Culturally Inauthentic and Stereotypical Caribbean Children’s Books
The Root Causes
By Summer K. Edward
Presented at the A is For
Anansi Conference at New
FIRST TO CLEAR UP A FEW THINGS…
Not all Caribbean children’s books are stereotypical and
culturally inauthentic! (as per Mo & Shen, 1997)
- Stereotypes and cultural inauthenticity in Caribbean children's
books have been documented
- Soon Come Home to This Island: West Indians in British
Children’s Literature (2007) by Karen Sands-O’Connor
looked at representations of West Indians and their culture
published in children's books between 1700 and the
- Prior to the 1960’s Countless examples of conflicting
but complementary workings of deprecatory/stigmatising
and romanticising stereotypes, most readily recognisable
in the figure of the savage, who was in turn perceived as
either primitive and threatening or noble and
ISSUES AFFECTING THE CONTENT OF CARIBBEAN
1. The colonial legacy Majority of Caribbean children’s
books are published by foreign (i.e., non-Caribbean)
publishing companies (historically and today)
2. Rise, since the 1980’s of Caribbean children’s books written
by Caribbean expatriates (also tied to the colonial legacy)
3. Insufficient scholarship/research/dialogue/discourse around
Caribbean children’s literature
CAUSE # 1: EXTERNAL CONTROL OF PUBLISHING
small size of the market; continued and totally unrestricted competition from
UK and US based conglomerate publishers and media houses;
undercapitalization and limited equity base; shortage of skills in all areas of
publishing; slow pace of access to technology; failure of proper succession
planning; lingering effects of colonialism
What does this mean?
- Books must fit American and UK market requirements: “tourism mentality”;
“multicultural mould”; white, middle-class, American and UK expectations
- Book development: editorial, design and production work in the hands of
- Language regulation: Speak like us or don’t speak at all!
CAUSE #2: THE EXPATRIATE ADVANTAGE
i.e. more Caribbean children’s books published BUT…
Books by expatriates prone (even more so) to same problems
associated with external control of publishing
- Too much nostalgia?
- Out of touch?
CAUSE # 3: CARIBBEAN CHILDREN’S
LITERATURE: WHO CARES?
Judging by scholarship Very few people!
Many reasons why Caribbean children’s literature is understudied and lacks
an ongoing discourse lack of previous research to build upon; few
incentives; slow disciplinarization in the Caribbean; still defining itself;
regional language barriers
What does this have to do with content?
- Lack of criticism, data and scholarly insights
Lack of feedback and accountability Stereotypical and culturally
inauthentic Caribbean children’s books
- Pastoral, mythologized, pre-modern Caribbean landscapes/ over-use of the Caribbean folk tale
- “Sun, sea, and sand”
- “Pirates of the Caribbean”
- “Food, fun, and festivals” syndrome
- Lack of complexity: Caribbean people and situations portrayed as
quaint and simple (living in huts etc.)
- Monolithic representations of the Caribbean (e.g. lack of attention to racial and cultural diversity
in the Caribbean)
- Disregard of or poor handling of subtleties of Caribbean speech and dialect
- Illustrations impose foreign aesthetic values: do a poor job of accurately capturing the Caribbean
and its people and do not reflect a commitment to understanding the Caribbean aesthetic
JOIN IN THE CONVERSATION!
Summer Edward’s Caribbean Children’s Literature (my
blog ) http://www.summeredward.blogspot.com
Anansesem: The Caribbean Children’s Literature Ezine
A particular slide catching your eye?
Clipping is a handy way to collect important slides you want to go back to later.