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Guyana and the Union of South American Nations

Alex M. Balgobin
Topics in Ethnology
October 4, 2011

Guyana and the Union of South American Nations

The Co-operative Republic of Guyana is a small developing country located on the northern coast of South America. Guyana was originally founded by Great Britain as British Guiana. The territory had been traveled on and disputed over by the Spanish, Dutch, and French prior to becoming an official British colony. Guyana is landlocked on each side except for the north where the Atlantic Ocean resides. To the south is Brazil—whose official language is Portuguese, Venezuela to the west—a former Spanish colony, and Suriname—a Dutch-speaking country—to the east. Not only is Guyana the only country in South America where English is the official language, but it borders three countries which each have their own official language.
Within the country itself, Guyana is composed of a population of about 50% of East Indian descent, 36% of African descent, up to 7% indigenous, up to 7% mixed, and the rest being from various European countries plus China (Funk & Wagnalls). Most of the population lives along the eastern and northern coasts of Guyana, as the inland is largely occupied by forestry and water. The religious denominations of Guyana include about 50% Christians, 33% Hindus, & 9% Muslims (Funk & Wagnalls). The estimated population of Guyana in 2003 was 765,000, giving the country an overall population density of about 9 people per square mile—which does not signify much as a vast amount of Guyana’s land is unused (Funk & Wagnalls). The largest city in Guyana is the capital of Georgetown, and holds 280,000 citizens (Funk & Wagnalls).
Some of the organizations that Guyana is a member of are the Commonwealth of Nations, United Nations, Organization of American States, World Trade Organization, Caribbean Community and Common Market, and also the Union of South American Nations (Funk & Wagnalls). Being a former British colony, Guyana shares many cultural similarities and is under spheres of influence of other nearby former British colony islands residing in the Caribbean—especially from Trinidad and Tobago (the closest Anglo-Caribbean island to Guyana) and also Jamaica (which arguably holds the most prominent mainstream Anglo-Caribbean culture in the West Indies). These similarities can be seen in music, food, and especially in language—as the same similar Caribbean English Creole dialect can be found spoken across the West Indian islands, plus Guyana. Guyana also shares certain cultural aspects with nearby non-English speaking countries, but there are subtle similarities that could have been detained due to language barriers.
Economy-wise, Guyana is the poorest country in South America, coming close behind Suriname and Paraguay (Funk & Wagnalls). The main economic catalysts of Guyana include agriculture (mainly of sugar cane and rice), mining, and services (Funk & Wagnalls). Other agricultural products, mostly of tropical fruits, are mostly not used for exports. Abundant natural resources in Guyana include bauxite—a primary source of aluminum—trees, fish and shrimp, and also gold and diamonds (Funk & Wagnalls). Guyana’s productivity usually falls short of demand, which contributes to the failing economy; however, the country has great hydroelectric potential due to the vast amount of rivers (Funk & Wagnalls). Main imports are petroleum, machinery, food, tobacco, cotton, clothing, and shoes (Funk & Wagnalls). Guyana’s main trade partners are the United States, Great Britain, and Trinidad and Tobago.
            According to an article about Political Risk in Guyana by Business Report, Guyana’s recent GDP Growth rate is higher than most South American countries, which is not very significant as of yet since Guyana’s GDP is still one of the lowest in the UNASUR (8). Similar to many democratic republics, Guyana’s government has held decades of political unrest between feuding parties, mainly between the governing People’s Progress Party-Civic (PPP-C) and the People’s National Congress-Reform (PNC-R) (Business Report 11). These disagreements have only withheld the growth of Guyana’s economy and will continue to do so until all political parties are in equilibrium.
In December, 2004, the Union of South American Nations (then known as the South American Community of Nations), or USAN (Unión de Naciones Suramericanas in Spanish, abbreviated as UNASUR), was started among almost all South American nations, except for French Guiana (who is still a colony of France) (Unión de Naciones Suramericanas). Due to its members, the official languages of the union have been established as Spanish, Portuguese, English, and Dutch. The union was created to be modeled after the European Union and to boost integration and trade within South America, “…la integración física, energética y de comunicaciones; la armonización de políticas de desarrollo rural y agroalimentario; la transferencia de tecnología en materia de ciencia, educación y cultura…”, not only of economy but integration of science, education, and culture (Unión de Naciones Suramericanas). In November, 2010, President Bharrat Jagdeo of Guyana took office as the new and current President of UNASUR at the union’s fourth summit meeting in Georgetown, Guyana (Xinhua). President Jagdeo acknowledges that this union will increase imports and exports between Guyana and other South American nations; Xinhua’s article goes on to explain that Jagdeo himself, since his election in 1999, has worked on developing Guyana by utilizing hydroelectric energy and building highways and bridges.
President Jagdeo has taken many initiatives in revitalizing Guyana’s economy, many of which includes strengthening international ties to various countries including Norway and Denmark, who have made investments in Guyana’s economy (Business Report 15-16). Interestingly enough, President Jagdeo is a man of many cultures himself, as he had previously studied in Moscow, Russia, for his degree in Economics. In light of Global Warming and climate change, many countries are capitalizing on Guyana’s rich forestry by paying Guyana to preserve its rainforests (Guyana happens to be the only country in the world that has not gone through deforestation) (Business Report 21). Unfortunately, due to Guyana’s high abundance of natural resources, there are also disputes between neighboring countries on ownerships of certain mining areas and oil reserves, both of which are very crucial to Guyana’s economy (Business Report 22).
Reassuring confidence in UNASUR, President Jagdeo stated that the efforts of South American countries combined have created more jobs at a higher rate than that of Europe or North America, who are both suffering from a failing economy (Caribbean News Now). Jagdeo and many other South American presidents agree that the developing success of UNASUR is due in part of their unorthodox policies, separate than that of similar unions, “…we are looking for our own answers, our own solutions to our problems” (Caribbean News Now).

