Caribbean Masala: Indian Identity in Guyana and Trinidad

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Forthcoming Media, Monographs, Social Science on 2018-05-14 20:49Z by Steven

Caribbean Masala: Indian Identity in Guyana and Trinidad

University Press of Mississippi
2018-07-16
144 pages (approx.)
9 b&w illustrations
6 x 9 inches
Hardcover ISBN: 9781496818041

Dave Ramsaran, Professor of Sociology
Susquehanna University, Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania

Linden F. Lewis, Presidential Professor of Sociology; ssociate Dean of Social Sciences
Bucknell University, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania

How Indian descendants maintained their culture and grew their influence in the Caribbean

In 1833, the abolition of slavery in the British Empire led to the import of exploited South Asian indentured workers in the Caribbean under extreme oppression. Dave Ramsaran and Linden F. Lewis concentrate on the Indian descendants’ processes of mixing, assimilating, and adapting while trying desperately to hold on to that which marks a group of people as distinct. In some ways, the lived experience of the Indian community in Guyana and Trinidad represents a cultural contradiction of belonging and non-belonging. In other parts of the Caribbean, people of Indian descent seem so absorbed by the more dominant African culture and through intermarriage that Indo-Caribbean heritage seems less central.

In this collaboration based on focus groups, in-depth interviews, and observation, sociologists Ramsaran and Lewis lay out a context within which to develop a broader view of Indians in Guyana and Trinidad, a numerical majority in both countries. They address issues of race and ethnicity but move beyond these familiar aspects to track such factors as ritual, gender, family, and daily life. Ramsaran and Lewis gauge not only an unrelenting process of assimilative creolization on these descendants of India, but also the resilience of this culture in the face of modernization and globalization.

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A Brutal Heritage Finally Revealed

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, United States on 2018-03-18 01:00Z by Steven

A Brutal Heritage Finally Revealed

Book Review
The New York Times
2018-03-16

Sheila A. Kohler


Krystal A. Sital
Elwira Katarzyna Maciejewski

SECRETS WE KEPT: Three Women of Trinidad
By Krystal A. Sital
337 pp. W. W. Norton & Company. $25.95.

When Krystal Sital’s grandfather Shiva Singh suffers a cerebral hemorrhage, her grandmother Rebecca, after 53 years of marriage, reacts with calm indifference. Sital, who reveres her tall, strong and generous grandfather, with his white hair and “skin the color of a sapphire sky,” spends much of her suspenseful memoir, “Secrets We Kept: Three Women of Trinidad,” elucidating this response.

With the family patriarch debilitated, Sital’s grandmother and her mother are safe for the first time, able to share their secrets with Sital, who listens, her blood pumping to a “chant I cannot forget.” These vivid memories attack us as they do her, “in waves.”…

…The Trinidad depicted here is rife with prejudice and hate. Hostility persists between the Africans, brought as slaves, and the Indians, who arrived as indentured servants. Those of mixed race are called “mulatto,” “dougla” and “cocopanyol” — “the words are hissed and spat at my family: My grandmother is mixed, my Indian grandfather is not.”…

Read the entire review here.

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Secrets We Kept: Three Women of Trinidad

Posted in Autobiography, Biography, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Monographs, United States, Women on 2018-03-18 00:23Z by Steven

Secrets We Kept: Three Women of Trinidad

W. W. Norton & Company
February 2018
352 pages
5.9 × 8.6 in
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-393-60926-4

Krystal A. Sital

An eloquent new Caribbean literary voice reveals the hidden trauma and fierce resilience of one Trinidadian family.

There, in a lush landscape of fire-petaled immortelle trees and vast plantations of coffee and cocoa, where the three hills along the southern coast act as guardians against hurricanes, Krystal A. Sital grew up idolizing her grandfather, a wealthy Hindu landowner. Years later, to escape crime and economic stagnation on the island, the family resettled in New Jersey, where Krystal’s mother works as a nanny, and the warmth of Trinidad seems a pretty yet distant memory. But when her grandfather lapses into a coma after a fall at home, the women he has terrorized for decades begin to speak, and a brutal past comes to light.

In the lyrical patois of her mother and grandmother, Krystal learns the long-held secrets of their family’s past, and what it took for her foremothers to survive and find strength in themselves. The relief of sharing their stories draws the three women closer, the music of their voices and care for one another easing the pain of memory.

