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.

Tags: , , , , ,

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
Tags: , , ,

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.

Tags: , , ,

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
Tags: , , , , ,

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.

Tags: , , , ,

Cosmopolitan or mongrel? Créolité, hybridity and ‘douglarisation’ in Trinidad

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive on 2011-03-05 22:35Z by Steven

Cosmopolitan or mongrel? Créolité, hybridity and ‘douglarisation’ in Trinidad

European Journal of Cultural Studies
Volume 2, Number 3 (September 1999)
pages 331-353
DOI: 10.1177/136754949900200303

Eve Stoddard, Dana Professor of Global Studies
St. Lawrence University, Canton, New York

Grant H. Cornwell, President
College of Wooster, Wooster, Ohio

The article examines a Trinidadian calypso and its reception as a case study to weigh the discourses of hybridity, creolisation, and a local variant, ‘douglarisation’. In cultural studies discourse, ‘creolisation’ is often used synonymously with hybridization. However, it is a different metaphor, with a different genealogy, and is much more grounded in specific histories and places, namely the New World sites of plantation slavery. In Trinidad, the pejorative term ‘dougla‘ sigmfies the offspring of a union between persons of African and Indian ancestry, while ‘douglarisation’ denotes the contested processes of Afro- and Indo-Trinidadian interculturation. ‘Douglarisation’ can be read as a particular instance of both hybridity and creolisation, but with very different implications. We argue that hybridity and creolisation advance different political agendas, the former attentive to multiple roots and the latter to new connections.

Read or purchase the article here.

Tags: , , , ,

Language and the Politics of Ethnicity in the Caribbean

Posted in Anthropology, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Papers/Presentations, Social Science on 2010-02-14 05:26Z by Steven

Language and the Politics of Ethnicity in the Caribbean

Center for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean
York University, Toronto, Ontario
The Fourth Annual Jagan Lecture
Presented at York University on 2002-03-02

George Lamming, Visiting Professor
Brown University

The Jagan Lectures commemorate the life and vision of the late Dr. Cheddi Jagan, Caribbean thinker, politician, and political visionary. The series of annual lectures is founded upon the idea that the many and varied dimensions of Cheddi Jagan’s belief in the possibility of a New Global Human Order should be publicly ac-knowledged as part of his permanent legacy to the world.

This lecture was given by the renowned Caribbean writer and intellect George Lamming as part of the Jagan Lecture Series commemorating the late Dr. Cheddi Jagan. Lamming looks at the problem of ethnicity – and especially of relations between Africans and Indians in the territories where they form almost equal populations, namely Guyana and Trinidad – from multiple perspectives. He re-calls dramatizing strategies employed by the old colonial power in this region, strategies that are still used today by contemporary politicians. He proposes that race and ethnicity are socially constructed categories, and draws upon many Barbadian examples to illustrate the absurdity of racial prejudice in a Caribbean context where cultural miscegenation is so deep, and where habits of perception, accents, and tastes are so mixed, that wearing several categories of identity at once is common to all. His conclusion, however, is far from being a curse: the challenges of cultural, linguistic and ra-cial/ethnic diversity faced by the Caribbean constitute part of the wealth of the region, as amply demonstrated by its cultural workers, and its distinct traditions and peoples.

Read the entire paper here.

Tags: , , , ,

Reading the Dougla Body: Mixed-race, Post-race, and Other Narratives of What it Means to be Mixed in Trinidad

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Family/Parenting, Identity Development/Psychology, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Social Science on 2009-11-07 03:10Z by Steven

Reading the Dougla Body: Mixed-race, Post-race, and Other Narratives of What it Means to be Mixed in Trinidad

Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies
Volume 3, Issue 1
March 2008
pages 1 – 31
DOI: 10.1080/17442220701865820

Sarah England, Associate Professor of Anthropology
Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences
Soka University of America, Aliso Viejo, California 

In recent years there has been a great deal of scholarship addressing the ‘mixed-race’ question in the Americas. Much of this literature is concerned with documenting the experiences of mixed-race peoples and exploring how their existence alters racial ideologies and racial formations in their respective societies. This essay contributes to that literature through an analysis of the experience of mixed-race peoples in Trinidad and Tobago. Through interviews with people of Indo-Trinidadian and Afro-Trinidadian parentage (douglas) I show how the dougla experience both challenges traditional ways that race is understood ontologically, and is shaped by those same ideologies. I further examine the place that douglas see themselves as occupying in a society where racial mixing is both heralded as the essence of the national character and seen as threatening to the traditional division between Indo-Trinidadians and Afro-Trinidadians.

Tags: , , ,

Mixed and Multiracial in Trinidad and Honduras: Rethinking Mixed-race Identities in Latin America and the Caribbean

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Social Science on 2009-11-07 02:51Z by Steven

Mixed and Multiracial in Trinidad and Honduras: Rethinking Mixed-race Identities in Latin America and the Caribbean

Ethnic and Racial Studies
Volume 33, Issue 2 (2010)
pages 195-213
DOI: 10.1080/01419870903040169

Sarah England, Associate Professor of Anthropology
Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences
Soka University of America, Aliso Viejo, California

The purpose of this paper is to explore what it means to be mixed in Latin America and the Caribbean and to ask if mixing in the ‘South’ can always be understood within the so-called racial continuum as opposed to the racial binary of the ‘North’. I do this through a comparison of two potentially mixed-race identities, the afro-indigenous Garifuna of Honduras and peoples of East Indian and African mixture (douglas) in Trinidad. Through this comparison I show that in both Honduras and Trinidad classification of mixed-race peoples can follow the logic of the racial binary or of the racial continuum depending on the historical context and the particular mix. I also discuss the way that mixed-race identities can sometimes be radical critiques of state racial projects of pluralism and at other times they can be the basis of state racial projects meant to obfuscate racial pluralism.

