Executing Ethnicity: The Killings in Suriname

Essay Excerpt

If the Maroons' greatest fear, as expressed to me during the 1960s, was that "those times [the days of slavery and the struggle for freedom] shall come again" (R. Price 1983a: 11-12), then the New Year's Eve killings of 1987 may stand, emblematically, for the ways that specific continuities of "othering" have produced, and continue to reproduce in Suriname, precisely those conditions that make such fears well grounded. The soldiers' "cheering" as the Maroon youths were machine-gunned down has in a certain sense been going on for three centuries.

For present purposes we need not rehearse the litany of oppression visited upon Maroons since the early colonial period that they refer to as "First-Time."[5] Suffice it to say that during the first century of Dutch rule in Suriname, the planter class came to refer to Maroons - the collective enemy of the "slaveocracy" - by such terms as vermin, pernicious scum, a crowd of monsters, and a hydra. Maroons recaptured by the colonists were routinely "punished" by ham-stringing, amputation of limbs, and a variety of deaths by torture. Indeed, until the late 18th century, theatrical public tortures and executions of recaptured Maroons continued to be commonplace in Paramaribo. Today, as I have argued at length elsewhere, the attitudes motivating such acts are far from being dead letters... (440)

Price, Richard. "Executing Ethnicity: The Killings in Suriname." Cultural Anthropology 10.4(1995): 437–471.

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