Caribbean Masala: Indian Identity in Guyana and Trinidad

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Monographs, Social Science on 2018-07-18 18:45Z by Steven

Caribbean Masala: Indian Identity in Guyana and Trinidad

University Press of Mississippi
144 pages (approx.)
9 b&w illustrations
6 x 9 inches
Hardcover ISBN: 9781496818041

Dave Ramsaran, Professor of Sociology
Susquehanna University, Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania

Linden F. Lewis, Presidential Professor of Sociology; Associate Dean of Social Sciences
Bucknell University, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania

How Indian descendants maintained their culture and grew their influence in the Caribbean

In 1833, the abolition of slavery in the British Empire led to the import of exploited South Asian indentured workers in the Caribbean under extreme oppression. Dave Ramsaran and Linden F. Lewis concentrate on the Indian descendants’ processes of mixing, assimilating, and adapting while trying desperately to hold on to that which marks a group of people as distinct. In some ways, the lived experience of the Indian community in Guyana and Trinidad represents a cultural contradiction of belonging and non-belonging. In other parts of the Caribbean, people of Indian descent seem so absorbed by the more dominant African culture and through intermarriage that Indo-Caribbean heritage seems less central.

In this collaboration based on focus groups, in-depth interviews, and observation, sociologists Ramsaran and Lewis lay out a context within which to develop a broader view of Indians in Guyana and Trinidad, a numerical majority in both countries. They address issues of race and ethnicity but move beyond these familiar aspects to track such factors as ritual, gender, family, and daily life. Ramsaran and Lewis gauge not only an unrelenting process of assimilative creolization on these descendants of India, but also the resilience of this culture in the face of modernization and globalization.

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The Dougla Defect

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive on 2016-08-23 18:07Z by Steven

The Dougla Defect

Without Wax

Sara Bharrat

Dougla Defect?
Indian speaks to a Dougla woman about her Dougla baby
Indian: The baby getting nice now.
Now he complexion comin’ lil clear.

—(Rochelle Etwaroo photo and testimony)

For Rochelle Etwaroo: the hybrid of two great people and a seed of hope.

The Dougla Defect is evidence of Guyana’s ongoing Black and Indian war. It is a source of shame to both the Black and Indian man who insists on remaining entrenched in fear. They have both condemned the hybrid of themselves to that cold, cruel no man’s land that separates them.

It is not the Black man or the Indian man who has suffered the most painful wounds in this war. It is the hybrid who suffers; the Dougla boy, the Dougla girl, whose only crime has been birth. The war has stolen home and identity from the Dougla and replaced it with hurt and displacement. How can a nation be so cruel to its children?…

Read the entire article here.

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Indian, African-Guyanese numbers continue to decline, census finds

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Census/Demographics, Media Archive on 2016-07-19 20:22Z by Steven

Indian, African-Guyanese numbers continue to decline, census finds

Stabroek News
Georgetown, Guyana

Staff Writer

– mixed race, Amerindian populations still growing

Although the country’s two largest ethnic groups, East Indian and African-Guyanese, continued to decline in their numbers between 2002 and 2012, the drop was offset by continued growth in the mixed race and Amerindian populations, according to the last census.

However, the 2012 National Population and Housing Census also found that despite the shifts, which include the decline in the East Indian-Guyanese population from 326,277 or 43.4% to 297,493 or 39.8%—a drop of 28,784 or 3.6%—the overall ethnic distribution pattern remained unchanged from the 1980s.

The Bureau of Statistics yesterday announced the release of two Compendiums that further detail the findings of the four-year-old census, including the ethnic composition of the population…

Read the entire article here.

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A Multiethnic Movement Emerges in Guyana to Counter Politics-as-Usual

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy on 2015-01-20 18:51Z by Steven

A Multiethnic Movement Emerges in Guyana to Counter Politics-as-Usual

The New York Times

Girish Gupta

GEORGETOWN, Guyana — Swaying to the rhythms of Afro-Guyanese reggae, the protesters, descendants of African slaves and indentured laborers from India, gathered on the streets of Georgetown in a show of unity against the country’s president.

A few years ago, a gathering of members of Guyana’s two main ethnic groups, which have long been at opposite ends of the country’s political divide, would have been unusual.

But the protest in November, after President Donald Ramotar suspended Parliament in order to fend off a no-confidence motion, reflected an important change taking place in this tiny English-speaking country of just 740,000 people perched on the shoulder of South America.

Politics in Guyana have long been delineated by race. But a multiethnic movement that has emerged in recent years has given voice to a new generation of Guyanese who say that politics as usual has held the country back by favoring race over merit, undermining economic progress.

“This shows the true reality of Guyana now,” Marcia de Costa, 37, a manager of a beauty salon, said, pointing toward the diverse crowd at the rally. “This is new for us.”

The two main political parties in Guyana have traditionally hewed to racial lines: one drawing support from the descendants of Africans brought over by the Dutch in the 17th century, and the other from the descendants of the Indians brought by the British a couple of centuries later.

But the emergence of a third party in recent years has changed the dynamics…

Read the entire article here.

