A Colorado State University researcher captures how women in the Caribbean island of Martinique are shifting the economic culture in an ex-slave society to one of entrepreneurship and empowerment in a new French language documentary, "Au Tournant de l’Histoire," or "Lifting the Weight of History: How French-Caribbean Women Entrepreneurs are Changing the Culture of Business."
Katherine Browne, Colorado State anthropology professor, takes a look at the paradigm-shifting role of women business leaders in Martinique, where the culture of business has been overwhelmingly dominated by a minority of the island’s population – white male descendants of slave owners.
The new film, based on Browne’s research, tells the stories of five Afro-Caribbean women who descended from slaves and whose lives are a testament to the empowerment of entrepreneurship. The documentary follows them at home and at work and shows how the principle of economic independence is reflected in their commitments to mothering and maintaining their femininity and identity as women.
For as long as their histories extend back in time, Afro-Caribbean majorities of Martinique have been laborers for a minority of white men and their businesses. The nature of these businesses has shifted from plantation sugar during the slave era to service-related business today.
For islanders in Martinique who are French citizens, the decline in government jobs has meant that more people are forced into the private sector to find work. Growing numbers of women are creating businesses in this changed environment and bringing new philosophical commitments that promote sustainable work and family situations.
"Using a style of management that engages rather than ignores workers’ longstanding hostilities toward the boss, these women are helping to bind a wound of history that has effectively crippled the culture of business on this island," said Browne.
Browne wrote and produced the film. Ginny Martin, two-time Emmy-winning filmmaker, shot and edited the work.
The nearly 30-minute film was first broadcast in early May 2008 on an international French channel that reaches overseas French departments and territories including Martinique, Guadeloupe and French Guiana.
The film also will be broadcast on the French national TV channel "France 3" on May 20. The English subtitled version is scheduled to be released this summer.
The project was funded by the National Science Foundation and Colorado State University.
For more information about the film or to receive a copy, contact Katherine Browne at (970) 491-5813 or Kate.Browne@colostate.edu.