A recent collection of article, entitled “Mundo Nuevo: Revista de Estudios Latinoamericanos”, written by students of the University of Simon Bolivar in Veneuzuela, grasps almost exactly what I have been trying to connect with Guyana and its importance in the development of UNASUR. The articles included in this collection discuss mostly integration within Latin America and the Caribbean in general; two articles focus on UNASUR specifically, entitled “UNASUR y las Transformaciones del Nuevo Regionalismo Sudamericano” by Jose Briceno-Ruiz, and also “UNASUR: Aspiraciones y Frustraciones” by Elias R. Daniels H. One of the main concerns within these articles is the presence of Guyana and Suriname (the only two non-Latin countries within UNASUR) and how nearby countries are affected by their differing cultures.
Because this article is written entirely in Spanish, I will need to be extra careful in the examples I pull from it as I will be paraphrasing quotes in my own words. The article itself draws from many organizations outside of UNASUR and points out the positive and negative aspects, as can be seen in this example, “Apreciamos que UNASUR es un hibrido…un proceso innovador que incluye todos los logros y lo avanzado por los procesos de MERCOSUR y la CAN… El problema se presenta cuando se trata de alcanzar consenso sobre los logros de esas experiencias integracionistas” (Mundo Nuevo 235), where integration problems arise out of cultural differences with Guyana and Suriname relative to the rest of South America.
Another approach taken to developing South America’s economy is the “Initiative for the Integration of the Regional Infrastructure of South America (IIRSA)”, funded by three institutions separate from UNASUR. This development plan divides South America into ten axes of integration for which to link their economies through transportation, energy, and telecommunications projects (Mundo Nuevo 39). The axis that includes Guyana, el “Eje del Escudo Guayanés”, also includes Venezuela, Brazil, & Suriname, the only axis to incorporate countries of all four official languages of UNASUR.
A study done on mangrove vegetation in Guyana by C. Allan, Ph.D., grasps the socio-economic values behind harvesting and using the abundance of mangroves in Guyana; this article is titled “The Socio-Economic Context of the Harvesting and Utilisation of Mangrove Vegetation”. This study brushes on relations with bordering Brazil and Venezuela and finishes off concluding with a successful outlook on the future of mangrove utilization within Guyana.
I believe Guyana has the potential to rebuild its economy, not only on its own but also with the help of UNASUR. The nations of UNASUR may not be able to solve all of their problems together because I believe each country should focus on its own main problems and work with other countries with similar problems. Even within the richest country of UNASUR, Brazil, there is a plethora of social inequality and slums that mirror those of the poorest UNASUR nation of Guyana. The differing cultures can be seen as both a problem and a solution, depending on how they are applied; but I believe I can prove my theory that an integration of culture would benefit UNASUR as a whole with studies of both projects within industrial Guyana and also the indigenous peoples that reside on its borders.


"GUYANA." (n.d.): Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia. EBSCO. Web. 4 Oct. 2011.
            This article states important economic and demographic facts about Guyana necessary for my background discussion of Guyana. These factors include and are not limited to: ethnic groups, religion, population, economic resources and exports, and also a brief history of Guyana which I will not be using as much as I already know the general background of Guyana’s founding and history. Other important details I may be taking from this article are facts about the governmental system.

"Guyana president confident of economic stability of UNASUR member states." Caribbean News Now (Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands) 30 Nov. 2010: Newspaper Source Plus. EBSCO. Web. 4 Oct. 2011.
            I believe this article is important and relevant to my project as it is a groundbreaking point in both Guyana and UNASUR’s history as the current president of Guyana was recently appointed president of UNASUR. This article shortly compares UNASUR’s progress to that of Europe and North America. Although not detailed, I will be using this article to reflect the importance of this moment and the optimism that the UNASUR leaders share in regards to the future of their development.

"Guyana." Political Risk Yearbook: Guyana Country Report (2011): PRI-1-15. Business Source Alumni Edition. EBSCO. Web. 4 Oct. 2011.
            This article discusses the economic growth and decline of Guyana, both in the past and for future forecasts. Also included are details of problems and corruptions within the Guyanese government and how these problems affect the economy. Recent policies are given to show how Guyana is taking an initiative towards development. This article will help me greatly in determining the best possible solutions towards a positive outlook in Guyana’s economy as this article is very detailed and contains important economic facts I can use to measure development changes over time.

“Guyana takes office as Unasur president.” Xinhua, 27 Nov. 2010. Web. 4 Oct. 2011.
            This news article briefly discusses the inauguration of President Jagdeo as the new president of UNASUR and states a few of the development projects he has made in Guyana since his presidency in 1999. I believe the policies that President Jagdeo makes in Guyana is important to those he will bring up within UNASUR and I plan on using this article to contrast his presidency on both a national and international scale.