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Multiracial Identities in Trinidad and Guyana: Exaltation and Ambiguity

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Social Science on 2013-08-28 03:10Z by Steven

Multiracial Identities in Trinidad and Guyana: Exaltation and Ambiguity

Latin American Issues
Volume 13 (1997) (The Caribbean(s) Redefined)
Article IV

Camille Hernandez-Ramdwar, Associate Professor of Sociology
Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario

For people of formerly colonized countries, race mixing among the populace has always been a reality. This is particularly true for Caribbean peoples. This paper addresses the ambivalent existence of multiracial identities for Caribbean people in the regions of Trinidad and Guyana, two areas with particularly diverse populations including significant numbers of people who are of (East) Indian background, as well as (in Guyana) an indigenous Amerindian population. The current relevancy of this issue is highlighted by tensions between African and Indian populations in each area, following the elections of predominantly Indian-based governments in Guyana in 1992 (PPP) and Trinidad & Tobago in 1995 (UNC/NAR coalition). As racial terrains shift in the realms of power, people often resort to constructions of “pure” identities to support an “us” versus “them” agenda. An exploration into multiracial identity challenges this re-ordering of racial monoliths and homogeneous social organization; it provides an opening for discussion of similarities rather than differences, of interlinkages and a shared history of colonization.

For the purposes of this article, the term “multiracial” is intended to signify an identity which has arisen out of a colonial history. Prior to Columbus, any notion of “race” among the Amerindians would have differed considerably from that which was developed over time by the Europeans for very specific imperialist reasons. Multiracial Caribbean people are those who are descended from more than one racial group found in the Caribbean. The very notion of multiracial identity is only significant if importance, privilege, difference, or debasement has been accorded to particular racial groups over others during the course of Caribbean history.

My analysis of Caribbean multiracial identity is based on the works cited as well as a series of interviews I conducted with multiracial Caribbean and Caribbean-Canadian people during 1994-1995. It is a preliminary investigation of a subject area which requires much deeper study, a study which I hope to flesh out from this skeletal framework of initial inquiry. Caribbean scholarship has largely ignored and overlooked multiracial/mixed race identity with the exception of a few articles and papers (Khan, Puri, Reddock, and Shibata), and a rather significant body of work dealing with the Coloured/Mulatto/gens de couleur class and its historical/political significance (Braithwaite, Brathwaite, Brereton, Cohen & Green, Heuman, and Sio). In comparison, within the body of Caribbean literature there is an attempt to examine, however superficially, multiracial identity and its problematic/complex meaning beyond African/European bipolarity. This is mostly evident in the works of Edgar Mittelholzer, V.S. Naipaul, Jan Shinebourne, Lawrence Scott, and Merle Hodge. However, large gaps remain in the areas of theory and primary research examining how racially complex Caribbean people negotiate and navigate their identities in a social and political atmosphere which both exalts them (“All o’ we is one”, “One people, one nation, one destiny”, “Out of many, one people”) and denies them full recognition as a legitimate racial “group” in an arena where one’s racial allegiance purportedly informs community and political alliance, personal and business networks, state power and consequently, access to resources.


  • I. “Raceing” in Trinidad and Guyana: Historical Developments
  • II. “Douglas
  • III. The “Cocoa Panyols
  • IV. “Bovianders”
  • V. Representations of the Multiracial Person
  • VI. “Brotherhood of the Boat”? The Common Origin Debate in Trinidad
  • VII. Erasure of Multiracial Identity in Trinidad, Erasure of Multiracial Identity in Trinidad and Guyana
  • VII. Conclusion
  • Notes

Read the entire article here.

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Language and the Politics of Ethnicity in the Caribbean

Posted in Anthropology, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Papers/Presentations, Social Science on 2010-02-14 05:26Z by Steven

Language and the Politics of Ethnicity in the Caribbean

Center for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean
York University, Toronto, Ontario
The Fourth Annual Jagan Lecture
Presented at York University on 2002-03-02

George Lamming, Visiting Professor
Brown University

The Jagan Lectures commemorate the life and vision of the late Dr. Cheddi Jagan, Caribbean thinker, politician, and political visionary. The series of annual lectures is founded upon the idea that the many and varied dimensions of Cheddi Jagan’s belief in the possibility of a New Global Human Order should be publicly ac-knowledged as part of his permanent legacy to the world.

This lecture was given by the renowned Caribbean writer and intellect George Lamming as part of the Jagan Lecture Series commemorating the late Dr. Cheddi Jagan. Lamming looks at the problem of ethnicity – and especially of relations between Africans and Indians in the territories where they form almost equal populations, namely Guyana and Trinidad – from multiple perspectives. He re-calls dramatizing strategies employed by the old colonial power in this region, strategies that are still used today by contemporary politicians. He proposes that race and ethnicity are socially constructed categories, and draws upon many Barbadian examples to illustrate the absurdity of racial prejudice in a Caribbean context where cultural miscegenation is so deep, and where habits of perception, accents, and tastes are so mixed, that wearing several categories of identity at once is common to all. His conclusion, however, is far from being a curse: the challenges of cultural, linguistic and ra-cial/ethnic diversity faced by the Caribbean constitute part of the wealth of the region, as amply demonstrated by its cultural workers, and its distinct traditions and peoples.

Read the entire paper here.

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