Public Secrets: Race and Colour in Colonial and Independent Jamaica

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2020-06-22 19:42Z by Steven

Public Secrets: Race and Colour in Colonial and Independent Jamaica

Liverpool University Press
2019-09-10
280 pages
Hardback ISBN: 978-1-789-62000-9

Henrice Altink, Professor of Modern History; Co-Director of the Interdisciplinary Global Development Centre
University of York

Informed by critical race theory and based on a wide range of sources, including official sources, memoirs, and anthropological studies, this book examines multiple forms of racial discrimination in Jamaica and how they were talked about and experienced from the end of the First World War until the demise of democratic socialism in the 1980s. It also pays attention to practices devoid of racial content but which equally helped to sustain a society stratified by race and colour, such as voting qualifications. Case studies on the labour market, education, the family and legal system, among other areas, demonstrate the extent to which race and colour shaped social relations in the island in the decades preceding and following independence and argue that racial discrimination was a public secret – everybody knew it took place but few dared to openly discuss or criticise it. The book ends with an examination of race and colour in contemporary Jamaica to show that race and colour have lost little of their power since independence and offers some suggestions to overcome the silence on race to facilitate equality of opportunity for all.

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Jamaica Ladies: Female Slaveholders and the Creation of Britain’s Atlantic Empire

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Monographs, United Kingdom, Women on 2020-06-06 02:24Z by Steven

Jamaica Ladies: Female Slaveholders and the Creation of Britain’s Atlantic Empire

University of North Carolina Press
June 2020
Approx. 336 pages
10 halftones, 5 figs., 7 tables, notes, index
6.125 x 9.25
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-5879-7
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-5526-0

Christine Walker, Assistant Professor of History
Yale-NUS College, Singapore

Jamaica Ladies is the first systematic study of the free and freed women of European, Euro-African, and African descent who perpetuated chattel slavery and reaped its profits in the British Empire. Their actions helped transform Jamaica into the wealthiest slaveholding colony in the Anglo-Atlantic world. Starting in the 1670s, a surprisingly large and diverse group of women helped secure English control of Jamaica and, crucially, aided its developing and expanding slave labor regime by acquiring enslaved men, women, and children to protect their own tenuous claims to status and independence.

Female colonists employed slaveholding as a means of advancing themselves socially and financially on the island. By owning others, they wielded forms of legal, social, economic, and cultural authority not available to them in Britain. In addition, slaveholding allowed free women of African descent, who were not far removed from slavery themselves, to cultivate, perform, and cement their free status. Alongside their male counterparts, women bought, sold, stole, and punished the people they claimed as property and vociferously defended their rights to do so. As slavery’s beneficiaries, these women worked to stabilize and propel this brutal labor regime from its inception.

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A Dark Inheritance: Blood, Race, and Sex in Colonial Jamaica by Brooke N. Newman (review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United Kingdom on 2020-02-18 19:09Z by Steven

A Dark Inheritance: Blood, Race, and Sex in Colonial Jamaica by Brooke N. Newman (review)

Eighteenth-Century Studies
Volume 53, Number 2, Winter 2020
pages 314-316
DOI: 10.1353/ecs.2020.0021

Katherine Johnston, Assistant Professor of History
Beloit College, Beloit, Wisconsin

Brooke N. Newman, Dark Inheritance: Blood, Race, and Sex in Colonial Jamaica (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 2018). Pp. 352; 25 b/w illus. $65.00 cloth.

In eighteenth–century Jamaica, who counted as a British subject? As Brooke N. Newman demonstrates in her impressively researched new book, the answer was complicated. Although a 1661 royal proclamation stated that children of English subjects born on the island would be “free denizens of England,” by the early eighteenth century the colonial assembly in Jamaica had imposed its own restrictions on subjecthood (2). Aligning the rights and privileges of subject status—including the ability to vote, hold public office, and serve on a jury—with whiteness, members of the assembly took it upon themselves to determine who was eligible for this status and who was not. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the majority of the island’s population failed to meet the exclusive standards imposed by the assembly. Only “non–African, non–Indian, non–Jewish, and unmixed” people could claim subject status as a birthright (28). Despite white Jamaicans’ perennial anxiety about Africans and their descendants vastly outnumbering white settlers, colonial legislators’ desire to “preserve the purity of British lineage in the tropics” led them to deny mixed–race people subject status, effectively alienating many children and grandchildren from their white fathers and grandfathers (22).