“Incumbent UNASUR Chairman optimistic of a better South America.” Government Info Agency, 26 Nov. 2010. Web. 4 Oct. 2011.
            This article mentions, in general detail, paraphrased quotes from President Jagdeo about his plans on how UNASUR will be run. Future prospects are mentioned in regards to the world’s population and development on a global scale. The importance of this article is not only about economic change for UNASUR but also the well-being of its citizens. I will be using this article for its mentions of Jagdeo’s plans of bettering the way of life for his citizens through energy projects and the long term changes he can bring to global development as well.

Sitio Oficial de la Unión de Naciones Suramericanas. Unión de Naciones Suramericanas. Web. 4 Oct. 2011.
            The official site of UNASUR contains media statements about recent policies made by UNASUR and contains published articles about important changes within the union. Publications include future goals of UNASUR in regards to several aspects not limited to education, society, energy, and armed forces. This website will prove useful to me as I will be pulling many policy changes from here to show UNASUR’s initiatives towards progress.

Banuet, Jose; Serna, Hernando; et al. “Mundo Nuevo: Revista de Estudios Latinoamericanos.” Universidad Simón Bolívar. (2010).
            This very detailed article discusses UNASUR’s socio-economic effects on many of its individual nations as well as cultural barriers within UNASUR and how those will prove to be both binding and useful towards UNASUR’s international relations. Guyana is mentioned in many sub-articles as a notable country within UNASUR as it is the only English-speaking nation in the continent. This article will probably be my most used source because of its elaborate detail and the way it uses culture in regards to UNASUR’s development.
Allan, C. “The Socio-Economic Context of the Harvesting and Utilisation of Mangrove Vegetation.”  (2002). Web. 15 Nov. 2011.
            This ethnographic study of Guyana draws upon the lack of legislation Guyana has upon utilizing the abundance of mangroves in Guyana and why they should be preserved. This article is important because it mentions the Amerindians that reside near these mangrove forests and how they are affected by legislation of these forests. The relation between these Amerindians and traders plays a huge role in Guyana’s economy and how resources will be used in future development.

Mantini, L. "Human Trafficking Of Amerindian Women In Guyana: Challenges And Strategies." International Nursing Review 55.3 (2008): 341-348. CINAHL Plus with Full Text. Web. 15 Nov. 2011.
            This ethnographic study captures development in Guyana on a micro scale. Discussed within this article are policies that were passed to provide health care, education, and other human rights to the indigenous groups within Guyana. This article is mainly about empowering indigenous peoples and their communities so that they can fight against human trafficking among their women. This will be a vital example of how development is occurring in Guyana at a human level rather than at a national scale.

Cordero, Omar. Unasur and Its Future Impact on the Americas. Carlisle Barracks, PA: U.S. Army War College, 2009. Print.
            This article addresses the political, social, and economic issues regarding UNASUR. Unresolved issues are a main concern within this discussion, at regional and international scales. This article will prove useful in helping me connect the cultural impacts of UNASUR on individual nations as well as the relations that will rise among them.


Allan, C. “The Socio-Economic Context of the Harvesting and Utilisation of Mangrove Vegetation.”  (2002). Web.

Banuet, Jose; Serna, Hernando; et al. “Revista de Estudios Latinoamericanos.” Mundo Nuevo. (2010). Web.

Cordero, Omar. “Unasur and Its Future Impact on the Americas.” (2009). Web.

"Country Forecast." Political Risk Yearbook: Guyana Country Report (2011): 2-40. Business Source Alumni Edition. Web. 

Funk & Wagnalls. "Guyana." (n.d.): Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia. Web.

GINA. “Incumbent UNASUR Chairman optimistic of a better South America.” Government Info Agency 26 Nov. 2010. Web.

"Guyana president confident of economic stability of UNASUR member states." Caribbean News Now (Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands) 30 Nov. 2010: Points of View Reference Center. Web.

Mantini, L. "Human Trafficking Of Amerindian Women In Guyana: Challenges And Strategies." International Nursing Review 55.3 (2008): 341-348. CINAHL Plus with Full Text. Web.

Sitio Oficial de la Unión de Naciones Suramericanas. Unión de Naciones Suramericanas. Web.

Xinhua. “Guyana takes office as Unasur president.” Xinhuanet 27 Nov. 2010. Web.

Investing in Cultural Diversity

Alex M. Balgóbin
19 December 2012
Global Cultures and Leadership Final
Investing in Cultural Diversity
0.       Abstract
As growing rates of migration and culturally integrating communities are evident worldwide, it is apparent that we are promoting an inevitable approach towards globalization. Investing in cultural diversity and promoting multilingualism is an asset to our society. Below, I present cases of prejudice among interracial communities, how victims of discrimination work around it, and how this may be beneficial to a globalizing world.

