large
numbers. Their opportunity came when the beginning of World War
II re-opened the doors to migration.


122
employed in factories, in the service sector, in small businesses
and in the professions, and these jobs could not be abandoned for
any length of time (Freeman 1987:193; Rubenstein 1987:199). When
a migrant sent for his wife and children to join him in England,
instead of leaving them to wait in St. Vincent, a major reason to
return was gone. As migrants became acculturated, settling into
homes and buying property in England, the drive to return to St.
Vincent and resume an agricultural way of life lessened.
At the height of the movement to England, Vincentians also
took advantage of the freedom of movement provided during the
short-lived Federation of the West Indies to emigrate to Trinidad
and Barbados. The rapid influx of large numbers of "small
islanders," such as Vincentians and Grenadians, contributed to
Trinidad's decision to pull out of the Federation (Spinelli
1973:248-251).
The census of 1960 was done during the middle of the
emigration to England and Trinidad. During the post-World War II
period, the Vincentian population began showing characteristics
common to many other Third World countries: high birth rates in
combination with rapidly falling death rates produced high rates
of natural increase and large increases in total population size.
In St. Vincent, the high rate of natural increase in the
population since World War II has been off-set by high emigration
The total absolute increase in the population between 1946 and


I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion
it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and
is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the
Anthropology
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion
it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and
is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the
degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Helen I. Safa
Professor of Latin American
Studies
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion
it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and
is fully adequate, in scope and qua
degree of Doctor of Philosophy,
dissertation for the
Robert D. Lawless
Associate Professor of
Anthropology
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion
it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and
is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the
degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
I SVvCV
Linda Wolfe
Associate Professor of
Anthropology


125
population size also means that it has never filled its national
visa quota, unlike the larger Latin American and Caribbean
countries.
Migration to Canada and the United States has been more
selective than migration to Great Britain. Canadian and American
immigration laws preferentially select younger, better educated,
and more skilled migrants than those who were able to take
advantage of migration opportunities within the Caribbean or to
England. Contemporary migration patterns and strategies are
discussed in more detail in Chapter 5.
Population Changes in St. Vincent, 1960-1980
The Vincentian population began showing signs of rapid growth
in the period from 1946 to 1960. Emigration to Aruba, Curacao,
Trinidad, and England during this period off-set population gains.
The next census interval, between 1960 and 1970, saw the total
population increase slowly despite a continuing high birth rate
and a falling death rate. Again, emigration made the difference.
Between 1960 and 1970 the total population rose to 86,314, an
absolute increase of only 6,366. However, the natural increase
for the period was 28,040, for a net emigration of -21,670. (1)
Between 1960 and 1970 the birth rate fell slightly from the
all-time high of 44.6 recorded for 1960 to 38.5. The death rate
fell even faster, from 14.9 to 8.5, reflecting improvements in
health care and nutrition.


115
During World War II, the oil industry expanded in the Dutch
Antillean islands of Aruba and Curacao (D. Marshall 1987:23-24).
When the war began the United States established military bases in
Trinidad and Antigua (Proudfoot 1950:9,19). Large numbers of
lower and middle class Vincentians emigrated to work in the
refineries or military bases (cf. Richardson 1983:148-150).
Kenneth John (1971) estimates that nearly a third of the adult
work force was absent from St. Vincent between 1939 and 1958.
Movement from St. Vincent to Trinidad and the Netherlands Antilles
during the 1940s was easy and inexpensive on the regularly
scheduled steamship lines. As in the early nineteenth century,
emigrants routinely moved between the islands. Like the movement
to Panama, this labor migration enabled Vincentian men and women
to earn money and gain valuable work skills. Although the United
States' military bases were closed at the end of the war, the oil
industry expansion in Trinidad and the continuing boom in Curacao
and Aruba kept the migration stream moving southward until the
mid-1950s.
The movement to Curacao, Aruba, and Trinidad differed from
earlier migrations because it was comprised of women and men in
almost equal numbers. Both sexes were employed by the oil
industry and the military bases, and women also found employment
in the islands' informal sectors as domestic servants,
prostitutes, food vendors, and small shopkeepers. Men and women


312
their kinsfolk assisting. Unpaid family labor makes an important
contribution to small farmers who cannot afford to hire labor (cf.
Clarke 1957; Olwig 1985; Rubenstein 1987). A woman farmer who
does not have a husband to help her clear land will rely on her
brothers and male cousins for assistance. Farmers also cooperate
on larger projects, such as roads and bank building. Fishermen's
crews often contain siblings, cousins, and other relatives, as
well as friends of the owner of the boat (cf. Wilson 1973;
Berleant-Schiller 1977). Family members work together in small
shops and in the skilled trades, which are often passed down from
mother to daughter and father to son. Traffickers usually pass
their business from mother to daughter. Family connections also
play a role in securing civil service jobs and positions in the
retail commercial sector in Kingstown.
Although the exchange of labor amongst kin is less important
among the middle class, its continuing role emerges when middle
class participation in informal sector activities is examined.
One of my neighbors owned two vans, which were operated jointly by
her two sons and her two nephews, her sister's sons. These two
families lived next door to each other, making cooperation easy.
Kinship relations have also become important in organizing
migration, as discussed in Chapter Five. The destinations of
choice today, the United States and Canada, both emphasize family
reunification in their immigration laws (McCoy 1987). Vincentian


351
Abrahams 1983:135). Activities in private places are above the
interference of outsiders. The same activities in public places,
however, provoke commentary and intervention from on-lookers.
While activities in private places tend to be more secluded from
view, private places such as yards are often quite visible to
neighbors and passers-by. The distinction between public and
private cuts across other social divisions such as production and
reproduction, work and leisure, and visible or secluded spaces.
It rests upon the concept of access only with permission and
protection from non-interference.
The physical seclusion of the private domain increases with
socioeconomic class. Middle- and upper-class Vincentians work as
professionals, managers, and senior civil servants in "private
offices" within "public" buildings. Entertaining and socializing
among the middle and upper class occurs in private homes, social
clubs, and lodges. Domestic work is carried out within the house
not outside in the yard (cf. Austin 1984). In contrast, lower-
class Vincentians spend much more time in the public domain, and
even their "private" spaces are more visible. Lower class
Vincentians, whether they are farmers, estate workers, fishermen,
tradespeople, street vendors, or domestic servants, all work
outside or in areas that are not considered their "private"
spaces. Socializing occurs at the corner shop, the rum-shop, on
the street corner, or in the yard. Domestic work is performed in


284
their own parents or merely for a change. Sometimes a temporary
move helps the child adjust to the birth of a new sibling or a
change in a parent's relationship (cf. Olwig 1985; Sanford 1975;
Stack 1975; Barrow 1986; Powell 1986; Safa 1986).
Relationships between grandparents and grandchildren are
affectionate and emotionally close, especially when the
grandmother has not assumed a surrogate mother role.
Grandchildren are expected to show proper deference and respect
due to an older person, but there is also much teasing and joking,
since grandparents do not have to be primary disciplinarians.
However, if the child misbehaves, a grandparent is quick to
correct the child.
Siblingsbrothers and sistersthat grow up together in the
same household are usually emotionally close, even if they do not
share both biological parents. Older siblings, especially older
girls, help look after their younger siblings, and many assume a
surrogate mother role (cf. Rubenstein 1987: 248). In adulthood,
siblings remain close. They may continue to share the same
household or live near each other. They exchange economic and
social support, helping each other whenever possible. This
support is seen as reciprocal, the one having some resource
sharing with the other, and the other returning the service at a
later date.


98
immediately before the end of slavery was extended to life in the
villages, as men engaged in wage labor migration and cash crop
production and women engaged in subsistence production and rearing
children (cf. Olwig 1985: 117-119).
Several forms of sexual relationships emerged as socially
acceptable, including visiting relationships, cohabitation,
"keeping," and legal marriage (cf. Olwig 1985: 119-120). Although
the European-influenced upper class elite found multiple partners
"immoral," the freed blacks' ancestors came from West African
cultures that accepted polygyny, and the practice was common
during slavery (Carmichael 1833:297-298; Day 1852:90-91; cf.
Higman 1978:58-59). The migration-induced scarcity of men
reinforced this already existing pattern.
Migration reinforced the sexual disadvantage of women
established during slavery. Women relied on their sexual and
procreative capacities, as well as their own labor, to survive.
Women needed to establish relationships with men to gain access to
cash and land to farm and to avoid estate labor. Men with
property had an advantage attracting and keeping sexual partners.
Women preferred liaisons with wealthier men to marriage to poor
men. As migration increased, the adult Vincentian population
reversed from being disproportionately male to being predominantly
female. Competition between women over fewer and fewer men became
more common. Women had little leverage to control their partners'


366
the main wage earner's total income is used by the whole
household. The household head also determines how much of their
earnings adult dependents must contribute towards the household
budget (Moses 1977; Durant-Gonzalez 1982; Barrow 1986). Adult
dependents who are unable to contribute financially because of
inability to find or keep a paying job are not turned out of the
household. They contribute to the upkeep of the household by
donating their labor in caring for dependent children and elderly,
working as unpaid family agricultural laborers, and doing odd jobs
(Barrow 1986; Powell 1986).
The household head enforces his or her moral or behavioral
code on all household members. The household head expects to
receive respect and deference from other household members.
Junior members must obey the head's commands and directives; in
return the household head protects and supports them. If the head
does not have "control" over the household, he or she loses
"respect" within the community. If adult or even dependent
household members do not conform with the household head's demands
they leave the household and live elsewhere (cf. Rubenstein 1987;
Wilson 1973; White 1986; Barrow 1986).
The household head provides shelter and supplies the
consumption needs of dependent household members. Dependents
include the young, the aged, the sick, and the mentally and
physically impaired. As dependent children grow up or the


328
Someone who owns a little house is considered both better off and
more sensible than a person who rents a larger house. Individuals
who squander their money on consumption or other possessions
before they have bought or built a house are considered very
foolish.
In St. Vincent, the availability and cost of land on which to
build a house varies by location. Land is most expensive near
Kingstown, in the southernmost tip of the island, and in the
suburban areas west of the capital. Land is less expensive the
further north one goes. Banks in Kingstown offer mortgages to
those who can afford them and there have been several government-
sponsored "housing schemes" offering subsidized housing for middle
and lower income people in the suburbs and small towns. However,
most housing is built or bought through money earned and saved, or
money received as remittances from overseas relatives.
The size and quality of one's house and yard are markers of
class and social standing within the community. The type of house
a person can afford to build or buy relates to class membership,
and the appearance of the house and yard measure how well the
household head provides for the household and what kind of
housekeepers the women of the household are. House ownership is a
major factor in determining household headship. A man is expected
to provide his wife with a house, and many of my informants felt
that a couple should not legally marry until the man builds or


73
administrators, professionals, clergy, and military (Carmichael
1833:19; Rubenstein 1987:39).
As the proportion of whites in the total population fell,
both groups of whites closed ranks to form a small, close-knit
community that socialized with each other, with the Creole elites
in other West Indian islands, or with visiting Europeans. Society
revolved around parties, dinners, and balls; the arrival or
departure of the British regiment was a major social event (Bayley
1830:235-241; R. T. Smith 1987). Marriages occurred largely
within the Creole elite group or with European and North American
women because Creole males outnumbered females. The white Creole
children born in St. Vincent were sent back to England for
education at the age of 10 to 12 because no schools or tutors were
available, and few returned to the islands (Carmichael 1833:
25-26). While the resident planter oversaw the production of
sugar and the financial affairs of the estate, the planter's wife
oversaw the management of the household, supervised the domestic
servants, and assisted with the medical treatment of all the
estate's slaves. Large numbers of domestic slaves helped keep the
households of the elites running (Carmichael 1833:21-24).
The upper class remained loyal to their British heritage and
maintained close ties to their native land. One observer wrote:
This word "at home" is the common expression of the
West India settlers. England, Scotland, or Ireland is
still their home. Unlike the inhabitants of the
French colonies, they look upon the island in which


45
as my research activities were concerned. After the general
election of July, 1984, and the ascension of the New Democratic
Party to power, the political atmosphere improved greatly and I
received assistance with my research. Difficult as ray experiences
were during the first eight months on St. Vincent while the Labour
Government was in power, they proved valuable in increasing my
understanding of the conditions of life Vincentians faced and the
mechanisms they employed to cope with the bureaucracy, mechanisms
which are generally referred to as "pull string."
Finding a Research Assistant
My decision to employ a research assistant was based on my
concerns for my personal safety and ray frustration with the
resulting lack of mobility. Another factor was the difficulty I
was having learning to speak Vincentian Creole English fluently.
The local dialect of English, based on African grammatical forms
and English vocabulary items, was not as easy to learn as I had
hoped, although my comprehension was improving. A major problem
was getting informants to speak "bad," as they referred to their
Creole use, in my presence. Instead, they would attempt to
correct their speech to more standard forms. I was learning
idioms and thought most people could understand what I was trying
to say.
Two months after arriving in St. Vincent I was introduced to
a young Vincentian named Elroy Connor, who was recommended to me


159
emigrants and more difficult for individuals to apply on their
merits. The easiest way for a Vincentian to gain access to Canada
or the United States is to use kinship or sexual ties to emigrants
already there.
Under the contemporary migration ideology, kinship
obligations have been extended beyond financial support to include
facilitating emigration. In addition to the traditional goals of
earning money to send back and to save for the purchase of land
and a house, today's emigrants want to obtain permanent status to
make emigration possible for other relatives and partners. It is
also less expensive for emigrants to help their relatives leave
St. Vincent and join them than it is to keep supporting them back
home. Adult relatives and spouses can find jobs and be self-
supporting fellow migrants rather than dependents requiring
remittances.
Finally, emigrants today know that acquiring permanent
status, getting a decent job, and saving money requires a stay of
several years. Many realize that they may not come back to live
in St. Vincent at all and they would rather have their loved ones
with them for emotional support and companionship overseas. As
happened in England twenty years ago, today's migrants find jobs,
form families, and become a part of their new countries. They
become accustomed to a very different style of lifeurban and
industrialized instead of rural and agricultural. Although they


237
stability in male-female relationships and contrasted that with
the strength of the bond between mother and child. Children
provide women with the emotional closeness and companionship
lacking in their relationships with their adult partners.
Vincentians scornfully refer to a naturally sterile woman as
a "mule" (cf. Sutton and Makiesky-Barrow 1977; Laufer 1973). A
fertile woman is considered more sexually desirable and
responsive. A man who could not have children is equally scorned,
and his masculinity and virility are called into question.
Vincentian values about having children of one's own are
illustrated by a letter which appeared in an advice column of a
Vincentian newspaper. A man, in his mid forties, who had been
happily married to an infertile woman for many years, wrote in
that he had recently met a young woman at work who was attracted
to him and had offered to have a baby for him. He loved his wife
and had been faithful to her; he considered the young woman
attractive but he was not in love with her. However, as he grew
older he wanted more and more to have his own child. The advice
columnist told him he should by all means take advantage of the
young woman's offer. It was more important for him to take
advantage of this opportunity to have his own child than to remain
faithful to his wife. The individuals involved were identified as
middle-class. There was no moralistic rebuttal to this letter and


258
man maintains the woman financially and helps her achieve
"respect" or "respectability," the woman should not interfere with
the man's pursuit of "reputation" through outside sexual
relationships. Women, however, are always concerned that their
partners may direct too much of their economic resources to these
outside relationships, or may be lured away completely, thus
threatening the woman's security and status. Vincentian women
depend on men economically because widespread sex discrimination
in education and employment, the historic limitation of off-island
migration opportunities, and the extra burden of domestic work and
childcare, have all reduced women's ability to earn as much as
men. Men in all classes have greater economic power than women of
their class; middle- and upper-class men control local economic
and political resources, and lower-class men, through wage-labor
migration, gain access to resources outside of the local economy.
The historic reliance on wage labor migration by lower-class
Vincentian men has reinforced the uncertainty in sexual
relationships produced by the "sex-fame game." Lower-class women
are dependent on the remittances migrant men send home, and they
therefore tolerate their partners' coming and going, but men also
use migration to leave relationships that have become problematic
(cf. Tobias 1975). Women cannot complain as much about their
partners' outside women because they run the risk of losing them
and their remittances the next time they migrate. This


305
to select members from different classes and communities
islandwide, while others are dominated by middle- and upper-class
Kingstown residents. Some Vincentian lodges allow women to join
directly, instead of relegating them to a "sister" support group.
Lodge members consider each other "brothers" and "sisters"
and members are supposed to assist each other as kin do. Lodge
members give other members preferential consideration for economic
benefits, such as hiring or promotion. Lodge membership also
influences political party affiliation. Lodge membership serves
the same purpose as membership in a church friendly society; it
ensures a large funeral and the care of dependent family members
after death. Lodges provide a major private social outlet for
adult men in Vincentian society. Meetings are held in the Lodge
Halls at least once a month and sometimes more frequently. Lodges
also sponsor social events for member couples to attend such as
dances.
Class Variation in Kinship
Most upper and middle class Vincentians marry legally within
their own class and establish households resembling the Euro-
American nuclear family. Middle- and upper-class men also form
sexual liaisons with lower class women, both casual affairs and
more serious "keeping" relationships. A "keeping" relationship
often results in an entire "outside" family composed of the
"keeper" and her children. Thus, upper- and middle-class men


405
system. St. Vincent came into being as a slave society, a colony
of Great Britain oriented to the production of sugar to the
British market. Labor was provided by the enslaved African and
Afro-Creole majority. A rigid color/class hierarchy was present
from the beginning of the society. A small group of white estate
owners formed the top of the hierarchy; the free colored
descendants of white slave owning men and their black female
slaves formed the middle; and the black African and Afro-Creole
slaves made up the bottom.
The harsh conditions of life under slavery in St. Vincent
during the late eighteenth century precluded the biological
reproduction of the slave population. The slave population
increased primarily through new arrivals from Africa rather than
an excess of births over deaths. Slavery interfered with the
African slaves' attempts to duplicate African systems of gender,
kinship, or household, but it did not eradicate these cultural
systems from the slaves' minds. The slave society also deformed
the European gender and kinship systems of the slave owning elite.
New relationships between slaves and slave owners emerged, a
Creole system which contained elements of both heritages, but
which served the new social order in St. Vincent.
Under the color/class hierarchy of Vincentian slave society,
white slave owners entered into legal marriages with white women
and concubinage and casual liaisons with free colored and slave


174
emigrate. Phone calls and visits tie migrants and residents,
keeping migrants aware of events in St. Vincent and the needs of
their kinfolk, friends, and spouses. This contact reinforces
their sense of obligation and reduces their feelings of alienation
in the receiving society. Migrants return home to St. Vincent for
funerals, illnesses in their family, weddings, births, and other
important family occasions. The most important other occasion
that migrants return to celebrate, however, is Carnival.
"Vinci Mas:" Carnival in St. Vincent
Carnival in St. Vincent has assumed a new social function
since the mid-1970s when the Vincentian government decided to move
Carnival from its traditional pre-Lenten date to a new time at the
end of June, beginning of July. The motivation for the change of
time was to attract more tourists to St. Vincent during Carnival
season by decreasing competition with Trinidad's larger and better
known Carnival celebration. Summer is the slowest tourist season
in the Caribbean. Several other Caribbean nations have changed
the timing of their traditional celebrations or created new
festivals to attract tourists during this slack period.
Carnival time in St. Vincent lasts officially for ten days,
beginning the Sunday night a week and a half before the Tuesday
designated as "Mardi Gras." Celebrations begin with the Carnival
Queen Show, a beauty and talent pageant, on Sunday, and continue
through the week with government and privately sponsored concerts


58
Collection of Archival and Census Data
I alternated days spent in my neighborhood collecting and
analyzing data on domestic groups with trips to Kingstown to
consult sources at the Public Library, Registrar's Office, the
Government Statistics Office, and the Government Information
Center, created in 1984 while I was in the field. The Government
Information Center represented an attempt to gather together and
organize documents and records from different ministries to assist
the Government Planning Office's efforts. Prior to its
establishment, no central government archives existed. During the
British colonial administration, the majority of official
government records were kept in England and little local record
keeping was maintained in St. Vincent. As a result, it was
extremely difficult to obtain any official statistics.
No statistics were kept on migration except for a record of
"arrivals and departures" by the airport and police. These
figures include non-Vincentian tourist arrivals and departures
and cannot be used to measure Vincentian emigration or return
migration. The Labor Commissioner had records of participants in
the H-2 farmworkers program only for the late 1970s and early
1980s because his predecessor had not kept any official records at
all. The teachers' union, nurses' association, and civil
servants' union did not keep any records that showed membership


94
It is impossible to determine the total number of migrant
laborers during the early phases of this movement, because births
and deaths were not required to be registered in St. Vincent prior
to 1864, making calculation of the net migration between 1844 and
1861 impossible. However, the total number of indentured
immigrants brought into St. Vincent between 1844 and 1851 (2,917)
exceeded the absolute increase by only 37, so there must have been
a large emigration of native Vincentians during the same period
(Spinelli 1973:233). Despite the importation of more men than
women during slavery, the ratio of men to women fell steadily from
the end of the slave trade in 1808 to reach a low of 86 men per
100 women in 1844. This evidence also suggests a large emigration
of men occurred during this time. The arrival of predominantly
male indentured laborers brought the sex ratio up to a peak of 90
by 1861 and 1871. The sex ratio then began to decline again.
Interestingly, in spite of high male emigration, the birth rate
increased from 40.09 per thousand for the period 1861-1871 to
42.81 per thousand for the period 1871-1881 (Spinelli 1973:
317-322).
The number of men who migrated must have been much higher
than the census suggests because many migrants travelled
seasonally, going away to work as agricultural laborers during
peak periods and returning home to care for their own holdings
during slack times. Although some remained as settlers, perhaps


355
The house and yard thus hold many meanings and associations
for Vincentians. House ownership and maintenance denotes
adulthood and household headship, indicates socioeconomic status
and social position, and reveals character. The house and yard
represent both financial and social security. The house and yard
is the scene for both productive and reproductive activities, the
setting for the daily round and for the life crisis. It provides a
private domain, where public formality is relaxed, where
interactions are more intimate, where outsiders will not intrude
(cf. Mintz 1974).
The house and yard are primarily a female domain in St.
V
Vincent. The house and yard complex provide women with the
location for most of their work, their leisure, and their family
life. In addition, the appearance of the house and yard serve as
visible proof of a woman's housekeeping skills and the measure of
her status within the community. The house and yard also offer
women a place of refuge and protection, apart from the male-
dominated world of the rum-shop and street corner. A woman who
stays close to her house and yard safeguards her "respectability."
Although men also spend time at home, and are the final authority
in households they head, men spend most of their time in the
public world while at work and leisure.


221
establishment of this kinship tie means that his other relatives
might help the mother, and that the child can call upon these ties
later. Women safeguard themselves and their childrens futures by
being faithful or very discreet if they have multiple affairs.
The intensity with which the double standard is applied
varies by class; lower-class women have more sexual freedom than
upper- and middle-class women. Upper- and middle-class women are
expected to marry before having sexual relations or having
children. Once married, the middle-class woman is expected to be
faithful to her partner. Middle-class girls are much more closely
chaperoned than lower-class girls and marry at younger ages. If a
middle-class girl gets pregnant, her parents and the boy's parents
often force the boy to marry the girl (cf. Henry and Wilson 1975).
Middle- and upper-class men have much greater sexual freedom.
Early sexual contacts occur between middle- and upper-class
adolescent males and their household's domestic servants. Middle-
and upper-class boys avoid sexual relationships with girls of
their own class, unless they are "in love" and want to marry the
girl anyway. Once married, middle- or upper-class men continue
their extramarital liaisons with lower-class women.
Relationships between lower-class women and middle- and
upper-class men are governed by a mutual understanding of the
obligations of each partner. The female partner in such a liaison
is expected to be faithful to her provider. Men do not leave


412
of slave societies, the cultural systems carried by the members of
Vincentian society, and the terms of individuals' participation
within that society.
The vast majority of the population of St. Vincent from the
beginnings of the slave society were Africans. They did not lose
their African cultures when they became slaves, but they did lose
the ability to freely enact the social roles prescribed by those
cultures. The African slaves were not indoctrinated into European
culture except insofar as such indoctrination was necessary for
them to fulfill their roles as slaves. Slave owners actively
discouraged slaves from learning to read and write, attending
church, and from any form of political organization. Slave owners
also repressed any African forms of religious or political
organization that interfered with the slaves' fulfillment of their
primary function as laborers. Slaves created ways to communicate
with each other, as well as with their masters (Mintz and Price
1976; R. T. Smith 1978, 1987).
The slaves had to conform to the work patterns expected of
them, and they had to communicate with their masters to receive
instruction for their work. The slaves had to learn the tasks and
skills necessary to carry out the tasks of sugar cane cultivation
and sugar production. In addition, slaves learned how to grow the
crops necessary for their own subsistence. Slaves also acquired
the code of behavior expected of them as slaves, codes of


69
as soon as the land was sold, more affluent planters began to buy
up the property of the small farmers and the French planters and
establish large estates (Spinelli 1973:55).
British settlement on St. Vincent grew slowly during the
remainder of the eighteenth century. From 1764 to 1795, the
British planters cleared the tropical forest cover, expanded their
sugar estates, and imported large numbers of African slaves. Two
wars with the Black Caribs in 1772-1773 and 1795-1797 were
necessary before their violent resistance to the British
occupation of the island was ended. In 1797, the surviving Black
Caribs, about 5,000 men, women and children, were rounded up and
shipped to a small island off the coast of Central America
(Gonzalez 1988:19-22; Kirby and Martin 1972). A few hundred
Caribs eluded the roundup and were confined to three small
reservations in the mountainous northern interior of the island.
The flat and fertile Carib lands on the eastern or Windward
Coast were opened up for settlement in 1802 (Shephard 1831;
Spinelli 1973:64-65). St. Vincent rapidly took on the typical
configuration of a British West Indian colony devoted to sugar
monoculture on large plantations. St. Vincent's heydey between
1802 and 1828 as a sugar colony was brief, during the last
flowering of the British West Indian sugar industry. Although St.
Vincent's history as a slave society was shorter than the older
West Indian colonies settled in the sixteenth century, its social


18
theorists discuss contemporary migration streams, especially those
with the United States as a destination, in the same terms as the
population movements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth
centuries in which migrants left the sending society for permanent
resettlement in the receiving one. This outlook ignores a
different kind of population movement made possible by the
mid-twentieth century revolution in transportation and
communications. Contemporary migrants frequently move back and
forth between societies and maintain close, meaningful connections
in a way not possible earlier.
The study of migration as permanent removal overlooks
migrants who eventually return to their sending societies and who
consider themselves "sojourners" rather than permanent "settlers."
The meaning of the migration experience and the nature of the
relationship a "sojourner" establishes with the receiving society
may be quite different from that of the "settler" making a new
home.
The fundamental limitations of the historical-structural
approach are its overly deterministic perspective and its
inability to discriminate between individuals or groups within
broader social categories (Wood 1982). Not all the members of the
working class within sending societies emigrate, and not all those
who emigrate remain in the receiving societies. Historical-
structural theorists do not attempt to explain how migrants'


40
The choice of Arnos Vale as my major field site provided an
interesting test of the theory proposed by many ethnographers of
Afro-Caribbean countries that lower class lifestyles represent an
adaptation to conditions of harsh poverty and discrimination.
Although some community residents are from the traditional middle
class and inherited their status, the majority of residents are
members of the "new middle class," and others are in the lower
class. Thus, Arnos Vale provided a setting in which 1 could
observe the effects of shifting class status on beliefs and
behavior and observe inter-class as well as intra-class relations.
This setting contrasts with that of most Caribbean ethnographies
which have focused on smaller, island-wide societies (Hill 1977;
Wilson 1973; Berleant-Schiller 1977; Philpott 1973); on rural
villages composed almost exclusively of lower class members
(Horowitz 1967; Rubenstein 1987; R. T. Smith 1956); or on poor
neighborhoods within large cities (Austin 1983; Brodber 1975;
Bolles 1981).
Physically, Arnos Vale has many attractive features. Most
houses are small to medium-sized concrete block structures,
although there are some small wooden houses and a few mansions.
Most houses are painted and in good repair. Yards are large, well
maintained, and contain a mixture of grass, small kitchen gardens,
livestock pens, many fruit and shade trees, and decorative
flowering plants and shrubs. Chickens, sheep, goats, cattle,


274
"sis," as well as by the sibling's first name or home pet name.
These terras are used for all brothers and sisters with whom ego
shares a parent, either mother or father. The modifier "half-" is
not used to distinguish a sibling with whom ego shares only one
parent from siblings with whom ego shares both parents, although a
full sibling may be further described as being "my brother/sister
by my father" while half siblings may be described as "my
brother/sister on my father's/mother's side."
In the same generation, the children of ego's mother's or
father's siblings are referred to and addressed as "cousin." The
term "second cousin" is used to refer to the children of one's
cousins. In interviews, there was some disagreement amongst
informants as to whether the children of one's cousins should be
referred to as "second cousins" or what other term should be used
instead. "Cousin" is also applied to relatives with whom the
exact degree of kinship is uncertain; these individuals are
referred to as "some kind of cousin."
In the first descending generation, ego's male children are
referred to as "son" or "me boy pickme", female children are
"dahter" or "me gel pickme", and both collectively are referred to
as "pickmes." Ego's children are addressed by name or by an
affectionate nickname. The term "outside child/ren" is used to
refer to ego's own child or to ego's partner's child born to
another partner before the present union began or in a male's


