Cricket in the West Indies: A Postcolonial Assessment of Structure, Identity, and the Oriental
Steeples, Douglas C.
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Contemporary West Indian society exists as a hybridized collection of identities that has been forged by centuries of ethnic and ideological exchanges, a process that continues to this day. In those Caribbean Islands once under the authority of the English Crown, the legacy of British colonialism is particularly striking, due in part to the fact that the British presence lasted, in many cases, over a period of centuries, and given that independence from Britain came only very recently. The British desire to solidify concepts of Anglo-Saxon superiority led them to introduce a number of institutions from the mother country. The game of cricket was one such institution brought across the Atlantic, but the evolution of the sport in the West Indies over the course of centuries eventually succeeded not in reinforcing British control, but in creating a venue for West Indian cultural expression and resistance. By visualizing the British colonial system and the game of cricket through the work of postcolonial geographers, while at the same time incorporating an assessment of structuration theory, it is possible to identify the role cricket played in the broader British attempt to maintain cultural, political, and social superiority over West Indian peoples. Furthermore, these same theories can help highlight the local West Indian element that, over time, was instrumental to the production of a distinct Caribbean form of expression and identity, which manifested itself both on the cricket field and off. A study of Orientalism can illuminate the development of the processes that the British used to subjugate the colonial population in the Caribbean, which in turn created important racial structures to be assessed as well. Through conceptions of ?locale,? one can view the position of cricket and cricket grounds within local society, and assess the influence such places have had in enhancing the depth of the West Indian relationship with cricket, as well as the game?s role in the creation of a fledgling regional identity. The game of cricket and its importance within West Indian society can be assessed by way of this structurational analysis, which serves to highlight important aspects of the game that have made it a historical and cultural institution of the utmost importance across the English speaking Caribbean. My initial points will focus on Orientalism, in an attempt to describe how this philosophy became an incredibly strong British academic institution, and assess the ramifications this production had in the West Indies, both on the cricket field and off. Then I will highlight the non-Orientalist geographic processes that did shape the creation of a unique West Indian relationship with the game. Finally, I will examine the role that the sport of cricket played in the production of a West Indian identity that stands in opposition to the entrenched doctrines of Orientalism. For those unfamiliar with the game, I have included an introductory explanation at the end of the work in Appendix I. Cricket is a sport that supersedes mere athletic spectacle in the West Indies, and hopefully this thesis will clarify some of the processes that have made the game such an integral part of the cultural fabric in the former British colonies of the Caribbean.