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Social & Occupational Stratification in Contemporary Trinidad & Tobago


Selwyn Ryan (Editor)


This book is the by-product of an ISER sponsored Symposium which was held in December, 1990. The Symposium addressed two themes, Social and Occupational Stratification in Contemporary Trinidad and Tobago dedicated to Professor Lloyd Braithwaite, author in 1953 of the seminal document " Social Stratification in Trinidad and Tobago" and Pluralism in the Late 20th Century dedicated to Professor M. G. Smith who had written the equally seminal document "Pluralism in the British West Indies." The Stratification meeting brought together 41 panellists and several others representing a variety of disciplines and areas of social activity. Twenty-five of the papers presented were subsequently revised for inclusion in this volume. Others who participated in he symposium and who enriched its deliberations included Peter Minshall, Michael Williams, Frank Barsotti, Claudia Harvey, Martin Daly, Kusha Haracksingh, Daphne Phillips, Bishop Clive Abdulah, Michael de La Bastide, Ann Rajack, Joseph Seepersad, Bhoendradatt Tewarie, Tim Gopeesingh, Dorothy Blake, Diana Mahabir, Kenneth Ramchand, Lloyd Braithwaite and Gordon Rohlehr.

The book is divided into seven sections. Section 1, which mainly theoretical, contains the important contribution by M. G. Smith in which he reviews the pluralism-stratification debate and summarizes some of the points of difference which emerged between himself and Braithwiate. Smith admits that some of his earlier accounts of pluralism were theoretically inadequate and that from 1961 onwards, he developed a framework of corporation theory which he considered to he more appropriate than these earlier formulations. Essentially, Smith's chapter seeks ton reconcile the concerns of the stratification and plural society theorists by arguing that both are valid ways of looking at societies and that the two paradigms in fact complement each other. Section 1 also contains an evaluative commentary by Lloyd Best on the contributions of Braithwaite and M. G. Smith as well as an exchange of views between Michaeline Crichlow and Braithwaite about the context in which his essay appeared and the changes which have taken place in Trinidad society since it was written.

Section 11 of the book deals with the relationship between politics and the changing patterns of social stratification, In this section are to be found an essay by John La Guerre on Leadership in a Plural Society which takes note of the now type of person who had emerged in leadership roles in Indian based political organizations; an essay by Selwyn Ryan in which survey and aggregate data are employed to determine who voted for which party and why over the years 1956-1990, and a provocative comment by Lloyd Best entitled The Nine Tribes of Trinidad and Tobago.

Section 111 contains an interesting essay by John Stewart who uses ethnographic techniques to study patterns of occupational stratification in a Trinidad village, an essay by Selwyn Ryan which takes a historical look at the evolution of the patterns of occupational stratification in Trinidad, and an essay by Michaeline Crichlow which seeks to evaluate the extent to which changes have been made in that system by individuals of African and Indian descent who have gone into small business as in an attempt to break the stranglehold which whites traditionally held on business activity. Section 111 also contains the important study done on behalf of ISER by Rhoda Reddock which uses survey research techniques to plot the changing patterns of social mobility in Trinidad and Tobago.

Section IV focuses on issues of ethnic and gender equity in education generally and in the fields of science, technology, management and the professions, as well as on issues of social clad formation in the oil and sugar industries. The contributors to this section are Lynette Seebaran-Suite who writes on Gender and Equity in the Professions; Paula Mark who analyses questions of Gender and Status in Science and Technology Related Occupations; Vena Jules who examines the relationship between ethnicity and educational success in the secondary school system; Marcus Balintulo who addresses the question of Industrialization and Social Class formation in Trinidad with Particular Reference to the Oil and Sugar Industries; and Ralph Henry and Gwendolyn Williams who examine the impact which the policies of structural adjustment have had on the society in general and on women and workers in particular.

The chapters in Section V seek to evaluate the ever going patterns of religious affiliation in Trinidad and Tobago to determine the extent to which the established patterns of denominational affiliation are still entrenched or whether changing stratification patterns have affected those relationships. Contributors to this section are Suren Capildeo who writes on Hinduism in contemporary Trinidad, Ralph Premdas and Harol Sitahal who examine the Status of the Presbyterian congregation, and Margaret Rouse-Jones who examines the extent to which the Pentecostal Movement has impacted on changing patterns of denominational affiliation.

Section VI looks at the changing nature of Trinidad and Tobago society through the prisons of Carnival, the Steelband and the Calypso. In this section one finds an informative essay by the founder of Phase 11 Pan Grove, Selwyn Tarradath, who traces the developments which have taken place in the steelband movement as it has moved from being the haven it once was for the black male underclass to the point where it has achieved concert hall Status; the essay by David Trotman who looks at changing images of ethnicity and gender in the calypso; and the essay by Molly Ahye, who in her inimitable style deals with issues of gender, ethnicity, class and band selection in the Trinidad Carnival. Also to be found in this section is an essay by Ann Lee, which addresses similar issues from the sociological perspective.

Section V1I groups two important essays. One is written by Michael Durojaiye who uses the Mighty Gypsy's calypso, "Yesterday's Children, to examine the aged as a strata in Trinidad society. The other essay by Norma Abdulah looks at the equally important issues of fertility and mating patterns in Trinidad and Tobago as they relate to ethnicity.




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