1.       The Dynamics of Identity
Anthropologist, Jonathan Friedman, defines globalization as a process of decentralization—usually among wealth and power, but can also be accompanied by a migration of cultures to establish diasporic regions within other cultures (744). Globalization leads to a decline in hegemony, the social power exerted by one group over another—which, in turn, leads to diasporization (746). Shalini Shankar’s ethnological study of Desi teenagers in the Silicon Valley section of the San Francisco Bar Area of California focuses on South Asian-American culture, class mobility, and success. Shankar notes the attribution of Desis as “model minorities”—successful, progressive, and blended into American society (2). This “Desi Land” represents a group of ethnicized and racialized communities that take pride in their culture and social standing while acknowledging a lingering past of prejudice and racist outlooks, “Desi Land…is inflected both with a spirit of wonder and enthusiasm as well as immense obstacles of class and race for those who are not well positioned to realize their dreams” (2). Many of the Desi teenagers in the Silicon Valley are first-generation American-born to immigrant parents, which presents them with the challenge to retain their family’s culture at home while conforming to American culture at school; this challenge brings about a “diasporic culture” that entails code-switching and hybridity in order to differentiate between two opposing cultures (6-7).
Many Desi teenagers in the Silicon Valley have developed their own “Desi teen culture” composed of local and global media, “[they] draw on stylistic elements from global media such as Bollywood as well as from local media such as hip-hop and pop music videos on MTV” (Shankar 54). Like other high schools across America, Desi students can choose to be part of one or more cliques—social groups of students based on common traits. Movies and music are also a major part of Desi teen culture as it is for many American teenagers; but this culture draws heavily on Bollywood media, from South Asia. The expansion of this hybrid culture has brought upon many diasporic songs and films, mixed with English and South Asian languages along with their respective cultures.
          The widespread availability of high-tech jobs in the Silicon Valley has brought in many South Asian families from working to upper-class types looking to cash in on these stable job positions. Besides South Asians, the Silicon Valley has also had a significant demographic shift in other minority groups that have established “a strong residential and retail presence” (Shankar 33). The classes of the Silicon Valley Desis are mostly separated based on the line of work—with upper-class Desis working in more of a white-collar, professional setting and middle-class Desis doing manual labor. The technology that has drawn in many Desi families to America is also a major component of Desi teen culture in that it is utilized to communicate with peers through paging and instant messaging; this may also be a contributing factor in the ethnicization among South Asians as technologically proficient. Silverstein draws on the ability teens have to electronically communicate with each other whenever they please as a way of speeding up the linguistic diffusion process and, in turn, standardizing this diffused lingo, “So new orders of mobility and of text-transmission and circulation seem to be transforming ethnolinguistic identity and its modes of possible recognition within a politicoeconomic order such as ours” (548).
The term “fresh off the boat”, or “FOB”, is a term denoting marked minorities—of non-American descent—who have not fully conformed to American culture and society. One can be a first or even second-generation American-born Desi and still be classified as a FOB by fellow classmates if their style of appearance is not “American” enough (Shankar 69). Contrast to being a FOB is being “whitewashed”, which also has negative connotation as it can indicate Desis who have fully conformed to American culture and steer away from their ethnic background. Shankar provides an example of a popular group of Desi teen girls at a high school that take pride in their culture and, because of their high social status among their school, have proclaimed themselves as the “FOBulous Six” as a way of de-racializing their culture (Shankar 69-70).
Another byproduct of globalization—as Linguist, Michael Silverstein explains—is lingual diffusion (536). Linguistic diffusion does not only entail code-switching, but also code-mixing and accented English. Shankar’s studies show that code-switching is more used by those who are comfortable and fluent in speaking multiple languages in a conversation whereas code-mixing is more-so used by those who do not have bilingual mastery and try to incorporate their native language in with their secondary language speech, “Such group-specific talk functions as a form of insider language in the context of a range of other practices that contribute to the construction of Desi teen culture and cliques” (109). Shankar also found that Indian-accented English is more often used by upper-middle-class students who prefer speaking English over their Indian tongue but end up faking their accent in order to digress from speaking American English—I believe this is their way of showing social superiority over lower and middle-class Desis who use code-switching and mixing while still retaining their culture (109). The way Desis speak to their friends is a huge distinguishing factor among social levels; FOBs, being the group that code-switches the most, are prone to racialization by other cliques, “ Whether youth code-switch regularly or only use accented English, these language practices and others are integral to shaping meanings of identity in schools” (Shankar 117).

