Postwar developments
Pages 5

The debate on the Afro-American family was hardly academic. British colonial administrators, for example, officially decried the high number of what anthropologists came to call ‘female-headed’ or †matrifocal Afro-Caribbean families (seen in contrast to ‘normal’ nuclear families). The anthropological response was a plethora of family and *kinship studies. Until the 1970s, Caribbean anthropology was preoccupied with the whys and wherefores of †‘matrifocal’ families, ‘absent fathers’, ‘female-headed’ *households, ‘illegitimacy’, ‘child-shifting’, marital ‘instability’, ‘loose’ kinship ties, ‘outside children’, ‘visiting’ sexual unions, ‘extra-residential mating’ and a number of other objectifying terms steeped in value judgements. Explicit colonial ideologies became implicit anthropological assumptions as anthropologists often endeavoured to explain these ‘pathologies’ and ‘deviations’ from North Atlantic value-norms. This concern was buttressed by imported theoretical orientations, most notably structural *functionalism. Studies focussed on lower-class Black family life in rural areas. Poverty was made to explain the family form and the family form was made to explain poverty. The study of three communities in Jamaica by Clarke, a member of an elite white Jamaican family who studied under *Malinowski at the London School of Economics, is a prime example (1957). And those who lauded the Black family form as a positive ‘adaptation’ to poverty could not explain why other similarly impoverished groups (e.g. East Indians) did not make the same adaptations.