Collin Constantine was born in Guyana. Currently he is a PhD student in Economics at Kingston University in the United Kingdom. Constantine shares his story in a three-part interview.
-University of Guyana Student Society President (2010-11)
-Recipient of the Professor Clive Thomas Award from the University of Guyana in 2013
-Master of Science Degree in Development Economics from SOAS, University of London
Interview Part 1 of 3
Where were you born?
I was born in Bartica, Guyana but I was raised in the capital city – Georgetown
Describe the community you grew up in
Khan’s Park Ogle is a small and quiet place and not particularly interesting.
What kind of school did you go to?
I was fortunate to benefit from both public and private schooling – each with their own strengths and weaknesses.
What was your favorite subject? Least favorite?
There is no simple answer to this question – my academic story is an evolutionary one. At the early phases, I had a strong interest in business, finance and entrepreneurship – this was reflected in my selection of business courses at the high school level. However, as a boy I was always curious about the origins of mankind and the universe – physics and other related sciences were of natural interest as I grew older.
Least favorite subject: I have studied Spanish since I was seven and somehow still managed to remain Spanish-illiterate.
His Personal Journey
How did you decide what you wanted to study at University?
In 2008, the financial centers of the world were crashing; Americans were living in tents in New York City and for the first time I had taken a course in Economics. Almost immediately I lost interest in the Natural Sciences. I was now interested in how the economy functioned.
New questions emerged: what is a financial crisis and how does this lead to homelessness? I soon realized that these and other related questions are not strictly economics – they are highly political. Now I was at a crossroads: sociology, politics or economics.
I had decided that politics was mostly instinctual – no need for formal schooling and sociology was too much Social Science, in other words, everything caused everything else. Economics was appealing – I was still able to study society and politics. Arrogantly, I decided that Economics was the Master Science.
Today, I know better. We cannot understand the world through the narrow prism of Economics alone – culture matters, history is an important determinant of the future and politics, society and economy are a complex web of chaos. Any attempt at higher truth requires an interdisciplinary approach – I now consider myself a Political Economist.
How did you decide what you wanted to do with your life? How do you feel about that choice?
As indicated by my previous response, the events in 2008 shaped my life choices. Barack Obama was as captivating to me as he was to most Americans. I was now convinced of the power of words and somehow the chaos of 2008 imposed upon me some sense of social responsibility. But to whom am I responsible? In the highly globalized world and the Americanization of nation states, the answer was not immediately clear.
This puzzle led to more questions:
What does it mean to be Guyanese? The who, what and the why of Guyanese politics and economy launched me into the great search for myself. In short, my life choices are shaped by my answers to these questions.
The tentative answers suggest that the Guyanese identity is important in itself and that the great power of my thoughts and actions should be dedicated to the public interest. An important lesson from Guyanese political history and the financial crisis of 2008 is that the obsession with private virtue can lead to the disarray of society.
Further, in this ongoing quest it has become clear that if I must fight, I must fight for the poor and the powerless – the strong need no representation. I venture to do this as a Political Economist but not merely in the conventional academic sense from an Ivory Tower – to be effective, one must transform thoughts to action to improve social reality.
Stay tune for Part 2 in our three-part interview with Collin Constantine.