A Groundwork for West indian Cultural Openness

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17 Citations (Scopus)


Sidney Mintz aptly describes the cultural openness characteristic of West Indian life. But his historical sociology leaves a gap in our understanding of what cultural openness consists in and how it is organized in the ethnographic here and now. Cultural openness needs to be considered with regard to, and as dependent on, active practices of ambiguation. A case study of religious experience in Kingston, Jamaica describes one person's involvement in the Jamaican cult Revival Zion, foregrounding concurrent processes of subjective disambiguation/commitment, diacritical/disjunctural cultural framing, and ambiguation. Ambiguation in the West Indies is driven by a need to express inter-subjectively recognized truths for which there is no public moral terminology. Its wider context is the 'theatre state' quality of West Indian politics. Its results are cultural phenomena which elude categorical closure. Understanding how cultural openness is sustained in the Caribbean provides a contrastive insight into the Euro-American experience of modernity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)567-583
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2007




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