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This pioneering book explores the meaning of the term “Black social economy,” a self-help sector that remains autonomous from the state and business sectors. With the Western Hemisphere’s ignoble history of enslavement and violence towards African peoples, and the strong anti-black racism that still pervades society, the African diaspora in the Americas has turned to alternative practices of socio-economic organization. Conscientious and collective organizing is thus a means of creating meaningful livelihoods. In this volume, fourteen scholars explore the concept of the “Black social economy,” bringing together innovative research on the lived experience of Afro-descendants in business and society in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, and the United States. The case studies in this book feature horrific legacies of enslavement, colonization, and racism, and they recount the myriad ways that persons of African heritage have built humane alternatives to the dominant market economy that excludes them. Together, they shed necessary light on the ways in which the Black race has been overlooked in the social economy literature.



Chapter 1. Daring to Conceptualize the Black Social Economy

All of the cases under study—from Latin American and the Caribbean, as well as North America—have horrific legacies of enslavement, colonization, and racism, and the cases will be used to discuss how Black people have contributed to the social amelioration of their communities through social-purpose businesses, which strive to reach both social and economic objectives. The Black social economy is taking place all over the Americas and is proving to be a viable alternative to extreme forms of capitalism. Brazil, with one of the largest Black diaspora populations in the world, has the legacy of Quilombos (cooperatives run by Afro-Brazilians) to retain their African cultural heritage and to have sustainable economic livelihoods. Caribbean women in Jamaica, Haiti, Guyana, Grenada, and Trinidad and Tobago organize economic cooperatives to support businesses and local projects. In Latin America, the experiences of Afro-Argentines and Afro-Colombians are lesser known cases but nonetheless have a rich history of cultivating community economies to preserve their own culture in the face of business and social exclusion. The story would not be complete without the study of the Black diaspora in the USA and Canada who encounter many forms of violence in the society. African-Americans have always had mutual-aid societies as a way to cope in a hostile environment. In Canada, newcomers from Africa and the Caribbean hold onto informal money collectives as a way to preserve their heritage and to deal with business exclusion. As explained, this work contributes to the global conversation on alternative social practices that empower traditionally marginalized social groups.
Caroline Shenaz Hossein

Chapter 2. Revisiting Ideas and Ideologies in African-American Social Economy: From the Past Forward

The presentation re-visits ideas and ideologies of past African-American thinkers on economic development in a holistic manner, placing them in the context of their times. It is true that many of them advocated collectives, cooperatives, and group enterprise but were these an end in itself, or were they promoting such activities as a measure toward equal status in the USA, that is, until they could avail of equal economic opportunity on their own? In fact, even those who encouraged exclusion from the economic mainstream did not abandon the US territorial space or its market economy. Where necessary, collectives and cooperatives will provide the necessary boost for survival and developing opportunities for the betterment of African Americans.
Sanjukta Banerji Bhattacharya

Chapter 3. Drawing on the Lived Experience of African Canadians: Using Money Pools to Combat Social and Business Exclusion

Trinidadian-Canadian Ginelle Skerritt was first introduced to susu as a savings device as a child in her homeland of Trinidad and Tobago. Her grandmother and mother were active in this African-Caribbean tradition as a way to pool money in Trinidad for business and livelihood needs. After migrating to Toronto in the 1960s, she watched her mother as a newcomer bring these collective banks to Canada and to find a supportive community. The family’s first home, vacations, and school fees were all made possible through s usu. Susu provided her with the money to be the first person in her family to go to university. As a successful professional, Ginelle explores the ways in which s usu has helped her, her family, and friends and why she participated in an adapted version of s usu for more than a decade. This chapter explores the use of susus—also called money pools—by Caribbean people in the Canadian and the personal account of Ginelle Skerritt's family using the susu system shows that diverse financial services exist in major cities around the world.
Caroline Shenaz Hossein, Ginelle Skerritt

Chapter 4. The Social Economy in a Jamaican Perspective

The chapter addresses the absence of scholarship on social economy, which reflects the experience in Jamaica, as with other developing nations. It achieves this by outlining the evolution of the concept of the social economy, beginning with the Maroons in the post-emancipation period and ending with the work being done by participants such as the Houses of Rastafari. It further grapples with the definition of the social economy and typologies of social enterprises within the local context, while applying Kushner’s model to research on a sample of social sector actors to evaluate their effectiveness and sustainability (Kushner and Poole 1996). It concludes by outlining the importance of the findings for stakeholders and the broader policy context of the social economy, and specifically the social enterprise sector in Jamaica.
K’adamawe K’nife, Edward Dixon, Michael Marshall

Chapter 5. Building Economic Solidarity: Caribbean ROSCAs in Jamaica, Guyana, and Haiti

