“It doesn't end at the cuffs”: the discordant discourse of uniformed performance in the Caribbean

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


One of Britain’s colonial exports, part and parcel of its “civilising” influence was the martial importance of a spotless uniform. Whilst its military presence has retreated, this British legacy lives on in Caribbean schools. As with other marks of culture, an emphasis on the performance of school uniform remains where back in Britain its significance has waned. For Caribbean children school uniform inspections at the beginning of the day, standing to attention in front of the flag, replicate martial practices as part and parcel of school discipline. The resemblance of this practice to those on slave plantations also bears attention. The pressures to maintain this appearance despite a range of formidable challenges, environmental and economic, reproduces in microcosm the plight of Caribbean communities on the world stage. The ‘colonial space has been left intact to continue with its imperializing gaze, scripting and regulating the “other” (Simmons and Sefa-Dei, 2012, p. 69) even as even as these imperial practices are enlisted in aid of nation building. Children have to show up more polished, more pristine, regardless of home electricity and water supply or the state of the roads. In some cases, fording streams, or travelling several miles in overcrowded mini buses pressed up against market traders, they must still appear for uniform inspection as if they stepped out of shop windows. Not only the uniform itself but one’s entire appearance comes under inspection, in fact, our examination of policy and practice has found that interpretations of good grooming, with hairstyles, being a particular point of cultural contestation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSchool Uniforms
Subtitle of host publicationNew Materialist Perspectives
EditorsRachel Shanks, Julie Ovington, Beth Cross, Ainsley Carnarvon
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan Cham
ISBN (Electronic)9783031329395
ISBN (Print)9783031329388, 9783031329418
Publication statusPublished - 13 Aug 2023

Publication series

NameThe Cultural and Social Foundations of Education
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan Cham


  • school uniform
  • discipline practices
  • decolonisation


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