Unit 3: Caribbean cultural expressions/ identity The term culture has been defined in many ways. It is often used by social scientists to include all areas of life and therefore every human society has a culture. Culture includes a society’s arts, beliefs, customs, institutions, inventions, language, technology and values. Culture produces similar behaviour and thoughts among most people in a particular society. People are not born with any knowledge of a culture; they generally learn a culture by being in a particular society.
Language is the main tool in this learning process. They also learn through watching and imitating various behaviours in the society. The process by which people learn their society’s culture is called socialisation/enculturation. Through enculturation, a culture is shaped with members of a society and passes from one generation to the next. Characteristics: ? A culture satisfies human needs in a particular way ? A culture is acquired through learning ? A culture is based on the use of symbols ? A culture consist of individual traits called patterns
All cultures serve to meet the basic needs shared by human beings, for example, every culture has methods of obtaining food and shelter. Every culture also has family relations, economic and governmental structures, religious systems and forms of artistic expressions. Culture is acquired through learning and not through biology. Cultural learning is based on the ability to use symbols. A symbol is something that stands for something else. The most important type is the works of a language. All societies use symbols to create and maintain culture.
Cultures are made up of individual elements called cultural traits. A group of related traits or elements is a cultural pattern. Culture and society A multi cultural society supports the view that many distinct cultures are good and desirable and so they encourage such diversity. Multi culturalism succeeds best in a society that has many different ethnic groups and a political system that promotes freedom of expression and awareness and understanding of cultural differences. The multi racial component of the Caribbean is considered a component of its culture. Values
A value is a belief that something is good or desirable. It defines what is important and worthwhile or worth striving for. Our cultural value has to do with how we rank the importance of these qualities within our culture. In western societies individual achievement and materialism are major aspects of our values. Norms and values are important as they promote an ordered and stable society Cultural erasure Loss of culture occur as a result of tension or conflict between traditional ways of doing things or modern or progressive ways. The traditional way when compared to the modern way seems time consuming.
Erasure also occurs because cultural values are not being taught to younger generation and as older folk die so do the practices. Cultural diffusion or dissemination of another culture can also wipe out a more primitive culture (contact of Europeans with indigenous population in the region: enslavement of Africans by European) Catastrophic events can also wipe out a culture (wars, earthquake, volcanic eruption, etcetera). Cultural Renewal Efforts to salvage parts of our past by fashioning new practices based on the old one is referred to as cultural renewal.
This stems from the feeling that there is much value to be learnt from some of the practices we have ignored and or allowed to be almost wiped out. People are making more effort to preserve cultural heritage while others are becoming more aware of their cultural legacy. To others it is a response to an identity crisis of who we are. Cultural retention In an effort to keep traditional practices alive, there has been much cultural retention. This may be as a result of deliberate desire to do so as well as need by some minority group to keep their sense of identity.
Small groups may feel alienated within a large community and so they deliberately work on preserving their traditions. Some governments in ethnically diverse countries also try to give each group national prominence to their traditional folkways For others retention of the traditional practices is for economic rather than cultural gains (tourism package). Retention has occurred in many cases because of the relevance to the existence of society. In other words no other way has been discovered to replace the existing one. Ethnocentrism and cultural relativism.
Read also Ethnocentrism is at ETH125 Final Exam
Ethnocentrism is the belief that one culture is superior to another and is used as a standard to judge other cultures Cultural relativism is the belief that no culture is superior to the other, that is, no standard of a culture can be used to judge another. It is important to note that an extreme view of either view can be dangerous to a society. Culture is not static; it changes with time and events although all parts of it may not change at the same time, for example, science and technology nay change so rapidly that it lessens the importance of customs, ideas and other non- material culture.
The failure of certain parts of a culture to keep up is known as a cultural lag. A number of factors may cause a culture to change. The two main one are: ? Contact with other cultures ? Invention No society is isolated that it does not come in contact with other societies. When contact occurs societies borrow cultural traits from one another. As a result cultural traits and patterns tend to spread from the society in which they were originated. This spreading process is called diffusion. Today diffusion is rapid and widespread because many cultures of the world are linked through advance means of transportation and communication.
When two cultures have continuous first hand contact with each other the exchange of cultural traits is called acculturation. Acculturation has often occurred where one culture had colonized and conquered another or as a result of trade. Diverse cultural contributions of the peoples of the Caribbean Caribbean culture is a diverse and complex blend of many original cultures from all parts of the globe The Caribbean people have struggled and strive to maintain ties with their ancestral links by creating something entirely new and different.
A moulding of African and European influences, Asian, and middle Eastern components of the new form which cannot themselves be traced to any other regions than that of the Caribbean. This is due to the shared historical experiences, for example, slavery, indentureship and the struggle for independence. The multiracial character of the Caribbean is a basic component of its culture, for example, Chinese, African, Indians, etcetera, can be found all across the Caribbean territory While there is assimilation in the Caribbean, there are similarities as there re differences, for example, Jamaica is the only territory in the Greater Antilles that has British colonization, and similar to Haiti, a predominantly black population in excess of 90%, Cuba, Dominica Republic and Puerto Rico were Spanish colonies. Spanish is their native language and they have a more balance racial mix between blacks and European descendants. All these territories have dialect due to racial mixes and a need to communicate. Within the British colonies, the main distinction reflects differences of racial population, ratios and composition, Protestants or Catholic affiliation, insularity (narrow-mindedness) or its opposite.
