Hyphenated cultures: Ethnicity and nation in Trinidad

Teruyuki Tsuji, Florida International University


This dissertation attempts to unravel why and how postcolonial Trinidad has displayed relative stability in spite of the presence of the factors that have produced conflict and instability in other postcolonial societies.^ Trinidad's distinctive social formation began in the colonial period with a unique politics of culture among the landowning European groups, Anglican English and French Creole. Contrary to the materialist assumption of landowners' class solidarity, the development of Trinidad's plantation economy into two crops, each controlled by a separate European ethno-religious faction, impeded the integration and subsequent ideological domination of European-Christians. Throughout the nineteenth century neither group dominated the other, nor did they fuse into a single ruling class. The dynamics between them both generated recurring conflict while simultaneously creating mechanisms that limited conflict. ^ Based on original in-depth fieldwork and historical analysis, the dissertation proceeds to demonstrate that Trinidad's unique intra-class conflict within the dominant European population has produced hyphenated, as opposed to hybridized cultural elements. Supplementing the historical analysis with empirical examinations of contemporary inter-religious rituals and post-colonial politics this dissertation argues that social integration is inseparable from the question of inter-cultural mixture or articulation. In Trinidad, however, the resulting combination of distinct cultural elements is neither a "plural society" (M.G. Smith 1965; Despres 1967) nor an integrated totality in the structural-functionalistic sense (R.T. Smith 1962; Braithwaite 1967). Moreover, Trinidad does not conform to the post-structural framework's depiction of the social linkage between power and culture. The concept of cultural hybridization is equally misleading in the case of Trinidad. The underlying assumption of a monolithic European population's cultural hegemony and post-structural analysis's almost exclusive focus on the inter -class politics of culture seriously misrepresent and misunderstand Trinidadian cultural and its associated social and political relations. The dissertation examines this reflexive influence of culture not as an instrument of the powerful few but as an autonomous force that reproduces social divisions, yet restrains conflict.^

Subject Area

Anthropology, Cultural|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies

Recommended Citation

Tsuji, Teruyuki, "Hyphenated cultures: Ethnicity and nation in Trinidad" (2006). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3249720.