Victorian Jamaica

Victorian Jamaica

by Tim Barringer, Wayne Modest

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Victorian Jamaica explores the extraordinary surviving archive of visual representation and material objects to provide a comprehensive account of Jamaican society during Queen Victoria's reign over the British Empire, from 1837 to 1901. In their analyses of material ranging from photographs of plantation laborers and landscape paintings to cricket team photographs, furniture, and architecture, as well as a wide range of texts, the contributors trace the relationship between black Jamaicans and colonial institutions; contextualize race within ritual and performance; and outline how material and visual culture helped shape the complex politics of colonial society. By narrating Victorian history from a Caribbean perspective, this richly illustrated volume—featuring 270 full-color images—offers a complex and nuanced portrait of Jamaica that expands our understanding of the wider history of the British Empire and Atlantic world during this period.

Contributors. Anna Arabindan-Kesson, Tim Barringer, Anthony Bogues, David Boxer, Patrick Bryan, Steeve O. Buckridge, Julian Cresser, John M. Cross, Petrina Dacres, Belinda Edmondson, Nadia Ellis, Gillian Forrester, Catherine Hall, Gad Heuman, Rivke Jaffe, O'Neil Lawrence, Erica Moiah James, Jan Marsh, Wayne Modest, Daniel T. Neely, Mark Nesbitt, Diana Paton, Elizabeth Pigou-Dennis, Veerle Poupeye, Jennifer Raab, James Robertson, Shani Roper, Faith Smith, Nicole Smythe-Johnson, Dianne M. Stewart, Krista A. Thompson

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780822374626
Publisher: Duke University Press
Publication date: 04/19/2018
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 768
File size: 174 MB
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About the Author

Tim Barringer is Paul Mellon Professor and Chair of the Department of the History of Art at Yale University.

Wayne Modest is Head of the Research Center for Material Culture at the Stichting Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen and Professor of Material Culture and Critical Heritage Studies at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

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State Formation in Victorian Jamaica


When Victoria came to the throne in 1837, Jamaica was at the center of imperial debates about empire. Its institutions of government were undergoing substantial change, as everyone sought to adapt to the abolition of slavery. Colonial state systems of power in the island and on an imperial scale were directed toward controlling a population that was in the process of establishing itself as free and toward ensuring the continuing extraction of wealth under transformed political and social conditions. If, to frame the problem in Marxist terms, the state is the means by which a ruling class projects its interests as the interests of the whole of society, it is worth noting that at this transitional moment, "society" in Jamaica did not yet include the majority of the population. That majority was held in the transitional state of "apprenticeship": neither enslaved nor free. The state did not, in either its imperial or its colonial form, claim to embody the interests of the population; rather, the imperial government claimed to protect the interests of people who were as yet unable to represent their own interests. The distinction is small but significant.

In the early years after 1837, the political system shifted toward partial inclusion of some former slaves in "society." During this period, representative bodies spoke for a broader constituency than before. Those included were men who had become property owners or had established the security of rental tenure. These men were imagined as embodying the interests of the families they were said to head in a manner analogous to how the state was said to embody the interests of the people as a whole. To a limited extent, their new free status created a space that allowed some freed people to demand that state authorities act in their interests. In practice, although electoral campaigns solicited the votes of freed people with the implication that legislators would work on their behalf, legislators had little power to make change in the interests of the newly free. Those possibilities that did exist were largely closed off after the Morant Bay rebellion, in 1865. The rebellion was followed by a shift to direct colonial rule in the form of Crown Colony government, which entailed the abolition of the elected Jamaican Assembly and its replacement with an unelected Legislative Council. This process of "de-democratization," in Mimi Sheller's terms, was only partially mitigated by the addition of elected members to the Legislative Council in 1884. As Thomas Holt argues, by the late nineteenth century it had been established that "for the colonies, the corollary of satisfying economic grievances at the expense of political demands was the renunciation of political self-rule in return for economic assistance." In Jamaica, that is, the limited social and economic gains of the poor in the late nineteenth century came in tandem with, and not necessarily in spite of, political disfranchisement. The experience of the postemancipation period was that direct action in the form of rebellion led to a decline in direct political power, but, because it also produced a shift in state policy designed to prevent further violent confrontation, it brought some social gains.

