Global Modernity in a Small Place: The Guyanas and the World across Four Centuries

AHA Session 163
Friday, January 6, 2017: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Room 501 (Colorado Convention Center, Meeting Room Level)
Jared Ross Hardesty, Western Washington University
Percy Hintzen, Florida International University

Session Abstract

This panel will use the Guyanas to explore the convergence of empire, race, and labor from the 17th to the 20thCenturies. Despite the region's small population, it has long been a center of globalization and in many ways is a ground zero for the creation of modernity. As such, the Guyanas offer an interesting space for viewing how global processes occur at the most intimate level.

Each of the Guyanas – British, Dutch, and French Guiana (modern Guyana, Surinam, and France’s Overseas Department of Guiana) – was the only colony in its empire located on the South American mainland, and each was regarded as among its empire’s most remote outposts. Despite having been imperial backwaters, the territories were the scene of intense imperial warfare and settlement, which resulted in the colonies’ unique national status on the South American mainland while pushing numerous tribes of Amerinidans into the interior. All three are remarkably ethnically diverse, with significant populations of East Indians, Africans, Mulattoes, Javanese, Chinese, and Europeans brought in to work or manage sugar estates, and small populations of numerous Amerindian tribes in the rain forest interiors, whose numbers were devastated by warfare, enslaved overwork, and disease.
Panelists will link the international level of experience with the local in the Guyanas through the exploration of imperial competition in the 17th Century; slavery, capitalism, and revolution in the 18th Century; global labor migration in the 19thCentury; and the Cold War and decolonization in the 20th Century. Suze Zijlstra, a postdoctoral scholar at Georgetown, will focus on the British struggle against the Dutch in the Caribbean and its impact on Amerindians and African slaves in Surinam; Karwan Fatah-Black, assistant professor at the University of Leiden, will cover early smuggling, the slave trade, and slavery, and Cuffy’s rebellion; Ateeka Khan, a doctoral student at McMaster University, will study labor in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, covering the East Indian Diaspora into the Guyanas, their interactions with the progeny of African slaves, and the rise of the trade union movement in British Guiana; Robert Anthony Waters, Jr., assistant professor at Ohio Northern University, will explore British Guiana’s tumultuous road to independence in the 1950s and 1960s as Cold War forces brought interventions by the Eastern and Western Blocs, neutrals like India, Ghana, and Israel, Caribbean islands, and neighboring Venezuela, as well as Surinam and its Dutch colonial masters. Jared Ross Hardesty, assistant professor of history at Western Washington University and a specialist on slavery in the Americas, will serve as chair; and Percy Hintzen, emeritus professor at the University of  California at Berkeley and professor at Florida International University, will provide commentary.
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