Accepted Paper:

Growing Pains: Haitianness in the making of Martinican identity  


Alyssa James (York University)

Paper Short Abstract:

How do food production and distribution factor into the ways Martinicans differentiate themselves from Haitians? Drawing on field research in Martinique, I examine how material objects and practices make Haitianness visible in the market where it plays a role in construction of Martinican identity.

Paper long abstract:

Due to migration and agricultural labour shortages, Haitians are crucial to Martinique's foodways—they are commonly labourers on farms and produce vendors at local markets. Drawing on ethnographic field work at the Dillon wholesale fruit and vegetable market in Martinique, I examine the various ways difference emerges through objects and practices: production and distribution of certain vegetables, negotiating openly or not, the assembling of certain people in particular places, and using 'proper' farming techniques. I examine these things to make a theoretical argument about the production of race and a separate but related contribution to the understanding of Martinican identity. Theoretically, I work through the ways race can emerge through the material—in objects, practices, and configurations of bodies that serve to differentiate groups of people. While I do not deny the importance of the discursive in critical race studies, I demonstrate how attending to the material can provoke different insights into race and the production of phenotypically differentiated bodies. I argue that race takes shape through these material objects and practices and make Haitians visible, activating discourses and prejudices Martinicans have about Haitians. It is in my discussion of Martinican identity that I am concerned with the discourses that arise from these objects and practices. Using a framework of dialectic identity construction—the notion that we come to know ourselves through engagement with an Other—I show how the criticisms of Haitianness reveal the values and characteristics that constitute Martinican understandings of self.

Panel POST-01
Poster session