Accepted Paper:

Conceptualizing the 'C-word' yet again, or: about historical creolization's contemporary outcome*  


Jacqueline Knörr (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)

Paper short abstract:

Taking into account creolization’s—and creole terminology’s—historical semantics and combining them with socio-linguistic approaches distinguishing creole and pidgin variants of language helps unfold heuristic potentials for a more differentiated analysis of contemporary processes of interaction and mixture.

Paper long abstract:

"Creolization" has often been terminologically equated with "hybridization", "syncretization" and other notions referring to processes of mixture. As well, what and who was labeled (a) »creole« has largely been determined by ideological preferences and emic labeling rather than by scientific reasoning. I argue for a more concise understanding and use of the "C-Word". Examining the social and historical context of creolization and tracing the etymology of »creole« and its meanings through times shows that creolization may have meant "lots of different things at different times" (Stewart 2007) but has nevertheless been distinct in that it involved indigenization and—to varying degrees—(neo-)ethnogenesis of a—more or less—diverse and—in large parts—foreign population. Thus, historical creolization has not been a process aimed at overcoming ethnic identities and boundaries in favor of local varieties of cultural mixture and identification but one aimed at their (re-)construction under new—and often awkward—conditions. Taking into account creolization's—and creole terminology's—historical semantics helps unfold the latter's heuristic potentials for a more systematic and comparative analysis, conceptualization and differentiation of contemporary processes of interaction and mixture. By connecting the historical semantics with socio-linguistic approaches distinguishing between creole and pidgin variants of language, historical creolization's major contemporary »outcome«—pidginization of culture and identity—comes to light, a process prevalent particularly in postcolonial societies.

*Title makes reference to Palmié's article "The 'C-Word' Again: From Colonial to Postcolonial Semantics", in: Stewart, Charles (ed.) (2007): Creolization. History, Ethnography, Theory. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press.

Panel W113
Creolizing anthropology: connectivity, diversity, and reflexivity in a globalizing world