214
(cf. Sutton and Makiesky-Barrow 1977; Freilich 1971; Rubenstein
1987:257-258). Most Vincentians, both men and women, begin having
sexual contact in their early to mid-teens and remain sexually
active most of their lives. Men do not consider sexual contact
with women to be polluting or self-destructive, but necessary for
the maintenance of physical and emotional health (cf. Sutton and
Makiesky-Barrow 1977). Vincentians find it hard to believe that
anyone willingly would be celibate for any period of time for any
reason. If a person does not like sex then there is something
psychologically wrong with him or her and may be considered a
secret homosexual.
Maintaining an active heterosexual life is a major part of
adult identity, especially for men (cf. Wilson 1973; Freilich
1971; Rubenstein 1987). Men constantly demonstrate their virility
through their sexual conquests and through fathering children.
Women, once they have borne a child, are not under social pressure
to reaffirm their sexuality, although most consider it healthier
(physically and emotionally) not to live alone too long. Women
who were seduced, impregnated, and abandoned by their lovers
during adolescence may refuse suitors for months and even years,
although most eventually get involved with a man again. As long
as a woman has had at least one child and one relationship, she is
considered a heterosexual adult. For a man to stop seeing women,


365
Role of the Household Head
The household head is the ultimate authority within the
household and has final control over household composition,
household expenditures, household members' behavior, and household
decision making. The household head determines what other persons
live in the household, what the household economic and social
strategies are, and how the household strategies are actualized
(cf. Rubenstein 1987:283; M. G. Smith 1962a; White 1986; Powell
1986). For example, the household head determines whether a
daughter's illegitimate child or a partner's "outside" children
from a previous relationship are incorporated within the
household.
The household head has the final say over financial decision
making although other household members also have input in
decision making. Male household heads usually turn over the
income allocated for joint household expenses to their female
partner, who then budgets and disburses funds as needed for food,
shelter, clothing, school fees and school books. However, the
male household head makes the initial division of his income,
retaining whatever money he chooses for his own expenses,
including supporting outside children or other sexual partners
(cf. Durant-Gonzalez 1982; Moses 1977; Powell 1986; Barrow 1986;
Safa 1986). Thus, while the female partner controls expenditures
within the household, she does not determine what proportion of


140
economies, yet there is no regional coordination of manufacturing
or marketing. No regional federation links the Eastern Caribbean
States and no single overarching international body supervises and
coordinates development, resulting in much duplication of effort,
especially in the establishment of small industries and in
tourism, so that the islands actually compete against each other
rather than cooperate.
The problems associated with smallness of geographic area and
population are compounded by St. Vincent's being an island.
Everything not produced locally must be brought into the country
by ship or air; yet the island lacks an international airport or
large port capable of receiving larger airlines or shipping lines,
and is thus irregularly and unreliably serviced by small
companies. Because there is so little local manufacturing, all
heavy equipment, vehicles, tools, and spare parts must be
imported. St. Vincent's logical source of supply for such
materials is the United States, due to its physical proximity and
domination of local shipping and airlines. However, since much of
the the early infrastructural development was done by British or
Canadian agencies, using their national companies as suppliers,
there are problems in synchronizing electrical current, tool
sizes, and parts with the more easily available and cheaper
American ones. These coordination problems are a major hindrance
in advancing infrastructural development or in establishing local


118
No 1941 census was taken in St. Vincent because of World War
II. The next census was taken in 1946 after an interval of 15
years. During the 1931-1939 portion of this inter-censal
interval, many Vincentians returned from overseas, while the
1939-1946 portion saw the resumption of large-scale emigration.
This era was the beginning of rapid population growth in St.
Vincent, fueled by steady, high birth rates and rapidly falling
death rates. The population increased from 47,961 in 1931 to
61,647 in 1946, for an absolute increase of 13,686 and an annual
rate of growth of 1.67%. Net emigration was -5,804, but total
migration was probably much higher. The sex ratio rose to 83 men
per 100 women (Spinelli 1973:247-251).
The Netherlands Antilles' refineries began closing and laying
off workers in the mid-1950s (D. Marshall 1987; Spinelli 1973).
Some skilled Vincentian workers remained in Aruba and Curacao, and
a few even emigrated to the Netherlands. Some emigrants moved on
to jobs in the oil industry and developing manufacturing sector of
Trinidad and never returned to St. Vincent. Others came back to
St. Vincent, invested their earnings in small businesses and land,
becoming small fanners in the rapidly developing banana industry.
Vincentian emigration to Trinidad and the Dutch Antilles
during the 1940s and early 1950s foreshadowed the massive
international movement that began in the late 1950s and continues
to the present. The emigration in the 1940s represented


291
When Mrs. Maguire returned from England to St. Vincent because she
did not wish to remain separated from her children, her friends
and family disapproved.
Fostering occurs in many other situations besides emigration.
It is extremely common for the parents of a teenage mother to
raise her child while she works. The next most likely relatives
to foster children are the mother's sister, aunt, and in some
cases, the father's mother. If the mother becomes involved in a
subsequent union, she may or may not reclaim her children,
depending on her new partner's willingness to support them.
Fostering also occurs on a temporary basis if the mother is sick,
travelling, or working as a live-in domestic (cf. Goody 1975;
Durant-Gonzalez 1982; Powell 1982; Roberts and Sinclair 1978;
Philpott 1973; Safa 1986; Barrow 1986; Sanford 1975; Stack 1970,
1974, 1975). This type of fostering Is usually reciprocated if
the need arises. The major differences between adopting and
fostering is that adopting is legal, permanent and the adoptive
parent assumes financial responsibility for the child, while
fostering is informal, of varying durations, and the natural
parent retains responsibility for supporting the child
financially.
Kinship and Reciprocity
All relatives with whom one can claim kinship can be
approached for assistance on the basis of this tie (cf. Alexander


262
"they are some kind of family to me." "Family" is the cover term
used to refer to any individual known to be related to ego or any
individual with whom a kinship relationship can be traced and is
also used to refer to the entire group of relatives. "Family" is
analogous to the technical anthropological terra "kindred" (cf.
Rubenstein 1987; Davenport 1968; Philpott 1973). Vincentians do
not use the term "family" to describe the domestic group or
nuclear family. Instead, Vincentians refer to "the people I live
with" or "my mother/father/grandmother/sister that I live with,"
specifying the kinship relationship between the speaker and the
individuals with whom he or she lives. Vincentians recognize a
variety of kinship roles: mother, father, grandmother,
grandfather, son, daughter, grandson, granddaughter, aunt, uncle,
niece, nephew, and cousin.
"Family" always refers to an extended network of persons with
whom an individual has a genealogical (or equivalent fictive)
relationship. Vincentian kinship terms and the collective term
"family" are used only to refer to consanguineal and not
collateral relatives. Kinship terms of reference for collateral
relatives are sometimes formed by adding "in-law" to the term that
would be used for the consanguineal relative occupying the same
position (cf. MacDonald 1973). Thus, the mother and father of
one's spouse are called "mother-in-law" and "father-in-law," and
the spouse's sister and brother are "sister-in-law" and


160
cling to their identity as Vincentians, emigrants become
acculturated and many lose sight of their original goal to return.
Many hesitate to return because they know they could not readjust
or fear that they could not obtain as secure an economic position.
Permanent residency becomes not only a designation obtained to
help one's relatives emigrate, but also a true description of the
migrant's altered goals.
The final case study is the Byron-O'Donnell family which
demonstrates how members of a single family have pursued a variety
of migration strategies to reach several destinations. The
matriarch of the Byron-O'Donnell family, Zilpha, had two children
for Charles O'Donnell, the Irish overseer of a nearby estate. He
gave her property and helped her financially. She later married a
man returned from Panama, but the marriage did not last. Her
oldest daughter, Juanita O'Donnell, never married, but had
children for five different men. She was employed as head
housekeeper for the large estate nearby. Her brother, Charles
Byron, emigrated to England in the 1950s. He still owns a house
next to his mother's and sister's. Juanita had nine children,
seven boys and two girls. The oldest daughter, Anita, married and
had two children, then divorced her husband. She works in St.
Vincent as a bookkeeper and lives in the house next-door to the
one her mother and grandmother share. The oldest son, Jack,
became a seaman and saved enough money to establish a small rum-


436
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386
dependent on migrant relatives for remittances or the provision of
rent-free housing. Ms. Suzie's case ilustrates, however, how
migrants subsidize non-migrants through cash remittances, which
Ms. Suzies mother received until she died, and the provision of
free housing, which Ms. Suzie and her brother received until they
quarrelled and caused too much "confusion." These subsidies, when
supplemented by the irregular income provided by temporary jobs
and male partners, keep many lower-class Vincentian women and
their dependents alive.
Vincentian households cannot be described merely as self-
contained groups replicating themselves and the household
structure. Household relations are not the only ones dictating
the provision of income and the disbursement of resources. Sexual
and kinship relationships create obligations for financial support
and aid which involve other household members and non-household
members (cf. Olwig 1985; Rubenstein 1987). A man is expected to
support or contribute to the support of a woman with whom he is
sexually involved for as long as the relationship continues,
whether or not the couple lives together. A man is expected to
support or contribute to the support of his children born in any
type of union. Because men do not always fulfill their
obligations to their partners and children, many Vincentian women
must take care of their children and support them financially (cf.
Massiah 1983; Durant-Gonzalez 1982; Barrow 1986; Powell 1986;


377
over more resources and economic opportunities, and therefore can
afford to marry and set up their own households at earlier ages
(cf. Austin 1984; Wilson 1973).
Middle- and upper-class women's potential partners within
their own class are better able to marry as young adults and more
likely to do so. Middle- and upper-class girls are under stricter
sexual control by their parents and are unlikely to engage in
visiting relationships and have illegitimate children. If a
relationship results in a pregnancy, a middle- or upper-class girl
marries her boyfriend before the child is born and establishes a
new household with her husband. Middle- and upper-class
households are therefore less likely to contain daughters'
children from visiting relationships. Middle-class households do
take in the children of adult migrant children, aged parents,
unmarried or widowed adult siblings, and adopted or foster
children of less well-to-do kin (cf. Austin 1984; Moses 1977).
Middle- and upper-class men head their "legal" households and
maintain keepers and outside children in separate households.
Middle- and upper-class women seldom engage in visiting
relationships or agree to be anyone's keeper or common-law wife.
Middle- and upper-class women head their own households because of
the emigration, death, or desertion of a spouse, or because they
have never married. In order to maintain their social standing
and image of respectability, they refrain from sexual involvements


260
kinship ties that enable individuals to survive and Vincentian
society to perpetuate itself. The next chapter describes the
Vincentian kinship system in detail.


285
For example, in one family I knew, the brothers took turns
helping each other with house and car repairs. In another family,
two adult siblings shared the same house, rent-free, owned by a
third sibling who had emigrate to Canada. These exchange
relationships continue when siblings move away from their natal
village either within the island or overseas. One of my
neighbors' sisters came regularly to stay with him. In exchange
for free room and board, she helped her brother's wife with the
housework and childcare, and brought them gifts of produce from
the country. I noticed this pattern with several other neighbors
as well. Whenever relatives from the country needed to come to
town for some reason, they would stay at the home of a relative in
Arnos Vale. The country relative would reciprocate the
hospitality with fresh produce and help around the house. Migrant
relatives follow a similiar pattern on their visits to St.
Vincent, staying in the homes of relatives and sharing presents,
often clothing and household appliances, with their Vincentian kin
(cf. Gonzalez 1984). Migrants leaving after a visit home are
burdened down with gifts of food and produce from their Vincentian
relatives.
Parents and grandparents support their children during
childhood and adolescence in hopes of future reciprocity when the
children are grown and they are old. Siblings' exchanges usually
do not begin until adolescence and adulthood. There is less of an


296
their ability to overcome life's adversities, as demonstrated by
their attainment of advanced age.
When a Vincentian man or woman has adult children who have
given them grandchildren they become "big." "Big men and women"
have authority and control over the junior members of their
kindred, both their young adult children and their grandchildren.
The authority of the "big men and women" is reinforced by their
control over resources, especially land (cf. Clarke 1957).
Older "family" members permit young adult relatives to use
these resources, but they do not relinquish ownership and final
decision-making authority over their deployment. Senior kindred
members control their adult children by keeping ownership and
decision-making authority over their property. They give their
adult children land to build houses on near their own, and permit
them to farm lands, but the children remain tied to the parents
and under their control (cf. Clarke 1957). This pattern also
extends to the ownership of family businesses among the middle
class, as well as other productive resources, such as fishing
boats and vehicles used in the informal transportation sector.
Adult children living with or near their parents donate labor
and contribute financially to their parents as well. The children
conform to their parents' demands and "control" to ensure
inheritance of the property after death. Children who go against
their parents' wishes can be disinherited. Adult children do not


133
1986). Most aid received in the 1950s and 1960s was directed at
building or improving the island's infrastructure, such as roads,
the airport, deep water port, electrification, water/sewer system,
or at developing social services, such as schools, hospitals,
clinics, and government buildings. Construction of these projects
relied on local unskilled labor and expatriate technicians and
engineers (D. Marshall 1985).
As an independent country, St. Vincent is in a precarious
position financially, not even able to conduct its normal affairs
without outside support, let alone mount its own development
projects. The government has relied on grants, gifts in kind, and
low-interest bilateral loans for assistance, but has not borrowed
heavily on the international market, and does not face any
externally imposed economic stringency programs (Nanton 1983:
236-237). External development aid continues to be received from
Great Britain and Canada, in the European Economic Community, the
United States, some Asian countries (Taiwan and Korea), various
United Nations agencies, the Organization of American States, and
assorted non-governmental international aid agencies (Brana-Shute
and Brana-Shute 1984, 1985; Economic Intelligence Unit 1986).
The government of St. Vincent is caught on the horns of a
dilemma, trying to maintain basic social services for a growing,
highly dependent population and finance additional economic
development (D. Marshall 1985:97). As well as improving the


To my son,
Phillip Eugene Connor,
and my mo the r,
Margaret N. Gearing


165
Migrant organizations based on professional ties provide a
way for emigrants to maintain their identity as Vincentians and to
promote and maintain Vincentian customs. They work together with
other migrant organizations to organize cricket and soccer teams,
women's associations, dances and social affairs, and Carnival
celebrations (cf. Justus 1983:132). Other migrant organizations
tend to be based on community of origin. These groups maintain
ties to their communities in St. Vincent, and also provide
scholarships and economic aid to them. Articles appeared every
month in The Vincentian newspaper in 1984-1985 describing the
activities of the overseas organizations and the aid they provided
to their Vincentian counterparts. Both types of migrant
organizations provide broad social networks that help potential
migrants find sponsors, employment, and housing.
Migrant organizations play an active role in Vincentian
politics as well. During the 1984 election, groups overseas
helped finance the New Democratic Party's campaign. It was not an
idle gesture when the newly elected NDP Prime Minister, James
Mitchell, made a speaking tour of the migrant communities in
Toronto, New York, and Washington immediately after the election.
He thanked them for their support, asked for their continued
assistance, and reminded them of their obligations in St. Vincent.
Mitchell recognized the overseas Vincentian communities as his


376
ties to the household in which he or she was last resident,
whether this was a separate household maintained with a sexual
partner or a parental household. Migrants who go short distances
for brief periods, send remittances and other gifts, remain in
close communication with other household members, and return to
visit at regular intervals are most likely to treated as a full
members of their households. Migrants that leave behind children
are still considered household members for as long as they send
remittances to support the children. Naturally the converse of
all these conditions attenuates migrants' ties to their
households: long term migration to distant places, no remittances
or gifts sent back, infrequent or rare communication, no visits,
and no dependents left behind means that the migrant is soon
considered gone forever (cf. Philpott 1973; Richardson 1983;
Griffith 1985).
Class Variation in Household Composition
Class differences in household composition are created both
by economic and by ideological or cultural factors. Kinship and
gender relations vary by class to affect how households are formed
and who is incorporated into middle- and upper-class Vincentian
households. On a basic level, middle- and upper-class Vincentians
can afford larger houses which can accomodate more household
members. Adult sons and daughters can remain at home more
comfortably. Middle- and upper- class men have access and control


420
reproduction of the group. To accomplish this goal, the household
relies not only on its members contributions, but also on a
network of exchanges created by gender and household ties linking
members to other households. Organization of the household
reflects the economic resources contributed by each member towards
the survival of the group. The household head owns the house and
contributes the largest share of income, the two key ingredients
to survival as a group. Adult female members contribute their
labor to the maintenance of the house, the daily needs of members,
and the care of dependents. Other members contribute labor and
income as they can, as directed by the head to meet the
household's expenses. "From each according to his means, to each
according to his needs," is the logic of the Vincentian household
system, although the household head alone has the authority to
exact contributions from members and make allocations.
Underlying the gender, kinship, and household systems of St.
Vincent is a single principle of human interaction, which Charles
Carnegie (1987) labelled "strategic flexibility." In his
discussion of Caribbean migration, Carnegie writes:
Being flexible has at least two dimensions: adjusting
rapidly to whatever comes along; and the actual
building of multiple options, potential capital as it
were, to hedge against future insecurity (1987:32-33).
Carnegie discusses strategic flexibility in relation to
migration, inter-island trade networks, patterns of occupational
multiplicity, child-rearing practices, and customs of hospitality


158
1979, the year the Soufriere volcano erupted. He came home to
visit some relatives and decided to return to stay. He purchased
property, including a house in Arnos Vale, and opened up a bakery
in an outlying community. Today, he, his wife, and his youngest
son, Desmond, all work in the bakery, which also employs several
other members of his extended family. The Lewis' oldest son,
Aleck, remained behind in England because he is a member of the
British Army. Their youngest son is trying to get a visa to
return to England or go to the United States.
The increasing importance of North American destinations
(Canada and the United States) has changed the nature of migration
and Vincentians' migration strategies. Experiences in Aruba,
Curacao, and England made Vincentians aware of their economic and
political vulnerability as migrants. Economic shifts made jobs
disappear and host countries responded by shutting off access or
even deporting migrants. Attaining permanent status in the
receiving country prevents deportation. Vincentians, like other
Caribbean and Latin American immigrants, have also realized that
current North American immigration laws favor family
reunification. Emigrants with permanent residency (landed
immigrant status in Canada) or citizenship can sponsor their
husbands, wives, children, parents, and siblings for emigrant
visas (McCoy 1987:228). This bias in the laws of the receiving
countries makes it easier for relatives and spouses to join


322
hesitate to support a woman still living with her husband because
they assume that the wife will share what she receives with her
husband. A woman's relatives have no kinship obligation to
support her husband because he is not their relative. A poor
man's wife also must spend most of her time in domestic work,
childcare, subsistence production, and income-generating
activities, and has less time to visit with her female relatives
and friends.
If a woman marries a man with property, she expects him to
provide her with at least one servant to do some of the domestic
work and relieve her work-load. With a servant doing the domestic
work, a married woman still has the time and opportunity to visit
female relatives and friends and maintain her support network.
Mothers, aunts, grandmothers, and sisters remain a resource to
married women. For example, one informant told me that her
daughter had decided to marry her long-time boyfriend. Their
relationship had been stormy in the past, and the mother told me
she was concerned about her daughter's welfare. The mother was
keeping a close eye on the situation and said, "If he gives she
licks, he'll have me to reckon with! No man is laying his hands
on my gel!"
In contrast, Vincentian men benefit when they can keep their
sons and daughters living near them, and also attract their
daughters' partners to live nearby. When man becomes the head of


117
connections, and reduce the travel-related expenses of inter
island trade (cf. Carnegie 1987; Thomas-Hope 1985:163-165).
The removal of workers due to migration and increased food
production during the 1940s and early 1950s caused drastic labor
shortages on the estates and forced some estate owners to raise
wages and improve working conditions (John 1971; Spinelli
1973:243). Many others were forced to sell off lands to the
government for land reform efforts or directly to returned
migrants. When emigrants returned to St. Vincent after "working
for the Yankee dollar," they invested their hard-earned capital in
small businesses and land that the large estates had begun
selling.
Vincentians also took advantage of the labor shortages in
Canada and the United States during World War II to migrate there
to work in agriculture, manufacturing, and domestic service
(Proudfoot 1950:16). Because of the relatively higher cost of
travel north and restrictions imposed by receiving societies,
Vincentian migration to the United States and Canada was much more
limited than that to Trinidad and Aruba/Curacao. During World War
II, Vincentians again served in the British and Canadian Armed
Forces and the merchant marine. After the war, Vincentian
veterans took advantage of government-funded educational
opportunities in England and Canada.


55
The Process of Fieldwork
I began fieldwork by collecting information about my
immediate neighborhood and the surrounding community. I walked
about, usually accompanied by a neighbor, mapping houses and
introducing myself to their inhabitants. I learned the
appropriate ways of initiating conversation with strangers and
Vincentian hospitality customs. My next-door neighbor introduced
me to most of my immediate neighbors and also gave me helpful
"background" about the neighborhood. I observed the daily
routines of several nearby households and began stopping over to
"chat" with several neighbors as often as possible. I
participated in neighborhood life, going to church, shopping at
the different small shops, walking about and exploring.
Patterns of daily activities varied during the week and
seasonally. I observed similiar patterns when I visited other
neighborhoods in the same community, in the capital and other
suburbs, and in villages in the countryside. Variations in daily
routines appeared to be due to wealth and the ability to hire
servants, as well as the composition of individual domestic
groups. Ethnic and racial differences did not matter as much as
income.
The more time I spent observing and visiting Vincentian homes
and talking and listening to talk about family life, male-female
relationships, and migration experiences, the more I became


244
colonial ideology. Despite the ideological hegemony of the
colonial order, the Vincentian lower class have developed their
own value system, or folk ethos, that enables individuals to
achieve social status and maintain self-respect within the folk
community even if they do not manifest the signs of status under
the colonial order. In contrast to the colonial ideology that is
formalized and promulgated through the social institutions
controlled by the upper and middle classes, the folk ethos emerges
in the expressive world of performance and interpersonal
interaction. The folk ethos is embedded within the "essentially
oral culture" of the lower class (Abrahams 1983:80). The folk
ethos values social equality. Prestige is accrued in the folk
value system by the individual's actions rather than by the
possession of economic resources.
An important component of the Vincentian folk ethos is the
high value placed upon the ability to be flexible and the
willingness to take advantage of whatever opportunities present
themselves for social and economic gain. This flexibility is
dependent upon the ability to size up social situations and act
appropriately. People who can maneuver a variety of social
situations and turn them to their advantage are considered very
clever even if they lack formal education. Charles Carniegie
(1987) describes this as "strategic flexibility." The
counterbalance within the folk ideology to strategic flexibility


50
(Abrahams and Bauman 1971; Abrahams 1970, 1968, 1983). Many forms
of social interaction are categorized primarily on the basis of
the type of talk which took place.
"Commess" or gossip carries a negative connotation yet most
Vincentians love to hear and tell it. In addition to "commess,"
which is usually about "private" matters and personalities,
Vincentians enjoy telling stories about public events, some which
happened locally, others which happened elsewhere, some which
happened in the immediate past and others which were more remote.
While listening to the telling and re-telling of gossip and
stories and the attendant analysis and commentary, I realized that
not everything one heard could be assessed with the same degree of
veracity. First, in their desire to give a good performance,
Vincentians might leave out or amplify some details. The story
and its telling were an entertainment event as much as an
information source to the Vincentian audience, and the "truth" was
not always a critical factor for enjoyment.
Secondly, although Vincentians enjoy being tellers of tales
(the man or woman of words) and therefore in control of the speech
event, they do not want to be the subject matter of gossip told at
their expense. This means that the naive ethnographer can usually
obtain secondhand information about "other people's bidness" more
readily that direct information from the interviewee. Firsthand
information may be deliberately distorted to put the interviewee


156
(Thomas-Hope 1985:162-163). However, jobs and housing are also
arranged by the migrant, and the migrant's status in the receiving
society is more precarious than under temporary labor migration
programs. Trinidad was the most popular destination for
contemporary migrants until the recession of the mid-1980s because
emigrants had extensive ties to the large Vincentian migrant
community living there. Unless migrants find secure jobs at their
destinations or forms other permanent ties there, they are always
ready to return to St. Vincent or move on to another island. The
regional movement consists of at least as many women as men, and
perhaps more. These short-distance opportunities are more
aptaling to women because they can return home more often. More
importantly, the structure of the labor market in the receiving
countries favors hiring women for the jobs that are available:
tourism, domestic service, export-oriented manufacturing, and
informal sector work (Thomas-Hope 1985:163; Sassen-Koob 1981; Safa
1980).
Emigration to England still continues, although few
Vincentians enter England as permanent migrants (Freeman
1987:188). Some go there for education or training. Most are the
children of return migrants and were actually born in England.
England is no longer a desirable destination for would-be
migrants. Vincentians are well aware, from reports in the media
and their migrant relatives, that economic conditions in Great


229
either Henriette or his parents when he is in St. Vincent.
Henriette supports herself with her wages and money she receives
from Louis. Her sister takes care of children at night when she
is at work. Henriette says she loves Louis and wants to marry
him, but she also enjoys going out with American medical students
who frequent the bar where she works. Louis says he wants to
marry Henriette but he is waiting until he can afford to build his
own house and have a big wedding.
Cohabitation or common-law marriage occurs most often when
the woman owns the house or has land on which the couple can build
a house. Couples also live together if either one is still
married to someone else. Common-law partners are referred to as
husband and wife, by themselves and by the community. Couples may
continue visiting relationships or cohabiting in a rented house
for many years until late middle age when they finally can afford
to buy a house and hold a large wedding celebration. Among the
lower class of St. Vincent, the man is expected to pay for the
house, the furnishings, and the wedding (cf. Rubenstein
1987:272-280; Olwig 1985:123-124; Otterbein 1966).
The Gordons lived near me in Arnos Vale. I assumed they were
legally married, but was later told that they lived "common-law."
Mr. Gordon was a white fisherman from the Dorsetshire Hill Bajan
community, co-owner of both a boat and a van. Mrs. Gordon was a
black woman from Arnos Vale. Mrs. Gordon's mother had given her


146
very remunerative. Good examples of professions which carry
middle-class status without paying well are teaching and nursing.
Finishing secondary school or getting advanced education is
usually associated with middle or upper class status, in part
because secondary education is expensive in St. Vincent and
advanced education requires leaving the island to attend college
or university overseas. The only educational facilities beyond
the secondary level in St. Vincent are a small Technical College
or trade school, a Teachers' College or normal school, and a
Nursing School which offers a non-baccalaureate nursing degree.
Color is less rigidly attached to class standing in St.
Vincent than in most other West Indian islands. The diversity of
the population and the presence of multiple racial groups has
prevented the clear-cut division of the society into a three
tiered class/race pyramid. The spread of black power ideology
from the United States and Canada by returned migrants and the
growth of a local Rastafarian movement have helped raised the
consciousness of brown and black Vincentians. However, there is a
tendency on the part of Vincentians to associate lighter colored
skin and more European features with upper- and middle-class
status, and darker colored skin and African features with lower-
class status. Finally, personal demeanour, a behavioral complex
which includes speech styles; religious affiliation and
attendance; marital status and childbearing history; style of


56
convinced that a "household" survey as originally planned would
not be a productive use of ray time. As I talked to Vincentians
about their lives, and watched their day-to-day activities and
interactions, 1 became concerned with the usefulness of the
"household" as it has been defined by Wood (1982) or Pessar (1982)
as a conceptual device. I plotted fluctuations in the composition
of several households over a period of a few weeks and realized a
single synchronic survey would not tell me why such fluctuations
occurred. My interest was increasingly focused on understanding
the logic or value systems which underlay these relationships
between peoplerelationships defined through "blood" or kinship
ties and those between sexual partners. I decided to concentrate
on building up case studies of a few families I could know
intimately rather than do a formal survey of a large number of
"households" that I would not be able to know as well. I also
realized that even if I could come up with an operational
definition of a "household," none of ray neighbors could be put
into a "non-migrant household" category, because every single
"household" group contained members who had gone abroad or who
were related by kinship ties or sexual relationships to migrants.
I selected five domestic groups that I could observe
unobtrusively and that represented a variety of combinations of
sexual partnerships and kinship relationships. I collected
genealogies from my selected households and began gathering life


181
support the myth of migration. They had experienced racial
prejudice and discrimination, hardship and struggle overseas, and
had had to endure loneliness and alienation as well. These same
informants told me, however, that if they told the "truth," they
would not be believed, that their listeners would think they were
merely trying to keep a good thing for themselves. The positive
image of migration is not only the result of the visitors' wanting
to show off or be accorded higher status. It is also created by
the listeners' need to believe that migration will change their
lives for the better. Both parties collaborate to maintain the
ideology of migration.
Emigrants return for visits all the time during the year,
coming home because of illness or death in their families, to
celebrate weddings or births, or just to be home again for awhile.
Emigrants are also constantly coming home to stay. The behavior
both visiting and returning migrants display upon their return is
similar to that of Carnival visitors. However, the sheer numbers
who return at Carnival make an impact, as does the greater
visibility Carnival time affords them. As the Carnival visit
represents an intensification of the migration ideology for
non-migrants, so it also represents a time when the visitors can
renew their self-identity as Vincentians most intensely. It is
not surprising that Carnival has become a magnet drawing
Vincentian migrants home each year. Nor is it surprising that the


378
or are very discreet. Upper- and middle-class female heads of
households adopt or foster children of distant and less
economically fortunate kin in order to perpetuate their family
name, and to have company around the house and in old age (cf.
Olwig 1985; Goody 1975).
The major difference between lower-class and raiddle/upper-
class households is the presence of non-related individuals in
middle- and upper-class households. Upper- and middle-class
households can be numerically larger than lower-class households
while actually containing fewer related individuals (cf. Massiah
1983). The wealthier household typically delegates much of the
domestic work to servants. In the wealthiest Vincentian
households, servants live in rather than coming in to work daily
or weekly. Servants who perform intimate functions, such as
nannies or cooks, and those who remain with a household for years,
are accorded a fictive kin status. Strong emotional ties develop
between children of the household and the servants who care for
them; these feelings are often reciprocated. The relationship
between servant and employer assumes a paternalistic coloration,
and employers assist these servants and members of their families
financially and socially.
Household Strategies
Households in St. Vincent are not self-sufficient entities,
capable of producing everything required to meet their needs.


