The Three Guianas: Similarities and Differences

This project seeks to explain the similarities and differences in (post)colonial Guyana, Suriname, and French Guyana by using a comparative matrix of colonial cultural and social policies and postcolonial legacies. All three were at the margins of empire. Great Britain and France were undisputed global powers, while the Netherlands was a major colonial power but politically insignificant. The question is how this marginality and difference in power manifested itself in social and cultural policies in colonial and postcolonial times. Taken the colonial encounters into account, how were their postcolonial legacies formed? What explains the different outcomes? And what will their (international) roles be in 2020?

Guyana (formerly British Guiana), Suriname, and French Guyana (Guyane) are three countries that are uniquely qualified for a comparative analysis of cultural colonial encounters and postcolonial legacies. All three are relative large countries with small populations that simultaneously experienced similar encounters with their colonizers, are an ecological and geographical unity with the same natural resources, and have comparable populations. All three countries are linguistic enclaves in South America.

The fact that three neighboring, geographically alike countries with a similar history of exploitation have had three different European colonizers offers a unique opportunity to look for similarities and differences in their developments. Surprisingly enough, thus far, only biologists and geologists have made an effort to treat the Guianas as a single entity. In the humanities and social sciences attention has been compartmentalized, that is separately focused on the respective ‘own’ former colonies.

In this KITLV project Rosemarijn Hoefte works in close cooperation with Peter Clegg (University of the West of England) and Matthew Bishop (University of the West Indies, St Augustine, Trinidad). They are currently editing a volume on this topic.


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