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If, as many cultural critics have asserted, the world is becoming more like the Caribbean, then the task of charting what we mean by "the Caribbean" is an urgent one. This careful study of the British Virgin Islands (BVI) calls attention to the ways in which ideas about nature and choice have come to justify a social order in which half the population is deemed not to belong and is denied legal rights.
The BVI, one of Britain's few remaining colonial possessions, has become an important destination point for Caribbean migrants and a center for international financial services. Bill Maurer traces how the BVI came to be defined, legally and popularly, as a territorial entity, and how BVIslanders came to define themselves as a "people" sharing a "culture." He argues that law has been central to the construction of ethnic, racial, and cultural differences that create boundaries between peoples and places and that facilitate the exploitation of labor, the exclusion of people from the political process, and the globalization of capital.
Recharting the Caribbean will be important reading for anthropologist, legal scholars, and historians of colonial discourse.
Bill Maurer is Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of California at Irvine.