Professor Besson has served on the Editorial Board of the Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies and as chair of the Society for Caribbean Studies in the UK, of which she is a founder member (1977) and (since 2010) an elected Honorary Life Member.
She was a founding co-editor of the journal Progress in Development Studies (London: Arnold) and continues as a Life Member of the PIDs Advisory Board. She has been an advisor to the Scottish Executive on census issues of ethnicity (2007) and a member of the Academic Advisory Committee of the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum for the Exhibition ‘Breaking the Chains’ (2007-2009) commemorating the bicentenary of the abolition of the British transatlantic slave trade.
She is an Associate Fellow of the Instituteof Latin American Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London and of the Institute of the Americas, University College London.
Professor Jean Besson has carried out research in Jamaica and the Eastern Caribbean, publishing on cultural history, peasantries (free villages, informal occupiers and maroons), land, law, development, kinship, gender, narratives, religion, migration and ethnicity.
Her publications include Martha Brae’s Two Histories: European Expansion and Caribbean Culture-Building in Jamaica (Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 2002); Caribbean Narratives of Belonging: Fields of Relations, Sites of Identity, edited with Karen Fog Olwig (Oxford: Macmillan, 2005); Caribbean Land and Development Revisited, edited with Janet Momsen (New York: Palgrave, 2007); and Transformations of Freedom in the Land of the Maroons: Creolization in the Cockpits, Jamaica (Kingston and Miami: Ian Randle Publishers, 2016).
She is currently writing an ethnography based on long-term fieldwork among informal occupiers in a Jamaican ‘squatter’ settlement.
Publications and research outputs
Besson, Jean. 2016. Transformations of Freedom in the Land of the Maroons: Creolization in the Cockpits, Jamaica. Kingston and Miami: Ian Randle Publishers. ISBN 978-9766374082
Besson, Jean. 2002. Martha Brae's Two Histories: European Expansion and Caribbean Culture-Building in Jamaica. Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0807827347
Besson, Jean and Olwig, Karen Fog, eds. 2005. Caribbean Narratives of Belonging: Fields of Relations, Sites of Identity. Oxford: Macmillan. ISBN 1405018798
Besson, Jean. 2021. Free Villages. In: Diana Paton and Matthew J. Smith, eds. The Jamaica Reader: History, Culture, Politics. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, pp. 163-167. ISBN 9781478011514
Besson, Jean. 2011. Missionaries, planters, and slaves in the age of abolition. In: Stephan Palmié and Francisco A Scarano, eds. The Caribbean: A history of the region and its peoples. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, pp. 317-329. ISBN 9780226645087
Besson, Jean. 2011. M. G. Smith’s plural society theory and the challenge of Caribbean creolization. In: Brian Meeks, ed. Caribbean Reasonings: M. G. Smith: Social theory and anthropology in the Caribbean and beyond. Kingston and Miami: Ian Randle Publishers, pp. 22-42. ISBN 978-976-637-533-1
Besson, Jean. 2009. Myal, Revival and Rastafari in the making of western Jamaica: dialogues with Chevannes. In: Horace Levy, ed. The African-Caribbean world view and the making of Caribbean society. Kingston: University of West Indies Press, pp. 26-45. ISBN 978-9766402105
Besson, Jean. 2007. ‘Squatting’ as a strategy for land settlement and sustainable development. In: Jean Besson and Janet Momsen, eds. Caribbean land and development revisited. New York: Palgrave, pp. 135-146. ISBN 9780230261242
Besson, Jean. 2005. Sacred sites, shifting histories: narratives of belonging, land and globalization in the Cockpit Country, Jamaica. In: Jean Besson and Karen Fog Olwig, eds. Caribbean narratives of belonging: fields of relations, sites of identity. Oxford: Macmillan, pp. 17-43. ISBN 1-4050-1879-8
Olwig, Karen Fog and Besson, Jean. 2005. Introduction: Caribbean narratives of belonging. In: Jean Besson and Karen Fog Olwig, eds. Caribbean narratives of belonging: fields of relations, sites of identity. Oxford: Macmillan, pp. 1-14. ISBN 1-4050-1879-8
Besson, Jean. 2003. Gender and development in the Jamaican small-scale marketing system. In: David Barker and Duncan McGregor, eds. Resources, planning and environmental management in a changing Caribbean. Kingston: University of the West Indies Press, pp. 11-35. ISBN 978-9766401344
Besson, Jean. 2003. History, culture and land in the English-speaking Caribbean. In: Allan N. Williams, ed. Proceedings of the conference on Land in the Caribbean: land policy, administration and management in the English-speaking Caribbean. Madison USA: Land Tenure Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison, pp. 31-60.
