Group Title: Sargasso (Río Piedras, San Juan, P.R.)
Title: Sargasso
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 Material Information
Title: Sargasso
Uniform Title: Sargasso (Río Piedras, San Juan, P.R.)
Alternate Title: Sargazo
Abbreviated Title: Sargasso (Río Piedras San Juan P. R.)
Physical Description: v. : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: University of Puerto Rico (Río Piedras Campus) -- Dept. of English
Publisher: Sargasso
Place of Publication: Río Piedras P.R
Publication Date: 2003
Copyright Date: 1986
Frequency: twice a year[2002-]
two no. a year[ former 1984]
irregular[ former <1987>-2001]
Subject: Caribbean literature -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Caribbean literature -- History and criticism -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Puerto Rican literature -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Puerto Rican literature -- History and criticism -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Genre: review   ( marcgt )
periodical   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: Puerto Rico
Additional Physical Form: Also issued online.
Language: Chiefly English, with some French and Spanish.
Dates or Sequential Designation: Vol. 1, no. 1-no. 10 (2000) ; 2001-
Numbering Peculiarities: Volume designation dropped with no. 3; issue for 2001 lacks numbering; issues for 2002- called 2002, 1-
Issuing Body: Edited by the faculty and graduate students of the English Dept., University of Puerto Rico.
General Note: Title from cover.
General Note: Some issues have also distinctive titles.
General Note: Latest issue consulted: 2004-05,2.
General Note: Has occasional special issues.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00096005
Volume ID: VID00012
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 12797847
lccn - 85643628
issn - 1060-5533
alephbibnum - 002422411

Full Text






2003-04, I

SARGASSO 2003-04, I

SARGASSO 2003-04, I
The Guadeloupe Papers: Selected Essays from the 5th Annual Islands In
Between, Eastern Caribbean Conference, "Creole or Global?"
Sargasso, a peer-reviewed journal of literature, language, and culture edited at
the University of Puerto Rico, publishes critical essays, interviews, book reviews,
and some poems and short stories. Sargasso particularly welcomes material
written by/about the people of the Caribbean region and its diaspora. Essays and
critical studies should conform to the style of the MLA Handbook. Short stories
should be kept to no more than 2,500 words in length, and poems should be kept
to no more than twenty to thirty lines. All correspondence must include S.A.S.E.
For electronic submission, write to:
Postal Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 22831, UPR Station
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00931-2831
The Ph.D. Program in Caribbean Literature and Linguistics, Department of English,
College of Humanities, University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico
publishes Sargasso twice yearly. It also co-hosts The Islands-In-Between, Eastern
Caribbean Conference held each winter. The current volume includes selected
papers presented at that conference in Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe, November
14-16, 2002.
Lowell Fiet, Founding Editor
lan A. Bethell Bennett, Managing Editor
Maria Christina Rodriguez, Editor Book Reviews
Sally Everson, Co-Editor
2003, I Editorial Committee
Loretta Collins Reinhard Sander
Alicia Pousada Rick Swope
Carmen Haydee Rivera
Editorial Board
Jessica Adams, Tulane University
Mary Ann Gosser-Esquilin, Florida Atlantic University
Peter Roberts, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados
Ivette Romero, Marist College
Felipe Smith, Tulane University
Antonio Garcia Padilla, President of the University of Puerto Rico
Gladys Escalona de Motta, Chancellor, Rio Piedras Campus
Jos6 Luis Vega, Dean of Humanities
Cover: Collage by Sally Everson
Photo of Eugene Mohr, courtesy of Lolinne Mohr
Layout: Marcos Pastrana
Opinions and views expressed in Sargasso are those of the individual authors and are not
necessarily shared by Sargasso 's Editorial Committee. All rights return to the authors. Copies
of Sargasso 2003-04, l as well as previous issues are on deposit in the Library of Congress.
Filed March 2004. ISSN 1060-5533

Table Contents

D ed ication .......................................................................... ................... vii

Editorial N ote .............................................................. .................... ix

In tro d u ctio n ....................................................................... ................... x i

Richard Marx Weinraub
In M em ory of Gene M ohr .............................................. ................ 1

Marc Brudzinski
Interiorit6 and Opacit6: Locations of Creole Culture ...................... 3

lan A. Bethell Bennett
Mirrored Gazes: The Question of Creole Identity ........................... 19

Thomas W. Krise
Caribbean Literary History: Who Decides? ........................................ 33

Kala N. Grant
Alison Hinds and Marion Hall:
Positioning Female Sexuality from East to West ............................. 43

Maria Soledad Rodriguez
The Missing Half: Preliminary Notes for a Comparison
of the Juan Bobo and Bobo Johnny Stories of Puerto Rico,
St. K itts and A nguilla .......................................................... ................ 55



Don E. Walicek
Creole Talks Back: Language and Earl Lovelace's
The W ine of Astonishm ent................................................ ............... 63

Alma Simounet Geigel
The Role of Religious Institutions in the Deterrence of
Language Attrition: the Case of a Small Church in St. Croix ......... 79

Elizabeth Rezende
M idwifery in St. Croix 1733-1870 .................................. .................. 89

Jo Anne Harris
Digital Scholarship New Options for Globalizing
Caribbean Resources .................. .......................... 103

BOOK REVIEWS ........ ......... ............................ 111

Catherine Den Tandt
Monkey Hunting by Cristina Garcia and Cualquier
midrcoles soy tuya by Mayra Santos Febres..................................... 111

Barbara Southard
Woman and Indian Modernity: Readings of Colonial
and Postcolonial Novels by Nalini Natarajan ................................... 114

Mae Teitlebaum
Understanding the Contemporary Caribbean, edited
by Richard Hillman and Thomas J. D'Agostino .............................. 118

LIST OF CONTRIBUTORS .................... ................................................ 121

Gene Mohr (1929-2004)

This first issue [1984] is dedicated to

who is retiring from the University of Puerto Rico in August
1984. Gene has been a pioneer in Caribbean Studies in the
English Department and in the College of Humanities. We are
honored to be able to list him not only as a friend, teacher,
and colleague but also as a contributor to Sargasso.

Lowell Fiet

With those words of twenty years ago, we joyously began the

odyssey of editing and publishing this journal of Caribbean
Literature, Language, and Culture. Gene Mohr's importance
to the establishment of Anglophone Caribbean literary and linguistic
studies at the University of Puerto Rico is inestimable. He had been
working in the field -as well as in the literature of Puerto Ricans in
the US- for well over a decade, while the editors of Sargasso -at
least, Tom Sullivan and myself- were relative neophytes in the field
(only Janet Butler Haugaard, the third editor, had formal studies in
West Indian literature). He became our mentor and psychiatrist.
Gene Mohr's unassuming generosity made our task of initiating a


new and independent journal less difficult. More than his numerous
and noteworthy contributions, more than his always informed counsel,
and even more than his approval, his unwavering support of Sargasso's
intent to interconnect the cultural expressions of Caribbean peoples
across time and space and language barriers -especially in relation
to Puerto Rico- continues to inspire our work. Of course, Gene was
not alone in supporting Sargasso. The political historian Gordon K.
Lewis, the Puerto Rican writer Pedro Juan Soto, and the Barbadian
novelist George Lamming, among others, joined him as pivotal figures
who contributed to the publication of the early issues. Yet Gene
remained a constant factor through the rarely thick and more often
thin or thinner times of Sargasso's first twenty years.
Born in New York City and trained in Linguistics and Old and Middle
English, Gene Mohr began teaching at the University of Puerto Rico
in 1955. Never losing touch with his own cultural heritage and critical
tradition, he also undertook the process of reinventing his academic
interests to fully integrate the literary and linguistic studies of
immigrant and "minority" populations in the US, of the Caribbean and
its "diaspora," and of the "Nuyorican" or US-Puerto Rican experience.
The results of that process can be seen in his articles and books, but
they are even more evident in the imprint left by courses he first
designed for the undergraduate and graduate curriculum in English.
May the depth and clarity of his perception, as well as his generosity
of mind and spirit, continue to guide us.

Editorial Note

This issue of Sargasso marks an incredible departure for everyone
who works with the journal. After a long and very successful tenure as
editor, Lowell Fiet, who started the journal back in 1984, has handed
over the pages or the pen to me. Not only is this a milestone, but it's
also an extremely daunting prospect as Lowell leaves such a legacy
that it is indeed a challenge for anyone to even attempt to step in after
him. He has taken Sargasso from an independent journal with no
institutional funding to a fully refereed university journal of the Ph.D.
program in literature and language of the English-speaking Caribbean,
with some -if minimal- funding. Though money is less of a challenge,
Lowell, along with Maria Cristina Rodriguez, do continue the struggle
to acquire the computers, scanners, printers, and programmes needed
to put together a publication of this nature facilities and services
which perhaps are taken for granted at other institutions. In our
context, the move from the physically-intense operation of reproducing
and collating each copy by hand to nearly state-of-the-art production
has been a feat unto itself. Despite the difficulties under which it was
produced, throughout the years Lowell has maintained a high level of
scholarly and editorial excellence. Under his leadership Sargasso has
become an important forum for critical interventions in Caribbean
Studies, particularly in bridging the Spanish, French and English divide
and in its integration of work on diaspora and island cultures.
While Lowell has stepped aside as managing editor, he will still
remain as the founding editor, which makes the load a little less
burdensome as we can turn to him when needed for his expertise in
getting the issue out. In some ways this makes our task tougher as he
never seems to tire and so we have to somehow keep up with him.
Thus this issue really does mark a new beginning for us, being the first
full year with a university budget and also the first year with our
recently established editorial board. It is an exciting prospect to


consider producing Sargasso on a regular basis, twice yearly, with new
people adding their insight, the board selecting articles and creative
work, in addition to taking on my new responsibilities as managing
editor. I am certainly looking forward to continuing to work closely
with the man responsible for this journal's genesis and for sustaining
his high standards for the finished product. Together no doubt we
can move Sargasso to push the boundaries of Caribbean Studies even
further ahead.

