2016 November Reviews

Otto Richter Library

Maria Alessandra Bollettino. 2016. ‘Of equal or of more service’: black soldiers and the British Empire in the mid-eighteenth-century Caribbean. Slavery and Abolition (Published online: 10 Nov 2016): 1-24.

Historians have long held that when planters or colonial officials took the extraordinary step to arm a slave, it was usually because they were desperate. This, it has been assumed, was particularly the case for the British. Yet the British Navy was quicker to arm their slaves than previously acknowledged, argues Maria Alessandra Bollettino, who has found that the foundation of black martial service in the British empire dates to the War of Jenkins’ Ear (1739–1748) and the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763). Understanding this to be an indication of the flexibility and variability that existed within the institution of slavery, Bollettino illustrates how both free and enslaved black West Indian soldiers came to be seen as “effective and even indispensable” as “foot soldiers in Britain’s war for empire” within the Caribbean. By relying on these soldiers, Bollettino argues, the British Navy significantly shaped race relations in the Americas to a larger degree than scholars have hitherto understood.

Abstract: This essay examines the British military’s deployment of black soldiers in the West Indies during the War of Jenkins’ Ear and the Seven Years’ War. It analyzes two subjects that remain neglected despite the recent upsurge of interest in mideighteenth-century global imperial war: the vicissitudes of these conflicts in the Caribbean and their meaning for the lives of enslaved and free blacks. It contends that black soldiers’ martial exploits convinced British officials that they were essential weapons with which to secure and expand the Empire in the Atlantic: a conviction that led British officials to clash with southern mainland North American slaveholders during the War for American Independence.

Ada Ferrer. 2016. History and the Idea of Hispanic Caribbean Studies. Small Axe 20, 3 (November 2016): 49-64.

What is the Caribbean without its Hispanic part? In this review essay Ada Ferrer considers how historical studies of the Caribbean have effectively separated the Spanish Caribbean out from the rest of the region and have treated it “as something apart.” As part of a special section on hispano phone Caribbean studies in the current edition of Small Axe, Ferrer and her fellow contributors aim to “fruitfully remap the study of the region” so as to “complicate and invigorate new creative and analytic discourses.” They intend, in other words, to push the field of Caribbean studies to move beyond its fragmented nature and further develop conceptual frameworks of the Caribbean that better incorporate the various parts. As Ferrer demonstrates, historical studies have often maintained imperial boundaries (ie. the British Caribbean vs. the Spanish Caribbean) or have relied on other types of divisions (ie. black vs. nonblack Caribbean). The scholarship has also “reveal[ed] existing rifts in the history itself.” Because the British colonies all gained independence around the same time, for instance, the study of that part of the Caribbean has had a relative coherence that the study of the Spanish Caribbean could not. Ferrer also questions how the distinct parts of the Caribbean are defined, noting that the boundaries of the Spanish Caribbean shifted over time, thus begging the question of whether it is possible to delimit the boundaries of a Hispanic Caribbean at all. She concludes by suggesting how scholars may transcend the very notion of the field by looking “inward to the local spaces that comprise it… and outward to the other islands, territories, and empires with which [the Spanish islands] were intricately, sometimes intimately, linked.”

Abstract: While Caribbean studies appears to be an established domain of inquiry, it often fails to fully incorporate the islands of the Hispanic Caribbean. Studies of the Hispanic Caribbean, meanwhile, are generally dominated by island-specific work. This essay considers the appeal and limits of the idea of Hispanic Caribbean studies for the historical study of the region. Historically, the Hispanic Caribbean at times included islands and colonies such as Jamaica, Trinidad, and Saint-Domingue. Patterns of migration further complicate the boundaries of the Hispanic Caribbean, as diaspora renders places physically outside the region central to island realities, from economic to affective ones. The essay argues that given the historical impermeability of imperial and national boundaries in the region, a transnational and transimperial approach to the Hispanic Caribbean is required. Finally, it suggests that going beyond national perspectives also includes the study of local histories, reconceived as spaces linked to but not always bound by national narratives.

Aníbal Pérez-Liñán & John Polga-Hecimovich. 2016. Explaining military coups and impeachments in Latin America. Democratization.

Before 1980s, military coups have been a relatively common way of regime change in Latin America. After the region experienced a massive transition to the democracy in the 1980s, the removal of a president from the office adopted predominantly legal forms, such as “impeachments, declarations of presidential incapacity, or the call for an early resignation, without a military intervention,” which affected 19 Latin American presidents since 1978. Pérez-Liñán and Polga-Hecimovich find that economic recession, mass protests, and radical oppositions are significant sources of presidential instability that explain why presidents are removed from the office in the first place. Military rebellions in neighboring countries, the size of the president’s party in congress and political elites’ normative support for democracy, in turn, explain if presidents are ousted through a military coup or legal means. Notably, the argument is supported by the recent examples of presidential removal in Honduras, where president Manuel Zelaya was overthrown by a military coup in 2009; and Brazil, where president Dilma Rousseff was removed through an impeachment procedure in 2016.