292
1976; Wilson 1973). Vincentians associate kinship with the
quality of identity based on sharing the same "blood" (cf.
Alexander 1976, 1984; Olwig 1985; Stack 1974). This identity of
self with kin creates the expectation that relatives will assist
each other preferentially over those with whom no kinship bond can
be established, regardless of the relatives immediate feelings
for each other (cf. Olwig 1985). However, in practice in St.
Vincent, this ideologically based perception of how kin should act
is often overridden by the actual quality of the interpersonal
relationship between the individuals. Vincentians readily
acknowledge that although "family" should help each other, they do
not always do so. The kinship relationship gives one a claim, but
does not guarantee that it will be fulfilled (cf. Rubenstein 1987;
Gonzalez 1984).
Assisting one's kinsfolk does ensure, however, that they can
be called upon in future to return the favor or its equivalent. A
person who is generous and quick to fulfill the obligations of
kinship gains considerable status and "respect" in the community.
Merely acquiring wealth and property is not enough to assure one's
status among the folk; one must also use one's wealth and property
to assist the "family." Individuals who cut themselves off from
their relatives are considered mean, stingy, selfish, and may also
be accused of practicing "obeah" or witchcraft (cf. Olwig 1985).
Vincentians believe that individuals who do not rely on their


19
actions might influence the migrant labor system, beyond referring
to "the class struggle" (Bach and Schraml 1982). Finally,
historical-structural theorists of migration have not looked
closely at the smaller group processes in which individual
migrants are involved such as households, kinship groups, and
other social networks.
Historical-structural theorists of migration have been
concerned with the global context of international migration
within the world capitalist system. Although theorists of
migration have tended to use the framework as broadly as possible,
this does not preclude its application to a more restricted
setting, such as a single society. Within this narrower context,
closer attention can be paid to the internal dynamics of
migrant-sending societies. When integrated with a cultural
analysis of the migration ideology, the historical-structural
approach can include an examination of the meaning attached to
migration.- Without the broader framework supplied by the
historical-structural perspective, however, the actions of
individual migrants make little sense because there is no
explanation for the shifting political and economic circumstances
to which migrants respond.


24
Migration and Households in the Caribbean
The small nations of the Caribbean share a long tradition of
labor migration due to the peculiar historical development of
their political economies. Despite differences in colonial
systems, the legacy of slavery, plantation agriculture, and
post-Emancipation underdevelopment was similiar in its broad
details throughout the Caribbean. The socioeconomic and political
features of Caribbean societies were shaped by their dependent
position within the capitalist world system (Mintz 1974).
Especially in the smaller islands, economic opportunities and
upward mobility have been severely constrained by limited physical
resources and the political control of small groups of elites
(Marshall 1987; Segal 1987).
Studies of West Indian societies have traced a long history
of migration, going to back to slavery and the immediate
post-Emancipation period in the early 19th century (Gonzalez 1969;
Frucht 1968; Philpott 1973; Hill 1977; Tobias 1975; Richardson
1983, 1985). These ethnographies portray individuals and families
manipulating a flexible array of choices against a backdrop of the
socioeconomic, political, demographic, and ecological conditions
beyond their immediate control. Migration always has been the
response most favored by Caribbean peoples in overcoming or
eluding the structural conditions they could not change directly:
the control of the islands' political economies by small elites,


200
of work which only men or only women can perform. There is a
pattern of discrimination, however, which keeps women in lower
paying and less responsible positions (cf. Massiah 1983).
While domestic work (housework and childcare) is generally
perceived as "women's work," most men learn domestic skills as
children helping out at home and may keep their own houses as
adults. Domestic work is viewed as a pattern of exchange between
men and women in which men give women financial support and
assistance with major repairs, while women cook, clean, do
laundry, and provide sexual services for men. While men can
escape the burden of domestic chores by involvements with women,
women alleviate their workload by sharing work with female
relatives and neighbors. Middle and upper class women hire
domestic servants to perform these chores for them (cf. Moses
1977; Berleant-Schiller 1977; Durant-Gonzalez 1982).
The division of labor by gender in contemporary St. Vincent
has its roots in the African cultures of origin of the majority of
the population and the historical circumstances under which that
population developed in the Caribbeanslavery and its aftermath.
Under slavery, the division of labor was based on slave or free
status, age, physical strength and skill, color, class, and
kinship ties. The majority of adult slaves of both genders did
heavy manual labor in the sugar fields (cf. Sutton and
Makiesky-Barrow 1977:295-296). Light-colored slaves of both sexes


432
when the relationship ends, women also earn status and gain
security by having children. When a visiting or keeping
relationship does not endure or become a marriage, women turn to a
"next man" or earn their own money through local employment or
migration. Their children are entrusted to other members of their
knship network, to whom they contribute a portion of their
earnings.
The gender division of labor, gender ideology of male
superiority, and the historic reliance on male migration all keep
Vincentian women subordinate and dependent financially on men.
Women collaborate in their own subordination by making their
domestic role central to their identity as women. The gender
ideology reinforces women's perceptions of themselves as dependent
on men sexually and economically.
In conclusion, I would like to make a few brief remarks about
the study of structures of inequality in Afro-Caribbean
anthropology, using St. Vincent as an example. The society of St.
Vincent, like other West Indian societies, is based on a color/
class hierarchy that blocks the largely black lower class from
achieving social and economic equality. In response, lower-class
men historically have turned to wage labor migration to gain
resources outside the society both to survive and to improve their
socioeconomic position upon return. The society of St. Vincent is
also based on a gender hierarchy that keeps women subordinate to


88
for their own children and work their provision grounds
(subsistence plots) (Sewell 1861:79). By 1845, only seven years
after the end of Apprenticeship, estate owners and managers were
complaining of a labor shortage caused by the removal of women
from agricultural wage labor and the emigration of men to Trinidad
(Spinelli 1973:224).
The first government census in St. Vincent in 1844 attempted
to assess the size of the population because the planters were
complaining of labor shortages and needed to justify the
importation of indentured laborers to work on their estates
(Spinelli 1973:224). The next census was conducted in 1851 after
an interval of only seven years. Censuses were conducted at
ten-year intervals from 1851 until 1891 (Spinelli 1973:224).
Table 3.1 shows the size of the population at each census,
components of the natural increase in the population, and rates of
change for the Vincentian population during the late eighteenth
and nineteenth centuries. The population of St. Vincent grew
slowly between 1844 and 1881, at growth rates ranging from 1.43%
between 1844 and 1851 to 0.53% between 1851 and 1861. The total
population increased from 27,248 in 1844 to 40,548 in 1881.
Despite the importation of 5,338 indentured laborers, and a
growing natural increase, continued high emigration kept growth
rates low. Each decade from 1861 to 1881 recorded increasing net
emigration figures (Spinelli 1973:228-229).


100
secure cash, non-migrant "family" members could keep the family
land under cultivation and secure their living (Rubenstein
1987:182- 184). Successful migrants used their earnings to buy
additional lands to increase the family land, build their own
houses, or buy separate land for their own use (Rubenstein
1987:174; Otterbein 1966; Wilson 1973; Olwig 1985). Unsuccessful
migrants could always come back to work their family land if they
did not earn enough money to buy their own land.
The oldest adult male resident on the island assumed the role
of the head of the family, and arbitrated decision- making about
the use of family land. The concept of "family land" was also
extended to "family houses" which were passed along, like the
land, and could not be sold. While adult sons and daughters
wanted their own houses, again, the less successful could also
find refuge at the "family house." The free villages became ever
more inter-connected as extended kinship groups grew larger,
building their houses together on their family lands, and forming
sexual and kinship ties with other village residents.
Legal marriage, formally observed with a religious and
community celebration, became more important during the nineteenth
century. The influence of Methodist missionaries may partially
account for this, or it may reflect a desire to mark individuals'
higher social status and secure the transmittal of one's property
to one's children. Although sexual relationships began early for


127
Table 4.2
POPULATION OF ST. VINCENT, 1980
BY AGE AND SEX (1)
Age
Male
Female
N.S.(2)
Total
0-4
7113
6972
119
14204
5-9
7432
7192
91
14715
10-14
7000
6730
97
13827
15-19
6322
6292
86
12700
20-24
4558
4953
60
9571
25-29
2752
3103
26
5881
30-34
2082
2222
29
4333
35-39
1524
1736
17
3277
40-44
1378
1731
10
3119
45-49
1288
1659
8
2955
50-54
1208
1541
14
2763
55-59
1003
1216
9
2228
60-64
1090
1364
10
2464
65-69
944
1131
5
2080
70-74
637
793
4
1434
75-79
415
626
4
1045
80-84
170
419
1
590
>85
286
509
9
804
TOTAL: 47202
50,189
599
97990
(47233)
(50245)
(646)
(98124
(1) Figures are based on provisional returns of the 1980 census.
(2) N.S. = Non-determined for sex.
** Figures in parenthesis include institutional population,
not broken down by age.


257
upper-class women must ignore the outside households their
husbands establish with lower-class concubines.
Lower-class women maintain a more difficult balance than
upper- and middle-class women, because they must maintain a
distance from men sexually and not be too "easy," yet at some
point they must respond to men's sexual demands to secure their
relationships and have children. If a lower-class woman adheres
so closely to the ideal of "respectability" that she forgoes
sexual relationships completely, she runs the risk of never
getting a man, and through him, a household. Instead, lower-
class women use their sexuality strategically to gain access to
men's economic resources and obtain their own households. Once a
lower-class woman gains her own household, through legal marriage
within her class or through concubinage with a middle- or upper-
class man, she is bound by the same restrictions as the upper- and
middle-class woman. The lower-class wife or "keeper" is expected
to be sexually faithful, while turning a blind eye to her mate's
sexual adventures. However, if a lower-class man does not support
his partner financially, or give her a house, the lower-class
woman can sunder the relationship and turn to a "next man," and be
criticized unless she becomes promiscuous (cf. Brown 1975).
For all classes, the "gender contract" in St. Vincent is the
same: once a man provides a woman with a house (economic
security), he has exclusive sexual rights to her. So long as the


CHAPTER SIX
THE SYSTEM OF GENDER IN ST. VINCENT
This chapter describes the system of gender in St. Vincent,
Including both the division of labor by gender and the gender
ideology which defines, rationalizes, and supports the culturally
defined concepts of gender differences and gender roles (Young et
al. 1981). An important part of the Vincentian gender system are
the codes which limit men's and women's sexual and reproductive
capacities by defining what kinds of sexual relationships are
desirable and the value placed on childbearing (Petchesky 1980).
The Definition of Gender
Gender in St. Vincent is based on differences in sexual
morphology, physiology, and behavior. The possession of male or
female sexual organs is the necessary characteristic for
assignation to a particular gender. However, gender encompasses a
much broader range of social roles and relationships than just
sexuality and procreation. Gender is a socially defined category
believed by Vincentians to be an innate characteristic that
affects personality and individuals' inherent suitability for
enacting certain social roles.
Personality characteristics or attributes are thought to
differ by gender but these personality differences are not seen as
the ultimate distinction between men and women. Vincentians see
188


357
household, but there are strongly held beliefs about the propriety
of different household compositions and the distribution of
authority within households. Vincentians believe that a person
who owns a house should share it with relatives and not strangers.
If there is room in the house and there are relatives needing a
place to stay, the house owner should let them live there. A
person who lives alone in a house when he or she has relatives in
need of a place to live is considered selfish and anti-social by
Vincentians.
Sexual partners in an on-going relationship should live
together if the man can afford to build or buy a house and
maintain a household (cf. Mintz 1974; Otterbein 1966; Davenport
1968; Cumper 1958; Rubenstein 1987). However, the commencement of
a sexual relationship or even the birth of a child does not
necessarily precipitate the formation of a new household.
Partners continue visiting or "friendly" relationships
indefinitely and never co-reside. Prior obligations to kin,
including aged parents and outside children, also prevent partners
from living together.
If a couple decides to legally marry, Vincentians expect them
to build or buy their own house. If this is not possible, the
couple rents a house or lives in a house belonging to other
relatives. Households should not contain more than one set of
co-habitating adults, usually the household head and his or her


186
were able to migrate overseas because the women could maintain
subsistence production at home and rear the next generation.
Women in St. Vincent have always been able to work because
childcare did not conflict with the demands of subsistence
production and because they could leave their children with their
extended network of female kin.
When increasing numbers of women became wage labor migrants
in the middle of the twentieth century, they left their children
behind to be cared for by pre-existing support systems. Most
Vincentians did not take their children with them to Curacao or
England, and do not take them to Canada and the United States
today. If the children had accompanied their parents, their
mothers could not have worked for wages, which would have negated
the reason why the women emigrated. When the destinations moved
further away from the Caribbean towards the metropolitan countries
of the Northern Hempisphere and the migration period became
longer, some migrants' children grew up without ever knowing their
parents. However, the metropolitan destinations that now attract
migrants provide free education and subsidize childcare, making
family reunification more attractive. Migrants in Canada and the
United States today send for their mothers to look after their
children in the new land.
As St. Vincent's economy became ever more dependent on the
world capitalist system, the reproduction of labor in St. Vincent


59
losses due to migration, although officials of each group reported
that turnover was high because so many members left each year.
The 1980 census results have still not been officially
released by the government nor published. I was given access to
the provisional computer printouts by the government in October
1984 and I have used these provisional figures in my own
calculations. I also used the Registrar's Records to compile my
own vital statistics and rates.
The 1980 census was suppressed by the Labor government of St.
Vincent because the total population recorded by the census was
much smaller than the figures released as government estimates,
which ranged as high as 125,000 persons. Several confidential
discussions with government employees about the suppression of the
census led me to believe that these estimates had been padded
upwards. The creation of inflated estimates was inspired by the
government's need to secure foreign aid, which is often allocated
on the basis of per capita income. The higher the population, the
lower the resulting per capita income. Accurate population
figures might threaten St. Vincent's status as an "LDC" when
applying for aid.
The 1980 census in St. Vincent was coordinated through the
University of the West Indies, and the same standardized form is
used throughout the English-speaking Caribbean. Census takers are
teachers and other civil servants familiar with and respected by


138
Bonham Richardson describes the situation facing the small
islands of the Eastern Caribbean:
The future for any Caribbean agriculture, whether
for home consumption or for export, is clouded by the
region's continuously declining carrying capacity.
The historically induced soil erosion and depletion,
the general deforestation, and the necessary
exploitation of marginal environments by growing
populations create a vicious circle between people and
land...(Richardson 1983:30).
As agriculture lost ground in the 1970s, the government of
St. Vincent turned to tourism in an attempt to alleviate its
economic woes. However, tourism has not become as important as in
other Eastern Caribbean countries such as St. Lucia or Barbados.
Major obstacles to tourism development have been the absence of a
major jetport, limited hotel facilities, and the lack of white
sand beaches on the main island. Tourism in St. Vincent has been
based on yachting, cruise ship stopovers, and two private resorts
in the Grenadines which have their own airstrips and airline
services. The upper class of St. Vincent invested the money
earned from selling their lands to the government and small
farmers into tourism. They have also helped the government
develop the newest and smallest sector of the contemporary
Vincentian economy, export-oriented manufacturing.
The Vincentian government constructed an "industrial estate"
on the western side of Kingstown in the late 1970s. They provided
factory shells and discount utility services to foreign
manufacturers, who also received tax breaks and other economic


99
sexual activities. A man could always emigrate or find another,
more compliant woman.
Children became a resource for women. Under conditions of
free labor, children increased in economic value, since they now
worked for their parents instead of the slave owner (cf. Olwig
1985:118-119). Children also provided social security for one's
old age and established kinship ties (cf. Patterson 1976:56). A
woman's sexual partner might emigrate and never return, or find
another mate, but children were linked to their mothers with a
more permanent bond. Children could help women to gain access to
men's wealth and property. Even if the father never came back,
the child and its mother could call upon the father's relatives
for economic assistance (cf. Olwig 1985:80-81, 121-130).
Extended kinship groups, referred to as "families," became
important among the lower class during the nineteenth century (cf.
Olwig 1985). A new concept of land ownership emerged among the
freed blacks referred to as "family land," meaning land held
jointly by all members of an extended kinship network, available
for the use of every adult. Family land was passed on intact from
generation to generation and could not be sold or divided without
every relative's approval (Clarke 1957; Rubenstein 1987:173). The
concept of family land meant that the lands so expensively bought
by the freed blacks would not be reduced to unworkably small-sized
holdings in one or two generations. While migrants emigrated to


153
women to Saudi Arabia to work as construction workers and nurses,
respectively (Marshall 1984:64). National Bulk Carriers, an
international shipping line, recruited many Vincentian men to work
as seamen in the 1970s. The expansion of cruise ship and yacht
tourism in the Caribbean has also created jobs for Vincentian
seamen.
Every year, some individuals use these "temporary" programs
to become permanent emigrants. They arrange to be picked up in
Florida by friends and relatives and then enter the illegal
underground migrant stream. Others "jump ship" when the cruise
liners dock in Miami. One informant told me that when he was
working on a cruise liner, three or four men never returned from
shore leave every time the ship returned to port.
New forms of sponsored migration developed when international
development agencies realized the newly independent Caribbean's
need for professionals, engineers, planners, and other
specialists. Development agencies and West Indian governments
must send Caribbean nationals overseas for education and training
because of limited regional higher education facilities. Some
students return, but others never come back (Thomas-Hope 1983:54).
Some come back, work for a few years to pay off their government
debt, then emigrate. Some education or training overseas is
necessary for all professionals and most civil servants because
St. Vincent lacks higher education facilities except for a small


35
Leeward Coast during the late 1960s. Roger Abrahams had collected
his data in the mountains near the Mesopotamia Valley in the
southeastern interior. The suburban area I lived in represented a
new form of Vincentian community, not a rural village nor a small
town nor the capital. I had already learned through initial talks
with my neighbors that many of them were either returned migrants
from overseas or rural-urban migrants. I found that my
neighborhood represented a "natural sample" of Vincentians from
several types of communities with a variety of migration
experiences. Most research in St. Vincent and in the
English-speaking Caribbean has concentrated on the poorer members
of society living in exclusively black communities. I thought
that a description of the middle strata of Vincentian society
would help complete gaps in the ethnographic record.
The Community of Arnos Vale
Arnos Vale, the community in which I lived for twenty-two
months and where I collected the majority of the data used in this
dissertation, typifies the new Vincentian suburban community.
Arnos Vale is situated due east of the capital, Kingstown, in the
valley and foothills of the Greathead River and directly on the
Windward Highway (Figure 2.1). Sion Hill and Cane Garden lie east
of Arnos Vale, while the communities of Cane Hall and Fountain are
north and Villa and Indian Bay are located further west. There
are no clear-cut physical boundaries or areas of unsettled open


313
migrants try to establish permanent status, then send for their
relatives to join them. The extended kinship network of most
Vincentians can produce a long migration chain (cf. Turittin 1976;
Rubenstein 1987; Philpott 1973). Vincentians who want to migrate
can usually call upon the assistance of several different
relatives.
Migrants are kept visible within the Vincentian social field
by their non-migrant relatives and friends. I noted a pattern in
conversations between Vincentians who had not had recent contact
because one or both parties had been travelling overseas. After
exchanging greetings, friends quickly reviewed and updated the
status of mutually known relatives, reciting their current
activity, location, state of health and other personal
information.
Kinship relationships influence the sending of remittances.
Migration and the sending of remittances represents the broadest
spatial extension of the kinship network and its pattern of
reciprocal exchange. Vincentians assume that migrants have better
access to money and other resources than non-migrants, and
therefore have an obligation to share these resources with less
fortunate relatives remaining behind in St. Vincent (cf. Philpott
1973; Richardson 1983, 1985). Men and women who migrate send back
money for the support of children left behind, to their mothers,
and to whatever other relative with whom they had a close


283
cases, the grandmother acts more like an auxiliary, assisting the
mother when necessary.
The Vincentian women with whom I spoke enjoyed being
grandmothers. They felt that they could take care of and play
with babies without having to get pregnant and give birth. Male
and female informants said that women had babies for their mothers
as well as for their partners. Women attain social status when
they become grandmothers, and I often saw grandmothers carrying
their new "grans" around to show the neighborhood. Most
Vincentian women who had become grandmothers by the time I did my
fieldwork had had few educational opportunities when they were
younger and no real alternative to motherhood (cf. Massiah 1983;
White 1986; Powell 1986; Barrow 1986b). They felt that motherhood
was a woman's natural career and major source of satisfaction. As
grandmothers, they were able to re-live the fulfilling aspects of
their roles all over again.
Even when their adult children establish separate households,
many grandparents remain actively involved with their
grandchildren. Often, a grandchild lives with the grandparents to
help them around the house, run errands, and keep them company.
In many instances, this means moving into the house next door to
their parents or just down the street, and the child actually
moved back and forth between households constantly. Children also
stay with their grandparents when they weren't getting along with


332
neighborhoods, and were often quite expensive homes by Vincentian
standards. The advertisements usually included a statement about
the owner's imminent departure off the island and willingness to
accept any reasonable offer. Sometimes houses were sold for much
less than their actual value because the owners desired a quick
sale or U.S. currency.
Middle- and upper-class Vincentians emigrate as families, not
individuals. Most of their relatives either already have
emigrated or own their own houses, and therefore do not need to
move into the ones being vacated. I knew of two large homes that
were occupied by one or two adult children of migrant middle-
class parents who remained on St. Vincent to manage family
business and property while the rest of the family lived overseas.
Tenure and Settlement Patterns
In addition to buying houses and land, Vincentians also
inherit housing, rent it, live rent-free in houses belonging to a
relative or partner, build on family land, and squat on unoccupied
land without the owner's permission. Inheritance of freehold
property and the use of family land results in the clustering of
houses inhabited by related individuals. Over time, these
clusters continue to expand with the purchase of adjoining land,
to create entire neighborhoods dominated by a single kindred (cf.
Clarke 1957; Wilson 1973; Otterbeing 1966). These houses share
common or adjoining yards, and have joint access to kitchen


Ill
accomodations when they arrived (Richardson 1985:121-122).
Similarly, only men could join the military or the merchant marine
during World War I. The major work opportunities overseas
specifically for women were in domestic service. Again, women had
to pay their own passage and secure employment for themselves,
although networks of migrants helped women do both. The structure
of the labor market, and not the women's own capabilities, kept
more of them from emigrating.
In St. Vincent, the mass emigration of men between 1881 and
1911 made the sex ratio fall. Competition for the men remaining
and a need to make some permanent claim on the emigrants may have
contributed to the actual rise in the birth rate at the beginning
of the migration; while the fall in the birth rate from 1911 to
1931 may reflect both the shortage of men once the movement got
underway and the increasing migration of young women. Women in
St. Vincent continued to grow food to support themselves and their
children, and relied on their kinship networks and sexual partners
for economic support. The Vincentian folk perception of a
numerical imbalance between the sexes with a marked surplus of
women for each man undoubtedly became rooted in the popular
consciousness at this time.
Why did the emigration continue, despite improvements in the
local economy? The answer may lie in the class relations of
Vincentian society, which continued much as in the nineteenth


173
Potential migrants manipulate their connections to migrants
overseas to facilitate their own migration. Migrants overseas
continue to identify themselves as Vincentians and renew their
ties back home with visits and telephonic and written
communications. Their self-identity as Vincentians is reinforced
overseas by membership in migrant organizations. Returned
migrants usually retain their dual citizenship or residency, "just
in case," and contemplate re-emigrating. Those who are neither
overseas, trying to go, or coming back, remain involved in
migration in other ways. They receive remittances of money,
clothing, and other goods; they look after migrants' property and
dependents for them; and they maintain contact with their migrant
friends and relatives. Vincentians pay little attention to the
national barriers separating the international segments of their
migration society, except as hurdles to be overcome.
Contemporary migrants to Canada and the United States have
not become as cut off from St. Vincent as the migrants who went to
England. The transportation and communication revolutions of the
1960s have made it possible for "North American" migrants to visit
often and "phone home" regularly (Thomas-Hope 1985:166). These
connections operate in two ways, giving resident Vincentians a
chance to visit their emigrant relatives and see for themselves
what life overseas is like. Visiting can also establish the
contacts that will provide them jobs should they also choose to


374
inherent difference in survivability, distorting the sex ratio
between men and women in their late sixties through eighties
(White 1986; Massiah 1933).
Membership in Multiple Households
Vincentian men can be members of more than one household
simultaneously. When a man has multiple sexual partners, he stays
with each partner some of the time, eats meals prepared in each
household, has his clothing washed by each partner, and
contributes financially to all households (cf. Gonzalez 1984;
Moses 1977; Brana-Shute 1979). Young men consider their parents'
households their primary residences while maintaining one or more
visiting relationships. Older men are legally married to one
woman and maintain a keeper or visiting relationships as well.
Since women engage in serial rather than simultaneous multiple
relationships, this question of multiple household membership does
not apply to them.
The determination of the man's primary household depends on
several factors, including the type of relationship; social
recognition of the relationship; the amount of time spent at each
household; and psychosocial factors such as "control," affection,
security, and the perceived stability of the sexual relationship.
A young man considers his parental household his primary one
because none of his relationships with women are serious, and he
because he wants to keep his options open with other women. An


303
sexual relationships with non-church members unless their partners
also begin attending services. The church congregation acts as a
surrogate kinship network and is considered such by members. Two
important functions of church membership are the sponsorship of
"friendly societies," which provide money for funerals and death
benefits for survivors, and the provision of large numbers of
mourners at funerals.
Two of the established churches, the Anglican and the Roman
Catholic, also recognize a special type of fictive kinship, "god
parenthood." Godparents are chosen by the baby's parents from
their kindreds or their close friends. Individuals chosen as
godparents must be church members in good standing according to
church teachings. Being chosen as a godparent is an honor, a
public recognition that the person chosen is worthy of "respect."
Godparenthood is used by lower class relatives to strengthen a
kinship tie with a distant wealthy relative in the upper or middle
class (cf. Wilson 1973). Godparents act as the baby's religious
sponsors at the christening. Godparents are supposed to give the
child gifts at the christening, which is celebrated with a large
fete and gathering of relatives, neighbors and friends.
Godparents have a duty to safeguard the moral and religious
development of their godchildren; they may chastise their
godchildren for transgressions such as failing to attend church,
using bad language, or being rude to their elders, just as the


423
and kinship ties to persons outside the household. Overarching
this network of gender and kinship relations, however, is the
relationship between the household head as controller of
resources, and the household members, who contribute to, but do
not control, household income. Now that the principles or
cultural systems which generate "the household" as a social
formation have been described, the next section returns to the
reproduction of labor in St. Vincent's migration society, and
examines it from the perspective of household survival strategies.
Migration and the Reproduction of Labor:
Strategies of Male and Female-Headed Households
Vincentian households can be distinguished as male-headed or
female-headed. Male-headed and female-headed households display
different survival strategies that characterize each "type" of
household. Both "type" of households, however, are organized
internally along the same principles. The different strategies
emerge from the way men and women are articulated within
Vincentian society in terms of social status as well as access and
control over resources. These differences are based ultimately on
gender inequalities within Vincentian society.
This description of household strategies in St. Vincent
begins by asking the question, when do Vincentian men marry and
set up their own households? Usually, Vincentian men marry when
they can afford to buy land, build a house, and provide the


425
household. She stays at home, pursuing subsistence production or
joint economic efforts with her husband, and is responsible for
carrying out the household's domestic work by herself. When a
woman marries and moves in with her husband she moves away from
her female kin. In a male-headed household, there are usually no
other co-resident adult women besides the wife; only her children
are available to assist the married woman with domestic work.
This is why even lower-class married women in St. Vincent want
their husbands to hire a domestic servant to help with the
housework. Women with husbands receive most of their financial
support from them. Lower- and some middle-class married women
pursue their own economic endeavours and work outside the home,
but they do not provide the main share of the household's Income.
As a result, they remain dependent members of the household, under
the male household head's control. Although lower-class married
women continue to exchange produce and domestic work with other
women, they do not depend on these arrangements to the extent
women in female-headed households do. Middle- and upper-class
women who work outside the home do not rely on female relatives to
assist with their domestic work but instead hire servants whom
they supervise.
Women become heads of households when they do not ever form a
household with a sexual partner; when they remain in a parental
households; or when their former partner dies or leaves them.


319
and childcare. Women rely more on relatives for assistance with
their work than men do, because a large proportion of women's work
in Vincentian society consists of domestic work and childcare (cf.
Powell 1982; R. T. Smith 1956; McKenzie 1982; Durant-Gonzalez
1982). Men's work is primarily oriented to earning wages in a
one-to-one relationship between themselves as workers and their
employers; other men cannot assist them nor substitute for them as
wage workers. Men exchange labor in farming, housebuilding, and
fishing, and ask male relatives and friends for financial help,
but they turn to their female relatives for assistance with
domestic work and childcare, not to other men. Thus, both women
and men identify the work necessary to the reproduction of labor
with women, and look for assistance to other women who are their
kin (cf. R. T. Smith 1956; Durant-Gonzalez 1982; Powell 1982;
Stack 1974; Moses 1977; Wilson 1973). These exchanges are as
reciprocal as other exchanges amongst kin. Those who can help do
so in the expectation that at some future date the assistance will
be reciprocated in some equivalent form.
Women also rely on their female relatives for fulfillment of
their emotional and leisure needs (cf. Durant-Gonzalez 1982; Moses
1977; Powell 1982; Wilson 1973). Women are more restricted in
their mobility than men according to Vincentian gender norms.
They stay close to the house to maintain their "respectability"
and to avoid the male-dominated public spaces of the street and


93
The Vincentian sugar industry had a brief resurgence between
1867 and 1875 fueled by the increase in the island's labor force
through Indian indentured labor and a return of estates to
production (Spinelli 1973:113-114). However, when beet sugar from
Europe flooded the British market in 1880, the expensive muscovado
cane sugar produced under old-fashioned methods in the West
Indiescould not compete. By the late 1880s the British sugar
market had collapsed and the economies of the West Indian colonies
entered a severe depression. Vincentian estate owners shifted to
the cultivation of arrowroot, a less labor intensive crop, and
efforts to bring in outside labor ended (Spinelli 1973:120-128).
Nineteenth Century Migration Patterns
From the 1830s until the 1880s, emigration was the major
alternative to low-paying estate labor for freed black men
(Thomas-Hope 1978:66). The main destinations for migrants until
the 1860s were the West Indian colonies of Trinidad and British
Guyana, where agricultural wages were twice as high as in St.
Vincent, and where land was available for purchase (D. Marshall
1987:17-20; Rubenstein 1987:45). Initially, labor recruiters
advertised for workers and helped pay their passage, but the
Vincentian planters soon enacted laws prohibiting the recruiting
of labor. By then it was too late because a well organized system
of small wooden schooners carried workers up and down the
Grenadines to Trinidad and beyond (cf. Richardson 1983:89).


