The root of Caribbean Society and Culture is on the plantation. Mustapha (2009) posits that “The plantation played the principal role in the development of Caribbean culture. ” Indeed there are remnants of Plantation Society in present Caribbean, especially if one examines our class system. According to www. capesociology. org (n. d) “Academics contend that the Upper class of the contemporary Caribbean tends to be whites.
These are either descendants of the old planter class aristocracy... The non-white populations continue to be situated at the lower end of the social strata. They constitute the public servants and unskilled workers in the society” However, assuming that the Caribbean is just a modern-day plantation society would run us into trouble, as that would be discounting all the nuances that go into making Caribbean society what it is. Indeed, the modern Caribbean cannot just be seen as black and white as social stratification would try to suggest, as sociologists such as M. G. Smith have suggested that the Caribbean be seen as a plural society.
Which is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “a society composed of different ethnic groups or cultural traditions or in the political structure of which ethnic or cultural differences are reflected” This suggests that although different ethnic groups live in the same geographical area, they stick to themselves, as is the case between the Blacks and East Indians of Trinidad and Guyana. Hintzen (1989), states that “Both groups became envious of each other’s successes.
In both countries there existed a high degree of racial exclusivity in residential concentration of the population in villages, communities, and in villages, communities, and in broader geographic areas. Another theory which has been attached to Caribbean society is Creolization which Brathwaite (1974) defines as “the process through which the various groups in the Caribbean society absorb each other’s cultural products. ” Mustapha (2009) further states that in Creolization “Relationships are based on a colour/class hierarchy”. Scholars view Creolization as the creation of a Eurocentric culture by the inhabitants of the region.
However arguments against Creolization are that it only considers the relationship between the Europeans and the Africans, and completely discounts other ethnic groups. In truth and in fact, there is no one set theory which can describe Caribbean Society and Culture as the region is an amalgamation of all three theories. Historically the Plantation System governed over our society and hence the society was stratified according to colour, with black slaves getting the short end of the proverbial “stick” both as a virtue of the fact that they were slaves, but also that as blacks they were seen as inferior.
Mulattoes fared slightly better, as some were freed by their planted parents, or at least made to do less menial tasks as house slaves. Indeed they were looked upon favourably by the slaves as they were treated well due to their light complexion. The whites were at the top of this society, and indeed could not be replaced as they, and they alone owned the means of production. The Plural Society of the Caribbean was a by-product of the Plantation System, as labourers from many geographical locations has to learn how to co-exist in the limited space afforded to them.
This coexisting has not always been peaceful, especially in territories such as Guyana which have a high percentage of Blacks and Indians. It has been said that “here periodic conflicts between the East Indian and Black populations reflect the most extreme cases of ethnic conflict” (Perry Mars, 1995) Creolization in itself cannot be seen to have too much of an effect on present-day Caribbean Society as it only focuses on the struggle between the blacks and whites, hence is limited in scope when relating to the topic.
Plantation Society, Plural Society and Creolization have all had a part to play in the formation of the Caribbean’s unique culture, as all three have contributed to our way of life. From Plantation Society we have received our type of government, and our various national and regional pastimes such as the Carnival of Trinidad which evolved from the practices of the French metropole, or Maypole practiced in the former British colonies.
Through Plural Society we have seen the transfer of cultures, hence we have seen ethnic groups sharing customs such as cooking practices, and all ethnic groups celebrating Christmas together no matter their religious background. We have also seen the appreciation develop of racial boundaries, with the accompanying racial tensions. And last, through Creolization, we have developed an appreciation of High Culture, and normally see these things as worthy to aspire to.
However, these cultural traits do have negative impacts, the greatest of which is lack of regard for cultural retentions. Through the formation of a “new” culture, we have forgotten or discarded many of the elements which had made the cultur what it is, and hence valuable cultural practices die. In conclusion, Race, Colour, and Ethnic Affiliation have all had a part to play in the formation of a unique dynamic Caribbean Society and Culture, and indeed will continue to play a part as long as the Caribbean as a region exists.