Creolization and Diaspora

Creolization and Diaspora: Historical, Ethnographic and Theoretical Approaches

Conference: University College London, 27-28 June, 2002
Sponsored by the ESRC Transnational Communities Programme, and the Department of Anthropology, University College London

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 postmodernity 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. One of the aims of this conference will be to explore the genealogy of creolization for similar insights that may help to reframe our understanding of transnational communities, past and present.

This is an interdisciplinary undertaking that will bring together scholars from the fields of history (including historians of science/medicine), linguistics, anthropology, and literary/cultural studies to discuss the meanings of creole and creolization. At present there exists no published interdisciplinary overview of creolization, and the collective volume that will arise from this conference should become a standard reference point for those wishing to understand the complex meanings of creolization. Participants are particularly encouraged to consider the dyadic relationship between homelands and diasporas. Is society in the homeland a yardstick for measuring the divergent creole? Does the fact of ongoing creolization (abroad) threaten the homeland? At what point do creoles renounce the homeland, claim independence, or become so utterly different as to be unrelated to it? Is deracination accompanied by anxiety about loss of authenticity or cultural competence? Can creoles return ‘home’? Can people de-creolize? The conference aims to further our understanding of the process of creolization as it has occurred in the past and as it is now occurring throughout the world today.

Topics to be addressed at the conference will include:
· The genesis of the creole — conquest and colonization of the Americas
· Creolization and physical change – Lamarckism, disease, resistance, adaptation
· The logic of differing national meanings of ‘Creole’ (criollo, crioulo)
· The rise of creole linguistics – critical historiography
· Ethnographic accounts of present-day, self-denominated creole communities (e.g. Mauritius, Trinidad) – contemporary politics of creole identity
· Homelands vs. creolized diasporas — deracination, anxiety and authenticity
· Creolization in contemporary theory — mixture, hybridity, post-modernity

Further details: Dr. Charles Stewart, Department of Anthropology, University College London.


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