2.       Racialization and Language
Race and ethnicity are two similar attributes used to describe origin differences. Ethnicity refers to cultural background, inclusive of several factors such as a shared language or heritage. An example of an ethnic group would be people that practice Judaism from Israel. Regardless of skin color or race, those of Jewish origin in Israel are likely to share a common culture and therefore can be classified as one general ethnic group. Race refers to the genetic, biological, phenotype of a person—the way someone looks. Different races can exist within an ethnic group (i.e. North African Jews and Middle Eastern Jews living in Israel) and different ethnic groups can exist within a single race (Afro-Jamaicans/Caribbeans living with African Americans in Flatbush, Brooklyn). In countries where interbreeding and multiracial towns are common, race is more specific than it would be in America. The Latin American word, raza, classifies Latinos on a finer scale than how Americans would, with sub-categories such as mestizo and mulato.
          The assumed, generic, American is thought of as white, middle-class, and fluent in Standard American English. Any ethnic groups outside of these guidelines may be referred to as “marked”. Generic white Americans are an unmarked epitome of what it means to be American. Certain ethnic American groups such as German Americans are not as highly marked as Indigenous Australians would be because German culture and ethnic values are more common and accepted in American society as are German people. Over several decades and centuries, most ethnic groups will become decreasingly marked in American societies as their cultures become more accepted. It is also possible for other ethnic groups to become increasingly marked if more prejudice outlooks arise.
          Urciuoli describes ethnicizing discourses as a “focus on the achievements of ethnic families and individuals” (17). Ethnicizing one’s “cultural difference in positive terms” or unmarking, to an extent, certain ethnic distinctions can counteract—but never fully negate—racial markings of a recently racialized group. An example of an unmarked group would be Chinese-Americans, who were once an exiled ethnic group in the 19th century but now encompass large, enculturated, “Chinatowns” filled with pawn shops and restaurants in many of America’s largest cities. Most “white ethnics” from European countries have worked their way through these discourses via economic shifts after World War II. Other, less fortunate, ethnic groups such as Hispanics and African Americans have not been as privileged in being as unmarked through ethnicized discourses as those of Caucasian descent.
          Urciuoli conveys racializing discourses as means of distinguishing white Americans from other ethnic group in terms of morals, traits, language, behavior, etc. Racializing is a way of demeaning ethnic groups in order to justify xenophobic thoughts.  A significant factor in racialization in America is bilingualism and accented English. Immigrants or lower class Americans with unorthodox, or nonstandard, dialects of English, are often looked down upon as nonconformists. Those that speak languages or dialects other than Standard English in a public setting are placed in a category of their own, away from the true, natural, Americans. Even after decades of racialization among Hispanic ethnic groups, Hispanics are still not technically an official race as not every Hispanic considers their self to be Hispanic, according to national census records. Many light-skinned Hispanics, especially those of the upper class would classify themselves to be “white” rather than Hispanic.

3.       Indexicality in Language and Culture
Urciuoli defines semiotics as “the study of signs and interpretive systems” (14). Communication comprises a semiotic “complex system of meaningful social action” (1). Indexes are “words, sounds, or grammatical elements that carry information about the speaker’s identity or location” (7). On a broader aspect, indexes are “signs of connection…of cause and effect” (133). Examples of natural signs of a person’s origin are race/class indexes, which are almost permanent features such as skin color and accent. Indexes are creative, or performative, when they lay out boundaries of interactions, inclusive of the social relations of the individuals. Indexes of education and class mobility can correlate to the use of correct English. “Good” English, albeit indefinable, is a strong means of indexing someone’s speech to correlate with their social class. Good English can also be used to access “symbolic capital in the form of prestige and material rewards” (107). Symbolic capital is a byproduct of unmarkedness; it is the amount of resources available to someone due to honor, prestige, or recognition (Foley 309). Correct English, however, only brings symbolic capital when the “prestige” outweighs other racial markings (Urciuoli 121).   Language is, bluntly-stated, a very significant factor in not only how one is treated but also how they are socially ranked by others, “Class, race, and authority imbalance make people aware of language correctness as the one thing that they should be able to control” (9).
          America’s involvement in Puerto Rico had both racializing and ethnicizing outlooks, “The United States sought to make Puerto Rico profitable by turning Puerto Ricans into a reserve labor supply. At the same time, the United States sought to turn Puerto Rico into a model bilingual democracy…” (41). America had viewed Puerto Rico as a disordered country. English was imposed onto Puerto Rico as a means of liberation (47). The outcome of these foreign affairs produced English-speaking middle-class Puerto Ricans living in Puerto Rico due to ethnicizing but also English-speaking working-class Puerto Ricans living in the United States due to racializing (41).
          Markedness refers to the degree of how positively or negatively judged a certain ethnic group is (8). A fully unmarked American would be a generic, middle-class, white citizen that speaks only unaccented Standard American English. Multilingualism contributes to being marked as many non-American speakers of English can have noticeable, non-standard, accents. These unmarked Americans, in the eyes of most working-class Puerto Ricans, embody the stereotypic white person and represent figures of authority in many workplaces and other venues (8). In these American venues, the Spanish language is marked and is therefore not welcomed to be spoken. Bilingual speakers, notably Puerto Rican New Yorkers, use code-switching to help transition from speaking English and Spanish. Non-Caribbean Hispanics use code-switching considerably less than Puerto Ricans because they believe it is “marked for class and race” (104). This concept of markedness can be applied to many other untypical ethnic groups living in America.
Accents bring together multiple semiotic concepts in order to differentiate between different ethnic groups (8). A person’s accent can cause them to be indexed under a certain ethnic group, regardless of how they look or what ethnicity they might actually be. Accented English is racially marked as having a poor education, which in turn is perceived as low class, because those who learn English are expected to perfect it (119). Speakers are expected to have control over every phoneme they blurt out and how it is pronounced, “If an accent is too strong, it can be diminished bit by bit. Not only can this be done, it should be done” (120). The ability to control your accent is a sign of proper education and also shows interest in class mobility. Those who are unable to “correct” the way they speak are also unable to disassociate race from class, “They abdicate any hope of metacommunicative control” (126). The cultural/symbolic capital of accents may have co-evolved with the political economy in the United States and other industrialized/stratified nations which are “tied into moralistic discourses about correctness” (134). This obsession with having standard accents and the way these discourses are embedded in our economy has caused our nation to invest a significant portion of money into accent therapy via speech classes (134).
           Many light-skinned Latinos unmark themselves by “acting white” in order to blend in, “They become reactors, shaping themselves to fit dominant standards…” (147). Unfortunately, in many American minds, even the smartest of minorities are not a sufficient basis for unmarking an entire ethnic group, “that individual remains an ‘exception’” (27). Then there are some minorities who would not deny or try to hide their race but are still accused of “acting white” when they do things that invest in class mobility such as speaking Standard English or receiving high grades in school (29).