Violence, a rigid ethnic and racial caste system, and a tolerance of domestic abuse—the harsh legacies of plantation slavery—permeate the history of Trinidad. On the island’s plantations, in its growing cities, and in the family’s new home in America, Secrets We Kept tells a story of ambition and cruelty, endurance and love, and most of all, the bonds among women and between generations that help them find peace with the past.

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Expat Mom Maria Tumolo On Raising A Multicultural Family In England

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Family/Parenting, Interviews, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2016-07-11 13:56Z by Steven

Expat Mom Maria Tumolo On Raising A Multicultural Family In England

The Voix: Diverse Narratives. Native Insights
2016-07-07

Although she was happy and content with her life as it were back in Trinidad, Maria Tumolo was at a crossroad regarding her professional and personal development. She had received a firm offer of admission from Edinburgh University with the intention of pursuing a masters degree in publishing, but she had never been away from home. At the age of 27, she finally made the decision to move to England.

“I came to England on a working holiday visa. On arrival I lived and worked in Cambridge for a few months,” Tumolo says. “I eventually moved to London because at the time, I was living with the family of an English work mate who I met in Trinidad. When she decided to move back to Cambridge, I moved to London so she could be with her family. It was also easier to travel around Europe from London.”

Today, Tumolo lives in Surrey, England with her husband and children – Angelo and Valentina who are five & three years old respectively – where she is a children’s book author and the founder of a Trini-British Parenting & Lifestyle Blog that explores parenting as an expat, family experiences as a mixed heritage family, fashion and food.

Tumolo shares her journey to England and tells us more about raising a multicultural family…

Read the entire interview here.

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Anna In-Between

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Novels on 2016-05-29 14:44Z by Steven

Anna In-Between

Akashic Books
2010-08-17
352 pages
Paperback IBSN: 9781936070695
Hardcover IBSN: 9781933354842

Elizabeth Nunez, Distinguished Professor of English
Hunter College, the City University of New York

Anna In-Between is Elizabeth Nunez’s finest achievement to date. In spare prose, with laserlike attention to every word and the juxtaposition of words to each other, Nunez returns to her themes of emotional alienation, within the context of class and color discrimination, so richly developed in her earlier novels. Anna, the novel’s main character, who has a successful publishing career in the US, is the daughter of an upper-class Caribbean family. While on vacation in the island home of her birth she discovers that her mother, Beatrice, has breast cancer. Beatrice categorically rejects all efforts to persuade her to go to the US for treatment, even though it is, perhaps, her only chance of survival. Anna and her father, who tries to remain respectful of his wife’s wishes, must convince her to change her mind.

In a convergence of craftsmanship, unflinching honesty, and the ability to universalize the lives of her characters, Nunez tells a story that explores our longing for belonging to a community, the age-old love-repulsion relationship between mother and daughter, the Freudian overtones in the love between daughter and father, and the mutual respect that is essential for a successful marriage. One of the crowning achievements of this novel is that it shines a harsh light on the ambiguous situation of this ruling-class family who rose from the constraints of colonialism to employ their own servants. It is a strength of the novel that it understands that the political truth is not distinct from the truth of the family or the truth of love relationships; they are integrated into a unity in this novel constituting one unbroken reality as they are in real life.

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Growing Up “Too Black” In Trinidad

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Women on 2014-11-10 19:50Z by Steven

Growing Up “Too Black” In Trinidad

The New Local: Think Global, Read Local
2014-11-10

Malaika Crichlow
Miami, Florida

I grew up in Trinidad in the 80s and 90s as a black girl child. To be black in a country that idealizes the curly hair and mixed ethnicity aesthetic is rough to say the least. Although I shared the same parental genes as my sister, who is considered mixed or “red,” what I embodied physically was dark skin and “kinky” hair. It didn’t matter that my heritage included French, Scottish, East Indian and African; I was black to everyone who saw me, which wouldn’t bother me if I wasn’t treated as less than because of it.

