Regional Discourses on Society and History

Shaping the Caribbean

by Jerome Teelucksingh (Volume editor) Shane Pantin (Volume editor)
©2020 Monographs XXIV, 228 Pages


This book thematically analyses and surveys areas of Caribbean history and society. The work is divided into three parts: part one addresses migration and identity; part two explores policy and development; and part three explores music and literature. The volume places a fresh perspective on these topics. The essays depart from the usual broader themes of politics, economics and society and provide a deeper insight into forces that left a decisive legacy on aspects of the Caribbean region. Such contributions come at a time when some of the Caribbean territories are marking over 50 years as independent nation states and attempting to create, understand and forge ways of dealing with critical national and regional issues. The volume brings together a broad group of scholars writing on Caribbean issues including postgraduate students, lecturers, and researchers. Each chapter is thematically divided into the aforementioned areas. This book addresses areas much deeper than the linear historical and social science models, and it offers Caribbean academics and researchers a foundation for further research.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editor
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Table
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction (Jerome Teelucksingh/Shane Pantin)
  • Theme 1. Migration and Identity
  • 1. Visionaries, Pioneers, Apostles and Healers: The Contribution of Migrants from Trinidad and Tobago to the Development of Black Britain, 1948–1986 (Peter Timothy)
  • 2. The Migration of West Indian Women from the Caribbean Community to the Eastern Seaboard of the United States of America from the 1960s to the 1990s: A Coping Strategy (Ronald C. Noel)
  • 3. Black Power and West Indian Cricket: Exercises in Post-Nationalism (James Cantres)
  • 4. From PAOC to PAWI: The Transition to Regional Leadership, Global Influences, Internal Forces and Pentecostal Expansion in Trinidad, 1964–2002 (Aakeil Murray)
  • Theme 2. Social Policy and Development
  • 5. The Contribution of Calypso in Transforming Race Relations in Trinidad and the Wider Caribbean Through the Subject of Cricket (Claudius Fergus)
  • 6. Engendering Justice for Women (Rose-Marie Belle Antoine)
  • 7. Crisis of Governance in Small States: Leadership and Ideology in the Anglophone Caribbean (Kerry Sumesar-Rai)
  • 8. Fighting a Losing Battle?: Labour in Trinidad and Tobago (Jerome Teelucksingh)
  • Theme 3. Music and Literature
  • 9. Lyrics to Build a Nation (Gelien Matthews)
  • 10. Mapping a Musical Journey of Soca in the Crop Over Festival of Barbados (Allison O. Ramsay)
  • 11. Recuperating the Lost Voice of Esteban Montejo in Miguel Barnet´s Biografía de un cimarrón (Adonis Díaz Fernández)
  • 12. Re-reading Historical Forces: Slavery and Its Vestiges in Afro-Hispanic Culture in Mayra Santos Febres’ Fe en disfraz (Nicole Roberts)
  • Contributors


The editors are grateful to those authors who agreed to include their research in this collection. We would like to acknowledge those persons who granted permission to have their interviews cited and published. The cover photo of a coconut estate is from the Michael Goldberg Collection located in the West Indiana and Special Collections at the Alma Jordan library, The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago.

Many thanks to Professor Brinsley Samaroo for reviewing the book’s Introduction. Finally, the editors are grateful to the staff at Peter Lang for providing timely advice and guidance to us and the authors to ensure this book on the Caribbean region is published.


Jerome Teelucksingh and Shane Pantin

As a patchwork of cultures, peoples, institutions and historical legacies, narratives of the modern Caribbean tend to emphasize the linkages of social concepts to understand the social and historical background of the archipelago of islands, mainland states and expatriate communities. Consequently, for any author of Caribbean history and society, bringing together this patchwork has many challenges given the linguistic, demographic, political and geographic circumstances. Current narratives not only highlight the common threads that Caribbean societies share to overcome the narrative challenge but also provide readers insight into the subtle social, political and economic circumstances of each society. This work seeks to examine these subtle parts that had an impact and is still shaping Caribbean history and society, hence the theme of this volume, shaping. Some of these subtleties are of vintage origin, for example, race, class, nationalism and colour, while some are more recent, for example, women and gender, sport, and culture. Some subtleties combine a mix of the traditional and new such as religion coupled with nationalism, or social consciousness and migration. The benefit of these types of narratives is that they assist us in explaining parts that are less visible and to which a connection was not recognizable.