4.       Conclusion
          As obstructive as racializing is to our society, ethnicizing discourses can also be harmful as it prolongs racialization, “Ethnicizing and racializing are both about markedness in ways that reaffirm the terms that define the unmarked American” (Urciuoli 38). As many minorities strive to become unmarked, they are still burdened by the accusation of “acting white” (173). Any foreign language speaker in America is subject to racialization and will never fully be unmarked as long as they are unable to hide their ethnic background.
          The Desi teen community of Silicon Valley share many similar cultural concepts in how they retain their ethnic background while blending in with American society, but not every Desi teen expresses their culture the same way. Some teens, like Shankar’s Rafiq, prefer their acquired American culture over their family’s heritage, “…he avoids being tied to a clique because he finds his way of being Desi to be different…” (Shankar 53). Many Desi teens, conversely to Rafiq, strive to maintain and overtly express their culture. While there are Desis on the opposite ends of the cultural spectrum, there will always be those in the middle, who create a hybrid culture for themselves and for others—contributors of globalization.

Bonnie Urciuoli Exposing Prejudice: Puerto Rican Experiences of Language, Race, and Class. 1998. Westview.
Foley, William. Anthropological Linguistics. 1997. Oxford: Blackwell.
Friedman, J. “Globalizing languages: Ideologies and Realities of the Contemporary Global System” American Anthropologist 103 (2003): 744-52.
Shalini Shankar, Desi Land: Teen Culture, Class, and Success in Silicon Valley. 2008. Duke University Press.
Silverstein, M. (2003). The whens and wheres—as well as hows—of ethnolinguistic recognition. Public Culture, 15(3):531-557.

Journal Preferences:
American Anthropologist
Anthropological Linguistics
American Ethnologist

Friday, August 1, 2014

I Believe in a World - An Interracial Love Poem

I believe in a world

where little boys & little girls

can run through the park,

embrace & color,

race with each other,

regardless of race or color.

There's no need to change your face to discover

what it's like to be the other;

no need to arrange your shade to uncover

what we already know is under.

I want my children to wonder

why some people are only attracted to their own skin color.

Guyanese English Creole - A Sociolinguistic Study

Alex Matthew Balgóbin
ALIN/AANT 325—Sociolinguistics

Guyanese English Creole

1. Introduction
The Co-operative Republic of Guyana is a small developing country located on the northern coast of South America. Guyana was originally founded by Great Britain as British Guiana. The territory had been traveled on and disputed over by the Spanish, Dutch, and French prior to formerly becoming an official British colony. Guyana is landlocked on each side except for the north where the Atlantic Ocean resides. To the south is Brazil—whose official language is Portuguese, Venezuela to the west—a former Spanish colony, and Suriname—a Dutch-speaking country—to the east. Not only is Guyana the only country in South America of which English is the official language, but it borders three countries who each have their own official language. The population of Guyana is approximately 758,000; the Guyanese diaspora consists of several hundred thousand globally, with a significant amount residing in New York City alone. Within the country itself, the population of Guyana is composed of (in order of decreasing prominent races) about 50% of East Indian descent, 36% of West African descent, around 7% indigenous, and the rest containing European ancestry (mostly Caucasian, Spanish, & Portuguese), and also Chinese. Much of the population is of “mixed” race.
Guyanese English Creole (GC) is a language heavily based on British English with influences from Dutch, West African languages, Arawakan and Carib languages, and little influence from Indian languages (mainly Hindi). The standardized language of Guyana is based on Standard British English (SBE)—but due to a lack of education and a high poverty rate along with a high emigration rate (and other common problems that contribute to Creolization), Guyanese English Creole is more widespread throughout the country. Other spoken languages in Guyana include Hindi, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, French, and Aboriginal languages. GC is classified as an Atlantic Creole, as it is very similar to the other English-lexicon creoles throughout the Anglo-Caribbean nations and also in Belize.
        In this paper, I plan to analyze GC on a broad linguistic context, ranging from—but not limited to—phonology, morphology, and syntax. I am basing much of my analysis on a recent study, entitled “A Concise Grammar of Guyanese Creole (Creolese)”, by Hubert Devonish and Dahlia Thompson from 2010.

