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Ethnohistorical Research in the Hispanic Caribbean

  • Jalil Sued-Badillo
Chapter

Abstract

To many people’s surprise, the complementary use of documentary sources and anthropological tools - archaeology, linguistics, social theory, etc. - in the study of the Caribbean is not new, although it has not been known specifically as ‘ethnohistory’. It may be that as in other parts of the world, this type of handling of historical documentation was rather more occasional than systematic, and that its objective was more to study pre- colonial social groups than those who continued their lives after contact with the colonial State. However that may be, we should consider the development of the discipline in the region before we mechanically evaluate or judge it on the basis of external criteria that may be foreign to its particular circumstances. We might recall, for example, the introduction to the book Estudios de Folklore Venezolano by Miguel Acosta Saignes, published in 1962 by the Universidad Central de Venezuela, in which Acosta takes a Marxist point of view in carrying out an important critique of research on the folklore of various marginalized ethnic groups in Venezuela, the discipline that his study at the time was concerned with. This preliminary essay had great impact in the early sixties in Puerto Rico, for example, in spurring on some social scientists to become interested in the study of history. Nor is the interest shown by scholars in the Caribbean in becoming familiar with the early documentary sources new, even though these documents have, for the most part, been kept in the colonial archives at a great distance from those who were interested in seeing them.

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Notes

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Nature America Inc. 2003

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  • Jalil Sued-Badillo

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