July 11, 2008

intergalatic interlude

Doctor Who – series finale

Totally gripped whilst watching this but afterwards the overwhelming impression was that there was just too much thrown in. OK I guess that if the world was up against an ubervillain trying to destroy reality, then it’s not unlikely that the Torchwood lot and Sarah Jane Smith would be involved, but it just came across as way too much. Not sure if so much was included as Russell T. Davies is leaving the series and this may have been the last episode he wrote so maybe he wanted to include all the notables?

I liked some of the episodes written by Davies but he does have an annoying habit of trying to be clunkingly right-on. For example, in this series one shot of the area where Donna lived showed all the inhabitants with reusable carriers rather than plastic bags. OK, I’m not expecting them all to be smoking high tar fags and force feeding placcy bags to seals (even in Cov we don’t do that!) but it just looked too much like a “message”.

Have read that some fans are disgruntled as the Dr gave the impression that he was going to regenerate and didn’t but as nothing had been mentioned in the press about David Tennant leaving at the end of this series (tho maybe sometime into the next one) then it was unlikely that he’d morph into someone else.

Didn’t like Catharine Tate as the doc’s assistant to start out with but warmed to her and her exit seems too early. At least her character had a bit of feistiness about her; unlike the Martha Jones one who started out OK but then got all soppy and love-sick. Initially liked the Capt. Jack character, but John Barrowman is so ubiquitous on TV, he has turned into the bikini-less male equivalent of Myleene Klass, so he just annoys me now.

I think Bernard Cribbins should be the Dr’s new assistant


January 16, 2008

a (nearly) solsticial interlude: the rollrights dec 07

Paid a visit to the Rollrights stone circle in Oxfordshire on 23rd December. There had recently been a fair bit of vandalism at the circle with attempts to blow up the warden's hut and, more worryingly, to some of the stones in the main circle. Part of the sign by the king stone also had been ripped off. The vandalism seemed especially incongruous as it was a lovely sunny morning. A mouse scurried to shelter by one of the stones as we walked past and chaffinches and a robin were flitting from stone to stone. This was the third year that we’d made a Yuletide visit to the Rollrights and, despite the vandalism, the atmosphere seemed very different to our previous 2 visits. This time the stones seemed mellow, almost cheerful, whereas other times when I’ve been to visit they’ve had a despondent, vulnerable air. I wasn’t dowsing but there was a definite feeling that I shouldn’t enter the circle at one point – it wasn’t an emotion, more like feeling a physical resistance.

Possibly I’m just projecting my own feelings on to them as the last groups of stones I visited, the high and low Bridestones, didn’t provoke such feelings – tho being on the Yorkshire moors on a freezing day in heavy rain kind of focuses the mind in other directions. I’m also aware I may have been “primed” to expect something at the Rollrights as years ago I read Tom Graves’ Needles of Stone – a book which had a major influence on me at the time. Writing about the Rollrights, Graves felt they had an unpleasantly weird atmosphere when he went there. He wondered if he was picking up the “aura” left by a ceremony held there a few years prior to his visit in which a young puppy had been sacrificed (Needles of Stone, Granada, 1978, p. 152).


the dog ate my homework aka excuses, excuses

Ok, there has been a teeny bit of a hiatus between me starting the blog and this entry but sometimes I’m too busy doing life to write about it…or I’m just a lazy git…Anyway, before I start reblogging I feel an update is needed to provide a smooth transition between my last blog entry and current ones:

MA dissertation finished, handed in, albeit with month’s extension, and marks received. In November, a month later than planned I began-ish (will explain the –ish later) a PhD in History. Kind of based on my MA research I’m aiming to examine how anthropologists and folklorists portrayed folk religion in Jamaica in the late 19th and early 20th Cs. The reasons for this are:

·       During this time period folk culture was simultaneously being suppressed and celebrated.

·       There were some very interesting developments in some types of Jamaican folk religion

·       The anthropologists and folklore collectors I aim to look at are still used today to provide a first hand account of folk culture in that period

Explaining my –ish

I really wanted to extend my time period from the end of the nineteenth C up until the 1930s because the 1930s were interesting times in the Caribbean. The disillusionment felt by West Indian soldiers who had served in the First World War coupled with Garveyism was creating increasing industrial unrest and black nationalist feeling. The Rastafarian movement came into being. A Black Arts movement was developing and the American anthropologist and novelist, Zora Neale Hurston, was doing her fieldwork and publishing its findings.

However:

  • All the stuff to do with the 1930s equals at least a third of my potential material so if I include it I could be overweighting it compared to the earlier period.
  • However fascinated I am by Zora Neale Hurston, compared to some of the earlier anthropologists and collectors I intend to cover, her work on Jamaica is slight (in volume, not content) as her main focus of interest seems to have been Haiti.
  • Hurston and the 1930s are more extensively written about than earlier decades so looking at the earlier period provides more of a challenge and a chance to maybe broach something new.