2. Personal experience
        As a native speaker of GC, much of this paper will reflect my own experiences with the language and its speakers. I am the first in my immediate family (inclusive of my mother, father, and two brothers—those that I have lived at home growing up with) to be born and raised outside of Guyana. Although I have two brothers who have spent their teenage years and onward in the United States (America), before I was born, I was under the age of five when they both moved out so they had little influence during my critical language acquisition period; but from my recollection, I usually spoke to them in Amercan English (AE, both Standard [SAE] and our shared colloquial urbanized Brooklyn dialect), as they have always—even unto now—seemed more comfortable speaking in AE. To clarify my fluency in GC, I spent most of my critical language acquisition period (which I am estimating to be from birth to approximately the age of 13) speaking with my parents, who both did not emigrate from Guyana until their early 40s—recently before I was born. I have spent much time interacting with my extended family, who are mostly all Guyanese natives with varying levels of Creole fluency (which I will go into later). I also have a significant close connection with several of my paternal cousins, with a wide age range from younger to older cousins—the oldest ones being raised in Guyana and the younger ones raised in America. As I will also highlight later, my paternal cousins and I—as we are all of similar generations of Guyanese-Americans—share, to an extent, the same Americanized Creole Dialect of Guyanese English.
Beside from interacting with family through various functions and events, a significant part of my GC learning as a child came from when I spent two weeks, at the age of seven, in the small urbanized village of Berbice, Guyana (in which my mother grew up in), interacting with her family there. From my recollection, I had mostly spoken a concentrated dialect of GC for those two weeks that I have not been able to speak in since then—as it was the last time I had visited Guyana. I believe this event is noteworthy as it was before the part of my critical language learning period when the ability to pronounce new phonemes becomes increasingly difficult with age. I also believe it is noteworthy to mention that the part of America that my brothers and I grew up in is the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. Flatbush happens to contain the highest concentration of immigrants from Anglo-Caribbean/Atlantic nations (mostly Afro-Caribbeans from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, and Guyana). Many of my friends during my critical period were first-generation American-born of Caribbean immigrants, similar to myself.
Brooklyn is arguably one of the most ethnically diverse areas in the world, it is almost needless to say that I have picked up many dialects and “accents” during my critical period from various ethnic backgrounds. Over time, I have developed a mental distinction between different (but very much similar) dialects of Caribbean English Creoles (including Guyanese), particularly those from Jamaica and Trinidad. Jamaica may perhaps hold the most prominent mainstream culture within the Anglo-Caribbean nations, especially in America, and holds a large sphere of incluence within the media, as it is a large producer of Anglo-Caribbean music and hails many “mainstream” celebrities in Western Nations. Trinidad is also significantly relevant to Guyana as it is the closest Caribbean island and has the most similar dialect of English Creole. To my extent of knowledge, the syntax and phonology of Jamaican English Creole (JEC), Trinidadian English Creole (TEC),  and other similar English Creole dialects in the Atlantic region almost mirror that of GC. Most of the differences between these Creoles are usually among certain nouns or other parts of speech in the lexicon that are related to the culture of that respective nation—such as foods and profanities.
Devonish and Thompson (2) mention that GC is “most normally referred to as Creolese by its speakers”, but from my experience I have never heard of this term being mentioned by anyone, let alone my family. In reference to “our language”, we would normally refer to it as simply “Guyanese”, as it is quite uncommon to find a native Guyanese who does not speak GC. There are some cases when I have heard native Guyanese refer to GC as “Creole”, but normally the term “Creole” would only be used in reference to Hatian Creole, the single standardized creole language in the Atlantic region. “Patois” is also a term that I have heard denoting GC. Patois is the French-derived Jamaican vernacular term used to describe JEC by many of its speakers.
Growing up with my parents (after my brothers moved out), I often found it difficult to communicate with them as I mostly spoke to them in AE. I did not understand, as a child, why they hardly spoke to me in AE when they had lived in America longer than I have. As GC is not standardized in any way, it is mainly passed down involuntarily through generations; in regards to American descendants of Caribbean families, it is often up to them to decide whether to maintain their fluency in GC or not. “Markedness” of certain dialects in America is a well-known aspect of Cultural Linguistics; bilingual speakers fluent in both SAE and another non-standard dialect sometimes feel obligated to avoid speaking in their second dialect in public to avoid being judged by others. I have often come across many people of Anglo-Caribbean descent, some being native-born Caribbeans, who choose to only speak to me in AE, even if I were to initiate Caribbean English Creole (CEC) into the conversation. In one case, an American-born friend of mine to a Guyanese family told me her family discourages the use of GC, even when visiting Guyana, yet she often speaks in GC with her friends when given the chance. She says that her family attributes GC to the lower-class and uneducated and they only speak in AE. There are also cases of the opposite, where people that are fluent in both AE and CEC choose to openly speak in CEC—even with those who are not fluent in it—as a way to distinguish themselves culturally.
It was not until my post-critical period that I developed self-awareness of my culture and realized that my parents spoke GC to me because they were not completely fluent in AE, and they most likely never would be because they had not learned AE during their respective critical periods. In order to reacquire the level of Creole I had when I was last in Guyana, I took the initiative to mostly speak to my parents, my paternal cousins, and my native-Guyanese family members in GC. Code-switching is another aspect of linguistics that I have been involuntarily using my whole life. Although I find it much more convenient to speak in GC rather than AE with my family—I believe this is due to creole dialects being simpler in general than standard dialects—problems arise when trying to convey complex thoughts and sentences that cannot be expressed in GC, forcing me to code-switch to AE. Some of these “complex” sentences include specific verb tenses or phrases that either do not exist in GC or bring up lexical ambiguity when spoken.

3. Creole continuum
“Creole continuums” are used to describe the extent of sub-dialects in creole languages that range from the most concentrated form, the “basilect”, to the form closest to the standard, the “acrolect”. The intermediary forms that exist between these two are the “mesolects”, which are the range of sub-dialects of GC that I often speak to my family in. Devonish and Thompson (3) attribute the mesolects dialects to the urban areas of Guyana, and the basilect dialects to the more rural areas. Presented below is an example of how the Creole continuum looks like in GC.

