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The Caribbean Islands Essay

1205 words - 5 pages

"The Caribbean"

The Caribbean, a region usually exoticized and depicted as tropical and similar in its environmental ways, cannot be characterized as homogenous. Each individual island has their own diverse historical background when it comes to how and when they became colonized, which European country had the strongest influence on them, and the unique individual cultures that were integrated into one. The three authors Sidney W. Mintz, Antonio Benitez-Rojo, and Michelle Cliff, all and address the problem of the Caribbean’s identity. They each discuss how the Caribbean’s diverse culture was created and molded by each individual island’s history, how its society was molded by the development of plantations, how the Caribbean dealt with the issue of slavery, and how miscegenation and the integration of cultures, as a result of slavery, contributed to the region’s individualism in regards to culture. Colonialism and acculturation and their impacts on the Caribbean islands were also important issues discussed by Mintz, Benitez-Rojo, and Cliff.

Although Mintz, Benitez-Rojo, and Cliff have the same intention in analyzing the Caribbean, they all use different approaches. Mintz, a social scientist, uses the social approach to describing the region, while Benitez-Rojo, a literary analyst, uses the humanistic approach as he implements the "Chaos Theory" in his breakdown of the Caribbean’s history, and Cliff uses a more personal approach.

In The Caribbean as a Socio-cultural Area, Sidney W. Mintz emphasizes how it is inaccurate to describe the Caribbean as a "cultural" area due to its complicated history. Their culture can not be characterized as "unified" or "Pan-Caribbean." He states that "if by culture is meant a common body of historical tradition" the Caribbean can not be referred to as "cultural." He suggests that a suitable term that satisfies more of the qualities that define the region is as a "societal area." Mintz goes on to say that "the very diverse origins of Caribbean populations; the complicated history of European cultural impositions; and the absence in most such societies of any firm continuity of the culture of the colonial power have resulted in a very heterogeneous cultural pictures"(Mintz 19).

make it very difficult to characterize the Caribbean as a "cultural" area. Benitez-Rojo agrees with this idea, also rejecting the idea that the Caribbean is a "cultural" area. According to Mintz, the Caribbean is similar in social-structural features rather than cultural ones. In his analysis of the Caribbean, he organizes the commonalties of the region using nine distinct features, which bind the islands of the Caribbean into a major societal area, regardless of their differences. Mintz also emphasizes how the Caribbean "should be viewed in terms of a multidimensional continuum, rather than in terms of some single abstract model"(Mintz 21). Mintz also expresses how the islands of the Caribbean lack unity and a sense of national...

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