Authority and stratification in the Bahamas: The quest for legitimacy

Scott C Sherouse, Florida International University


This longitudinal study provides a detailed description of the transition in the Bahamas from British colony to independent country. It analyzes the ongoing process of legitimation and delegitimation of Bahamian political parties and of the transfer of authority from the white minority to the black majority. It is a story of social and political struggles that take place within the quarter century following World War II. These struggles are analyzed within a theoretical framework which focuses on the meaning of symbols used to support claims to authority, and/or which function to delegitimize alternative claims. Specifically, this study looks at the delegitimization of the institutions of colonialism and the concurrent profession of symbols to support both independence and a fully enfranchised democracy in the Bahamas. The research methodology includes an extensive analysis of official British colonial documents, private governmental dispatches, and contemporaneous newspaper articles. The sources were primarily the Public Records Office of Great Britain; the Archives of the Bahamas; and the Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of the West Indies. Secondary literature on civil rights, political science, religion, Black Nationalism, corruption, social theory, and popular culture was studied. Two hundred days of participant observation, spread over seven years of study, resulted in notes from which information was gleaned. During that time, seventeen open-ended interviews with a cross section of Bahamians (male and female, black and white) who lived through this period were recorded, information from which was also incorporated. A detailed description of the socio-historical process, and an analysis of data, demonstrates how the black majority's desire for political representation, and future independence, pressured Great Britain to come into line with the desires of the majority of Bahamians. The symbolic universe that had historically divided white from black now urged dramatic social and political change. The documents and testimonials studied demonstrate how symbols and symbolic events supported and/or undercut the claims to legitimacy proffered by different groups in the Bahamas in their respective attempts to solidify their social and political position within the society.

Subject Area

Social structure|Cultural anthropology|Black history

Recommended Citation

Sherouse, Scott C, "Authority and stratification in the Bahamas: The quest for legitimacy" (2004). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3151970.