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Creolization as Cultural Creativity

Creolization as Cultural Creativity

Robert Baron
Ana C. Cara
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Creolization as Cultural Creativity
    Book Description:

    Global in scope and multidisciplinary in approach,Creolization as Cultural Creativityexplores the expressive forms and performances that come into being when cultures encounter one another. Creolization is presented as a powerful marker of identity in the postcolonial creole societies of Latin America, the Caribbean, and the southwest Indian Ocean region, as well as a universal process that can occur anywhere cultures come into contact.

    An extraordinary number of cultures from Haiti, Martinique, Guadeloupe, the southern United States, Trinidad and Tobago, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, Réunion, Puerto Rico, Argentina, Suriname, Jamaica, and Sierra Leone are discussed in these essays.

    Drawing from the disciplines of folklore, anthropology, ethnomusicology, literary studies, history, and material culture studies, essayists address theoretical dimensions of creolization and present in-depth field studies. Topics include adaptations of the Gombe drum over the course of its migration from Jamaica to West Africa; uses of "ritual piracy" involved in the appropriation of Catholic symbols by Puerto Ricanbrujos; the subversion of official culture and authority through playful and combative use of "creole talk" in Argentine literature and verbal arts; the mislabeling and trivialization ("toy blindness") of objects appropriated by African Americans in the American South; the strategic use of creole techniques among storytellers within the islands of the Indian Ocean; and the creolized character of New Orleans and its music. In the introductory essay the editors address both local and universal dimensions of creolization and argue for the centrality of its expressive manifestations for creolization scholarship.

    eISBN: 978-1-61703-107-6
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction: Creolization as Cultural Creativity
    (pp. 3-19)

    Creolization is cultural creativity in process. When cultures come into contact, expressive forms and performances emerge from their encounter, embodying the sources that shape them yet constituting new and different entities. Fluid in their adaptation to changing circumstances and open to multiple meanings, Creole forms are expressions of culture in transition and transformation. Even as these emergent forms persist and become institutionalized after initial culture contact, they continue to embody multiplicity, render multivocality, and negotiate contestation while also serving as means of national identity and creative expression. Traditionally most closely associated with the New World cultures of Caribbean and Latin...

  5. Metaphors of Incommensurability
    (pp. 20-31)

    The old Black woman who gave Jeanette Robinson Murphy an account of how spirituals were created reminds us that it is “mixture” that lurks behind the vast array of words that have been used over the last four hundred years to describe the processes and products of cultural contact in the Americas and elsewhere in the world: words likenomadism,deterritorialization,transnationalism,modernism, andpostmodernism, all of which attempt to characterize some of the conditions under which people come into contact and produce new cultural forms; ormarronage,border culture,heterogeneity,cosmopolitanism,multiculturalism, andpluralism, terms used to name the...

  6. Monde Créole: The Cultural World of French Louisiana Creoles and the Creolization of World Cultures
    (pp. 32-67)

    In June of 1934 young Alan Lomax was in pursuit of the oral traditional music of Cajun and Creole Louisiana. His recording of African French singer Jimmy Peters’s “J’ai fait tout le tour du pays” in the southwest prairie, rice-farming village of Lake Arthur was recalled by Lomax over forty years later as one of his most “remarkable” field experiences.¹ He was a documentary witness to the intensely creolized music that would evolve to become the now popular zydeco. Deeply West African in impression with rhythmically dense, accented foot percussion and repeated vocal fricatives sung by a second voice, this...

  7. Creolization, Nam, Absent Loved Ones, Watchers, and Serious Play with “Toys”
    (pp. 68-108)

    This essay points up the multiple theoretical trajectories associated with the term “creolization” over the past forty years. In light of this history, I argue that the term has outlived its usefulness as a unitary theoretical rubric. However, as an open-ended synonym for “mixture” it can still usefully draw attention to cultural processes that remodel ancestral precedents, selectively synthesize multiple cultural resources, and pointedly reject the notion of mixture to foreground moments of irreducible seriousness.

    The essay weaves together three threads. First, it engages, though by no means resolves, problems in theorizing the complex interactions of diverse peoples who historically...

