Family Love in the Diaspora
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Family Love in the Diaspora : Migration and the Anglo-Caribbean Experience

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Colonial social policy in the British West Indies from the nineteenth century onward assumed that black families lacked morals, structure, and men, a void that explained poverty and lack of citizenship. African-Caribbean families appeared as the mirror opposite of the "ideal" family advocated by the white, colonial authorities. Yet contrary to this image, what provided continuity in the period and contributed to survival was in fact the strength of family connections, their inclusivity and support. This study is based on 150 life story narratives across three generations of forty-five families who originated in the former British West Indies. The author focuses on the particular axes of Caribbean peoples from the former British colonies of Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados, and Great Britain. Divided into four parts, the chapters within each present an oral history of migrant African-Caribbean families, demonstrating the varieties, organization, and dynamics of family through their memories and narratives. It traces the evolution of Caribbean life; argues how the family can be seen as the tool that helps transmit and transform historical mentalities; examines the dynamics of family life; and makes comparisons with Indo-Caribbean families. Above all, this is a story of families that evolved, against the odds of slavery and poverty, to form a distinct Creole form, through which much of the social history of the English-speaking Caribbean is refracted. "Family Love in the Diaspora" offers an important new perspective on African-Caribbean families, their history, and the problems they face, for now and the future. It offers a long overdue historical dimension to the debates on Caribbean families.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 260 pages
  • 160 x 233.7 x 27.9mm | 521.64g
  • Taylor & Francis Inc
  • Transaction Publishers
  • Somerset, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0765803070
  • 9780765803078

