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Small Axe 8.1 (2004) 106-122



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Creoleness and Nationalism in Guyanese Anticolonialism and Postcolonial Formation

Percy C. Hintzen


An analysis of the postcolonial formation of Guyana (formerly the English colony of British Guiana) and its relationship to belonging (peoplehood) raises profound questions for the analytics of nationalism. These relate to the state's "power of delimitation through exclusion and of empowerment through inclusion."1 The inscription of race into Guyana's politics may very well challenge propositions about the homogenizing agenda of the state through discursive deployment of ideology. This refers to the historical production and reproduction of the "nation" as a "coherent populace." From the analytics of critical theory we have come to understand the racial state as the antithesis of heterogeneity. But a coherent peoplehood may be troubled by the politics of race especially when claims to belonging by each of the instrumentally organized racialized groupings are universally recognized and uncontested.2 This, I argue, was precisely the case in Guyana. Such racially heterogeneous, but nonetheless legitimate, claims to national belonging emerged at the conjunctures of economic, ideological, political, social, and cultural forces that need to be historicized. They were forged in the crucible [End Page 106] of the anticipated and the actual relinquishing of control of the bureaucratic and legal apparatuses of the colonial state by Britain. But with relinquishment, the logic of colonialism reasserted itself in the form of competition for control of the instrumentalities of the state and of policy and law making. What emerged were imageries of heterogeneity that contradict the "natural" condition of national (racial) unity ideologically inscribed in the idea of the nation-state.

The existence of heterogeneous claims to national belonging, made particularly by racially mobilized segments at the end of formal colonial rule, may be a necessary condition for the maintenance of the racial state if the latter is understood to be the exclusive preserve of whiteness. Such an understanding can be unsettled under conditions where the apparatuses of the colonial state are transferred to inferiorized former colonial subjects without a subsequent disruption of order. The issue turns, at this juncture, to the means whereby the interests of the global north reassert themselves in statist organization. The emergence of heterogeneous claims, therefore, functions as a signifier of the unsuitability of the colonized subject to participate in the modernist project of state formation. It demonstrates the "historical immaturity" of the colonial subject and the pervasive and continuing necessity for white supremacy. Chaos and crisis becomes the instrumentality for the latter's reassertion. One may anticipate, therefore, that when forms of coloniality, modified in keeping with the changing technical and social conditions of international capital, go unchallenged in the quest for independence, heterogeneous political claims for control of the state apparatuses would be limited or nonexistent. Independence movements seeking control of these apparatuses and of policy and law making would retain what Goldberg identifies as the "governmental technologies" of colonialism.3 The latter include "census categories," "invented histories and traditions," "ceremonies," and "cultural imaginings." These retentions serve as iterations of a naturalized racial ordering that, with "independence," becomes transferred from colonial to international relations. In the Caribbean and Latin America, such naturalization derives from the discursive deployment of hybridity as ideology. It is important to distinguish the latter from the hybridized practices identified through critical analytics or that emerge in intellectual and cultural production proposed as possibilities for an alternative future.4 In this sense, hybridity as a "governmental technology" needs to be separated from hybridized practices that emerge in the unfolding of the material processes of life. There is, of course, [End Page 107] an integral relationship between the two. Ideology both produces and is a product of such materialities. At the same time, however, ideology functions to render invisible and to distort when articulation and publicization are fraught with counterhegemonic possibilities.5

As governmental technology in the English-speaking Caribbean, Creole discourse served the ideological function of integration.6 It was the identific glue that bonded the different and competing interests of the colonizer and the colonized constitutive of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-6714
Print ISSN
0799-0537
Pages
pp. 107-122
Launched on MUSE
2004-03-30
Open Access
No
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