Recent work has emphasized the role of colonial state structures in the construction and enforcement of race and gender in the British Empire from the seventeenth century onward, particularly among people of color. But work on the parallel phenomenon of “Whiteness” has focused on White men rather than White women and children, on elites rather than those below them, and on North America rather than the Caribbean. This article, using the records of a “Clergy Fund” established in Jamaica in 1797 as an insurance scheme for the (White) widows and orphans of clergymen, therefore addresses a gap in this literature by providing a case study of how a colonial state in the Caribbean tried—and failed—to construct and enforce race and gender among White women and children from outside the elite, during a period when White society in the region seemed under threat.
This article advocates for a new perspective on Caribbean performance traditions by adopting an Afro-Iberian perspective. It argues that we are able to acquire a better understanding of the historical development of some of the most enigmatic Caribbean performances, including Jankunu, by taking into consideration that many of those who built the foundations of Afro-Caribbean culture had already adopted cultural and religious elements rooted in Iberian traditions before their arrival in the Americas. A comparative analysis demonstrates a series of parallels between early witness accounts of Jankunu and Iberian calenda traditions. In order to explain this, the article points to Iberian dominance in the early-modern Atlantic and, in particular, Portuguese influences in Africa. It highlights the importance of confraternities and argues that it was in the context of African variants of these mutual-aid and burial societies that elements rooted in Iberian traditions entered Afro-Caribbean culture.
The Portuguese schooner Arrogante was captured in late November 1837 by HMSSnake, off the coast of Cuba. At the time, the Arrogante had more than 330 Africans on board, who had been shipped from the Upper Guinea coast. Once the vessel arrived in Montego Bay, Jamaica, the British authorities apprenticed those who had survived. Shortly after landing, however, the Arrogante’s sailors were accused of slaughtering an African man, cooking his flesh, and forcing the rest of those enslaved on board to eat it. Furthermore, they were also accused of cooking and eating themselves the heart and liver of the same man. This article focuses not so much on the actual event, as on the transatlantic process that followed, during which knowledge was produced and contested, and relative meanings and predetermined cultural notions associated with Europeans and Africans were probed and queried.
In August 1831, around sixty enslaved people fought a war against enslavers in Southampton County, Virginia. It became known as the “Nat Turner Revolt.” Four months later, perhaps sixty thousand enslaved people fought their own emancipation war, commonly known as the “Baptist War,” throughout much of Jamaica. These uprisings differed in size, strategy, and outcome. The Virginian episode allowed slaveholders to strengthen their grip on slavery, while the Jamaican one catalyzed Britain’s capitulation to abolition. Historians have detailed the significant role kinship played in the more localized Virginian example. Comparing both emancipation wars, this paper extends analysis to the Jamaican case. It argues that kinship shaped both uprisings in remarkably similar ways, influencing radicalization and recruitment beforehand, support or opposition during war, and vulnerability to or evasion of white retaliation afterward. The similar function of kinship in such different events suggests a possible larger pattern that shaped other uprisings.
Indrani Chatterjee’s ground-breaking research has shown the centrality of obligation and provision to historical forms of slavery in South Asia, deepening our understanding of slave-using societies beyond the plantation systems that have dominated historiography, as well as historical memory. In this interview, Chatterjee explains why the crucial question in the context of South Asian slavery was: who do you serve and for what purpose? Enslavers were obliged to materially provide for their slaves, in return for the enslaved person’s service, labor and loyalty, creating varied relationships of dependence. By foregrounding the complex set of relationships and obligations in which slaves were enmeshed, Chatterjee seeks to “make people out of laborers.” This has led her to rethink the ways that resistance and agency have been conceptualized in slavery studies and Subaltern Studies, emphasizing the relationships within which a person became an agent. Her research has also deepened our understanding of colonialism and slavery. British colonizers generally ignored slaves’ entitlements to certain labor or taxation exemptions from the state, and colonial revenue-collection made the already-burdened doubly burdened. But in a hetero-temporal colonial context, older ways of identifying and forms of relationships endured. Chatterjee argues that this history of the provision of survival in contexts of enslavement is not “romanticizing,” but rather historicizes multiple forms of violence and shows a fuller, more varied picture of slavery.
Because hotels are a microcosm of society, they offer a useful case study to explore social inequalities, including racial divisions. This article examines the experiences of African-Jamaican hotel workers and guests from independence in 1962 till the present to demonstrate the salience of Jamaica’s race and color relations. It argues that hotel workers and guests at times challenged the racialized practices that they experienced but more often refrained from doing so because of their socialization into a long-standing ethos of “Black is nuh good” and exposure to a nationalist ideology that projected a vision of racial harmony. The article also shows that through their responses to claims of racial discrimination in hotels, a variety of stakeholders, including tourist organizations, failed to challenge the island’s racial hierarchy which placed Whites on top, light-skinned Jamaicans in the middle, and dark-skinned Jamaicans at the bottom.