I was the daughter of a dark-skinned man who, as a man, couldn’t comprehend my female self-esteem struggles. He didn’t know that his unabashed preference of my light-skinned sister could truly fuck me up. As my primary example of the male gender and my only other dark skinned counterpart in our immediate family, he didn’t understand that not loving me as much as my red sister could damage my mind and sense of self for years.  I was also the daughter of a light-skinned mother who, similarly, couldn’t fully understand my dark-skinned complex because like my sister, she had gotten the red woman’s preferential treatment her whole life…

Read the entire article here.

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Imagining Caribbean Womanhood: Race, Nation and Beauty Competitions, 1929–70

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Monographs, Women on 2013-11-03 02:33Z by Steven

Imagining Caribbean Womanhood: Race, Nation and Beauty Competitions, 1929–70

Manchester University Press
October 2013
192 pages
216 x 138 mm
Hardback ISBN: 978-0-7190-8867-4

Rochelle Rowe
University of Exeter

Over fifty years after Jamaican and Trinidadian independence, Imagining Caribbean Womanhood examines the links between beauty and politics in the Anglophone Caribbean, providing a first cultural history of Caribbean beauty competitions, spanning from Kingston to London. It traces the origins and transformation of female beauty contests in the British Caribbean from 1929 to 1970, through the development of cultural nationalism, race-conscious politics and decolonisation.

The beauty contest, a seemingly marginal phenomenon, is used to illuminate the persistence of racial supremacy, the advance of consumer culture and the negotiation of race and nation through the idealised performance of cultured, modern beauty. Modern Caribbean femininity was intended to be politically functional but also commercially viable and subtly eroticised. The lively discussion surrounding beauty competitions, examined in this book, reveals that femininity was used to shape ideas about Caribbean modernity, citizenship, and political and economic freedom. This cultural history of Caribbean beauty competitions will be of value to scholarship on beauty, Caribbean studies, postcolonial studies, gender studies, ‘race’ and racism studies and studies of the body.

Contents

  • Introduction: Caribbean beauty competitions in context
  • 1. The early ‘Miss Jamaica’ competition: cultural revolution and feminist voices, 1929–1950
  • 2. Cleaning up carnival: race, culture and power in the Trinidad ‘Carnival Queen’ beauty competition, 1946–1959
  • 3. Parading the ‘crème de la crème’: constructing the contest in Barbados, 1958–1966
  • 4. Fashioning ‘Ebony Cinderellas’ and brown icons: Jamaican beauty competitions and the myth of racial democracy, 1955–1964
  • 5. ‘Colonisation in reverse’: Claudia Jones, the West Indian Gazette and the ‘Carnival Queen’ contest in London, 1959–1964
  • Afterword: a Grenadian ‘Miss World’, 1970
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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Multiracial Identities in Trinidad and Guyana: Exaltation and Ambiguity

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Social Science on 2013-08-28 03:10Z by Steven

Multiracial Identities in Trinidad and Guyana: Exaltation and Ambiguity

Latin American Issues
Volume 13 (1997) (The Caribbean(s) Redefined)
Article IV

Camille Hernandez-Ramdwar, Associate Professor of Sociology
Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario

For people of formerly colonized countries, race mixing among the populace has always been a reality. This is particularly true for Caribbean peoples. This paper addresses the ambivalent existence of multiracial identities for Caribbean people in the regions of Trinidad and Guyana, two areas with particularly diverse populations including significant numbers of people who are of (East) Indian background, as well as (in Guyana) an indigenous Amerindian population. The current relevancy of this issue is highlighted by tensions between African and Indian populations in each area, following the elections of predominantly Indian-based governments in Guyana in 1992 (PPP) and Trinidad & Tobago in 1995 (UNC/NAR coalition). As racial terrains shift in the realms of power, people often resort to constructions of “pure” identities to support an “us” versus “them” agenda. An exploration into multiracial identity challenges this re-ordering of racial monoliths and homogeneous social organization; it provides an opening for discussion of similarities rather than differences, of interlinkages and a shared history of colonization.

For the purposes of this article, the term “multiracial” is intended to signify an identity which has arisen out of a colonial history. Prior to Columbus, any notion of “race” among the Amerindians would have differed considerably from that which was developed over time by the Europeans for very specific imperialist reasons. Multiracial Caribbean people are those who are descended from more than one racial group found in the Caribbean. The very notion of multiracial identity is only significant if importance, privilege, difference, or debasement has been accorded to particular racial groups over others during the course of Caribbean history.