Ian A. Bethell Bennett
Managing Editor


This issue of Sargasso: The Guadeloupe Papers has been very inter-
esting to put together. For one, we had a huge selection of papers that
we had to consider from those read at the conference. The selection
committee worked hard to decide which ones they thought were most
appropriate for the journal. One of the sad things is that there are
always so many interesting papers that simply cannot be included
because of size and budget considerations; but we think that this is-
sue is a good cross-section of those presented. While email still caus-
es minor complications and some slowdowns, it has certainly helped
to bridge the gaps in this project. We thank all the contributors for
their patience and help in preparing these papers on time for publica-
We tried to include as many works as possible which focused on
the French Caribbean in addition to other island cultures of the East-
ern Caribbean (the Lesser Antilles). We have works as diverse as
Rezende's look at the history of Midwifery in the Dutch Caribbean,
Simounet's study of the relationships between language, migration and
the church in St. Croix, and Krise's report on his recent project to
create a new anthology of anglophone Caribbean literature that reaches
back into the 18th and 19th centuries. Walicek's sociolinguistic look at
the use of Creole languages in literature raises intriguing questions about
postcolonial theorists' assumptions about language, ideology and re-
sistance. Grant's piece on the images/constructs of female sexuality
and Caribbean 'sexuality' and the resonances between these and wom-
en recording artists in contemporary Caribbean music, and their uses
of sexuality provide an exciting approach to music and the ages-old
images of Caribbean female alterity. Her multi-media presentation is
not fully captured in the text; however, it does provide ample musical
and visual references for readers to pursue such engagement with
dancehall aesthetics on their own.


Rodriguez draws out links in oral history that could exist between
Puerto Rico, Antigua and Anguilla, exploring images and appearances
of one of oral tradition's character, Juan Bobo. Looking at technology
use, Harris illustrates how the electronic archiving of Caribbean infor-
mation works and how important it is to the region and to researchers
beyond the West Indies. Her paper takes us back to our visit to the
MWdiatheque Caraibe Bettino Lara in Basse-Terre which is a modern
multimedia library providing public access to the internet for Guade-
loupeans. The library is an impressive achievement, housing collec-
tions of Caribbean literature and history which Director Odile Brous-
sillon hopes will promote public knowledge of Guadeloupe, Martin-
ique and the Caribbean region in general. The bus trip from Pointe-a-
Pitre to the library, located in the historic district of Carmel, was made
all the more memorable by the bus driver who voluntarily educated
us on local lore and points of interest from start to finish. This unoffi-
cial tour was graciously translated into English by Nick Faraclas, which
became a starter course in Creole for many of us.
Given the ostensible topic of the conference: "The Caribbean: Glo-
bal or Creole?" we have opened this collection with two essays that
speak most urgently to this question in the context of the French Car-
ibbean. Brudzinski's essay on Creolitd and the differences and similar-
ities between the Creolite group and Glissant, speaks well to Bethell
Bennett's work on Creole identities in the French Caribbean. All these
papers sparked lively and some times extended discussions during
the conference. We hope that they do the same here. The Guade-
loupe conference posed many challenges for the organizers, but none
of them proved insurmountable. In fact, it was made possible, in part,
due to the gracious invitation by Mervyn Alleyne (UWI, Mona) on be-
half of UNICA (the Association of Caribbean University and Research
Organizations) to hold the conference in conjunction with their annu-
al meeting. This not only facilitated planning -allowing, for example,
simultaneous translation- but also fomented productive contact and
conversation among administrators and scholars, academics who don't
typically meet in such venues. We hope this issue captures the spirit
of the political and artistic engagement that was so prevalent during
the days of discussions, readings, and performances.

In Memory of Gene Mohr

I'm mourning you in verse; I'm sorry Gene
about my grievous form, but you will rhyme
quite nicely with your love, your wife, Lolinne,
forever more-though you are free of time.
I should be writing stanzas that are free
and volatile to celebrate your work
on boundless Nuyorican poetry
spontaneously coming from a quirk.
But oftentimes the poetry we choose
to write or write about is opposite
to what we really are-a chance to lose
ourselves in art forms of the infinite.
My anarchy found comfort in your calm-
so you, my friend, are what you worked upon.

Richard Marx Weinraub

Int6riorite and Opacite:
locations of Creole culture

Marc Brudzinski
University of Miami

In contemporary discussions of French Caribbean culture, the terms
"crdolite" and "crdolisation" enjoy wide currency. But with wide
currency comes the risk of being banalized beyond usefulness.
Through the 1990s these terms had the advantage for scholars of
drawing attention to those aspects of French Caribbean culture that
have been of the most interest to post-colonial studies: namely, the
surpassing of universalizing models of cultural identity that are based
on notions of purity and essence. There is at the same time a potentially
reductive current running through these discussions that tends to
equate creolization with metissage and other models of cultural
synthesis. In this perspective creolization becomes almost emblematic;
it is invoked to describe, define, or even celebrate the Caribbean as an
exemplary site of cultural transfer. However, when we return to the
essays of Edouard Glissant and Jean Bernab6, Patrick Chamoiseau, and
Raphael Confiant, we find creolite and creolisation used in more diverse
ways. In this essay I will review some of those ways Glissant, Bernab6,
Chamoiseau and Confiant have articulated creolite and creolisation over
the years. In addition to looking at the changing ways these concepts
have been understood as processes of cultural exchange, I would like
to pay particular attention to the very notions of culture underlying
the theoretical models of exchange. This will allow us to understand
better how creolite and crdolisation relate to each other, and will also
allow us to resist reductive readings of Caribbean creolization.
In literary studies, scholars have often concentrated largely on the
synthetic, hybrid, or metiss6 aspects of the notion of creoleness and
creolization whether in positive or negative terms. Ama Mazama, for
example, in her "Critique afrocentrique de l'tloge de la crdolite," takes


exception to the creolists' vision of a "culture de synthese, dite creole."
(86) Francoise Lionnet, on the other hand, comments on the positively
revindicatory associations that are more commonly lent to the concept:
"Creoleness implies the recognition and acceptance of multiracialism
as a 'new' term or syncretic category that transcends the binarisms of
colonialism." (102) Roy Caldwell pushes this line to its limits while
writing on the role of crdolitd in one of the novels of Raphael Confiant:
"Crdolite celebrates the Creole language as the purest example of the
kind of cultural hybridization that occurs when different peoples are
thrown together [...]." (302) Now, the irony of celebrating the purity of
hybridization should be obvious, but it is reduced somewhat when we
realize that these scholars are speaking more precisely about
Creoleness, not Creolization. That is, they are speaking about
Creoleness as the identitary result of the rather "messier" process of
Creolization, and not about Creolization itself.
Part of this has to do with an evolving notion of the creole, which
plays itself out between the authors of 1989s Eloge de la creolite (which,
as its authors say, was inspired by Glissant's writings) and Glissant,
with his subsequently more precise elaboration of crdolisation through
the 1980s and '90s. Creolisation, among other differences with creolite,
emphasizes the processual, chaotic, unfixable aspect of cultural (ex-)
change, as opposed to the rather more static connotations of crdolite.
In a 1993 interview for the Nouvel Observateur, Glissant remarks on the
distinction between creolite and creolisation in these words:

Mes amis Raphael Confiant et Patrick Chamoiseau se sont un peu trop
hits dans leur "Eloge de la ": la creolite, ca ne march pas ailleurs
qu'aux Antilles. La crdolisation, elle, n'est pas une essence, mais un
processus universe. Malheureusement, les Antillais se sont
decolonis6s avec le module identitaire au nom duquel I'Occident les
a colonists. II est donc indispensable d'inventer une autre trace que
la revendication identitaire. II faut que nous soyons les inventeurs de
nous-mimes. Cela concern tout le monde.
[My friends Raphael Confiant and Patrick Chamoiseau were a bit too
hasty in their "In Praise of Creoleness": creoleness does not function
anywhere but the Antilles. Creolization, on the other hand, is not an
essence but a universal process. Unfortunately, French Antilleans have
decolonized themselves with the same identity-based model in whose
name the West had colonized them in the first place. It is therefore
indispensable to invent a path other than the revindication of an
identity. We must be the inventors of ourselves. This concerns

l IF'IUR III: \ ) O 'U 1 T': I (" \ ()N, ll C1 RI. 1 I I i I I 1 .1

Glissant considers the danger of creolii6 to be that it does net
question the very notion of an identity, whether it be Creoleness or
Frenchness or whiteness, which has made so much persecution and
domination possible.
In their interview with Lucien Taylor in Transition, the trio of Bernab6,
Chamoiseau, and Confiant say that they appreciate Glissant's precision.
Chamoiseau, in particular, says, "I often hear people say, 'Yeah,
creolization is basically metissage.' But it isn't. There's mItissage in
creolization, but creolization is chaos shock, mixture, combination,
alchemy. With creolization, some people try to salvage their former
identities. [...] In creolization, there never comes a time of general
synthesis, with everyone beatifically at one with one another." (136)
As they do so they are referring back once again to Glissant's Le discours
antillais, who at one point refused this happy synthesis even for
metissage. "Le m6tissage en tant que proposition n'est pas d'abord
1'exaltation de la formation composite d'un people [...]. 11 imported ici
de souligner non pas tant les mecanismes d'acculturation et de
d&culturation que les dynamiques capable de les figer ou de les
d6passer." (428-29) ["Creolization as an idea is not primarily the
glorification of the composite nature of a people [...]. Here it is
important to stress not so much the mechanisms of acculturation and
deculturation as the dynamic forces capable of limiting or prolonging
them." (140-41)]
And yet, there is still evidence of a common desire to pin down even
creolisation into a static identitary form. It may even be due to the
renewed emphasis on the process of crdolisation that there is still so
much attention paid to creolisation as metissage. The slippages between
all these notions Creoleness, Creolization, metissage, syncretism -
belie their separate intellectual genealogies (which I will not detail fully
here) and suggest a disturbing erasure. By using such egalitarian
phrases as "composite nature," "syncretic," or "peoples thrown
together," we may run the risk of implying a neutral, almost abstractly
geometric, process of cultural mosaic-making which obfuscates the
tremendous power differentials inherent to the institution responsible
for much culture-building in the Antilles: plantation slavery. It is because
of these many directions in which the concepts have been taken that it
should be interesting to turn to the works of both Glissant and Bernabe,
Chamoiseau, and Confiant, fundamental references for creolite and
crdolisation. I will discuss Bernabe, Chamoiseau, and Confiant first and
then Glissant, in order to compare their conceptions not only of
creolization but even more basically of Creole culture.