A select few individuals of mixed descent, however, successfully petitioned the assembly for the right to subjecthood. Newman draws upon these appeals as she seeks to explain the ways that blood inheritance as a means of racial distinction and legal status developed in colonial Jamaica. In Newman’s analysis, the cases of elite individuals and families who requested subject status from the assembly highlight the instability of racial designations throughout the eighteenth century. Social standing, financial position, and religion all entered into the assembly’s calculations regarding who could attain subject status and who counted as white. Timing mattered, too: in the 1730s, 40s, and 50s, for example, mixed-race people could “whiten” within three generations, while in the 1760s, 70s, and 80s it took four generations to erase “the stain of African origins” (91). Moreover, often the elites who were granted white status were denied the full privileges associated with subjecthood. These individuals were “not fully ‘white’ in the eyes of the law but rather legally whitened, on the path toward whiteness” (97). But as Newman makes clear, “legal whiteness” (70) did not make a person “white by blood” (114). This distinction is critical to Newman’s analysis, as she argues that Jamaican legislators “privileged blood as a material and symbolic conduit” that transmitted a variety of qualities, including “character, mind, and temperament” from parents to offspring (69).

Examining petitions for white status by persons of mixed descent in the first half of the book allows Newman to make some critical points about race. First, she shows that racial definitions in the British West Indies looked a great deal like those in the Spanish colonies, with careful delineations of racial categories based upon percentages of African and European blood. In colonial Jamaica, people’s ancestry mattered. Second, and most importantly, the process of legal whitening that took into account a person’s finances, religion, and connections to elite white men reveals the unstable nature of race during this period. As Newman demonstrates, whiteness was fungible rather than fixed; the varying outcomes of people’s petitions provide strong evidence that whiteness was “a malleable social and legal category” (126).

In addition to these important points about race, the legislative appeals also serve as a touchstone for questions of colonial authority and power. The Jamaican colonial assembly made its own laws in some cases, disregarding British common law precedent. But it was not a fully autonomous body, and appeals for citizenship approved by the local assembly had to be confirmed by the Privy Council in London. The relationship between the colonial and British legislative bodies was under continuous negotiation, even though white Jamaicans largely claimed authority for themselves.

While petitions for subject status lie at the heart of a tightly…

Read or purchase the review here.

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“Who Inherits?”: A Conversation Between Tao Leigh Goffe and Hazel V. Carby

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Biography, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Interviews, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2020-02-04 20:22Z by Steven

“Who Inherits?”: A Conversation Between Tao Leigh Goffe and Hazel V. Carby

Public Books
2020-02-03

Tao Leigh Goffe, Assistant Professor of Literary Theory and Cultural History
Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

Over the decades of her transatlantic career, distinguished Yale University professor emerita of American and African American studies Hazel V. Carby has considered how one negotiates ancestral ties to two islands intimately entangled by empire, Britain and Jamaica. Her new book, Imperial Intimacies: A Tale of Two Islands, is her answer to that question.

As Hazel explains in Imperial Intimacies, hers was an unlikely path to academia. She started out training as a ballerina and went on to teach at a secondary school in East London. When she moved to the West Midlands to pursue a master’s degree and then a PhD at the University of Birmingham, her life was altered forever by the influence of a mentor—Stuart Hall, esteemed professor and cofounder of the university’s Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies—who also negotiated a family history strung between Britain and Jamaica.

Hazel and I sat down to speak about the publication of Imperial Intimacies, a book that, she realized, she had been writing her whole life. We discussed the influence of books such as Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park and Octavia Butler’s Kindred. Like Dana, the main character in Butler’s Afrofuturist novel—who finds herself teleported into the plantations of the antebellum past, meeting her black and white ancestors—Hazel traces her African and European Carby lineage. She does so through meticulous research on her ancestors in England, Wales, and Jamaica.

Hazel speculates on the subjectivity of one of her white forbears: an English man named Lilly Carby, who arrived in Jamaica in 1788 as a member of the British Army. What can Hazel possibly inherit from him, when her other ancestors were his property? Her experimental rendering in Imperial Intimacies presents the reader with a kaleidoscopic view of the ongoing coloniality of the present…

Read the entire interview here.

