The Apprenticeship and Beyond: Generational Poverty and Gender-Disparities

Posted on | januari 20, 2012 | No Comments

Slavery Suriname

It is odd to observe that little study has been done on the period of apprenticeship in Suriname, the fact that this period impeded real freedom. Van Lier (1971, p. 183) writes that this period became introduced as ‘solution for the labor problem (shortage) in Suriname. Van Lier (ibid) is not too critical of the covenant unlike, for example Heuman (2007) who wrote about Jamaican apprenticeship, the fact that apprenticeship specifically impacted the former preadials. Van Lier (ibid) does specifically mention the classification, separating the plantation slaves from the city slaves, but gives ample description about life on the estates after Emancipation, description correlating with that of Heuman (2007). It is assumed that such a classification system was used to keep the preadials working on the estates after 1863. Significant is the fact that campaigns in Britain to prematurely end apprenticeship failed to materialize in the Netherlands, this despite early publications by the abolitionist press in Britain spelling ‘potential trouble’ (ibid, p.3).

Another noteworthy element of apprenticeship were the notions harbored by both colonial authorities and religious orders that the period of apprenticeship would ensure access to ex-slaves, to proselytize and mold their thinking, to encourage certain habits of servitude and piety, to ensure control and status quo once apprenticeship ended. Van Lier (ibid, p.174-5) demonstrates that after Emancipation interest in Christianity waned as freed turned to their traditional African cultures (NOTE). In Suriname, compulsory education implemented in 1866 and laws prohibiting the expression of African cultures and rites became introduced to keep status quo intact. The period of Apprenticeship had a negative impact on the social and biological well-being of the freed, who had to deal with a lack of autonomy, discrimination, prejudice and a significant decline in health. Van Lier for example mentions a decline in birthrate; later sources make mention of high percentages of infectious disease such as elephantiasis and malaria (NOTE).

Relevant for this paper is the fact that during Apprenticeship only a small number freed opted for matrimony, a number corroborating my earlier hypothesis that matrifocality and serial monogamy became a fixed factor of the Blacks community society in Suriname and other parts of the Caribbean and the USA.

Limited solidarity can be traced back during the early twentieth century, when despite increasing organization and civility, people continued to see the white man (colonizers) as their bosses. Exemplary are existing documents illustrating the extent of social disunity and lack of belief in local politicians (NOTE) who fought for justice, jobs and against discrimination. During the course of the twentieth century, Creoles had to compete with various other ethnic categories for for jobs and social position. Particular the competition with Hindustani indentured gave rise to a polarized socio-ethnic landscape where both ethnic categories competed for Dutch favor. Within the Creole ethnic category, skin-tone also gave rise to latent animosity and competition. In both cases, animosity and polarization were first kindled subsequently fostered by the Colonial Authorities. In 1933, an ambitious plan to revamp the ailing Surinamese economy, entailing the import of new indentured from Indonesia, gravely affected the socio-economic position of Blacks, specifically Black famers living on the outskirts of the city.

Harkening back to the earlier proposed theory that Afro-community-societies are per definition Matrifocal, to link said theory to the work of Cabaniss &Fuller (2005). Said study demonstrated that lone-mothers in general have a harder time changing economic and structural conditions that determine poverty, that in turn diminish changes escaping poverty, because those specific areas (health-care, child-care) that directly affect women typically receive limited attention from government (ibid, p.158). These findings correlate with the finding that after Emancipation little money was spend on social and economic program to improve living conditions of the freed. Afro- Surinamese women typically worked in low paying jobs and had a hard time getting access to higher education and/ or improve skills.

The disproportionate number of lone-mother families, inadvertently hampered social cohesion, because competition occurred at a different social level, at the level of survival, food and shelter and not at higher levels of society, organization, participation and socialization.

AUTHOR: Natascha Adama
E-MAIL: nataliapestova23 [@]


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