In Eloge de la Creolite, the text that emerged from a speech given by
Bernab6, Chamoiseau and Confiant at the Festival Caraibe de la Seine-
Saint-Denis in 1988, the picture of Creoleness that emerges is a complex
one. Most directly defined, Creoleness is meant to be "l'agregat
interactionnel ou transactionnel, des l66ments culturels caraibes,
europeens, africains, asiatiques, et levantins, que le joug de l'histoire a
r6unis sur le meme sol." (26, original italics) ["the interactional or
transactional aggregate of Caribbean, European, African, Asian, and
Levantine cultural elements, united on the same soil by the yoke of
history." (87)] But these terms are still somewhat vague, hard to imagine
in terms of real-historical processes. The authors seem to be
philosophically invested in maintaining this difficulty, affirming that
for them Creoleness remains a question, but positively so: "une question
A vivre [...]," ["a question to be lived" (89)] more of an aporia than a
synthesis. (27) "[La] Creolite est une sp6cificit6 ouverte. [...] L'exprimer
c'est exprimer non une synthese, pas simplement un m6tissage, ou
n'importe quelle autre unicit6. C'est exprimer une totality
kaleidoscopique [...]." (27-28) [Creoleness is an open specificity. [...]
Expressing it is not expressing a synthesis, not just expressing a
crossing or any other unicity. It is expressing a kaleidoscopic totality
[...]" (89)] They also compare its rhizomatic workings to the root
network of the mangrove by calling Creoleness "notre mangrove de
virtualites." (28) ["our mangrove swamp of virtualities" (90)] Other
images prevalent in the text, however, have led readers to associate
Creoleness more with synthesis than aporia. They describe Creoleness
as "ce formidable 'migan' [...] hors [...] de toute puret6, [une] "tresse
d'histoires," containing a taste of "toutes les langues[...]" (26) ["this
extraordinary 'migan' [...] outside [...] all forms of purity, [a] braid of
histories, [with] a taste of all languages [...]." (88)] "La Creolite c'est
[...] un maelstrom de signifies dans un seul significant: une Totalit6,"
constructed like a "mosaique." (27) ["Creoleness is [...] a maelstrom
of signifieds in a single signifier: a Totality [...]" (88)] They even say
that the second step in the double cultural process of Creoleness results
in "la creation d'une culture syncretique dite creole." (31) ["a mixed
culture called Creole" (93)] Reading these, it is easy to see why crdolitW
is so often referred to as a synthetic identity.
The tone in these definitions is proclamatory, even exhortative. The
message is apparently intended for an Antillean audience. However,
given the authors' diagnosis that Antilleans bear a sort of "double
consciousness" by virtue of their acceptance of the French values into
which they have been educated, the speech must appeal also to the


French part of their audience, and is therefore very potentially
comprehensible to non-Creole French as well. In fact, it is that very
French/Creole "double consciousness" and even more so the authors'
mode of describing it that interests us here. The authors insist,
through their metaphors, on dividing Creole culture into an "outside"
and an "inside."
From the very beginning of the text, we glimpse into the complicated
doubleness encompassing, on the one hand, a French culture, and
on the other a Creole culture (both of which have been evolving
for centuries in relation to each other). The doubleness is
complicated because of this relational evolution, but the intention
of the authors seems rather clear: to urge Antilleans into a new
consciousness of their Creole culture which had been denied both by
nationalist French cultural and educational policies, and by the pan-
Africanist philosophies of N6gritude. Creolite is the solution they see
to this double bind. An awareness of local culture on its own (often
"impure") terms, even when those terms are necessarily mixed up with
Europe and Africa. By the second sentence, the authors are already
hinting at the depth model into which they will insert Crdolitd.' "Cela
sera pour nous une attitude int6rieure [...]."2 ["This will be for us an
interior attitude" (75)] Through the pages that follow, this adjective
"int&rieure" develops into an image in which Creoleness appears as an
identitary core, but a core that has been hidden from view by a veneer
of Frenchness and now needs to be brought to light.
Bernab6, Chamoiseau, and Confiant describe Creoleness consistently
and insistently as being located "inside" or "under" a superficial
Frenchness. For example, they identify the cause of the alleged lack of
a vibrant local literary scene (capable of engaging the "truth" of local
culture) in the fact that "notre v6rit6 s'est trouvee mise sous verrous,

The depth models identified by Fredric Jameson (12) separate an "inside" from
an "outside" but lock them into a relationship with each other. In variants of this
model, such as latent/manifest, signified/signifier, phenomenon/epiphenomenon,
private/public, or center/margin, the first term has a claim to "truth" or meaning
whereas the second term can either indicate the truth or obscure it.
2 Within the same sentence, there is a symbolically contradictory clarification:
"[...] ou mieux encore, une sorte d'enveloppe mental au mitan de laquelle se batira
notre monde [...]." ["or even better, a sort of mental envelope in the middle of
which our world will be built"(75)] According to this image, Creolite would be a
sort of shield, a surface at any rate. It appears, though, that the first version of the
model, with its insistence on Creolitd as interiority (not as the exteriority implied
by the word envelopepe", will dominate.


A l'en-bas du plus profound de nous-memes [...]." (14) ["our truth found
itself behind bars, in the deep bottom of ourselves" (76)] The metaphors
come bounding eloquently off the page, each one a variation on a theme.
To take on the mission to regain a core Creoleness is to follow Depestre,
Fanon, and Glissant; to longerr dans notre singularity [...] rejoindre A
fond ce que nous sommes [...]." (22) ["to plunge in our singularity,
[... ] to reach out for what we are" (84)] It is to undertake "la minutieuse
exploration de nous-memes [...]. Un peu comme en fouilles
archeologiques: 1'espace 6tant quadrille, avancer a petites touches de
pinceau brosse afin de ne rien alt&rer ou perdre de ce nous-mimes
enfoui sous la francisation." (22) [the minute exploration of ourselves
[...]. Somewhat like with the process of archaeological excavations:
when the field was covered, we had to progress with light strokes of
the brush so as not to alter or lose any part of ourselves hidden behind
French ways." (84)] The hidden depths of Creoleness, indicated by
longere" and "fond" at the top of the page, are seen to be even deeper
when the metaphor becomes downright archaeological further down.
Whatever the extreme, the true nature of Creoleness is buried
underneath a false cover of Frenchness from under which it must be
The authors identify one of the prime factors in the creation of this
situation to be French colonial historiography. The process by which
Creole people are meant to read about themselves across time is flawed
in that the history is one-sided and therefore fatally misleading.

Ce que nous croyons itre l'histoire antillaise n'est que l'histoire de la
colonisation des Antilles. Dessous les ondes de choc de l'histoire de
France, dessous les grandes dates d'arriv6e et de depart des
gouverneurs, dessous les alias des luttes coloniales, dessous les belles
pages de la Chronique (ou les flamb6es de nos r&voltes n'apparaissent
qu'en petites teaches il y eut le cheminement obstin6 de nous-memes.
[...] Notre Chronique est dessous les dates, dessous les faits
repertories: nous sommes Paroles sous I'ecriture. [...] la vision
int6rieure et I'acceptation de notre Creolit6 nous permettront
d'investir ces zones impenetrables du silence oui le cri s'est dilud. (37-
38; original italics)
[What we believe to be Caribbean history is just the history of the
colonization of the Caribbean. Between the currents of the history of
France, between the great dates of the governors' arrivals and
departures, between the beautiful white pages of the chronicle (where
the bursts of our rebellions appear only as small spots), there was


the obstinate progress of ourselves. [...] Our Chronicle is behind the
dates, behind the known facts: we are Words behind writing. [...]
interior vision and the acceptance of our Creoleness will allow us to
invest these impenetrable areas of silence where screams are lost. (98-
99; original italics)]

