10 April 2006

"Developing" the Carib People of Dominica?

As readers will have seen in the previous post at http://cacreview.blogspot.com/2006/04/carib-cultural-village-opens-in.html, the Government of Dominica seems to have developed an instrumentalist and top-down view of the "role" to be performed by the indigenous population of Dominica. Added to the Government's recent overthrow of the elected Carib Chief, this seems to be more than just distant conjecture.

It seems clearer now that the Government desires to not only politically control the Carib population--a Government embarrassed internationally by Chief Williams' campaign to denounce the entry of Disney onto Carib soil in a venture that would feature Caribs, once again, in a colonial light as mindless cannibals--but the Government also clearly wishes to use the Caribs as an economic tool. The Caribs seem to be slotted as mere window dressing in a professed strategy of developmentalist diversification, thus reduced to playthings for foreign tourists, and reduced to "resources" in the calculations of economists.

This is not an unusual strategy for any government that has inherited and upheld the colonial heritage at the basis of the putatively independent state. "Recognition" and "celebration" of the Carib presence, by a variety of contemporary Caribbean states, are tactics revealed in the light of day as instruments of control and containment. While on the one hand they are useful for countering outmoded assertions of extinction, on the other hand they are equally useful for ensuring the centrality of the state as a legitimate arbiter of authorized identifications.

Unfortunately, if established and recognizable historical patterns are anything to go by, one will find a few indigenous collaborators who are willing to suck up to those in power and who hunger after the tourist dollar. What is lost in the process is consciousness of how the "development" process often is a mere gloss for older campaigns once referred to by terms such as "civilization" and "assimilation." Obedience to both capital and the state may appear to be a tactic of survival, at least in the short-term; in the long-term, it is nothing but negotiated surrender. One is reminded here of Peter Tosh's famous line, "peace is the diploma you get in the cemetery."

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