This interdisciplinary study examines the cultural and historical significance of the Jamaican Anansi folktales. Anansi the spider is the trickster folk hero West African slaves transported to the Caribbean. He symbolizes key aspects of Afro-Caribbean culture and is celebrated as a vital link with an African past. Anansi stories, in which the small spider turns the tables on his powerful enemies through cunning and trickery, are now told and published worldwide.
This original book traces Anansi’s journey from West Africa to Jamaica, where he is celebrated as a national folk hero. Anansi survived a cultural metamorphosis and came to symbolize the resistance of the Jamaican people.
Anansi’s Journey begins by examining Anansi’s roots in Ghana. It moves on to detail the changes Anansi underwent during the Middle Passage and his potential for inspiring tactics of resistance in a plantation context. It ends with an analysis of Anansi’s role in postcolonial Jamaica, illustrating how he is interpreted as a symbol of individualism and celebrated as an emblem of resistance.
With its broad historical sweep, tracing Anansi from Ghana through to his contested position in contemporary Jamaica, this book makes an important contribution to the ongoing debate about whether the slave trade transmitted or destroyed the culture of the enslaved.
Anansi’s Roots: The Spinner of Asante Life
Anansi’s Metamorphosis: Transmission and Change
Anansi Tactics: A Resource for Resistance
Anansi in the Modern Age
Appendix: Sample Interview
Emily Zobel Marshall is Senior Lecturer at Leeds Metropolitan University. She is the author of several book chapters and journal articles focusing on African and Caribbean folklore and literature of the African diaspora. She is particularly interested in forms of cultural resistance to oppressive forces in both colonial and postcolonial contexts.