No Hawkers and Pedlars: Arabs of the Antilles

  • David Nicholls
Part of the St Antony’s Series book series


The islands of the Caribbean are peopled by migrants and their descendants. Colonial adventurers, slaves and indentured labourers were of course the principal sources of population. Nevertheless there have been other significant immigrant groups, including jews, Italians, Spaniards and Levantines. The arabs of the Antilles are numerically insignificant, yet from their ranks today come the prime minister and the president of the appeal court in Jamaica, the presidents of both legislative assemblies in the Dominican Republic and some of the most influential members of the business community in many Caribbean countries. It is therefore surprising that they have received so little attention in the writing of historians and social scientists.1


Middle East Dominican Republic National Life Arab Community Jamaica Labour Party 
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Notes and References

  1. 2.
    See H. Jalabert, La vice-province du proche-orient de la Compagnie de Jésus. On some of the effects of missionary education on village life in Lebanon see Afif I. Tannous, ‘Missionary Education in Lebanon: a Study in Acculturation’, Social Forces, 21:3, 1943, pp. 338f.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 3.
    J. S. and L. D. Macdonald, ‘Chain Migration, Ethnic Neighborhood Formation and Social Networks’, The Milbank Memorial Fund Quarterly, 42:1, 1964, p. 82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 5.
    Nellie Ammar recalls how her family returned from a visit to Lebanon in 1921 accompanied by a number of such new migrants. ‘They Came from the Middle East’, Jamaica Journal, March 1970, pp. 2f. On Levantine communities in the Americas, see W. K. Crowley, ‘The Levantine Arabs: Diaspora in the New World’, Proceedings of the Association of American Geographers, 6, 1974, pp. 137f. For the situation in the USA see Philip Hitti, The Syrians in America. There is an interesting thesis by Mary Wilkie, ‘The Lebanese in Montevideo, Uruguay’, (Department of Sociology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1972) and an unpublished paper by the same author, ‘The Lebanese in Costa Rica and Uruguay’. I am grateful to her for sending me this paper. Sélim Abou’s Liban déraciné is a fascinating collection of biographical studies of Lebanese migrants to South America. There is an extensive literature on the migration of Levantines to West Africa.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Afif I. Tannous, ‘Emigration: a Force of Social Change in an Arab Village’, Rural Sociology, 7:1, 1942, pp. 63fGoogle Scholar
  5. Tannous, ‘Group Behavior in the Village Community of Lebanon’, American Journal of Sociology, 48:2, 1942, pp. 23 If.Google Scholar
  6. 17.
    C. S. Holzberg, ‘Social Stratification, Cultural Nationalism and Political Economy in Jamaica: the Myths of Development and the Anti-White Bias’, Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology 14:4, 1977, p. 371. See also Holzberg, ‘The Social Organization of Jamaican Political Economy: Ethnicity and the Jewish Segment’, Ethnic Groups, 1:4, 1977.Google Scholar
  7. 22.
    B. G. Plummer, ‘Race, Nationality, and Trade in the Caribbean: the Syrians in Haiti, 1903–1934’, International History Review, 3:4, 1981, pp. 517f. See also A. Poujol, in Revue Général de Droit Public, 12, 1905, pp. 441f.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 39.
    Lloyd Braithwaite, ‘Social Stratification in Trinidad’, Social and Economic Studies, 2:2–3, 1953, p. 49. In a recent review article Roger Daniels is critical of writers on the subject of ethnic minorities for not defining the term ‘assimilation’, but he continues to use the term in a somewhat uncritical manner. Again he is hard on writers like S. Thompson and B. Wong for regarding immigrant communities as static and homogeneous, but he himself assumes the existence of a static’ society’ into which they are (or are not) assimilated. E. Bonacich also writes of migrants’ ‘conflict with the host society’ as though there is such a monolithic entity into which they come. (‘A Theory of Middleman Minorities’, American Sociological Review, 38:5, 1973, p. 593.)Google Scholar
  9. 42.
    M. Wilkie, The Lebanese in Costa Rica and Uruguay’, p. 37; see also G. A. de Bruijne, ‘The Lebanese in Suriname}’, Boletin de Estudios Latinamericanosy del Caribe}, no. 26}, 1979}, p. 3Google Scholar

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© David Nicholls 1985

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  • David Nicholls

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