143
However, a closer examination of contemporary class structure
reflects a basic continuity with St. Vincents historical
conditions. Descendants of the original white estate owners still
own large amounts of land devoted to plantation agriculture, even
though the crops produced have changed. They have diversified
their economic base into tourism and trade, and control vast
amounts of the islands wealth and influence. Another group
belonging to the elite are some of the "clear-skin" descendants of
the free colored of slave times. This elite group derives its
power from its control over the import-based retail trade of the
island. A third group to join the elite are political leaders,
brown and black, who have ascended to positions of power and then
used their power to amass their fortunes. The upper class
represents a very small minority of Vincentian society, perhaps
two percent or 2,000 individuals, who are easily identified and
well known socially (Rubenstein 1987). This group is inter
related by kinship and marriage ties within the island and is
connected to the elites of the other Windward Islands and Barbados
(Rubenstein 1987:61-64; Fraser 1975).
The Vincentian middle class is largely distinguished by its
members' employment in the civil service, the professions,
mid-sized businesses, or medium sized farmers (10-50 acres). They
represent the "white collar" segment of the Vincentian labor
force. They are educated and primarily urban or suburban


213
their ability to perform their domestic work well, to be known as
a good cook, to keep a clean, tidy, and attractive house and yard,
and to have clean, well-dressed, well-behaved, and successful
children (cf. Durant-Gonzalez 1982; Massiah 1983; Powell 1982;
Moses 1977; Wilson 1973; Paul 1983). These are the ultimate
measures of success as a woman. Domestic work is also an
important source of income for lower-class women with little
education and few other skills.
Domestic work has three important connotations for women:
(1) it is an important component of the exchange or reciprocity
system between men and women, both as sexual partners and as
relatives; (2) it is an important component of a woman's self
identity and social role, a way she measures herself against other
women and a way she is judged within her community by men and by
women; and finally, (3) sharing domestic work, especially
childcare, creates and reinforces important bonds of mutual
support between women, across the generations and within the same
generation, within kinship groups and neighborhoods. Working
together creates support networks which can be activated during
emergencies and personal crises.
Sexuality and Gender
Vincentians believe that sexual activity is pleasurable and
good, and that all adult human beings want to be sexually active.
Women are equally or even more interested in sex ("hot") than men


231
"too many" children by other men her partner may be reluctant to
marry her if he then has to support her entire brood. Some women
may be reluctant to marry if their previous partners have been
generous and reliable in supporting their children and their new
partner does not appear to be as financially secure.
Some men and women also feel that the quality of their
relationship will be adversely affected if they marry legally.
According to Vincentian men, marriage transforms a woman, making
her demanding, greedy, and lazy. As a wife, she will expect her
husband to keep her financially so that she does not have to work
outside the home; she may even demand her own servant. Married
women expect their husbands to be home more often and not "out on
the block" with the boys. Conversely, some women reject marriage
because they say it makes men too demanding and gives them too
much control in the relationship (cf. Roberts and Sinclair 1978;
Durant-Gonzalez 1982). If something goes wrong in the marriage
her relatives are less likely to permit her to move back into one
of their households. She cannot leave a husband as easily as a
visiting partner if a new man comes along to whom she is more
strongly attracted or who might be financially better off (cf.
Brown 1975; Roberts and Sinclair 1978).
The Clarkes provide a good example of a "typical" Vincentian
married couple in the "new" middle class. At sixteen, Prudie had
her first child for a young teacher who boarded at her mother's


438
Ciski, Robert
1973 Settlement and Land Use Patterns: Villo Point. In:
Windward Road: Contributions to the Anthropology of
St. Vincent, Thomas M. Fraser, Jr., ed. Department of
Anthropology Research Report No. 12. Amherst, MA:
University of Massachusetts.
Clarke, Edith
1957 My Mother Who Fathered Me. London: Allen and Unwin.
Collier, Jane Fishburne and Sylvia Junko Yanigisako, eds.
1987 Introduction. In: Gender and Kinship: Essays Toward a
Unified Analysis. Stanford, CA: Stanford University
Press. Pp. 1-13.
Comitas, Lambros
1964 Occupational Multiplicity in Rural Jamaica.
In: Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the American
Ethnological Society, 1963. Seattle: University of
Washington Press. Pp. 41-50.
Craton, Michael
1978 Searching for the Invisible Man: Slaves and Plantation
Slaves and Plantation Life in Jamaica. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press.
Cumper, G. E.
1958 The Jamaican Family: Village and Estate. Social and
Economic Studies 7:1:76-108.
Davenport, William
1968 The Family System of Jamaica. In: Marriage, Family,
and Residence, Paul Bohannon and John Middleton, eds.
Garden City, NY: Natural History Press. Pp. 247-284.
Day, Charles William
1852 Five Years' Residence in the West Indies. London:
Colburn & Co., Publishers.
Dems, William G.
1965 The Economics of Development in Small Countries.
Montreal: McGill University Press.
Dirks, Robert
1972 Networks, Groups and Adaptation in an Afro-Caribbean
Community. Man (N.S.) 7:4:565-585.


314
emotional relationship. Men also send remittances to their sexual
partners and mothers of their children. In return, non-migrant
relatives take care of the migrants property and dependents.
Migrants who return to St. Vincent after having faithfully sent
remittances are readily welcomed.
If migrants break off communication with their relatives and
stop sending remittances, they may be dropped out of the kinship
network. Migrants do not stop being relatives, but those who do
not stay in contact seem to be assigned a questionable status
possibly dead, and certainly, not acting as a relative should (cf.
Philpott 1973). One of Prudie Clarke's brothers, Rupert Cato,
came back to St. Vincent after an absence of nearly twenty years.
He had stopped writing to his mother and Prudie nearly fifteen
years before he returned. Both his mother and Prudie reacted as
if he had returned from the dead; Prudie actually fainted when she
saw him on the street in Kingstown. They literally had not known
if he was alive or not; but socially he had been "dead" to them
for many years. Rupert was accepted into the good graces of the
family again when he acknowledged that his behavior had been wrong
and that he should not have ignored them.
Kinship and Reproduction
Both human biological reproduction and the socialization of
children are socially organized through the kinship system in St.
Vincent. Although there are government-operated institutions for


91
and became small farmers (Spinelli 1973:99-104; Ober
1880:232-233).
The Portuguese and East Indians came to occupy an
intermediary position in the rural areas similiar to that of the
free colored in the capital (Ciski 1973:10-12). Neither group was
considered "white," but they were not stigmatized as were the
former slaves. As time passed, the Portuguese intermarried with
the free colored, but the East Indians did not. European origin,
class position, and skin color played a part in the maintenance of
ethnic boundaries. Both the free colored and the Portuguese
emphasized their European ancestry and light skin tones, and both
groups occupied nearly the same class position. The Portuguese
were nearly the same shade as many of the free colored, but the
East Indians were much darker. Instead of intermarrying, the
Portuguese and East Indians entered patron-client relationships
that parallelled the relationships between the white elite and the
free colored as an alliance of class interests (Ciski 1973:11).
The introduction of Portuguese and East Indians indentured
laborers into Vincentian society created competition between the
newcomers and the freed blacks. This competition helped the
estate owners keep wages down (W. Marshall 1983:100). Instead of
uniting with the black lower class majority against the white
upper class elite, both groups of indentured laborers competed
against them. The Portuguese moved into retail trade, allied


LIST OF TABLES AND FIGURES
List of Tables Page
3-1 Components of Population Change,
St. Vincent, 1763-1880 89
4-1 Components of Population Change,
St. Vincent, 1881-1980 106
4-2 Population of St. Vincent, 1980,
By Age and Sex 127
4-3 Age Structure of the Population
of St. Vincent, 1946-1980 129
4-4 St. Vincent External Trade Balance 136
List of Figures
1-1 St. Vincent, West Indies 3
2-1 Arnos Vale, St. Vincent ........36
x


336
weekends. They carried all the building materials, including the
concrete blocks, up the hill on their heads. Their original house
had two bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room, and small bathroom.
Eventually, as their children were born, they added bedrooms,
enlarged the kitchen and bathroom, excavated partially under the
house and built two storage/workrooms, and added a front porch.
House type, amenities, and furnishings correlate closely with
socioeconomic class and access to remittances or savings from
overseas. A lower-class individual receiving remittances from
several overseas relatives might live in a better equipped house
than a middle-class Vincentian not receiving remittances. On a
scale from the least to the most expensive housing materials, the
major house types are: wattle-and-daub, or "trash" houses; wooden
or "board" houses; concrete block or "wall" houses; "brick"
houses; and locally quarried stone or "stone" houses (cf. Abrahams
1983:138). Historically, houses were also made out of a locally
made mortar or "tabby" but this is no longer used in house
construction. Materials are sometimes combined, so that a house
might be part "wall" and part "board," or part "wall" and part
"stone." Roofs of wattle-and-daub houses are thatched with stalks
of elephant grass. Most board and wall houses have corrugated tin
roofs while the most expensive wall and stone houses have tile
roofs. Materials for house construction are available locally and
are imported. The cheapest houses are constructed from material


119
participation in a new sector of the labor market for Vincentian
workers. Earlier migration opportunities had concentrated in
agricultural labor and construction, but the work in Trinidad and
Aruba/Curacao was largely in the service and manufacturing sector.
The new movement included ever increasing numbers of women, as
well as men, in contrast to earlier male dominated migrations.
The great emigration from 1880 to 1931 responded to the
penetration of American capital into the Caribbean Basin. The
next great opportunity for Vincentian workers would arise in the
economies of the industrialized countries of the Northern
Hemisphere: Great Britain, Canada, and the United States.
The Exodus to England
Many Vincentians took advantage of Great Britain's open door
policy in the mid-1950s to emigrate to the "Mother Country."
World War 11 had produced a labor shortage in the British
manufacturing and service sectors. British labor power was not
sufficient to rebuild or expand Great Britains economy during the
post-war period (Sutton and Makiesky 1979:120; Peach 1968:xiii;
Freeman 1987:192-193). Some Vincentians who went to England were
return migrants from Trinidad or Aruba. Others had stayed behind
in St. Vincent during the war; they did not want to miss out on
the opportunity to emigrate to England. Emigrants went to England
primarily by ship from 1956 to 1963. Boats stopped at all the


369
The head's sexual partner becomes the household head upon his
or her death or if the household head abandons the household to
live elsewhere. In these instances, the partner assumes financial
responsibility for household members and has authority over them.
If the household head emigrates but still financially supports the
household, he or she remains the household head and retains
ultimate authority over the disposition of the property and who
resides there (cf. Philpott 1973; Moses 1977).
Adult children assume household headship when the former
head's spouse is too old or infirm or cannot assume financial
responsibility. If a former household head becomes dependent and
moves in with an adult child or other caretaker, the adult child
retains household headship In the house they own and financially
support; headship is not relinquished solely on the basis of
seniority. In most Vincentian households, by the time the head
dies, the older children have either emigrated or already
established separate households. If a younger sibling remains in
the parental house caring for the aged parent as a caretaker, he
or she usually inherits the house and becomes household head when
the parent dies (cf. Berleant-Schiller 1977; Massiah 1983).
Household Fissioning
Vincentian households fission into separate households in
several ways. The most common is for adult members to leave and
establish their own households with a sexual partner and their


334
and occupied by their children. Some pieces had been sold to
non-relatives while others were still unoccupied. When
questioned, the oldest brother replied that one was a family land
piece and could not be sold without all the brothers' agreement.
Since he did not want to go to Trinidad and they did not want to
come home to St. Vincent, the land remained idle. One of the
brothers in Trinidad kept saying he was coming back to St. Vincent
when he retired and that he would build his house on part of the
land.
The House and Yard
Before the household system can be described, its physical
setting must be considered. The literature on Caribbean
households has been preoccupied with households as groups of
people, and has tended to overlook the physical structures people
occupy. In calling attention to this oversight, Sidney Mintz
wrote the following about the importance of the house and yard:
...it is through such material representations of
culture that people relate to each other, express
themselves and their values, interact, and carry out
their activities. Hence the house is far more than a
fabrication of wood and thatch, the yard far more than
a locale for the house. Together, house and yard form
a nucleus within which the culture expresses itself,
is perpetuated, changed, and reintegrated. (1974:
231-232).
The following brief description of Vincentian house and yard
types is based on folk categories of housing; it is not intended
as an architecturally complete description of house types or


CHAPTER FOUR
MIGRATION FROM THE LATE NINETEENTH TO THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
Chapter Four continues the description of St. Vincent's
history from the late nineteenth century to the present. The
chapter concludes with a discussion of St. Vincent's contemporary
political economy and class structure. By the end of the 1870s,
migration had become an integral part of Vincentian culture. The
next fifty year period, from 1881 to 1931, witnessed the
emigration of unprecedented numbers of Vincentians. This massive
migration was the result of a combination of forces: the final
collapse of the West Indian sugar industry and a severe economic
depression in the region; natural disasters devastating the
island; and the opening of new labor markets as the United States'
economy expanded into the Caribbean Basin.
The 1930s ushered in another period of economic depression and
intense social suffering in the West Indies and St. Vincent. The
world economic depression curtailed overseas opportunities, and
temporarily dammed up the Vincentian migrant stream. Many
migrants who had gone overseas during the peak years of the early
twentieth century returned home. During World War II (1939-1946),
economic changes, such as the development of the oil industry in
the southern Caribbean and the expansion of U. S. military bases,
brought about a renewed reliance on migration. Migration patterns
102


6
Feminist Perspectives on Gender, Kinship, and Household
All societies exhibit a gender division of labor, which Kate
Young and her associates (1981:x) define as "the system of
allocating particular tasks to men and others to women." Such a
division includes cultural conceptions of the genders, their
qualities and capacities, their virtues and vices. A complete
description of the division of labor by gender not only comprises
the actual labor performed by members of each gender but also the
attitudes, expectations, and preconceptions about the task, the
doer, and the assessed social value assigned to both the task and
the doer.
Young et al. (1981:x) note that in nearly all societies
"women are allocated those tasks (broadly defined as domestic
work) which are neither given value nor coramensurated by the
market." Such tasks include childbearing; childrearing (including
childcare, socialization, and education); care of other dependents
(elderly and ill); domestic work (processing food, cooking,
cleaning, making, washing and mending clothing, shopping, etc.);
and often some part of subsistence production (household gardens,
small livestock). These financially unremunerated labors form the
material basis on which society reproduces both individuals and
classes.
Another element of feminist theories is the recognition of
men's control over women's sexual and reproductive capacities.


418
opposing loyalties present in the human relationships structured
by the Vincentian gender, kinship, and household systems, and
showed how Vincentians attempt to resolve these contradictions.
In writing this dissertation I have analytically separated
the gender, kinship, and household systems for the purpose of
clarifying the confusion which exists in the anthropological
literature on the Afro-Caribbean family. An analytic separation
permits a closer examination of the contradictions within each
system and the conflicts between values. When examined
separately, the underlying principles of each system become
clearer.
The gender system emphasizes the social inequality between
men and women. Men are dominant because of their social,
economic, and physical power over women. Women give sexual favors
to men in exchange for financial support and protection. The
exchange between men and women operates one-way. Men achieve
status through their sexual and procreative exploits. They
compete with other men for women. Women achieve status through
having children and by their skills in household management.
Women compete with other women over access to men's resources.
The effect of the gender system on social relations is to heighten
competition between individuals.
The kinship system emphasizes the inequality between the
generations and the authority of seniors over juniors. The


183
The migration ideology, as originally defined by Philpott
(1968:474), consisted of a positive valuation of migration and a
desire to return as well as expectations about the nature of the
relationship between the migrant and the dependent in the sending
society. The migration ideology today in St. Vincent consists of
four elements. Migration is highly valued, not only for its
potential economic benefit but because the emigrant wins social
prestige as well. Migration has become an important rite of
passage for young adults; migration exposes them to new, more
worldly lifestyles than are available to those who stay at home
(Rubenstein 1987:198; Thomas-Hope 1983:52-53).
Second, the migration ideology entails the migrant's
obligation to send remittances back to relatives and sexual
partners (Rubenstein 1982:24). How these obligations are
incurred, reinforced, and enacted are discussed in more detail in
following chapters on gender and kinship. The obligation to
provide support has extended to include helping one's relatives
and friends migrate.
Third, the migration ideology promotes a view of Vincentian
society as backward and unlikely to change much (Thomas-Hope
1983:52-54). Corrupt politicians and the upper-class elite
control most of the island's resources and block real social
change. People say that another factor blocking social change is
that the young and energetic potential leaders are the first to go


81
colored mistress was not brought into "society" (Carmichael
1833:62).
Many slave women achieved their freedom and economic
independence through sexual liaisons with white men, and many free
colored women were also kept as mistresses by whites (Carmichael
1833:71-73; B. Marshall 1982:9-11). The black and free colored
mistresses were said to "pride themselves upon the preference
shown them by white men" (Quoted in B. Marshall 1982:10). They
preferred an illicit, but economically secure liaison with a white
man to an insecure union with a black or free colored man (cf.
Patterson 1976:55-56). Although the black and free colored
mistresses were criticized as immoral by the white women of the
colony, such liaisons were acknowledged to be common, long-
lasting, and frequently marked by great affection by both partners
(Carmichael 1833:71-72; B. Marshall 1982:9-10).
The normal, biologically based reproduction of labor did not
truly begin in St. Vincent until the British slave trade was
abolished and the Vincentian Slavery Amelioration Acts were passed
in the early nineteenth century. These Amelioration Acts mandated
slaves' working conditions and hours, as well as the food and
clothing rations owners had to provide. Marriages between slaves
were encouraged. A series of reforms in the care of pregnant
slaves was also instituted; working hours and tasks were reduced,
medical care was provided for mothers and infants, and mothers


154
trade school, a normal school for teachers, and a nursing school.
Although they are referred to as "colleges," none of these schools
grants baccalaureate degrees. Most of the Vincentians who go to
Jamaica to attend the University of the West Indies or to England
for training courses do not consider themselves to be migrants.
However, Vincentians recognize that education has become more
necessary to migrate and compete in the labor market in the
metropolitan centers (Thomas-Hope 1983:52). Getting a university
degree becomes the first step to eventual emigration.
Other, less organized employment opportunities appeared in
the Caribbean as tourism became more important in the 1970s.
Vincentian men went to Barbados, Antigua, Trinidad, St. Lucia, the
Bahamas, and the Virgin Islands (both U.S. and British) to do
construction work on new hotels and resorts and stayed on as
employees in restaurants, nightclubs, sports facilities, and other
tourism-related enterprises (Thomas-Hope 1985:162). Women went to
work in the resorts as maids, cooks, nannies, and bar hostesses.
Vincentian men and women have also joined the informal sector
surrounding tourismstreet vending, prostitution, and petty
crime. Vincentians went to islands such as Antigua or Barbados
where the natives would not accept menial jobs at low wages or
where the the residents themselves had emigrated to the United
States or Canada (Marshall 1984:68). Differences in regional
economic development created situations, such as in Trinidad,


246
children and grandchildren. Having children is the most direct
way to achieving adult status in the folk society.
A lower-class man or woman who fulfills the prescriptions of
the folk ethos is accorded "respect" by relatives, peers, and
community members. When describing a person worthy of "respect,"
Vincentians say "dat ah wah {man/ woman} yo ah talk to, dat na no
any and anybody" [that man/woman you are talking to, they are not
just anybody]. Individuals who deserve "respect" are addressed
with deference in public and in private, using the correct
honorific (Mr., Miss, Mistress) and their title (last name), and
talk with them should be "sense" not "nonsense" (cf. Abrahams
1983). Persons who deserve "respect" are not gossiped about
maliciously. They are consulted for advice and sought out as a
friends or allies because they are conscientious in fulfilling
social obligations, responsible, and dependable. "Respect" is
earned by individuals through their actions over their lifetime,
and is not conferred automatically because of a person's class
standing, wealth, or political power.
Mrs. Clarke is a good example of a woman who deserves
respect. Prudie Clarke is always polite, cheerful, and greets her
neighbors with a smile. She faithfully attends church services at
the Baptist Church and goes to bible readings regularly. Prudie
is always dressed neatly and modestly. Her house and yard are
clean and neat. Her children wear clean clothing, are respectful,


408
The cultural systems of gender, kinship, and household that
emerged in St. Vincent during the nineteenth century were not the
independent inventions of the freed blacks, but a reinterpretation
of basic West African values influenced by the dominant colonial
ideology and adapted to conditions of life in Creole society.
Important core concepts about gender and sexuality central to the
emerging folk ethos included a positive attitude towards sexual
activity for men and women; the importance of having children to
attaining adulthood and status; and women's responsibility for
food production, food crop marketing, domestic work, and
childcare. Kinship concepts included the importance of kinship
ties extended beyond the "nuclear" family; the authority of the
aged; and the solidarity of the broader kinship group bound
together by reciprocal exchanges of personnel, services, and
goods. The ownership of a house and land emerged as central to
men's attainment of senior status ("big" man) within the freed
black communities. Women also sought management of their own
households, preferably a house owned by their partners. For both
men and women, ownership of property reinforced their authority
and status under the folk ethos and provided real economic
security as well. Achievement of this goal proved difficult to
attain without continued male migration.
By the end of nineteenth century, migration was established
for Vincentian men as an important means of acquiring resources


241
have three inter-linked components: the sexual, the emotional, and
the economic.
Gender Ideology
Peter Wilson, in his book, Crab Antics, (1973), identified
two principles that guide social behavior in the English-speaking
Caribbean that he labelled "respectability" and "reputation." He
linked "respectability" to social stratification and the colonial
order, while "reputation" was tied to social equality and the
folk, Afro-Caribbean society. The dialectical interaction of
these two principles creates the social dynamic, which Wilson
described with the folk idiom "crab antics." According to Wilson,
"reputation" is a concern of men, who use migration or sexual and
procreational success to build, enhance, and maintain their
"reputations" amongst their male peers. Women align themselves
with "respectability" and the colonial church, and try to restrain
men's reputation-seeking behavior. "Reputation" and
"respectability" are thus associated with the two genders, and the
dynamics of the social dialect assume a sexual dimension as well.
Wilson's identification of the dichotomy between
"respectability" and "reputation" with that between men and women
as social actors begs several questions. The most basic of these
questions is why do women engage in sexual affairs with men at the
risk of losing "respectability" and in contradiction to a value
system that labels sex outside of marriage immoral? How could the


168
Potential migrants from the lower class have far fewer
resources. Many of their strategies involve illegal emigration,
gaining entrance to the receiving society through temporary worker
programs or by overstaying a tourist visa. Overstaying tourist
visas is probably the most common form of illegal migration (McCoy
1987:233). Vincentians also obtain legal visas for Canada, and
then slip over the border to the United States. They rely on their
ability to manipulate the system through a myriad of personal
contacts that can compensate for lack of education or money.
Political contacts arrange places in the H-2 workers program or
overseas training. Wealthier relatives and friends "loan" them
money to be deposited in bank accounts, which are checked by
immigration authorities during the migration process. A person
with financial means and a vested stake in returning to St.
Vincent is more likely to be awarded a tourist visa than a person
without resources (McCoy 1987:233). When the visa is obtained,
the money in the account reverts back to its true owner. Lower-
class Vincentians use lawyers or returned migrant friends to
handle their applications and advise them on procedures.
However, the legal migrant has several major advantages over
the illegal migrant. Legal migrants can work anywhere on any job
they can find, and they can return freely to St. Vincent and
re-enter the receiving country. They cannot be deported unless
they commit a crime. The illegal migrant commits a crime by


THE REPRODUCTION OF LABOR IN A MIGRATION SOCIETY
GENDER, KINSHIP, AND HOUSEHOLD
IN ST. VINCENT, WEST INDIES
By
Margaret Jean Gearing
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
1988

Copyright 1988
by
Margaret Jean Gearing

To my son,
Phillip Eugene Connor,
and my mo the r,
Margaret N. Gearing

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The research upon which this dissertation is based was funded
by a Fulbright Grant awarded by the Institute of International
Education. To the Institute and to the staff of the U. S. Embassy
in Barbados, I am grateful.
My committee chairman, Allan F. Burns, has stood by me
throughout my years in graduate school. For his intellectual
guidance and his confidence in my abilities as an anthropologist,
I shall always be indebted.
My committee members have also been steadfast in their
encouragement and support. My deepest thanks go to Professors
Helen Safa, Robert Lawless, and Terry McCoy. I am especially
grateful to Jorge Duany for his editorial review and insightful
comments on drafts of this dissertation. To Linda Wolfe, my very
good friend, I extend my appreciation for the use of your computer
at key times and your unflagging support.
I would also like to acknowledge my intellectual debt to
several other faculty members of the University of Florida,
including Charles Wagley, for stimulating my interest in
anthropological studies of kinship; Charles H. Wood for his
knowledge of demography and development theory which I shamelessly
stole; and Marianne Schmink, Anita Spring, and Susan Poats for
iv

sharing their wealth of experience about gender issues and
intra-household dynamics.
My long tenure (some say endless) in graduate school was
financially supported, in part, by assistantships and fellowships
provided by the Department of Anthropology, the Center for Latin
American Studies, the Women in Agricultural Development Program,
and the Graduate School of the University of Florida. I would
also like to thank Carl Van Ness and Carla Kemp at the University
of Florida Archives for their kindness and understanding in
permitting me time off from my current job to put the finishing
touches on the dissertation.
The emotional support I have received from my graduate
student colleagues and friends has been equally important in
"getting through." I would like to acknowledge Barbara Reilly,
Diana and Richard Walker, Ron Kephart, Jim McKay, Betsy
Randall-David, Jim Lett, Shoko Hamano, John Wilson, John Butler,
David Reddy, Brian Fisk, Kathy Gladden, Beth Higgs, Emine
Incirglioglu, Julio Chang, Sharon Bienert, Tom Eubanks, Claudine
Payne (who also drew my maps), Manuel Vargas, Nina Borremans, Mary
Ellen Warren, Jane Gibson-Carpenter, Jan Tucker, Fred Desmond, and
especially Barbara Hendry, for their friendship and encouragement.
My family, especially my mother, have unstintingly and most
generously supported me during graduate school. Without my
mother's financial assistance, this dissertation would never have
v

been finished. To ray husband, Phillip Elroy Connor, I offer my
gratitude for all his help with my fieldwork and analysis, and I
hope that this depiction of life in St. Vincent reflects some of
spirit of the Vincentian people he conveyed to me. My son,
Phillip, is too young now to understand why Mommy has been so
busy, but his love has been strong and unconditional regardless.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge my debt to my many
Vincentian friends and the residents of the community in which I
lived nearly two years. In countless ways they helped me adjust
to and understand what life in St. Vincent is like from their
perspective. For their patience, generousity, and good humor I
will always be grateful. I would like to extend special thanks to
Jeffrey Venner, Earle Kirby, Mike Browne, Pearl Herbert, Leo Jack,
Nelcia Robinson, Mark Curaberbatch, the Durrant family, Yvonne
Francis-Gibson, and the honorable John Horne. St. Vincent may be
poor by economic measures, but the country possesses an
incomparable treasure in its people and their culture.
vi

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Page
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS . iv
LIST OF TABLES AND FIGURES
ABSTRACT xi
CHAPTERS
ONE INTRODUCTION 1
The Problem..... 1
Feminist Perspectives on Gender, Kinship, and
Household .6
Historical-Structural Theories of Migration .13
Integrating Feminist Analyses of the Household with
Historical-Structural Perspectives on Migration 20
Migration and Households in the Caribbean ......24
Notes 29
TWO METHODOLOGY......... 30
Initial Methodological Assumptions 30
Choosing a Field Site 31
The Community of Arnos Vale 35
Presentation of Self... 41
Entry Problems .....44
Finding a Research Assistant.. 45
Collection and Analysis of Ethnographic Data 47
The Process of Fieldwork 55
Collection of Archival and Census Data .....58
Analysis of Historical Material 63
Applicability of Results 64
Ethnographic Style..... 65
THREE EVOLUTION OF THE MIGRATION SOCIETY 66
History and Demography 66
St. Vincent as a British Colony During Slavery 67
Slave Society in St. Vincent 71
Reproduction of Labor in a Slave Society 76
vii

Establishment of the Migration Tradition:
1838 to 1881 83
Immigration of Indentured Labor 90
Nineteenth Century Migration Patterns 93
Migration and the Reproduction of Labor During
the Nineteenth Century 97
FOUR MIGRATION FROM THE LATE NINETEENTH CENTURY
TO THE TWENTIETH CENTURY 102
The Great Emigration from 1881 to 1931 103
Retrenchment, Reaction, and Renewed Migration:
1931 to 1946 113
The Exodus to England..... .......119
Migration to Canada and the United States 123
Population Change in St. Vincent from
1960 to 1980 125
Post-War Changes in the Political Economy 128
Contemporary Class Structure 142
Notes 147
FIVE CONTEMPORARY MIGRATION: PATTERNS AND
STRATEGIES 149
Contemporary Migration Patterns 149
Alternate Migration Strategies 161
Class Differences in Migration Strategies..... 167
The Role of Returned Migrants 170
"Vince Mas:" Carnival in St. Vincent .....174
Carnival and Migration 178
The Migration Ideology in Contemporary Society 182
Contemporary Migration and the Reproduction of
Labor 185
Notes............. 187
SIX THE SYSTEM OF GENDER IN ST. VINCENT 188
The Definition of Gender 188
Gender Roles Over the Life Cycle 192
The Gender Division of Labor .199
Gender Division of Labor: Production 202
Gender Division of Labor: Reproduction ...207
Social Significance of the Domestic Division of
Labor 210
Sexuality and Gender 213
The Double Standard of Sexual Conduct 218
Jealousy and "Getting Horned" 222
Sexual Relationships... 225
viii

