Grey Zone in Caribbean Islands: Socio-Racial Struggles around the Martinican Carnival

Patrick Bruneteaux

Abstract


Few researchers have attempted to show that colonialism was associated with an on-going task of division between slaves. This article intends to highlight the functioning logic of the colonial plantation world. In the Caribbean area, whether that of English, Dutch, Spanish or French colonialisms, the morphological existence of a minority of Whites and an
overwhelming majority of Blacks in a permanent state of rebellion, as Patterson’s (1982) work demonstrated, was the basis for the creation of intermediate groups as “buffers”. These auxiliary people (domestics, hunters of fugitives, executioners, free people in militias; but also, by mimicry, the Black owners of slaves) are only part of a larger system requiring a strong dependency between the free people of color, that is of mixed heritage - Mulâtres in French colonies, Mulattos in English colonies1- and White masters. This model of the tripartition between the rich White class, the free middle class of mixed heritage, and the proletarian Black people, can define itself as a society in which the “colortocracy” (Anderson, 2000) became a “grey zone” in the sense of Primo Lévi's (1989) analysis of Nazi concentration camps. Neither subaltern studies nor the social science of creolization really bind this social stratification to long-lasting effects of domination between Blacks themselves. Nowadays, the political power is detained by this brown upper class. Thereby, this type of socio-racial structure has been maintained long after the official demise of
colonialism and it continues to affect the political and economic  organization of Caribbean islands. In this rigid framework, in which individuals and people are increasingly dominated (structural joblessness, migration to the metropole, racism and whitening, lack of economic
independence etc.), the Black proletarians have developed a counter-culture among which the best known forms are carnival and a daily Maroon behavior, namely many protean resistances against the White world and colortocracy. This paper discusses the situation of the Martinican carnaval taking place on the French island of Martinique.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.25120/etropic.14.2.2015.3379

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