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Title: Tensions of development and negotiations of identity at the periphery of France : Guyane Française since 1946
Author: Wood, Sarah Louise
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis addresses the contemporary cultural history of French Guiana (Guyane française), an ‘overseas department’ of France and ‘ultraperipheral region’ of the European Union in South America. Historiographical frameworks of metropole-colony and of the ‘French West Indies’ (Burton, 1995) have trapped Guyane in historical marginality. I contend that, when studied in the regional context of the Amazonian Guianas as well as in relation to the Caribbean and in terms of its postcolonial or neo-colonial relationship with France, Guyane’s history during this period offers a new and important perspective on postcolonial relationships and identities. The thesis focuses on the period since 1946, when the French government attempted to transpose plans for post-war modernisation and development onto this geographically Amazonian territory. It draws upon archival sources, oral histories and ethnographic analyses to explore how state visions of the place and its future interacted with locally-grounded perceptions and experiences. The five chapters develop historical perspectives on current tensions of ‘development’ and identity in this complex, multicultural and rapidly-changing place. The first chapter examines cultural cartographies and the production of geographical visions of a French Amazonia across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The second focuses on the specific political situation of Guyane in the Fourth Republic, offering a transatlantic geography of local elites’ paths of mobility and the social networks through which power operated. The third focuses on the context for and consequences of a large-scale, ostensibly ‘failed’ development plan of 1975, the so-called Plan Vert. Tracing overlaps and tensions between discourses of development and environment, it suggests that this event paved the way for important shifts in languages of ecology, in ideas of ‘green’, and in the relationships of these to ‘development’ policy. The fourth chapter gauges the geographical, political and cultural role of the border between Guyane and Suriname. It contends that decolonisation (1954-1975), conflict (1986-1992) and the aftermath of these in the latter country had critical repercussions which have not yet been fully apprehended. The final chapter synthesises the findings of the four previous ones in an exploration of the contemporary politics of cultural representation and expressions of identity in Guyane. In conclusion, the thesis makes a historiographical contribution by arguing how this territory, considered peripheral and difficult to define, can in fact be key to apprehending and challenging received ideas and categories of centre and margins, colonial and postcolonial.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available