Interethnic Antagonism in the Wake of Colonialism: U.S. Territorial Racial and Ethnic Relations at the Margins
P, Michael, Ethnic Studies Review
Since the proliferation of scholarship on racial and ethnic antagonism following the Civil Rights era, neo-Marxist, colonialism, and other power-conflict theories reached popularity and have been widely applied to explain racial and ethnic conflict throughout the world, particularly in the United States. However there is a lack of scholarship on racial and ethnic relations in the U.S. territories in general and the Pacific Islands in particular. Although a few works exist in terms of interethnic antagonism and anti-immigrant sentiment in Puerto Rico, Melanesia, and Hawaii, there is a lack of research on interethnic antagonism in Micronesia; therefore comparative analyses of race and ethnicity in the context of U.S. territorial relations would contribute to the general body of knowledge in ethnic studies. In light of Micronesia's complex colonial history and its contemporary political and economic context (i.e. immigration, labor exploitation, territorial relations, neocolonialism, indigenous sovereignty struggles, and garment, tourist, and construction industries), understanding of intergroup relations in Micronesia would also benefit from an analysis of interethnic antagonism.
As a territory of the United States the island of Guam is particularly situated within the eye of this political economic storm. Indeed Guam is the industrial center of Micronesia and a popular destination for capital, industries, the military, tourists, migrants, and labor. Compounding antagonistic racial, ethnic, and indigenous relations surrounding self-determination, sovereignty, military, and political status issues, Guam's colonial history is marked by political subjugation, military land acquisition, lopsided economic development, colonial immigration policy, and tremendous in-migration. In particular given the lack of local control of Guam's economy and in-migration, these remain central issues surrounding intergroup conflict on the island. Yet how are these dynamics played out within a territorial possession whereby diverse cultures and political economic interests converge in the wake of colonialism?
In this paper, I offer an interpretive note on interethnic antagonism between the Chamorro population (indigenous people of the Mariana Islands) and non-Chamorros, particularly labor migrant groups in Guam. In doing so, I construct a theoretical model of interethnic antagonism derived from diverse perspectives (i.e. colonial, split labor market, middleman minority, cultural, and postcolonial studies) and critically analyze the political economic history of Guam.
Intergroup conflict is an inextricable feature of diverse stratified societies. A heterogeneity of cultural, religious, historical, political, and economic interests lay the foundation for interethnic antagonism. The diverse complexion of the United States is an instructive case in point, whereby racial and ethnic conflict have marked intergroup relations from the discovery of the New World to the 1992 Los Angeles uprising. Many perspectives on intergroup conflict exist that range across psychological, cultural, and social explanations. Considering the capitalist and colonial contexts of intergroup relations, fundamental social sources of intergroup conflict are apparent (i.e. labor exploitation, divide and conquer maneuvers, splitting the labor market). In turn there has been a proliferation of scholarship on interethnic antagonism in the United States establishing a paradigm of ethnic studies scholarship beyond conventional assimilationist and biracial theorizing.(2) However, there is a lack of scholarship on interethnic relations in the U.S. territories in general and the Pacific Islands in particular. Although a few works on interethnic antagonism and anti-immigrant sentiment in Puerto Rico, Melanesia, and Hawaii exist, there is a lack of research on interethnic antagonism in Micronesia.(3) Therefore comparative analyses of interethnic relations in the context of U. …