Creolisation in the Caribbean

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Question #5: Why is the Creolisation theory considered a more useful means of theorizing the Caribbean? How has Douglarisation contributed to the identity debate?

Even though there is a separation created by geographic distances and different independent states, it is still possible to talk in general terms of the Caribbean, and of Caribbean literature. The common experience of colonialism, displacement, slavery, indenture, emancipation and nationalism has shaped most West Indian environments, creating a unity of experience that can be identified as particularly Caribbean. These general experiences, more importantly have been the breading ground of a whole new society and culture, than can be defined most effectively by employing the theory of creolisation. For the purposes of this paper, Creolisation is intenderd to mean intercultural mixing. Because of the intense mixing that characterizes the Caribbean, one can only truly understand the Caribbean by using the Creolisation theory.

The concept of creolization first came into prominence after the European discovery of the Americas to describe the process by which Old World life forms became indigenous in the New World. Today creolization appears in writings on globalization and post modernity as a synonym of hybridity and syncretism to portray the mixtures occurring amongst societies in an age of migration and telecommunications. The historical record reminds us that creolization did not refer centrally to mixture, but just to the adaptive effects of living in a new environment.

The Caribbean is known internationally for its rich display of culture. This unique Caribbean culture has been brought about through creolisation, which accounted for the cultural interchanging. Language, dress, food, literature and social relations are all affected by the interplay of cultures. Only recently though, has creolisation become understood as a mutual exchange rather than the acculturation of colonized people to a dominant culture. The term itself has been receiving international recognition because of its ability to include cross cultural relationships and interdetermacy.

It was the product of these intersecting influences—the inauguration of a Creole society in the Caribbean Sea—that became the subject of the text Eloge de la créolité/In Praise of Creoleness (1989). Written by Raphaël Confiant and Patrick Chamoiseau, two Martinican novelists, in conjunction with Jean Bernabé, a Guadeloupean linguist, this manifesto can be seen in one sense as an attempt to come to terms with the paradox of French overseas departmentalization. The "double consciousness" imposed by the duality of their legal and cultural status encouraged these thinkers to come to terms with the dilemma of belonging posed by departmentalization. Their solution was to seek out the origins of this pluralism, and to celebrate it. Some twenty years earlier, the Barbadian historian and poet Edward Brathwaite sought to establish patterns of Creole interaction as a sort of sociological foundation for Caribbean societies. In his The Development of Creole Society in Jamaica, 1770–1820 (1971), Brathwaite proposed that the principles of cultural distinction and unitary origin through which societies were typically analyzed and categorized be abandoned in the Caribbean case, recognizing instead the intrinsic ethnic and cultural pluralism of the islands. The cultural intersection, ethnic admixture, and linguistic cross-fertilization that lay at the core of the Caribbean experience would be made to contest the historical discontinuity and geographical and political fragmentation through which the region traditionally had been framed.

Intercultural mixing has been a central aspect of the social and cultural configuration of the Caribbean reality. It would be impossible to conceive of a Caribbean without the Creolisation component. A mixed identity has existed in the Caribbean for virtually all of its existence. The...
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