In approaching a volume of this nature, there are several aims. As stated earlier, the underlying parts of Caribbean history and society presented through the collection of contributions shed new light on areas previously unexplored or underdeveloped. In this regard, the volume seeks to forge connections amongst the various contributions which highlight the impact that the historical or social circumstance has upon the Caribbean through fresh perspectives regarding these areas. In doing so, the assembled contributors include experienced and upcoming academics giving voice to the areas under exploration. Consequently, there is no doubt that tertiary level students and Caribbean enthusiasts will appreciate the variety of viewpoints presented.

←xi | xii→

Additionally, this volume is broad in scope and similar to existing publications that describe the important role which some social concepts such as gender, migration, nationalism, race and ethnicity have played in the evolution of Caribbean societies. These concepts are not autonomous, but are part of a callaloo1 where scholars have identified inseparable linkages of race, ethnicity, nationalism, culture, gender, ideology, politics, literature, religion, sport and language. The complex relationship among concepts are obvious when one considers how they merged oftentimes as forms of political or social resistance to established institutions against dominant narratives such as colonialism and imperialism. Therefore, one of the exciting developments of the recent historiography is that the old and new intersections and linkages are being recorded in publications that are widely circulated.

It is helpful that a brief survey is done of some of the recent explorations of these concepts to provide a backdrop to this volume. With respect to race, ethnicity, and nationalism, such works as Finding Myself: Essays on race, politics and culture by Clem Seecharan and Race, ethnicity and nationalism in the Trinidad and Tobago calypso 1970–1998 by Louis Regis reflect the ways persons were transformed by ethnic descent and nationalist sentiment.2 Culture and ethnicity have also been prominent factors within current research; and seminal studies such as Mobilizing India: Women, Music and Migration between India and Trinidad by Tejaswini Niranjana and Coloring the Nation: race and ethnicity in the Dominican Republic by David Howard reinforce the fact that ethnic considerations are also part of the Caribbean’s fabric.3 Sport as one of the ground-breaking areas of social and historical research echoes the influence of race and nationalism. This is particularly noticeable in publications such as Cricket and Indian Identity in Colonial Guyana 1890s–1960s by Clem Seecharan and Cricket without a cause: fall and rise of the mighty West Indian test cricketers by Hilary Beckles, which is a welcome addition to the historiography on sport, ethnicity and nationalism.4 Both Seecharan and Beckles focus on the colonial era when the sport of cricket was used as an avenue by those who played for the West Indies cricket team to prove their competence and abilities to the former colonial ruler—Britain. The issue of migration is explored in Margaret Byron and Stéphanie Condon’s Migration in Comparative Perspective Caribbean Communities in Britain and France who look at strategies Caribbean migrants in Europe use to access residential housing or transform their Caribbean identity to assimilate.5 Gender dynamics has gained critical importance, and such works as Global Displacements: The Making of Uneven Development in the Caribbean by Marion Werner which focuses on the role of women in Haiti and the Dominican Republic that have disadvantaged them in the global marketplace are noteworthy.6 Engendering ←xii | xiii→History: Caribbean Women in Historical Perspective edited by Verene Shepherd, Bridget Brereton, and Barbara Bailey is one of the more prominent works emerging from historical academia that positioned the theoretical discussion of women in history at the forefront.7

There have been recent studies exploring the manner in which Caribbean and Central American leaders changed the political terrain and influenced the social structure. These include Selwyn Ryan’s Eric Williams: The Myth and the Man and Anton Allahar’s edited work, Caribbean Charisma: Reflections on Leadership, Legitimacy and Populist Politics.8 The latter carefully delineates the manner in which aspiring and opportunistic political leaders (such as Forbes Burnham of Guyana and Fidel Castro of Cuba) in the post-World War II era used various means to appeal to prevailing nationalist sentiment.

