Martinique is a French island in the Caribbean. During the 17th and 18th centuries it provided the French colonial empire with great riches. Its wealth was based on the production of sugar, which rested on an enormous importation of slaves. This society was and still is differentiated along the lines of class and colour. Since 1946, when Martinique became a fully fledged French department, Martinique has undergone a rapid process of material change orchestrated by the French State. This island is now far wealthier than its Caribbean neighbours, and Martiniquans see themselves as thoroughly modernised. They are not however accepted as fully French in practice. Therefore, modern Martiniquan identity is vigourously debated on the island. In this discourse Martinique's intellectual elite, the créolistes, promotes a representation of modernity that seeks to align Martiniquan culture with French. Their representation underscores a hegemonic French neo-colonial ideology that secures the elite's social position of power and privilege. The créolistes' main argument rests on the idea of Créolité, their label for Creole culture. The idea of Créolité promotes an unmitigated revisioning of Martinique's history, and this is the principal undertaking of the créolistes. By silencing uncomfortable historical facts, like the nature of slavery, and aspects of Martiniquan culture that are incompatible with their view of modernity, they propagate their own agenda. This modernity discourse seriously challenges and transforms Martiniquan morality.
Central to the Martiniquan moral world is the moral scheme of jalousi, which draws on values from popular cosmology and prescribes morally correct practices. As a system of knowledge, this moral world is embodied, and this aspect of morality is evident in folk medical practices. These practices show how ideas about the body in sickness and health are inherently moral. When faced by the créolistes' modernity Martiniquans experience that many practices connected to this moral world is dubbed traditional, awkward, and lost in the past. They are encouraged to conform to a different type of morality in which the moral scheme of consumption is central. This morality has become widely accepted, and as a result the Martiniquan moral world is changing. The changes happen due to individual agency and improvisation in the face of social positioning and structure. The moral changes and their context of power relations are the object of study of this thesis.