My project is primarily interested in examining the implications of ethnic diversity on democratic institutions and development challenges in the South American country of Guyana - derived out of its colonial occupation. My interests in this project stems from my personal connection to the political climate and historical legacies that have shaped the contemporary status of Guyana - as a person of Guyanese descent. As one of the poorest nations within the Western Hemisphere, the country’s economic realities have created systemic issues that have deeply suppressed access to basic human services for many.
Conducting my research has included a variety of archival work from various institutions. My initial approach has included exploring original documents from the National Archives of the United Kingdom, in an effort to examine early information on England’s early relationship with Guiana (purchase of the territory and expansion of authority in the region). The National Archives have provided me with an expansive array of information, from early government charters, to trade information. In addition, I have I have been exploring how early landowners, and slaveowners tracked black bodies during the colonial period. The period of time I am most interested in is the late 1830s, when indentured servitude was introduced. I have been attempting to look at how government entities, and others began to classify East Indian indentured servant in comparison to their African counterparts. More contemporary records have provided insight into how ethnic origins play into the formation of political parties in Guyana. The legal delineation used into the founding of the country, at the point of independence has been most useful in providing this type of insight.
In addition to this, I have explored the writing and early documents from the founding political leaders of the country, most notably Cheddi Jagan and Forbes Burnham. By looking at their speeches, I have gained insight into how these political figures used rhetoric to accomplish particular outcomes in how citizens organized politically. At the beginning of this country’s founding such leaders represented a critical movement, setting the foundation for an independent nation contrived from colonial occupation, forging a new identity. In this same vain, I’m looking to see how activists such as Walter Rodney operated in opposition to early leaders, connecting a consciousness of activism occurring in the Caribbean to larger movement taking place globally in the same time frame.
As I continue to move through my research, I hope to be able to travel to both the National Archives in the United Kingdom, as well as the Archives in Guyana in order to gain a more comprehensive context around the challenges that took place during the country’s nation building process. I hope to present this work the Caribbean Studies Association annual conference that will take place in Georgetown, Guyana this year amongst other scholars whose expertise in Caribbean studies will provide a platform for the expansive exchange of ideas within the field.