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Characteristics of Caribbean Society and Culture


Cultural diversity results mainly from historical factors. The plantation system caused the influx of Europeans, Africans, East Indians and Chinese. – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Characteristics of Caribbean Society and Culture

Characteristics of Caribbean Society and Culture
(No Transcript)
Cultural Diversity
  • Cultural Diversity
  • The term refers to different ethnic traditions
    based on race, language, religion, customs and
    family practices found in one society or region
    (Mohammed 2007).
  • The vast differences in the characteristics and
    attributes of social groups in the Caribbean stem
    from the traditions and activities of the
    different European powers that colonized the

  • Cultural diversity results mainly from historical
  • The plantation system caused the influx of
  • Africans, East Indians and Chinese. Each group
  • its cultural traits and values to the region.
  • Periods of Arrival Europeans 1492 1600
  • (Spaniards, French, British, Dutch, Germans)
  • Africans 1517 1807, the Slave Trade
  • Indentured labourers 1834 1917 Europeans,
  • Portuguese (Madeirans) and Maltese, Free
  • Africans, Chinese, East Indians

Cultural Diversity (contd)
  • Main factors that influence cultural diversity
  • Geography
  • History
  • Language
  • Festivals
  • Race and ethnicity
  • Religions
  • Food and culinary traditions
  • Political systems

Crop Over In Barbados
Antigua Carnival
Divali Hindu Festival of Lights
  • Music forms
  • Calypso all islands
  • Reggae Jamaica
  • Punta rock Belize
  • Zouk Martinique, Dominica
  • Salsa Cuba
  • Merinque Haiti
  • The steelpan the only musical instrument
  • created in the Caribbean

  • The political systems of the Caribbean vary from
    independent countries to colonies. All Caribbean
    countries are stable democracies that observe the
    rule of law and governments are changed through
    the electoral process.
  • However, colonial relationships persist many
    independent countries retain Queen Elizabeth as
    Head of State. Britain, France, the Netherlands
    and the United States control the external
    affairs of some countries e.g. Montserrat,
    Guadeloupe, St.Maarten, US Virgin Islands,
  • Puerto Rico is an Associated State of the United

Cultural Diversity (contd)
  • Positive Effects of Cultural Diversity
  • It encourages cultural retention
  • It facilitates adapting to and accommodating
    cultural differences. Living in such societies
    enables one to reflect on the values and customs
    of others. One can learn to appreciate other
  • Members enjoy a variety of foods, festivals and
    celebrations, etc.
  • It enables the development of craft, agricultural
    industries as well as, the creation of different
    forms of music, art, literature, etc, which speak
    to the experiences of more than one ethnic group.
  • Cultural variations attract tourists

  • Negative Effects of Cultural diversity
  • It may foment discontent in society. This may
    arise from feelings of ethnic superiority aided
    by perceptions that one group is getting more out
    of the national pie than ones own group.
  • Certain groups (minorities) may experience
    discrimination and exploitation which may lead to
    social unrest.
  • The offspring of mixed unions can experience an
    identity crisis.
  • Ethnic politics develops, with political parties
    support divided along racial lines.
  • Ethnic prejudices are preserved through
    socialization and this is further reinforced in
    interaction with friends and relatives.

  • Hybridization refers to processes of cultural and
    ethnic mixing to produce a new entity with
    elements of each of the parent influences
    (Mohammed, 2007).
  • Key terms
  • Trans-culturation is the process whereby two
    cultures meet and mix and something with new
    elements and forms emerge.
  • Acculturation is the process whereby one culture
    is absorbed into another.
  • Creolization is the meeting and mixing of
    cultures to produce something new out of the
    fusion. This term tends to be specifically used
    to refer to Caribbean processes of mixing.
  • Inter-culturation refers to the cultural mixing
    that occurs in a plural society where elements of
    the ethnic groups cultures may be incorporated
    into each others way of life though there may be
    limited interaction between the groups.

