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Maroon Cosmopolitics

Personhood, Creativity and Incorporation

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Edited by Olívia Maria Gomes da Cunha

Maroon Cosmopolitics: Personhood, Creativity and Incorporation sheds further light on the contemporary modes of Maroon circulation and presence in Suriname and in the French Guiana. The contributors assembled in the volume look to describe Maroon ways of inhabiting, transforming and circulating through different localities in the Guianas, as well as their modes of creating and incorporating knowledge and artefacts into their social relations and spaces. By bringing together authors with diverse perspectives on the situation of the Guianese Maroon at the twenty-first century, the volume contributes to the anthropological literature on Maroon societies, providing ethnographic, and historical depth and legitimacy to the contemporary lives of the descendants of those who fled from slavery in the Americas.
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Sally Price

Western commentary on Maroon tembe (woodcarving) has traditionally insisted, despite Maroon denials, that it constitutes a system of symbolic motifs that can be read like a language, transmitting messages from the artist (a man) to the recipient of the art (a woman). Some of the Maroon artists in Guyane, working mainly with paint rather than carving, have adopted and promoted the stereotype in the context of rapid integration into the tourist market. This paper, which includes Maroon women’s views on the subject, underscores the delicacy of questioning the artists’ new discourse.

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Edited by Olívia Maria Gomes da Cunha

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Edited by Olívia Maria Gomes da Cunha

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Rogério Brittes W. Pires

Life in a Saamaka village is surrounded by rules, from trivial activities such as harvesting fruits to the most formal of public meetings, everything has to be done in the right way, “the way we are used to”. However, these rules seem to be constantly under discussion, there are frequent arguments about which are the rules and how to apply them to each situation. This chapter takes a look at Saamaka politics, trying to understand how deadlocks concerning rules are overcome and how consensus is reached. The main ethnographic are from funerary rituals, activities in which a proper conduct is most important, and thus rules are taken particularly seriously. Brief descriptions of the hierarchy of political offices in Saamaka and the rhetorics in the kuutu (council meetings) will be necessary, in order to understand how authority is conceived and performed, and how rules are established by transforming relationships with the past. The closing arguments contest the recurring description of Maroon polities as “states within a state” and present an alternative approach that takes further into account both Saamaka political philosophy and its inherent relationship with their own style of life.

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Richard Price

After a summary of the major changes in the societies and cultures of the Suriname and French Guiana Maroons during the past half-century (demography, communications, education, tourism, migration, urbanization, integration into the national societies, and so forth), this paper outlines the research conducted on each of the Maroon peoples since the 1960s. It ends with a discussion of changing methods in the study of Maroons.

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Edited by Olívia Maria Gomes da Cunha

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Olívia Maria Gomes da Cunha

This introduction provides a brief examination of the contemporary configurations and cosmopolitical effects of these transformations by listening attentively to the new modes of Maroon circulation and presence in the Guianas – what some authors have called a population ‘explosion’ (Price 2013) and a proliferation of ‘cultural forms’ (Bilby 2000) over the last decades. The understanding of these new modes of existence connecting persons and families who circulate between towns and villages, and how these modes connect with the production of the Maroon person, with the practices of creating artifacts and material forms that inhabit different cosmological universes and, finally, with the mechanisms for incorporating knowledge, things and relations into Maroon socialities, evince continuous process of composition, approximation and transformation. These involve the composition of existential territories in which ‘unknown’ worlds and beings are called upon to intervene, act and participate in personal conflicts and political clashes. By problematizing conceptions of the Maroon person associated with the use of bodies and artifacts, with contact with the machines, money, technical staff and transnational corporations that circulate in the world of the bakaa, as well as with the gods and spirits that inhabit landscapes accessible through spiritual and linguistic skills, the introduction discusses the main contribution of the edited volume.

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Corinna Campbell

Taking Saramakan genre banamba and the annual Banamba Dance Contest as a case study, this chapter considers the often-controversial role that competition culture plays in establishing new spaces, meanings, and uses for traditional performance practices in urban and cosmopolitan contexts.  After outlining aspects of banamba’s historical discourse and performance practice in Paramaribo during the early 2000’s, Campbell demonstrates how talent competitions like the Banamba Contest aim to isolate and elevate a traditional performance practice, while simultaneously investing in the conditions for its proliferation in fragmented, hybridized forms.  Ultimately, a successful contestant must master a skill set that has more to do with performing tradition in a contemporary urban context than with aptitude in the dance form alone.  While the format and methods of adjudication of the competition bestow and affirm participants’ credentials as professionals, audiences’ critical feedback holds judges and organizers’ authority in check, while perpetuating an animated discourse concerning authentic practice, performance aesthetics, and the limits of adaptation.

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Diane Vernon

This chapter scans the evolving position of Ndyuka women from the 1970’s through the first decade of the new millieum. Since the 80’s, demographic explosion and mothers’ concerns for child education have added female migration to the coast to that of men ; the Surinamese civil war offered them new roles as hustlers, introducing extra-territorial mobility and the French social system has supplied single mothers obtaining papers with a living independent of men. Important absence of both sexes from the forest villages and their dispersal over two nations has weakened lineage control over mariages and therefore the protection of women. Seen from the French side where male and female migration to Saint Laurent du Maroni over the last thirty years has raised the city’s population from roughly 5000 in 1980 to 40 000 in 2010, the resulting life profiles for Ndyuka women now show high variation and unpredictability in their situations and their mentalities.