[URBANTH-L]cultural economy in French Caribbean

kate browne kate.browne at colostate.edu
Fri May 27 09:07:43 EDT 2005

Dear SUNTA members,
As a member, I am pleased to announce my new book, Creole Economics. I 
have written it especially for undergraduates without training in the 
fascinating complexities of Caribbean societies. The focus is on the 
French Caribbean, where men of all class positions pursue a source of 
status and autonomy from earning income that is illegal, but morally 
defended. The history of slavery figures importantly in this 
creole-style of economic practice. The book considers also the role of 
post-colonial tensions (Martinique/France) in feeding this form of 
cultural pride.

Creole Economics is intended for courses in Caribbean Studies, Black 
Atlantic History, Gender and the Economy,  Postcolonial Studies, 
Francophone Cultures, and Development Studies.

Creole Economics: Caribbean Cunning Under the French Flag
by Katherine E Browne published by University of Texas Press, 2004

"In this innovative work, Browne pierces the silence that has hidden 
the world of creole economics in the literature on the Antilles. The 
men's social world of creoleness has been much written about. But the 
ways that creoleness infuses everyday economic life, the ways that 
these practices that were built up in resistance (first to slavery, 
later to colonialism) actually operate, has never before been laid 
bare. A fine example of how anthropology still has something original 
to teach us." 
  —Richard Price, Dittman Professor of American Studies, Anthropology, 
and History at the College of William & Mary

What do the trickster Rabbit, slave descendants, off-the-books 
economies, and French citizens have to do with each other? Plenty, says 
Katherine Browne in her anthropological investigation of the informal 
economy in the Caribbean island of Martinique. She begins with a 
question: Why, after more than three hundred years as colonial subjects 
of France, did the residents of Martinique opt in 1946 to integrate 
fully with France, the very nation that had enslaved their ancestors? 
The author suggests that the choice to decline sovereignty reflects the 
same clear-headed opportunism that defines successful, crafty, and 
illicit entrepreneurs who work off the books in Martinique today.

  Browne draws on a decade of ethnographic fieldwork and interview data 
from all socioeconomic sectors to question the common understanding of 
informal economies as culture-free, survival strategies of the poor. 
Anchoring her own insights to longer historical and literary views, the 
author shows how adaptations of cunning have been reinforced since the 
days of plantation slavery. These adaptations occur, not in spite of 
French economic and political control, but rather because of it. 
Powered by the "essential tensions" of maintaining French and Creole 
identities, the practice of creole economics provides both assertion of 
and refuge from the difficulties of being dark-skinned and French.

  This powerful ethnographic study shows how local economic meanings and 
plural identities help explain work off the books. Like creole language 
and music, creole economics expresses an irreducibly complex blend of 
historical, contemporary, and cultural influences.

Special web pricing available for a limited time at:  

Katherine E. Browne is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Colorado 
State University. Her research in the French Caribbean involves the 
study of postcolonial economies and cultural issues of self-identity 
and morality. Her current projects are funded by National Science 
Foundation and include a three-year comparative project on gender and 
entrepreneurship in French, British, and Spanish-colonized islands of 
the Caribbean, and a documentary film about female entrepreneurs in the 

Katherine E. Browne
Associate Professor
Department of Anthropology
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO 80523-1787
kate.browne at colostate.edu

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