Thursday, April 03, 2008

Indigeneity, Créolité, and Independence: Mylène Priam

In an April 3, 2008, article in the Harvard University Gazette we are introduced to Mylène Priam, an assistant professor of Romance languages and literatures, who argues that French citizenship for the locals of Guadeloupe and Martinique does not necessarily translate into their possessing a French national identity. Priam studies “Créolité” (Creoleness) which is a literary movement that developed from the 1980s onwards in the French Caribbean. The guiding idea is that a locally fashioned Creole identity and not French continental identity should lead in defining the islands’ cultures and literatures. As the article explains:

According to the authors, Créolité could provide a way for West Indians to have a say in their destiny. Furthermore, they argued, Caribbean identity could be defined not only by the legacy of French Colonialism and slavery, but rather by a flexible and unlimited combination of influences that might include indigenous Caribbean, European, and even Asian culture (among others).

Priam will be exploring these themes further in an upcoming book titled, Creole Soup for the Caribbean Soul: The Créolité Manifesto.

The reason for singling out this notion of Créolité is that it opens a long closed door to indigenous identity and indigenous presence in the Caribbean. It does so in a way that allows indigenous identity to be expressed not in the form of over emphasized indigenous authenticity, that could lend itself to the reproduction of well worn stereotypes that might be alien to the Caribbean region, but in a more realistic sense as part of a wider Caribbean fabric. One can see emerging ways that indigenous creoleness is being expressed on Trinidadian blogs for example (e.g. see Guanaganare in the recommended blogs list on this page), where aboriginality is fused with a broader sense of localness, of human universality, and of national identity, an uneasy mix but a much more lived and everyday mix rather than a bookish ideology, I think. This is another reason why we have so much to learn from the Garifuna--the only Caribbean culture (outside of the Guyanas) to retain an indigenous language (Island Carib), within a cultural frame that easily incorporates African and other elements, without any attempt to produce a hard edged look of indigenous purity. There is nothing "obvious" and plain about the Caribbean, and this has applicability for both the presumed absence or sometimes overstated presence of indigeneity.
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1 comment:

blackgirl on mars said...

This is great an provides me with even more incentive to get on with my novel. I remember reading about Boliver's African caretaker and how she taught him the idea of comprehension over that of tolerance--that comprehension promotes understanding and accepting difference. I love that your site is promoting important writers and thoughts on identity, especially how it applies to the Caribbean. Remember--if we forget it is easier to be forgotten.