Being Dogla : hybridity and ethnicity in post-colonial Suriname
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This thesis explores hybridity and ethnicity in Nickerie, Western Suriname. It undertakes this exploration from the perspective of doglas, Surinamese people with mixed African and Asian parentage. In Suriname’s postcolonial process of nation-building, ethnicity has been essentialized, with doglas representing a category of anomaly, but also of uncertainty. What I have termed ‘dogla discourse’ refers to the opinions, experiences and negotiations among and about doglas in Nickerie that both shored up and destabilized Suriname’s ethnic essentialism. Dogla discourse fuses and confuses ethnic categories and boundaries in its insistent hybridity. The thesis shows that being dogla does not simply align with common tropes of ‘mixed-race’. I argue that in embracing conflicting paradigms of ethnicity, doglas in Nickerie both emphasized and undermined ethnic essentialism. This was expressed in idioms of kinship and sexual relations, in notions of the pure/impure dogla body, and in the relevance and irrelevance of ‘cultural spirituality’. Furthermore, dogla discourse problematized the role of ethnicity in the enduring struggles of how to define ‘the national’ in postcolonial states. Thus, the thesis presents an ethnographic contribution to studies of ‘mixed-race’ in contexts of postcolonial nation-building, and theoretically expands conceptualizations of ‘the hybrid’.