  8. Ritual Piracy: Or Creolization with an Attitude
    (pp. 109-136)

    The first thing that attracted my attention when visiting the altar room of a Puerto Ricanbruja(witch-healer) was the bizarre mishmash of Catholic saints and Afro-Caribbean and Amerindian deities, standing in front of a Buddha and the chromolithograph of a blond Jesus, in the midst of all sorts of candles. I also noticed a small packet, hanging from a large bronze cross, a magic work that had been left there to be empowered by the cross.¹ How could the same cross that once persecutedbrujos(witch-healers) be now empowering their magic works, in partnership with African and Asian deities?...

  9. Africa’s Creole Drum: The Gumbe as Vector and Signifier of Trans-African Creolization
    (pp. 137-177)

    The story told here—a transatlantic story of displacement, cultural reinvention, and creolization—begins well over two centuries ago, in 1800. Almost precisely at midnight, on the first of October in that year, several hundred black people completed a long and grueling transatlantic voyage. According to oral traditions that have survived to the present, the ordeal of capture, incarceration on European ships, and forced removal from their country of origin had taken place not, as one might expect, on the shores of Africa (Bilby 2005, 378–410). In fact, Africa was where the long journeyended—not, as one might...

  10. Techniques of Creolization
    (pp. 178-197)

    Creolization, presented in detail by authors in this volume, is gaining currency around the world under various names. Its realities, in the socially situated interaction of human beings, deserve attention. As an example of flattening the concept through uncomprehending use, Ulf Hannerz mistakenly simplifies creole cultures into “those which draw in some way on two or more historical sources, often originally widely different. They have some time to develop and integrate and to become elaborate and pervasive. There is that sense of a continuous spectrum of interacting forms, in which the various contributing sources of the culture are differentially visible”...

  11. Creole Talk: The Poetics and Politics of Argentine Verbal Art
    (pp. 198-227)

    Words, and alternative ways of talking, have habitually been the poor man’s currency in creole societies; forever, as well, have they served as weapons against oppressive authority, vehicles for solidarity among all manner of disenfranchised peoples, and instruments for extraordinary art.

    The man-of-words, as Roger Abrahams (1983) so compellingly demonstrated in his work on the West Indies, plays a critical role in negotiating and celebrating creolization and in achieving meaning in local creole communities. “Talk is never cheap,” observes Abrahams, underscoring how the everyday and the extraordinary in verbal expressive behavior are “chained to each other” and how skillful talkers...

  12. Villes, Poèmes: The Postwar Routes of Caribbean Creolization
    (pp. 228-242)

    In his 1958 study of Haitian Vodou Alfred Métraux made the following observation: “People are prone to suppose that the purest and richest traditions are to be found in the remotest valleys. The little I was able to see of rural Voodoo convinced me that it was poor in its ritual compared to Voodoo of the capital. Simplicity of rite is not always a guarantee of antiquity. It is often the result of ignorance and neglect” (1972, 61). The conclusion of this celebrated Swiss ethnographer that Haitian popular religion was more dynamic and sophisticated in Port-au-Prince as opposed to the...

  13. Amalgams and Mosaics, Syncretisms and Reinterpretations: Reading Herskovits and Contemporary Creolists for Metaphors of Creolization
    (pp. 243-284)

    Creolization is a slippery concept, powerful in its ability to characterize emergent cultural forms but eluding precision in definition. Perhaps its slipperiness befits a concept so useful for rendering the fluidity of processes build out of the interpenetration of cultures. Ask a creolist what creolization is, and the response may very well include one or more metaphors for combinatorial processes and the forms emerging out of cultural contact. Metaphors in creolization studies, as in any realm of scholarship, fill lexical gaps, drawing from other semantic fields in the absence of adequate existing terminology in a given area of study (see...

  14. About Face: Rethinking Creolization
    (pp. 285-306)

    Creolization is a complex process of cultural mirroring and blending that occurs when peoples come together for trade and other forms of exchange. Creolizing is a process of mixing which maintains its precarious stability. The mixt, the mixtury, is discrete, yet its forms may be purposely occluded in out-of-the-ordinary practices marked by the simultaneous expression of fear and desire. A mixtery of feelings and sense responses play off each other at points of intense experience.

    Creolization draws on an artful layering of meanings and styles from different cultural resource banks: cultural archives without walls. Creolizing does not contain just any...

  15. References
    (pp. 307-338)
  16. List of Contributors
    (pp. 339-342)
  17. Index
    (pp. 343-354)