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Centered in anthropology, the Culture, Place, and Nature series encompasses new interdisciplinary social science research on environmental issues, focusing on the intersection of culture, ecology, and politics in global, national, and local contexts. Contributors to the series view environmental knowledge and issues from the multiple and often conflicting perspectives of various cultural systems.
Enslavement and Environment under Colonialism
Mark W. Hauser
UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON PRESS
Copyright © 2021 by the University of Washington Press
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Color versions of the maps are available at DOI 10.6069/9780295748733.s01.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA
Names: Hauser, Mark W., author.
Title: Mapping water in Dominica : enslavement and environment under colonialism / Mark W Hauser.
Description: Seattle : University of Washington Press,  | Series: Culture, place, and nature: studies in anthropology and environment | Includes bibliographical references and index.
Identifiers: LCCN 2020051270 (print) | LCCN 2020051271 (ebook) | ISBN 9780295748719 (hardcover) | ISBN 9780295748726 (paperback) | ISBN 9780295748733 (ebook)
Subjects: LCSH: Slavery—Environmental aspects—Dominica. | Water—Dominica—History.
Classification: LCC HT1119.D66 H38 2021 (print) | LCC HT1119.D66 (ebook) | DDC 306.3/6209729841—dc23
LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2020051270
LC ebook record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2020051271
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ISBN 978-0-295-74871-9 (hardcover)
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To Jean and Bill Hauser for the questions they taught me to ask
Modern colonial empires were built in many places in the world by the simultaneous capture of human labor (in the form of slaves, indentured servants, indebted workers, and sharecroppers) and natural endowments (in the form of soil-water relations and varied nonhuman life) for the production of agricultural commodities exported to distant lands in service of global markets. In this book, we encounter one set of such capture processes in one Caribbean location, an island, that was the site of historical and archaeological research that informs the work.
Centered on the sugar economy that emerged in eighteenth-century Dominica to serve a world demand for sweetness, and on the power relations it forged,1 Mark Hauser’s wonderful study covers the environmental conditions in which sugar plantations, slave systems, and struggles over water and soil formed in the modern Caribbean. As an archaeologist writing colonial history, he brings talents and perspectives to this work that are often not found, even in some of the more careful historical studies. At the same time, he offers welcome analysis of the gradual, fitful, and often unpredictable ways in which local economies encounter global pressures and flows, and traces more precisely the transformations that are swept into current, rather un-nuanced, discussions of the Anthropocene and its variants, such as the Plantationocene.2
As Hauser notes, precolonial empires were built, particularly in the Americas, by directing local agriculture, and its command over water resources, to the production of crops and goods that served the purposes of large-scale polity building. In that sense, the arrival of Europeans in the Caribbean and the harnessing of land, water, and labor to the production of sugar and other crops for the world commodities market was another wave of such dispossession, redirection, and capture. It included the loss of many freedoms among the local communities and the importation of others in servitude, this time from Africa. To document this process—the ecological relations with which the production and decline of plantations are enmeshed—Hauser focuses on three issues: scarcity, mobility, and ideas of belonging. After discussing the material record of slavery and providing a description of the water channels and systems, he shows how security, flows, and belonging are both experienced and expressed.
The best work on colonialism and its forms of capitalist development in European empires across Asia, Africa, and the Americas has increasingly paid close attention to the actual processes imperfectly realizing the ambitions and imagined plans of colonial powers and elites. Ruling groups are compelled to deal with various unexpected events and frustrations (including rebellions, wars, market volatility, calamities, and epidemics). Meanwhile, subordinated working people and marginal farmers end up innovating livelihood strategies that occasionally loosen the iron grip of slavery as they look for ways out of the stark inequality and poverty that shapes their lives. Hauser provides a perceptive study in this vein, discovering actual social and ecological conditions in which modern slave economies were built around agrarian commodities. Drawing on a decade of archaeological and historical research, he provides a sustained examination of conflicts over water that forge the actual exploitative regimes designed and executed over a century.
To address the uncertainties at the heart of the immense enterprise of domination and control that slavery embodied, and the ways in which conditions of acute inequality and un-freedom still engendered ideas of belonging and emplacement, Hauser builds a theoretical framework deeply influenced by the idea of slavery as a predicament, in which he is inspired by historian Vincent Brown.3 His approach is made creatively possible by examining the material and social life of objects in ordinary Dominican plantation lives, even as he reckons the place afforded these things in wider circuits of meaning and profit making. At the same time, Hauser is attuned to the spatial characteristics of island geographies in oceanic networks, as well as the patchwork of enclaves in which people and production get sequestered through both intensification and neglect over historical periods when these islands are more or less imbricated in world-scale development.4 His painstaking, long-term research is placed felicitously and generatively in conversation with some of the most influential recent writing in environmental anthropology, historical archaeology, and the study of slavery in South America and the Caribbean.