Together with the Caribbean colonies of other nations, these British territories share a multiracial composition. On the main land territory for instance Guyana there is a strong East Indian population. The Chinese are particularly noted in the countries that they went for their industriousness in establishing small grocery stores and supermarkets after their period of indentureship. Music and cultural expressions continue to be very popular in the Caribbean, from folk music, hymns, reggae and calypso to soul and salsa. The Caribbean is not homogenous; it is a multi or diverse culture based on ethnic origin and Caribbean historical process.
Common to all Caribbean territories has been the defects with the media and trade links with other countries particularly the U. S. Further the Caribbean has a fairly buoyant tourist trade which has further impacted the way of life of the people of the region, for example, dress, language, business culture, music, religion, media technology and even politics. The legacy of the historical process that the region has undergone is more pronounced in those regions where there has been slow economic growth in recent years, for example of this situation can be found in Jamaica, Haiti and Guyana.
All of these regions have a heavy dependency on agriculture and reflect a degree of individualization and sharp social stratification based on education, colour and wealth The politics of the region display a high degree of political party support. They show a readiness to fight for the scare resources that the state has to offer. Poor economic performance leads to increased poverty and social discontent. The region primarily displays an extended family culture, promiscuous lifestyle of men, high teenage pregnancy and consensual union (common law)
The region also continues to have the view that light skin people are more beautiful than afro Caribbean people. One of the emerging realities of the Caribbean commonality is that young people are slowly losing their sense of nationality and regionality Sports: cricket Capture[s] and reflect[s] some of the most fundamental values in West Indian society and, in the process, has been transformed into a mechanism for resistance against oppression. Consequently, it satisfies a number of needs and is able to transcend the many fissures that characterise this group of islands. Cricket] fundamentally changed the nature of Afro-West Indian ethnic identity where a positive self-image emerged. Origins: • brought to Caribbean by British military officers • picked up by slaves (possibly to satirise British masters) • from 1900, blacks became more dominant numerically and in terms of skill • fundamental values: resistance, play, competition • adoption of cricket: combination of imposition from above and response from below in the context of colonialism • thus, part of the anti-colonial struggle • cricket intended to reinforce colour/class distinctions, subjugation BUT… used to oppose ideas, policies, actions of colonisers and weakened power of dominant elite • Originally only whites allowed playing, so… • …brown middle-class formed own clubs, some of which included black lower middle class players • blacks made their own equipment and played: coconut as ball, coconut tree branches as bats, coconut tree as wicket Decolonising time: - Reject the colonisers’ control over their time – Refusal to “play themselves in” – Move towards the ball, attack the bowling – Take advantage of loose balls Reflects class/racial/colour conflict: • Test match vs India 1976 During period of particular Indian-Black conflict – Resentment of black Trinidadians against the Indian-Trinidadian Umpire – Indo-Trinidadian fans supported India • Divisions sometimes reflected through seating arrangements in stadium Contribution to national identity: – Social cohesion: deemphasises race/class divisions – Racial/national pride: • “blackwash” • James: forced cricket to carry the weight of their social desires and to speak their language (emergent anti-colonialism, nationalist affirmation, International presence) Contribution to regional identity: – encourages regional cohesion Links with/attention to players of different Caribbean countries – Learning about/interaction with other Caribbean people Caribbean Cultural Forms Caribbean Music • History – African elements – European elements – Other elements • Caribbean transnational – immigrants in Europe and North America – popularity and influence – New forms of media and ICT Diversity and Similarities • Diversity – Different backgrounds islands – Different combinations of influences – Different languages • Similarities – Form – Function Forms • African elements – Collective participation – Emphasis on rhythm – Polyrhythm Call and response • European elements – Instruments – Harmony Functions • Religion • Work • Celebration • Fight-dancing • Social control • Praises Resistance in the Caribbean • Slave revolts • Peasant rebellions • Independence movements • Revolution • Social movements Music, resistance and politics • Form: African heritage • Contents: social-political messages • Musicians as politicians Music: Form Outlawing of non-European elements: • Drums • Stick-fighting • Carnival • Language • Kassav’ Zouk-la se sel medikaman nou ni d Music: message • Resistance against the European colonial power Resistance against U. S. hegemonic power • Resistance against own government • Resistance against social problems Bibliography Center, D. L. (1997). introduction to sociology- Social Science Study Guide. UWIDEC. Haralambos, M. (1995). Sociology Themes and Perspective. London: Collins Educational. Mohammed, J. (2001). Readings in Caribbean Studies. kingston: Caribbean Examination Council. Palocio, j. (1995). Aboriginal peoples-their struggles with cultural identity in the CARICOM region. Bulletin of Eastern Caribbean Affairs. University of the West Indies, [lecture notes], Caribbean society.