Caribbean women create rotating savings and credit associations (ROSCAs) to take care of the need of their communities when commercial banks and formalized financial alternatives fail to do so. Informal banking collectives are important because they are inclusive, locally driven institutions to meet the livelihood needs of people, particularly women. In this chapter, it shows the various ways that the Black women participate in the social economy through self-managed groups, called ROSCAs. This chapter examines five country cases in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Guyana, and Haiti to show how ROSCAs not only build savings, community relations but also enable people to access large lump sums of cash to invest in their businesses. The Banker ladies are upholding ancient African traditions of collectivity to increase savings and to allow for lending opportunities.
Caroline Shenaz Hossein

Chapter 6. The Everyday Social Economy of Afro-Descendants in the Chocó, Colombia

The Black communities which formed in the Colombian Pacific in the 1980s and 1990s claimed collective territorial rights to hundreds of thousands of hectares of forest. Rural Black activists—in some areas connected with the Catholic Church or with regional non-governmental organizations—mobilized, and over time won, legal titles to the territories where rural Black people had long combined subsistence production, artisanal gold mining, and itinerant labor. This chapter traces a Black social economy that can be found outside of these more formal political processes, through forms of production, savings, labor, exchange, and self-help unmediated by community politics or by household economies. The chapter shows how an everyday Black social economy exists at the margins of social movement politics and the household economy and is pre-discursive and not encompassed by the language of collective territories, collective titles, or community councils.
Daniel G. L. Tubb

Chapter 7. The Social Economy of Afro-Argentines and African Immigrants in Buenos Aires

In this chapter, we examine the ways in which the Black social economy in Buenos Aires provides a means for subsistence, integration, and political articulation. Furthermore, we argue that it is an important site of converging and forging diasporic connections. We observe the ways in which Afro-Argentines, Afro-descendants, and African immigrants living in Buenos Aires participate in informal groups, charities, and mutual-aid societies to gain a political and social positioning that is difficult to achieve by formal means. This analysis is situated against recent state recognition of the need to address the visibility, recognition, and rights of Afro-descendants outlined in the Ley 26.852 of 2013 and Argentina raices afro, the publication of the Secretary of Human Rights in 2014. Despite recent laws and public policies that recognize the presence of Afro-descendants in Argentina as well as the inequality of their political, social, and cultural experience, structural and discursive racism continue to disenfranchise Afro-descendants.
Prisca Gayles, Diane Ghogomu

Chapter 8. Commerce, Culture, and Community: African Brazilian Women Negotiating Their Social Economies

This chapter examines key routes of empowerment through which Afro-Brazilian women participate in order to gain social and economic control.
Afro-Brazilian women often participate in traditional and non-traditional industries that include cultural tourism in order to create and maintain environments of security and power. My study investigates the black women of Bahia, Brazil, as cultural archetypes of race and nation and their relationship to tourism. Despite the racial inequities and the misogynistic societal limits of women in the public space, Afro-Bahian women create agency through their community activism and take advantage of the momentum generated by the multifaceted wheels of tourism.
Tiffany Y. Boyd-Adams

Chapter 9. The Quilombolas’ Refuge in Brazil: Social Economy, Communal Space, and Shared Identity

Quilombola communities in Brazil date back to colonial times, as they were created by runaway slaves of African descent seeking a “refuge” (a quilombo) where they could have freedom and better living conditions. Given their isolation, several of these communities survived over time. In some cases, ever-growing cities decreased substantially their relative seclusion, and nowadays there are quilombos in urban areas as well. Using in-depth qualitative interviews with members of quilombola communities in rural and urban areas of Greater Porto Alegre, in the south of Brazil, this research will discuss how the quilombo still remains quintessentially a refuge: It is essential for the solidarity economy in which quilombolas engage as well as for providing the physical space where a sense of community and its shared identity is both nurtured and perpetuated over time.
Simone Bohn, Patricia Krieger Grossi

Chapter 10. Black Life in the Americas: Economic Resources, Cultural Endowment, and Communal Solidarity

Black Social Economy is not merely concerned with the financial or material capital that sustains Black life, but with the interrelated educational, social, cultural, educational, judicial, religious, and agricultural structures that mediate the circumstances in which Black people find themselves in Western capitalist societies. Building on the observations of contributors, and following Ivan Light’s (Ethnic and Racial Studies 7(2):195–216, 1984/2010) analysis of the entrepreneurial opportunities and practices of immigrants and minoritized people, I offer a reading of the societal contexts in which Black people struggled against inequity, racism, and colonialism to assert their presence and gain respect. I discuss the hope and faith that are placed in education, the influential role of women, and why, despite individuals’ self-reliance, self-determination, and adaptability, “resilience” as framed by neoliberalism does not suitably explain their achievements.
Carl E. James


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