Making a living in the Caribbean requires resourcefulness and even a willingness to circumvent the law. Women of color in Jamaica encounter bureaucratic mazes, neighborhood territoriality, and ingrained racial and cultural prejudices. For them, it requires nothing less than a herculean effort to realize their entrepreneurial dreams.
In Higglers in Kingston, Winnifred Brown-Glaude puts the reader on the ground in frenetic urban Kingston, the capital and largest city in Jamaica. She explores the lives of informal market laborers, called "higglers," across the city as they navigate a corrupt and inaccessible "official" Jamaican economy. But rather than focus merely on the present-day situation, she contextualizes how Jamaica arrived at this point, delving deep into the island's history as a former colony, a home to slaves and masters alike, and an eventual nation of competing and conflicted racial sectors.
Higglers in Kingston weaves together contemporary ethnography, economic history, and sociology of race to address a broad audience of readers on a crucial economic and cultural center.
Winnifred Brown-Glaude — Winnifred Brown-Glaude is Assistant Professor of African American Studies at the College of New Jersey. She is editor of Doing Diversity in Higher Education. She was the project director for the Rutgers Institute for Women's Leadership's Ford Foundation grant.
Brown-Glaude, Winnifred. Higglers in Kingston: women's informal work in Jamaica. Vanderbilt, 2011. 225 bibl index afp; ISBN 9780826517654. Reviewed in 2011dec CHOICE.
Ethnographers--anthropologists and sociologists--continue to probe Caribbean society and culture, and are much more engaged with these multiracial island societies than historians and other social scientists, it seems. The reasons are not difficult to fathom, for Caribbean societies are more oral, aural, and visual than documentary, richly captured by sights, smells, colors, and sounds, characteristics that lend themselves well to the keen eyes and ears of a good ethnographer, such as Brown-Glaude (African American studies, College of New Jersey). She views the Jamaican "higgler"--a lower-class black woman engaged in petty trade in the island's informal economy, whether as street vendor of fruits and vegetables, a role dating back to slavery days, or as a modern, independent, and very small-scale international commercial importer selling cheap shoes and clothing from China--through the lens of a theoretical framework she terms "embodied intersectionality" of race, class, and gender. The author carefully traces how others have perceived higglers historically, and how these usually demeaning representations have affected higglers' self-identities and experiences. Brown-Glaude's well-written, jargon-free study offers a refreshing, long-overdue discussion of the ethnographer's embodied presence--her own race, class, and gender, in this case--on the research process and the information gathered.
Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. -- E. Hu-DeHart, Brown University