Caribbean iden­tity and so­cial for­ma­tion

Part 3

Jamaica Gleaner - - YL: FEATURE - JA­SON MCIN­TOSH Con­trib­u­tor


STRATIFICATION IN this time was still in­flu­enced by race, class, colour, wealth and gen­der. How­ever, ed­u­ca­tion be­came a tool of so­cial mo­bil­ity that peo­ple used to chal­lenge the al­ready-es­tab­lished strat­i­fied so­ci­ety. So­cial mo­bil­ity refers to the move­ment of in­di­vid­u­als or groups from one so­cial po­si­tion to an­other within the so­cial stratification sys­tem in any so­ci­ety. The black pop­u­la­tion saw ed­u­ca­tion as an in­stru­ment through which their chil­dren could achieve economic and so­cial ad­vance­ment in so­ci­ety. As a result of this, the elite sought to block ed­u­ca­tion from the ex-slaves by at­tach­ing a cost to ed­u­ca­tion. This was done be­cause the elites thought the blacks would com­pro­mise the po­si­tion of the strat­i­fied so­ci­ety. Also, they would have de­vel­oped think­ing skills with which they could es­tab­lish them­selves as suc­cess­ful in­di­vid­u­als and cre­ate the av­enue for de­col­o­niza­tion to take place


Cul­ture is not static, it changes with time. When there is a fail­ure of cer­tain parts of a cul­ture to keep up with the oth­ers, as there are changes, this is called cul­ture lag. There are TWO main fac­tors that cause cul­ture to change: the contact with other cul­tures and in­ven­tions. When a cul­ture comes into contact with oth­ers, there can be the bor­row­ing of cul­tural traits from one an­other. Thus, these bor­rowed traits are spread through­out each so­ci­ety. This is called cul­tural dif­fu­sion. Dif­fu­sion may not be first­hand, but may oc­cur from one cul­ture into an­other, and given to an­other, by sec­ond-hand contact.

When two cul­tures have con­tin­u­ous first-hand contact with each other, the ex­change of cul­tural traits is called ac­cul­tur­a­tion. Ac­cul­tur­a­tion oc­curs only when one cul­ture has been col­o­nized or con­quered by an­other. In this so­ci­ety there may be a blend of cul­tural traits, for ex­am­ple, lan­guages. When the Africans and Bri­tish mixed, pid­gin (Pa­tois) came as a result. It is im­por­tant to note that groups can re­main dis­tinct through ac­cul­tur­a­tion. For ex­am­ple, dur­ing slav­ery – the slaves ver­sus the plan­ta­tion own­ers were very dis­tinct in cul­ture.

Cul­tural hybridization refers to the pro­cesses of cul­tural and eth­nic mix­ing to pro­duce new or Cre­ole forms. The term ‘hybridization’ is bor­rowed from bi­ol­ogy and refers to one specie be­ing cross-fer­til­ized with an­other to pro­duce a new specie. It is used in the con­text of Caribbean life to de­scribe many lev­els of meet­ing and mix­ing and the cre­ation of some­thing new, espe­cially fu­sions be­tween dif­fer­ent races to pro­duce hy­brid peo­ples and cul­tures. The de­vel­op­ment of new cul­tural forms out of ex­ist­ing ones through a pe­riod of contact and in­ter­ac­tion is re­ferred to as cul­tural hybridization. The term ‘creolization’ is used if this hybridization took place in the con­text of Euro­pean col­o­niza­tion. Thus, hybridization and creolization mean vir­tu­ally the same thing in the Caribbean con­text. Cul­tural hybridization is, it­self, a process, and so the hy­brids them­selves change and de­velop over time. Cul­tural hybridization (syn­cretism) hap­pens in the fol­low­ing ar­eas – Re­li­gion: Myal; Rasta­far­i­an­ism; Shouter Bap­tist (Trinidad and Tobago). Lan­guage: Pa­tois.


An un­der­stand­ing of the process of cul­tural era­sure, cul­tural re­ten­tion and cul­tural re­newal is im­por­tant in any dis­cus­sion of the hybridization of cul­tures. These terms help us in our un­der­stand­ing of creolization and hybridization and de­scribe cul­ture change.


This is the loss of cul­tural prac­tices that oc­cur as a result of ten­sion/con­flict be­tween tra­di­tional ways of do­ing things and the mod­ern or pro­gres­sive way. It hap­pens with both the ma­te­rial and non-ma­te­rial el­e­ments of cul­ture.


This refers to the prac­tices that have sur­vived even when most other forms and sym­bols of a cul­ture are no longer ev­i­dent. Cul­tural re­ten­tion may oc­cur as a result of a de­lib­er­ate de­sire to keep tra­di­tions alive and help some groups to pre­serve their sense of iden­tity. Small groups may feel alien­ated within a larger com­mu­nity and try to vig­or­ously pre­serve their tra­di­tions. The Ma­roon com­mu­nity of Ja­maica, for ex­am­ple, Ac­com­pong Ma­roons, is dis­tinc­tive be­cause of its long history of re­buff­ing or re­fus­ing Euro­pean val­ues and norms, and ro­bustly re­tain­ing their West African cul­tural prac­tices.


This oc­curs when a group goes through a con­scious re­ju­ve­na­tion process and re­turns to some el­e­ments of its cul­ture, which it be­lieves have been ig­nored or sup­pressed. Cul­tural re­newal is stemmed from a deep con­scious­ness that there is much value in what has been ne­glected or erased. Through­out the Caribbean, the re­newal of in­ter­est in our African her­itage may be a di­rect re­ac­tion to the per­va­sive in­flu­ence of Euro­pean and North Amer­i­can cul­tures across the Caribbean.

Racial hybridization in­volved the Amerindian, African and, to a lesser ex­tent, In­dian women, who were forced to co­hab­i­tate with and have chil­dren for the Euro­pean con­quis­ta­dors, slave masters and over­seers. Sex­ual unions be­tween per­sons of dif­fer­ent races, re­sult­ing in chil­dren of mixed race, is called mis­ce­gena­tion. Mis­ce­gena­tion, there­fore, causes pig­men­toc­racy, which is the prac­tice where per­sons of fairer com­plex­ion wield more pres­tige and power in a so­ci­ety than oth­ers, as was the case in the time of slav­ery.


“Caribbean so­ci­eties are un­der­go­ing pro­cesses of cul­tural change. These pro­cesses have been var­i­ously viewed as ac­cul­tur­a­tion, tran­scul­tur­a­tion, or creolization.” Fer­nando Or­tiz, 2013

Dis­cuss the re­la­tion­ship be­tween any two of these pro­cesses and the ex­tent to which you agree with any of them (30 marks) Ex­cerpt from 2016, CAPE: Caribbean Stud­ies Pa­per 2


Race, class and gen­der in the future of the Caribbean, Green, J.E. ed. (1993), Mona Kingston: in­sti­tute of so­cial and economic re­search, Univer­sity of the West In­dies.

So­ci­ol­ogy: themese and per­spec­tives, Har­alam­bos, M., Hol­bourn, M. (2004), London: Harper Collins In­tro­duc­tion to So­ci­ol­ogy, 6th edi­tion, Tis­chler, H,L. (2002), Texas: The Har­court Press. Ja­son McIn­tosh teaches at The Queen’s School. Send ques­tions and com­ments to kerry-ann.hep­burn@glean­

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