Caribbean identity and social formation
SOCIAL STRATIFICATION POST-SLAVERY ERA
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
CREOLIZATION AND HYBRIDIZATION
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.
PROCESS OF CULTURAL HYBRIDIZATION
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 firstname.lastname@example.org