By Katherine E. Browne
What do the trickster Rabbit, slave descendants, off-the-books economies, and French voters need to do with one another? lots, says Katherine Browne in her anthropological research of the casual financial system within the Caribbean island of Martinique. She starts off with a query: why, after greater than 300 years as colonial topics of France, did the citizens of Martinique choose in 1946 to combine absolutely with France, the very kingdom that had enslaved their ancestors? the writer means that the alternative to say no sovereignty displays an identical clear-headed opportunism that defines winning, artful, and illicit marketers who paintings off the books in Martinique this present day. Browne attracts on a decade of ethnographic fieldwork and interview facts from all socioeconomic sectors to query the typical realizing of casual economies as culture-free, survival thoughts of the poor.Anchoring her personal insights to longer old and literary perspectives, the writer exhibits how diversifications of crafty were strengthened because the days of plantation slavery. those diversifications ensue, no longer even with French fiscal and political keep watch over, yet fairly as a result of it. Powered by way of the 'essential tensions' of preserving French and Creole identities, the perform of creole economics presents either statement of and safe haven from the problems of being dark-skinned and French. This robust ethnographic examine indicates how neighborhood monetary meanings and plural identities support clarify paintings off the books. Like creole language and tune, creole economics expresses an irreducibly advanced combination of ancient, modern, and cultural affects.
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Extra resources for Creole Economics: Caribbean Cunning under the French Flag
As local elites, 4,000 miles from any other authority, békés were thus predictably opposed to any change that would extend rights to the majority blacks and threaten to unravel the control over local labor that they had so long enjoyed. Elevating the status of France’s overseas colonies to full overseas departments (départements d’outre mer, known commonly as doms) was just such a plan. If ordinary blacks could make claims of the French state, if they could migrate legally to the metropole for work, then they would no longer need the low-paying jobs on béké plantations.
Yogurts, custards, and creams originating in the metropole also occupy a high proportion of floor space. In the produce section there are local oﬀerings of squashes, eggplant, okra, mangoes, bananas, pineapples, and melons. Equally extensive are displays of continental-grown tomatoes, peaches, apples, grapes, oranges, broccoli, and cauliflower. Imported cereals and rice concede almost no shelf space to locally grown rice. French-imported patio furniture, cookware, lotions, shampoos, and perfumes further attest to the non-local supplier, just as the vast selection of imported wines and champagnes upstages the selection of local rums and juices.
One dimension of the complexity in Martinique’s relationship to France is thus the fact that local values and practices strain assumptions of their assimilation; at the same time, however, these local values and practices help relieve the strains in the relationship. In Martinique, there are local indicators of creole culture, such as courtship and marriage patterns, gender relations, beliefs about supernatural power, folklore, music, and food—all of which are widely recognized as phenomena originally tied to creole innovations during slavery.