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Globalization and the Post-Creole Imagination: Notes on Fleeing the Plantation

Globalization and the Post-Creole Imagination: Notes on Fleeing the Plantation

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Globalization and the Post-Creole Imagination is a major intervention into discussions of Caribbean practices gathered under the rubric of “creolization.” Examining sociocultural, political, and economic transformations in the Caribbean, Michaeline A. Crichlow argues that creolization—culture-creating processes usually associated with plantation societies and with subordinate populations remaking the cultural forms of dominant groups—must be liberated from and expanded beyond plantations, and even beyond the black Atlantic, to include productions of “culture” wherever vulnerable populations live in situations of modern power inequalities, from regimes of colonialism to those of neoliberalism. Crichlow theorizes a concept of creolization that speaks to how individuals from historically marginalized groups refashion self, time, and place in multiple ways, from creating art to traveling in search of homes. Grounding her theory in the material realities of Caribbean peoples in the plantation era and the present, Crichlow contends that creolization and Creole subjectivity are constantly in flux, morphing in response to the changing conditions of modernity and creatively expressing a politics of place.

Engaging with the thought of Michel Foucault, Michel Rolph-Trouillot, Achille Mbembe, Henri Lefebvre, Margaret Archer, Saskia Sassen, Pierre Bourdieu, and others, Crichlow argues for understanding creolization as a continual creative remaking of past and present moments to shape the future. She draws on sociology, philosophy, postcolonial studies, and cultural studies to illustrate how national histories are lived personally and how transnational experiences reshape individual lives and collective spaces. Critically extending Bourdieu’s idea of habitus, she describes how contemporary Caribbean subjects remake themselves in and beyond the Caribbean region, challenging, appropriating, and subverting older, localized forms of creolization. In this book, Crichlow offers a nuanced understanding of how Creole citizens of the Caribbean have negotiated modern economies of power.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780822344414
Publisher: Duke University Press Books
Publication date: 07/07/2009
Series: John Hope Franklin Center Book Series
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 328
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Michaeline A. Crichlow, an historical sociologist, is Associate Professor in the Department of African and African American Studies at Duke University. She is the author of Negotiating Caribbean Freedom: Peasants and the State in Development and a co-editor of Informalization: Process and Structure. Patricia Northover is a Fellow at the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies, University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica.

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Notes on Fleeing the Plantation


Copyright © 2009 Duke University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8223-4441-4

Chapter One


Ships Sailing through Modern Space

From childhood, therefore, Creoleness made me aware of the complex labyrinth of the family of human kind into which I was born in the twentieth century. The formation of the Atlantic as a zone of the world economy is not a question of geographical determinism. Indeed, even to think of the adaptation of the social and economic arrangements of the world economy to the physical and cultural environments of the Atlantic risks obscuring the complex historical processes through which specific aspects of those environments and not others were selected and developed.

A fragile reality (the experience of Caribbeanness, woven together from one side of the Caribbean to the other) negatively twisted together in its urgency (Caribbeanness as a dream, forever denied, often deferred, yet a strange stubborn presence in our responses). This reality is there in essence: dense (inscribed in fact) but threatened (not inscribed in consciousness). This dream is vital, but not obvious.

CREOLIZATION, SO APTLY described by Balutansky and Sourieau as "that syncretic process of transverse dynamics that endlessly reworks and transforms the cultural patterns of varied social and historical experiences and identities," has figured significantly in the Caribbean's complex histories of globalization, nationalization and regionalization. It has done so not only as process but, perhaps more importantly, as a problematic and politics that arguably has been implicated in shaping pasts, presents, and possible futures. Indeed, as several scholars have highlighted, practices for conceptualizing and strategizing development or spaces of hope in the region have tended to deploy various models of what may be called "Creole-isms" for articulating a cultural politics of Creole nationalistic and/or regionalistic, modernization projects.

As Hintzen has recently argued, the Creole ideas of interdependency and literal mixture have been deployed in the forging of Caribbean spaces to support specific erasures of cleavages or a papering over plural-cultural, racial, and ethnic cracks for effecting the unstable paradox of "plural wholes" as represented by modern yet Creole nation-states. Lloyd Best takes this critical stance further in his argument that these tactics of cultural adaptation or strategies of creolization that have been creatively expressed by diasporic populations to negotiate the structural effects of a hegemonic plantation cultural politics have nonetheless left the region in an unviable state. Given these experiences in the region, for Best the essential problem of development was therefore not one of a cultural transition to the "modern" (albeit nuanced by Creole cultures, as emphasized by Arthur Lewis in the Theory of Economic Growth); it was rather the radically deconstructive one of cultural transformation for "fleeing the plantation" and its racialized cultural and ethnic heritages of e/race/ing place, that is, the elision and (partial) loss of particularity and of presences.

