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Culturally Inauthentic and Stereotypical Caribbean Children’s Books


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Culturally Inauthentic and Stereotypical Caribbean Children’s Books

  1. 1. STEREOTYPICAL AND CULTURALLY INAUTHENTIC CARIBBEAN CHILDREN’S BOOKS The Root Causes By Summer K. Edward Presented at the A is For Anansi Conference at New York University 10/09/10
  2. 2. 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 present - 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 unadulterated
  3. 3. ISSUES AFFECTING THE CONTENT OF CARIBBEAN CHILDREN’S BOOKS  3 CAUSES 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  EFFECTS -STEREOTYPES! -CULTURAL INAUTHENTICITY!
  4. 4. CAUSE # 1: EXTERNAL CONTROL OF PUBLISHING Why?  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 Instead…  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 cultural outsiders - Language regulation: Speak like us or don’t speak at all!
  5. 5. CAUSE #2: THE EXPATRIATE ADVANTAGE Or disadvantage?  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  “Expatriate take-over” - Too much nostalgia? - Out of touch? - Split-focus?
  6. 6. 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
  7. 7. THE CONSEQUENCES  STEREOTYPES! - Pastoral, mythologized, pre-modern Caribbean landscapes/ over-use of the Caribbean folk tale genre - “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.)  CULTURAL INAUTHENTICITY! - 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
  8. 8. JOIN IN THE CONVERSATION!  Summer Edward’s Caribbean Children’s Literature (my blog )  Anansesem: The Caribbean Children’s Literature Ezine Thank you!