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Friday, February 10, 2006
The Implications of Nationalist Politics in British Guiana for


Despres, Leo A. The Implications of Nationalist Politics in British
Guiana for the Development of Cultural Theory. American Anthropologist
1964 Vol.66: 1051-1077

Despres examines two theoretical models that have been used to study
Caribbean societies, and proposes a third model which he believes to be a
more realistic approach to cultural change in emerging nations with
different cultural sections.
Despres argues that both the pluralist model and the reticulated model
are inadequate for understanding the cultural changes of nationalist
politics in British Guiana. He maintains that the pluralist model
exaggerates distinctions between Europeans, Portuguese and Chinese and does
not adequately acknowledge the existence of the native "elite." However,
the reticulated model overemphasizes the small sections of each
cultural group that have entered upper levels of power and obscures the
distinctions between different groups.

Neither model permits anthropologists to systematically investigate
nationalist politics in British Guiana. Thus Despres offers his own
model, which brings the activities of political parties into better focus.
Including this "action dimension," in addition to the spatial and time
dimensions of the other models, allows the calculated actions of
individuals to be assessed. Despres believes that political clashes do not
occur by chance or because of "incompatible structures." Rather,
individuals and groups purposely create clashes to serve their own goals and
purposes. This article provides rich ethnographic and analytical support
for this position.

Trish Malone Southern Oregon University (Anne Chambers)