Review quote

-Family Love in the Diaspora is the best book yet written on African Caribbean family structure, values, and culture. It is an absorbing, graciously written account that draws on both historical data referring to past forms of family behavior and on the dynamics of more recent family life as related in the oral narratives of three or more generations of family members living in the Caribbean and Britain. Not only do the oral narratives reflect the lively rhetorical genres of African Caribbeans, but they give voice to how they view their family and community, the meanings they ascribe to their practices, and how they connect this to their sense of personal and collective identity. Chamberlain stitches together this rich and varied data with a running analysis of what constitute the underlying principles, morality, and values of African Caribbean family culture. She underlines its continuity through time, across generations, class positioning, and transnational space. This unique resilience, in the face of the persistent negative views of African Caribbean family, is related to the emphasis on kin remaining emotionally close and connected even when spatially separated; to the ancestral lineal and horizontal lateral structure of kinship connections; and to the multiple forms of conjugal unions and living together which expand and adapt to changing conditions. All this makes possible an identity that is portable and secure.' Chamberlain enlarges her analysis from oral narratives by presenting perspectives on grandmothers, children, brothers and sisters/uncles and aunts, and fictive kin. She also includes a chapter on Indo-Caribbean families in Britain and the Caribbean, which makes for an interesting comparison of the differences and similarities in how they re-constitute their lives under changing conditions. But most original is her argument about the centrality of families to the social history of the Caribbean, revealing the yet untold histories of the disenfranchised; and also her claim that Caribbean metaphors of family and models of family life inform what is distinctive about Caribbean creole culture and its organizational forms. Family Love in the Diaspora makes two significant contributions to understanding contemporary African Caribbean culture. It places the distinctive African Caribbean family culture on the list of heritages and legacies to need to be recognized, respected and celebrated; and it puts to final rest the idee fix that African Caribbean family values and practices create problems for individuals and/or modern nation-states.- --Professor Constance R. Sutton, Department of Anthropology, New York University -Family Love in the Diaspora is a richly textured and beautifully-written account that provides a nuanced portrait of African Caribbean families. Drawing on detailed life stories, Chamberlain brings out the strength of family connections and support among African Caribbeans both in the Caribbean and Britain as well as the significance of transnational family relations. It is an indispensable guide for understanding the central role of families in the African Caribbean diaspora.- -Nancy Foner, Distinguished Professor of Sociology, Hunter College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York -Chamberlain uses her rich life history data to study family organization as a process unfolding over time and generations. In this way, she builds on the work of R.T. Smith on domestic cycles in Guyana, itself elaborating on Fortes's study of family structures over time. Her processual and intergenerational perspective lays the foundation for one of the most interesting insights of her book, namely the persistence of family organization and sentiments over time, space, and economic condition. Rather than arguing that the African Caribbean family organization is functional in contexts of poverty, as some others have done, she is able to describe how it is used strategically in a variety of circumstances. As a result, she successfully demonstrates that this family organization cannot be seen as either the cause or the result of poverty, but rather as a cultural institution that adapts to a variety of socioeconomic conditions and social challenges.- --Kevin Birth, Queens College, City University of New York -Family Love in the Diaspora provides a powerful testimony testimony to the centrality of families in the social history of the English-speaking Caribbean.....Family Love in the Diaspora is a thought-provoking analysis of Caribbean family bonds and kinship networks.- ---Tracey Reynolds, Oral History Society, Essex University, UK -.....this book is a formidable -tour de force- in bringing understanding of the dynamics of Caribbean families across the globe and helping us to comprehend the intense pressure of forced and free migration on Caribbean people, and the powerful adaptability and resilience of the family culture that has been forged by the small but creative survivors of the European transatlantic slavery that had made gargantuan efforts to destroy the family culture of black slaves in the New World.---Frederick W. Hickling, The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease -Like the families whose stories are presented here, this well-written book has a hybrid identity. At once anthropology with its thick descriptions and reliance upon oral testimony, it is also history, with its focus on intergenerational similarities and differences. It is, as well, a work of sociology, since it analyzes a particular group in a particular place and time. There is indeed something for most social scientists in this engaging work.....readers will learn a great deal simply by considering the narratives that populate these pages.---Journal of Social History -Like the families whose stories are presented here, this well-written book has a hybrid identity. At once anthropology with its thick descriptions and reliance upon oral testimony, it is also history, with its focus on intergenerational similarities and differences. It is, as well, a work of sociology, since it analyzes a particular group in a particular place and time. There is indeed something for most social scientists in this engaging work...readers will learn a great deal simply by considering the narratives that populate these pages.----Alan L. Karras, University of California, Berkeley "Family Love in the Diaspora is the best book yet written on African Caribbean family structure, values, and culture. It is an absorbing, graciously written account that draws on both historical data referring to past forms of family behavior and on the dynamics of more recent family life as related in the oral narratives of three or more generations of family members living in the Caribbean and Britain. Not only do the oral narratives reflect the lively rhetorical genres of African Caribbeans, but they give voice to how they view their family and community, the meanings they ascribe to their practices, and how they connect this to their sense of personal and collective identity. Chamberlain stitches together this rich and varied data with a running analysis of what constitute the underlying principles, morality, and values of African Caribbean family culture. She underlines its continuity through time, across generations, class positioning, and transnational space. This unique resilience, in the face of the persistent negative views of African Caribbean family, is related to the emphasis on kin