UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Gringo politics Brown, Sarah


Encounters between gringo volunteers and local residents in San Andrés are always heavily-laden with politics. “Gringo” and “local” identities come into being in relation to each other; they are not pre-assigned but rather worked out in practice on the ground, where multiple inequalities are re-produced, re-negotiated, and/or re-enforced. Gringo positioning invokes many of the histories, geographies and asymmetries of Northern imperialism. This baggage inspires a variety of different responses from gringos, each with different political implications. Using ethnographic methods, I trace gringo-ness in practice and find that exclusionary, whitened, and self-affirming patterns begin to emerge. I question how critical methodological, theoretical, and practical engagements with “gringo” might allow this identity to be used as a tool of politicization or decolonization. After tracing the ways that being “gringo” plays out in San Andrés, I ask how this identity might be practiced in more emancipatory ways that deliberately challenge imperialism and whitened privilege. I set my sights on the methodological potential of critical gringo-ness as an articulation of my desire to conduct academic research in a way that recognizes the force of – but resists reinscribing – racialized, economic, gendered, and geopolitical privileges.

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