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English Literary File_Vol 6

Out of Many, One People: The Anomaly That Is the Jamaican Identity By Spencer Woodstock, English 490 This capstone project is dedicated to defining the Jamaican identity, its development, and how its characteristics differ from other cultures. English is certainly a Jamaican’s first language in the sense that we grow up reading it and writing it. But, in essence, we speak patois. We acknowledge people in it, converse using this “slang” with friends, acquaintances, and even teachers. It is our language. People refer to it as several different things, and those ignorant of the facts, understandably call it Jamaican. Patois is a Jamaican creole dialect that has formed over generations of multiple cultures intermingling on the island of Jamaica, speaking different pidgins, and ultimately creating our Jamaican identity. In essence the very hybridity of patois is an excellent corollary to Jamaican identity because the interactions of different cultures, as well as the collection of languages being used throughout the island’s history have helped mold the unique characteristics seen emanating from Jamaica and its people today. To truly grasp the intricate multiplicity of the development of patois and Jamaican identity, one must understand patois as well as the complexity of the Jamaican culture. If you paid attention in history class, like I did, then you already know that the ancestors of most Jamaicans, were Africans, who were brought over via the slave trade. This is why scholars often apply concepts of Negritude to Jamaica. Negritude refers to the qualities that resonate within descendents of Africa, and their ideological movement in the rejection of colonial powers and the racism that came with it. This literary term, coined by francophone black Caribbean intellectuals, Aimé Césaire and Frantz Fanon of Martinique, and their African counterparts such as Léopold Sédar Senghor of Senegal, essentially refers to one’s quality of “blackness,” the shared cultural strength and beauty of people of African descent throughout the African diaspora. Jamaican identity undoubtedly has remnants of Negritude. However, I want to take the question of Jamaican identity beyond a single origin and argue that it is more like a patois, a hybrid entity. The Jamaican identity that is intricately and blatantly prevalent in Orlando Patterson’s The Children of Sisyphus (1965) is a beautifully arrogant combination of combative perspectives and conflicting notions that relentlessly pull at the strings of the heart and the mind simultaneously. Our identity is a manifestation of cultural syncretism that ultimately grew out of a need for self-preservation without remaining stuck in a primitive era. The repression of other cultures swallowing our own whole during the times of slavery and western colonization manifests the tenacity of our cultural identity. We will not become a Figure 5 Map and Flag of Jamaica byDarwinek, CC BY-SA 3.0. Image available at Wikimedia Commons. part of a previously existing movement inflicted upon us; rather we take the elements of that movement that are deemed beneficial and mold them into a part of our growing identity. Negritude is undoubtedly evident within the Jamaican identity. However, Negritude is acutely Afro-centric and tries to eradicate the essence and evidence of other cultures that have previously dominated by way of colonization. The sense of innate pride is a major characteristic of Negritude, and this carries on within Caribbean culture. Saint Lucian author Derek Walcott advocates Caribbean Negritude and its individuality by trying to depict ELF 2015 (Vol. 6) 15


English Literary File_Vol 6
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