The Involvement of “Colonial Defectors” in French Guiana. Gender, Colonial Relations and Social Mobility

By Stéphanie Guyon

Based on long-term ethnographical fieldwork in the Amerindian movement in French Guiana, this paper examines the links between social mobility and activism by articulating post-colonial relations, class, gender and generation. It highlights gendered ascending trajectories: Amerindian men succeed better at school, reach middle management positions, benefit from a geographical mobility in mainland France hitherto enjoyed only by Creoles, and very often inherit activist responsibilities from their elders. School encourages a relative autonomy towards traditional gender assignations and plays an undeniable role in the social advancement of Amerindian women, but the latter also benefit from the dynamics of socialization to the host group outside the school institution and in a more informal way, through belonging to a couple. Marriage with Creole or metropolitan men supplies them with the resources necessary for their associative andor political involvement. This article also shows what activism does to social mobility in terms of opportunity of academic up-grading or vocational retraining. Here too, the chances of promotional retraining through activism are superior for men than for women. However, since the parity law, women have opportunities, as men do, to enter into politics at the local level.

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