A Push - Pull Model of Ethnic (Re)configuration in a Plural Society: Trinidad and Tobago

By Malaki, Akhil | Ibero-americana, July 1, 2001 | Go to article overview

A Push - Pull Model of Ethnic (Re)configuration in a Plural Society: Trinidad and Tobago


Malaki, Akhil, Ibero-americana


I. INTRODUCTION: APPROACHES TO STUDIES IN ETHNICITY

The purpose of this essay is to attempt an analysis - albeit a preliminary one - of the shifting ethnic configurations in the plural society of Trinidad and Tobago with the help of a push-pull model. It basically argues that the boundaries of ethnic groups and identities can be fluid and can be redrawn depending on external and internal factors. These two factors, which I call push and pull factors, can alter the configuration of ethnic relations. External in the sense of forces that ethnic groups have little control over and yet these forces influence their behavior (colonialism, capitalist penetration, globalization and regionalization). Internal in the sense their relationships with other social groups with whom they have to coexist and even compete, politically and economically, within a national territory. A brief historical sketch is provided to illustrate how ethnic configurations have taken shape in Trinidad during the colonial and the post-colonial periods. The latter half of this presentation alludes to the impact of the current processes of globalization and regional integration on ethnic (reconfiguration. The push-pull model used in this essay is adapted from Albert O. Hirschman's (1979), Shifting Involvements. This is a dynamic model that helps explain changes and (re)configurations in ethnic relations.

There are two approaches in studies on ethnicity: primordialists and instrumentalists. The primordialists attribute ethnicity to ties of religion, blood, race, language, region and customs. The instrumentalists treat ethnicity as a social, political and cultural resource for different interest and status groups. For the instrumentalists, ethnicity is a 'social construct'. In this view, the social content of ethnicity can vary a lot depending on what I identify as 'push-pull factors' - i.e. circumstances under which ethnic identities undergo transitions or ethnic (re)configurations. (Figure 1 below summarizes the two approaches).

When it concerns ethnicity, one is not talking about what people are like, but rather how and for what particular purposes they identify themselves along ethnic lines. In this sense, the primordialist approach can be of little help, as it will be shown in the discussion that follows. Thomas Hylland-Eriksen (1993:1) aptly remarks that ethnicity emerges through social situations and encounters, and through people's ways of coping with demands and challenges of life - social, political and economic. Ethnic identities are neither ascribed nor achieved; they are both. They are wedged between situational selection and imperatives imposed from without.

II. ETHNICITY AND PLURAL SOCIETY THEORY

Caribbean societies have been categorized as plural societies wherein differential incorporation of social groups has established a kind of hierarchy based on inequalities in the society's public domain - i.e. a kind of differential level of social access to public benefits and facilities. Inclusion is segmentai that assumes prior identification of individual with the group it incorporates.

Lloyd Braithwaite has written about stratification in Trinidad. He rejects the plural society theory as a loose concept. The important point he makes is that the social structure in Trinidad is founded on 'ascriptiveparticularistic basis'. To quote Braithwaite (1953:49);

"Ethnic affiliation and ethnie purity were the values upon which the social stratification system was erected and, therefore, this served as a positive encouragement to non-Negro groups to try to retain their ethnic identity".

M.G.Smith (1991:18) notes, however, that while a society may have equal access to common 'public domain' and share a same political culture, they can differ institutionally in the 'private domain'. The former he calls as de jure and the latter, de facto.

"Cultural pluralism only occurs outside plural societies when collectivities incorporated universalistically in a common society differ in their basic private institutions. …

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

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.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

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

A Push - Pull Model of Ethnic (Re)configuration in a Plural Society: Trinidad and Tobago
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?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access 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

    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.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.