Downtown Ladies: Informal Commercial Importers, a Haitian Anthropologist and Self-Making in Jamaica

Paperback | March 15, 2008

byGina A. Ulysse

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The Caribbean “market woman” is ingrained in the popular imagination as the archetype of black womanhood in countries throughout the region. Challenging this stereotype and other outdated images of black women, Downtown Ladies offers a more complex picture by documenting the history of independent international traders—known as informal commercial importers, or ICIs—who travel abroad to import and export a vast array of consumer goods sold in the public markets of Kingston, Jamaica.

Both by-products of and participants in globalization, ICIs operate on multiple levels and, since their emergence in the 1970s, have made significant contributions to the regional, national, and global economies. Gina Ulysse carefully explores how ICIs, determined to be self-employed, struggle with government regulation and other social tensions to negotiate their autonomy. Informing this story of self-fashioning with reflections on her own experience as a young Haitian anthropologist, Ulysse combines the study of political economy with the study of individual and collective identity to reveal the uneven consequences of disrupting traditional class, color, and gender codes in individual societies and around the world.

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The Caribbean “market woman” is ingrained in the popular imagination as the archetype of black womanhood in countries throughout the region. Challenging this stereotype and other outdated images of black women, Downtown Ladies offers a more complex picture by documenting the history of independent international traders—known as informa...

Gina Ulysse is assistant professor in the departments of anthropology and African-American studies at Wesleyan University.        

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:304 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.9 inPublished:March 15, 2008Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0226841227

ISBN - 13:9780226841229

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Table of Contents

Foreword by Catharine R. Stimpson
Acknowledgments

Introduction: Toward a Reflexive Political Economy within a Political Economy of Reflexivity
Chapter 1: Of Ladies and Women: Historicizing Gendered Class and Color Codes
Chapter 2: From Higglering to Informal Commercial Importing
Chapter 3: Caribbean Alter(ed)natives: An Auto-Ethnographic Quilt
Chapter 4: Uptown Women/Downtown Ladies: Differences among ICIs
Chapter 5: Inside and Outside of the Arcade: My Downtown Dailies and Miss B.’s Tuffness
Chapter 6: Shopping in Miami: Globalization, Saturated Markets, and the Reflexive Political Economy of ICIs
Chapter 7: Style, Imported Blackness, and My Jelly Platform Shoes
Brawta: Written on Black Bodies: The Futures of ICIs
Notes
Bibliography
Index