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Author(s): Marilyn Silverman

Review by: Marilyn Silverman
Source: American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 91, No. 1 (Mar., 1989), p. 211
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the American Anthropological Association
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planation on page 22 (where it first appears)

instead of on page 30; piloncillo (page 72) is not

defined in the text, nor in the glossary. But

these are small matters that can be corrected

in a second edition of this outstanding book,

which I predict will become a classic in Mexican studies.

Peasants and Capital: Dominica in the

World Economy. Michel-Rolph Trouillot.
Johns Hopkins Studies in Atlantic History

and Culture. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins

University Press, 1988. 360 pp. $35.00 (cloth).
York University

Analyses of peasantries often become stymied by empirical complexity and the difficulties of linking it all into the world system.
Trouillot's effort, therefore, is commendable;
that he succeeds so well is laudable.

Dominica is the locale, but Trouillot's aim

is much broader-to understand how "peasants" and capitalism coexist in the contemporary world. He therefore analyzes the emer-

gence and seeming triumph of the Dominican

peasantry-from pre-Emancipation until the

1970s. To do so, he uses many lenses. Each

comes out of a different theoretical perspective, each provides a different view of his cen-

tral problem, and each focuses on a different

locale. It all adds up to a thought-provoking
analysis with implications, as he intended, far
beyond the Dominican context itself.
Central to the analysis is a concept of peas-

antry as a labor process. This emphasis on

production not only allows Trouillot to make

sense of empirical complexity when confronted by occupational multiplicity, units

with "different mixes" and "unfree people";
but, more importantly, it gives him the han-

dle-the process of valorization-through

which a peasantry (in this case, in Dominica)

is integrated into the world economy. To this,

Trouillot adds the idea of human agency-

that the individual makes history both by intent and by default and that a micro-level understanding also is necessary.
Trouillot pursues this logic with his varying

lenses. He first describes the Dominican coast

and its enclaves, each with its complex socialeconomic types in differing combination. Yet,
Dominican unity, for Trouillot, is not spatial;
rather, unity is located in the history of colo-

nization and of successive monocrops and in

the history of the peasant labor process-from
the provision grounds of slaves to the small-

holding banana producer of the post-1953 export boom. Trouillot describes this history as
a struggle between plantation and peasant la-

bor processes. By 1927, "the peasant labour

process had invaded practically every unit of
production of the country" (p. 97); and by
1953, it was the dominant process for producing export commodities as "bananas .. . tied
mass production for the world market to
household production" (p. 131). The peasants
had won. Partly this was because bananas had
a use-value and were incorporated into a new,
"traditional" diet, rationalized by the view
that producers, in firm control of production,
were simply delivering "surplus" for export.

Trouillot then attaches a new lens as he

analyzes the export trade. A state agency collects the produce for the transnational marketing company, which sets the date, amount,
and price of every shipment. There is no sale,
no market, no negotiated price, no local control, and no surplus. Rather, "[t]hrough the

subjugation of the peasant labour process,

capital has turned Dominican yeomen and
tenants into 'proletarians working at home' "
(p. 157). Another history substantiates thisthat of the multinational. Its growth from a
small family concern to a diversified, highly

capitalized enterprise rests squarely on the

super-exploitation of the peasant labor process.

Trouillot finally focuses a lens on one enclave so as to analyze "the range of variations"
which run in tandem with the unity of Dom-

inica's histories. Using an "ethnography of

mediation," he describes both local life and

the agents and instruments through which the

unity of the locality and its differentiated

subgroups are integrated into the peasant la-

bor process, banana production, and the


A short review cannot cover the complex in-

terplay among Trouillot's theoretical arguments, his depiction of Dominica, and his numerous methods. Nor is it possible to address
the issues raised; for example, whether "me-

diation" is adequate for describing both

agency and integration, whether the dynamics

of local differentiation are not somewhat lost

in larger concerns, and so on. Yet such issues

only highlight the fact that this is an impressive and important book-broad in its coverage, eclectic in its approach, and focused in its

intent. It should be read by those working

with agrarian processes, regardless of culture

area; and it should be read by colleagues in

other disciplines who are concerned with

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