In his 1967 book, The Two Variants in Caribbean Race Relations, Harry Hoetnik argued thai the main gauge of racism within a society is not so much the degree to which different racial groups are integrated on the level of work and social interaction, but rather the degree to which inter-racial mixing (sexual, reproductive) is accepted and gradations between racial categories are recognized. Based on this premise he set out to characterize the racial systems of the Caribbean, within which he included the United Stales South and Brazil. He argued thai (here are basically three different systems: 1) the North American variant, characterized by a high degree of segmentation between black and white based on strict definitions of whiteness and rules of hypodescent that relegate any mixed people into the non-white…

Read or purchase the article here.

Tags: , , ,

Aisha Khan Lecture – New York University Professor Aisha Khan Speaks on Multiculturalism

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Social Science, United States, Women on 2009-11-06 20:37Z by Steven

Aisha Khan Lecture – New York University Professor Aisha Khan Speaks on Multiculturalism

St. Augustine News – STAN
University of the West Indies
July-September 2006
Page 24

Alake Pilgrim

[Article copied in full for readability.  To read in original print layout version (with photographs), click here.]

On the surface of things, Professor Aisha Khan, lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at New York University, might seem like a poster-child for multiculturalism. Born in Bangladesh and raised in California, her research originally took her among the Garifuna people of Honduras.  Her first visit to Trinidad was in 1984, and from 1987 to 1989 she conducted research among Trinidadians of East Indian descent in agricultural communities in the southern part of the island to which she has returned several times over the years.

However, Professor Khan, whose research is concerned with religious identity, race relations, social stratification and migration histories, took a very critical perspective on multiculturalism in her lecture. She questioned the extent to which this “slippery term”, which calls for the equal recognition of different “cultures” and “races”, can meaningfully foster greater harmony and equality in society.

Understanding the multiple meanings of multiculturalism requires an analysis of the changing definitions of culture, nationality, religion, race and colour in different contexts. As part of this process, Profesor Khan examined three models of multiculturalism – in the United States (US), Brazil and Trinidad.

In the US, she argued, the multicultural alternative to the “one-drop rule” of non-white inferiority and the assimilationist melting-pot narrative, proposes celebrating the multiple cultures (often referred to as “races”) that make up US society.  This trend is evident in articles featuring photos of “mixed race” celebrities like Jessica Alba and Vin Diesel as the new faces of beauty. But does this concept of multiculturalism really unseat the reigning Euro-American, middle-class ideal? To paraphrase Professor Khan, does making difference “cool” actually address structural inequality in societies, such as unequal access to resources like income, housing and education?

She took that question to Brazil, where the idea that miscegenation (a “mixed race” population) and non-racialism (deemphasizing the role of race in the society) had brought about a unified Brazilian nationalism, is currently being critiqued as myth. Contentious issues of affirmative action and a political quota system are now being debated in the public sphere. Paradoxically, Professor Khan stated, the affirmative action approach to multiculturalism both undermines and reinforces the foundations of social inequality, in that it pushes toward more fixed definitions of racial categories supporting faulty race-based assumptions. In addition, such an initiative continues to make race – a biological fallacy and social variable – one of the most central aspects of human identification.

On the other hand, she opined, trying to simply eliminate race as a category of identification doesn’t work either, because the historical, legal, social and economic systems of power built on concepts of race, persist throughout the world today.

She then turned to Trinidad, which she described as being structured under colonialism according to the hierarchy of plantation society, in which black people of African descent occupied the lowest tier of the social pyramid. Independence society, she stated, was built on Afro-Euro foundations, with the attempt by some to have a multi-cultural, multi-racial “rainbow” society that was quintessentially Trinbagonian. At the same time, the society faced the conundrum of a perceived deep-seated duality and supposed hostility between people of African and East Indian descent, which was encouraged by the colonial masters and entrenched by post-independence partisan politics. This conflict centres around competition for equal resources, as well as the question of what really constitutes equal representation.

While very real divisions exist, Professor Khan expressed the view that this version of irresolvable conflict between people of African and East Indian descent, denied the reality that people in Trinidad have been living, loving, working and struggling together practically from the moment they set foot on the island.

So, in light of these case studies, what was Professor Khan’s conclusion regarding multiculturalism’s potential to bring about greater equality? Not an overly favourable one… She suggested an alternative treatment of “race” and “culture” that addressed their social significance, without freezing people into fixed racial and cultural categories. And spoke firmly against using multiculturalism and other celebrations of diversity, as a way of denying ongoing discrimination, or de-emphasizing the importance of providing equal access to resources for the underprivileged and excluded members of society. Professor Khan’s most recent book is Callaloo Nation: Metaphors of Race and Religious Identity among South Asians in Trinidad.

Tags: , , , , ,