Jamaican Adventures: Simmel, Subjectivity and Extraterritoriality in the Caribbean

By Wardle, Huon | Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, December 1999 | Go to article overview

Jamaican Adventures: Simmel, Subjectivity and Extraterritoriality in the Caribbean


Wardle, Huon, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute


As one of the key theorists of modernity, Simmel's writing remains strikingly underrepresented in recent anthropological theorizations of this subject. Drawing on Simmel's conception of adventure, this article considers the ways in which a sense of agency is created by working-class Jamaicans through their presentation of self in narrative. Adventure, as an aesthetic framing of individual experience, provides a temporal and spatial modality in which the individuated self can be reshaped into a protagonistic subjectivity for others. At the same time, the adventure presents a vehicle for an exploration of the meaning of freedom in a cosmopolitan field of social relations. The article examines the affinity that exists between the conditions for adventure, as Simmel outlines them, and the political-economic circumstances that govern Jamaican lives.

Sidney Mintz's recent overview of the Caribbean region (1996) reminds us once again of the features that have, in the past, given this zone an anomalous status in anthropology. Together, slavery the plantation economy, colonialism and labour migration enforced a precocious and violent exposure to modernity for Caribbean peoples. [1] These factors also lent themselves to the region's vibrant social and cultural heterogeneity. Much attention has been paid by anthropologists both to this wider social-historical picture and to the varied modes of cultural expression that have emerged from it.

In this article I take Caribbean individuals as my point of focus. [2] I ask how it is that Caribbeans come to construct and perceive themselves as agents in the social and cultural field of modernity and how this sense of agency is developed and reproduced. My analysis centres on the relationship between human movement and subjective imagining and I leave to one side here the varied claims that Caribbean people make to cultural rootedness and localized identity (Mintz & Price 1985). Instead, the article draws on one of the chief theorists of modernity, Georg Simmel (1965 [1911]), in order to place a particular aesthetic form, the adventurous episode, within the social-historical narrative that Mintz and others have laid out (cfTrouillot 1992). Adventure', I will argue, speaks to a recognizable organization of imaginative resources within a context shaped to a great degree by migration and social and cultural open-endedness. Most significantly, for the working-class Jamaicans discussed here, adventure provid es a concrete-metaphorical framework through which to explore the meaning of freedom. [3]

Anthropologists have described extensively the structure of movement that is embedded in Caribbean life. In the 1960s and 1970s Philpott (1968; 1973) argued that we could hardly understand Caribbean society except through the networks of foreign migration that supported it: Caribbean social structure is not isomorphic with the Caribbean as a region. [4] In the 1980s, Drummond (1980), drawing on Brathwaite (1971) and Bickerton (1975), extended that notion to the sphere of culture. Caribbean culture, he argued, was best seen as a 'continuum', as open-ended rather than holistic: there was a need to investigate the ways individuals mediated, and made coherent, their manifold, often conflicting, cultural experiences (see also Drummond 1996: 76-88).

While identification with locality is clearly evident in the Caribbean, ThomasHope (1978; 1995) has indicated how central movement is to Caribbean definitions of freedom. Despite the disillusionment that actual migration often brings, it remains a powerful cultural ideal. Extending Philpott's insights, Olwig (1993: 206) and Basch et al. (1994) have shown that Caribbeans find themselves caught up in, and 'deterritorialized' by, inter-generational social networks that overlap the boundaries, and ideologies of inclusivity, of nation states. Involvement in migrant networks affects both how actors understand social relations (Foner 1978; Olwig 1987) and also the strategies for economic viability that they deploy (Besson 1987a: 121; Griffith 1985; Segal 1997). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Jamaican Adventures: Simmel, Subjectivity and Extraterritoriality in the Caribbean
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.