Free Trade and Freedom

Neoliberalism, Place, and Nation in the Caribbean

Subjects: Anthropology, Political Science
Paperback : 9780472069354, 272 pages, 4 tables, 9 B&W photographs, 3 maps and 1 figure, 6 x 9, June 2006
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Considers the relationship between market liberalization, social movements, and everyday forms and narratives of work

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Copyright © 2006, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.


In Free Trade and Freedom, Karla Slocum reminds us that, despite current efforts at global integration, local and nationally-defined places continue to hold significance. The case she examines involves eastern Caribbean banana farmers who, from the late 1980s were producing bananas for export under increasing market liberalization policies and restrictions in Europe. In a multi-level analysis, Slocum examines changes in international trade policy, Caribbean governments' laws and practices regarding farmers' production for foreign markets, and farmers' subtle and overt disagreements with global and national policies surrounding their work. Focusing especially on St. Lucian farmers' work practices, discourses, and a social movement, she illustrates in ethnographic detail how banana growers here insisted on organizing and defining their work in ways that promoted autonomy for farmers and that affirmed the histories and cultures of economy and society in St. Lucian farming regions and St. Lucia. Ultimately, this book demonstrates that alternatives to neoliberalism, as revealed by St. Lucian farmers, are being offered through the diverse and often unconventional ways that people invest themselves in national and local economies and politics.

"Free Trade and Freedom is by far the best work on Caribbean political economy to have appeared in the last ten years. Its careful attention to the impact of global processes on the St. Lucian banana industry and its fine grained, richly evocative ethnography place it in the company of the very best work in Caribbean studies and anthropology. In documenting the end of preferential trade regimes for West Indian agricultural produce in Europe, Karla Slocum illuminates how St. Lucians think through, converse with, and restructure the neoliberal languages of personal responsibility, boot-strapping, and comparative advantage to create a new vernacular grammar that is at once uniquely Caribbean and also quite telling for our understanding of the exportation of seemingly dominant and uniform ideas about economy and society to developing countries."
-Bill Maurer, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of California Irvine

"By exploring how St. Lucian banana farmers confronted deleterious shifts in international trade policies, Slocum reveals the degree to which local and global processes are mutually constitutive. Challenging the idea that globalization ought to be understood as a homogenizing process in which flows of capital and culture overwhelm local communities, she writes brilliantly about social movements that, while pitted against global forces are ultimately shaped by local conditions, traditions, sensibilities, cultures, and ideologies. Free Trade and Freedom will establish Karla Slocum as one of our most lucid and insightful scholars of globalization."
-Robin D. G. Kelley, William B. Ransford Professor of Cultural and Historical Studies, Columbia University, and author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination

"This is the first major ethnography on the local and global contexts of contemporary economic conditions in the eastern Caribbean in nearly two decades, since Trouillot's Peasants and Capital. Karla Slocum's approach is enhanced by her insightful analysis of the grassroots politics through which small banana farmers negotiate national and global constraints. They insist on holding government accountable for defending their freedom and brokering the relationship between the local and global. I look forward to assigning this book in courses on the Caribbean, the African Diaspora, political economy, and globalization."
-Faye V. Harrison, Departments of Anthropology and African American Studies, University of Florida

"Those people engaged in the study of globalization phenomena-promotors and pundits, detractors, and doomsayers alike-would do well to read this book. Slocum shows through an analysis of a Caribbean state and national political arena, and with an ethnography of banana producers for the world market, that neoliberal policies designed to secure the flow of goods and services across borders are always inflected by and constituted in the cultural values, moral models, and strategic projects at the community level and that, indeed, these are mobilized in the debates with those policies, so that we take from this book that 'the local' and 'the global' appear as dialectical moments in 'the long conversation.'"
-Kevin A. Yelvington, Department of Anthropology, University of South Florida, and author of Producing Power: Ethnicity, Gender, and Class in a Caribbean Workplace

Karla Slocum is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Karla Slocum is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and African and Afro-American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.