By the time Victoria died, in 1901, Jamaica and the wider Caribbean region had become marginal to British debates about empire, which were preoccupied with India and South Africa and with the new colonies acquired in the late nineteenth century. British commentators increasingly understood Jamaica, and the Caribbean more generally, as a drain on imperial resources, rather than as a contributor to imperial wealth. Within the colony, political power was organized on a largely unrepresentative basis. Nevertheless, some state initiatives, such as the Jamaica Exhibition of 1891 and the associated and subsequent promotion of the island as a destination for both tourism and settlement, worked by invoking the interests of the Jamaican people as a whole or as a unit within a wider imperial fraternity. The organizers of the exhibition believed the "interests" of the people to be embodied in the arrival of white settlers, who would be placed above the majority population within Jamaica's racial hierarchy. There had been a substantial change in dominant conceptualizations of the state's relationship to the "people," despite overall continuity in the working of the state system.

We can identify, then, a long-term trend in state formation: from a state conceptualized as embodying the interests of a society made up of only a tiny minority of the population to one that claimed to represent the people as a whole. Contrary to interpretations of the period between the end of slavery and the 1930s as one of uniform "neglect," genuine changes took place during this time. Particularly significant, and the focus of this chapter, was the moment immediately after the Morant Bay rebellion of 1865. This was the third period of revolutionary violence in Jamaica in a century, preceded by what Vincent Brown calls the "Coromantee War" of 1760 and by the rebellion led by Sam Sharpe in 1831. In 1760, 1831, and 1865, popular uprisings were put down byextreme state violence. The suppression of each rebellion was followed by periods of expansive governmental activity, extending in two apparently contradictory directions: repression and protection. In reality these approaches worked together to enhance the stability of power relations within Jamaica.

After each rebellion, steps were taken to develop the state's capacity to repress opposition: new forms of militia, new police forces, new legal restrictions on enslaved people's activities, and new or better-organized prisons were put in place. Over a slightly longer period, responses to rebellion involved the development of limited legal protection or social provision for the majority. Such periods were also characterized by intervention by the imperial government and its representatives, the colonial governors, who increasingly assumed the advantages of a more systematized and bureaucratic state, which they pressed local power holders to accept. Thus, the late period of slavery saw the institution of a minimal level of legal protection against abuse by slaveholders, as a response both to pressure from the British imperial government and to rebellions like Tacky's and the fear of further rebellions. Sharpe's rebellion helped advance the end of slavery itself. In the period after 1865, Crown Colony government was instituted and measures were taken to extend state activity in many directions, including health provision and limited land reform. Changes to the less directly coercive elements of state activity focused on the provision of education and medical services, some public health measures, and modifications to the regimes regulating land, family law, and taxation. These measures aimed to incorporate the Jamaican majority into society in the hope of creating greater social stability and imperial loyalty. The very establishment of an area of encounter between poor Jamaicans and state practice that was not primarily coercive was significant in itself.

The sociologist Philip Abrams argued in 1977 that "the state does not exist"; instead, Abrams claims, we should investigate the "state idea" and "state systems." A couple of years later and from a different scholarly tradition, Michel Foucault asserted that scholars should not "accept a priori the existence of things like the state, society, the sovereign, and subjects" but instead should investigate the working of these terms as discursive entities. Neither Abrams nor Foucault was thinking about colonial contexts, but if anything, in settings like Jamaica "the state" was even more of an ideological projection than it was in the metropolis. Its claims to authority required the imagining of networks of power projected across large blocks of space and backed up by the regular use of violence. Within Jamaica, "the state" was formed through everyday encounters at toll gates, in courtrooms and schoolrooms, in reformatories and prisons, in dispensaries, and on the streets. Such encounters contributed to the racing and gendering of the population, the distribution of resources, and the constitution of power. Perhaps most importantly, though much less visibly, state formation took place through the propagation of norms of property holding and transmission that sustained the concentration of land in a few hands while permitting and at times facilitating the emergence and reproduction of small-scale landholdings. In examining state formation, then, we need to investigate this linked network of everyday practices and embodied encounters. We must also attend to the limited but significant processes by which some individuals from the Afro-Jamaican majority, who themselves or whose parents or grandparents had experienced slavery, came to embody elements of the state system, in roles such as police constables, teachers, dispensers (pharmacists), and toll collectors. Accepting these premises means focusing on the production of state systems and state ideas over time.

