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Eric R. Wolf

Committee Members

June Nash

Edward Hansen

O. Nigel Bolland

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This dissertation examines the construction and representation of ethnic identity by elite groups over time in Belize, focusing on the creole middle class of the late 19th century. It analyzes the formation and reproduction of local white, creole, and "Spanish" elites in terms of their economic and social locations as well as through the reproduction over several generations of representative elite families. It looks particularly at the role of the colonial authorities in differentially shaping economic and social options and constraints for each group, as well as at the efforts of different groups to insert themselves into this process. Through the use of historical documents, newspaper accounts, and personal diaries and reports, it describes the processes of identity construction and validation for different groups in Belize, as well as its contestation and transformation over several generations, in both family and historical time.

The examination of the reproduction of specific families sheds light on the process of elite formation and reproduction as well as that of social reproduction in peripheral countries of the third world. Following a description of three of the ethnic groups in Belize the dissertation presents a broader discussion of the arenas in which identity is produced and contested, and the agents of these interlocking processes.


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