Informal Commercial Importers, a Haitian Anthropologist and Self-Making in 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.
“Gina Ulysse is the first anthropologist to zoom in on the far-ranging internationalization of Caribbean market women, and her analysis clearly and compellingly illuminates the historical depth, cultural intricacies, and political and economic stakes involved in their work and their self-making. There is no other synthesis and original research like this on socioeconomic agents who have emerged in response to historical shifts in Jamaica’s place within the global economy in the past thirty years.”
“In this remarkable, sensitive, and gutsy ethnography of informal commercial importers in urban Jamaica, Haitian American anthropologist Gina Ulysse opens our eyes to the lives of enterprising women who draw on all their resourcefulness to make it in a hostile global economy, and in the process remake markets, their own identities, and the ethnographic relationship. Putting her own body on the line, Ulysse rethinks many of the key concepts and assumptions within the literature on gender, race, class, and space in the Caribbean and in the wider field of globalization studies. Along the way the book also dishes out a poignant cultural history of contemporary Jamaican urban culture.”