Mr Oliver Antczak (2019)
Being born in a turbulent Venezuela to a family of Polish immigrants, the intricacies of identity were an important topic of my everyday life. With parents and a brother all archaeologists, I grew up excavating every summer on the sunny islands of the Venezuelan Caribbean. For my undergraduate thesis at Leiden University College, I merged both these experiences working with the Guaiquerí indigenous group on Margarita island, Venezuela. There I attempted to understand how the Guaiquerí have maintained their strong identity though five centuries of colonialism. For my MPhil at the University of Cambridge, I decided to continue working on the topic with the Caquetío on Bonaire, who maintain a strong indigenous identity despite most locals believing they no longer exist. This work has made me realize that heritage management is not appropriately equipped to understand the resilience of indigenous identities in the Caribbean. For my PhD, I will work with more case-studies of indigenous identity in the Caribbean to deliver data on how identity and heritage are managed and maintained in these (post)colonial contexts. Misunderstood identity processes are an important part of many problems facing the region, including the current situation in Venezuela. I envision that my research can help both the communities I work with as well as academia and heritage institutions, leading to positive changes regionally, nationally and internationally.