Caribbean Cunning under the French Flag
Publication Year: 2004
Published by: University of Texas Press
Title Page, Copyright Page
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My interest in Martinique began halfway around the world in the South Pacific, where indigenous Tahitian cultures had been colonized by the French. Following five months of graduate work in Tubuai, a tiny island on the Tropic of Capricorn in French Polynesia,
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Long-term fieldwork in another society can demand a disorienting combination of skills—modesty but confidence, patience but initiative, conformity but an adventurous spirit. Because the work requires intimate engagement with the real lives and everyday dramas of strangers, the dizzying amount of information and the sometimes confusing instincts for how to manage life lead naturally to seeking help.
Part One: Groundings
Chapter 1: Elements
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My visits to Barbados, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and a number of other non-French islands in the Caribbean did not prepare me for the visual or cultural environment of Martinique. One arrives at the island’s magnificent airport, an overbuilt but proud testament to Martinique’s membership in the First World. But Martinique’s shiny, spacious airport is just the first indication of the island’s place under...
Chapter 2: Social Histories: The Weight of France in Martinique
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Five giant grocery stores, known as les hypermarch
Part Two: Frameworks
Chapter 3: Cultural Economies: Relating Social Values to Economic Theory in Martinique
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My first day in Martinique, a charming young man helped me navigate the French public phones. I laughed at my ignorance, he laughed at my laughing, and before I knew it, we were off on an unexpected journey that involved the next several hours. The story of my encounter with Patrick is relevant for understanding the cultural dimension of Martinique’s informal economy.
Chapter 4: Afro-Caribbean Identities: Postcolonial Tensions and Martinique’s Creole Débrouillard [Includes Image Plates]
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There is more to the story of Patrick and it relates to the ideas in this chapter. We had made the hour drive north of Fort-de-France in order to have lunch with his mother. The swimsuit interlude was entertaining and, it turned out, a window into the social world of men in Martinique. The next many hours had less to...
Part Three: Practices
Chapter 5: Adaptations of Cunning: The Changing Forms of D
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The original wound of slavery conditions both the fact of creole-style d
Chapter 6: Opportunism by Class: The Profit and Status of Undeclared Work
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The practice of creole economics occurs in an animated landscape of meaning and activity, a landscape that has been shaped organically by the past. Without this understanding of context, the informal economy in Martinique could easily be misunderstood as a simple reaction to the high costs of doing business in France legally. And while these costs certainly do account for the widespread scale...
Chapter 7: Women, Men, and Economic Practice: Different Routes to Autonomy and Status
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Relations between Afro-Caribbean women and men in Martinique (and in the Caribbean generally) are notoriously complicated and have been since life on the plantation. Many women today complain regularly about men—about their laziness, their lack of responsibility, their infidelity, and their continuing assumption of authority over women.
Epilogue: Imagining the Future of Creole Economics
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Everything that weighs on the contemporary moment of widespread, cross-class earning off the books suggests this phenomenon cannot be reduced to economics alone. The Patricks, Michels, Edouards, and the occasional Charlottes who earn undeclared income are also intent on asserting their autonomy and cleverness as they stiff the French state. Their schemes and their pride tell the more...
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Page Count: 291
Illustrations: 19 halftones, 24 line drawings, 3 figures, 1 map
Publication Year: 2004