Cultural Diversity

Definition of Terms 1. Cultural Diversity------Cultural diversity refers to the great differences in the characteristics and attributes of social groups that cause them to have significantly different experiences of social life. With reference to the Caribbean, many of these attributes stem largely from the traditions and activities of different European powers who were hegemonic in the Caribbean. 2. Race/ Racial groups------ These are groups characterized based on physical, biologic and genetic type.(Caucasian, Mongoloid, Negroid) 3. Ethnic Group-------These are groups based on a host of different cultural traits such as religion, tradition, language, nationality or geographic origin. Any strong cultural group is considered an ethnic community, for example, patois speakers in a certain area. (Indians, Chinese, Africans, Whites Syrians) Sometimes the view is expressed that the Caribbean region, or a particular country is too diverse culturally, to be able to foster unity. That is usually said in the context of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and its efforts to integrate the region or, at times of national general elections in a particular country. The positive and negative effects of cultural diversity are perpetually debated. A broad sweep of the Caribbean region shows that diversity results mainly from geography and history. For example, the Lesser Antilles with their mountainous backbone have fostered fishing as a way of life and cultural communities such as fishing villages which have strong ties with similar communities in nearby islands. On the other hand, the larger islands do have fishing villages but their dominant economic livelihood stems from largescale agricultural enterprise, situated mainly on the fertile coastal lowlands. The cultural forms of organization and lifestyles thus vary and are due mainly to geographical factors. However, it is difficult to ignore the contribution of history to this scenario- for example, in pre-Columbus times, the larger islands were NOT engaged in large scale agriculture. Cultural diversity, therefore, RESULTS MAINLY FROM HISTORICAL FACTORS.

Examples or Elements of Cultural Diversity throughout the Caribbean Region
Across the Caribbean, on a macro scale, the cultural attributes which cause us to speak of cultural diversity in the region are: 1. religious differences 2. racial mixtures and differences 3. different cultural heritages ( from the various European colonial powers) such as language, religion, architecture, cooking, laws and institutions such as education, politics and systems of government and the economy. 4. the syncretism that has occurred between these European cultural attributes and Amerindian, African and Asian adaptations 5. the fact that some Amerindian, African and to a greater extent, East Indian cultural expressions have survived intact with minimal European influence, (for example, African herbal knowledge and cooking practices as seen among the Maroons of Jamaica and the people of Haiti) 6. culture as expressions of popular culture (pop. culture), for example, music, dance, drama, literature and art and craft, which differ substantially from one Caribbean territory to another, for example zouk(Guadeloupe and Martinique), salsa, calypso(Trinidad & Tobago), reggae, punta (Belize) and cadence(French influence). 7. the influences that geography exerts on cultural life- for example how relief, soils and resources affect economic activity, which in turn affects settlement patterns, lifestyles and relationships with other sectors of the society, for example- the coffee growers of Jamaica, the oil industry in Trinidad, tourism in Tobago, the fishing villages of the Lesser Antilles, the pastoral economy of the Rupununi in Guyana and intact wilderness areas such as the Mountain Pine Ridge of Belize.