Sexuality and Fertility 239
Childbearing and Sexual Relationships 241
Gender Ideology 240
SEVEN THE SYSTEM OF KINSHIP IN ST. VINCENT 261
Descent and the Kindred 261
A Vincentian Kindred 265
Vincentian Kinship Terminology 271
Kinship Relationships .277
Kinship and Reciprocity 291
Kinship and the Authority of Age 295
Kinship as a Social Compass 298
Kinship as Metaphor 302
Class Variation in Kinship 305
Kinship and Production 310
Kinship and Reproduction 314
Women and the Domestication of Kinship in
St. Vincent 317
EIGHT THE VINCENTIAN HOUSEHOLD SYSTEM 327
Social Significance of House Ownership 327
Tenure and Settlement Patterns ....332
The House and Yard 334
Vincentian Definitions of Public and Private 350
The Vincentian Household System 356
Co-Residence and Household Composition 356
Household Personnel 362
Role of the Household Head 365
Household Fissioning 369
Shifts in Household Membership Over the Life
Cycle 371
Membership in Multiple Households..... 374
Class Variation in Household Composition .....376
Household Strategies.... 378
Households and the Reproduction of Labor 396
NINE SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS 400
Cultural Duality in St. Vincent 411
Gender, Kinship, and Household in St. Vincent 417
Migration and the Reproduction of Labor: Strategies
of Male and Female-Headed Households .423
BIBLIOGRAPHY 434
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH. .454
ix

LIST OF TABLES AND FIGURES
List of Tables Page
3-1 Components of Population Change,
St. Vincent, 1763-1880 89
4-1 Components of Population Change,
St. Vincent, 1881-1980 106
4-2 Population of St. Vincent, 1980,
By Age and Sex 127
4-3 Age Structure of the Population
of St. Vincent, 1946-1980 129
4-4 St. Vincent External Trade Balance 136
List of Figures
1-1 St. Vincent, West Indies 3
2-1 Arnos Vale, St. Vincent ........36
x

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
THE REPRODUCTION OF LABOR IN A MIGRATION SOCIETY:
GENDER, KINSHIP, AND HOUSEHOLD IN ST. VINCENT, WEST INDIES
By
Margaret Jean Gearing
December, 1988
Chairman: Dr. Allan F. Burns
Major Department: Anthropology
Ethnographers have debated the origin and function of the
unique features of Afro-Caribbean families which contrasted with
the nuclear family model believed to be universal. An explicit
assumption guiding research was that the "deviant" features of
lower-class Caribbean families were aberrations induced by
conditions of social and economic deprivation. The behavior of
the middle and upper classes was seldom critically studied, and
historical analyses of Afro-Caribbean gender, kinship, and
household systems were absent.
This study uses a transactional approach to analyze gender,
kinship, and household dynamics in a middle-class community in St.
Vincent, West Indies. A majority of residents are upwardly mobile
lower-class individuals now part of the "new middle class." This
xi

class hierarchy. The Vincentian lower class depends upon
international labor migration as an alternative to the restrictive
conditions of the local economy.
The gender, kinship, and household patterns of the new
Vincentian middle class are generated by unique cultural systems,
not merely reflections of straitened economic circumstances.
These systems were shaped by Creole values formed from the
interaction of West African and European cultures during slavery
and further adapted to the "migration society" after Emancipation.
The gender system of St. Vincent emphasizes the social
inequality between men and women. Under the gender division of
labor, women are responsible for the work required for the
reproduction of labor. The kinship system emphasizes the
authority of seniors over juniors; the solidarity of the kindred;
and reciprocal exchanges between kin. The household system
emphasizes the authority of the household head over other
household members. Vincentian households survive through
contributions of members and exchanges created by gender and
kinship ties with migrants and other households.
The gender division of labor and reliance on male migration
keep Vincentian women economically dependent on men. Female
headed households in St. Vincent are a survival mechanism for
women unable to secure permanent relationships with men capable of
supporting them.
xii

headed households in St. Vincent are a survival mechanism for
women unable to secure permanent relationships with men capable of
supporting them.
xiii

CHAPTER ONE
INTRODUCTION
The Problem
This dissertation analyzes the gender, kinship, and household
systems that structure the reproduction of labor in St. Vincent,
West Indies. "The reproduction of labor" refers to the bearing,
care, and socialization of children, as well as those activities
that maintain the lives of adults, including domestic labor and
subsistence production (Mackintosh 1981; Young et al. 1981). An
important component of the reproduction of labor is the
transmission across the generations of the ideologies that support
the social relations between and within classes (Stivens 1981).
In all societies, the reproduction of labor occurs through
the actions of domestic groups, although the composition of such
groups varies cross-culturally. In capitalist societies, the
survival of the domestic group and the reproduction of labor
depend upon some members of the domestic group contributing income
earned through wage labor. In some areas of the world, employment
possibilites in the local economy are limited and wages are low,
and the opportunity exists to migrate to countries in which
employment is readily available and wages are high (Portes 1978).
This situation creates another way for domestic groups to ensure
1

2
their survival and reproduction: participation in international
labor migration.
St. Vincent, in the lower Eastern Caribbean (Figure 1.1),
provides an excellent case study for an analysis of the
reproduction of labor in a society dependent upon international
labor migration. St. Vincent has been a migrant-sending society
since the early nineteenth century. Vincentians have participated
in every migrant movement within the Caribbean region and between
the Caribbean and most migrant-receiving countries. St. Vincent
has become a "migration society" in which every member has been a
migrant or has a migrant relative in the present or the memorable
past (Richardson 1983; 1985). The long history of reliance upon
migration has produced an "ideology of migration" in which
migration is positively valued and migrants are expected to
fulfill social obligations to non-migrants (Philpott 1973).
Migration, a process sometimes considered psychologically and
socially disruptive by researchers, has become the way Vincentian
society maintains and reproduces itself.
Vincentian society relies on the migration of some of its
members to support those who do not migrate and to relieve demand
on its scarce resources. Emigrants gain access to economic and
social resources in the international capitalist system and funnel
them back to the island. By infusing capital into the local
economy through remittances and investments, migrants sustain

Figure 1-1. St. Vincent, West Indies

4
their relatives and sexual partners during their absences and even
improve their own social status through the acquisition of land
and other property (cf. Philpott 1973; Richardson 1983, 1985;
Rubenstein 1987). Those left behind in St. Vincent also must work
within the local economy to supplement remittances that are seldom
sufficient to cover all of their expenses. The adults must
perform both the productive activities the migrants would have
accomplished if they had not left as well as the tasks involved in
the caring and socialization of the next generation.
Underlying the movement of people and resources to and from
St. Vincent are the social relationships embedded in the
"reproduction of labor," which generate cultural and emotional
ties binding men and women, parents, children, and siblings across
time and great distances. These social relationships do not
reflect biological reproduction or the "natural" place of women
and men in society, but are the product of cultural systems
affected by many other cultural domains, including religion,
nationality, ethnicity, and class (Collier and Yanigasako 1987:6;
Schneider 1968). The cultural systems that structure the
reproduction of labor in a migrant-sending society assume
additional functions: they keep migrants integrated into their
domestic groups; they reinforce migrants' continued contributions
as if the migrants were still physically present; and they also
adjust to their actual absence. These systems also must

5
promulgate and justify the "migration ideology" that keeps
emigrants going away, sending back remittances, and eventually
returning. In a "migration society" these social relationships
bear a paradoxical burden: people must be encouraged to leave, yet
they must remain attached emotionally and continue to feel
obligated to support those left behind. Migration thus
simultaneously threatens and maintains the social relationships
within the reproduction of labor.
This dissertation will focus on how domestic groups in St.
Vincent resolve these paradoxes to ensure their survival and
reproduction. The analysis of the cultural systems that structure
the reproduction of labor will be based on a three-dimensional
model of domestic groups composed of a gender system, a kinship
system, and a household system. This analytic model of domestic
groups is an extension of a two-dimensional model proposed by
Anthony T. Carter (1984). Each system includes cultural
principles used as guidelines for action and the interpretation of
social interaction, as well as a supporting ideology for these
rules (Carter 1984; Yanigasako 1979). The three systems generate
observable patterns of social behavior as well as more deeply held
beliefs and values whose meanings may not be as easily articulated
by members of a society. The three components of this model of
domestic groups derive from feminist analyses of gender, kinship,
and household discussed in more detail in the following section.

6
Feminist Perspectives on Gender, Kinship, and Household
All societies exhibit a gender division of labor, which Kate
Young and her associates (1981:x) define as "the system of
allocating particular tasks to men and others to women." Such a
division includes cultural conceptions of the genders, their
qualities and capacities, their virtues and vices. A complete
description of the division of labor by gender not only comprises
the actual labor performed by members of each gender but also the
attitudes, expectations, and preconceptions about the task, the
doer, and the assessed social value assigned to both the task and
the doer.
Young et al. (1981:x) note that in nearly all societies
"women are allocated those tasks (broadly defined as domestic
work) which are neither given value nor coramensurated by the
market." Such tasks include childbearing; childrearing (including
childcare, socialization, and education); care of other dependents
(elderly and ill); domestic work (processing food, cooking,
cleaning, making, washing and mending clothing, shopping, etc.);
and often some part of subsistence production (household gardens,
small livestock). These financially unremunerated labors form the
material basis on which society reproduces both individuals and
classes.
Another element of feminist theories is the recognition of
men's control over women's sexual and reproductive capacities.

7
This control extends over sexual expression, choice of partner,
timing of sexual contact, and acceptance or rejection of
pregnancy. It includes physical control over women's freedom to
associate with men and move freely in society; punitive sanctions
for transgressions; and ideological justifications for the sexual
code. This ideology is often internalized by women themselves who
then control their own and other women's behavior. Rosalind
Petchesky (1980) has proposed the concept of the "social relations
of reproduction" to describe the pervasive control men exert over
women. Petchesky argues that the actions entailed in human
reproduction, including sexuality and childbearing, are not
"natural" or "instinctive" but are embedded in a complex
sociocultural matrix.
Feminist critiques have forced many Marxists to reexamine the
concept of "reproduction" and broaden the concept of the
"material" beyond the economic to include sexuality and human
reproduction in their social context (Petchesky 1980). Maureen
Mackintosh (1981:9-10) distinguishes three separate meanings for
the term "reproduction." From the narrowest to the broadest sense,
she defines the concept in the following ways:
(1) Human reproduction refers to "the relations of marriage
and kinship in a society," which determine patterns of sexuality,
fertility, childcare, and socialization.

8
(2) The reproduction of labor refers not only to rearing
children but also to the maintenance of adults, processes which
insure the continuation of society into the next generation.
(3) Social reproduction is the continual recreation of all
the main production relations in society, including the
reproduction of capital itself and the class system in capitalist
societies.
Maila Stivens (1981) examines the relationships between
women, kinship, and capitalist development in urban areas of the
First and Third Worlds. She argues that kin relations in
capitalist societies tend to become female-centered rather than
restricted within isolated male-headed "nuclear" families, as
earlier theorists had proposed. Stivens terms this process the
"domestication of kinship." As societies become capitalist, the
dominance of kin structures in the political system is eroded and
the economic importance of kinship is reduced. Social relations
of kinship remain dominant in the domestic group and in some
geographical areas in subsistence production as well. Although
the importance of kin relations in the wider political economy has
declined, kinship ties remain important in social reproduction.
Kin relations structure the social processes necessary to
social reproduction and the reproduction of labor, processes that
are not "incorporated into the direct capital-labor relation"
(Stivens 1981:114). Kinship relations are not solely determined

9
by economic forces but are the product of a complex combination of
economic, political, and cultural factors.
Stivens observes that the "domestication of kinship" is tied
to labor migration in the new international division of labor.
The relegation of women to domestic labor and/or subsistence
production creates a reserve labor force and supports the
reproduction of labor power. Women may withdraw from production
or enter it as wage laborers, but in nearly all cases, their
domestic work and subsistence production intensify. In order to
cope with increased demands, women rely more on their relatives,
especially other female relatives, for help. As kinship relations
become increasingly "domesticated," kinship becomes closely
associated with women ideologically and women assume the role of
mediator in kinship relations.
Kinship ideology is closely tied to that of gender and the
idealization of the "feminine." Girls incorporate these
conceptions about gender and kinship during the socialization
process, then pass them along to their own children when they
become mothers, perpetuating the ideology that supports their own
subordination. Stivens also describes the inherent contradictions
in kin relations, which provide support for women through
solidarity with female relatives. However, female solidarity
based on kinship ties "sustains the ideological coherence of kin

10
structures and thus increases women's submission to male control"
(Stivens 1981:115).
Gender and kinship relations are situated within domestic
groups in all societies. The structure of domestic groups has
been the subject of intensive inquiry (Yanigasako 1979).
Unfortunately, much analytical confusion has arisen from
disagreements over the terms and definitions applied in the
analysis of domestic groups. Social scientists have used the term
"household" to refer both to the residence of the domestic group
and the physical site of the reproduction of labor power as well
as to the social organization of the day-to-day production and
consumption activities which make the process possible.
In North American and European societies, the household often
coincides with the nuclear family. Insights into the operation of
the household as separate from kinship have come from the study of
non-Western cultures in which families and households may not be
identical. Household relations are based on ownership and control
over property, authority over decision making, and shared tasks of
production and consumption; whereas kinship relations are "defined
by the origins of the links between members, links that have their
source in culturally defined relations of birth, adoption, and
marriage, regardless of whether those who are so linked live
together or engage in any shared tasks" (Carter 1984:45).

11
Kinship and household roles can be analytically separated
even if they are held by the same person. In cultures in which
family members may not be coresident or may not share production
and consumption, differentiating between the two levels explains
both patterns of cooperation and conflict within and between
domestic groups as well as different developmental histories.
- Jane Guyer (1981) describes households as systems of resource
allocation in which women and men have separate responsibilities,
access to distinct resources, and control over the returns from
their own activities. This model of "intra-household dynamics"
accepts that "the possibility of competing goals or priorities may
require negotiation among household members" (Poats, Schraink, and
Spring 1988:3). Households, as groups of individuals tied
together by participation in shared tasks, respond to both
external and internal conditions. Households adjust to changing
economic conditions by increasing or decreasing the numbers of
v members through altering fertility decisions; participating in
migration; diversifying their economic activities; or changing
consumption patterns. Stages of the domestic life cycle and
composition of members affect a household's ability to adopt
different strategies.
In this dissertation, the Vincentian gender, kinship, and
household systems are described within an historical analysis of
the transformation of the society since its beginnings. In

12
support of the historical perspective in gender and kinship
studies, Sylvia Yanigasako and Jane Collier have written:
...grounding our analysis...within particular
historical sequences will enable us to see how the
dynamics of past actions and ideas have created
structures in the present...A historical perspective
also highlights the interaction of ideas and practices
as dialectical, ongoing processes and so avoids the
teleological bent of those models that seek a single
determinant, whether material or ideational, for
social reproduction (1987:47).
Individuals living in domestic groups are affected
simultaneously by the gender, kinship, and household systems of
their culture. These systems are separate but interconnected,
possessing inherent contradictions, reinforcing yet also pulling
against each other in the dynamics of everyday life. Within a
particular society, these systems of social relations vary by
class and reflect the different strategies classes use to gain
access and control over social and economic resources.
These systems vary between societies with different
economies. For example, gender, kinship, and household relations
found in societies based on subsistence agriculture differ from
those found in a capitalist society. Some capitalist societies
have become dependent on international labor migration to ensure
the survival of the domestic group and the reproduction of labor.
In these societies, adoption of migration as an economic strategy
has affected the gender, kinship, and household systems.
International migration cannot be explained simply by listing the

13
"push" factors of the local society and the "pull" factors of the
international scene. Only by placing migration within its
historical context and by analyzing the relationship between the
sending society and the broader world system can one understand
the mechanisms which keep migrants "on the move." The next
section discusses historical-structural theories of international
labor migration and their relationship to the concept of the
reproduction of labor.
Historical-Structural Theories of Migration
In international labor migration, migrants leave their own
society to live and work in another. According to historical-
structural theories of international migration, population
movement occurs as a result of pressures on national economies
occupying unequal positions within the world capitalist system
(Portes 1978). Migration both reveals and accentuates underlying
disparities between geographic regions.
The inequalities between migrant sending and migrant
receiving areas do not reflect "natural" differences in resources
such as technology or labor but rather the historical development
of capitalism. This process has created a system in which the
countries of the Third World, often referred to as "the
periphery," depend on the Western, developed countries, termed
"the center" (Beckford 1972; Cardoso and Faletto 1979; Portes
1978). The countries in the periphery were often colonies of the

14
countries in the center, and supplied the center with raw
materials and agricultural commodities. The center retained
control over manufacturing and trade in manufactures. Terms of
trade between the center and the periphery have become
increasingly unequal as the center has accumulated more capital
and the periphery has remained underdeveloped. As a result of
this process of capital accumulation at the center and economic
stagnation at the periphery, labor is attracted to the center from
the periphery. As monopoly capital from the center penetrates the
economies of the periphery and transforms peasant and plantation
structures into agribusiness, labor is forced out of rural areas
(Amin 1974). The initial demand for labor to transform these
peasant economies may create a short-term "population explosion,"
but as the process continues this surplus becomes a drain on the
shrinking peasant sector of the economy. The conditions are set
into motion for large-scale migration from the countryside, both
internally into the urban areas of the periphery and
internationally to the center (Burawoy 1976; Portes 1978;
Sassen-Koob 1980).
Individual migrants are able to participate in the
international system of production under more favorable returns
for their labor than are available in the local economy. Although
migrant workers elude local constraints, they sell their labor
elsewhere under conditions equally unresponsive to their needs.

15
Migration represents an individual and familial response to local
conditions, but migrants remain marginal workers within the
international system of labor and capital (Amin 1974; Portes 1978;
Sassen-Koob 1980).
Migrant labor in the center serves the interests of late
capitalism. Migrant labor acts as a "reserve army" willing to
work for lower wages and endure poorer working conditions compared
to workers from the center. Migrants, especially illegal
migrants, are usually a more docile workforce because they are
politically powerless and fear deportation and other reprisals.
The existence of separate ethnic and national groups within the
working class in the center also inhibits organization of labor
(Nikolinakos 1975).
The world capitalist system benefits directly and indirectly
from migrant labor because the costs of the reproduction of
migrant labor power are subsidized by the sending society.
Migrants' wages are divided between their own daily maintenance
and the support of their dependents in the sending society. The
two components of the reproduction of labor, the daily maintenance
of workers and the bearing and rearing of a new generation, are
separated and allocated to different economies (Burawoy 1976).
Costs of replacement of workers are borne by the sending economy
while costs of maintenance alone are borne by the receiving
economy. This separation enables the receiving economy to reduce

16
the wages paid migrants. The sending economy thereby subsidizes
the costs of labor to the receiving economy. The subsidization of
the replacement of labor is even more expensive when the workers
in question are skilled. In this case, not only has the sending
economy provided generational replacements but also has trained
these workers or improved their value as human capital. These
workers may be in very short supply in the sending countries and
worth relatively more there than in the receiving societies.
An historical-structural analysis reveals both the evolution
of the external forces structuring the relationship between
countries as well as how participation in migration has affected
each countrys internal social dynamics. The sending society must
adapt to two sets of political and economic forces: those of the
world capitalist system and those of its own economy. The sending
society pays a price reproducing migrant labor power and runs the
risk that the expected returns will not cover the actual cost.
Returns are dependent upon migrant workers fulfilling the
obligations they incurred before migrating. Workers in the
sending society must learn both the necessity of emigrating and
the importance of sending back remittances.
The historical-structural approach shares several shortcomings
with equilibrium theory, the other major paradigm for the study of
migration. (1) First, most theory and research on migration
focuses on migrants as individuals or as representatives of groups

17
such as the "working class." By definition, "migrants" have left
some place to live some place else. Migrants as moveable units,
and migration as a before and after sequence, have dominated the
literature. As a result, once the migrant leaves the sending
society, the impact on the sending society is ignored or dismissed
except in the studies of "return migration" (Gmelch 1983).
Migration as a process or system that operates in two directions
connecting individuals, groups, or cultures or even economies
simultaneously has not been the dominant conceptual motif.
Second, our understanding of the backward linkages between
migrants and their homelands is not as great as our knowledge
about the process of adjustment migrants undergo in their new
society. If examined at all, these backward linkages or social
networks have been seen as parts of a "migration chain" by which
new migrants enter a new society with the assistance of migrants
who have previously settled there (Turittin 1976).
Furthermore, most migration theories have not examined in
depth the dynamics of a society geared towards migration. How do
migrants fit into their societies before they migrate? How do
societies compensate for their absence? How does such a system
perpetuate itself from generation to generation? Little work has
been done on how members of sending societies conceptualize the
migration process or perceive the role of the migrant within the
sending as well as the receiving society. Many migration

18
theorists discuss contemporary migration streams, especially those
with the United States as a destination, in the same terms as the
population movements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth
centuries in which migrants left the sending society for permanent
resettlement in the receiving one. This outlook ignores a
different kind of population movement made possible by the
mid-twentieth century revolution in transportation and
communications. Contemporary migrants frequently move back and
forth between societies and maintain close, meaningful connections
in a way not possible earlier.
The study of migration as permanent removal overlooks
migrants who eventually return to their sending societies and who
consider themselves "sojourners" rather than permanent "settlers."
The meaning of the migration experience and the nature of the
relationship a "sojourner" establishes with the receiving society
may be quite different from that of the "settler" making a new
home.
The fundamental limitations of the historical-structural
approach are its overly deterministic perspective and its
inability to discriminate between individuals or groups within
broader social categories (Wood 1982). Not all the members of the
working class within sending societies emigrate, and not all those
who emigrate remain in the receiving societies. Historical-
structural theorists do not attempt to explain how migrants'

19
actions might influence the migrant labor system, beyond referring
to "the class struggle" (Bach and Schraml 1982). Finally,
historical-structural theorists of migration have not looked
closely at the smaller group processes in which individual
migrants are involved such as households, kinship groups, and
other social networks.
Historical-structural theorists of migration have been
concerned with the global context of international migration
within the world capitalist system. Although theorists of
migration have tended to use the framework as broadly as possible,
this does not preclude its application to a more restricted
setting, such as a single society. Within this narrower context,
closer attention can be paid to the internal dynamics of
migrant-sending societies. When integrated with a cultural
analysis of the migration ideology, the historical-structural
approach can include an examination of the meaning attached to
migration.- Without the broader framework supplied by the
historical-structural perspective, however, the actions of
individual migrants make little sense because there is no
explanation for the shifting political and economic circumstances
to which migrants respond.

20
Integrating Feminist Analyses of the Household with
Historical-Structural Perspectives on Migration
Charles Wood (1982) has argued that a complete theory of
migration must bridge the analytical gap between the structural
factors limiting economies in the world system and the factors
motivating individual actors. He has proposed the household as an
intermediary unit of analysis between the individual and the
larger social group. Wood defines the household as "a group that
ensures its maintenance and reproduction by generating and
disposing of a collective income fund" (Wood 1982:339).
Households use a series of "sustenance strategies" to respond to
changing external conditions and internal shifts over the domestic
life cycle. These "sustenance strategies" are the ways "the
household actively strives to achieve a fit between its
consumption necessities, the labor power at its disposal, and the
alternatives for generating monetary and non-monetary income"
(Wood 1982:339). Although economic and political conditions are
largely determined by structural forces beyond their control,
households are able to respond dynamically by varying their
sustenance strategies, controlling fertility, recruiting
additional labor, or migrating.
Wood's concept of "household sustenance strategies" presents
some theoretical problems. Wood collapses more extensive
sociocultural systems, such as kinship and gender relations, into

21
the household, because they complicate the analysis by bringing in
non-household members who relate in some unspecified way to
household members. Wood replaces one collective, the class, with
another, "the household," without explaining adequately the
articulation of individuals within households nor the articulation
of households with larger groups such as classes. Household
members are assumed to pool their incomes into a joint fund which
^ is then disbursed to meet household needs by some mutually
recognized household head.
In their critique of Wood's argument, Robert L. Bach and Lisa
Schraml (1982) point out that defining the household by
cooperative economic activities strips it of all other activities.
As such, the household assumes the same cost-benefit calculus of
the neoclassical "individual" and little has been gained by
shifting the analysis from the individual to the group. Wood's
model does not explain why individuals within households cooperate
nor how conflicts between members are resolved.
Marianne Schmink (1984:89) presents a modified definition of
the household as "a coresident group of persons who share most
aspects of consumption, drawing on and allocating a common pool of
resources (including labor) to ensure their material
reproduction." Like Wood, Schmink suggests that studies of
household economic strategies offer a way to bridge social and
individual levels of analysis, although she cautions against

22
confusing the household as an analytic device with a universally
occurring social group (Schmink 1984:87). She also warns against
reducing domestic units to purely economic functions and states
that "the primary basis for the cohesion of the household unit is
in fact a set of social relations and mutual obligations that are
defined by kinship or other reciprocal relationships" (Schmink
1984: 93).
Patricia Pessar (1982a, 1982b) has incorporated feminist
concepts about the "reproduction of labor" into an analysis of
migrant households. Pessar followed households that emigrated
from the Dominican Republic and compared household relations
before and after settling in New York. Pessar defines the
"kinship relations of production" that structure household
formation and activity as:
...the social relations between males and females, and
elders and youth that govern 1) access to the
resources in goods and persons necessary to establish
new households; and 2) control over the decision
making and strategies for the reproduction,
appropriation and allocation of labor and its products
subsequent to the creation of the domestic unit.
Inheritance, marriage, reproduction, and the sexual
and generational division of labor are expressions of
and arenas for struggle over these productive
relations and the scarce resources they generate, and
the meanings and values that legitimate and guide
these social relationships (Pessar 1982:6).
For Pessar, migration is a strategy used by households to
increase their income. Pessar's work represents an attempt to
bridge the chasm between migration theories based on individual

23
motivations and those based on the international division of labor
in the world economy. As suggested by Wood (1982), Pessar's unit
of analysis is the household; households which move as migrant
units. Although the members of the households she studied
contributed to the support of other domestic groups in the
Dominican Republic, they formed separate units of reproduction as
well. She suggests that this form of "household migration" is a
middle class strategy of international migration. Her analysis
does not overcome the problem of uniting individual migrants to
households in sending societies. However, if the analysis of
domestic groups is extended beyond the household to include gender
and kinship systems, the entire process of the reproduction of
labor can be analyzed, even when individual members of domestic
groups are separated through international migration.
Although international labor migration is increasing rapidly
all over the world, contemporary sending societies do not display
the same migration rates nor have they participated in labor
migration for the same length of time. Some regions have relied
extensively on labor migration for long periods of time, and
demonstrate the internal dynamics the reproduction of labor
assumes under such conditions. The next section discusses
research in one such area of the world, the Caribbean.

24
Migration and Households in the Caribbean
The small nations of the Caribbean share a long tradition of
labor migration due to the peculiar historical development of
their political economies. Despite differences in colonial
systems, the legacy of slavery, plantation agriculture, and
post-Emancipation underdevelopment was similiar in its broad
details throughout the Caribbean. The socioeconomic and political
features of Caribbean societies were shaped by their dependent
position within the capitalist world system (Mintz 1974).
Especially in the smaller islands, economic opportunities and
upward mobility have been severely constrained by limited physical
resources and the political control of small groups of elites
(Marshall 1987; Segal 1987).
Studies of West Indian societies have traced a long history
of migration, going to back to slavery and the immediate
post-Emancipation period in the early 19th century (Gonzalez 1969;
Frucht 1968; Philpott 1973; Hill 1977; Tobias 1975; Richardson
1983, 1985). These ethnographies portray individuals and families
manipulating a flexible array of choices against a backdrop of the
socioeconomic, political, demographic, and ecological conditions
beyond their immediate control. Migration always has been the
response most favored by Caribbean peoples in overcoming or
eluding the structural conditions they could not change directly:
the control of the islands' political economies by small elites,

25
and increasing population pressures on limited and eroding island
ecosystems, degraded by plantation monoculture and peasant
subsistence agriculture. Bonham Richardson (1983; 1985)
characterizes the small island countries of the Caribbean as
"migration societies" in which every person has been a migrant or
is related to one.
Caribbean societies have produced an "ideology of migration"
that affects social relations between and within classes, and
social relations between the sexes and the generations (Philpott
1973). Especially for men, migration is linked to the attainment
and maintenance of status and prestige amongst male peers (Wilson
1973). In one sense, the migration tradition represents a
positive aspect of the Afro-Caribbean peoples' efforts to resist
domination and oppression. However, the migration tradition and
the colonial heritage have combined to produce a tendency for West
Indians to consider overseas societies as more advanced,
progressive, and "better" than their own, and to seek the solution
to their individual, familial, and social problems off the island
rather than trying to change their circumstances on the island.
Ethnographic studies of Caribbean migration have been
criticized for being largely atheoretical, focusing on historical
or descriptive analyses of particular communities that have not
been placed within a broader theoretical paradigm of migration
(Chaney 1985; Watson 1982). Moreover, the ethnographies cited

26
above focused on men as migrants and the meaning of migration to
men, while women were mostly invisible.
The invisibility of women in Caribbean migration studies
contrasts strongly with the prominence they assume in
ethnographies of Caribbean family and household structure done
prior to the 1970s (cf. Clarke 1957; Gonzalez 1969; Smith, R. T.
1956). Early ethnographers assumed Caribbean family patterns were
derivative and degenerate forms of either African or European
family structures (Greenfield 1966; Herskovits 1937, Herskovits
and Herskovits 1947; Rodman 1971). Theorists debated the origins
of socially acceptable multiple forms of mating, a high incidence
of consensual unions and illegitimacy, the predominance of female
headed households, and a family value system described as
"matrifocal" (Horowitz 1967; Otterbein 1966; M.G. Smith 1962b).
Nancie L. Gonzalez (1970) defined "matrifocality" as a family
pattern in which mother-child bonds are stronger and more durable
than husband-wife ties. Relationships between family members are
defined and maintained through the mother-child dyad. Kinship
ties are strongest between women. Men occupy a marginal role to
the family/household and may relate simultaneously to several
women in different householdstheir mothers, sisters, wives,
daughters, and former and current sexual partners (Brana-Shute
1979; Wilson 1973). Despite their fascination with the unique
features of Afro-Caribbean families, researchers seldom examined

27
the underlying system of beliefs about kinship, gender, and the
household (Brana-Shute 1980; Smith 1978, 1984).
Compared to the later studies of migration, the early
ethnographies of families and households focused almost
exclusively on women, while treating men as peripheral and
intermittent social actors. Moreover, researchers rarely
mentioned migration as a significant event and generally
overlooked possible relationships between family patterns and
migration. The theoretical perspective that dominated Caribbean
family studies has made it difficult for contemporary researchers
to incorporate their findings into the migration paradigm. Family
studies focused on "structure" whereas analysts of migration tend
to describe a "process." Connections between the two social
domains have been left largely unexplored. Missing from the
Caribbean ethnographic tradition is a theoretical framework that
can tie migration and family patterns together in a meaningful
way.
This dissertation proposes that a feminist, historical-
structural analysis of the reproduction of labor can help develop
such a framework. This dissertation uses St. Vincent as a case
study of this method of analysis and asks three main questions:
1) How did the evolution of St. Vincent into a "migration
society" affect the reproduction of labor?

