Elections and Ethnicity in French Martinique

A Paradox in Paradise

by William F.S. Miles

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December 1985


Pages 302
Volumes 1
Topics Race and Ethnicity/General

In the presidential elections of 1981, France voted in a Socialist government, yet the island of Martinique, former colony and slave-plantation island, voted overwhelmingly against the party of Francois Mitterand. This volume examines the political climate of present-day Martinican society, as borne out in those crucial 1981 elections. The author explores all currents of Martinican political thought and analyzes the political instruments of change, especially those emanating from the Left. He also presents information on the development of colonial doctrine in the French West Indies and discusses the economic, ethnic, and nationalist components of the political situation on Martinique.



William F.S. Miles has made an important contribution to the literature on the Caribbean by writing one of the few books in English on the French Caribbean. In recent years, French-language scholarship on the political and socio-economic life of the Caribbean island of Martinique and Guadeloupe has expanded and addressed many of this subregion's problems. The French Caribbean, in particular, suffers from a question of identity due to a long period of assimilation of the French culture as well as being linked closer to the European country's economy than to the surrounding region. In North America, there has been a substantial gap in the literature with only four major works in the post-World War II era. Miles addresses part of that gap. His thesis is that assimilation of Martinique as part of the greater French nation-state was incomplete and because of that incompleteness, Martinican society has a unique perspective in being neither wholly French nor Caribbean. . . To Miles, assimilation is not complete, but Martinican politics and society are not quite French, though they are becoming increasingly Western. They have less and less in common with the West Indies in general, but the model of total assimlation with France has been effectively discredited. The future, one feels from reading Miles, is one of drift in which the Martinicans grapple with the fundamental question of identity. Mile's Elections and Ethnicity in French Martinique is a specialist's book well worth reading for anyone with an interest in Caribbean politics and history. It reads well and the research is solid.—The Times of the Americas

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