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Keywords:

  • nature;
  • modernity;
  • Jamaica;
  • Caribbean;
  • slavery;
  • Tainos;
  • colonial collecting

Abstract

In this article, I explore the ways in which notions of the ancient and the modern have helped to shape early museological interest and practices in the Caribbean. I argue that the Caribbean, and for my purposes Jamaica, occupies an ambiguous place between the ancient and the modern worlds—not ancient enough yet not modern enough—which has resulted in the material culture of the modern Caribbean being largely absent from anthropological (and in fact history) collections both in the Caribbean as well as in museums across Europe. The result is that the region has come to be defined materially primarily through its natural and not its cultural history, and thus is represented as a place of nature and not culture.