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All at Sea

Posted in Autobiography, Biography, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Family/Parenting, Monographs, United Kingdom on 2019-12-01 02:06Z by Steven

All at Sea

4th Estate (an imprint of HarperCollins)
2016-04-07
240 pages
Paperback ISBN: 978-0008142162

Decca Aitkenhead

In May 2014, on a hot still morning on a beautiful beach in Jamaica, Decca Aikenhead’s life changed irrevocably. First her four year old son Jake, pootling by the water’s edge in his pyjamas, was dragged out to sea on a riptide. Then Tony, her partner and Jake’s father, dived in to save him, but drowned in the process.

Tony – a Northern, mixed race former prisoner, drug dealer and crack addict – “Black” and “Decca” – a prize-winning Guardian journalist from the West Country – had always made an improbable couple. For years they tried to find a way to come together from very different starting places. Tony reformed himself, got an education, and then a job. Decca bore him two sons and they bought a medieval farmhouse in Kent and set about transforming it. A decade on, lying in the sand in their favourite place in the world, young, strong, fit and with their children playing at their feet, they were congratulating themselves on their achievements when everything was ripped away.

Bookended by the deaths of her mother in childhood, and Tony this year, All at Sea looks at class, race, privilege and prejudice through the prism of Decca’s life and these deaths. It stares into the dark chasm of our worst nightmare – a random accidental tragedy – and somehow finds the light on the other side.

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An Intimate History of the British Empire

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2019-10-11 01:56Z by Steven

An Intimate History of the British Empire

The New Yorker
2019-10-09

Maya Binyam


Hazel Carby as a child. Photograph Courtesy Hazel Carby

In “Imperial Intimacies,” Hazel Carby weaves together the story of colonialism and the story of her family.

After Carl Carby arrived in England from Jamaica, in 1943, he wore starched shirts, polished dress shoes, and neatly knotted ties. He was from the colonies, but his mannerisms evinced a restrained, British sensibility. Like most early immigrants from the Caribbean, he was expected to provide a service: his entrance to England was predicated on his employment as a bomber pilot in the Royal Air Force, which recruited around six thousand people from England’s “black colonies” to fight in the Second World War. At a dance in Worcester, he met Iris Leaworthy, a young, white Welsh woman who worked as a civil servant in the Air Ministry, and the two bonded over the surprising similarities of their upbringings. Both had grown up in poverty. As schoolchildren, each donned a starched uniform and, on Empire Day, a holiday designed to instill in children a feeling of belonging to a great nation, waved the Union Jack. When England went to war, both of them enthusiastically offered their service. The pair soon married, and had a daughter named Hazel. To her, Carl spoke little of Jamaica. “It was as if he had been born an airman in the Royal Air Force,” Hazel Carby writes in “Imperial Intimacies,” her new book of political history, which came out last month…

Read the entire review here.

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Archive Fever

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2019-10-07 01:23Z by Steven

Archive Fever

Bookforum
2019-10-03

Tiana Reid, Ph.D. Candidate
Department of English and Comparative Literature
Columbia University, New York, New York

Autobiography and archival research collide in Hazel Carby’s memoir

Imperial Intimacies: A Tale of Two Islands by Hazel V. Carby. Verso. 416 pages. $29.

“Are we going to burn it?” A question about the fate of the future concludes Hazel Carby’s Race Men (1998), a powerful academic book about suffocating representations of black American masculinities based on a lecture the author delivered at Harvard. In her newest book, Carby is already burnt, the result of a smoldered past. “Imperial Intimacies is a very British story,” she writes in the preface. It is also her story: about growing up after World War II, about her childhood in the area now known as South London, about the family histories of her white Welsh mother and black Jamaican father, about, in all, the public and private agonies of imperialism and colonialism.

Probing the auto-historical, Carby studies her parents’ experiences in Jamaica and the United Kingdom, the “two islands” of the book’s subtitle. Her parents’ islands are connected not only by biological reproduction or a chance romance but also by the entanglement of ideologies. Her familial research at the National Archives of Jamaica and the United Kingdom offers at the same time a glimpse into the machinery of colonialism: the vexing racial iconography of postwar Britain, the psychic drains of poverty, the endlessness of wartime…

Read the entire review here.

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Imperial Intimacies: A Tale of Two Islands

Posted in Autobiography, Biography, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Monographs, United Kingdom on 2019-09-26 00:11Z by Steven

Imperial Intimacies: A Tale of Two Islands

Verso Books
2019-09-24
416 pages
6 x 9-1/4
Hardcover ISBN: 9781788735094
Ebook ISBN: 9781788735124

Hazel V. Carby, Charles C. and Dorothea S. Dilley Professor of African American Studies; Professor of American Studies
Yale University

Imperial Intimacies by Hazel V. Carby

A haunting and evocative history of British empire, told through one woman’s search through her family’s story

“Where are you from?” was the question hounding Hazel Carby as a girl in post–World War II London. One of the so-called brown babies of the Windrush generation, born to a Jamaican father and Welsh mother, Carby’s place in her home, her neighbourhood, and her country of birth was always in doubt.

