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"Poor White" Economic (In)Activity and the Politics of Work in Barbados

Author(s): Matthew Reilly

Year: 2015

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Situated on the fringes of the plantation landscape, the "poor whites" of Barbados occupied unique spaces within local and global capitalist networks during and after the period of slavery.  Historically and contemporarily portrayed as being irrelevant within broader economic systems of production, a discourse of marginalization coupled with stereotypes of idleness has severed them from broader Barbadian and global socioeconomics.  This paper addresses the power dynamics inherent in identifying, classifying, and recording acceptable forms of labor and reveals the dialectical relationship between such top-down models and the informal and intimate local forms of economic activity that flourish within seemingly marginal spaces.  Despite portrayals of inactivity and irrelevance, archaeological and historical evidence collected from a "poor white" Barbadian tenantry reveals that residents prescribed to a "politics of work" in which they participated in local processes of capitalism on their own terms while simultaneously facilitating less formal spheres of economic activity.

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"Poor White" Economic (In)Activity and the Politics of Work in Barbados. Matthew Reilly. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Seattle, Washington. 2015 ( tDAR id: 433853)


Temporal Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -129.199; min lat: 24.495 ; max long: -66.973; max lat: 49.359 ;

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): 282

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America