BUT do I start to cut my material at such an early stage???? Decisions, decisions. It would be so cool if you could just go to a pet shop and buy an animal, say a monkey, which helped one with life’s big decisions. That way a person could combine the satisfactions of pet ownership alongside the anti-stress properties of having problematic decisions sorted by said pet.


July 11, 2007

chapter 1ish/ after Morant Bay

Chapter 1/Morant Bay

This will be very much a background chapter detailing what gave rise to the belief that Jamaica was in need of civilising. From my reading it seems that the Morant Bay rebellion of 1865 was the main catalyst. On October 11 1865 Paul Bogle a small landowner from Stony Gut in the parish of St Thomas in the East led a band of around 400 other Afro-Jamaicans to the parish capital, Morant Bay, to protest about the lack of social justice. Four days earlier a black man had been fined for letting his horse stray onto the land of an unpopular white landlord – some small settlers on his land had been refusing to pay rent claiming that the land belonged to them. There was growing distrust amongst some black Jamaicans in regard to the legal system as in some areas the magistracy was virtually dominated by planters. Since the ending of slavery and the apprenticeship system many former slaves had moved away form the plantations by either buying or leasing land individually or grouping together to buy large plots in which “free villages” were established: others simply squatted. The mid-1860s Jamaica was also a time of a depressed economic climate and severe drought which brought existing tensions to a head.

On one hand the revolt fuelled white fears of a black ascendancy in the colony and led not only to Jamaica relinquishing its Assembly and opting to be ruled by Britain, but also confirmed British ideas that Jamaica was a colony in need of civilising. On the other the severity of the repression of the uprising, over 500 hundreds blacks killed, 100s of others flogged and 1000 homes of black Jamaicans burned, the execution of Gordon on spurious grouonds, led to much criticism of the Jamaica governor both in Jamaica and overseas and contributed to the idea that Jamaica could not be ruled by force alone – instead encouragement was to be tried.

The uprising also fed into racist notions that certain non-white peoples were ungovernable. In the 19th century ideas such as polygenesis, that different races sprang from different initial origins, were prominent in discussions on race Darwin’s theory of evolution was used to back up the idea of a racial hierarchy with white Anglo-Saxons at the top and the black race at the bottom – not entirely surprising as it was white Anglo-Saxons who were writing the racial theories. Blacks were regarded by some racial theorists as inferior not only because of colour but because they had been enslaved, and they seemed to be lacking in culture, or at least western definitions of culture. . The idea also was growing of “superior” and “inferior” races and that certain races were “dying races”; an belief which seemed to be supported by the dwindling of some indigenous peoples in areas colonised by Britain.

Interpretations of Darwinism contributed to contemporary thoughts on how the British Empire should evolve. Just as in the field of racial science there was an obsession with survival of the fittest, there was an obsession amongst imperialists about which would be the next great Power, something which began to concern Britain more and more when economic and industrial/technological growth of Germany and the USA indicated that they could be contenders on the “world power” scene. It was believed by some British imperialists that the way Britain could maintain its strength was through the size of its empire and ideas such as an economic union of Empire to help bring about imperial unity were floated. A shared language and culture were also regarded as important in keeping the Empire united, especially as Britain felt it had more in common with its white Dominions than with its largely non-white colonies.

Solsticial interlude

In North Yorkshire for the summer solstice. Decided to climb Roseberry Topping (322m) on the day – it seemed appropriate to be high up on the longest day of the year.


June 14, 2007

dress as a means of resistance

Have just finished reading The Language of Dress; Resistance and Accommodation in Jamaica, 1760-1890 (University of the West Indies Press, 2004) by Steeve Buckridge which looks at how Afro-Jamaican women’s dress showed elements of resistance to both the slave system and white colonial rule. I’ve been reading it because I’m interested in ideas of cultural resistance to elite rule in the postemancipation period. I found the book fascinating on a couple of points. Firstly, the idea of reading a material artefact as a text….I knew this was done but had never read anything on the subject before. Buckridge looks beyond just dress as garments and includes jewellery, body decoration and hair styles. Secondly, she examines the idea that accommodation can in itself be a form of resistance. Most of the stuff I’ve read so far on Caribbean history tends to speak more favourably of those who maintained their afro-creole forms of culture as opposed to those who adopted white/British cultural practices. Whilst I realise that by adopting the cultural practices of the ruling class, Afro-Jamaicans risked losing, or not valuing their own culture, I feel that accommodation can be a form of resistance as the adoption of European clothing styles was one way for afro-creoles to show that they were on a par with whites. It also provided a means of disguise for those women who ran away from enslavement as by dressing in a more European fashion made them look like free blacks rather than slaves and therefore were less likely to be apprehended. Furthermore, adoption of white culture was necessary in order for people to become socially mobile and social mobility could mean achieving levels of power in society which had previously been denied to black Jamaicans. Though it could also be argued that there were those whites who would never accept people of colour as their equals no matter what they wore or how educated they were.

