Presentation by Melissa Johnson, Ph.D. at the 2nd Belize National Research Conference, 2019
In this presentation, I will provide an overview of my book, Becoming Creole: Nature and Race in Belize, published in 2018 by Rutgers University Press. The book makes four basic arguments. First, people become who they are in relationship with the more than human world in which they live. Second, these becomings are always already entangled in processes of racialization. Third, rural Creole Belizeans have crafted non-capitalist ecological and economic modes of being (Gibson-Graham 2011) since Creole culture first emerged in the 1700s in a place that itself was created through capitalism. Fourth, these becomings and relationships have been transnational since they were forged and continue to be so in today’s transnational landscapes of biodiversity conservation, ecotourism and migration. Based on almost 30-years of intimate ethnographic research (Waterston 2013) and connection to the communities of Lemonal and Crooked Tree, I use historical archives, traditional ethnographic methods of participant observation and interviewing and family stories to illustrate and support my arguments. I contend that these non-capitalist relations and becomings produce livity (Roberts 2014) and offer a pathway to follow in this moment of planetary catastrophe, a pathway that veers away from the destructive capacities of Man, the “figure of the human” critiqued by Sylvia Wynter (Wynter 2003).
Key words: rural Belize, Crooked Tree, Creole culture, Belizean identity, race and nation