However, while an understanding of the different kinds of cultural politics at work in the search for "catching up," "sustainable development," or "forging ahead" in the modern world system is important, the fundamental task of providing a more adequate theoretical and methodological framework for grasping the nature of the sociocultural change processes at work in modern times is still left as unfinished business. In taking up this challenge we wish to shift the terms of thinking about modernity by arguing that the condition of "being-modern-in-the-world" is best grasped not through ideas of time per se but rather through expressions of place and, relatedly, space. For though creolization studies have tended to focus on sociocultural practices-the outcome of distinct power relations-they have done so without a sufficient exploration of the connections linking the circuits of place, space, and "chains of power," which are conducting, producing, and disrupting such outcomes. Absent therefore from these accounts is a sufficient interrogation of the nature of the relationship between states and societies, or rather, between state spaces and subject places in the modern, and especially post-plantation era. This, we argue, would provide a window through which we can espy more fully practices invested with post-Creole imaginations and the cultural and ethnic or racialized struggles associated with creolization in the context of modern spaces, the apparent site of globalization processes. The post-Creole imagination as evoked in and routed through these processes is a central character in our stories of creolization here and speaks to stirred desires for making newness, that is, hopes for arriving in another future not present, and achieving a different space and place. It may be related to Derrida's idea that a structure of practical activity entails a messianicity, elucidated by Hoy as a concept that "drops the teleological story of progress, but retains the eschatological aspect whereby a breakthrough event can erupt at any moment" (our emphasis).

Creolization/creolization studies (henceforth creolization) as elaborated in this text are thus also centrally concerned with sociocultural practices, including subject productions. But we address them through a method that, first, seeks to link these practices with their emergent conditions of existence, or liminal wombs of present space, and second, offers to treat the two as relationally constituted and transformed largely, but not exclusively, through modern conducts of power, namely, modern governmentality. It is our central argument therefore that an elision of one dimension or the other does untold damage to historical analysis and is least insightful in apprehending those cultural practices which one seeks to understand.

Our provocative rewriting or highlighting of the term is thus meant at the outset to disturb settled meanings and to allude to different kinds of "doubling" and "folding" processes that enter into the (un)making of Creole subjects, and into their worlds. In particular, doubling processes refer to modes of (un)making of identities or cultural forms of life. This is, of course, a central theme of poststructuralist perspectives that emphasize the double play associated with the articulation of Grand Narratives, as seen especially in Creole subjects' rootedness in masking projects of identity that are, however, routed through masquerades or limboing strategies of différance, complex countering conducts of life which, as Derrida emphasizes, produce the "movement in signification" and relatedly the "scenes of presence." Différance, as doubling processes, is thus about the unsettling of, as Sylvia Wynter says, "the Coloniality of Being/Power/Truth/Freedom" through (as Derrida emphasizes, and as we will later elaborate) the temporal and spatial processes of becoming something else. An understanding of doubling processes will, however, be inadequate without a related attention to the ontological dimensions shaping the character of these doubling processes; in brief, the dimensions of folding.

Deleuze used the idea of "the fold" and folding to stress the multiply seamed ontology of human being, the convoluted ontological conditions of existence, or complex wombs of "folding" space that enfold and pull differences together. This supports a view of "the human subject as the outside folded in: an immanently political [and] social embedded subject." We will draw upon this ontological premise but offer our own reading of the concrete nature of these complex wombs of space, as it relates to the enfolding and dynamic folding experiences of our Creole subjects. In treating creolization processes, then, our emphasis lies in seeing Creole subjects as "being" not only articulated through shadowy, masked, or ghostly identity relations but also in recognizing them as being located in, and moving through, ontologies of lived space. Accordingly, and in kindred spirit with Munasinghe's recent efforts to assess the explanatory potential of the concept of creolization, we wish to also persist in examining something opaquely referred to as creolization, despite the hard-hitting critique by Stephan Palmié of the concept's historical contamination by the promiscuous flow of ideas across disciplinary boundaries.

It is a banal observation, of course, that Caribbean or Atlantic creolization practices emerge in the context of power impositions of the colonial and later the national and developmentalist state, now the instrument of a neoliberal globalization project. However, in all these complexly translated phases of power, we argue that Caribbean sociocultural productions which present themselves through cultural and biopolitical strategies and seek to create difference or newness (that is, transformed or transmuted spaces within the context of the various contours of social power) are pivotally about assertions of self, affirmations, or rather, a will to place, inducing a journeying from place to place. Place here is first to be read (in part) through Heidegger, who argued that place must be understood in an ontological sense. To do this Heidegger drew on the Aristotelian idea that place has a [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (dunamis, an energy and potency) and is thus related to presence. For Heidegger, then, the standard translation of this Greek term as power or force was insucient; rather, as he stated, to say of place that it has a [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]

implies that the place [Platz] pertains to being itself, the place constitutes precisely the possibility of the proper presence [eigentlichen Anwesendseins] of the being in question ... Each being possesses in its being a prescription toward a determinate location or place [our emphasis]. The place is constitutive of the presence of the being [Jedes Seiende hat in seinem die Vorzeichnung auf einen bestimmten Platz, Ort. Der Ort ist konstitutiv für die Anwesenheit des Seienden] ... The place is the ability a being has to be there.