In the case of religion in the Caribbean, my particular sphere of interest, Christianity, (generally regarded as coming over to the Caribbean with the first whites*) was used by the enslaved and later free black populations to challenge slavery and white rule as it gave people a network of contacts, helped developed organising skills, boosted morale and self-esteem. Whilst the black population of the Caribbean didn’t accept Christianity passively – they organised their own churches and meetings for worship and added elements of African religion so that a distinctive form of Afro-creole Christianity emerged – it was only by taking up Christianity in the first place that led to it being used as a form of resistance.

* though there is a long tradition of Christianity associated with Ethiopia – some of the earliest Christians, the Copts, hung out there – but as far as I’m aware the majority of Africans which ended up in Jamaica under the slave system weren’t from that country.

Musical interlude: Eponymous by REM – when they were just emerging form the “Paisley Underground” (the mid-1980s musical movement – not a Scottish tube station) before they turned into “Shiny, Happy People”.


June 05, 2007

in the beginning cont…

I’m using the time frame 1880 to1914 because in1880 the redoubtable Enos Nuttall (more about him in later entries) became bishop of Jamaica in that year and I’m ending it in 1914 as that was when Marcus Garvey formed the Universal Negro Improvement Association in Jamaica. It could be argued that Garvey is the founding father of back-to-Africa ideas in the Caribbean at least and the period I’m intending to study is seen as contributing to his world view: he was born in 1887 in an area which hosted the first recorded meeting to propose a back-to-Africa scheme in Jamaica in that very same year. This back-to Africa scheme suggested not only that black Jamaicans should settle in Africa but also that they should help develop education, agriculture and commerce there and spread God’s word to the unconverted. So here we have a link between Christianity and ideas of Africa being in need of redemption.

As any fule kno 1914 also saw the start of the First World War and that had a radicalising effect on ideas of black nationalism in the Caribbean: Afro-Caribbean soldiers who had gone to fight for King and (mother) country were very disillusioned by the racism and inequality they encountered in the forces. Also economic effects of the war led to a rise in the price of staple goods with no corresponding increase in wages which again contributed to discontent in the Caribbean; a number of labour strikes there in 1918-1919 are attributed to this.

Musical interlude: today I’m listening to Sweetheart of the Rodeo…a record that always makes me feel bad. I’m a massive Byrds fan but just can’t get into their country rock stuff. Once every couple of months I play Sweetheart in an attempt to brainwash myself into liking it but no luck so far.


May 29, 2007

in the beginning

It was suggested that we keep an MA dissertation diary to note down our ideas, chart our progress, etc and this blog is going to be mine…yay!

* Blog title courtesy of Mr Frank Zappa – I’m not a fan of his music just really liked the phrase. Not so much cos it conjures up images of lots of little light bulbs of inspiration appearing over my head, more cos it reminds me of travelling thru cities at night and the little peaks at life in the lighted rooms of the buildings you pass. Or the like the space ships in 2001: A Space Odyssey. I guess the ultimate song about travelling thru cities at night is Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger” but it didn’t obviously lend itself as a title.

Why this topic?

I’m attempting to do my dissertation on how Protestant Christianity affected how Africa was perceived in late postemancipation Jamaica by black Jamaicans. I got interested in the idea partly after reading some collections of Jamaican folk culture gathered by anthropologist and folklorists in the early 20th century and partly from reading about plans to send black Jamaican missionaries to Africa to Christianise the “heathen”, back-to-Africa ideas and growing black nationalism in that period (i.e. Robert Love and Marcus Garvey). This was all happening at a time when British Imperialism was at its height, Jamaica was still a crown colony and to achieve social status in the colony meant the adoption of British middle class values.

I’d also been reading a lot about a radical preacher called Alexander Bedward who is seen by some as helping pave the way for people like Marcus Garvey because of statements about black pride he made. He ended his days in an asylum after failing to ascend into heaven and insisting people address him as “Christ”; pissing off the colonial authorities by raising the spectre of Morant Bay probably didn’t help. There are also stories that he could, or at least claimed he could, fly. I’m fascinated by the way some people’s lives become fiction; how stories get attached to them. I don’t just mean people like Robin Hood where it’s hard to find the real person from the fiction but more obviously “real” people like Bedward, or Elvis and Jim Morrison who are supposed to be still alive, or all the conspiracy theories that accompany the deaths of JFK, Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana.

Interlude: today listening to The Byrds’ Songs of Gene Clark – either heartbreakingly poignant or a bit like The Searchers depending on my mood.


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