State formation in Victorian Jamaica can also be viewed as part of the development of a network of state activity that was concurrently taking place in other colonies and within metropolitan Britain itself. In Britain, this period saw expanding concern about public health and sanitation, increased state intervention to regulate working hours and conditions, greater regulation of sexuality, and the expansion or founding of institutions such as workhouses, prisons, and reformatories. Much of this activity has been interpreted as molding or disciplining subjects in oppressive ways. Nevertheless, with present-day attacks on all forms of state regulation of business practices in mind, it is worth emphasizing that in metropolitan Britain, increased state regulation of, for instance, workplaces and the food supply was in many cases a response, at least in part, to popular pressure. In Jamaica, as a colonial site, this dynamic played out rather differently. As in Britain, state bodies sometimes had to respond to popular pressure even when the people had little or no electoral power. Black Jamaicans were able to put limited pressure on government through popular action such as the antitaxation riots in 1848 and the destruction of toll gates in Westmoreland in 1859. But in a colony, the direction of state activity was determined by many more competing pressures, from the metropolis as well as from within the colony. Such external pressures were present in the metropolis but much less dominant.

Between the end of slavery and the Morant Bay rebellion, the leitmotif of discussions about the state in Jamaica was anxiety about spending. Repeated crises developed around the alleged need for "retrenchment," that is, cuts in expenditure — what would today be described as "austerity." Between 1838 and 1865, these crises were products of the tension between the local elite, as represented by the assembly, and the imperial government, represented by the governor. At moments of political conflict such as the passage of the imperial West India Prisons Act of 1838 and for several years following the passage of the imperial Sugar Duties Act of 1846, the assembly either refused to pass bills to pay for state spending or drastically cut amounts to be spent. Crises over retrenchment took place almost annually in the late 1840s and early 1850s. State spending had to be authorized by annual revenue bills, giving the assembly considerable power to disrupt the smooth functioning of state activity. The Police Act of 1846, for instance, cut the number of people in the police force almost in half, while building work on the new General Penitentiary in Kingston ground to a halt in 1849 as a result of the refusal of the assembly to pass a revenue bill authorizing taxation. In 1851 the colony-wide police force was disbanded in favor of a force organized at the parish level, although an island-wide force was reestablished the following year.State projects that aimed to transform the culture of the Jamaican population, such as the provision of schools, tended to stumble on the desire to limit spending.

The Morant Bay rebellion was interpreted in imperial Britain as a sign of the problems caused by the Jamaican elite's approach to colonial government. Crown Colony government was established, with Sir John Peter Grant appointed as the first new governor after Edward Eyre. Grant's governorship, from 1866 to 1874, saw significant changes in the scope of the Jamaican state's imagined powers. Under Grant, there was still a great deal of concern about finance; indeed, after he took over as governor, his early reports emphasized the dire state of Jamaican finances and the need to balance the books. However, in contrast to his predecessors, Grant's approach was to expand state revenues through duties and taxation rather than to cut expenditure. These additional revenues were raised largely by measures that disproportionately affected the poor, such as increased duties on rum and the extension of a house tax to all except resident estate laborers. Grant made only relatively small cuts in spending, notably by disestablishing the Church of England. In other ways, too, Grant and his immediate successors extended state expenditure, in a period during which, Roy Augier wrote sixty years ago, "the administrative apparatus of a modern state" was established.