28
2) How do the systems of gender, kinship, and household
relations structure the reproduction of labor in a "migration
society" such as St. Vincent?
3) How is the "migration ideology" perpetuated in St.
Vincent?
In answering these questions, I hope to contribute to the
study of migration, Afro-Caribbean culture, and kinship.
Historical-structural theories of migration emphasize the
structural forces within the world capitalist system that propel
the movement of people. It cannot explain how individuals respond
to these structural forces. By analyzing the systems that
structure the reproduction of labor within a sending society, this
dissertation will show how individuals' actions are mediated by
groups capable of responding to external and internal forces. The
vast body of literature on the Afro-Caribbean family and household
has tended, with a few notable exceptions, to ignore the migrant
orientation of most Caribbean societies, whereas the literature on
migration in the Caribbean has not dwelt overmuch on the migrant's
"support system" or integration into kinship networks within the
sending society. In this dissertation, I will analyze migration
and Caribbean gender and kinship patterns as closely linked
variables. Finally, this dissertation will contribute to kinship
studies by proposing an analytical model of domestic groups based
on the sociocultural systems that structure the reproduction of

29
labor within a particular culture. These systemsgender,
kinship, and householdcreate and maintain powerful yet elastic
bonds between sexual partners and kinsfolk that can outlast time
and stretch across continents.
Chapter Two discusses the methodology used to collect and
analyze the data on which this dissertation is based, including
historical, demographic, and ethnographic materials.
Notes
(1) The two major paradigms for the study of migration are
equilibrium theory and the historical-structural perspective
(Portes 1978; Wood 1982). Both theories perceive migration as an
economically motivated action. Equilibrium theory is a micro-
economic approach that emphasizes the rational decision-making
processes of the individual actor. According to this model, labor
moves from low to high productivity zones until conditions between
the two become balanced or in equilibrium. Equilibrium theory
sees the geographic maldistribution of the factors of production
land, labor, and capitalas "natural" and not as the product of
historical forces. Migrant workers perceive these inequalities
and "naturally" desire to move out of low-wage areas to high-wage
areas. Migration is a result of "push" factors in the sending
areas and of "pull" factors in the receiving areas. Remittances
and return migration foster development and modernization in
migrant-sending zones. Over time, migrant-sending and -receiving
areas approach economic and social equilibrium (Spengler and Myers
1977).

CHAPTER TWO
METHODOLOGY
Initial Methodological Assumptions
I went to St. Vincent to study the "impact of migration on
women," armed intellectually with the dominant biases of
demographic and social science research on migration. The sending
society was one place, the receiving society another, and
migration was the movement of individuals pushed and pulled
between them. Return migration was an anomaly. Feminist
convictions inspired me to study "women's roles" in St. Vincent
and how these roles were shaped by an accommodation to migration.
Women had been overlooked in migration studies (Castro, Gearing
and Gill 1984) or they were treated as mere appendages to men who
went along for the ride during migration.
I felt that by focusing on households I could integrate the
study of migration and its impact on women's roles. The household
had been suggested as a useful level of analysis for migration
studies (Wood 1982). Households had been the subject of focus of
many Caribbean ethnographers, but few investigators approached
gender and kinship beliefs and practices as part of a unique
culture. I wanted to describe Vincentian kinship and gender
practices from as "emic" a perspective as possible.
30

31
I planned on learning about the Vincentian perspective on
kinship, gender, and migration primarily through classical
anthropological techniquesparticipant observation, key informant
interviewing, and informal interviews. I also wanted to use
methods derived from sociolinguistics and ethnosemantics to
analyze naturally occurring speech. I was interested in hearing
what Vincentians had to say about their relatives, their partners,
their migration experiences. I intended to use both the content
of Vincentians' utterances and the ways in which discourse was
structured and interpreted to construct the cultural systems of
beliefs, attitudes, and values which guided Vincentians social
interactions.
I hoped to combine these techniques with a household survey
to compare "migrants" versus "non-migrants." I also wanted to
consult archival and reference materials available through the
local library, records office, and government ministries. I
planned on collecting folklore and items from popular culture,
especially music and the media, to round out the information
gathered through qualitative methods and the survey.
Choosing a Field Site
My original dissertation proposal was to study the women's
perspective of migration on the small West Indian island of
Carriacou. Unfortunately, international politics intervened in my
plans. Carriacou is part of the multi-island nation of Grenada,

32
and relations between the socialist government of Maurice Bishop
and the government of the United States were tense during the
spring of 1983. In March 1983, when I received notification that
ray proposal had been approved for funding, I was told that ray
proposed research was excellent and topical, but that I could not
go to Carriacou. The agency administrator alluded to the 1979
Iranian crisis and said that the agency was afraid that another
hostage situation might develop.
I modified my plans accordingly and chose St. Vincent and the
Grenadines, the nearest island country north of Carriacou, as an
alternate field site. St. Vincent, like Carriacou, had a long
history of dependence on international migration and a similiar
demographic profile. St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a small
multi-island nation in the southern Eastern Caribbean located at
latitude 13 degrees North and longitude 61 degrees West.
Independent since 1979, the total land area of St. Vincent is 150
square miles and the total resident population was approximately
98,000 in 1980. By most economic indices, St. Vincent is ranked
with Dominica as the second poorest nation in the English-speaking
Caribbean. The economy is based on agriculture; bananas are the
major export crop. Remittances from emigrants provide a major
source of income for many Vincentians and offset the limitations
of the economy to some extent. St. Vincent's history shares many
similiarities with Grenada and Carriacou. The early Amerindian

33
inhabitants were displaced by African and Europeans, although a
small remnant group of Caribs still remains. The economy was
shaped by European-controlled, estate-organized sugar monoculture
and slavery. After Emancipation in 1838, the freed blacks
resisted estate labor by emigrating and turning to small farming.
The estate owners coped with the resulting labor shortages by
importing indentured laborers, including Portuguese from the
Madeiran Islands, East Indians, and liberated Africans. Although
small in size, the population is still ethnically and racially
diverse. Vincentians speak an English Creole as well as standard
West Indian English.
Hymie Rubenstein and Roger Abrahams had both done research in
St. Vincent in the 1960s, and their published work provided a
basic description comparable to that available for Carriacou. Two
friends of mine had either worked or done research in St. Vincent
and offered to provide me with introductions to possible contacts.
Gary Brana-Shute, an anthropologist who was working as a
consultant on a rural development project in St. Vincent,
cautioned me at great length on personal safety, and these
warnings were repeated by officials in the U.S. government. I
learned that two Peace Corps volunteers had been raped in St.
Vincent in 1982. My initial Vincentian contacts also recommended
that I not stay in the guest house I had intended to use as a
preliminary base of operations. Instead, they told me to ask the

34
island Peace Corps director, Mr. Van Keene, if he knew of a place
I could stay. Mr. Van Keene helped me locate a house in a suburb
of the capital and I moved in within a week of my arrival.
I debated moving to a smaller, more remote village to do a
traditional community study as I had planned on Carriacou.
Several factors influenced my decision not to move. I had gotten
to know some of my neighbors and they were getting to know me. My
house and neighborhood were reasonably secure and I felt safe.
After living in St. Vincent only a few weeks, I realized that
without having my own "transport" or vehicle, my freedom of
movement would be severely restricted in a village. The suburban
area in which I was living was linked to the capital and nearby
communities through a reliable network of private vans that
operated day and night. From my neighborhood I could go into
"town" everyday to visit the Library, Registrar's Office,
government ministries, and still make field trips into the
countryside.
The location of field sites chosen by previous researchers
also affected ray decision to remain where I was. I learned
shortly after ray arrival that I had been immediately preceded in
St. Vincent by Corrine Glesne, an anthropologist who had lived and
worked in a small village in the Buccament Valley on the Leeward
Coast while studying agriculture and educational policy. Hymie
Rubenstein and Brian Betley had both worked in towns on the

35
Leeward Coast during the late 1960s. Roger Abrahams had collected
his data in the mountains near the Mesopotamia Valley in the
southeastern interior. The suburban area I lived in represented a
new form of Vincentian community, not a rural village nor a small
town nor the capital. I had already learned through initial talks
with my neighbors that many of them were either returned migrants
from overseas or rural-urban migrants. I found that my
neighborhood represented a "natural sample" of Vincentians from
several types of communities with a variety of migration
experiences. Most research in St. Vincent and in the
English-speaking Caribbean has concentrated on the poorer members
of society living in exclusively black communities. I thought
that a description of the middle strata of Vincentian society
would help complete gaps in the ethnographic record.
The Community of Arnos Vale
Arnos Vale, the community in which I lived for twenty-two
months and where I collected the majority of the data used in this
dissertation, typifies the new Vincentian suburban community.
Arnos Vale is situated due east of the capital, Kingstown, in the
valley and foothills of the Greathead River and directly on the
Windward Highway (Figure 2.1). Sion Hill and Cane Garden lie east
of Arnos Vale, while the communities of Cane Hall and Fountain are
north and Villa and Indian Bay are located further west. There
are no clear-cut physical boundaries or areas of unsettled open

ARNOS
VALE
ST. VINCENT
o ri l
i i i
Mill'S
Figure 2-1. Arnos Vale, St. Vincent

37
land between these communities, although elevation seems to serve
as the clearest line of demarcation. Arnos Vale occupies the flat
and foothills of the river valley, while the surrounding
communities are on the tops of the ridges above the valley.
Arnos Vale was one of the largest estates in the southern
part of the island, consisting of 449 acres and 309 slaves in 1827
(Shephard 1971:xi). The site of the largest sugar mill during
slavery times, Arnos Vale was one of the most profitable estates
in St. Vincent until debt forced the owner to abandon cultivation
in 1854. It was sold in 1858 for 10,500 pounds, and returned to
production (Spinelli 1973:109). In the early twentieth century,
the original estate was divided in two separate holdings, referred
to as Arnos Vale and Greathead. In the 1920s, Greathead was sold
in small lots to estate workers, who established a small community
along the banks of the Greathead River. Arnos Vale continued to
be operated as a sugar and cotton estate until the late 1950s,
when the estate was subdivided and the land was sold to the
national government and private individuals (St. Vincent Annual
Report 1962-1963). The entire community is now referred to as
"Arnos Vale." The contemporary community contains several
concentrations of government and private business activity and
residential neighborhoods.
Arnos Vale is the largest community in the Calliaqua census
district. The total population of Arnos Vale in 1980 was 2,867

38
persons, representing 16% of the total population of Calliaqua
district of 17,493 (St. Vincent 1980 Census, Provisional Figures).
Calliaqua is a large district comprising most of the southern tip
of St. Vincent, and contains 18% of the total population of the
country. Calliaqua district has an area of 11.8 square miles with
a population density of 1,478 persons per square mile. Arnos
Vale's population is growing rapidly with the addition of new
members through births, rural-urban migration, and return
migration from overseas.
Although figures for race and ethnicity are not available
separately for Arnos Vale, the entire district of Calliaqua is one
of the most diverse in the island. In 1980, Calliaqua's
population was 79% black, 14% mixed, 2.5% white, .5% Portuguese,
2.5% East Indian, .1% Amerindian or Carib, and .4% other. The
proportion of blacks is slightly lower than the national figure of
82%, but the proportions of whites (including Portuguese) and East
Indians are slightly higher than the national figures of 1.6% for
whites and 1.6% for East Indians. The percentage of respondents
reporting mixed race in Calliaqua district is the same as the
national figure (14%). My neighborhood in Arnos Vale included
representatives of almost every Vincentian racial group except for
elite whites, who lived in more prestigious communities or in the
capital. Living in close proximity to ray house were East Indians,
Portuguese, Caribs, poor whites, Syrians, as well as Vincentians

39
of African and mixed African ancestry of every possible skin
shade.
Arnos Vale functions primarily as a bedroom community for the
capital, and the majority of people resident there commute to work
in "town" daily. Some agricultural and fishing activity persists,
but Arnos Vale is no longer a peasant village or an estate
community. Economically, my neighbors ranged from the very poor,
completely dependent upon remittances and meagre informal sector
earnings, to a Government minister and member of St. Vincent's
political elite. Most of my neighbors could best be described as
lower-middle class persons, who held secure, full-time positions
with private businesses or with the civil service, and small to
mid-level entrepreneurs. Most residents of Arnos Vale can be
described as members of the "new middle class." This group has
grown since the end of the Second World War with the expansion of
educational opportunities on the island; the growth of jobs in the
government civil service and the tourist industry; and increased
migration to the industrializing Caribbean countries of Trinidad
and Aruba and the industrialized countries of Great Britain,
Canada, and the United States. The "new middle class" consists of
upwardly mobile individuals born into the lower class who have
made it into the middle class largely through their own efforts
rather than through the inheritance of property or position.

40
The choice of Arnos Vale as my major field site provided an
interesting test of the theory proposed by many ethnographers of
Afro-Caribbean countries that lower class lifestyles represent an
adaptation to conditions of harsh poverty and discrimination.
Although some community residents are from the traditional middle
class and inherited their status, the majority of residents are
members of the "new middle class," and others are in the lower
class. Thus, Arnos Vale provided a setting in which 1 could
observe the effects of shifting class status on beliefs and
behavior and observe inter-class as well as intra-class relations.
This setting contrasts with that of most Caribbean ethnographies
which have focused on smaller, island-wide societies (Hill 1977;
Wilson 1973; Berleant-Schiller 1977; Philpott 1973); on rural
villages composed almost exclusively of lower class members
(Horowitz 1967; Rubenstein 1987; R. T. Smith 1956); or on poor
neighborhoods within large cities (Austin 1983; Brodber 1975;
Bolles 1981).
Physically, Arnos Vale has many attractive features. Most
houses are small to medium-sized concrete block structures,
although there are some small wooden houses and a few mansions.
Most houses are painted and in good repair. Yards are large, well
maintained, and contain a mixture of grass, small kitchen gardens,
livestock pens, many fruit and shade trees, and decorative
flowering plants and shrubs. Chickens, sheep, goats, cattle,

41
ducks, cats, and dogs abound. Large open fields still exist, some
in pasture and some cultivated, although the open areas are
shrinking as new houses continue to go up. Roads are well
maintained and there are streetlights. Children are well fed and
clothed, and do not beg. Residents work hard and try to lead
"respectable" lives. The community is neither a slum nor an
upper-class enclave, but the home of many striving working and
middle class Vincentians.
The feature of Arnos Vale that sets it aside from every other
community in the minds of most Vincentians is the presence of the
national airport. Through this airport the vast majority of
Vincentian migrants depart when they leave their country and
arrive when they come home. Arnos Vale is the last or the first
place in St. Vincent they see. The activity of the airport
planes coming and goingforms a rhythm of noise against which
life in the community goes on everyday, a constant reminder to
those who listen of faraway places to see and absent relatives and
friends to remember. This dissertation, therefore, is set in a
Vincentian community that bears constant witness to the migration
process.
Presentation of Self
My Vincentian neighbors' prior contacts with resident
foreigners were primarily with tourists or with volunteers serving
with the Peace Corps of the United States, the Volunteer Service

42
Organization of Great Britain, or the Crossroads Organization of
Canada. Because I did not want to be typecast as a rich tourist
but could not change my skin color or American accent, I modeled
aspects of my dress and demeanour on recommendations given to
Peace Corps volunteers and advice I had read in fieldwork books.
I wore simple dresses or skirts and blouses with sandals, no
makeup, and very little jewelry. I did not hire a servant and did
all ray housework myself. I tried to observe Vincentian forms of
courtesy, such as greeting everyone in my neighborhood when I
passed them on the street and not entering anyone's yard without
their permission.
I usually introduced myself as a student or researcher from
the United States who had come to St. Vincent to study women's
roles and the importance of migration. Education is highly valued
in St. Vincent, and both terms of self-identifcation were received
with respect. When I first moved in, ray neighbors assumed I was a
Peace Corps volunteer, but because I visited Vincentians' homes,
invited them over to my home, and asked questions about
Vincentians' own opinions, I was eventually accepted as a
non-threatening, mildly amusing neighborhood diversion. Many of
ray neighbors were materially much better off than I was. I lacked
a television set, a car, most household appliances, and did not
hire a servant. Because I conformed to the "Peace Corps model" of
living standards and Peace Corps volunteers were known to be

43
living on incomes pegged to the local economy, I was seldom
approached for monetary help. On the contrary, ray neighbors
occasionally gave me gifts of produce and fish, because I lacked
the kinship and friendship networks that helped keep them supplied
with commodities.
Race played a factor in my relationships with my neighbors
and other Vincentian contacts. Even though St. Vincent has a more
racially diverse population than many other Caribbean societies,
the natives usually accord white people a higher status. I was
always greeted with formal courtesy whenever I first met a
Vincentian, and people made an effort to use standard English when
talking to me. By conforming to a lower middle class lifestyle,
however, I was eventually accepted in the community. After six
months, I asked my next-door neighbor what Vincentian racial term
she would use to describe me, and she replied, "Clear-skin because
you don't have the kind of money white people have and you don't
act so snobbish."
Another factor to be considered in my acceptance with my
informants was their prior experiences living overseas as
migrants. Although I heard many stories about racial
discrimination abroad, 1 also was told about friendships and
kindnesses received. Vincentians pride themselves on their
friendliness and hospitality with good reason, I found. I suspect
that my neighbors extended such warm courtesy to me because of

44
their own knowledge of the hardships faced adapting to a strange
land and new customs.
Entry Problems
Soon after I arrived I became aware of the pervasive
influence of politics on Vincentian life. When I entered the
field in October 1983, the government was under the control of the
St. Vincent Labour Party (SVLP). I had been warned by the
Political Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Barbados and by contacts
in the United States that the Labour government was difficult*to
approach. Although the government approved my project, it did
little to assist me. In particular, the 1980 census, which I
dearly wanted to use for ray research, was not available. I
initially thought that it was delayed in processing, but I soon
found out that it was being suppressed. I also learned that some
government statistics cited in official publications were suspect,
especially those relating to population. Fearing possible
expulsion from St. Vincent, I muted the emphasis on the study of
migration and instead talked more about my interest in "women's
roles" and "development."
Several months passed before I could gain permission to
access official records. Even then, personal relationships with
government officials helped enormously. I followed the excellent
advice proffered me by both these "strategic" informants and my
ordinary neighborhood contacts to keep a very low profile so far

45
as my research activities were concerned. After the general
election of July, 1984, and the ascension of the New Democratic
Party to power, the political atmosphere improved greatly and I
received assistance with my research. Difficult as ray experiences
were during the first eight months on St. Vincent while the Labour
Government was in power, they proved valuable in increasing my
understanding of the conditions of life Vincentians faced and the
mechanisms they employed to cope with the bureaucracy, mechanisms
which are generally referred to as "pull string."
Finding a Research Assistant
My decision to employ a research assistant was based on my
concerns for my personal safety and ray frustration with the
resulting lack of mobility. Another factor was the difficulty I
was having learning to speak Vincentian Creole English fluently.
The local dialect of English, based on African grammatical forms
and English vocabulary items, was not as easy to learn as I had
hoped, although my comprehension was improving. A major problem
was getting informants to speak "bad," as they referred to their
Creole use, in my presence. Instead, they would attempt to
correct their speech to more standard forms. I was learning
idioms and thought most people could understand what I was trying
to say.
Two months after arriving in St. Vincent I was introduced to
a young Vincentian named Elroy Connor, who was recommended to me

46
as a potential research assistant. Elroy was from one of the
small towns on the Windward Coast. Self-educated and very
articulate, he had a deep interest in Vincentian history and
folklore. Elroy had been a performer with a folkloric dance group
and an acting troupe, and had also developed his own comedy
routine in Vincentian Creole and wrote and sang his own calypsoes.
Although he had never travelled abroad, several members of his
immediate family had emigrated to England, Canada, and Trinidad.
My new assistant was perfectly bi-dialectical and able to
translate from Creole to Standard English with great proficiency.
In his company I could attend events at night and not be harassed
by men. Through his family and friendship networks I met and
interviewed many individuals from outside my neighborhood.
Without his assistance in setting up interviews and establishing
ray credibility, many of ray informal interviews, especially with
men, would not have been possible. Our association also provided
me with an excellent "sounding board" to discuss ray developing
interpretations of Vincentian gender and kinship roles.
My relationship with Elroy Connor developed into friendship,
partnership, and something much stronger. We decided to marry and
we had a child before I left St. Vincent in August of 1985. My
husband continued to act as ray research assistant after our
marriage and continues to provide me with an insider's commentary
on my analysis.

47
I worried initially what impact my deepening relationship
with Elroy would have on ray relationships with my neighbors and
other informants. My closest informants admitted later that they
had been worried about me, because ray new "friend" was not from
their neighborhood, and they did not know his family or his
background. They were afraid that he might be taking advantage of
me financially. However, they were glad that I was not alone
anymore and had found a Vincentian boyfriend. They had been
disturbed about ray living alone and had wondered whether I was
really "normal," because I had seemed to be avoiding men. My
concerns about their opinions of the propriety of the relationship
proved to be groundless.
After our marriage and during my pregnancy, I was able to
learn first-hand about Vincentian values about fertility,
childbearing, and marriage. I gained an "insider's" perspective
while retaining ray outsider's awareness of the anthropolgical
significance of ray new status. My female informants were eager to
share stories about their pregnancies and childbirth experiences,
and offer advice on childrearing practices.
Collection and Analysis of Ethnographic Data
In my pursuit of knowledge about Vincentian culture, I used
many different kinds of "bits" or "strips" of information, to
borrow Michael Agar's (1986) terminology. As Agar states
(1986:36), "strips" vary in several ways, including the degree of

48
control exerted by the ethnographer in their elicitation, the way
in which they are recorded, and the level or self-analytic quality
of such "strips." I relied heavily on "strips" collected by
directly observing the actions of individuals in domestic groups
and by listening to naturally occurring conversations between
these individuals, conversations about their daily actions (level
1 strips), and conversations about the quality of their relations
to each other (level 2 strips). I even listened to some comments
these individuals made about their talk about each other (level 3
strips).
In some instances the individuals concerned had no awareness
of my observation of them. My favorite vantage point to conduct
neighborhood observations was ray front porch. My house was
located near the top of a very steep hill and I could see most of
my neighbors' houses and yards clearly. Because Vincentian women
sit on their porches during the day doing chores, resting,
visiting with kin and friends, and watching the world go by, I
could sit on my porch jotting down notes and attract very little
notice. Indeed, by observing the comings and goings in the
neighborhood I was conforming to normal Vincentian behavior.
In other situations, I was a participant as well as an
observer. Most strips gathered from these situations were not
recorded on the spot (except when I was watching or listening
without the person's awareness), but were written down as

49
fieldnotes later. I did not want to interrupt the flow of events
with notetaking nor to violate the privacy of individuals by tape
recording them without their permission.
I was able to observe and participate in a variety of
settings, including private houses and yards, public streets,
shops and stores, on public transport, beaches, churches and
churchyards, schools and schoolyards, restaurants, movie theatres,
and nightclubs, government buildings and offices, the courts, the
hospital, clinics and the pharmacy, and the library. Most of my
time was spent in my community or in Kingstown, or commuting
between them, but I also took fieldtrips to all the other towns
and several villages.
My use of naturally occurring speech to study Vincentian
culture was prompted by Roger Abrahams and Richard Bauman's
research on the ethnography of speaking on St. Vincent, from which
they concluded:
Talking...bears all the earkraarks among the Vincentian
peasants of a cultural focus... Speech behavior is one
of the most crucial keys to social life in every
culture, but such is the degree of interest and
self-consciousness among the Vincentians, and such the
degree of cognitive importance that speaking assumes,
that the ethnographic elucidation of the use of
language in Vincentian peasant society can yield
insights of the most direct and immediate kind into
the Vincentian culture as a whole (1983:88).
Vincentians have identified and labelled many types of talk,
and use these terras when discussing events and individuals

50
(Abrahams and Bauman 1971; Abrahams 1970, 1968, 1983). Many forms
of social interaction are categorized primarily on the basis of
the type of talk which took place.
"Commess" or gossip carries a negative connotation yet most
Vincentians love to hear and tell it. In addition to "commess,"
which is usually about "private" matters and personalities,
Vincentians enjoy telling stories about public events, some which
happened locally, others which happened elsewhere, some which
happened in the immediate past and others which were more remote.
While listening to the telling and re-telling of gossip and
stories and the attendant analysis and commentary, I realized that
not everything one heard could be assessed with the same degree of
veracity. First, in their desire to give a good performance,
Vincentians might leave out or amplify some details. The story
and its telling were an entertainment event as much as an
information source to the Vincentian audience, and the "truth" was
not always a critical factor for enjoyment.
Secondly, although Vincentians enjoy being tellers of tales
(the man or woman of words) and therefore in control of the speech
event, they do not want to be the subject matter of gossip told at
their expense. This means that the naive ethnographer can usually
obtain secondhand information about "other people's bidness" more
readily that direct information from the interviewee. Firsthand
information may be deliberately distorted to put the interviewee

51
in a positive light. I often obtained several different versions
of the same event from different respondents, all of which
contained "the truth" as the recounter perceived it, but which
emphasized different aspects depending on the recounter's
relationship to the protagonist or his or her own involvement in
the event. Field analysis usually consisted of hearing and
recording several versions of the same occurrence, such as a
neighbor's family quarrel, then sifting through the stories to
determine what had happened and how it was affecting the different
participants (cf. Tobias 1975). My willingness to participate in
Vincentian speech events helped establish me as an acceptable
person in Vincentian terms.
Outside of ray neighborhood I often pretended not to understand
Vincentian Creole and was thus able to hear uncensored
conversations and exchanges. I learned on these occasions of the
usefulness of the "non-standard" or Creole language in a
bi-dialectal society since participants felt free to express
themselves assured of the outsider's ignorance.
My in-field analysis of naturally occurring social events
suggested topics that I explored with informants through informal
and formal interviews, some of which consisted of a few questions
interjected during the flow of events that helped me understand
ongoing actions. Others were discussions or re-plays of events
that I or the other person had personally witnessed earlier. Some

52
questions were designed to determine normal bounds of action or
interpretation. These types of questions included queries such
as, "Has your husband's outside child ever lived with you?" and
"What times of year do your overseas relatives come home to
visit?" Other informal interviews were designed to extract
information about activities that I could not observehistorical
events such as the 1979 eruption of La Soufriere, or life history
events such as the circumstances surrounding an individual's first
sexual encounter. These informal interviews were usually
encapsulated into standard daily conversation or scheduled
interviews. Some topics came up because of my research agenda
while others emerged because of events occurring spontaneously
that related to my interest in gender, kinship, and household
relations. I could not have predicted, for example, nor would
ever have thought to ask, what a neighbor's reaction would be when
his sister was raped and murdered, but when the tragedy occurred
it provided me with an opportunity to learn about Vincentian
attitudes towards rape and sexual violence.
I also asked my informants questions of a more abstract or
general nature, such as "How do men treat women here?" or "How has
life changed in St. Vincent since you were a child?" The purpose
of these questions was to elicit opinions and attitudes, value
judgments and commentaries, rather than statements of fact. These
types of questions were often inserted into fact-finding

53
interviews, such as life histories, and were also used when
several informants were gathered together to stimulate general
talks in which participants were not asked for self-disclosing
details.
I usually isolated statements, comments, and individual terras
that one informant used and would then ask another informant if 1
had heard or understood correctly. I would ask the new informant
to tell me other possible meanings or contexts of use for these
phrases or terms. Sometimes this tactic elicited a yes or no
response, or a yes but also this or a yes and that too, and then
the informant would provide another anecdote or example in which
the terra or expression was used. Of course, in some cases my
interpretation was way off, prompting considerable ridicule at my
expense.
When I wanted to feel some closure about emerging cultural
domains such as sexuality, kinship, race, and class, I conducted
structured ethnosemantic interviews using repetitive question
frames to establish exact definitions of terras and the
relationships between terms and classes of terras. I occasionally
tried to elicit definitions of terms that I knew were incorrect in
order to check ray own understanding and my informants' desire to
please. Again, ray errors were generally the ready basis for
laughter.

54
Formal interviews, usually conducted in my own or the
informant's house, were taken down at the time on paper or were
tape recorded with the informant's permission. These included
both genealogies and life histories and the ethnosemantic
interviews.
Altogether, I relied on three sets of informants. One set
consisted of members of my neighborhood and included about 20
adults and about 15 children. Four of these individuals served as
"key informants." Another set included "instrumental" informants:
government workers, politicians, and other prominent citizens whom
I initially approached with requests for information on specific
subjects, such as vital statistics. As time went on, my
relationships with some of these individuals expanded to include
personal and social matters unrelated to the original subject.
This group consisted of about 30 individuals, of whom five served
as key informants. The third set consisted of "incidental"
informants, whom I met on the street in my neighborhood, in town,
or in other communities. Some of these individuals I saw
regularly, at least once a week, while others I talked to only
once. This set was the largest, and consisted of well over 50
people. I consider six of this group to have served as key
informants as well.

