Wednesday, 21 December 2011




The Institute for the Study of the Americas and the Institute of Commonwealth Studies are part of the University of London, located in Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU.

Series convenors: Kate Quinn (ISA); Mary Turner (ICwS)


“The most completely political Negro": The convergence of George Padmore’s pan-Africanism and Marxism in the West Indian Labour Revolts, 1935-1939
18th January 17:30 Room 349 (Third Floor, Senate House)
Leslie James, LSE

Born in Trinidad in 1903, George Padmore is best known either as one of the 'fathers of Pan-Africanism', or as the Communist International's most important 'Negro communist.' These categories have diminished his interest in, and support for, resistance in the West Indies. The Caribbean labour revolts, which began in British Honduras in early 1935 and culminated in the strikes, marches and demonstrations across Jamaica in 1938, became a major subject of George Padmore’s journalism and a key action point for his London-based International African Service Bureau (IASB). The IASB became heavily involved in West Indian affairs and although many see this period as Padmore’s stronger identification as an ‘African,’ it was also the period in which he was most involved in West Indian politics. This paper will show that Padmore's continued Marxism and his persistent encouragement of pan-African unity came together in his support for Caribbean workers.

Bio: Leslie James is a PhD candidate in the International History Dept, London School of Economics and Political Science. She is working on a biography of George Padmore.

Seminar and Book Launch: George Price, A Life Revealed: The Authorised Biography, Ian Randle Press (2011) by Godfrey Smith
1st February 18:00 The William Beveridge Hall (Ground floor, Senate House)
Speaker: Godfrey P Smith
Commentator: Lord Michael Ashcroft

"An ascetic and failed priest, a stoic, father of the nation, prime minister and first national hero of the Central American nation of Belize, George Price remains one of the most enigmatic leaders of the 20th century. Nothing in the early years of Price’s life gave any indication that he would become the most uncompromising adversary of the British government in the struggle, first for self-government and later for Belizean independence, and in the process dominate Belizean politics for over 40 years. An indifferent scholastic career, failure to complete studies for the priesthood followed by a decade as the right-hand man for one of the colony’s most astute businessmen, were less than impressive a track record for a future national leader and political firebrand. Yet for close to 50 years, the story of George Price was inseparable from the story of the modern political development of Belize, involving the birth of nationalist politics; the formation of political parties; the struggle for independence and the national objective of maintaining the territorial integrity of Belize against claims by Guatemala.

Here is the story of a man who never married or raised a family, who never had a romantic liaison with a woman and who up to the time of his death at the age of 92 had remained celibate all his life. Price’s first and only lifelong love, his sweetheart, wife and family were Belize and its people. In this even-handed and revealing authorized biography, Godfrey Smith does not attempt to canonize Price or denigrate his rivals and detractors. Rather, he exposes the contradictions that were a feature of Price’s life and career. On the one hand the reader is shown Price as the ardent nationalist and a man of uncommon discipline and tenacity who pursued his vision of an independent Belize with clear-minded focus, courage and determination, yet who, by his own admission, had secret relations with Guatemala whom most Belizeans regarded as the enemy.

On a personal level, Smith paints a picture of Price as one who beneath his pious exterior could often be found to be petty, secretive and vindictive, and a man who did not suffer slights lightly. Few political leaders from the region have recorded their memoirs or, like Price, given access by way of interviews or opened their personal papers to researchers or biographers. As one whose political career spanned boththe colonial and the post independence eras, the information, experiences and insights Price has freely given to his biographer will make this work an important contribution to the study of the political personality, the development of political parties and party politics in the Caribbean at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. In addition, the book sheds new light on Price’s adversarial relationship with local British governors and officials of the Colonial Office in London, and on the central role that the Guatemalan claim on Belize and Price’s controversial affiliations with Guatemala played in both the negotiation and timing of Belizean independence. The value of Godfrey Smith’s work as the biographer of George Price lies in the fact that it is at once the revealing story of an important and controversial political leader, and at the same time, a history of the anti-colonial struggle and the modern political development of Belize"

East Indian Civil Society in the Pre-Independence Caribbean
15th February 17:00 S264 (Second Floor, Senate House)

