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Martha Brae's Two Histories: European Expansion and Caribbean Culture-building in Jamaica [Paperback]

Sidney Wilfred Mintz , Jean Besson

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Book Description

31 Oct 2002
Based on historical research and more than 30 years of anthropological fieldwork, this wide-ranging study underlines the importance of Caribbean cultures for anthropology, which has generally marginalized Europe's oldest colonial sphere. Located at the gateway to the New World in the plantation heartlands of the Americas, the settlement of Martha Brae, Jamaica, has witnessed the unfolding of two distinct yet interrelated histories. Exploring the significance of Martha Brae as a European Caribbean slaving port in the 18th century, Jean Besson simultaneously uncovers the neglected tale of Martha Brae's gradual appropriation by ex-slaves and its transformation into an African-Caribbean free village, bringing the story right up to the beginning of the 21st century. Central to this transformation is the system of "family land", which interrelates with kinship, community, economy, cosmology, gender, oral tradition and state law. Besson shows that this customary land tenure is not a passive legacy for either Africa or Europe, as conventional theories contend, but a dynamic creole institution created by Caribbean people in response to European-American land monopoly and cultural dominance. This perspective advances debates on African-American cultural history and the anthropological study of culture.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press (31 Oct 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807854093
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807854099
  • Product Dimensions: 23.8 x 15.7 x 2.5 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,216,604 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"This book about Martha Brae is also a book about a world that Europe and Africa had made together--and not always unwillingly. Here we are afforded, by this daughter of two worlds, an inspiring and genuinely original vision of how the Jamaican people came into being and built their own society. (Sidney W. Mintz, from the Foreword)"

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In the last three decades of the twentieth century, an explicit agenda emerged among anthropologists and historians to rectify the neglect of subaltern social and cultural history. Read the first page
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