A Small Place Review

By: Olivia Vanlandingham

When one thinks of dependency, they may think of a child needing a parent to provide for them and care for them. The child cannot pay for their own belongings or have the tools to create a life for themselves. This is the same legacy and relationship that lingers after colonialism has sunk its roots deep into a country’s history. Economic dependency is when a country is dependent on its past colonial captor for `economic wellbeing. This may present itself as foreign investors buying farmland and controlling it. Dependency can also come in psychological form. This might mean a loss of identity even when the colonizers are gone. In A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid shows excellent examples of economic and psychological dependency on small and large scales.

Colonialism consistently leaves behind deep scars within the culture and economic well-being of a country. Economic dependency relates to the ways that colonialism holds a firm hand over the markets in a country where a colonial country was present. It produces and promotes the underdevelopment of the economy which produces colonial zones. Even after independence is gained the colonial infrastructure remains presenting itself as geographical apartheid. In South Africa for example Nelson Mandela did not want to redistribute the land to the less fortunate because of the fear of the foreign banks pulling out their money and refraining from contributing to the new South African government. This power dynamic of who controls wealth does not go away over time but rather increases in importance and influence.

The psychological effects of this are not any less severe. When colonial countries attempt to colonize countries, they use a great deal of violence and integrate their society into the others doing whatever they needed to do so that they could take over and colonize what they saw as simply new territory. After independence has been gained there continues to be a loss of sense of identity. In Algeria, this psychological dependency was there when the French were still very present in Algeria as the Algerian people had a strong urge to be authentically French and part of the French culture. The people of Algeria did not feel whole without the French presence as they had taken over their way of life and enforced cultural and religious practices that were not genuine for the Algerian people. They lose a sense of who they were and what they wanted in life, colonialism lingers and haunts the people that have endured it today. Whether that be street names or languages the culture that colonizers brought with them created a lifelong psychological dependence on the colonial counties and what they brought.

A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid is an extraordinary and powerful piece of literature that does not hold back on laying the truth out for the reader to read and comprehend whether they want to or not. Kincaid is Antigua born and raised and throughout the book explores the different ways that Antigua is evidently economically and psychologically dependent on the British who had formally colonized them. A prime example from A Small Place of economic dependency is the Barclays Bank in Antigua (26). This institute was created because the Barclay brothers were slave traders and they then used this bank after the slave trade was outlawed in England. This made the brothers even richer. This bank was founded on the remains of the slave trade and the wealth that it brought white people at the expense of black lives. Barclays Bank is still the largest bank in Antigua and continues to hold a strong hand on economic control as any outside banks or investors must go through Barclays or any Antiguan wants to get a mortgage for a house.

Kincaid also dives deep into the psychological dependence that lingers within Antigua and its lasting effects. These elements of dependency are not insignificant as they tackle ideas of belonging and self-worth as they related to their previous colonial captors. Kincaid discusses why “people like her” are wary of capitalists as they used to be the capital (37). They were the ones that were heavily exploited without a hint of remorse. This type of trauma does not go away once a law is passed. The power dynamics built within the colonial time period were incorporated into so much of the Antiguan society and education that things like language requirements are still used in Antigua today. So much of black Antiguan culture has been overridden by the impact of the colonizers and everything they brought with them.

A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid discusses the major economic and psychological dependencies that still haunt Antigua today. Economic dependency refers to the lingering ways that the power structure from colonialism remains within the economy and who controls the wealth in a country. The psychological side of this is the feeling of not knowing who or what your culture is. Many examples of this appear in A Small Place such as the Barclays Bank and the feeling of “being the capital”. These dependencies control many aspects of society and life in formally colonized countries.

Olivia Vanlandingham

Olivia Vanlandingham is a sophomore at Altamont and has been attending the school for two years. She is a member of National Honors Society, Mu Alpha Theta, and current Vice President of the sophomore class. Before Altamont, she enjoyed her time at Creative Montessori where she learned the importance of authenticity and leadership. Although her list of interests is long, among her favorite things do are dance, participate in school productions, and spend time with her friends and family.

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