Grant's reforms were a direct response to the Morant Bay rebellion and, in particular, to a series of problems that were perceived as its causes: conflict over land, lack of trust in the courts, disaffection with local elites. But they were also part of a wider pattern of reformulation of state policy that was taking place throughout the British Empire and within Britain itself. Across the empire, colonies were establishing new police forces, implementing new systems of health care and taking public health measures, funding schools for young children, changing laws regarding land tenure so as to stimulate capitalist agriculture, and revising taxation to ensure greater funds for state projects. Metropolitan Britain also saw a significant growth in state institutions and authority in this period, despite official ideologies of laissez-faire. In some of these measures, Jamaica in the 1860s led the way; in some, Jamaica followed other colonies, notably Ireland and India. The Crown Colony system fostered the growth of state activity while leaving the people without access to the political system.

In The Problem of Freedom, Thomas Holt emphasizes the significance of the example of Ireland in stimulating colonial policy toward Jamaica in the late nineteenth century. Holt argued that a series of influential thinkers and politicians understood the "Irish problem" of rural insurgency to be caused by land hunger. The solution proposed for Ireland was the redistribution of small plots of land, but not of political power, on the understanding that this step would lead to significant reductions in unrest, a form of so-called beneficent despotism. Holt argues that this Irish policy was adopted in, and to some extent adapted to, late nineteenth-century Jamaica. Holt is right to draw attention to the connection between Jamaican and Irish colonial policies, but also important is another, equally significant, set of colonial links, discussed only briefly by Holt: those between Jamaica and India.

Before being appointed as governor of Jamaica, Grant had been lieutenant-governor of Bengal from 1859 to 1862, after a longer career in the Indian colonial service. His posting to Jamaica at this critical point in the colony's history was based on the assumption that his Indian experience made him particularly good for this new role. The conservative Earl of Carnarvon, the colonial secretary, wrote to Grant immediately after his appointment as governor, emphasizing that "the experience of administrative functions which you have obtained during your service in Her Majesty's Eastern possessions ... will afford you the best guidance in your new field of duty." Grant had experience in administering a colony in the aftermath of insurrection, having been at the heart of the British effort to reformulate colonial power in Bengal in the wake of the 1857 rebellion. He was sent from England to Jamaica with instructions to attend to a panoply of concerns: poor relief; education; the judicial system; policing; "the repression of praedial larceny" (the theft of agricultural produce or livestock from an estate or farm); land and its occupation, especially the "problem" of "squatting"; taxation; administrative reform; and "the introduction of capital and labour." His successor as Jamaican governor, Sir William Grey, was also a former lieutenant-governor of Bengal.


