Pathology and Identity: The Work of Mother Earth in Trinidad by Roland Littlewood
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Pathology and Identity: The Work of Mother Earth in Trinidad by Roland Littlewood

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Abstract

In 1975, Jeanette Baptist burned all of her belongings in front of her family, had a prophetic vision that the End was near, and went naked into what she called Hell Valley, on Trinidad's remote northeast coast. Throughout 1981, anthropologist and psychiatrist Roland Littlewood paid her visits. This sensitive and unusual ethnography is the product of Littlewood's dialogues with Baptist, who re-named herself Mother Earth. It is, first, a powerful statement of Mother Earth's cosmology, and that of the young, underclass, urban men who came to join her in the bush intermittently from the founding of her settlement until her death in 1983. Second, it is a richly textured story about the dynamic interweaving of diverse cultural practices in the contemporary Caribbean. Third, it is an exercise in reconciling bio-psychological explanation with ethnography. Here is where it founders, as Littlewood freely admits, but not without posing unsettling questions.

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