My analysis of Caribbean multiracial identity is based on the works cited as well as a series of interviews I conducted with multiracial Caribbean and Caribbean-Canadian people during 1994-1995. It is a preliminary investigation of a subject area which requires much deeper study, a study which I hope to flesh out from this skeletal framework of initial inquiry. Caribbean scholarship has largely ignored and overlooked multiracial/mixed race identity with the exception of a few articles and papers (Khan, Puri, Reddock, and Shibata), and a rather significant body of work dealing with the Coloured/Mulatto/gens de couleur class and its historical/political significance (Braithwaite, Brathwaite, Brereton, Cohen & Green, Heuman, and Sio). In comparison, within the body of Caribbean literature there is an attempt to examine, however superficially, multiracial identity and its problematic/complex meaning beyond African/European bipolarity. This is mostly evident in the works of Edgar Mittelholzer, V.S. Naipaul, Jan Shinebourne, Lawrence Scott, and Merle Hodge. However, large gaps remain in the areas of theory and primary research examining how racially complex Caribbean people negotiate and navigate their identities in a social and political atmosphere which both exalts them (“All o’ we is one”, “One people, one nation, one destiny”, “Out of many, one people”) and denies them full recognition as a legitimate racial “group” in an arena where one’s racial allegiance purportedly informs community and political alliance, personal and business networks, state power and consequently, access to resources.

Contents

  • I. “Raceing” in Trinidad and Guyana: Historical Developments
  • II. “Douglas
  • III. The “Cocoa Panyols
  • IV. “Bovianders”
  • V. Representations of the Multiracial Person
  • VI. “Brotherhood of the Boat”? The Common Origin Debate in Trinidad
  • VII. Erasure of Multiracial Identity in Trinidad, Erasure of Multiracial Identity in Trinidad and Guyana
  • VII. Conclusion
  • Notes

Read the entire article here.

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An Earth-Colored Sea: ‘Race’, Culture and the Politics of Identity in the Post-Colonial Portuguese-Speaking World

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Europe, History, Media Archive, Monographs on 2013-07-19 03:51Z by Steven

An Earth-Colored Sea: ‘Race’, Culture and the Politics of Identity in the Post-Colonial Portuguese-Speaking World

Berghahn Books
2003
176 pages
index
Hardback ISBN: 978-1-57181-607-8
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-57181-608-5

Miguel Vale de Almeida,  Professor of Anthropology
Instituto Superior de Ciências do Trabalho e da Empresa (ISCTE), Lisbon

Although the post-colonial situation has attracted considerable interest over recent years, one important colonial power – Portugal – has not been given any attention. This book is the first to explore notions of ethnicity, “race”, culture, and nation in the context of the debate on colonialism and postcolonialism. The structure of the book reflects a trajectory of research, starting with a case study in Trinidad, followed by another one in Brazil, and ending with yet another one in Portugal. The three case studies, written in the ethnographic genre, are intertwined with essays of a more theoretical nature. The non-monographic, composite – or hybrid – nature of this work may be in itself an indication of the need for transnational and historically grounded research when dealing with issues of representations of identity that were constructed during colonial times and that are today reconfigured in the ideological struggles over cultural meanings.

Contents

  • Foreword and Acknowledgements
  • Chapter 1. Potogee: Being Portuguese in Trinidad
  • Chapter 2. Powers, Products, and Passions: The Black Movement in a Town of Bahia, Brazil
  • Chapter 3. Tristes Luso-Tropiques: The Roots and Ramifications of Luso-Tropicalist Discourses
  • Chapter 4. “Longing for Oneself”: Hybridism and Miscegenation in Colonial and Postcolonial Portugal
  • Chapter 5. Epilogue of Empire: East Timor and the Portuguese Postcolonial Catharsis
  • Chapter 6. Pitfalls and Perspectives in Anthropology, Postcolonialism, and the Portuguese-Speaking World
  • Epilogue: A Sailor’s Tale
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The Dougla in Trinidad’s Consciousness

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Social Science on 2012-09-06 00:05Z by Steven

The Dougla in Trinidad’s Consciousness

History in Action: Online Journal of The University of the West Indies (St. Augustine. Trinidad and Tobago) Dept. of History
Volume 2, Number 1 (April 2011)
7 pages
ISSN: 2221-7886