The "dessous" refrain (which although translated here as "behind"
could have been rendered more literally as "under") rings out in the
Eloge like so many resounding conch shells calling the audience to
break through to a revolutionary consciousness. And just as heroically
obstinate as the slaves' will to revolt is the Creolists' vision of their
own history lying in wait, already assuredly there, but symbolically
under the official records. The first step in this rescue mission, we
deduce, is the very text of the Eloge, which transforms the "paroles
sous l'&criture" into "paroles marquees."
At other moments of the text, it is revealed that the authors see the
way to begin their cultural awareness-building task as acting in a certain
way on the depth model they have just sketched out. It is not so much
to bring their core Creoleness to the surface, but rather to take the
core Creoleness as their new vantage point out onto the world. It is a
matter of perspective, not of re-location. The problem they are dealing
with, as they describe it, is that Martinicans and Guadeloupeans have
been alienated from their "true nature"; they look at themselves from a
metropolitan French perspective. "Notre situation a 6t6 de porter un
regard ext6rieur sur la r6alit6 de nous-memes refuse plus ou moins
consciemment." (25) ["We had to bring an exterior look to our reality
which was refused more or less consciously." (87)] The result of this
alienated perspective is that that which should by rights be most theirs,
appears instead as exotic. "[N]otre fondement s'est trouv6 'exotis6'
par la vision frangaise que nous avons di adopter." (14) ["our
foundation was 'exoticized' by the French vision we had to adopt.' (76)]
Therefore, instead of looking in on their Creoleness from the perspective
of their Frenchified exterior, instead of remaining "frappes d'ext&riorit&"
(14) ["stricken with exteriority" (76)], they want to put to use "l'outil
premier de cette demarche de se connaitre: la vision interieure." (23)
["the basic tool of this approach of self-knowledge: interior vision."
(85)] That is, a perspective that allows them to see the world from the
vantage point of their Creole "core."
At certain points in the essay, the interior/exterior depth model of
the Creole self maps itself directly onto a center/periphery model with
resonances that are more clearly geo-political than they are for the


more psychologically-oriented interior/exterior model. When the
authors describe "Europ6anit&" and "Africanit6" as "ext6riorites," we
recognize that they are invoking the psychological and geographic
resonances of the depth model simultaneously. (18; 80) Europe and
Africa are.exterior to the Caribbean islands, and therefore they consider
any sensibility based exclusively on the cultures of those continents
to be psychologically external to a Caribbean self. To replace such
"exteriorites," they see the need for "[u]n regard neuf que enleverait
notre natural du secondaire ou de la p&ripherie afin de le replacer au
centre de nous-memes." (24) ["a new look capable of taking away our
nature from the secondary or peripheral edge so as to place it again in
the center of ourselves." (85)] With this invocation of the colonial
center/periphery model, the authors argue that the concepts of center
and periphery were not only used by cartographers, but were also
internalized by colonial subjects. According to such an image, it was
as if everyone -and not just the French Empire or la Francophonie-
had a centered self, which was European, and a periphery, which was
colonial (and in this case, Creole). The authors feel that this did not
correspond in a real way to their identity, which is, at core, Creole
and only peripherally European French. Their Creole "interior vision,"
then, accomplishes not only the goal of "re-centering" a Creole self
around a Creole interior, but also re-centers a Creole mental map of
the world by placing the islands in the middle. This "corrected" vision
will allow them to make the statement, "Ici, nous ne nous imaginons
pas hors du monde, en banlieue de l'Univers," (38) ["Here, we do not
think that we are outside the world, in the suburb of the universe,"
(99)] which proclaims a self that has been both psychologically and
cartographically re-centered around the Caribbean and its cultures.
The colonial center/periphery model has been successfully maintained,
but inverted.
Edouard Glissant is also concerned with countering the colonial
center/periphery model through his theories of creolisation and their
renewed attention to the importance of local histories. But his work is
not as clearly directed to assuming a Creole self and dividing it into an
inside and an outside. Rather, two important ideas Glissant uses to
develop his work on crdolisation transparency and opacity- concern
themselves with how cultures present themselves to each other. These
two concepts are the products of a metaphor that compares knowledge
to light or vision. More specifically, Glissant represents the colonial
epistemological project, by which colonizing powers sought knowledge


about colonized lands and peoples, as the product of a colonial gaze.
He describes this gaze as illuminating its colonial object, rendering
the object visible (and therefore understandable) to the metropolis.
Since for Glissant this colonial project was also a universalist one, he
calls it "La seule clart6 enfin, qui fut celle de la presence transcendante
de l'autre, de son evidence -colon ou administrateur-, de sa
transparence mortellement propose en module. [...]." (Le discours
antillais 473) ["The only source of light ultimately was that of the
transcendental presence of the Other, of his Visibility -colonizer or
administrator- of his transparency fatally proposed as a model, [...]."
(Caribbean Discourse 161)] The colonizer emanated light (representing
knowledge) and proposes that the colonized peoples make themselves
transparent to the colonizer.
Now, the alternative that Glissant proposes would have to be different
from transparency, but since his new model is to subtend some kind of
subjectivity, and a relational subjectivity, he does not propose
"invisibility" against transparency. Instead, he proposes the more
complicated metaphor of "opacity," which resists the intrusive light of
the colonial project while still retaining a visible presence. Glissant
sees opacity as a reaction against:

La seule clart6 enfin, qui fut celle de la presence transcendante de
l'autre, de son evidence -colon ou administrateur- d'oO nous est
n6 peut-etre un tendre goft de l'obscur, et pour moi comme une
necessit&, qui est de provoquer l'opaque, le non-6vident, de
revendiquer pour chaque collectivit6 le droit A l'opacit6 mutuellement
consentie. (Le discours antillais 473)
[The only source of light ultimately was that of the transcendental
presence of the Other, of his Visibility -colonizer or administrator-
of his transparency fatally proposed as a model, because of which we
have acquired a taste for obscurity, and for me the need to seek out
obscurity, that which is not obvious, to assert for each community
the right to a shared obscurity. (Caribbean Discourse 161) [In light of
my argument, I would prefer to translate the last clause as "to assert
for each community the right to a mutually agreed-upon opacity."]

In Poetique de la Relation, published nine years after Le discours
antillais, Glissant develops the positive aspects of the concept, but in
a way that confirms that although opacity is certainly not the
transparency the colonizers would have wanted, it does allow
intercultural exchange. The difference is that opacity's intercultural


exchange will be of a different sort: "Des opacites peuvent coexister,
confluer, tramant des tissus don't la veritable comprehension portrait
sur la texture de cette trame et non pas sur la nature des composantes.
Renoncer, pour un temps peut-etre, A cette vieille hantise de surprendre
le fond des natures." (204) [Opacities can coexist and converge, weaving
fabrics. To understand these truly one must focus on the texture of the
weave and not on the nature of its components. For the time being,
perhaps, give up this old obsession with discovering what lies at the
bottom of natures. (Poetics of Relation 190)] In this moment, then, we
can see how Glissant is able to imagine a relational opacity. It is therefore
not just transparency that is able to guarantee the kind of cultural
interchange that scholars of Creolization find in the Caribbean. Opacity
is also a way of looking at that kind of intercultural process; in fact, it is
a much more satisfactory one for Glissant because it does not suppose
any natural hierarchy between the cultural actants. It also seems to
leave behind the arborescent or depth model of cultural identity since
the task of uncovering the "fond des natures" is irrelevant to an opaque
In other sections of Podtique de la Relation, however, Glissant
develops the metaphor of opacity even further, and it is not long before
he "uncovers" a more complicated conceptual terrain. It is here he
reminds us that opacity is a three-dimensional concept, and brings
back depth models to the discussion. In the following passage, he
describes opacity as a resistance that surprises the colonizer, using
images of a mirror and a river.3

La transparence n'apparait plus comme le fond du miroir oui l'humanit6
occidentale r&fletait le monde A son image; au fond du miroir il y a
maintenant de l'opacit6, tout un limon d6pos6 par des peuples, limon
fertile mais A vrai dire certain, inexplore, encore aujourd'hui et le plus
souvent ni6 ou offusqu6, don't nous ne pouvons pas ne pas vivre la
presence insistante. (Poetique de la relation 125)

:1 The river, of course, is an image dear to Glissant. In his novel La lIzarde, he
employs the eponymous river as a figure for Martinican identity, crossing and
unifying the island's different periods, regions, and cultures. It is perhaps significant
that this comes at a moment where he makes a gesture to grounding the concept in
a Martinican natural reality, the river the same river whose image grounds his
1958 novel La Ldzarde and provides a distinctive way of expressing Martinican
culture through its landscape.


[Transparency no longer seems like the bottom of the mirror in which
Western humanity reflected the world in its own image. There is
opacity now at the bottom of the mirror, a whole alluvium deposited
by populations, silt that is fertile but, in actual fact, indistinct and
unexplored even today, denied or insulted more often than not, and
with an insistent presence that we are incapable of not experiencing.
(Poetics of Relation 111)]

