An Essay on the Culture of Incarceration
A suggestion was made, in the context of the classroom setting that an interesting assignment would be to question shoppers at a suburban mall about slavery in the Caribbean and to capture the responses on videotape. An initial thought in response to this suggestion was to wonder just how one would go about eliciting any sort of meaningful response from a likely ill-informed and possibly disinterested group of consumers in central Connecticut on this subject. Obviously, to ask questions in survey fashion regarding which Caribbean Island the respondent might prefer to vacation at during these cold weather months would produce some informed opinions. That being the case, it seems only fair, even logical, that one should have some understanding of the nature of slavery that once existed there, from which its present population has emerged. Given the desirability and popularity of such vacation destinations, it would be of paramount insensitivity to not understand its history of slavery, the foundation of its society.
A Society Imposed from Europe and Africa
The arrival of Columbus and the Spanish at the end of the 15th century represented an economic ‘consolation prize’ of sorts for failure to make the East India connection. The discovery of precious metals soon helped them forget the spices of the Orient, however, and the indigenous Arawak people were rapidly pressed into service in the mining of them. In subsequent decades, greater quantities of gold and especially silver were found further west, in Mexico and Peru, and the imperial attentions shifted there. Left behind were the now Spanish controlled islands of the Caribbean to function primarily as provisions...
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...ation arrangement was its capacity to regimentally control the activity of the overwhelming majority of the population in the service of monocrop production for export. The implications are that the degrading and dehumanizing nature of slavery was subinfeudated into the dependency of an entire island’s population on the success of the plantation enterprise. Since nearly all suitable land was devoted to the plantation, usually sugar, importation of food was often required. This then translates into the dismal reality that, while life as a slave on the plantation was an unbearable existence that portended a short life-expectancy, life outside of it may have an even less certain survival, particularly on the smaller, plantation-saturated islands such as Barbados. It is this entrapment that defined the masses of humanity residing in the Caribbean for several centuries.
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