Creole continuum of Guyanese English Creole
Level of speech
5: Acrolect
I told him.
I tool im.
3: Mesolects
A tel im.
Mi tel i.
1: Basilect
Mi tel am.

These utterances are usually interchangeable; a speaker that uses the basilect form would not necessarily avoid using the “higher” forms. Using the numbered scale on the left of this chart, I would rate my “fluency” levels on a range of 2-5, and the range of my parents would fall within 1-4. The level that I most normally would speak to my parents in would be around 3-4, as my parents would normally speak to me at around levels 2-3.

4. Phonology
        The phonology section offered by Devonish and Thompson include a set of ten vowels and two diphthongs. Five of the vowels can be found in AE, represented phonemically they are: /i/, /e/, /a/, /o/, and /u/. The other five vowels are “long” forms of the latter five, which Devonish and Thompson dub as “complex double” vowels. I will represent these vowels as the following: /i:/, /e/, /a:/, /o:/, and /u:/. The two diphthongs included are also found in AE: /ai/ and /ou/. There are 30 consonants of GC mentioned in this study, several of which are absent in AE. A noteworthy pair of consonants that are absent in GC are the dental fricatives: voiced /ð/, and voiceless /θ/, the sounds found at the beginning of “the” and “thigh” in AE, respectively.
        As I have indicated before, GC is somewhat of a “simplification” of Standard English, and that includes a “simpler” phonology. Presented below is an example of some phonological changes that occur between SAE and GC in relation to the inter-dentals and alveolar stops.

Phonological changes
SAE Utterance
GC Transcription
the dark
/di dak/
tasty thigh
/testi tai/

As can be seen by the first example, the voiced dental fricative in SAE would be pronounced the same as /d/ in GC. The second example has the voiceless dental fricative pronounced as /t/ in GC. In general, the dental fricatives become alveolar stops. Another interesting occurrence is the change from /t/ to the voiceless palatal affricative, /ch/ in certain words. The SAE words of “tune” and “attitude” become /chu:n/ and /atichu:d/ in GC. A notable distinction is the deletion of the /r/ in “dark” within GC, similar to the way it would be deleted in many non-standard dialects of English.

5. Syntax
        The simplification process of GC is also present in regards to syntax. Many aspects of syntax that distinguish lexical ambiguities in SAE are absent in GC. Some of these elements include conjugations between verb tenses and pluralization. In SAE, we use verb conjugations to help further clarify the subject performing the verb (for example: he eats, I eat, and he does, I do). In GC, these distinctions are made based on the subject and other helping words.

Verb tenses of “to eat”
SAE Utterance
GC Transription
I eat
/mi it/
she eats
/shi it/
I ate
/mi it don/ or /mi it aredi/
I am eating
/mi (de) a it/ or /mya it/
I was eating
/mi bin a it/
I will eat
/mi gu it/

The chart above shows how tense and subject distinctions can be made without conjugating the verb in the phrase. In the phrase “I ate”, the GC translations come out roughly as “I ate done” or “I ate already”. Levels higher than the basilect might produce phrases closer to AE in regards to word order such as /mi don it/ and /mi aredi it/. “I was eating” includes the past tense form of “to be” which comes out as /bin/ in GC, deriving from “been” (as in “I been eating”). The addition of /a/ before /it/ indicates that it is/was ongoing in a progressive aspect and can be seen in the past tense. The final example displays the future tense using the verb “to go”, as in “I go eat” or more loosely, “I’m going to eat”. Also note the deletion of the /l/ before the /r/ in “already”, similar to how the /r/ deleted before the /d/ at the end of “dark”.
        Pluralization in GC is similar to that of certain dialects in French, where the phonological changes may not be pronounced, but can be distinguished based on other context words in the sentence. For example, “dog” in GC would be pronounced as /da:g/, and “dogs” would come out the same. In a sentence that would require the use of “dogs”, the determiner /dem/, “them”, can be inserted to clarify more than one dog.

Pluralization of “dog”
the dog is hungry
de dog hungry
the dogs are hungry
de(m) dog dem hungry
these dogs (right here) are hungry
dem dog dis hungry
those dogs (over there) are hungry
dem dog deh hungry

One aspect to note right away is the absence of the verb “to be” in present tense, which is not uncommon in languages such as Russian. The determiners “these” and “those” simplifies to “them” in GC and is pronounced as /dem/. To clarify their distance away from the speaker, /dis/, deriving from “this”, or /de/, deriving from “there” are used.

6. Conclusion
        The linguistic breakdowns of GC show that it is much simpler than any standard dialect of English. Some may ignorantly refer to GC as “broken English” because of its simplification, which would deter speakers from using GC or any other Caribbean English Creole dialect in conversation. As brought up, this simplification makes learning and speaking the language more convenient as there are less conjugations and morphological changes. The creole continuum provides multiple ways to convey a sentence while still being understood due to phoneme/morpheme deletions and shifting word orders along with other factors. Problems can arise out of speaking in GC when trying to convey more complex sentences such as those involving different verb tenses and plurals, but helping words can easily be added to compensate for certain ambiguities; and in my case, I usually code-switch to AE, sometimes mid-sentence, in order to avoid these problems.


Devonish, Hubert, and Dahlia Thompson. A Concise Grammar Of Guyanese Creole (Creolese). Muenchen: Lincom Europa, 2010. Print.