Racial and Ethnic hybridization
  • During the period of conquest and slavery new
    groups of people were
  • created from the sexual unions between Europeans,
    Amerindians and
  • Africans. Miscegenation was the term used
    describe such unions.
  • Persons were assigned to social positions of
    power and status
  • according to the colour of their skin. Persons
    of mixed race formed
  • another ethnic group within the society
  • Mestizos offspring of Amerindians and Europeans
  • Mulattoes - offspring of Africans and Europeans
  • Sambo offspring of mulattoes and Africans
  • Quadroon offspring of mulattoes and whites
  • Octoroon offspring of quadroon and whites
  • Dougla offspring of East Indians and Africans
    Trini-dougla are
  • offspring of Chineses, Africans and E. Indians
    born in Trinidad.
  • Coloured is the more general term since all
    mixtures do not carry
  • specific names.

  • A pigmentocracy evolved and it became the norm to
    describe someone using their colour as a major
    descriptor. Persons of fairer complexion had more
    power and prestige in society than others.
  • Some countries have more coloureds than others
    (Trinidad, St. Lucia, the French Caribbean). Some
    countries have two major races, black and white
    producing their coloured populations (Antigua,
    Barbados, Jamaica) others have many groups
    (Africans, Europeans, Amerindians, Chinese, East
    Indians) such that here are many varieties and

Cultural Hybridization
  • Syncretism refers to the mixing of cultural
    practices from different ethnic groups to create
    a different entity that fused aspects of the
    original practices e.g. religion, language,
    culinary arts, etc.
  • Religion
  • Shango, Voodoo, Kumina, Myal, Rastafarianism are
    some syncretic religions
  • with Christian traditions and a heavy African
    input. Christian elements
  • recognition of the Holy Spirit, use of the Bible,
    communion ceremony, feast
  • days of saints.
  • African elements - use of drums and other
    percussion instruments in
  • worship, dancing in worship, spirit possession
    and falling into trance-like
  • states, wearing of head-ties by female members.
  • Language
  • Caribbean languages are based on the master
    languages of Europe. They are
  • referred to as creole languages because aspects
    of the master languages were
  • incorporated into language forms that emerged
    from experiences during
  • slavery and colonialism. There are in the
    English- speaking Caribbean
  • English-based patios and French-based patois.
    However, there are
  • similarities and variations in each type as
    spoken between countries.

Culinary Arts/Food Roots
  • Caribbean culinary arts/food roots reflects its
    hybridized culture.
  • Amerindian Heritage
  • Jamaicas bammy and Antiguas bamboola are based
    on the Amerindians use of cassava The Caribs made
    pepperpot which is still cooked in Guyana and
    some of the islands.
  • The Caribss custom of cooking over an open fire
    has led to the word barbeque. Another Amerindian
    method of cooking, i.e. baking meat or fish in a
    charcoal pit , was combined with the barbeque to
    give rise to jerking in Jamaica.
  • Other contributions the use of dried coconut
    and corn (grated, boiled, roasted), our love of
    coconut water spices such as hot pepper, sweet
    basil, allspice (pimento in Jamaica).

  • Spanish Heritage
  • The Spanish contributed hot chocolate, avocado,
    marinated or
  • escoveitched fish, gizzada (coconut tart) and
    their custom of
  • soaking fruits in wine.
  • British Heritage
  • The use of diary products, Christmas pudding,
    fruit salads and
  • Sweet bread (bun) are part of the British
  • The British soldiers and sailors brought
    breadfruit, blood
  • Pudding (black or rice pudding) or white pudding
    from which
  • blood is left out and souse.

  • African Heritage
  • Though planters imported food from Africa to feed
    their slaves, the
  • slaves themselves brought many of their foods to
    include, okra,
  • callaloo (spinach), taro (eddo or coco), their
    one-pot method of
  • preparing most dishes and traditional cooking
    utensils including the
  • three-legged iron pot, grater and mortar and
  • Seasonings such as sive, or chives, escallion,
    ginger, nutmeg,
  • pimento, and hot pepper, also came from Africa.
  • Dishes such as, akkra (seasoned black eye peas,
    pounded and fried),
  • foo-foo (pounded starchy root or fruit), funchi
    (fungee) and duckunoo
  • (a), (blue drawers in Jamaica, paimee in St.
    Lucia, konkie in Barbados,
  • St. Kitts and the Virgin Islands), ackee, parched
    dried corn beaten fine
  • in a mortar and mixed with sugar, known as asham
    or Brown George
  • in Jamaica, ashum in Antigua.
  • Bush teas and the use of bush as remedy for
    ailments and diseases.

