Year of Publication

2007

Document Type

Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

Anthropology

First Advisor

Deborah L. Crooks

Abstract

This dissertation describes the results of a two year anthropological investigation into the concept of mental well being among the working class Afro-Surinamese population in Paramaribo, Suriname. More specifically, the research investigated how working class Afro-Surinamese in Paramaribo, Suriname define and maintain their sense of mental well-being, given their unique ethnic identity within a multi-ethnic and multicultural society, and given that their environment is heavily compromised by negative globalizing forces Over the course of two years a total of 62 people contributed information through group and individual interviews, which was supplemented by information obtained through participant observation. Findings show a highly complex system of mental well being that consists of a number of interlocking and interdependent factors, which, when kept in a harmonious relationship with each other, are presumed to bring mental well being. There are unique Afro-Surinamese measures available for strengthening mental well being based in rich and historical cultural traditions that are currently under-utilized, but have the potential to be revived and introduced for the benefit of peoples mental well being. Suriname was selected as a Caribbean country that struggles in a marginalized political and economic position in regards to the rest of the Caribbean, and in relation to the world powers. Suriname is also a Dutch Caribbean country about which little academic information has been published. This research aimed to bring forth a story of a globally marginalized people, and particularly of a population of African descent. It aimed to bring attention to the concept of mental well being among African Diaspora people, and to use the story of a small population as a starting point to connect with and look at other populations, Diaspora based or otherwise. Theoretical viewpoints of African Diaspora, Globalization, and a combination of Black Feminist/Third World Feminist/Caribbean Feminist theories were used to guide and shape this research. Lastly, an attempt was made to introduce the concept of Spirituality as a new and complementary aspect of ethnographic methodology.

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