Perhaps playing on the reflective capabilities of water, Glissant
combines the reference to the river with a new metaphor based on the
mirror. Using the image of a mirror to illustrate the concept of
transparency would be paradoxical unless Glissant is making use of
a popular conception that locates one's reflection inside the mirror.
(On regarded dans le miroir- one looks in the mirror.) The surface of the
mirror must be thought of as transparent, giving seers unobstructed
access to the real object of their gaze: the reflection "within" the mirror.
In other words, the truth is located inside and the surface indicates or
protects that inside. We can't forget Glissant's more immediate point,
however, which is that the transparency model characteristic of
Western modernity is ultimately unable to secure the knowledge it is
supposed to. Instead of bringing new objects of knowledge to vision, it
merely produces a reflection, an echo. The Western Self looks around
but only sees that which is identical to it. But also interesting to us in
this context is the fact that Glissant not only describes this transparency
model to be characteristic of Western modernity, but also describes it
using a depth model schema also characteristic of Western modernity
(according to Jameson).
The alternative that Glissant proposes to this dead-end situation is
opacity, and he introduces it from within the modern depth model.
"Au fond du miroir il y a maintenant de l'opacit&." Glissant's joint use
above of transparency and the depth model was logical (in a very
specific way), but here the juxtaposition of opacity and the depth model
is more difficult to figure out. This is because opacity is supposed to
be an option for the exterior, not the interior as Glissant uses it. Does
saying that opacity can be interior mean that there is actually no interior
any more, since the person looking under the surface sees only another
surface? Or is this just another way of presenting a new kind of depth
model, which affirms the existence of an interior and an exterior, but
claims that the interior is not knowable through the help of the outside
(the symptom does not indicate the disease)?
At this point, it may seem that this discussion consists only of
deconstructive games played around a metaphor that was not central


to Glissant's point in the first place. It may also seem that this discussion
only runs into the problem of deciding the relation between inside and
outside because it is trying to locate Glissant's idea in terms of a Western
thought model that he is trying to contest. However, I would like to
suggest that this discussion is far from an idle one. First, because the
very notions of transparency and opacity depend, it seems to me, on
an inside/outside schema, whether you call that a modern depth model
or not. Second, the paradox of the interior that is an exterior that we
have run into at the end of the foregoing discussion is not a dead-end
at all. Rather, it hints at a richness to the problematic of opacity that
does not find such direct, full expression in Poetique de la Relation.
Rather, it is more explicitly explored in an earlier text of Glissant's:
L'intention podtique, which we will investigate now. In the presence of
so many mutually complicating metaphors, it is important to keep in
mind that we are sorting through this question in order to understand
better what Glissant means by culture when he talks about culture in
the Caribbean, and how he understands the opportunities for
interaction between these cultures and others. If we state this in terms
of opacity and transparency, the question of interior and exterior
becomes the following: Is there a cultural identity hidden and protected
under the surface of opacity, or does the concept of opacity negate
culturally-specific "identity" altogether?
Glissant was already working with these questions, as I said, in 1969,
when L'intention podtique was published.4 In a section of this book called
"Sur I'opacit6" in particular, he moves from an analysis of "opacity" in
William Faulkner's novel Absalom!Absalom!to a new theory of opacity
that is potentially applicable to all American literatures.5 In the present
case, I do not believe that "going back in time" to this earlier text
signifies going back to a retrograde point in the development of the
theory of opacity. Rather, what interests me about his exposition of
opacity in L'intention podtique is the way in which his discussion here
is large enough to take into account global factors, while remaining
focused on cultural tensions and their expression through literature.

4 There is to my knowledge no English translation of this text. Accordingly, all
translations of it are mine.
5 Despite Glissant's estimation, evident elsewhere in his writings, that the United
States has long posed a neo-colonial threat to Caribbean autonomy, he sees in the
work of American writer Faulkner a kindred post-plantationary society which could
be linked to Martinique by a rhizomatic type of cultural link.


What impresses Glissant about Faulkner in Absalom! Absalom! is
Faulkner's manner of incorporating in his narrative the voices of racially
heterogeneous characters. According to Glissant, Faulkner respects
the black character's difference as "opaque," and conveys this respect
for their opacity by not reproducing their thoughts in interior
monologues.6 We see several words in the following passages of
Glissant's analysis that suggest that subjectivity is a matter of depth:
density, surprendre, limon, pendtration, fond, interieur. Opacity then
comes to name a way to suggest the presence of depth but without
uncovering it. "L'opacit6 du Negre pour Faulkner est, bien entendu,
son imp6n6trabilit6: autant que la peau noire, l'ame obscure. I1 est ainsi
vrai qu'il n'a jamais pu qu'6valuer l'homme noir de l'ext6rieur [...]. Le
monologue int6rieur ne sera jamais propre au personnage noir, et ce
qu'on surprendra le plus souvent de celui-ci sera un grommelement
[...]." (176-77) [For Faulkner, black people's opacity is, of course, their
impenetrability: the soul is as obscure as the skin is black. Thus it is
true that he is able to evaluate black people only from the outside. {...}
Interior monologue will never be used with black characters, and all
one will usually catch coming out of their mouths is a muttering.] This
explains the impossibility of the author's diving "au fond de leurs
motivations."(177) [to the bottom of their motivations] Under this
careful opacity, Glissant also strongly senses in Faulkner's black
characters an unmistakable "density" but a certain kind of density.
"Autrement dit, les personnages de Faulkner ne sont pas denses de
psychologie, mais d'attache A leur glibe, A leur injustice, A leur limon
tragique [...]." (175) [In other words, Faulkner's characters are not
psychologically dense; their density comes from an attachment to their
plot of land, to their injustice, to their tragic silt.] Glissant does not
feel the characters' density because of an intensely psychological
description, but rather from an intense description of their connection
to their surroundings, to the social and physical landscape. It is a
connective, relational density that Glissant is aiming to describe here,
not a monad-like one.
But if there are connections between the characters, these
connections are not always based on openness and free-flowing
exchange. The characters are opaque to one another. Likewise, the
opacity that prevails between the black characters and their narrator
- and therefore between the black characters and any reader may be

61 follow Celia Britton in describing this technique as "respectful."


experienced by the reader, not as a sign of the narrator's respect, but
as a stubborn source of frustration for them. Readers in the presence
of the opaque sense that something important is being hidden from
them. In this essay Glissant describes this bewildered frustration on
the part of the readers as "vertigo" or "dizziness," and he describes
the process by which characters and their motivations are kept opaque
as one of "veiling." Here again we seem to be squarely back in the same
peculiar mold of the modern depth model. The sought-after truth is
located underneath, and the surface either indicates what is beneath,
or (as it does here) obscures it. But even if it obscures what is beneath,
the function of the veil is still perceived to be linked to the depth. Even
an opaque or obscure veil is part of the depth model because it does
not contradict the utility of the depth model; there is still a valuable
depth, and there is still a voile locked into a role of indicating the existing
of an underlying voild, even if the voile does not indicate what the voile
means. But, this is where we start to get a sense of how Glissant's theory
is not locked into the normal dynamics of the depth model. Seeing the
depth devoilW, finding a solution to the dizziness, is in fact almost
irrelevant to the point where the ddvoile could not exist. It could only
exist as a still-unseen voile.

Autrement dit: il n'y a pas ici de devoil6. Pas de raison certain. Le
devoil eut introduit une solution du vertige [...]. La solution, dans
l'irreductible de ses definitions eut stopp6 net le vertige, qui est une
des donn6es de l'etre collectif. [...] Retarder la solution, c'est donner
chance A l'etre de palpiter encore. Mais affirmer en mrme temps le
secret original et exposer un mecanisme de son devoilement, c'est
aviver la conscience collective, 1'entretenir dans I'angoisse et
l'interrogation. Le roman devoile un voil6 qui ne devient jamais pur
ddvoild mais s'expose dans la mecanique meme du devoilement. [...]
Car le devoilement a pour mission, non pas tant de faire parvenir,
nous l'avons dit, a une v6rit6, que d'entretenir une inquietude, un
vertige. (178-80)
[In other words: here there is no unveiled information. No "reason" to
be sure of. Unveiling it would have introduced a solution to this
dizziness. {...} A solution, as an irreductible definition, would have
brought to a halt all that dizziness that is the hallmark of collective
being. {...} Putting off the solution gives Being a chance to keep
breathing. But to affirm at the same time the original secret and to
expose a mechanism for its unveiling, would sharpen the collective
consciousness, maintaining it in its anguish and its questioning. Novels


"unveil" without letting that which they unveil become completely
exposed, but instead letting that which is still "veiled" expose itself
while remaining within the mechanism of its own unveiling. {...} For
the purpose of the "unveiling" is not so much to lead us to a truth as
it is to maintain a discomfort, a dizziness.]

So although we may still be in the presence of an inside and an
outside, what counts for Glissant is appreciating how that model works
to reveal social conditions not delving through the outside to the
inside, as Bernab6, Chamoiseau and Confiant did in their Eloge. The
detour back to Glissant's 1969 text on opacity seems to confirm a
relative indifference to the question of the depth of cultural identity.
What is important is how the surfaces allow them to relate.
Indeed, the difference between the ways in which Glissant and
Bernab6, Chamoiseau and Confiant "map" their cultures is subtle but
very significant. The authors of Eloge insist that their culture has an
"inside," which French colonialism has kept unseen, but that needs to
be brought into view. Glissant, however, does not appear to be
concerned with the question of whether there is a "true" Caribbean
culture to be found under the surface. On this point he could not diverge
farther from Bernab6, Chamoiseau, and Confiant in Eloge, for whom
Creoleness is interiority. Such depth models of culture do not figure
into Glissant's ideas of how culture works, ideas which counter modern/
colonial frameworks more radically than those in Eloge. Moreover, the
concept of opacity that plays such an important role in Glissant's vision
of crdolisation tends to disrupt the idea that creolization is just a form
of mitissage. By privileging ways in which Caribbean culture does not
participate in transcultural exchange, Glissant's opacitd calls into
question the idea that Caribbean creolization is, or even should be, a
matter of simple cultural synthesis.


