Sutherland characterizes Belize as a “postmodern nation” that has moved into the communications-technological age” without having developed a modern economy (p. 3). The process of globalization means, among other things, that “more people everywhere are aware of a wider set of possibilities for living their lives than ever before, possibilities that are taking them outside their own locality to imagined worlds that they have not necessarily experienced” (p. 9). A generation ago Belize was a British colony and had no television and few working telephones. Since 1981 it has been independent and some Belizeans communicate with other parts of the world by fax machines and e-mail. Sutherland asks the interesting question about how Belize is “now being made, or remade, in a globalized, deterritorialized world” in relation to “images of reality from all parts of the globe” (p. 9). Her question is not simply about how globalization brings changes to Belize but how, at the local level, people understand and interact with global forces. As she points out, for example, ideas about “race” that come from the United States via the mass media, tourists, and Belizean émigrés, are changing ethnic consciousness. The idea that one’s identity is primordially defined is increasingly influential, and this affects how Belizeans think about each other. Yet this influence was already apparent in the 1960s, before the recent globalization of communications, when a “black consciousness” movement was initiated in Belize City, and even in the 1920s, when a branch of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association was active in Belize. So this changing ethnic consciousness is not so new and cannot be attributed to “the arrival of ideoscapes about race, identity, and experience through the global media . . . and through tourists” (pp. 80-81).

This example illustrates some weaknesses of The Making of Belize. First, it has a shallow historical perspective that makes many cultural changes appear more recent and important than they really are. Making few references to the considerable historiography on Belize that has emerged since the 1970s, Sutherland does not distinguish between changes that are qualitatively new and those that extend or intensify existing features and tendencies. Second, she uses terms like “postmodern” and “globalization too uncritically. These concepts often mean different things to different people and in different contexts. Relations between Belize and the United States have certainly broadened and intensified over the last 50 years, but this should not be simply attributed to communications technology, nor does it mean that the world is becoming deterritorialized.” The United States has deported 300,000 immigrants, some of them Belizean, in the last two years, so real boundaries are enforced even while images are transmitted across them. Perhaps the world appears more globalized to people who are privileged, while it appears more local to the less privileged.

A third weakness is that much of Sutherland’s evidence is anecdotal, so while she chooses some anecdotes to illustrate her arguments, different anecdotes could be chosen to support contrary arguments. This study is based on accumulated observations and selected readings, but not on a thorough or deep examination of what Belizeans think about and practice in their changing culture and society. Consequently, though The Making of Belize raises interesting questions and is clearly written, it is ultimately disappointing. “The connection between globalization processes and the creation of social forms and culture,” as Sutherland says, “is only just now being understood by anthropologists” (p. 187). But her ambitious book contributes less to our understanding than it promises.