Ethnic Violence in Guyana–Economic Hardship and Ranking of Groups

Here is the video we watched yesterday in IS 309. The video reported on inter-ethnic violence (between those of east Indian heritage and Creoles/Africans/Blacks) that was occurring in the northern South American country of Guyana in 2004. I used the video to highlight some of the themes Horowitz explores in chapters 3 and 4 of Ethnic Groups in Conflict. What are some of the issues that you noticed when watching the video? For a good analytical study on inter-ethnic violence in Guyana from 1948-1999, see this article in the Journal of Peace Research. I provide the abstract for you below:

Coercive and elitist approaches to political control in post-colonial states like Guyana have often proved counterproductive with respect to resolving ethno-political conflicts in these parts. In Guyana, this contradiction is usually manifested in terms of the escalation of legitimate political competition into overtly violent ethno-political violence and polarization, and reinforced by the consequent devaluation of the more democratic or pacific alternatives to conflict resolution such as mass or grass-roots participation, intergroup negotiations, and third-party mediation. Recurring debates between Cultural Pluralists and Marxists on this issue have so far failed to shed light on the prospects for the more pacific approaches to conflict resolution. Closer analytic scrutiny of actual ethno-political conflict events in Guyana between 1948 and 1999 leads to the understanding that such conflicts derive largely from what is termed a continual crisis of political legitimacy reflected in the inequities of political representation and economic resource distribution across groups. The more democratic or pacific approaches are here suggested as most appropriate for the resolution of the political legitimation crisis and the ultimate realization of a sustainable peace among the diverse groups in the Guyana political system.

One thought on “Ethnic Violence in Guyana–Economic Hardship and Ranking of Groups”

  1. I think what is key to note here is that contrary to the primordialist view, this conflict is not one that was a reflection of deep historical ethnic tensions, but rather a situation in which ethnic differences were used to legitimize economic and political struggles. From what I took from the documentary, it appears as though both sides were suffering from similar hardships, yet each attributed their decline in social standing to a rise in social standing on the “other side of the wall.” Whether it be political elites or influential individuals within the society, it seems as though ethnic differences were magnified in order to draw a fair amount of attention and criticism away from an inefficient and ineffective regime.

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