Feriel Kissoon, King’s College London: "How East Indians became West Indians": the Indigenization of East Indians in Trinidad and Tobago 1910-1930
Clem Seecharan, London Metropolitan University [title TBC]

Panel: Small Territories, Global Issues: Governance and Corruption in the Caribbean
29th February 17:30 S261 (Second Floor, Senate House)

Peter Clegg, UWE: The Turks and Caicos Islands: Can the cloud be banished?
Dylan Vernon, ISA: Our Turn to Feed: Big Implications of Rampant Political Clientelism in Small State Belize
The Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) is one of 14 Overseas Territories (OTs) still overseen by the United Kingdom (UK). Underpinned by tourism, property development and financial services, its economy experienced growth amongst the highest in the world during the early to mid-2000s. However, it now appears that this economic success was built on a political, economic and social system that was seriously compromised, and which created ‘a national emergency’ that potentially threatened the very future of the territory. The paper considers the report of the 2009 UK government-appointed Commission of Inquiry into alleged corruption in the TCI, and draws comparisons with a similar Commission of Inquiry undertaken in 1986. Indeed the title of the article derives from a quotation from the first inquiry overseen by Louis Blom-Cooper which said ‘… I am driven to the conclusion that the time has come to disperse the cloud that hangs like a brooding omnipresence in a Grand Turkan Sky’. It is clear that this did not happen, and the paper investigates why. The paper considers the UK government’s system of oversight and the characteristics of the TCI, and whether these help to explain recent events and those in the mid-1980s. A final assessment is then made as to whether the TCI is particularly prone to breakdowns in good governance, what is being done to repair the territory’s reputation, and whether the cloud hanging over the TCI can be banished.

Bio: Dr Peter Clegg is a Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of the West of England in Bristol, and in 2009/2010 he was a Visiting Research Fellow at the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES) at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica. He has published widely on the Caribbean, and teaches a range of courses on Latin American and Caribbean Politics.

The disproportionate expansion and prevalence of political clientelism in Belize since independence in 1981 have worrying implications for its democratic governance and development. From the ‘cultural normalcy’ of open vote-buying in local constituencies, to blatant patronage in the public service, to the backroom high finance deals for the ‘big boys’, the trading of political favour for political support is no longer just election addenda but a permanent state of affairs in daily political relationships of exchange and influence. Although intense party competition and high rates of poverty have jointly fuelled this political phenomenon, small state scale, highly personalised politics, and demographic shifts have also contributed significantly in the Belize context. The paper focuses on the ‘big’ governance challenges that pervasive political clientelism present for small Commonwealth Caribbean states such as Belize in terms of its relationship to political corruption, the disincentive effect on policy reform, the undermining of welfare delivery, and the creation of a mutually damaging dependency between people and their political leaders. Is this path of entrenched political clientelism inevitable for these small states?

Bio: Dylan Vernon is a United Kingdom Commonwealth Scholarship Fellow currently in his third year of completing a PhD in Caribbean Politics at the Institute for the Study of the Americas at the School of Advanced Studies, University of London. The presentation is based on his thesis (in progress) on the nature and implications of rampant political clientelism in Belize. Prior to ISA, his career included directing the Society for the Promotion of Education and Research in Belize (1994-1998), chairing the Belize Political Reform Commission (1999-2000), managing the United Nations Development Programme in Belize (2000-2005), chairing the Advisory Council on the Guatemalan Claim (2005-2009), lecturing at the University of Belize, and private consulting in the development sector.

Recent Elections and Communal Strife: Trinidad and Guyana
14th March 17:30 Room 349 (Third floor, Senate House)
Ralph Premdas, University of the West Indies, St.Augustine

In two Caribbean states that are ethnically plural, this seminar compares the persistence/disappearance of the ethnic factor through the prism of the last two elections in Trinidad and Guyana.

Bio: Ralph R. Premdas is Professor in the Sir Arthur Institute of Social and Economic Research (SALISES) at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago. He holds PhDs in Political Science (Illinois 1970) and Comparative Religion (McGill1991). His research focuses on issues of democratic governance and public policy in ethnically divided states. His publications include many books among which are Identity, Ethnicity and Culture in the Caribbean (2000); Ethnic Conflict and Development: The Case of Guyana (1997) and Trinidad and Tobago: Identity and Ethnicity in Public Sector Governance (2007).

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