55
The Process of Fieldwork
I began fieldwork by collecting information about my
immediate neighborhood and the surrounding community. I walked
about, usually accompanied by a neighbor, mapping houses and
introducing myself to their inhabitants. I learned the
appropriate ways of initiating conversation with strangers and
Vincentian hospitality customs. My next-door neighbor introduced
me to most of my immediate neighbors and also gave me helpful
"background" about the neighborhood. I observed the daily
routines of several nearby households and began stopping over to
"chat" with several neighbors as often as possible. I
participated in neighborhood life, going to church, shopping at
the different small shops, walking about and exploring.
Patterns of daily activities varied during the week and
seasonally. I observed similiar patterns when I visited other
neighborhoods in the same community, in the capital and other
suburbs, and in villages in the countryside. Variations in daily
routines appeared to be due to wealth and the ability to hire
servants, as well as the composition of individual domestic
groups. Ethnic and racial differences did not matter as much as
income.
The more time I spent observing and visiting Vincentian homes
and talking and listening to talk about family life, male-female
relationships, and migration experiences, the more I became

56
convinced that a "household" survey as originally planned would
not be a productive use of ray time. As I talked to Vincentians
about their lives, and watched their day-to-day activities and
interactions, 1 became concerned with the usefulness of the
"household" as it has been defined by Wood (1982) or Pessar (1982)
as a conceptual device. I plotted fluctuations in the composition
of several households over a period of a few weeks and realized a
single synchronic survey would not tell me why such fluctuations
occurred. My interest was increasingly focused on understanding
the logic or value systems which underlay these relationships
between peoplerelationships defined through "blood" or kinship
ties and those between sexual partners. I decided to concentrate
on building up case studies of a few families I could know
intimately rather than do a formal survey of a large number of
"households" that I would not be able to know as well. I also
realized that even if I could come up with an operational
definition of a "household," none of ray neighbors could be put
into a "non-migrant household" category, because every single
"household" group contained members who had gone abroad or who
were related by kinship ties or sexual relationships to migrants.
I selected five domestic groups that I could observe
unobtrusively and that represented a variety of combinations of
sexual partnerships and kinship relationships. I collected
genealogies from my selected households and began gathering life

57
history information. I continued my observations of daily
activities, noting seasonal and other variations, and my casual
"chats" with different family members. I also continued to
observe and talk with other persons in my neighborhood who were
not in ray small case study sample.
I used materials from popular culture for information on the
symbolic aspects of family, sexuality, and migration in the wider
society. Calypso lyrics provided a rich source of information on
commonly expressed and accepted values about gender and sexuality.
I listened to the local radio station constantly, collected all
available newspapers, and attended political rallies and cultural
shows.
The annual Carnival is the most popular cultural event in St.
Vincent. Carnival is now celebrated during a ten day period at
the end of June and beginning of July to to attract tourists
during the slow summer season and to avoid competition with the
much larger and better known Trinidadian Carnival. Many
Vincentians living overseas return home for Carnival. During the
two Carnival seasons I spent in St. Vincent (1984 and 1985), I
spent hours doing participant observation in Kingstown, listening
to returned migrants, observing their interactions with residents,
and talking to many of them directly.

58
Collection of Archival and Census Data
I alternated days spent in my neighborhood collecting and
analyzing data on domestic groups with trips to Kingstown to
consult sources at the Public Library, Registrar's Office, the
Government Statistics Office, and the Government Information
Center, created in 1984 while I was in the field. The Government
Information Center represented an attempt to gather together and
organize documents and records from different ministries to assist
the Government Planning Office's efforts. Prior to its
establishment, no central government archives existed. During the
British colonial administration, the majority of official
government records were kept in England and little local record
keeping was maintained in St. Vincent. As a result, it was
extremely difficult to obtain any official statistics.
No statistics were kept on migration except for a record of
"arrivals and departures" by the airport and police. These
figures include non-Vincentian tourist arrivals and departures
and cannot be used to measure Vincentian emigration or return
migration. The Labor Commissioner had records of participants in
the H-2 farmworkers program only for the late 1970s and early
1980s because his predecessor had not kept any official records at
all. The teachers' union, nurses' association, and civil
servants' union did not keep any records that showed membership

59
losses due to migration, although officials of each group reported
that turnover was high because so many members left each year.
The 1980 census results have still not been officially
released by the government nor published. I was given access to
the provisional computer printouts by the government in October
1984 and I have used these provisional figures in my own
calculations. I also used the Registrar's Records to compile my
own vital statistics and rates.
The 1980 census was suppressed by the Labor government of St.
Vincent because the total population recorded by the census was
much smaller than the figures released as government estimates,
which ranged as high as 125,000 persons. Several confidential
discussions with government employees about the suppression of the
census led me to believe that these estimates had been padded
upwards. The creation of inflated estimates was inspired by the
government's need to secure foreign aid, which is often allocated
on the basis of per capita income. The higher the population, the
lower the resulting per capita income. Accurate population
figures might threaten St. Vincent's status as an "LDC" when
applying for aid.
The 1980 census in St. Vincent was coordinated through the
University of the West Indies, and the same standardized form is
used throughout the English-speaking Caribbean. Census takers are
teachers and other civil servants familiar with and respected by

60
their communities. Cooperation with the census is mandated by law
and compliance is high. However, the instrument contains no
questions about migration and the census measures only resident
population. It does not ask respondents about movement during the
inter-censal period and the resulting census figures do not
indicate the extent of return migration or short-term migration.
I interviewed three individuals who had been census takers
either in 1970, 1980, or both. I discussed the results of the
censuses of 1970 and 1980 with government officials and asked
questions about Vincentian population policy. In addition, I
consulted the published work of other demographers (See Proudfoot
1950; Byrne 1969; Spinelli 1973).
The vital statistics on births, deaths, and marriages found
in the Registrar's Office are reasonably accurate, because
registration is required by law; children cannot attend school
without a birth certificate, burials cannot take place without a
death certificate, and weddings will not be performed without a
marriage certificate. Age of mother at birth was first recorded
on birth certificates in 1960.
In addition to the published census figures available for
1946, 1960, and 1970, the provisional results for the 1980 census,
and vital statistics figures obtained from ray search of the
Registrar's records, I used the work of previous Caribbean
demographers, including Malcolm Proudfoot (1950), Joycelin Byrne

61
(1969), and Joseph Spinelli (1973) in my analysis of St. Vincent's
population history. Joseph Spinelli, a population geographer, did
his research in St. Vincent in the late 1960s. Spinelli related
the population dynamics of Vincentian society to changes in land
use and principal cash crops from the countrys beginnings as a
British colony in 1763 until 1960. Spinelli's dissertation
contains a wealth of information on St. Vincent's population and
economy, compiled from original records and hard-to-find secondary
sources. However, Spinelli did not tie these demographic and
economic changes to the structure of Vincentian society or
culture. His research, although an excellent source of
information on St. Vincent, is largely atheoretical. I relied
heavily on Spinellis research for historical information on the
population and the economy.
I wanted to move beyond the numbers recorded in the census to
make some sense of what migration meant to Vincentians. To do so,
I turned back to ray case studies of domestic groups and my own
neighborhood. I realized that everyone to whom 1 had been talking
also had stories to tell about migration. I collected family
migration histories and discussed individuals' experiences
overseas as well as their relationships with migrant relatives,
partners, and friends. My questions focused on motivations for
leaving and returning, perceptions of self identity overseas,
lifestyle differences abroad and at home, and overall assessment

62
of the impact of migration on the Vincentian economy. I was
searching for a consensus about migration as well as the attitudes
and expectations people held about migration and migrants.
Migration proved a much more elusive subject than gender,
kinship, and household. I had to spend some time and effort
persuading my informants to isolate "migration" as an event. My
questions about why Vincentians chose to emigrate were met with
polite disbelief at my stupidity. For Vincentians, migration is
such a deeply entrenched part of the social field, an "unmarked
category," as Charles Carnegie (1987) refers to it, that people do
not discuss it heatedly or debate it or make it into anything
remarkable. Emigration is so basic and motivations so self-
evident, that ray informants initially thought I was either
simple-minded or had some ulterior motive, such as working for the
U.S. Embassy Visa office.
In addition to ray pre-existing contacts, I sought out new
informants and did four detailed life history interviews with
returned migrants. I was able to talk at length with two
individuals both before and after they returned from "overseas."
I discussed experiences overseas in detail with a total of 28
returned migrants, and had informal interviews with an additional
30 Vincentians about their overseas experiences. I overheard or
listened in on at least 100 conversational exchanges between
Vincentians when migration was discussed.

63
One interesting source of data on both kinship and migration
were the death notices played on the local radio station every
day, which I listened to and recorded for several weeks. These
death notices included the particulars of death and told the age,
occupation, and other significant social affiliations of the
deceased. Then they listed survivors and where the survivors
currently reside. Death announcements sometimes included
information about the deceased's place of birth and time spent
overseas.
Analysis of Historical Materials
My description of St. Vincent's history is based largely on
secondary sources, including Joseph Spinelli's dissertation and
published materials of contemporary historians and political
scientists, including Bernard Marshall, Barry W. Higman, Michael
Craton, Kenneth John, and Phillip Nanton. Unfortunately, St.
Vincent has attracted the attention of far fewer contemporary
Caribbean historians than the older and more populous colonies of
Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad, and Antigua. I was fortunate to
discover a rich trove of contemporary travellers' accounts of life
in St. Vincent from the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries
in the Latin American Collection of the University of Florida.
Two authors of travellers' accounts, Mrs. Carmichael and F.W.
N. Bayley, provide remarkable descriptions of daily life in St.
Vincent in the early nineteenth century prior to Emancipation as

64
well as historical information about life in the colony during the
late eighteenth century. While neither observe can be said to be
unbiased, their testimonies include negative and positive comments
about all segments of Vincentian Creole slave society from the
perspective of the European outsider. Although the authors self
interest must be taken into account when evaluating these
materials (e.g., Mrs. Carmichael was a planter's wife), much
remains of value that is especially useful to a discussion of
gender and kinship relations in slave society. These travellers
accounts were supplemented by the early history of the West Indies
written by Bryan Edwards (1794) and the description of life in the
post-Emancipation period written by William Sewall (1861).
Applicability of Results
Because I did not conduct a sample survey over the entire
island, I cannot generalize my research findings beyond the
middle- and lower-class Vincentian inhabitants of the suburban
neighborhoods. However, given the diversity of the residents in
terms of their place of birth, ethnic/racial identification,
socioeconomic status, and migration experiences, and my three
independently sampled sets of informants' agreement with each
other on appropriate and inappropriate behavior, ray results are an
accurate representation of the middle-class segment of Vincentian
society.

65
Ethnographic Style
This dissertation relies heavily on the case studies of
domestic groups I compiled from observations of and interviews
with ray neighbors with the addition of material gathered from
other informants and other types of sources, such as official
records and popular culture. 1 want this ethnographic account to
be true to the unique flavor of Vincentian life but I do not want
to cause anyone there embarrassment or harm through this
dissertation. As a consequence, I have changed the names of
individuals and families and altered some details of their lives.
Several individuals described in following chapters are
composites. Incidents that involved one person have been ascribed
to others. I have not falsified any data nor changed any quotes.
The next two chapters provide a description of St. Vincent's
evolution into a "migration society" and how Vincentian social
structure has affected the reproduction of labor during the
country's history. Chapter Four also presents a brief description
of contemporary Vincentian society.

CHAPTER THREE
THE EVOLUTION OF A MIGRATION SOCIETY
History and Demography
This chapter describes St. Vincent's beginnings as a
migration society in the nineteenth century; how the dependence on
migration evolved and how it affected the reproduction of labor
within Vincentian society. Vincentians' participation in labor
migration is not a recent phenomenon; indeed, labor migration has
a one hundred and fifty year history in St. Vincent. One cannot
understand why migration is so important in St. Vincent today
without examining the history of its political economy within the
larger world capitalist system. St. Vincent, like the rest of the
West Indies, was colonized by Europeans and transformed into a
producer of tropical commodities for export to Europe. The
indigenous population was either killed or deported by 1797, and
replaced by slave and indentured laborers. After 1802, the
majority of the arable land was devoted to the production of
export crops and controlled by a small minority of individuals
(Rubenstein 1987: 26-42; Shephard 1831). The beginning of St.
Vincent as a migration society lies in its origins as a British
West Indian sugar colony with a political economy and rigid class
system based on slavery.
66

67
Even after slavery was abolished in 1834, local conditions of
production altered very little. The major crop changed, but the
Vincentian economy continued to be dependent on a single export
crop, first arrowroot, then cotton, and now bananas. Agricultural
technology and working conditions remained primitive. The island
could not become self-sufficient because local manufacturing and
subsistence agriculture were never intensively developed. St.
Vincent's small size and limited physical resources compounded its
economic problems (Spinelli 1973).
The history of St. Vincent can be divided into several stages
according to the major social and demographic processes occurring
at the time. These stages include the British sugar colony during
slavery; the post-Emancipation period from 1838 until the 1880s;
the first great emigration from the 1880s until the Great
Depression of the 1930s; and the resumption of migration during
World War II until the present. This chapter will trace the
beginnings of the migration society in the nineteenth century and
Chapter Four will trace the history of migration from the 1880s
until the present.
St. Vincent as a British Sugar Colony during Slavery
St. Vincent did not become a British colony until the end of
the Seven Years' War (1756-1763) between England and France. At
that time, St. Vincent was inhabited by a small group of French
smallholders and their slaves; Yellow or Island Caribs; and the

68
Black Caribs (Shephard 1831; Kirby and Martin 1972; Gonzalez
1988). This Afro-Amerindian group were the descendants of African
slaves shipwrecked off the Vincentian coast, runaway slaves from
other colonies, and Island Caribs. By the early eighteenth
century, the Black Caribs were the dominant force on the island
and controlled most of the land (Gonzalez 1988; Kirby and Martin
1972).
The British government declared St. Vincent Crown property in
1763, had the island surveyed in 1764, and put the land up for
sale. In an attempt to avoid the problems of land management
encountered in the older British islands and encourage a yeoman
class of farmers, the maximum acreage of a parcel of land was set
at 500 acres. Only British subjects could purchase land outright.
The 1,300 French settlers were allowed to remain on their
properties for 40 years but could not keep them freehold (Spinelli
1973:52).
In 1763, the year Britain obtained St. Vincent, the total
population (not including the Caribs) was estimated at 7,100. By
1764, the population grew to 9,518 due to the movement of British
planters and their slaves from the older islands of Jamaica,
Barbados, and the Leeward Islands to the new colony (Spinelli
1972:227). Most immigrants were small and medium-sized sugar
planters who intended to re-establish themselves as sugar planters
on St. Vincent. Despite the intentions of the British government,

69
as soon as the land was sold, more affluent planters began to buy
up the property of the small farmers and the French planters and
establish large estates (Spinelli 1973:55).
British settlement on St. Vincent grew slowly during the
remainder of the eighteenth century. From 1764 to 1795, the
British planters cleared the tropical forest cover, expanded their
sugar estates, and imported large numbers of African slaves. Two
wars with the Black Caribs in 1772-1773 and 1795-1797 were
necessary before their violent resistance to the British
occupation of the island was ended. In 1797, the surviving Black
Caribs, about 5,000 men, women and children, were rounded up and
shipped to a small island off the coast of Central America
(Gonzalez 1988:19-22; Kirby and Martin 1972). A few hundred
Caribs eluded the roundup and were confined to three small
reservations in the mountainous northern interior of the island.
The flat and fertile Carib lands on the eastern or Windward
Coast were opened up for settlement in 1802 (Shephard 1831;
Spinelli 1973:64-65). St. Vincent rapidly took on the typical
configuration of a British West Indian colony devoted to sugar
monoculture on large plantations. St. Vincent's heydey between
1802 and 1828 as a sugar colony was brief, during the last
flowering of the British West Indian sugar industry. Although St.
Vincent's history as a slave society was shorter than the older
West Indian colonies settled in the sixteenth century, its social

70
structure was similiar (Shephard 1831; Carmichael 1833; Bayley
1830). The transformation in the composition of the population,
mode of production, and class structure during this period had a
lasting impact on St. Vincent's subsequent history.
Between 1764 and 1812, the total population of St. Vincent
increased from 9,518 to 27,455, nearly tripling in size (Spinelli
1972:228). During this forty-year period the population of St.
Vincent underwent considerable change. After two wars, the
majority of the Caribs were dead or deported, leaving only a few
hundred survivors. Poor and wealthy English settlers had joined
the colony. But the major change in the population was the
importation of large numbers of African slaves to work on the
sugar estates.
As increasing numbers of African slaves were imported, the
ratio of whites to blacks fell dramatically. In 1764, when the
British first arrived in St. Vincent, whites formed 22% of the
population while black slaves formed 78%. In 1805, 9% of the
population were white, 2% were colored, and 89% were black slaves.
Seven years later, the white population had fallen to only 4% of
the total population, while the colored and black had increased to
5% and 91%, respectively. The actual number of whites fell from
2,104 in 1764 to 1,053 in 1812 (Spinelli 1972:331; Shephard
1831:iv).

71
The expansion into the Carib Lands between 1802 and 1828
changed the scale of production from small to large estates.
Sugar monoculture replaced a more diversified mixture of cash
crops. A mixed society of large and small holdings became a
society of large estates dependent upon slave labor (Spinelli
1973:63-65). Slaves were imported into St. Vincent, as in the
rest of the Caribbean, to provide labor in the production of sugar
for the profit of estate owners and merchants in England. The
slaves were "industrial workers whose work was primarily
agricultural," despite a deceptively agrarian appearance (Mintz
1974:47-48).
Slave Society in St. Vincent
The establishment of large estates dependent on slave labor
in St. Vincent affected the settlement pattern on the island,
class and gender relations, and the entire process of the
reproduction of labor. The plantation was an economic enterprise
geared to the production of sugar and other tropical crops for
export (Mintz 1974:64-75). Each estate consisted of the lands
cultivated and uncultivated, residential buildings for the owner,
his family, employees, and the slaves, the factory buildings used
in the production of sugar from raw cane and its storage, and
other outbuildings necessary for the support of the estate's human
and animal population (Rubenstein 1987:31-32; Thomas 1988:21-23).
The best land was reserved for sugar cultivation, while the slaves

72
were permitted to grow food on less desirable and more remote
lands.
Other than the estates, the island contained the capital of
Kingstown, the administrative and military center, where most
retail trade was conducted, and where the island's professionals,
craftsmen, and artisans resided. Many estate owners also owned
homes in the capital and visited there to shop and participate in
colonial "society" (Carmichael 1833:19; Bayley 1830:187-189). The
only other settlements were the smaller coastal towns, which
served as shipping points for processed sugar and military and
administrative outposts. In no sense did the estates, small
towns, and capital function independently of each other. All were
necessary and integrated parts of the colonial sugar economy.
Under the political economy of plantation sugar mono-culture
and slavery, Vincentian class structure was based on the ownership
of property, race or color, and free or slave status (Rubenstein
1987:32-39). The upper class consisted of a small group of
Europeans and white Creoles (born in the West Indies), who owned
all the factors of production the land, machinery, and most of
the labor force (the slaves) (Thomas 1988:25). Below the elite
was another group of "secondary whites," which included the small
planters displaced by the consolidation of estates, who were
employed by the large estate owners as overseers, accountants, and
managers. Other members of this group were the colonial

73
administrators, professionals, clergy, and military (Carmichael
1833:19; Rubenstein 1987:39).
As the proportion of whites in the total population fell,
both groups of whites closed ranks to form a small, close-knit
community that socialized with each other, with the Creole elites
in other West Indian islands, or with visiting Europeans. Society
revolved around parties, dinners, and balls; the arrival or
departure of the British regiment was a major social event (Bayley
1830:235-241; R. T. Smith 1987). Marriages occurred largely
within the Creole elite group or with European and North American
women because Creole males outnumbered females. The white Creole
children born in St. Vincent were sent back to England for
education at the age of 10 to 12 because no schools or tutors were
available, and few returned to the islands (Carmichael 1833:
25-26). While the resident planter oversaw the production of
sugar and the financial affairs of the estate, the planter's wife
oversaw the management of the household, supervised the domestic
servants, and assisted with the medical treatment of all the
estate's slaves. Large numbers of domestic slaves helped keep the
households of the elites running (Carmichael 1833:21-24).
The upper class remained loyal to their British heritage and
maintained close ties to their native land. One observer wrote:
This word "at home" is the common expression of the
West India settlers. England, Scotland, or Ireland is
still their home. Unlike the inhabitants of the
French colonies, they look upon the island in which

74
they reside as a place to which they are, as it were,
exiled for a certain period; as a place containing
their properties, and therefore, of the greatest
consequence to them; but very few of them expect to
die on those properties. Those who can afford it are
in the habit of making trips every three or four years
to the United Kingdom; and nearly all look forward to
spending their last days in the land of their birth
(Bayley 1830:291-292).
Indeed, once their estates were established, most of the
large estate owners went back to England to live off their
profits. St. Vincent in the early nineteenth century was noted
for an extremely high rate of absentee proprietorship (Spinelli
1973:105). St. Vincent, one of the last British islands
colonized, had few social or cultural attractions, no institutes
of higher education, and rugged living conditions with few
amenities. Those planters who could afford to retire to England
with its more comfortable way of life did so. As absentee
ownership increased, the subsidiary elites became more powerful
(Rubenstein 1987:32). In time, they controlled most of the
estates. The political and economic interests of the two groups
of European/white Creole elites were quite similiar (Nanton
1983:223).
Between the two groups of whites and the black slaves was
another group, referred to as the "free colored," persons of mixed
race descended from liaisons between white male slave owners and
their black female slaves. It was customary for estate owners to
manumit their mixed race children, educate them, and establish

75
them in a trade or small business (Carmichael 1833:91). Often,
the slave mistress was also freed. The free colored were an
intermediate group between the white and black elements of the
slave society (B. Marshall 1982; Rubenstein 1987:33). Some
observers argued they had inherited the worst of both worlds,
others that they represented the best (Carmichael 1833:69-80; Day
1852:91). The free colored were the only group in the slave
society in which women outnumbered men (B. Marshall 1982:8-9).
The sex ratio amongst the free colored may have reflected an
actual imbalance or an advantage women of mixed ancestry had over
men in gaining their freedom. The majority of the free colored
lived in the capital and worked as domestic servants, artisans,
and small shopkeepers, although some of the free colored owned
property and slaves (B. Marshall 1982:16-22).
The vast majority of the population during slavery were the
slaves, both black and colored (mixed race). The slaves were not
a monolithic block, however, but were divided into those born free
in Africa and those born in slavery. Slaves were also categorized
by occupation, age, and sex (Rubenstein 1987:34). The major
occupational divisions amongst the slaves were house slaves,
artisans who worked at trades or in the sugar mills, and
fieldhands. Field gangs were composed of adult men and women; a
gang of children worked at less arduous tasks in the fields and
around the estate yard. Old men helped care for livestock and

76
other yard chores, while older women looked after infants, very
young children, and the sick. Field gang drivers were also
usually slaves, but overseers were white and free (Mintz 1974;
Carmichael 1833:98-123; Bayley 1830:339-343; Rubenstein 1987).
A few hundred Caribs remained on St. Vincent, restricted to
their reserves in the mountains in the north and interior of the
island. They eked out an existence through subsistence
agriculture and fishing, and made baskets which they traded in
town for manufactured goods (Bayley 1830:284-289). Neither group
played a significant role in the political economy of the sugar
plantation.
Reproduction of Labor in a Slave Society
Under slavery, the slave owner owned the slaves outright for
their entire lifetimes, unless they purchased their freedom or
were manumitted. The slave owner provided the slaves with food,
clothing, and shelter at a level required for survival. In
exchange, the slave owner completely controlled the slaves' labor
power. Physical force ultimately made the slaves comply. Slave
owners were interested in extracting the maximum amount of work
from every slave (B. Marshall 1982:27). In peak seasons, slaves
worked around the clock up to seven days a week. The most
desirable and highest priced slaves were young men, capable of a
full day's work in the fields with many years of labor ahead
during their lifetimes (Patterson 1976:54).

77
Until the abolition of the British slave trade in 1808, it
was cheaper for estate owners to replace laborers through the
purchase of new slaves than to subsidize the biological
reproduction of the slave population (Thomas 1988; Spinelli
1973:227-231). When the opportunity arose in 1802 to expand
production, Vincentian planters already knew that the growing
British abolition movement would soon bring the slave trade to an
end (Spinelli 1973:230). To effectively bring the new estates
under production before the slave trade stopped required the
importation of large numbers of slaves between 1802-1808. From
1764 to 1805, the number of slaves in St. Vincent increased 122%,
from 7,414 to 16,500. Between 1805 and 1812, the slave population
rose to 24,920, an increase of 51% in just seven years. Although
the average annual number of slaves imported between 1764 and 1808
was 365, a total of 1,540 slaves arrived in 1803 alone (Spinelli
1973:230). The vast majority of African slaves transported in the
last years of the British slave trade went to the new sugar
colonies of St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Grenada, and Tobago (Spinelli
1973:227). This rapid influx of African slaves just 26 years
before Emancipation meant that the majority of the population in
St. Vincent was African or first generation Creole when slavery
ended.
Due to the high mortality and low fertility rates among the
slaves, the increase in the slave population of St. Vincent can be

78
attributed primarily to continual importations of slaves rather
than natural increase (Spinelli 1973:227). After the slave trade
was abolished in 1808 the annual rate of population growth plunged
from 5.53% (1805-1812) to 0.13% (1812-1825) (Spinelli 1973:230).
The abrupt decrease in the rate of population growth after the
slave trade was abolished supports the contention that the
biologically-based process of the reproduction of labor was
thoroughly disrupted during slavery.
Slavery distorted the gender division of labor; tasks were
assigned by the slave owner, not by the slaves. The division of
labor imposed by the slave owner reflected both the need to
maximize production and the European system of gender roles.
Women as well as men did heavy field work, but women were not gang
drivers (Carmichael 1833:98-113; Bayley 1830). Few women were
employed as artisans or skilled sugar factory workers on the
estates. Women were the majority of the domestic servants on the
estates and in the towns. The division of labor in the only area
of production under the slaves' controlsubsistence food
productionreflects a continuity with West African traditions.
Women as well as men worked in the provision grounds and kitchen
gardens growing subsistence crops. Women also played an active
role in the trade in produce and small stock in the capital
*
(Carmichael 1833:135-137,161-180; Bayley 1830).

79
The slave population came from different ethnic and
linguistic groups in Africa who were forced to live and work
together on the estates. Although the slaves retained their
African beliefs about gender, kinship, and household, the
re-creation of traditional African gender or kinship relations was
not possible (B. Marshall 1982:28; Higman 1978:45). Newly arrived
slaves from Africa were assigned to older slaves, who helped teach
them how to do the work required of them on the estate, how to
grow subsistence crops to supplement their rations, and how to
survive as a slave (Bayley 1830). Slaves were not encouraged to
marry legally, live in nuclear families, or form larger kinship
groups. Some estates permitted slaves to build their own huts,
but others required field workers (the majority of the slaves) to
live communally in large barracks. Childrearing and socialization
were assigned to older women who were not necessarily biologically
related to the children for whom they cared (Thomas 1988;
Carmichael 1833:186-191; Bayley 1830).
The physical conditions of labor under slavery also worked
against the reproduction of the slave population by normal
biological means. Slave women were expected to do the same heavy
field work as men and received little or no special treatment
during pregnancy (Thomas 1988). Reports from other slave
societies indicate that some slave women practiced abortion and
infanticide rather than rear children as slaves (Mintz 1974:

80
75-76). Lengthy breastfeeding was discouraged and children were
removed from their mothers* care at an early age and left with
older women while the mothers returned to field labor (Carmichael
1833:187-190; Higraan 1978:61).
The slaves' mating patterns during slavery were the subject
of critical commentary. Both men and women were observed to have
multiple partners, although this practice was more common among
men than women. Slave relationships were seldom legalized and
partners were frequently changed (Bayley 1830; Carmichael 1833:
182,199,297-298).
Slavery also gave white slave owners sexual access to black
slave women, but deprived slave men of control over the sexual
behavior of slave women (Ferguson 1987:9-16; B. Marshall 1982:28).
Male slaves outnumbered females, and slave men could not compete
economically with white men for slave women. The black slave and
free colored women became "free agents" in respect to their sexual
services. White men turned to black and free colored women for
sexual relationships because there was a shortage of white women
in the colony (cf. Patterson 1976:53-57). The whites who worked
as overseers and accountants on the large estates received low
wages which prevented them from marrying the colony's few white
women and establishing their own households (Carmichael
1833:59-62). Concubinage was accepted so long as the black or

81
colored mistress was not brought into "society" (Carmichael
1833:62).
Many slave women achieved their freedom and economic
independence through sexual liaisons with white men, and many free
colored women were also kept as mistresses by whites (Carmichael
1833:71-73; B. Marshall 1982:9-11). The black and free colored
mistresses were said to "pride themselves upon the preference
shown them by white men" (Quoted in B. Marshall 1982:10). They
preferred an illicit, but economically secure liaison with a white
man to an insecure union with a black or free colored man (cf.
Patterson 1976:55-56). Although the black and free colored
mistresses were criticized as immoral by the white women of the
colony, such liaisons were acknowledged to be common, long-
lasting, and frequently marked by great affection by both partners
(Carmichael 1833:71-72; B. Marshall 1982:9-10).
The normal, biologically based reproduction of labor did not
truly begin in St. Vincent until the British slave trade was
abolished and the Vincentian Slavery Amelioration Acts were passed
in the early nineteenth century. These Amelioration Acts mandated
slaves' working conditions and hours, as well as the food and
clothing rations owners had to provide. Marriages between slaves
were encouraged. A series of reforms in the care of pregnant
slaves was also instituted; working hours and tasks were reduced,
medical care was provided for mothers and infants, and mothers

82
were encouraged to breast feed. Rewards were paid for the
successful rearing of children, and mothers having six children
were exempted from hard labor (Shephard 1831). Slaves were also
permitted to live in nuclear families and build their own houses.
While the Amelioration Acts specified the improved conditions the
owners had to provide for their slaves, it was in the slave
owners' best interests to protect their human property investment
once the slaves could not be replaced by purchasing new adult
slaves (Spinelli 1973:227).
Several observers commented on conditions of slavery in St.
Vincent after the slave amelioration laws were passed. The slaves
were allowed access to marginal estate lands to grow food crops
and small livestock. They used their crops to supplement their
estate-supplied rations and sold the surplus in the market at the
capital on Sundays (Carmichael 1833:176-179; Bayley 1830:220).
Money earned from the sale of produce and livestock was saved
towards the purchase of their freedom, but slaves also purchased
fancy clothing and jewelry to wear at social gatherings organized
on Sunday afternoons after marketing (Carmichael 1833:142-150;
Bayley 1830). Observers remarked on the persistence of African
religious beliefs and practices, although these were usually
recorded as evidence of the black population's superstitious and
primitive nature (Carmichael 1833:253-256; Day 1852:84-87).