Works Cited

Anquetil, Gilles. "Sur la trace d'Edouard Glissant." Nouvel Observateur
1517 (December 2, 1993)
Bernab6, Jean, Patrick Chamoiseau, Raphael Confiant. Eloge de la
crdolitd, edition bilingue frangais/anglais. trans. M.B. Taleb-Khyar.
Paris: Gallimard, 1993 (1989).
Britton, Celia. "Opacity and Transparence: Conceptions of History and
Cultural Difference in the Work of Michel Butor and Edouard
Glissant." French Studies 49:3 (July 1995) 308-20.
Caldwell, Roy Chandler, Jr. "Creolite and Postcoloniality in Raphael
Confiant's L'Alle des Soupirs." French Review 73:2 (December 1999)
Jameson, Fredric. Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late
Capitalism. Duke UP, 1991.
Glissant, Edouard. L'intention podtique. Paris: Seuil, 1969.
____ Le discours antillais. Paris: Gallimard, 1997. [1981]
___ Caribbean Discourse: Selected Essays. Trans. J. Michael Dash.
Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1992. [1989]
Potique de la relation. Paris: Gallimard, 1990.
____. Poetics of Relation. Trans. Betsy Wing. Ann Arbor: The University
of Michigan Press, 1997.
Lionnet, Francoise. "Creolite in the Indian Ocean: Two Models of Cultural
Diversity." Yale French Studies 0.82 (1993) 101-112.
Mazama, Ama. "Critique afrocentrique de l'Eloge de la creolitd." in Penser
la crdolite. ed. Maryse Cond6 and Madeleine Cottenet-Hage. Paris:
Editions Karthala, 1995.
Taylor, Lucien. "Creolite Bites: A conversation with Patrick Chamoiseau,
Raphael Confiant, and Jean Bernab6." Transition 74 (1998) 124-161.

Mirrored Gazes:
The Question of Creole Identity

Ian A. Bethell Bennett
University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras

feel the need to preface this paper by pointing out that these
questions included herein are being proposed, thus there are no
conclusions. This paper realise that there are polemics involved
with Creole language in an era of postcolonialism, flanked by
globalisation and in as much does not claim or argue that Creole Should
be the ONLY language or in polar opposition to French. It merely asks
if the former is still a viable alternative. Of course, the ambiguities of
power that underlie this argument are considerable. The paper seeks
to be inclusive and not a political or exclusionary reaction in favour of
or against Creole identity(ies).
Martinican writer Patrick Chamoiseau entitles one of his novels,
Ecrire en pays dominde (1997), a phrase referring to a country where
the people are made to live under constant and continual political
control motivated from beyond their 'national' limits or geographical
boundaries.1 The problem with the term national in the French
Caribbean,2 hinted at in Chamoiseau's title, is that there are no national
lines in Guadeloupe and Martinique. These islands are a part of France,
referred to as les departements d'outre-mer.3 This reality came into effect

I Patrick Chamoiseau, Ecrire en pays domine (Paris, Editions Gallimard, 1997).
2 The term 'French Caribbean' is problematic in its inclusion and exclusion. I
am employing it here to refer to Guadeloupe and Martinique, realising that the
meaning is wider, and ought to include French Guiana, but for the purposes of this
study it has been excluded as have the smaller islets and the once French islands
like St. Lucia. The case of Haiti is also distinct and will not be considered herein.
3 See: Robert Deville et Nicolas Georges, Les Departements d'outre-mer: L'autre
decolonisation (Paris, Editions Gallimard, 1996).


in 1946 and effectively separated the French islands from the rest of
the Caribbean.
Departmentalisation came less than one hundred years after the
islands were emancipated from slavery, as the French Caribbean did
not liberate its slaves until 1848. There would, therefore, still be
survivors within the community during the time of assimilation, who
could remember slavery. The independence movements in Martinique
and Guadeloupe were seemingly stamped out. Life in the islands was
made extremely difficult by the troops sent in during the unrest of
1940 when General de Gaulle established a blockade of the islands.
But the victory of departmentalisation allowed for a new prosperity,
even if less autonomy. This means that the inhabitants of these islands
are French and that there is free movement between these territories
and the mere patrie. This also means that they have been subsumed
under that all-encompassing nationality.
It is from this cultural reality that Joseph Zobel's (Martinique) and
Simone Schwarz-Bart's (Guadeloupe) novels arise.4 They readopt the
Creole or Antillian aspect of their lives and include it in their texts. It is
a form of cultural revalidation that would have resulted from such a
concerted effort on the part of the mere patrie to erase all articulations
of alternative realities. Here we can read 'Otherness'.
French Caribbean writers have a particular challenge to express
themselves from within the space of Frenchness or French citizenship,
which is delimited because of their foreignness or 'Otherness'.
Arguably, all French citizens are equal, established by the pledge,
Liberty, Igalite, Fraternit?, but this can be challenged by assimilation,
where one must become more French in order to be accepted by the
mainstream. Therefore, Martinicans and Guadeloupeans must become
more like the centre in order to be full citizens. Succinctly put, they
may not retain their Martinicanness/Guadeloupeanness if they wish to
be fully accepted as French. This necessitates a cultural loss: a
devaluation of one culture in favour of another, and subsequently,
further alienation.5 Meanwhile, this reality is manifest differently from

4 Joseph Zobel, La Rue cases-Negres (Paris, Presence africaine, 1950); Simone
Schwarz-Bart, Pluie et vent sur T6lumee Miracle (Paris, Seuil, 1972).
5 See: Frantz Fanon, Peau Noire, Masques Blancs. (Paris, Editions de Seuil, 1952);
The Wretched of the Earth trans. by Constance Farrington, (New York, Grove Press,
1963); Chamoiseau (1997).


Martinique to Guadeloupe.6 Liberating voices or revoicing silences
while of importance in the Antilles as a whole, is particularly important
in the French Antilles. Silvio Torres-Saillant points out that critics of
Caribbean unity would argue that French Caribbean inhabitants have
a great 'fid61it4' to France.7 Ironically, many of the writers think
otherwise, as Chamoiseau's book title illustrates.8 Chamoiseau's
remarks about living under constant occupation must therefore be
considered when reading Caribbean literature written in French or
French Creole.
Works such as Leonora: The Buried Story of Guadeloupe (1995) by
Dany B6bel-Gisler illustrate that how life was lived in the past was not
far removed from the way it is described by authors like Schwarz-Bart
and Zobel in their novels.9 The informant tells of the community's
resistance to assimilation, the brutality of the French forces to those in
opposition to them and the desire to survive. She articulates the horrors
of occupation by the French and the lengths to which the community
had to go for any degree of autonomy. Leonora also describes the
importance of the extended family in the effort to survive in the
hardships of the years of severe restrictions imposed by the French
government. The writers may not obviously or physically resist
occupation or domination, but often the very words they pen re-cast
their resistance to false representation, silence, and occupation.10 This
is apparent in Zobel's La Rue Cases-Negres where, even though the
narrator must be educated in the French schools, he is also educated
about Africa. Meanwhile, in Schwarz-Bart's Pluie et vent sur Thlumbe
Miracle, the narrator adopts a life in the country steeped in African
and indigenous healing arts that French colonisation threatens, as they
are viewed as mere superstition or silly. Both Zobel's character, Jos6,

6 See: Richard and Sally Price 'Shadowboxing in the Mangrove: The Politics of
Identity in Post-Colonial Martinique', in Belinda Edmondson ed., Caribbean
Romances: The Politics of Regional Representation (Charlottesville, University Press
of Virginia, 1999), pp. 123-62. The writers argue for a French Caribbean insularity in
Martinique. This insularity, though, does not appear the same in the Case of
Guadeloupe. There seems to be more connection to the Caribbean in Guadeloupe.
7 Silvio Torres-Saillant, Caribbean Poetics. Cambridge, Cambridge UP, 1997.
8 See: Chamoiseau (1997).
9 Dany Bebel-Gisler, Leonora: The Buried Story of Guadeloupe (Charlottesville,
University Press of Virginia, 1995).
10 See: Richard Burton, Afro-Creole: Power, Opposition and Play in the Caribbean
(Ithaca/London, Cornell UP, 1997), for his use of resistance and power.


and Schwarz-Bart's character, Tl1umee, illustrate the coexistence of
French and Antillian ways of life. While Jos6 functions within and
beyond the coloniser's enclosure, Tl1umee seems to function
exclusively outside of French cultural reality, opting for an indigenous
lifestyle. She lives by her healing, in the woods, and does not venture
into cities or towns regularly, avoiding what could be referred to as
It is therefore not surprising that '[Maryse] Cond6 has actually traced
the birth of an authentic Francophone Caribbean literature to the time
"when the West Indians realized that if history had brought them under
French rule, this did not mean that they should be mere copies of the
French people"'.11 This follows the rules of subversion or what Homi
Bhabha refers to as mimicry, where inherent in slaves' copying of the
master is an awareness that they cannot be him, though they almost
can. In 'almost' there is a significant amount of power because, although
they may appear to be submissive, there is a subversive activity that
lays hidden under the surface. This, Bhabha argues, is a form of
resistance.12 They will, however, use the master's tools to overturn his
control over them.':3 By enacting a subservient role that assumes quiet
acceptance/acquiescence, the colonised 'Other' may once again regain
a degree of agency in her life.14 Meanwhile, this may create mental
imbalances and cause a crisis of identity as elucidated by Fanon. Thus,
while writing within the space of Frenchness, these writers use their
characters to assert a sense of self that disallows invisibility. Even
though they are dominated, they continue to write against this
domination. Globalisation/neo-colonialism, however, somewhat
problematises the act of self-realisation. Through globalisation's
establishment of a universality or sameness, 'Otherness' is gradually
diminished as individuals surrender to popular cultural forms beamed

"11 Ibid., p. 42.
12 See: Homi Bhabha, 'Of mimicry and man: The ambivalence of colonial discourse',
in The Location of Culture (London/New York, Routledge, 1994), pp. 85-92.
1:3 Audre Lorde argues in Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches (Freedom CA: The
Crossing Press, 1984) that the 'Master's Tools' can never be used to dismantle his
house thereby stating that what subjected/colonised individuals need are their
own tools to do the job. Simon Gikandi feels similarly in Maps ofEnglishness: Writing
Identity in the Culture of Colonialism (New York, Columbia UP, 1996), when he argues
that the colonised cannot express himself by using the master's language.
14 See Louis James's discussion of this in 'Introduction' to Alvin Bennett's God
the Stonebreaker (London, Heinemann, 1973).