French and Spanish bestowed names of dishes and influenced taste patterns in the Caribbean ( note. different values and characteristics that comprise rural and urban living We cannot overlook micro patterns of diversity that may be evident in one country or in one region of a country. government and politics are all modeled to a greater or lesser extent on the European colonial power that exerted dominance in a particular country. In summation. However. cultural diversity is also evident on a micro scale. the institutions. Trinidad is dominantly Roman Catholic while Barbados is predominantly Anglican. for example that the national dish of Dominica is frogs’ legs. the protective and armed forces. and the British reference to the French as ‘Frogs’ refers to their preference for that meat. Thus. Amerindian traditions are also continued where maize or corn and cassava are used. Laws. . which vary with ethnicity but which also vary with European heritage. there continues to be a great deal of difference between rural and urban living. Some of these ports eventually became capital cities and Caribbean people continued to invest in the CORE leaving the PERIPHERY underdeveloped. in a specific Caribbean country. in the: 1. Differences in socio-economic status contribute to a range of lifestyles. Many of these aspects of cultural diversity have been influenced in some way by the coming of the Europeans (pointing to the importance of History) as they sought to impose their norms and institutions on the region. The following testify to this fact: 1. aspirations and opportunities. However. In addition. a distinctive ‘Caribbean’ architectural style seem s to have emerged from a fusion of French.In each country. socio-economic groups which experience different lifestyles 2. So. retention or renewal in different degrees and in different ways in each Caribbean country. judicial systems. while some East Indians and most Europeans and Africans belong to traditional Christian religions.preparation of ‘jerk pork’. Even this is a European cultural legacy.thus. the Europeans were of different Christian denominations. it may be said that there are broad patterns of diversity over the whole region mainly brought about by the juxtaposition of different European powers. Religions. People may live in conditions of extreme poverty and others in a great deal of affluence. While this may be a Caribbean wide phenomenon. The argument follows that Europeans were only interested in the colonies for economic gain. so they developed ports to ship out raw materials to the mother country and built roads and infrastructure between the plantations and the port. 4. Moreover. Diversity continues to be re-created. customs and rules associated with the legal system will vary considerably between Hispaniola and Barbados for instance. Food and Culinary traditions. This reflects the type of occupations favoured or accessible to certain sectors of the population.Amerindian. African traditions emerge equally strong here in the predominance of ground provisions in the diet and ways of preparing food (mortar and pestle). African and Asian. each country exhibits differences in terms of the social groups which maybe dominant in the core and periphery. Indigenous forms have also been created such as the Maroon . The variety of styles of European architecture that permeate the region and in some countries jostle with dwellings made from indigenous materials. 2. The British. and their dominance over a population that also was diverse. Spanish and British traditions. The ethnic East Indian communities of Guyana will tend to be either Muslims or Hindus. race may not contribute as much to diversity in the population as socio-economic status. 3. The interactions of these different groups have either promoted cultural erasure.

just growing up in a cosmopolitan society does not automatically confer attitudes of tolerance. preparation for general elections.-------When you grow up in a culturally diverse society. People growing up in culturally diverse societies learn from early to develop ways of coping with and accommodating to cultural differences.Positive and Negative Effects of Cultural Diversity In addition to the points covered in class. Relations between the various ethnic groups are distorted so that any factor that exerts stress on the society acts a s a trigger for exacerbating the usual conflicts and charges of discrimination and exclusion. you must realize that for people to have a breadth of experiences and benefit from them. Thus. there are different views—some look at this mixing as ‘downgrading’ culture in some way. but it presents an opportunity to build something ‘new’ or ‘hybrid’ from the various cultural elements around which there may be more scope for ‘unity’. but of course. Syncretism. and the ‘chutney soca’ of Trinidad and Tobago (music). Where they live as well as how they are positioned in terms of wealth. These conflicts reflect the ‘fragile’ aspect of these societies where differences and diversity are seen as important in maintaining distinctions and in excluding others. for example the Hutu-Tutsi conflict in Rwanda. 5. you learn to co-exist with people who worship in different ways. it should be realized that one way of coping ( or accommodating) is not to get involved or to maintain a spectator stance (or a judgmental stance) relative to the beliefs and practices of others. and any national issue that ‘gets out of hand’. and discontent in the society. leading to charges of discrimination. Extra stress comes in the form of economic downturns. the Shouter/Shango Baptist Movement (religion). 4. or indigenous forms of cultural expression. racial and linguistic heritage. acceptance and inclusion.---------. also influence their stance on national issues. 2.This not only is a positive effect. they must be ‘open’ to those experiences in the first place. Sometimes this fragility can be manipulated by forces within and outside the country. These culturally diverse societies are described as ‘fragile’.----------This is related to the first point and has validity. .Complexity refers to the myriad social groups that may each have a different point of view based on their different religion. It is difficult to reach consensus on issues of national importance when each group feels that it must ‘protect its turf’ and not allow any other group to achieve more social visibility.-----. While this may seem to have positive overtones. 3. hybridization and ‘cross-overs’ increase the complexity of the culture and society but also develop new ‘creole’. The customs and practices of the many sub cultures are difficult to represent on a national level. As always.------. Examples include the patois (language). Culturally diverse societies are said to be complex. The cosmopolitan nature of the society increases the breadth of experience and knowledge of citizens and enriches their lives.Many of the wars that have occurred in recent times have been conflicts arising from deep cultural divisions in those societies. it will be useful to consider the following viewpoints: 1.

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