The outcome is a fine study in social archaeology that makes archaeological work, in its concerns and methods, respond to contemporary questions of environmental stress and human distress, even as perspectives on landscape modification for economic development and nature conservation are brought to bear on the material record of human action on the environment in the long-past times more familiar to archaeological discovery. A well-attuned historical sensibility is alive to speeding up and intensifying human impact on natural environments, but the story told here resists a decisive epochal account of these processes. In that way, the “great acceleration” that historians J. R. McNeill and Peter Engelke describe5 becomes an analytical understanding of the modern exploitation of places like Dominica that is not teleological in a simple fashion. People on the island repeatedly set to work solving problems they did not create; these engagements meant that some repair accompanied a lot of loss and disruption. Sadly, the struggle to ward off the baneful effects of conquest, colonialism, plantations, and being swept into world commodity markets produced a series of setbacks for those who had the most to lose.
Funding for the research presented in this book was generously provided by the National Science Foundation, Archaeology Program (BCS 1419672, BCS 0948578), the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research (Gr 8413), the Direction Régionale des Affaires Culturelles (DRAC) Guadeloupe, and Northwestern University’s Faculty Research Grant. I would also like to thank the Faculty of Archaeology at Leiden University for providing me a NEXUS 1492 fellowship, during which I had time to read and write about Caribbean ethnohistory and waterscapes in archaeology.
I am thankful to the many individuals and institutions who made introductions, granted me access to their land, and generously gave of their time in facilitating this research, including the Ministry of Education and Island Heritage Foundation. The Lands and Survey Division of the Ministry of Housing provided geospatial data critical to this project. Lennox Honychurch provided intellectual, material, and social support throughout this project, opening his doors and his long list of contacts to enable my work. Landowners including Isidore Bellot, George Blue, Tony Burnet, Andre Charles, Michael Didier, Celma Dupigny, Christina Garner, John Henderson, Penny Honychurch, Daniel Langois, Jonathan Lehrer, and Joseph Xavier gave me access to their land. Wendy and Simon Walsh, in addition to allowing access to their land, were instrumental in organizing community events. I am also grateful to many other community members who supported this work by publishing magazine articles, hosting community events, and organizing school visits. Special thanks go to Paul Crask for years of conversation and his valorization of archaeological research in local publications.
Over the past ten years I have worked with many wonderful archaeologists from Dominica and elsewhere. Greg Alexander, Dean Bellot, Dora Bellot, Dorival Bellot, Carim Birmingham, Quincy “Q” Bruce, Walther Didie, Mitchell LaVille, Kirsha Reynolds, Michael “Togo” Sanford, Kiefa Stokes, Bradley Tavernier, Edward Thomas, and Dan Wade generously gave their time, and in so doing gave me a better sense of this world. I am also grateful to the many graduate and undergraduate student volunteers, some of whom have become professors with their own projects. They include Pedro Alvarado, Lyndsey Bates, Kat Caitlin, Lacey Carpenter, Zev Cossin, Carmen Laguer Diaz, Demetrios Elias, Eric Johnston, Kalina Kassadjikova, Brooke Kenline, Addison Kimmel, Kristin Landau, Lauren Nadeau, Kushal Rao, Sophia Theodossious, and Ivan Yeh. Special thanks to those PhD students whom I have advised and have generously contributed their talents for this project in the field or in the lab, including Alan Armstrong, Khadene Harris, Bradley Phillippi, Jenn Porter, and Emily Schwalbe. Each of them has provided insight and nuance to this project. I would like to pay special thanks to Jenn, who read and edited an early draft of this manuscript, and Khadene, who was an on-the-ground collaborator in Dominica.
I am very grateful to those who have advised me as this project took shape. Douglas Armstrong, my advisor, continues to be an important interlocutor, supporter, and friend. Jerome Handler generously gave of his time and has pushed me from the very beginning to frame the project beyond its archaeological implications. This research began as part of a collaboration initiated by Kenneth G. Kelly, who continues to be an interlocutor and friend. Stephen Lenik and Zachary Beier did a lot of groundwork for historical archaeology during his fieldwork and generously provided his contacts to me. Jeff Ferguson and Michael Glasscock at the University of Missouri Research Reactor made the compositional analysis in the research possible. Jim Delle and Kristin Fellows provided critical assistance in the initial archaeological survey of the Portsmouth enclave and generously gave me access to data they collected at Cottage estate. John Steinberg and Doug Bolendar at the Fiske Center at UMass Boston provided invaluable work on shallow geophysics of two sites showcased in this study. Jillian Galle and Frasier Neiman at the Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery (DAACS) have been enormous supports in artifact cataloguing and analysis, also providing critical feedback on field methods and data structure. I am grateful to Tessa Murphy, Isaac Shearn, Sarah Oas, and Lindsay Bloch, who helped me generate the kind of evidence required to complete this research. Special thanks are necessary to Diane Wallman, who has been a close collaborator throughout this research.
