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  • 2018goughphd

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Indigenous identity in a contested land: a study of the Garifuna of Belize's Toledo district

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Published
Publication date2019
Number of pages368
QualificationPhD
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Publisher
  • Lancaster University
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

The past fifty years has seen a significant shift in the recognition of indigenous peoples within international law. Once conceptualised as the antithesis to European identity, which in turn facilitated colonial ambitions, the recognition of indigenous identity and responding to indigenous peoples’ demands is now a well-established norm within the international legal system. Furthermore, the recognition of this identity can lead to benefits, such as a stake in controlling valuable resources. However, gaining tangible indigenous recognition remains inherently complex. A key reason for this complexity is that gaining successful recognition as being indigenous is highly dependent upon specific regional, national and local circumstances.
Belize is an example of a State whose colonial and post-colonial geographies continue to collide, most notably in its southernmost Toledo district. Aside from remaining the subject of a continued territorial claim from the Republic of Guatemala, in recent years Toledo has also been the battleground for the globally renowned indigenous Maya land rights case. As such, Toledo is a contested land both internally and externally. However, another people – the Garifuna – have also resided in Toledo since before British colonisation. Despite their long shared history in the Toledo district, the Garifuna absence from the Maya land rights case was notable.
This interdisciplinary thesis places the Garifuna at the centre of the indigenous debate in Toledo, and in doing so, has added new perspectives to the complexity in gaining tangible indigenous recognition, particularly when this leads to control over land and resources. In doing so this thesis has added further perspectives on the Garifuna as a people from both a legal and social anthropological angle, as well as contributing to the indigenous narrative in Belize and the wider Central American and Caribbean region.