into their living rooms through television programming. Cultural
globalisation successfully beams mainstream ideas into 'subaltern'
homes. Arguably, it further displaces any remnants of 'indigenous'
culture with the universal culture, making it even more difficult for
said 'subalterns' to retain any thread of individuality. Nevertheless,
we cannot assume that Antillean culture ceases to exist because of
globalisation's insidious nature, for to do so would be defeatist and
would underestimate the resilience of Creole culture. If assimilation
did not destroy all traces of 'Otherness', in Guadeloupe say, then it
would appear pessimistic to assume that neo-colonialism, while
threatening, would completely erase it. It is important then that we
read the Creole/resistant subtext in Antillian literature.
Without a subversive subtext, the community would lose its identity
in the wake of Europeanisation. As Paulo Freire puts it:

[C]ultural invasion is [...] always an act of violence against the persons
of the invaded culture, who lose their originality or face the threat of
losing it. In cultural invasion [. .] the invaders are the authors of,
and actors in, the process; those they invade are the objects. The
invaders mold; those they invade are molded. The invaders choose;
those they invade follow the choice-or are expected to follow it.
The invaders act; those they invade have only the illusion of acting,
through the action of the invaders.1'

Following Freire, the storytelling that Caribbean writers embark upon
could be viewed as an act of subversion and an assertion of Antillian
or Creole identity.16 Their storytelling reaches beyond an illusion of

15 Paulo Freire Pedagogy of the Oppressed, trans. by Myra Bergiman Ramos. (New
York, Continuum, 1994), p. 135.
16 This paper uses the term Creole Identity, not as a prescriptive label, but rather
as a term to indicate that there is a large amount of continual mixing and blending
occurring, while perhaps making a return to an essence impossible. There is no
ONE creole identity. It is as transitive/transitory and transformative Caribbean
life. Also, the writer in no way means to indicate that in order to be creole or to
speak Creole or to be a Creole writer one can only be that. We are multi-vocalic and
multi-faceted; there is no one or the other. For discussions on the topic and
definitions as well as usage see: Chris Bongie, Islands and Exiles: The Creole Identities
of Post/Colonial Literatures (Stanford, Stanford UP, 1998); Maryse Cond6 and
Madeleine Cottenet-Hage eds., Penser la crdolit6 (Paris, Karthala, 1995); Mireille
Rosello, Literature et identity crdole aux Antilles (Paris, Karthala, 1992); See also:
Verene Shepherd and Glen L. Richards, Questioning Creole: Creolisation Discourses
in Caribbean Culture (Kingston, lan Randle, 2002).


action and becomes an act of subversion.'7 Their stories embody
survival tactics. Trinh Minh-ha discusses this survival of 'indigenous'
cultural artefacts through women's storytelling.18 By so doing, she
illustrates how storytelling becomes an act of survival and of cultural
retention and continuation. Could this subversion be linked to the idea
of cultural similarity to Frenchness? Could the subject writer be so
completely assimilated that upon first appearance there is no hint of
difference or disjuncture or even discord? But could there, underneath
the apparent Frenchness, lay a vibrant Antillian nature?19

Problems with Mirrors

Mirrors usually reflect back what is presented in front of them. The
reflection can, however, be somewhat altered. It is the 'reflection' that
matters though. Often, when colonial subjects gaze into the mirror
that which is reflected back at them is not exactly what may be in front
of the mirror. Years of disjunctive representation have had their effect
on the colonised psyche. Instead of a black face, what appears is a
whitewashed version of what we have been taught we are. Perhaps the
Barbie doll experiment is best for something like this. When a group of
black children are given black Barbie dolls over white ones, their
response is often to reject the black doll in favour of a white one. The
reason: she is prettier. The colonial ideals of beauty have been well
internalised by the colonised subject who is at pains to separate that
identity from his/her own.
Creole identity is at the basis of this argument. And, with Creole
identity comes the language factor. Crdole language, though not
necessarily equivalent with Creole culture, is an aspect of it that can
change over time. But, it is important to ask the following questions:
Does Creole language as spoken in Guadeloupe and Martinique still
play an important role in the formation of Creole identity? Or perhaps
Creole identity and Crdole language are both archaic holdovers from
pre-departmental days and have no real bearing on French Caribbean
society in the 21st century. Furthermore, postcolonial discourse or

17 Freire, Ibid. p. 133.
18 Trinh,T. Minh-ha, Woman, Native, Other: Writing Postcoloniality and Feminism
(Bloomington, Indiana UP, 1989).
19 InAfro-Creole Burton discusses the subversion of the ruling class's laws through
carnival but similarly how carnival prevents a complete rupture from colonial culture
that allows a cultural continuity


counter discourse (what Edouard Glissant and Aim6 Cesaire refer to
as counter poetics) is no longer a necessary resistance tool as the
duplicity of the Caribbean subject has been replaced by an embracing
of Frenchness and an erasure of any difference in Martinique and
This paper arises out of discussions at conferences in Britain during
the last six years. The view held by many individuals seems to be that
Creole is a language of the past. It is considered a dying language as
people in Guadeloupe and Martinique consider themselves French first,
which they are undoubtedly, and perhaps Guadeloupean or Martinican
second, if at all, and certainly not Caribbean. The embracing of
Frenchness has resulted in a complete rupture with any past
Africanness. There is now a seamless narrative of homogeneity and
cultural harmony. According to some academics like Bridget Jones
involved in this discussion, Creole is reserved for old people and
perhaps very young children, and as such, is no longer a viable
language. Even in this case, it is only the result of feeling that their
French is too poor to employ all the time and therefore they are
'reduced' to Creole. This goes in tandem with the fact that Frenchness
is all encompassing and usurps any need for French Caribbean identity.
Perhaps this discursive discussion is endless and can have no answers
because the answer is actually individual. But this paper sees the need
to interrogate the idea that Martinican and Guadeloupean are identities
of the past and that the language of the islands has been lost to progress
and globalisation.
At the same time, it needs to be made clear that this reality is played
out very differently in Guadeloupe than it is in Martinique and, that it
would be erroneous to collapse the two situations into one. Many
individuals tend to make overarching pronouncements about the
'French Caribbean" based on a visit to Martinique. To do so, however,
is to reduce two incredibly distinct realities, and to falsely hypothe-
sise one theory as applicable to both locations. For one, Martinique
has traditionally received more money for development than has Guade-
loupe, which means that the former is richer, more developmentally
advanced than the latter. Also, Martinicans see themselves as prima-
rily 'French' while many Guadeloupeans state that they are Guadelou-
pean. They choose to make it clear that they speak both Cr6ole and

2" See: Edouard Glissant, Caribbean Discourse: Selected Essays. Trans. by J. Michael
Dash (Charlottesville, Virginia UP, 1989).


French. In the former instance, most individuals will simply say that
they speak French, or refuse to respond to Creole. For these reasons
and others, any argument that unproblematically elides the differenc-
es is flawed.
It is ironic then that while writers are seemingly arguing for the need
to enrich Creole literature, western critics are pointing out that Creole
is a language of the past. French is the only language that the French
Caribbean need speak. But Glissant seems to feel differently. He argues
that Creole is an important part of the French Caribbean culture because
it is opaque and grew out of the need for the enslaved blacks to
communicate with one another without being overheard or understood
by the masters. It is perhaps in this opacity that he sees as basic in
Creole language and folktales where the essential problems lie. Because
critics cannot understand the Creole, they assume that it is archaic, as
is any desire for Guadeloupean or Martinican independence. This belief
could also be due to the shrouded nature of the language, and that it is
used in confidence, not with outsiders. Many Caribbean writers utilise
a known vehicle of resistance to express that same resistance in a new
arena: within the master's house.21 Glissant also argues that:

This act of exposure, paradoxically, is not exposed each time in an
open and clear way. Western thought has lead us to believe that a
work must always put itself constantly at our disposal, and I know a
number of our folktales, the power of whose impact on their audience
has nothing to do with the clarity of their meaning. It can happen
that a work is not written for someone, but to dismantle the complex
mechanism of frustration and the infinite forms of oppression.
Demanding that in such a situation they should be immediately
understandable is the same as making the mistake of so many visitors
who, after spending two days in Martinique, claim they can explain to
the Martinicans the problems in their country and the solutions that
need to be implemented.22

Glissant writes of cultural alienation, as do Freire and Minh-ha, and
the need to subvert the complex system of oppression produced by
the cultural invaders.23 He also points out the cultural paternalism that

21 Here one could ague that the novel is a colonial form that, by employing Creole,
is altered and thereby rendered anew. So it is possible to express one's anti-colonial
stance within a colonial form.
22 Glissant (1989), op. cit., p. 107.
23 See: Paulo Freire (1993); Minh-ha (1989).


