American Ethnological Society
Oral Presentation Session
Ambergris Caye, Belize has become a center of resettlement for largely white “expatriates” from the United States, Canada and Great Britain. They often describe being attracted to resettling there by three qualities: the official use of the English language in Belize, the natural beauty of the landscape, and the relatively low cost of living. Their attraction to these qualities is often described through a narrative of discovery in which they express their pleasure with finding a place that is coincidentally the ideal outcome of processes unrelated to their own lives and nations of origin. Their dehistoricized and depoliticized encounters with this new location, however, obscure the way in which each of these qualities is the outcome of a racialized process of extractive colonialism in Belize.
Though on the fringes of Great Britain’s colonial holdings, privateers were drawn to the area by valuable wood products—logwood and then mahogany. The result was a surgically extractive colonial economy that created a landscape which appears desirably “natural.” But this Belizean nature is the outcome of a colonial organization of landscape and labor that generated naturalizing racial categories used to control labor and settlement. In this paper, I argue that expatriates not only draw from the benefits of a racialized post-colonial landscape, but actively reproduce that landscape through their understandings of labor, place and identity. The way in which expatriates reproduce the conditions of colonialism, often through mundane daily practices and rhetoric, is deserving of more thorough ethnographic attention.