(No Transcript)
Photos Above
  • Top Jamaicas National Dish - Ackee and Saltfish
  • Left Antiguas National Dish Fungee and
  • Right A popular Antiguan Dish Ducuna and

  • East Indian and Chinese Heritage
  • The East Indians contributed curry, rice, roti,
    dahl and pelau.
  • The Chinese also brought heavily spiced food
    distinguished by being
  • salty, sweet, sour, gingered and hot. They
    introduced lettuce, cabbage,
  • cucumber and green beans. Foods were mainly
    quick fried, deep
  • fried or steamed. Roast suckling pig, braised
    chicken feet and
  • vegetarian foods made mainly of bean products are
    all part of the
  • Chinese heritage.
  • Emphasis on vegetable cookery was strengthened by
    the East Indians and
  • Chinese.

Culinary Arts/Food Roots
  • Jewish and Americans Heritage
  • The Jews
  • Potato pancakes and cheese cake as well as the
    heavy use of salt and
  • garlic are Jewish contributions.
  • The Americans
  • The N. American influences are reflected in
    various items of pastry
  • and gourmet dishes. Fast foods (hamburger, hot
    dog etc.) have
  • become staples in Caribbean cuisine.

African Retentions
  • Oral traditions
  • Savings organization (box, susu, partner hand,
    meeting turn)
  • Game warri

  • One of the clearest link the Caribbean has to
  • Africa is in its oral tradition. The role of the
  • Griot/Jellis who passed down stories and
  • accounts of events of one generation to another
  • survived slavery and the plantation system. This
  • tradition is kept alive in
  • Music calypso, reggae and dancehall
  • Storytelling
  • Folktales
  • Similes and proverbs

  • The box is a form of a cooperative pooling of
    earnings so
  • that each member may benefit by obtaining in turn
    and at
  • one time all the money paid in by the entire
    group on a
  • given time (day, week, month).
  • In Africa the box is most commonly called esusu.
    It is
  • called nanamei akpee (mutual help) in Ghana
  • mahodisana or stokfel (pays back to each other)
    in South
  • Africa sanduk (putting down) in Sudan. In China
    the box
  • is called hui.

  • Warri which means house is of the mancala
  • game family and was brought to Antigua from
  • Ghana with the slaves. The game is played with a
  • board into which hollows are carved. The counters
  • are seeds called nickars.
  • Playing warri is said to develop planning,
  • and mathematical skills as well as foster
  • Antiguan proverb If you play warri with God you
  • go get no seed.
  • Antiguan Movie No Seed

(No Transcript)
The Processes of Hybridization
  • Cultural erasure this refers to practices that
    have died out or are dying out (Mohammed, 2007).
  • Reasons for cultural erasure include
    modernization and progress. Modernization refers
    to the adaptation in the present time to
    conditions and needs, while progress refers to
    the advance of something better or higher in
    development. Cultural erasure stems from a
    tension between the traditional ways of doing
    things and the seeming benefits of doing things
    the modern way. Modern ways are seen to be cost
    effective and efficient.
  • Examples of lost cultural traditions
    story-telling, wake, sing-round, singing meetings
    and courtship traditions (in Antigua).
  • Manifestation of Modernization and Progress use
    of refrigeration for food preservation, use of
    over the counter medicines, change in speech
    patterns (Americanization), communication
  • Implications of modernization for society and
    culture increase in lifestyle diseases,
    increased cost of health care, loss of cultural
    identity as result of the adoption of foreign
    cultural practices, e.g. Halloween, Kwanzaa,
    Thanksgiving, etc.
  • Question. Can a culture be erased?

Processes of Hybridization (contd)
  • Cultural retention refers to practices that have
    survived even when most other forms and symbols
    of a culture are no longer evident (Mohammed,
  • Purposes of cultural retention to bond society,
    revitalise cultural norms and values, reinforce a
    sense of identity.
  • Manifestations of cultural retention Carib
    basketry designs and technologies, Garifuna
    culture in Belize.
  • Traditions that have survived include box (susu,
    partner hand, meeting turn) family land.
  • Cultural renewal refers to conscious efforts by a
    group to return to some elements of its culture
    which it believes have been ignored or suppressed
    (Mohammed, 2007) . Cultural renewal is likely to
    result from historical forces of change. Examples
    of such forces were Garveyism 1930s, and the
    Black Power movement 1970s.