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  • Print publication year: 2015
  • Online publication date: June 2017

6 - Are We All Creoles? ‘Sable-Saffron’ Venus, Rachel Christie and Aesthetic Creolization

Summary

Introduction

In ‘We are Creoles’, Édouard Glissant (1989) asserts that the world is permanently changing and creolizing itself. Édouard Glissant sees creolization as a contact of cultures that does not produce a simple métissage. Rather, creolization is a poetics of relation, which, as an ongoing process, is impossible to stop, has no morality, eludes capture and produces unexpected results (Perina, 2009). However, Glissantian creolization overlooks aesthetic creolization in terms of the racialized cultural politics of beauty. Developing a discussion based on aesthetic creolization will be the focus here to enable an assessment of whether or not England has gone beyond simple métissage and is being creolized at the level of such cultural politics.

The crowning of twenty-year-old black ‘mixed race’ Rachel Christie on July 20, 2009 as ‘Miss England’ brought home to the metropole the peculiar racialized cultural politics of beauty instantiated in Caribbean Creole societies during slavery and colonialism. What could Glissant's ‘we are Creole’ mean in aesthetic terms? Did Rachel Christie as Miss England signal a nation that was Creole, that is, one that went beyond métissage to proclaim itself as ‘post-race’? Or were we seeing a creolization where a racialized poetics of relation enables the continuation of white racial hegemony through the beauty pageant as a micro-strategy of aesthetic domination? These questions necessitate that we read ‘race’ as a technology which fixes the body as Other back into Glissantian creolization from the vantage point of Charles Mills's (1997) Racial Contract.

Whilst drawing on Glissant's insights, what will be argued from the vantage point enabled by Mills is that there is a racialized aesthetic poetics of relation in England. This ensures that only that black beauty which is recognized by the nation, that is a ‘mixed race’ one, can be validated. However, it is a validation with provisos which seeks to affirm the nation as creolizing in its present and possible futures. This affirmation aims to take the nation beyond ‘race mixing’, beyond métissage, as here we see a previously racially Othered and troubling body representing the very nation from which it has long been held apart. However, using the ideas of condensation and recycling (Ford, 2010), Christie's body is revealed to be encoded as black through genealogy as well as ‘Venus’ through discourses on hypersexualization, animality and the black woman's body as spectacle.