Besson, Jean. 2003. Euro-Creole, Afro-Creole, Meso-Creole: creolization and ethnic identity in west-central Jamaica. In: Gordon Collier and Ulrich Fleischmann, eds. A Pepper-Pot of Cultures: Aspects of Creolization in the Caribbean. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, pp. 169-188. ISBN 90-420-0928-4
Besson, Jean. 2002. Land, territory and identity in the deterritorialized, transnational Caribbean. In: Michael Saltman, ed. Land and Territoriality. Oxford: Berg Publishers, pp. 175-208. ISBN 1-85973-564-9
Besson, Jean. 2001. Empowering and engendering hidden histories in Caribbean peasant communities. In: Thomas Bremer and Ulrich Fleischmann, eds. History and Histories in the Caribbean. Madrid: Iberoamericana and Frankfurt am Main: Vervuert, pp. 69-113. ISBN 84-95107-25-2 and 3-89354-570-0
Besson, Jean. 2000. The appropriation of lands of law by lands of myth in the Caribbean region. In: Allen Abramson and Dimitrios Theodossopoulos, eds. Land, law and environment. London: Pluto Press, pp. 116-135. ISBN 9780745315751
Besson, Jean. 2018. Sidney W Mintz’s ‘peasantry’ as a critique of capitalism: New evidence from Jamaica. Critique of Anthropology, 38(4), pp. 443-460. ISSN 0308-275X
Besson, Jean. 2018. Review of Almost Home. Maroons between Slavery and Freedom in Jamaica, Nova Scotia, and Sierra Leone by Ruma Chopra. International Review of Social History, 63(3), pp. 526-529. ISSN 0020-8590
Besson, Jean. 2018. Review of In the forests of freedom: the fighting Maroons of Dominica by Lennox Honychurch. Slavery & Abolition, 39(2), pp. 442-444. ISSN 0144-039X
Besson, Jean. 2016. Review of Ties that bind: the black family in post-slavery Jamaica, 1834-1882 by Jenny M. Jemmott. New West Indian Guide / Nieuwe West-Indische Gids, 90(3-4), pp. 334-335. ISSN 1382-2373
Besson, Jean. 2014. Review of Enacting power: the criminalization of obeah in the Anglophone Caribbean, 1760-2011 by Jerome S. Handler and Kenneth M. Bilby. Slavery & Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies, 35(2), pp. 384-386. ISSN 0144-039X
Besson, Jean. 2012. Review of Cultural DNA: gender at the root of everyday life in rural Jamaica by Diana. J. Fox. New West Indian Guide / Nieuwe West-Indische Gids, 86(3-4), pp. 381-384. ISSN 1382-2373
Besson, Jean. 2010. Review of Down town ladies: informal commercial importers, a Haitian anthropologist, and self-making in Jamaica by Gina A. Ulysse. New West Indian Guide / Nieuwe West-Indische Gids, 84(3-4), pp. 315-318. ISSN 1382-2373
Besson, Jean. 2009. Review of Jamaica in 1850 or, the effects of sixteen years of freedom on a slave colony by John Bigelow. New West Indian Guide/Nieuwe West-Indische Gids, 83(1-2), pp. 140-142. ISSN 1382-2373
Besson, Jean. 2008. Review of The language of dress: resistance and accommodation in Jamaica, 1760-1890 by Steeve O. Buckridge. New West Indian Guide / Nieuwe West-Indische Gids, 80(3-4), pp. 265-267. ISSN 1382-2373
Besson, Jean. 2007. Review of Negotiating Caribbean freedom: peasants and the state in development by Michaeline A. Crichlow. Contemporary Sociology: A Journal of Reviews, 36(4), pp. 360-361. ISSN 0094-3061
Besson, Jean. 2004. L’héritage de l’esclavage: La mémoire du sol en Jamaïque occidentale. Annales. Histoire, Sciences sociales, 59(3), pp. 569-587. ISSN 0395-2649
Besson, Jean. 2004. Periodization or Process? An Anthropological View of History. Journal of Victorian Culture, 9(2), pp. 244-250. ISSN 1355-5502
Besson, Jean. 2004. Review of Jamaica in slavery and freedom: history, heritage and culture by Kathleen E. A. Monteith and Glen Richards, eds. New West Indian Guide / Nieuwe West-Indische Gids, 78(3-4), pp. 315-317. ISSN 1382-2373
Conference or Workshop Item
Besson, Jean. 2016. 'Transformations of freedom in the land of the Maroons: creolization in the Cockpits, Jamaica'. In: 40th Annual Conference of the Society for Caribbean Studies. University of Newcastle 6-8 July 2016 and to UCL institute of the Americas, 12 October 2016.
Besson, Jean. 2015. 'Jamaican hidden histories in Caribbean context: maroons, free villages and ‘squatter’ settlements'. In: Keynote Address. 39th Annual Conference of the Society for Caribbean Studies. The Drum Intercultural Arts Centre, Birmingham, United Kingdom 1-3 July 2015.
Besson, Jean. 2013. 'Transformations of freedom in the land of the Maroons: creolization in the Cockpits, Jamaica'. In: Caribbean Research Seminar in the North. University of Newcastle, United Kingdom 10 May 2013 and to the Jamaican Historical Society, University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica, 11 December 2012.
Besson, Jean. 2012. '"Jamaica 50": the role of peasantization in the development of a Caribbean nation-state'. In: Graduate Seminar, Centre for Amerindian, Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Department of Social Anthropology, University of St. Andrews, United Kingdom April 2012.
Besson, Jean. 2012. 'Maroons, free villagers and "squatters" in the development of Independent Jamaica'. In: conference Fifty Years of Jamaican Independence: Developments and Impacts. Institute for the Study of the Americas, University of London, School of Advanced Study, United Kingdom 10 February 2012.
Besson, Jean. 2010. 'Southampton arrival: the making of a Meso-Creole, a Caribbeanist and Caribbean Studies in the U.K.'. In: Keynote Address. 34th Annual Conference of the Society for Caribbean Studies. University of Southampton, United Kingdom 7 July 2010.
Besson, Jean. 2008. 'The sacred and the secular in Caribbean creolization: land, kinship, gender and religion'. In: Keynote Address. International Conference on The sacred and the secular. School of Humanities, University of Southampton, United Kingdom September 2008.
Besson, Jean. 2008. 'M. G. Smith’s plural society theory and the challenge of Caribbean creolization'. In: Keynote Address. International Conference in honour of the late Professor M. G. Smith (O.M. Jamaica). University of the West Indies/University of California, Centre for Caribbean Thought, U.W.I., Kingston, Jamaica June 2008.
Besson, Jean. 2000. 'Reflections on Caribbean Studies in the Year 2000'. In: Keynote Address. 23rd Annual Conference of the Society for Caribbean Studies. University of Birmingham, United Kingdom 4-5 July 2000.