My colleagues at Northwestern have been amazing supporters and advocates of this project from the beginning. My compatriots—Cynthia Robin, Matthew Johnson, Amanda Logan, Melisa Rosenzweig, and Jim Brown—have always been generous with their insights, expertise, and wisdom, much of which is dotted throughout this book. I would also like to thank those colleagues who have read drafts and provided critical feedback on portions of this manuscript. Shalini Shankar has been especially helpful in reminding me to highlight how archaeology is contributing something new to anthropological conversations about race and inequality. William Leonard was generous with information about energetics and metabolism. Tim Earle has read numerous drafts of proposals and articles, pushing me to focus on the necessary. Micaela DiLeonardo has helped me attend to the foundations of political economy implicit in slave society. Jessica Winegar and Mary Weismantel were enormously supportive throughout this process.
Beyond my department, numerous people have left major imprints on this project. Thinking about water, environment, and slavery began with and continued through numerous conversations with Sherwin Bryant. Placing those ideas in the broader context of Caribbean and Latin American thought was something Jorge Coronado was always willing to contribute to. Sam Spiers provided material and intellectual support for this project, and friendship at a critical point. I am also grateful to many colleagues who have acted as sounding boards, including Gayatri Reddy, Chernoh Sessay, and John Karam. Corinne Hofman, William Keegan, Menno Hoogland, and Arie Boomert have generously guided me through the complicated and rich literature on pre-Columbian archaeology and Kalinago ethnohistory. Still others provided critical feedback on a published article that formed the nucleus of this book, including Charlie Cobb, Ian Lilley, Anna Agbe-Davies, Krysta Ryzewski, and Alice Samson. Special thanks go to those scholars who provide a model in contextually rich, nuanced accounts of the archaeological record, including Barb Voss and Laurie Wilkie. I would also like to remember Mary Beaudry, a mentor and friend who stood by me when I needed it most. Mary’s approach was to begin with the thing and use that object to unfold a world. Her work was always with purpose. In her writing and our conversations, she deeply influenced the shape of this research and the approach that I took in crafting this book.
I am deeply indebted to the two anonymous readers who read an earlier draft of this book and provided excellent commentary. I am very grateful to Lorri Hagman and others from the University of Washington Press who made this a better book. I am also indebted to those who made the online distribution of this possible, including the Sustainable History Monograph Pilot (SHMP) and Northwestern University Libraries.
Finally, my family has been excited about this book from its early stages. My parents’ curiosity about the world, about my work, and about the past continue to be an inspiration for me. My brothers continue to be a source of pride and critical feedback. My sister-in-law, Gayatri Menon, has the most amazing way of simplifying complex ideas so that I can figure out how to see them in the soil. Most important is Kalyani Menon—my first and last reader, my toughest critic, and my most ardent supporter. She saw this book for what it was before I did.
|200 BCE||Earliest evidence of human occupation|
|cal. CE 150–250||Major settlement in Soufriere|
|cal. CE 340–420||Volcanic eruption in Soufriere|
|CE 1200||Kalinago begin to settle Dominica|
|cal. CE 1410–1590||Second eruption in Soufriere|
|1492||Columbus arrives off coast of Wai’tu Kubuli (Dominica)|
|1590s||Sir Francis Drake visits Dominica|
|1590s–1680s||Kalinago export arrowroot, cotton, and tobacco|
|1627||Dominica granted by patent to Earl of Carlisle|
|1674||Massacre of Kalinago village by English|
|1692||Jeannot Rolle, “a free person of color,” establishes first nonindigenous settlement at Grand Bay|
|1728||French Commandant appointed|
|ca. 1730||Coffee introduced|
|1761||British General Lord Rollo invades and captures Dominica for Britain|
|1763||Britain annexes Dominica as part of the Treaty of Paris|
|ca. 1770||Sugar intensified|
|1807||Legal abolition of British trade in captive Africans|
|1831||Brown Privilege Bill|
|1838||End of apprenticeship|
|ca. 1840||Coffee blight|
|ca. 1850||Lime introduced|
|1865||Made a Crown Colony|
|1884||“Entire or partial abandonment of sugar”|
|1903||Kalinago Territory established|
|1978||Dominica becomes independent nation|