Some recent works dealing with literature in the Caribbean use an interdisciplinary perspective to explore and appreciate the Caribbean experience. In Hispanic Caribbean Literature of Migration Narratives of Displacement edited by Vanessa Pérez Rosario, the exploration of migration shaping the experience of Hispanic writers in the United states provides a fascinating insight into the discourse of exile and identity.9 Leah Reade Rosenberg, in Nationalism and the Formation of Caribbean Literature, examines the emergence of literary nationalism between the late nineteenth century and the World War II, critically examining the effects of economic difficulties and the rise of United States’ imperial ambitions in the region.10 In a similar vein, Twentieth-Century Caribbean Literature: Critical Moments in Anglophone Literary History by Alison Donnell also explores critical moments in Caribbean history which is divided into four categories: anti-colonialism, nationalism, migration and diaspora.11 With respect to music, in Cut ‘N’ Mix Culture, Identity and Caribbean Music by Dick Hebdige, he explores the different musical styles emerging from the English-speaking Caribbean.12 In Caribbean Currents Caribbean Music from Rumba to Reggae, Peter Manuel and Michael Largey follows essentially the same pattern of analysing the overall development of Caribbean music.13 Given this backdrop of the exploration, this fascinating mix of concepts in social and historical narratives has become significant in understanding how the Caribbean has been shaped and structured.

The aforementioned works explore some of the topics of this volume, and this work seeks to add to the current discourse. Three intertwining themes, migration and identity, policy and development, music and literature, reflect a mix of old and new areas of exploration. Each of the contributions within each theme presents an interesting perspective on Caribbean issues. These themes were chosen to move away from the traditional and wider study of social, economic and political issues. As the old story goes, when European explorers ←xiii | xiv→arrived in the Caribbean, it was thought that they had arrived in India, and hence the penchant for calling this part of the world the “Indies”. The British called their collection of holdings in the Caribbean the West Indies and the denizens referred to as West Indians. Therefore, in a number of contributions, the use of West Indian to refer to the English-speaking Caribbean is used. The English-speaking Caribbean is also part of the Commonwealth of Nations, which includes the Commonwealth Caribbean and use of this term is made in the volume.14

It is meaningful that the volume explores migration and identity; two areas that have had a profound impact on the Caribbean. Traditionally, authors have examined forced and voluntary migration to the Caribbean. Prior to European contact, the first peoples to settle the Caribbean migrated from mainland North, Central and South America: the Taíno, the Island Caribs of the Lesser Antilles, and the Guanahatabey. European settlement in the Caribbean largely displaced the indigenous inhabitants, carving spaces for settlement for Spanish, English, French and Dutch occupation. Colonial control by European interlopers meant control of the indigenous peoples who were unable to withstand the encroachment and the transformation of their society to economic assets. Consequently, the introduction of enslaved peoples from Africa and indentured peoples of India added to the existing milieu. With the ending of enslavement in the nineteenth century, the demographics of the Caribbean was primarily established. By the twentieth century, the opportunities for persons not of European ancestry to migrate outside of the Caribbean opened as economic and social conditions changed. Therefore, the post-World War II period saw a wave of migration from the Caribbean. In this theme, there is the exploration of migration of Caribbean peoples to the United Kingdom and the United States and the experience of settling into their new societies.

Peter Timothy discusses migration from Trinidad and Tobago to England, and the contribution of migrants towards British society. He argues that after the devastation of World War II, Britain was desperate for workers to replenish its labour force. In 1948, the government passed the British Nationality Act, which ushered in a recruitment drive in the colonies. In June 1948 the Empire Windrush arrived in Tilbury that initiated a Caribbean migration grew as more persons migrated. He focuses on developments and contributions of migrants in the cultural, social and ideological sphere that complemented British society. His analysis reveals that assimilation into British society was challenging but culturally enduring for most migrants.