Emerging from this setting, Carby untangles the threads connecting members of her family to each other in a web woven by the British Empire across the Atlantic. We meet Carby’s working-class grandmother Beatrice, a seamstress challenged by poverty and disease. In England, she was thrilled by the cosmopolitan fantasies of empire, by cities built with slave-trade profits, and by street peddlers selling fashionable Jamaican delicacies. In Jamaica, we follow the lives of both the “white Carbys” and the “black Carbys,” as Mary Ivey, a free woman of colour, whose children are fathered by Lilly Carby, a British soldier who arrived in Jamaica in 1789 to be absorbed into the plantation aristocracy. And we discover the hidden stories of Bridget and Nancy, two women owned by Lilly who survived the Middle Passage from Africa to the Caribbean.

Moving between the Jamaican plantations, the hills of Devon, the port cities of Bristol, Cardiff, and Kingston, and the working-class estates of South London, Carby’s family story is at once an intimate personal history and a sweeping summation of the violent entanglement of two islands. In charting British empire’s interweaving of capital and bodies, public language and private feeling, Carby will find herself reckoning with what she can tell, what she can remember, and what she can bear to know.

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Borderliners

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Audio, Biography, Caribbean/Latin America, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2019-07-13 21:38Z by Steven

Borderliners

BBC Radio 4
2019-07-06

In a new poem for Radio 4, Hannah Lowe explores the mysteries surrounding the lives of her Chinese Jamaican family.

The term ‘borderliner’ was once a derogatory term for having mixed heritage. “Between ‘bi-racial’ and ‘bounty,'” Hannah writes, “I find the label ‘borderliner’ which the dictionary tells me, means uncertain or debatable.” Using this term and its troubling history as the basis for a new poetic form, the poem reflects on borders and borderlines, both physical and psychological.


Hannah Lowe

Drawing on half-memories and imagined images from her family history, Hannah Lowe re-creates moments from the lives of her Jamaican Chinese father who came to the UK by ship in 1947 and became a professional gambler, her Chinese grandfather who moved to Jamaica as a legacy of indentured labour in the Caribbean, and most elusive of all the mystery surrounding the life of her Jamaican grandmother of whom she has only one photograph.

Producer: Jo Wheeler
Reader: Burt Caesar

A Just Radio production for BBC Radio 4

Listen to the story (00:27:39) here.

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Jamaica gets first Taino chief in over 500 years

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation on 2019-06-24 18:52Z by Steven

Jamaica gets first Taino chief in over 500 years

The Gleaner
Kingston, Jamaica
2019-06-19

Paul H. Williams, Gleaner Writer


Paul H. Williams

When the Europeans came to what is now known as Jamaica (Yamaye), the Tainos had established themselves in several villages all over the island. They had functional social, commercial, religious and political systems.

The cacique (also spelt kasike/cacike) was the paramount chief of the cacicazgo (chiefdom), which consisted of several villages. The cacique’s power was vast, and he was highly respected. The power that he wielded and the respect he commanded were obliterated after the Spaniards arrived.

The history books are explicit in their narratives about the total genocide of the Tainos in Jamaica. Yet, it is a fact that the Taino DNA had survived through interbreeding, and there are many Jamaicans, some of whom are academics, who have laid claim to their Taino ancestry and preserving Taino heritage.

Robert Pairman is one of the people who are active in preserving the Taino heritage in Jamaica, and recently he was enstooled in an elaborate ritualistic ceremony as kasike (cacique) of the Taino Tribe, Jamaican Hummingbird (YukayekeYamayeGuani), inside the Asafu Yard at Charles Town Maroon village in Portland.

For more than two hours, people watched as history unfolded in front of their eyes. They listened to the impassioned voice of Boriken (Puerto Rico) Taino elder Bibi Vanessa Inarunikia Pastrana as she guided the participants and informed onlookers about their Taino and Africa heritage, and the need to embrace them. It was she who handed Pairman the mayana (Jamaican Taino ceremonial axe) that was used by a Jamaican cacique…

Read the entire article here.

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