83
St. Vincent's slave population did not reproduce itself
biologically until the turn of the nineteenth century. The
abolition of the slave trade required the improvement of living
conditions to facilitate human reproduction amongst the slaves.
This period lasted only 26 years, approximately a generation. The
results of these improved conditions can be judged by the age
composition of the slave population in 1832, when Vincentian
estate owners were compensated by the British government for their
slaves. Immediately prior to Emancipation, 13% of the slaves were
children under six, 5% were "aged," and the remaining 82% of the
population were between six and "aged" (Spinelli 1973:75). After
Emancipation, the new system of the reproduction of labor which
had just begun to function had to adapt itself to a new
development: the beginning of migration.
The Establishment of the Migration Tradition: 1838 to 1881
Slavery and the heyday of St. Vincent's sugar industry both
came to an end in 1834. During a four-year Apprenticeship Period
from 1834 to 1838, the former slaves were not permitted to leave
their estates and were forced to work as wage laborers for their
former owners. Conditions of agricultural production during the
nineteenth century remained much the same as under slavery. The
rugged topography and small size of St. Vincent made it difficult
to introduce technical improvements and more efficient large-
scale production. The economy remained dependent on sugar but its

84
fortunes declined steadily on the world stage during the
nineteenth century, as competition increased from Mauritius, Cuba,
Brazil, and beet sugar growers in Europe (Spinelli 1973).
Emancipation only slightly affected the existing class
structure established during slavery. A racial ideology based on
the idea of God-given, innate superiority of white skin was used
by the elite to keep the mixed race and black segments of
Vincentian society from gaining access to economic or political
power. The upper class elite remained largely white and
culturally oriented to Great Britain. Although the proportion of
whites to the total population continued to shrink, their relative
power did not decrease (Rubenstein 1987:27). The local economy
remained firmly under the control of an ever smaller group who
owned or represented more and more estates. By 1854, seventy out
of 87 Vincentian estates were absentee-owned. Six resident
attorneys managed 64 of these 70 estates (Spinelli 1973:105-106).
These same individuals were also merchants who owned the major
import and retail businesses in the capital. This pattern often
led to conflicts of interest and abuses in the management of the
estates.
Most estate profits were sent out of the country to England
to maintain absentee owners, pay off debts and entitlements
incurred in earlier, more prosperous years, and to support the
elites' extravagant lifestyles. Very little money was invested in

85
either capital improvements in the sugar industry, the island's
infrastructure, or social services (Spinelli 1973:105-106;
Marshall, W. 1983:86). Education and social services for the
majority of the population, such as they were, were provided by
the churches, especially the Methodists.
The descendants of the free colored of the slavery period
continued to occupy a social and economic niche below the white
upper class. They remained urbanized and took advantage of
educational opportunities offered by the churches to move into
professional and administrative positions left vacant by
emigrating whites. Some became owners of estates themselves. As
a group, they tended to ally themselves politically and culturally
with the white upper class elite (B. Marshall 1982:23-24).
Poor whites from Barbados, the descendants of seventeenth
century political deportees and indentured servants, joined
Vincentian society in the 1860s. These poor whites settled in
several small villages near the capital and survived through
small-scale subsistence agriculture and fishing. Referred to as
"Redlegs" in Barbados, the poor whites became known in St. Vincent
as "Dorsetshire Hill Bajans" after the name of their major
community. They lived in enclave communities mixing little with
Vincentian whites, colored, or blacks (Roberts 1955:245-288). The
Caribs living in the northern end of the island also increased in

86
number during the nineteenth century but their lifestyles changed
very little (Ober 1880:209-219).
Although they became free men and women in 1838, the former
slaves had few economic options. They were deeply enmeshed in St
Vincent's capitalist economy. The freed slaves now had to
purchase the food and clothing formerly provided by their estates
(W. Marshall 1983:96-97). At the time the slaves were
emancipated, the only sources of cash income available to them in
St. Vincent were estate labor and the sale of surplus food crops.
Laborers who had access to land could grow enough food to supply
their own needs, those of their dependents, and sell a surplus in
the capital. However, no unalienated land was available in St.
Vincent for the freed blacks to squat upon and create a separate
"peasant" sector (Spinelli 1973:89-91). All land had to be
purchased or rented from the estates. The fear of a self-
sufficient peasantry that would not work on the estates, made
estate owners resist land reform proposals and keep land prices
high (Rubenstein 1987:43). The Vincentian upper class preferred
to remove estate lands from production rather than make them
available to peasants. As sugar prices fell, estate owners on St
Vincent reduced wages. At the same time, prices of commodities
and manufactured goods available in the estate-owned stores rose
(W. Marshall 1983:85-87)

87
Yet, by the early 1860s, twenty-five years after the end of
slavery, half of the freed slaves had become peasant farmers and
two-thirds had abandoned the estate "barracks" to live in "free"
villages (Spinelli 1973:87-89; W. Marshall 1983:87). Villages
were constructed on marginal estate land and took their names from
the neighboring estates. Villages consisted of clusters of small
houses strung along the tops of ridges, roadsides, or riversides.
Small plots next to the houses were used to cultivate kitchen
gardens, fruit trees, and small livestock; while village residents
commuted "up the mountain" to grow "ground provisions" and other
crops raised for sale and consumption.
This transformation occurred because men began emigrating in
large numbers to earn cash in better-paying jobs off the island.
Men returned to St. Vincent at intervals to work on their own
small holdings and as wage laborers on the estates (Rubenstein
1987:43-45). In addition to food crops, the freed blacks began
to cultivate arrowroot as a cash crop soon after Emancipation.
Small farmers lacked access to the sugar processing facilities on
the large estates, so they grew crops that required less expensive
processing such as arrowroot, cotton, cocoa, coconuts, and spices
instead of sugar (Spinelli 1973:91,142). While the men were
abroad working, the women continued to feed themselves and their
children through their subsistence production. Freed black women
resisted working on the estates, preferring to stay home to care

88
for their own children and work their provision grounds
(subsistence plots) (Sewell 1861:79). By 1845, only seven years
after the end of Apprenticeship, estate owners and managers were
complaining of a labor shortage caused by the removal of women
from agricultural wage labor and the emigration of men to Trinidad
(Spinelli 1973:224).
The first government census in St. Vincent in 1844 attempted
to assess the size of the population because the planters were
complaining of labor shortages and needed to justify the
importation of indentured laborers to work on their estates
(Spinelli 1973:224). The next census was conducted in 1851 after
an interval of only seven years. Censuses were conducted at
ten-year intervals from 1851 until 1891 (Spinelli 1973:224).
Table 3.1 shows the size of the population at each census,
components of the natural increase in the population, and rates of
change for the Vincentian population during the late eighteenth
and nineteenth centuries. The population of St. Vincent grew
slowly between 1844 and 1881, at growth rates ranging from 1.43%
between 1844 and 1851 to 0.53% between 1851 and 1861. The total
population increased from 27,248 in 1844 to 40,548 in 1881.
Despite the importation of 5,338 indentured laborers, and a
growing natural increase, continued high emigration kept growth
rates low. Each decade from 1861 to 1881 recorded increasing net
emigration figures (Spinelli 1973:228-229).

Table 3.1
COMPONENTS OF POPULATION CHANGE, ST. VINCENT, 1763-1880
Year
Time
Interval
Total
Populotion
Absolute
Change
lrth
Death!
Natural
Increase
Eat treated
Net
Migration (1)
Crude
Birth Rate
(per 1,000)
Crude
Death Rate
(per 1,000)
Rate of
Natura 1
Increase
Rate of
Net
Migration
Se* Ratio
(per 100)
Pre-Censal Estimates:
17 63
7,100

1764
i
9,518
2,418
.
1787
23
13,603
4,085
1805
18
18,550
4.947
1812
7
27,455
8,905
1825
1J
27,905
405
Census
Enumerations, 1844-1081:
1844
19
27,248
-657








86
1851
7
30,120
2,880



i




86
1861
10
31,755
1,627
12.0B0
10,925
1,155
472
39.04
35.31
3.73
1.53
90
1871
10
35,688
3,933
13,520
8.240
5,280
-1,347 [2,9171
40.09
24.44
15.65
-3.99
90
18HI
10
40,548
4,860
16,320
9,610
6,710
-1,850 [417J
42.81
25.21
17.60
-4.85
89
|l| Figure In bracket* Indicate total number of Indentured worker* Imported Into St# Vincent
during that lnter-censal Interval.
Vital atatlatlc* estimate* from 1861-1960 taken from Joyceltn Byrne, "Population Crovth In
St. Vincent," 1969.
Other population figures and rate from 1763-1960 used In thla table are taken from Joseph
Splnelll, "Land Use and Population In Stl Vincent, I763-I96U," 1973.

90
Immigration of Indentured Labor
Estate owners responded to the labor shortage of the
mid-nineteenth century by importing indentured laborers who would
work for less than the freed slaves (W. Marshall 1983:85). The
first group brought in between 1845 and 1850 were 2,100 Portuguese
from the Madeiran Islands (Spinelli 1973:233). The Portuguese,
however, refused to renew their indentures once they expired.
Some Portuguese emigrated to Trinidad and North America, but many
remained in St. Vincent and took over clerical and low-level
administrative positions on the estates and moved into retail
trade, opening small shops in the free villages, towns, and the
capital (Spinelli 1973:96; Ciski 1973:10). The estate owners and
managers then brought in "liberated" Africans intercepted by the
British Navy from slave ships bound for Cuba and Brazil. Between
1849-50, 809 Africans arrived in St. Vincent. Unfortunately for
the estate owners, the supply of Africans was limited (Spinelli
1973:97-99).
The last attempt to bring in indentured laborers involved
2,429 East Indians, brought to St. Vincent between 1861 and 1880.
The East Indians, like the Portuguese, did not renew their
indentures when they expired. Nearly 30% of the East Indians who
came to St. Vincent had emigrated to other Caribbean territories
by 1875. Relatively few returned to India. The East Indians that
remained bought small parcels of lands near their former estates

91
and became small farmers (Spinelli 1973:99-104; Ober
1880:232-233).
The Portuguese and East Indians came to occupy an
intermediary position in the rural areas similiar to that of the
free colored in the capital (Ciski 1973:10-12). Neither group was
considered "white," but they were not stigmatized as were the
former slaves. As time passed, the Portuguese intermarried with
the free colored, but the East Indians did not. European origin,
class position, and skin color played a part in the maintenance of
ethnic boundaries. Both the free colored and the Portuguese
emphasized their European ancestry and light skin tones, and both
groups occupied nearly the same class position. The Portuguese
were nearly the same shade as many of the free colored, but the
East Indians were much darker. Instead of intermarrying, the
Portuguese and East Indians entered patron-client relationships
that parallelled the relationships between the white elite and the
free colored as an alliance of class interests (Ciski 1973:11).
The introduction of Portuguese and East Indians indentured
laborers into Vincentian society created competition between the
newcomers and the freed blacks. This competition helped the
estate owners keep wages down (W. Marshall 1983:100). Instead of
uniting with the black lower class majority against the white
upper class elite, both groups of indentured laborers competed
against them. The Portuguese moved into retail trade, allied

92
themselves to the merchants in the capital, and forestalled the
development of a black entrepreneurial class in the countryside
(Ciski 1973:10; W. Marshall 1983:100). The East Indians competed
directly with the black farmers in the production of food crops.
These factors helped made it more difficult for the freed blacks
to force changes in the local economy and reinforced their
reliance upon migration.
The freed blacks responded to worsening working conditions
with strikes and riots as well as increased emigration (W.
Marshall 1983:106-107). The estate riots of 1862 that spread
through the eastern half of the island were provoked by wage
reductions and the restriction of customary privileges extended to
workers (including access to idle estate lands for cultivation of
provisions) (W. Marshall 1983). In addition to estate owners and
overseers, the rioting blacks also targeted East Indian and
African immigrant workers, Portuguese shop owners, and the free
colored (W. Marshall 1983:90-91). After the riots were
suppressed, one Vincentian member of the white elite wrote that
harsh suppression of the riots had aggravated the "Colour
Question": "the White and Coloured People are as a class bitterly
denounced by the Blacks, and I am sorry to say that on the part of
the Whites and the Coloureds this feeling appears to be repaid
with interest" (John Barratt, 1862, quoted in W. Marshall 1983:
106)

93
The Vincentian sugar industry had a brief resurgence between
1867 and 1875 fueled by the increase in the island's labor force
through Indian indentured labor and a return of estates to
production (Spinelli 1973:113-114). However, when beet sugar from
Europe flooded the British market in 1880, the expensive muscovado
cane sugar produced under old-fashioned methods in the West
Indiescould not compete. By the late 1880s the British sugar
market had collapsed and the economies of the West Indian colonies
entered a severe depression. Vincentian estate owners shifted to
the cultivation of arrowroot, a less labor intensive crop, and
efforts to bring in outside labor ended (Spinelli 1973:120-128).
Nineteenth Century Migration Patterns
From the 1830s until the 1880s, emigration was the major
alternative to low-paying estate labor for freed black men
(Thomas-Hope 1978:66). The main destinations for migrants until
the 1860s were the West Indian colonies of Trinidad and British
Guyana, where agricultural wages were twice as high as in St.
Vincent, and where land was available for purchase (D. Marshall
1987:17-20; Rubenstein 1987:45). Initially, labor recruiters
advertised for workers and helped pay their passage, but the
Vincentian planters soon enacted laws prohibiting the recruiting
of labor. By then it was too late because a well organized system
of small wooden schooners carried workers up and down the
Grenadines to Trinidad and beyond (cf. Richardson 1983:89).

94
It is impossible to determine the total number of migrant
laborers during the early phases of this movement, because births
and deaths were not required to be registered in St. Vincent prior
to 1864, making calculation of the net migration between 1844 and
1861 impossible. However, the total number of indentured
immigrants brought into St. Vincent between 1844 and 1851 (2,917)
exceeded the absolute increase by only 37, so there must have been
a large emigration of native Vincentians during the same period
(Spinelli 1973:233). Despite the importation of more men than
women during slavery, the ratio of men to women fell steadily from
the end of the slave trade in 1808 to reach a low of 86 men per
100 women in 1844. This evidence also suggests a large emigration
of men occurred during this time. The arrival of predominantly
male indentured laborers brought the sex ratio up to a peak of 90
by 1861 and 1871. The sex ratio then began to decline again.
Interestingly, in spite of high male emigration, the birth rate
increased from 40.09 per thousand for the period 1861-1871 to
42.81 per thousand for the period 1871-1881 (Spinelli 1973:
317-322).
The number of men who migrated must have been much higher
than the census suggests because many migrants travelled
seasonally, going away to work as agricultural laborers during
peak periods and returning home to care for their own holdings
during slack times. Although some remained as settlers, perhaps

95
encouraging their relatives to join them, many eventually returned
home. The frequency of migration for individuals cannot be
determined either; some men made several trips during their
lifetimes while others went only once (cf. Richardson 1983:
85-92).
Vincentians, especially those from the Grenadines, became
involved in boat building and organizing labor migration from the
Leeward Islands, and gained valuable experience and a reputation
as seamen. Seafaring emerged as another option to agricultural
labor, as islanders sought jobs first on intra-island sailing
ships, then in steamships.
Thousands of freedmen from the entire Eastern Caribbean
joined the movement southward. Bonham C. Richardson wrote the
following about the establishment of the migration tradition
during this period:
...successful labor migration from small British
islands...was dangerous and required considerable
courage in dealing with both natural and human
hazards. When a successful migrant returned... it is
inconceivable that he or she was received with
anything but admiration and respect....Those who had
gone away and successfully returned...had beaten the
system, while those who had stayed behind had not.
(1983:18-19).
By the middle of the nineteenth century, competition for work
in Trinidad and Guyana increased when those colonies imported
%
indentured laborers from India, Java, and China. The decline in
the West Indian sugar industry also affected these newer colonies

96
Vincentians and other West Indians travelled further in search of
work, going to Venezuela to work in the gold fields, to Brazil to
work in the Amazon as road construction workers, and to Central
America to work in the banana plantations (D. Marshall 1987:19-22;
Thomas-Hope 1978:70). Migration became well established as a
prestigious alternative to remaining on St. Vincent. Although
potentially risky, successful migration resulted in an improved
economic and social position upon return. Vincentians emigrated
to avoid the negative working conditions in St. Vincent, and
because decent jobs in the local economy for blacks were scarce.
Estate laborers made barely enough money to survive, and wages
were constantly reduced during the nineteenth century. In
contrast, returned migrants had the cash to buy or rent land from
the estates, build houses, and support families. They avoided
total dependence upon the estates and had the status of being
landowners themselves (cf. Richardson 1983:172-174).
Labor migration to Trinidad and Guyana immediately after
Emancipation meant travelling a relatively short distance;
migrants could return to St. Vincent frequently. The work
Vincentian migrants did on Trinidadian and Guyanese sugar estates
was the same as they had done on Vincentian sugar estates, but for
higher wages. By the end of the century, Vincentians were
travelling much longer distances and were doing a variety of
manual jobs as well as agricultural work. Construction work and

97
seafaring provided new skills that migrants acquired overseas but
could also use back home.
Although women emigrated to join their partners in Trinidad,
Guyana, and other places, the work available overseas was not
primarily women's work, but heavy manual labor. Men were hired on
contract and could not keep their families in the housing
accomodations provided (D. Marshall 1987:19). Both of these
factors, plus the necessity for women to remain behind and keep
subsistence production going, militated against the migration of
women. Migration was established as a male economic strategy.
The ready acceptance of migration may be due, in part, to the
absence of deep roots the African-born and first generation Creole
blacks had in St. Vincent. They were not the masters of the land,
but slaves held in bondage there under brutal conditions.
Ironically, by leaving St. Vincent as labor migrants, black
Vincentians were able to buy land, build houses, establish their
own communities, and develop their own village-based, Creole
culture in counterpoint to the metropolitan-based culture of the
upper class whites and the free colored.
Migration and the Reproduction of Labor
During the Nineteenth Century
Migration influenced the patterns of gender, kinship, and
household relations that emerged among the Vincentian lower class.
The gender division of labor established on the estates

98
immediately before the end of slavery was extended to life in the
villages, as men engaged in wage labor migration and cash crop
production and women engaged in subsistence production and rearing
children (cf. Olwig 1985: 117-119).
Several forms of sexual relationships emerged as socially
acceptable, including visiting relationships, cohabitation,
"keeping," and legal marriage (cf. Olwig 1985: 119-120). Although
the European-influenced upper class elite found multiple partners
"immoral," the freed blacks' ancestors came from West African
cultures that accepted polygyny, and the practice was common
during slavery (Carmichael 1833:297-298; Day 1852:90-91; cf.
Higman 1978:58-59). The migration-induced scarcity of men
reinforced this already existing pattern.
Migration reinforced the sexual disadvantage of women
established during slavery. Women relied on their sexual and
procreative capacities, as well as their own labor, to survive.
Women needed to establish relationships with men to gain access to
cash and land to farm and to avoid estate labor. Men with
property had an advantage attracting and keeping sexual partners.
Women preferred liaisons with wealthier men to marriage to poor
men. As migration increased, the adult Vincentian population
reversed from being disproportionately male to being predominantly
female. Competition between women over fewer and fewer men became
more common. Women had little leverage to control their partners'

99
sexual activities. A man could always emigrate or find another,
more compliant woman.
Children became a resource for women. Under conditions of
free labor, children increased in economic value, since they now
worked for their parents instead of the slave owner (cf. Olwig
1985:118-119). Children also provided social security for one's
old age and established kinship ties (cf. Patterson 1976:56). A
woman's sexual partner might emigrate and never return, or find
another mate, but children were linked to their mothers with a
more permanent bond. Children could help women to gain access to
men's wealth and property. Even if the father never came back,
the child and its mother could call upon the father's relatives
for economic assistance (cf. Olwig 1985:80-81, 121-130).
Extended kinship groups, referred to as "families," became
important among the lower class during the nineteenth century (cf.
Olwig 1985). A new concept of land ownership emerged among the
freed blacks referred to as "family land," meaning land held
jointly by all members of an extended kinship network, available
for the use of every adult. Family land was passed on intact from
generation to generation and could not be sold or divided without
every relative's approval (Clarke 1957; Rubenstein 1987:173). The
concept of family land meant that the lands so expensively bought
by the freed blacks would not be reduced to unworkably small-sized
holdings in one or two generations. While migrants emigrated to

100
secure cash, non-migrant "family" members could keep the family
land under cultivation and secure their living (Rubenstein
1987:182- 184). Successful migrants used their earnings to buy
additional lands to increase the family land, build their own
houses, or buy separate land for their own use (Rubenstein
1987:174; Otterbein 1966; Wilson 1973; Olwig 1985). Unsuccessful
migrants could always come back to work their family land if they
did not earn enough money to buy their own land.
The oldest adult male resident on the island assumed the role
of the head of the family, and arbitrated decision- making about
the use of family land. The concept of "family land" was also
extended to "family houses" which were passed along, like the
land, and could not be sold. While adult sons and daughters
wanted their own houses, again, the less successful could also
find refuge at the "family house." The free villages became ever
more inter-connected as extended kinship groups grew larger,
building their houses together on their family lands, and forming
sexual and kinship ties with other village residents.
Legal marriage, formally observed with a religious and
community celebration, became more important during the nineteenth
century. The influence of Methodist missionaries may partially
account for this, or it may reflect a desire to mark individuals'
higher social status and secure the transmittal of one's property
to one's children. Although sexual relationships began early for

101
both sexes, marriage did not occur until men had acquired some
property and built their own houses (cf. Dirks and Kerns
1976:49-51; Otterbein 1966:131; Carmichael 1833:131; Olwig
1985:121-129). Until a man had emigrated and returned, this was
difficult to accomplish. Early marriage, before the man had
emigrated, made little sense, since he could not build his own
house without money.
This chapter presented an overview of St. Vincent's early
history from its beginning as a British West Indian slave society
through the transition after Emancipation and the beginning of the
migration tradition. Vincentian society was organized along a
color/class hierarchy. Blocked from upward mobility by the
elite's control over most of the arable land, the lower class
adopted a "migration adaptation." The next chapter continues to
trace the evolution of St. Vincent as a migration society from the
end of the nineteenth century to the present. Migration became
even more important at the turn of the century, as economic
depression, natural disasters, and employment opportunities
elsewhere combined to produce the largest emigration of
Vincentians yet seen.

CHAPTER FOUR
MIGRATION FROM THE LATE NINETEENTH TO THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
Chapter Four continues the description of St. Vincent's
history from the late nineteenth century to the present. The
chapter concludes with a discussion of St. Vincent's contemporary
political economy and class structure. By the end of the 1870s,
migration had become an integral part of Vincentian culture. The
next fifty year period, from 1881 to 1931, witnessed the
emigration of unprecedented numbers of Vincentians. This massive
migration was the result of a combination of forces: the final
collapse of the West Indian sugar industry and a severe economic
depression in the region; natural disasters devastating the
island; and the opening of new labor markets as the United States'
economy expanded into the Caribbean Basin.
The 1930s ushered in another period of economic depression and
intense social suffering in the West Indies and St. Vincent. The
world economic depression curtailed overseas opportunities, and
temporarily dammed up the Vincentian migrant stream. Many
migrants who had gone overseas during the peak years of the early
twentieth century returned home. During World War II (1939-1946),
economic changes, such as the development of the oil industry in
the southern Caribbean and the expansion of U. S. military bases,
brought about a renewed reliance on migration. Migration patterns
102

103
since the end of World War II reflect the economic and
political changes occurring in the world capitalist system in the
late twentieth century. Economic development in the region is
transforming agricultural economies through tourism and export-
oriented manufacturing. Opportunities have expanded for migrant
labor in the booming service sectors of the industrialized
nations. By the end of the twentieth century, Vincentians would
be so accustomed to migration that they would refer to eras in
their history as "Panama Time," "Cuba Time," "Curacao Time," and
so on through "England Time."
The Great Emigration from 1881 to 1931
The political economy of St. Vincent began to change slowly
during this fifty-year period. The basis of the economy remained
agricultural, but the major crops shifted from sugar to arrowroot
and cotton. St. Vincent's dependent position in the world economy
remained unchanged, but the degree of dependency worsened as the
terms of trade grew increasingly unfavorable to the small West
Indian sugar producers. St. Vincent became a Crown Colony under
direct British administration, and certain long-overdue reforms
were instituted, including land reform and the initiation of
education and public health measures.
A disastrous economic depression struck the West Indies
during the 1890s. Over sixty percent of the Vincentian working
population was unemployed (Spinelli 1973:238). The West Indian

104
Royal commission, sent by the British government to examine social
conditions in the West Indian colonies after the collapse of the
British West Indian sugar industry cited St. Vincent as the worst
in commission annals for the treatment of workers and wage levels
(John 1971). In 1898, Robert T. Hill wrote that in St. Vincent,
"wages are very low and constantly being reduced, and there is a
lamentable want of employment even at the price of less than a
shilling a day for able-bodied men, who are constantly emigrating,
leaving the women and children to shift for themselves" (Hill
1898:362).
Unfortunately for St. Vincent, two natural disasters at the
turn of the century compounded the economic crisis. A severe
hurricane in 1898 killed 288 people and left 30,000 homeless.
Sugar and arrowroot works were destroyed. Only four years later,
the Soufriere volcano erupted, killing between 1,300 and 2,000
people, covering the island's most fertile lands with volcanic
debris, and destroying many of the remaining sugar mills. The
island's economy was completely devastated, affecting estate
owners, smallholders, and laborers alike (Spinelli 1973:124-126).
Many laborers were forced to emigrate immediately to support their
families. Small holders also needed cash to restore the property
devastated by the hurricane and volcanic eruption because no local
funding except charity was available to the lower class.

105
While conditions were extremely bleak in the British West
Indies at the turn of the century, economic activity elsewhere in
the region was expanding. As the British colonial empire in the
Caribbean declined, West Indian workers moved to take advantage of
the expanding economic sphere of the United States in the
Caribbean Basin. The major labor market from the 1880s through
the 1910s was Panama, as first the French and then the Americans
worked on the construction of a canal through the Isthmus
(Proudfoot 1950:14; D. Marshall 1987:21-22; Thomas-Hope 1978:
71-72). Thousands of West Indians, including hundreds of
Vincentians, participated in the building of this engineering
marvel. Many West Indian migrants remained in Panama after the
canal was completed in 1914 working for the American
administration in the Canal Zone. Other Vincentian emigrants were
attracted to opportunities planting bananas in Mexico, Colombia,
Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, and Costa Rica, and building
railroads in Venezuela and Brazil (Proudfoot 1950:15; D. Marshall
1987:22; Thomas-Hope 1978:73-76).
No census was taken in St. Vincent in 1901 because repairing
the 1898 hurricane damage wiped out most of the island's
discretionary funds. The next census was taken in 1911, 20 years
after the 1891 census. During the thirty year period between 1881
and 1911, the population increased from 40,548 to 41,877, an

Table 4.1
COMPONENTS OF POPULATION CHANGE, ST. VINCENT, 1881-1980
Year
Time
Interval
Total
Population
Absolute
Change
Births
Deaths
Natural
Increase
Estimated
Net
MigratIon
11]
Crude
Birth Rate
(per 1,000)
Crude
Death Rate
(per 1,000)
Rate of
Natura 1
Increase
Rate of
Net
Migration
Sex Ratio
(per 100)
Census Enumerations,
1881-1980:
1881
10
40,598
4,860
16,320
9,610
6,710
-1,850
(417|
42.81
25.21
17.60
-4.85
89
1891
10
41,054
506
16,940
10,490
6,450
-5,944 (1
,302|
41.52
25.71
15.80
-14.57
84
1911
20
41,877
823
34,580
18,090
16,490
-15,667
(8681
41.70
21.81
19.88
-18.89
78
1921
10
44,447
2,570
16,520
8,360
8,160
-5,590
3B.27
19.37
18.90
-12.95
76
1931
10
47,961
3,514
17,660
8,340
9,340
-5,806
38.22
18.05
20.17
-12.57
79
1946
13
61,647
13,686
32,840
13,350
19,490
-5,804
39.95
16.24
23.17
-7.06
83
I960
19
79,948
18,301
44,180
14,730
29,450
-11,149
44.57
14.86
29.17
-11.25
89
1970
10
86,314
6,366
37,190
9,150
28,040
-21,670
38.5
8.5
30.0
-24.9
89
1980
10
98,124
11,810
33,170
7,250
25,920
-14,110
31.3
7.4
23.9
-12.5
94
|l) Figuren In brackets ludiente total number of Indentured workers Imported Into St. Vincent
during that lnter-censal Interval.
Vital statistics estimates from 1861-1960 taken from Joycelln Byrne, "Population Growth In
St. Vincent," 1969.
Other population figures and rates from 1763-1960 used in thin table are taken from Joseph
Spinel 11, "Land Use and Population in St. Vincent, 1763-1960," 1973.
Population figures an