Chanting Down the New Jerusalem: Calypso, Christianity, and Capitalism in the Caribbean

Chanting Down the New Jerusalem: Calypso, Christianity, and Capitalism in the Caribbean

Chanting Down the New Jerusalem: Calypso, Christianity, and Capitalism in the Caribbean

Chanting Down the New Jerusalem: Calypso, Christianity, and Capitalism in the Caribbean

Synopsis

In this brilliantly evocative ethnography, Francio Guadeloupe probes the ethos and attitude created by radio disc jockeys on the binational Caribbean island of Saint Martin/Sint Maarten. Examining the intersection of Christianity, calypso, and capitalism, Guadeloupe shows how a multiethnic and multireligious island nation, where livelihoods depend on tourism, has managed to encourage all social classes to transcend their ethnic and religious differences. In his pathbreaking analysis, Guadeloupe credits the island DJs, whose formulations of Christian faith, musical creativity, and capitalist survival express ordinary people's hopes and fears and promote tolerance.

Excerpt

All demands for the recognition of difference presuppose
extensive transcultural knowledge that would have been
impossible to acquire if cultural divisions always constituted
impermeable barriers to understanding.

Paul Gilroy, Postcolonial Melancholia

Identity as a problematic category of practice, in which certain people are viewed as being identical to one another while others are regarded as totally different, is one of the leading themes in the human sciences. In study after study we are furnished with evidence that identity politics and the feeling of belonging, an explosive combination of bio-cultural racism and exclusive claims to territory, are common throughout the world (Geschiere and Nyamnjoh 2000; Meyer and Geschiere 1999). In response to pressures associated with globalization and the weakening of the nation-state, ethnic minorities and recently arrived immigrants, demographic categories that oftentimes intersect with religious differences, are unequivocally portrayed as enemies of the “indigenous people,” the autochthons, to whom the territory supposedly rightfully belongs. Even within the social sciences one sees that the recognition of class differences, which are relational and non-essentializing differences, are abandoned for the lure of viewing groups as exclusive and wrapped up in their metaphysical core cultures (Cooper 2005; White 1990).

Ethnic clashes in Rwanda, Bosnia, and Sri Lanka; anti-Caucasian sentiments in Russia; the growth of neo-fascism in northwestern Europe; and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Hindu fascism are all examples of the violence related to the need to assert one’s belonging by claiming exclusive roots in a territory or the fulfilment of God’s will. The evidence is overwhelming. The studies are convincing. This global trend poses a serious . . .

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