remaining emotionally close and connected even when spatially separated; to the ancestral lineal and horizontal lateral structure of kinship connections; and to the multiple forms of conjugal unions and living together which expand and adapt to changing conditions. All this makes possible an identity that is portable and secure.' Chamberlain enlarges her analysis from oral narratives by presenting perspectives on grandmothers, children, brothers and sisters/uncles and aunts, and fictive kin. She also includes a chapter on Indo-Caribbean families in Britain and the Caribbean, which makes for an interesting comparison of the differences and similarities in how they re-constitute their lives under changing conditions. But most original is her argument about the centrality of families to the social history of the Caribbean, revealing the yet untold histories of the disenfranchised; and also her claim that Caribbean metaphors of family and models of family life inform what is distinctive about Caribbean creole culture and its organizational forms. Family Love in the Diaspora makes two significant contributions to understanding contemporary African Caribbean culture. It places the distinctive African Caribbean family culture on the list of heritages and legacies to need to be recognized, respected and celebrated; and it puts to final rest the idee fix that African Caribbean family values and practices create problems for individuals and/or modern nation-states." --Professor Constance R. Sutton, Department of Anthropology, New York University "Family Love in the Diaspora is a richly textured and beautifully-written account that provides a nuanced portrait of African Caribbean families. Drawing on detailed life stories, Chamberlain brings out the strength of family connections and support among African Caribbeans both in the Caribbean and Britain as well as the significance of transnational family relations. It is an indispensable guide for understanding the central role of families in the African Caribbean diaspora." -Nancy Foner, Distinguished Professor of Sociology, Hunter College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York "Chamberlain uses her rich life history data to study family organization as a process unfolding over time and generations. In this way, she builds on the work of R.T. Smith on domestic cycles in Guyana, itself elaborating on Fortes's study of family structures over time. Her processual and intergenerational perspective lays the foundation for one of the most interesting insights of her book, namely the persistence of family organization and sentiments over time, space, and economic condition. Rather than arguing that the African Caribbean family organization is functional in contexts of poverty, as some others have done, she is able to describe how it is used strategically in a variety of circumstances. As a result, she successfully demonstrates that this family organization cannot be seen as either the cause or the result of poverty, but rather as a cultural institution that adapts to a variety of socioeconomic conditions and social challenges." --Kevin Birth, Queens College, City University of New York "Family Love in the Diaspora provides a powerful testimony testimony to the centrality of families in the social history of the English-speaking Caribbean.....Family Love in the Diaspora is a thought-provoking analysis of Caribbean family bonds and kinship networks." ---Tracey Reynolds, Oral History Society, Essex University, UK .."...this book is a formidable "tour de force" in bringing understanding of the dynamics of Caribbean families across the globe and helping us to comprehend the intense pressure of forced and free migration on Caribbean people, and the powerful adaptability and resilience of the family culture that has been forged by the small but creative survivors of the European transatlantic slavery that had made gargantuan efforts to destroy the family culture of black slaves in the New World."--Frederick W. Hickling, The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease "Like the families whose stories are presented here, this well-written book has a hybrid identity. At once anthropology with its thick descriptions and reliance upon oral testimony, it is also history, with its focus on intergenerational similarities and differences. It is, as well, a work of sociology, since it analyzes a particular group in a particular place and time. There is indeed something for most social scientists in this engaging work.....readers will learn a great deal simply by considering the narratives that populate these pages."--Journal of Social History "Like the families whose stories are presented here, this well-written book has a hybrid identity. At once anthropology with its thick descriptions and reliance upon oral testimony, it is also history, with its focus on intergenerational similarities and differences. It is, as well, a work of sociology, since it analyzes a particular group in a particular place and time. There is indeed something for most social scientists in this engaging work...readers will learn a great deal simply by considering the narratives that populate these pages."---Alan L. Karras, University of California, Berkeley "Family Love in the Diaspora is the best book yet written on African Caribbean family structure, values, and culture. It is an absorbing, graciously written account that draws on both historical data referring to past forms of family behavior and on the dynamics of more recent family life as related in the oral narratives of three or more generations of family members living in the Caribbean and Britain. Not only do the oral narratives reflect the lively rhetorical genres of African Caribbeans, but they give voice to how they view their family and community, the meanings they ascribe to their practices, and how they connect this to their sense of personal and collective identity. Chamberlain stitches together this rich and varied data with a running analysis of what constitute the underlying principles, morality, and values of African Caribbean family culture. She underlines its continuity through time, across generations, class positioning, and transnational space. This unique resilience, in the face of the persistent negative views of African Caribbean family, is related to the emphasis on kin remaining emotionally close and connected even when spatially separated; to the ancestral lineal and horizontal lateral structure of kinship connections; and to the multiple forms of conjugal unions and living together which expand and adapt to changing conditions. All this makes possible an identity that is portable and secure.' Chamberlain enlarges her analysis from oral narratives by presenting perspectives on grandmothers, children, brothers and sisters/uncles and aunts, and fictive kin. She also includes a chapter on Indo-Caribbean families in Britain and the Caribbean, which makes for an interesting comparison of the differences and similarities in how they re-constitute their lives under changing conditions. But most original is her argument about the centrality of families to the social history of the Caribbean, revealing the yet untold historiescshow more

About Mary Chamberlain

Mary Chamberlain is professor of modern social history at Oxford Brookes University, in the United Kingdom. She is co-editor of the Transaction Memory and Narrative series, which now has nineteen volumes in print.show more