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GGR Book Club: Creole Indigeneity: Between Myth and Nation in the Caribbean (First Peoples: New Directions in Indigenous Studies)

Between Myth and Nation

During the colonial period in Guyana, the country’s coastal lands were worked by enslaved Africans and indentured Indians. In Creole Indigeneity, Shona N. Jackson investigates how their descendants, collectively called Creoles, have remade themselves as Guyana’s new natives, displacing indigenous peoples in the Caribbean through an extension of colonial attitudes and policies.

Looking particularly at the nation’s politically fraught decades from the 1950s to the present, Jackson explores aboriginal and Creole identities in Guyanese society. Through government documents, interviews, and political speeches, she reveals how Creoles, though unable to usurp the place of aboriginals as First Peoples in the New World, nonetheless managed to introduce a new, more socially viable definition of belonging, through labor. The very reason for bringing enslaved and indentured workers into Caribbean labor became the organizing principle for Creoles’ new identities.

Creoles linked true belonging, and so political and material right, to having performed modern labor on the land; labor thus became the basis for their subaltern, settler modes of indigeneity—a contradiction for belonging under postcoloniality that Jackson terms “Creole indigeneity.” In doing so, her work establishes a new and productive way of understanding the relationship between national power and identity in colonial, postcolonial, and anticolonial contexts.


Shona N. JacksonBorn in Guyana and raised in Georgetown and in the United States Virgin Islands, Shona N. Jackson is associate professor of English at Texas A&M University where she teaches courses in Caribbean and Black Diaspora Studies and Postcolonial Theory. She received her PhD from the interdisciplinary Program in Modern Thought & Literature at Stanford in 2005. She is founding co-editor of the book series in Caribbean Studies at University Press of Mississippi, a member of the editorial boards of Voces del Caribe, Praxis and Wadabagei and an advisory and contributing editor for Callaloo. Her publications include a co-edited issue of Callaloo and essays in Small Axe, the Journal of Caribbean Literatures, Caribbean Quarterly, and the collection Caribbean Literature and the Environment: Between Nature and Culture

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