In Jamaica in the 1940s and 1950s, prominent women and women’s organizations led a notorious campaign to promote mass weddings. The campaign targeted working-class black Jamaicans living together in long-term heterosexual relationships and was aimed at improving the status of women and children and readying working-class Jamaicans for citizenship. This essay explores mass weddings as a form of women’s activism in the mid-twentieth century, and it reflects on M. G. Smith’s trenchant critique of mass weddings in his introduction to Edith Clarke’s iconic study My Mother Who Fathered Me. Smith identifies a governor’s wife as the instigator of the campaign, not the black Jamaican middle-class nationalist feminists who were responsible, yet his account has ascended to a form of academic folk knowledge that is oft repeated and rarely probed. As a valued resource for understanding late colonialism in the Caribbean, it has caricatured Caribbean feminist interventions in nationalist projects, and it contributes to the feminization of an enduring Caribbean “coloniality.”
Mass Weddings in Jamaica and the Production of Academic Folk Knowledge
Tracy Robinson is a senior lecturer in and the deputy dean of graduate studies and research for the Faculty of Law, University of the West Indies, Mona. She writes in the areas of constitutional law; family law; and gender, sexuality, and the law. She is a cofounder and co-coordinator of the Faculty of Law UWI Rights Advocacy Project, which led strategic litigation in Belize and Guyana on the criminalization of LGBTQ persons.
Tracy Robinson; Mass Weddings in Jamaica and the Production of Academic Folk Knowledge. Small Axe 1 November 2020; 24 (3 (63)): 65–80. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/07990537-8749782
Download citation file: