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

Introduction: Creolizing Europe: Legacies and Transformations


‘The whole world is becoming an archipelago and becoming creolized’.

Édouard Glissant, ‘The Unforeseeable Diversity of the World’

While anthropologists and cultural historians have related ‘creolization’ to processes of transformation produced by colonial rule, slavery and agrarian capitalism (Mintz, 1996; 2008; 2010; Stewart, 2007), other scholars have explored creolization as an expression of global cultural mixing or as a theoretical proposal reaching beyond the Caribbean region (Cohen, 2007; Cohen and Toninato, 2010; El-Tayeb, 2011, 2014; Gowricharn, 2006; Gutiérrez Rodríguez, 2010, 2011; Hannerz, 1987, 1992, 1996, 2002; Lionnet and Shih, 2011; Mudimbe-Boyl, 2002; Pratt and Rosello, 2007). However, the decolonial epistemological contribution of Caribbean intellectuals (Balutansky and Sourieau, 1998; Britton, 1999; Forsdick and Murphy, 2009; Nesbitt, 2013) – such as C.L.R. James (Balutansky, 1997; King, 2001), Frantz Fanon (1967), Lewis R. Gordon (1997), Eric Williams (1994), Edward Kamau Brathwaite (1971), Walter Rodney (1969), Marcus Garvey (2005), Sylvia Wynter (1989), Jean Bernabé, Patrick Chamoiseau, Raphaël Confiant (1990), Stuart Hall (2003) and particularly Édouard Glissant (1996) – in conceptualizing ‘creolization’ in political, economic, cultural and theoretical terms, has been underestimated in these writings.

Creolizing Europe aims to reverse this tendency by critically interrogating creolization (see in this volume Spivak; Hall; and Vergès) as the decolonial, rhizomatic thinking necessary for understanding the social and cultural transformations set in motion by trans/national dislocations, a Glissantian analytics of transversality and what Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodríguez (2011; and in this volume) terms ‘transversal conviviality’. In this sense, Stuart Hall's chapter on ‘Créolité and the Process of Creolization’ sets out the theoretical orientation that guides this volume in his challenge to seek out creolization's applicability outside of the Caribbean. Gaytri Chakravorty Spivak's ‘World Systems and the Creole, Rethought’ also addresses the limitation in grasping the theoretical and policy implications of the proposal of creolization. Discussing creolity rather than kinship as a model for comparativist practice, Spivak suggests that we start with Dante's understanding of popular Italian as varieties of Creole and his choice of an aristocratic (‘curial’) political Creole as ‘Italian’, as this will enable us to perceive the beginnings of European nationalisms as grounded on a creolized understanding of themselves while asserting kinship. Engaging with the French-Reunion politics of remembrance, Françoise Vergès's chapter on ‘Creolization and Resistance’ discusses the persistence of politics of oblivion in the former metropoles of colonial power.