Since the end of the World War II, the United States is arguably the first option that migrating Caribbean peoples chose to settle. With ease of access ←xiv | xv→from the Caribbean to the Eastern seaboard of the United States, it is not uncommon to find Caribbean communities in cities such as Miami, New York and Boston. The additional attraction of the United States as a “society of immigrants” meant that for Caribbean peoples, adapting to American norms and values is supposedly less challenging than the experience elsewhere. This has created a large Caribbean expatriate community in the United States which is an important source of economic support by way of remittances for families back home.

Ronald C. Noel examines the conditions which caused some women in the Caribbean to migrate to the United States to cope with hardship in their respective homelands during the period 1960 to the 1990s. His focus is on women who migrated in search of a better life while leaving their families behind. The narrative shows that their experiences were mixed. For instance, some women established successful businesses in the northeastern United States but when the economy of the region changed, some became caregivers. They faced socio-cultural challenges from white bosses while performing domestic tasks as caregivers to children. Significantly, the choice to migrate came with risk to their families back home who were dependant on remittances and the potential destruction should problems arise.

While migrants would certainly have had to deal with issues of identity as they settled into their new society, the challenges in the Caribbean with respect to race, colour and culture were different. One of the legacies of colonial rule is the creation of a social hierarchy based on these precepts. Race and colour meant that the status of a person depended upon European ancestry and skin complexion. As a result, the upper echelons of the society were occupied by persons who had European ancestry and formed the ruling elite. Therefore, some persons who did not have European ancestry found a space within the hierarchy that allowed for mobility and socio-economic improvement. However, many non-whites developed avenues to develop an identity apart from the identity established by the ruling elite. Post-colonial discourse challenged the influence ideas of race and colour had, especially in relation to institutional discrimination of persons of non-European ancestry.

One way of understanding the response to the issues of race and colour in the English-speaking Caribbean is through the sport of cricket. The sport occupies a significant place in the Anglophone Caribbean embodying regional unity and rousing regional and national identity. James Cantres argues that in the post-independent Caribbean, as former British-controlled territories continued to supply players to a collective international Test Cricket team under the banner of “West Indies,” the territories maintained their colonial era team structure even after achieving sovereignty. Their post-colonial ←xv | xvi→successes contributed to a new racialized national and regional image formulated specifically against Britain as the mother country and by reproducing poignant iconography of their swaggering sporting prowess. Through their attitudes, public personas, and cricketing mastery, the West Indies cricketers resisted the continuation of Britain’s long history in the region and subverted dominant narratives of their post-colonial circumstances. The emergence of West Indies cricket and the skill and technique of black and brown cricketers were inherently anti-racist. West Indian sporting successes coincided with an era of invigorated nationalism and movement away from the colonial centre. Cantres further argues that there is a connection between race-forward politics of the radical post-colonial and the reproduction of images and articulations of black and brown successes on the cricket pitch. He assesses the complex relationship between political and public social formations through an investigation of the peculiar status of racialized representatives of independent nations competing collectively—the post-national West Indies.

From cricket, the focus shifts to the area of religion by surveying the management and administration of one of the Christian denominational bodies, the Pentecostals, in Trinidad and Tobago. For the most part, higher administration of religious institutions in the Caribbean had been the work of European-descended expatriates. The denominational sects that developed among the African-descended population in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries managed to attain some form of autonomy away from European control. Most syncretized African and European forms of religious doctrine and rituals are oftentimes at the fringes or against the legal framework of colonial society. By the mid-twentieth century, as nationalistic forces began to have a visible presence, activists, thinkers, and leaders advocated for control of the social, political and economic institutions.


XXIV, 228
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2020 (March)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2020. XXIV, 228 pp., 1 table

Biographical notes

Jerome Teelucksingh (Volume editor) Shane Pantin (Volume editor)

Jerome Teelucksingh is Lecturer in the Department of History at The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus, Trinidad. He has presented papers at academic conferences, published book chapters and refereed journal articles on migration, Indians in Trinidad, trade unions and migration. Shane Pantin is an attorney-at-law and graduate of the Department of History and Faculty of Law at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus, Trinidad. His areas of interest include Caribbean history, legal history and international law.


Title: Regional Discourses on Society and History
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254 pages