Creolization

I have decided to post excerpts of my book manuscript as I write them. Here’s my definition of creolization.

In this book, I want to reclaim Creole and creolization from the semantic and analytical “muddle” described by Palmié.(1) I understand creolization as the process through which ideas and practices are appropriated or affirmed, manipulated, and blended in response to the particular power structure of colonialism sous toutes ces formes: classic and neo-colonialism, but also anti- and post-. I combine the original meaning of Creole referring to what has been made local with the later meaning of creolization as syncretization. Therefore I understand creolization as the act of creative incorporation into the vernacular, of localizing through both détour and détournement.(2) Whereas, as we’ll see below, the détour speaks of a general principle, a poetics symptomatic of a postcolonial unconscious, the French détournement refers to specific acts and practices. Détournement collapses several English words that are all appropriate—to various degrees and in various forms—to creolizing strategies: misappropriation and highjacking, diversion and perversion. I argue, along with Crichlow, that creolization entails a practice of “homing,” of making or claiming not only place, but also ideologies and politics.(3) Creolization is inherently relational. Through its détournements, it not only localizes, it also transforms—or “homes”—its source material. Thus, when I speak of the Creole politics of Guadeloupe, I really refer to creolizing politics, practices and poetics that adopt and adapt the French political while transforming it. Creole politics not only aim to govern the archipelago; they also seek to redefine the French nation-state. As Glissant proposes, creolization participates in an act of “mutual transformation.”(4) In the remainder of this chapter, I will first focus on the détour as a model of (post)colonial contestation before turning to aesthetics, audibility, and opacity.

References

1 Stephan Palmié, “Is There a Model in the Muddle? ‘Creolization’ in African Americanist History and Anthropology,” in Creolization: History, Ethnography, Theory, ed. Charles Stewart (Walnut Creek, CA: West Coast Press, 2007).

2 I adapt here the idea of the tactics of the détournement proposed by de Certeau.

Michel De Certeau, L’invention du quotidien 1: Arts de faire (Paris: Union générale de l’édition, 1980), 68-75.

3 Michaeline Crichlow, and Patricia Northover, Globalization and the Post-Creole Imagination: Notes on Fleeing the Plantation (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009).

4 Edouard Glissant, Poétique de la relation: Poétique III (Paris: Gallimard, 1990), 103.

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