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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments  xxi
Introduction / Wayne Modest and Tim Barringer  1
Object Lessons
Introduction to Object Lessons  Wayne Modest and Tim Barringer  51
1. The Cruickshank Lock, circa 1838 / Wayne Modest  55
2. Table, circa 1830–1840 / John Cross  59
3. A Tread-Mill Scene in Jamaica, 1837 / Diana Paton  61
4. Sligoville with Misson Premises, 1843 / Catherine Hall  63
5. A View of Coke Chapel from the Parade, circa 1846–1847 / James Robertson  67
6. The Ordinance of Baptism / Dianne M. Stewart  69
7. Kidd's New Plan of the City of Kingston, Jamaica, 1854 / Rivke Jaffe
8. Grave of Eighty Rebels near Morant Bay, Jamaica / Wayne Modest  77
9. Map Recording of Rebellion of 1865 / Gad Heuman  79
10. The Vale of St. Thomas, Jamaica, 1867 / Jennifer Raab  83
11. Newcastle, Jamaica, 1884 / Tim Barringer  85
12. Opening the Railway Line at Porus / James Robertson  89
13. Day School Children, Jamaica / Patrick Bryan  91
14. Wedding Group, Jamaica / Anthony Bogues  95
15. Child's Outdoor Cap. Lace-bark, circa 1850–1861 / Steeve O. Buckridge  97
16. Portrait of a Woman of Chinese Origin, circa  1895–1861 / Patrick Bryan  99
17. Mary Seacole, 1871 / Jan Marsh  103
18. Fatima, circa 1886 / Erica Moiah James  105
19. Selection of Jamaican Wood Samples Made for the 1891 Exhibition / Veerle Poupeye, Nicole Smythe-Johnson, and O'Neil Lawrence  109
20. Illustration of an Obeah Figure, 1893 / Diana Paton  111
21. Castleton Gardens / Krista A.Thompson  115
22. Queen Victoria, 1915 / Petrina Dacres  117
Part I. Making Victorian Subjects
1. State Formation in Victorian Jamaica / Diana Paton  125
2. Victorian Jamaica: The View from the Colonial Office / Gad Heuman  139
3. Liberalism, Colonial Power, Subjectivities, and the Technologies of Pastoral Coloniality: The Jamaican Case / Anthony Bogues  156
4. Dirt, Disease, and Difference in Victorian Jamaica: The Politics of Sanitary Reform n the Milroy Report of 1852 / Rivke Jaffe  174
5. Creating Good Colonial Citizens: Industrial Schools and Reformatories in Victorian Jamaica / Shani Roper  190
6. Botany in Victorian Jamaica / Mark Nesbitt  209
7. Victorian Sport in Jamaica, 1863–1909 / Julian Cresser  240
8. Rewriting the Past: Imperial Histories of Antislavery Nation / Catherine Hall  263
Part II. Visual and Material Cultures
9. Land, Labor, Landscape: Views of the Plantation in Victorian Jamaica / Tim Barringer  281
10. The Duperly Family and Photography in Victorian Jamaica / David Boxer  322
11. Noel B. Livingston's Gallery of Illustrious Jamaicans / Gillian Forrester  357
12. Picturing South Asians in Victorian Jamaica / Anna Arabindan-Kesson  395
13. Victorian Furniture in Jamaica / John M. Cross  420
14. Jamacia's Victorian Architectures: 1834–1907 / James Robertson  439
15. Creole Architecture in Victorian Jamaica / Elizabeth Pigou-Dennis  474
16. "Keeping Alive Before the People's Eyes This Great Event": Kingston's Queen Victoria Monument / Petrina Dacres  493
17. "A Period of Exhibitions": World's Fairs, Museums, and the Laboring Black Body in Jamaica / Wayne Modest  523
Part III. Race, Performance, Ritual
18. "Most Intensely Jamaican": The Rise of Brown Identity in Jamaica / Belinda Edmondson  553
19. "Black Skin, White Mask?": Race, Class, and the Politics of Dress in Victorian Jamaican Society, 1837–1901 / Steeve O. Buckridge  577
20. Kumina: A Spiritual Vocabulary of Nationhood in Victorian Jamaica / Dianne M. Stewart  602
21. Jamaican Performance in the Age of Emancipation / Nadia Ellis  622
22. Black Jamaica and the Victorian Musical Imaginary / Daniel T. Neely  641
23. "A Mysterious Murder": Considering Jamaican Victorianism / Faith Smith  658
Contributors  675
Index  685

What People are Saying About This

Exceptional Violence: Embodied Citizenship in Transnational Jamaica - Deborah A. Thomas

"Victorian Jamaica brings imperial historical and sociocultural analysis to bear upon the material, performative, and visual cultures of the period, and the cumulative effect is stunning! Its comprehensive and wide-ranging contributions encourage us to think about empire in relation to everyday circulations and thus to focus on the complex and sometimes messy connections between space, time, and cultural production and practice. By exploring both changes in British imperial policy during the Victorian period and transformations in subjectivity among colonial subjects in the exemplary case of Jamaica, our eyes are drawn to the ways ordinary people participated in imperial circulations, transformed metropolitan spaces, and negotiated changing geopolitical fields. An interdisciplinary tour de force, and a must read for anyone interested in Atlantic World modernities!"

David Scott

"Victorian Jamaica is a historiographical intervention with wide-ranging implications. It invites us to comprehensively reconsider a formative era in the making of postemancipation Jamaica, when a new social order of conflicting norms and values and aspirations emerged within an ideologically distinctive imperial matrix. The innovative essays that it comprises seek to explore a variety of arenas within this new order with genuinely provocative insight."

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