Michael John

Wolf Humanities Center Undergraduate Fellow

20192020 Forum on Kinship

Michael John

Africana Studies

CAS, 2020

Michael is a senior pursuing a degree in Africana Studies with a minor in Political Science, who studied non-western art and repatriation efforts in Paris the summer before transferring to Penn as a junior. His research interests are centered around questions of colonialism in the anglophone Caribbean, and how these legacies of strife relate to the socio-political challenges existing within the contemporary space. Michael's research interests in the Caribbean were deepened by his attendance at the annual Caribbean Studies Association Conference. As a first-year student, attending the conference in the Bahamas, he gained exposure to experts conducting research on a diverse array of topics within the Caribbean, ranging from climate change to education reform. This unique forum moved him to interrogate his own questions, utilizing his interest in government to understand the role of identity in the political processes of his mother's nation, Guyana. Outside of this work, Michael is very interested in the tech space. This past summer he worked in New York conducting research on emerging technologies and their role in the financial services industry.

Building A Nation: An Exploration of Ethnic Identity in Post Colonial Guyana

This project is primarily interested in examining the implications of ethnicity on democratic institutions and development challenges in the South American country of Guyana - in relation to its legacy of colonial occupation. How have populations brought to this territory through institutions of forced labor negotiated their identity in a new space? How has the project of nationalism complicated and shifted perceptions of self, particularly in relation to idigenous communities? These are some of the questions that this study hopes to consider. Recognizing that Guyana is an extremely cosmopolitan space, the project explores the role of  identity politics on the evolution and efficacy of the nation's democracy. The construction of identity has established particular policy outcomes and power struggles, that have disenfranchised communities across the country. These challenges have warranted extensive oversight by a variety of organizations, such as the Jimmy Carter Foundation, who have taken an active role in the country's election monitoring in recent years. The project will consider theoretical frames of identity in the Guyanese context,  in an effort to gauge how they influence economic and political challenges within Guyana, in the post-colonial era.