Feme Louanne Regis
University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad is a complex multi-ethnic society where the two major ethnic groups – Africans and Indians – are in competition for power: economic, political and social. These contestations force the meeting and mixing of these two groups but militate against their merger. This is a reality that impacts significantly on the lives of their offspring the Dougla who are birthed into this complex social, cultural and linguistic situation and whose social position within this divide remain unclear and uncertain. Before 2011, Douglas were not designated in official censuses as a marginal ethnic community or even a biracial minority group leaving them free to declare themselves African, Indian or members of the umbrella categories Mixed and Other. Despite the steady increase in the number of people who define themselves as Douglas, their position in Trinidadian society remains ambivalent and indeterminate. This presentation maps the comparative invisibility of Douglas in Trinidadian society from the second half of the 19th and 20th centuries via an examination of social history and anthropology, creative writing, and popular culture.

Introduction

Douglas, the offspring of Indo-African unions, occupy an ambiguous position in Trinidadian society. Etymologically, the word Dougla is linked to dogla which is of India origin and is defined by Platts (1884, 534) as “a person of impure breed, a hybrid, a mongrel; a two-faced or deceitful person and a hypocrite.” In Bihar, Northern India, from where many Indian indentured labourers migrated to Trinidad, dogla still carries the meaning of a person of impure breed related specifically to the “progeny of inter-varna marriage, acquiring the connotation of ‘bastard’, meaning illegitimate son of a prostitute, only in a secondary sense” (Reddock 1994, 101). We do not know how and when the term Dougla became equated to the offspring of Indian-African unions in Trinidad but we may surmise that it originated in traditional Indian contempt for the darker-skinned (Brereton 1974, 24).

Recognition of Douglas

Wood (1968) does not recognise a Dougla presence in 19th century Trinidad. He trusts the official report of the Protector of the Immigrants that as late as 1871, 26 years after their arrival, “no single instance of co-habitation with a Negro existed among the 9,000 male and female indentured labourers” (1968, 138). He overlooks the 1876 testimony of John Morton, to the effect that “a few children are to be met with, born of Madras and Creole parents and some also of Madras and Chinese parents—the Madrasee being the mother” (Moore 1995, 238).

Ramesar (1994) accepts the reality of inter-racial sexual relations in the early twentieth century, but seems reluctant to acknowledge Africans as sexual partners for Indians and nowhere mentions the word Dougla. The Dougla presence is instead hidden in the generic term “Indian Creoles.” Examining the statistics testifying to Indian inter-racial sexual liaisons, Ramesar argues that such relationships happened more readily in Port of Spain and in Cedros than in central Trinidad, where the majority of Indian communities were located. Yet, the demographic evidence indicates African-Indian unions even in areas dominated by Indians (Harewood 1975).

According to Ramesar, the Indian fathers of mixed-race children were “probably westernized individuals who sought educated spouses.” She concedes, however, that “changed social relationships had also affected the lower levels in society” (146). Yet, the literary works of C.A. Thomasos (1933), C.L.R. James (1929; 1936), and Alfred Mendes (1935) demonstrate that inter-racial mixing was not necessarily inspired by social climbing. In these works, Douglas are presented as deracinated individuals engaged, as part of Black urban lower class, in the amoral struggle for survival.

In the 2005 feature address at the launch of the Indian Arrival Day Heritage Village, Elizabeth Rosabelle Sieusarran, a University of the West Indies lecturer, said:

In our quest for establishing unity among our people, it is imperative for us to note a rapidly increasing phenomenon of westernisation of the Indian community. This has resulted in the prevalence of inter-caste, inter-religious and inter-racial marriages. The Indian community has to decide how to handle the offspring of this significant group locally referred to as douglas. Do we accept them or ostracise them? Whatever course is adopted, the fragmentation of the Indian community must be avoided (Trinidad Express 16th May 2005, 5).

Sieusarran thus reduces the problems caused by westernisation to the fragmentation within the Indian community allegedly created by exogamy. She then ignores the progeny of many such relationships and targets Douglas as the source of that fragmentation. While acknowledging the organic connection of the Douglas to the Indian communities, Sieusarran indicates that Douglas are still perceived as a problem by some Indians even while they advocate co-existence in a multi-cultural society….

Read the entire article here.

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