Garcia Chambers outlines the benefits of teaching students about the Caribbean. A native of Falmouth, Jamaica, he is an instructor at Shirayuri Women’s College, and has studied at the University of West Indies and the University of Birmingham.
The Caribbean is long overdue as an area of study in Japanese classrooms. Intermixing the cultures of Native Americans, Europeans, Africans and Asians, it exemplifies both benefits and burdens of globalization.
Today, the Caribbean contains Spanish-speaking, French-speaking, Dutch-speaking, and English-speaking nations, with different yet similar ways of life. Its vicinity to the US means it is greatly exposed to the hegemony of American culture.
The course will explain the cultures of the Caribbeanusing theories of cultural pluralism, and creolization, in addition to some cultural definitionsand metaphoric descriptions of the Caribbean. Cultural pluralism presents a situation in which different cultures co-exist side-by-side with very little intermingling against a background of relative acceptance and tolerance for each other. M. G. Smith and Lloyd Braithwaite are among two of the leading exponents on Caribbean cultural pluralism. The creolization theory sees a Caribbean that is the result of a process of the intermixing of different cultures. This creolized Caribbean has been described in hyphenated terms as “part-Native Amerindian, part-European, part-African, part-Asian, yet totally Caribbean.” Edouard Glissant and Rex Nettleford are two of the Caribbean cultural theorists to have fully embraced and advanced the creolization theory.
The metaphors pepper-pot soup and melting pot can be likened respectively to cultural pluralism and creolization theories. In a pepper-pot soup, one may easily be able to identify the different ingredients while enjoying it; a melting pot, however, fuses all the elements therein to produce something new, different, and harmonious.
The value of a course on Caribbean culture in Japanese classrooms will not only contribute to addressing the paucity of knowledge existing on the Caribbean, but also allow for a more scholarly, comparative, and deeper understanding of the students’ own society and culture.