Abstract: We develop a unified theory of presidential instability to explain why presidents are removed from office through military coups or through legal procedures. While some causal factors motivate opponents to overthrow the president irrespective of the specific mechanism employed, other factors expand the relative capabilities of groups inclined to pursue military or civilian action. The first group of variables, including economic recession, protests, and radicalization, explains why presidents fall. The second set of variables, including regional diffusion, partisan support for the executive, and normative support for democracy, explains how they are ousted. We test this theory using discrete-time event history models with sample selection on a novel database for 19 Latin American countries between 1945 and 2010.

Raúl L Madrid and Matthew Rhodes-Purdy. Descriptive Representation and Regime Support in Latin America. Political Studies. 2016, Vol. 64 Issue 4.

Latin America has had a long experience of authoritarian rule and military dictatorship. During the 1980s, however, many authoritarian regimes in the region transitioned to democratic rule. In the beginning of the 2000s, almost every country in the Western Hemisphere had an elected government and this shift was widely supported by the population. Notably, progress has been made in incorporating indigenous groups and women into political arena. For example, Argentina and Chile have had female president, while Bolivians elected an indigenous president. Existing literature shows that public support for the government, or regime support, among general population is crucial for the establishment and maintenance of democracy; it can prevent a developing democracy from slipping towards authoritarian tendencies. When elected representatives hold characteristics of a certain group of the population, such as indigenous people or women, they are expected to represent interests of this group and receive a significant support among members of this group. Thus, descriptive representation may affect the regime support by building confidence in democratic political institutions among marginalized groups of people. Madrid and Rhodes-Purdy analyze the effect that having a female or indigenous president has on the regime support. They find that ethnic representation matters more for the regime support than gender representation and link to the historical correlation of ethnicity within other societal factors, such as socioeconomic status, education and area of residence. In other words, indigenous people tend to be more supportive of a government led by an indigenous president, while women support equally a female and male-governed political regime. The article has broad implications for the strategies of strengthening public support for democracies and further scholarship should expand its scope to examining the effects of descriptive representation on regime support in governmental institutions other than the Presidency.

Abstract: Does descriptive representation matter? We analyze the impact of descriptive representation on regime support among women and the self-identified indigenous population in Latin America. We find that having a female president does not have a consistent impact on regime support among Latin American women, but that the election of an indigenous president has significantly boosted regime support among indigenous people in Bolivia. We suggest that ethnic representation has had a greater impact than gender representation on regime support in the region for a couple of reasons. First, in Latin America, ethnicity is much more highly correlated than gender with other variables that are known to shape political attitudes, such as class, education, region, and area of residence. Second, ethnicity has been a more salient factor in elections and governing than has gender in those countries that have elected indigenous or female presidents.

Maharaj, Sandhya, and Richard Harding. The needs, models of care, interventions and outcomes of palliative care in the Caribbean: a systematic review of the evidence. BMC palliative care 15, no. 1 (2016): 1.

Though palliative care has long played a role in medicine, the globally aging population has reinvigorated interest among clinicians, researchers, and laypersons alike in provisioning quality end of life care. Maharaj and Harding begin their recent review in BMC Palliative Care with the hard-hitting statistic that 45 of the 58 million deaths each year occur in low and middle income countries. In the Americas, 50 percent of cancer deaths come from Latin America and the Caribbean, with Cuba and Trinidad and Tobago boasting the highest cancer mortality rates in the region. Is the public health system equipped to furnish palliative care for the rapidly growing aging population in Latin American and the Caribbean?

Abstract: Palliative care provision is expanding in low and middle income countries. Services are developing in the Caribbean in response to the region’s ageing population, the significant burden of cancer, non-communicable diseases and HIV/AIDS. Appraisal of the existing evidence on palliative care needs, models of care, interventions and outcomes in the Caribbean is essential to inform emerging practice and future research. Research from the Caribbean highlights the need for health care policy, training of staff, education, and access to analgesia and palliative care support services in this region. This sparse evidence must be taken into consideration with cultural beliefs and preferences of the Caribbean population in order to achieve improved outcomes for patients, their caregivers and health care professionals. This underscores the importance for more research in the field of palliative care in the Caribbean.

Gray, Tricia J., Jason Gainous, and Kevin M. Wagner. Gender and the Digital Divide in Latin America. Social Science Quarterly (2016).

According to Gray, Gainous, and Wagner (2016), social media in Latin America is a man’s game. Data suggests that countries with less gender equality have a greater gender disparity in Internet and social media use. Does it matter? Gray and colleagues’ data suggests that gender differences in social media and Internet use have key implications in the perpetuation of gender inequality. Read what they have to say about how the lack of women on social media in Latin America is serving to stymie the potential for the Internet to serve as an equalizing force across gender.

Abstract: We analyze differences in how men and women in Latin American countries are utilizing the Internet to identify a possible regional gendered digital divide in Internet use. The extent, degree, and implications of this gender digital divide are explored across countries with varying degrees of digital freedom. We employ a series of random- and fixed-effects models utilizing individual-level data from the 2010 Latin Barometer merged with country-level data obtained from the U.N. Gender Inequality Index. Our results suggest that, in general, Latin American men tend to use the Internet more than women. Men also use more social media and gather political information more frequently. In addition, Internet use is higher across these categories in countries with more gender equality. The potential for the Internet to serve as a social and political equalizing force in Latin America is stymied in part by the gendered digital divide.