Thus, as Stuart Elden elaborates, "place is something belonging to beings as such, it is their capacity to be present, it is constitutive of their being" (our emphasis). However, in our reading of "the will to place," as implied by the quote above, one ought to eschew any deterministic renderings of Heidegger's deployment of "prescription." This is necessary in order to better grasp the processes for "proper presence," as agitated by the will to place; processes such as the productions of space; translations of place; uprootings and re-homings of place; the movements from place to place; and its imbrications with the manipulations of the right and aesthetic of belonging as de facto or de jure "citizen" qua S/s/objects (henceforth subjects), in certain places, times, and spaces.

Creolization processes, from this perspective of the will to place, are thus entangled with emancipatory projects tethered to geographies of making places, as well as ontologies of making place, processes which involve the imagining, making, transforming, transmuting, or transfiguring of subjects. Moreover, these practices of freedom are not just part of the undulating making/unmaking of complex subjectivities-as predicated upon post-Creole imaginations for making place in and through present time-spaces-but are also essentially linked to what may be referred to as the homing of modern freedoms for "proper presence," as we will elaborate, throughout the text, but especially in chapters 2, 3, and 5.

The making of place, interpreted here as the making of both place and places/spaces, as well as, the movements of self qua subject, involves pastiche tactics and strategies of bricolage; the deployment of elements of the ready-made, drawing from and bridging the various fragmented histories and seas of larger contexts in which people have been placed. This view seems to be also entailed in Marx's oft-quoted observation, "Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past." If, that is, one seeks to read through these words an intimation of the coexistence of plural, as well as disjunctive and conjunctive, temporalities and the limitations implicit in the pursuit of the authentic or original in the context of modern social power, which, however, we highlight as modern governmentality-the conduct of conduct.

This chapter's focus is thus on the nature of Caribbean creolization in the context of modern spaces, and on its foldings of "the present"-the apparent time of globalization. In particular, in this project we try to provide a way of grappling with this difficult task of theorizing processes of cultural change and social history in a way that makes a critical intervention for the project of a "spatial history," which, as Elden argues, implies a need to "historicize space and spatialize history." We hope to provide a reading of creolization that also appreciates yet complicates the interdependencies, the mixtures, and the cultural politics that are all part of the idea and experience of creolization. Through this chapter, then, and also as illustrated in the readings of performative histories in the text, we offer a perspective on creolization that seeks to "flee the plantation" while bringing on board a deeper understanding of the nature of the cultural and racialized politics and processes in which the region is not only embedded but contributes to. Certainly we believe that such an analytical framework is indispensable to any effective analysis of the politics of making newness and empowering social change in today's world.


Given the conflicting senses in which creolization has been seen to act in the shaping of Caribbean futures within what has been referred to as a world system, two focal questions have animated our empirical, analytical, and methodological foray into this subject. First, how are modern spaces and their foldings of the present-the apparent time and site of globalization processes-being constituted, located, and configured, and by what processes are they being reconstituted, relocated, and reconfigured? Second, with what effect for those who inhabit them? That is, how are the subjects of creolization processes experiencing and responding to the challenges and opportunities of making themselves and their worlds, or hi/stories (human-identity stories)? These are some of the broader questions through which the globalization project and creolization processes can be explored. These questions are not only vital for grasping the new developments and disjunctures that underpin the modern globalization project but are also crucial for grasping the nature, texture, and effects of creolization in the present time, the epoch of globalization. Such a project is in turn underpinned by a concern to understand the nature and basis of strategies for negotiating and navigating the modern world, and one's place in and through it, by way of making place, in and through, the modern spaces of the present.


Excerpted from GLOBALIZATION AND THE POST-CREOLE IMAGINATION by MICHAELINE A. CRICHLOW PATRICIA NORTHOVER Copyright © 2009 by Duke University Press. Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents

Preface ix

Prologue. Globalization and Creole Identities: The Shaping of Power in Post-Plantation Spaces 1

1. Locating the Global in Creolization: Ships Sailing Through Modern Space 15

2. Creole Time on the Move 41

3. Decentering the "Dialectics of Resistance" in the Context of a Globalizing Modern: Afro-Creoles under Colonial Rule 73

4. Power and Its Subjects in Postcolonial Performance 107

5. "Gens Anglaises": Diasporic Movements Remixing the World with Post-Creole Imaginations 135

6. An eBay Imaginary in an Unequal World: Creolization on the Move 171

Epilogue. Rethinking Creolization through Multiple Présences: Masks, Masquerades, and the Making of Modern Subjects 201

Notes 221

Index 281

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