Local lives, global stage: diasporic experiences and changing family formation practices on the Caribbean island of Saba, Netherlands Antilles Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Sullivan, Amy Elizabeth
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Anthropology
  • Collectively, this body of research delineates the ways that contemporary Saban family life emerged through the creative interplay between past and present experiences of movement, labor, and family forged within the specificities of the on-going Saban Diaspora. Integrative sociodemographic and ethnographic analyses revealed that changes in these relationships have been most dynamic in the black population where non-marital childbearing and growing up in a non-marital home moved from a minority to a majority experience over the past 150 years and where many black women, through partner neglect or personal choice, came to inhabit the emotional and economic centers of their children's lives. Conversely, the social script for forming families in the white community stayed remarkably stable over time and is characterized by same-race marriage before childbearing and an increasingly challenged but still strong belief that women should primarily fulfill their roles as mother and homemaker while their men labor outside the domestic sphere. In addition to these general trends, divorce, multiple marriages, step-parent and half-sibling relationships, child support issues, and an increased prevalence of interracial and interethnic relationships and childbearing over the past 20 years have all added layers of complexity to family life in both communities and are connected to migration and labor experiences in myriad ways. Despite a gradual movement towards non-marital women-centered family forms in the black community and recent diversification of family life in the white community after a prolonged period of entrenched family-building norms, historical fluctuations in family formation patterns and Saban women's own perspectives on family life all show period and cohort-specific effects that are crucial to our understanding of how modern Saban family life evolved within the context of successive labor regimes and associated migration trends. Detailed quantitative and qualitative descriptions of these variations not only place family formation processes in their appropriate historical context but also deconstruct reified notions of "black family life" or "white family life" by showing both the dynamic demographic aspects of how all kinds of Sabans built their families over time and the changes in underlying social, economic, and cultural reasoning that precipitated stabilities and shifts in these processes.
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  • Leslie, Paul
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