Working Paper 100

Towards Conceptualizing Creolization and Creoleness

Jacqueline Knörr

Department ‘Integration and Conflict’

Year of publication

Number of pages

Working Paper 100

"Creolization" has often been terminologically equated with "hybridization", "syncretization" and other terms 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: 5) but has nevertheless been distinct in that it involved indigenization and – to varying degrees – ethnicization 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 to distinguish 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.

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