a do-good outsider might demonstrate when visiting the region or
representing it in a text.24 Significantly, Glissant also points to the desire
outsiders have of judging and correcting situations they may deem as
dysfunctional.25 Zora Neale Hurston's re-framing of the image of the
talking mule, in Tell My Horse, is such an example.26 Although her initial
intentions may have been to aid the Caribbean and provide original
fieldwork, her prejudices prevent her from seeing what may really be
occurring around her. These situations are merely, or significantly,
cultural specificities that outsiders have judged wrong by their own
cultural codes. Advocates of slavery originally played upon these
specificities to reinforce the idea of black alterity. By so doing, they
argued that blacks were 'meant' for slavery.
Glissant's above observations can connect with Ba-bara Bush's
complaint about the lack of cultural understanding brought to bear on
the foreign culture by the colonial powers.27 When Glissant calls up
the reality of the act of dismantling the complex mechanism of
frustration, the need to re-invent or re-articulate the Caribbean
individual reality, as lived and experienced seems necessary. It is this
re-negotiation in writing, using old vehicles to express new ideas, that
is important.28 The books written by West Indian writers articulate the
simultaneous existence of two cultural codes-at least-that the older
Crdole speaker, as culture bearer, must pass on as they are or teach
her offspring to subvert the discursive and hostile enclosure of colonial
representation and documentation. Meanwhile, the subject must
seemingly accept his/her marginality-if such a thing still exists in the
globalisation of 2002/3.
Earlier I mentioned the universality of globalisation and that it is
beamed into thousands of 'subaltern' homes on a daily basis so that
television has changed the way the world lives. With constant access
to American/international television programming like MTV and

24 See: James Anthony Froude, The English in the West Indies (London, Longman,
1888) for example of benevolence of British slavery and colonisation.
25 See: Barbara Bush, Slave Women in Caribbean Society (1650-1838) (London,
James Currey, 1990) on the cultural specificity of the gaze or the misinterpretation
of African cultures. See also: Robert Young, Colonial Encounters: Hybridity in Theory,
Culture and Race (London, Routledge, 1995), on the 'gaze'.
26 Zora Neale Hurston, Tell My Horse: (Philadelphia: J. R. Lippincott Co., 1938).
27 Barbara Bush, Slave Women in Caribbean Society (1650-1838) (London, James
Currey, 1990), p. 13.
28 Gikandi (1996), op. cit., pp. xii-xvi.


fashion, as well as Hollywood movies, the way people express
themselves has become similar the world over.29 One impact that this
globalisation has on Creole identities, as we can see, is that it changes
the language, encouraging a decreolisation of the Creole spoken. This
decreolisation could ultimately signify the death of the Creole as we
know it. This is one aspect of neo-colonialism that results in a constant
battle, one at which France is an adept fighter, enforcing rules aimed at
keeping French 'pure'. The French creole individual, though, will
experience other complications as Creole does not have the same
'prestige' as French.
Edward Said states: 'These issues were reflected, contested, and,
even for a time, decided in narrative. As one critic has suggested,
nations themselves are narrations'.30 On one level, the community is
made up of a composite of the novels penned by Joseph Zobel and
Simone Schwarz-Bart, for example. Said suggests: 'The power to
narrate, or to block other narratives from forming and emerging, is
very important to culture and imperialism'.31 In this way, then, a
counter discourse resists marginalisation. Perhaps that is why 'the
grand narratives of emancipation and enlightenment mobilised people
in the colonial world to rise up and throw off imperial subjugation'.32
This act of self-assertion is now being overlooked by members of the
colonial academy-the assumption being that cultural assimilation
has worked so well that nothing is left of the colonised culture. They
have accepted the superiority of the colonial power. This idea seems
rather self-congratulatory and perhaps premature. While
globalisation/neo-colonialism does increasingly threaten 'indigenous'
cultures, it is a fact that the creolisation process continues. The
mixing of culture thereby may not be as unidirectional as it appears,
but may allow a great deal of 'Otherness' or 'inbetweenness' to
continue to exist.
In Post-Colonial Transformation Bill Ashcroft offers that:

2" Because of MTV expansion, it now has broadcasts that can almost be said to
cover the world, for example, MTV Europe, MTV Latin America, MTV Asia. Each
subsidiary has slightly different programming; MTV Europe tends to play more
music videos than MTV 1. So, while the channel may be culturally altered, it still
presents an Americanised cultural form.
31 Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (New York, 1994), p. xiii.
31 Said (1994), op. cit., p. xiii.
32 Ibid.


The interpolation of imperial culture, and the appropriation and
transformation of dominant forms of representation for the purposes
of self determination, focuses with greatest intensity in the function
of language. ... Underlying the dispute over the most effective form of
discursive resistance is the question: Can one use the language of
imperialism without being inescapably contaminated by an imperial
world view?::

Perhaps one can answer yes, to Ashcroft's question. But through
the use of Creole this difficulty is avoided, allowing a Creole identity to
emerge without that contamination. According to Glissant, though:

There are ... no languages or language spoken in Martinique, neither
Creole nor French, that have been 'naturally' developed by and for us
Martinicans because of our experience of collective, proclaimed,
denied, or seized responsibility at all levels. The official language,
French, is not the people's language. This is why we, the elite, speak
it so correctly. The language of the people, Creole, is not the language
of the nation.34

Selwyn Cudjoe points out a theme similar to one that Glissant
addresses above. He sees the importance of speaking proper English
as a common thread throughout his society:

The ability to 'speak properly' and to manipulate language has always
been of enormous importance to Trinidadians and Tobagonians. Apart
from the oral, storytelling tradition that allowed self-expression in
any manner that one chose and with a great deal of flexibility, skill
and diversity, the concern for the 'proper' use of classically based
English language always seemed a preoccupation of the society.35

For the colonial subject, then, being 'bilingual' is essential for
success. While the language of the people will change with time-as
does any living language-so do the people. But this does not signal
deculturation or erasure. Zobel himself points out the need to be
'bilingual' when he discusses Jos6's problematic relationship with
French/Creole. Jos6 cannot find a word in French to describe what his

33 Bill Ashcroft, Post-Colonial Transformation (London, Routledge, 2001), p. 56.
34 Edouard Glissant, Caribbean Discourse: Selected Essays (trans. with intro. by
J. Michael Dash), (Charlottesville, U P of Virginia, 1989), p. 166.
35 Selwyn R. Cudjoe, Eric Williams Speaks: Essays on Colonialism and Independence
(Wellesley, MA, Calaloux, 1993), p. 43.


grandmother's job is, a word he only knows in Creole, but whose use in
the classroom would be frowned upon. But he also shows that Creole
is seen as an inferior language.
While Creole's place or existence is being argued perhaps one of the
most poignant recent examples is Maryse Cond6's observations about
reading Joseph Zobel's La Rue Cases-Negres: 'Pour moi, toute cette
histoire itait parfaitement exotique, surr6aliste. D'un seul coup tombait
sur mes 6paules le poids de l'esclavage, de la Traite, de I'oppression
colonial, de l'exploitation de l'homme par l'homme, des pr6jug6s de
couleur don't personnel.3 6 While globalisation may negatively affect
'indigenous' or Caribbean cultures, this re-valorisation that Cond6
experiences will perhaps occur in many other situations and
generations, so long as writers like Zobel, Chamoiseau or Schwarz-Bart
continue to pen depictions of Creole culture.
Cond6's realisation about slavery is not far removed from what
Simone Schwarz-Bart describes in Pluie et vent sur Telum&e Miracle.
The narrator, Telumee, articulates how she learns many things, from
spiritual healing to the history of her home, from her grandmother
and the women around her:

Pour la premiere fois de ma vie, je sentais que l'esclavage n'6tait pas
un pays stranger, une region lointaine d'oi venaient certaines
personnel tres anciennes, comme il en existait encore deux ou trois,
A Fond-Zombi. Tout cela s'6tait deroul ici mrme, dans nos mornes
et nos vallons, et peut-etre A c6ot de cette touffe de bambou, peut-
etre dans l'air que je respirais.37

Slavery becomes a part of Tl1um6e's life. It is this creole aesthetic
that is vital to the health and sanity of the French West Indian. Without
such self-representation and self-analytical observation it seems that
the Martinican or Guadeloupean would become simply another black
skin, with a white mask, but one that is completely dis-associated from
the reality experienced by those around and the ancestors before.
Cond6 offers:

Aujourd'hui, tout me porte A croire que ce que j'ai appel plus tard un
peu pompeusement "mon engagement politique" est n6 de ce moment-
IA, de mon identification force au malheureux Jose. La lecture de

3 Maryse Conde, Le cour a rire et a pleurer: Souvenirs de mon enfance (Paris,
Editions Robert Leffont, 1999), p. 118.
:17 Schwarz-Bart (1972), op. cit., p. 65.


Joseph Zobel, plus que des discours theoretiques, m'a ouvert les yeux.
Alors j'ai compris que le milieu auquel j'appartenais n'avait rien de
rien A offrir et j'ai commence de le prendre en grippe. A cause de lui,
j'ftais sans saveur ni parfum, un mauvais d6calque des petits Francais
que je c6toyais. J'6tais "peau noire, masque blanc" et c'est pour moi
que Frantz Fanon allait ecrire.:"

Perhaps it is this disassociation that those critics in England were
talking about. It could be that Creole language is defunct because people
refuse to speak it to them. They do not form a part of the inner circle.
If one does not fit into the group then the formality of the colonial
language would tend to be used in one's presence. Perhaps this is all
bound up in the process of 'Othering' and who is 'Othering' whom.
However, their simplistic assumption presupposes an inexplicable
rupture with the past that is held in old stories, folk tales, healing arts,
sayings, all of which are held close to many Creole grandmothers'
hearts. And, while these individuals still survive it is perhaps inevitable
that this information be passed down to younger generations. If, though,
we assume that Creole culture is handed down exactly as it was for
their generation then we are forgetting that every culture changes. The
culture that is passed down is continuously re-creolised. This implies
that creolisation is not a static process, but rather very dynamic. Said
cultures must move to keep up with new demands. Like language,
culture adapts to new influences, but does not necessarily cease to
exist completely. This, though, is always an incredibly protracted
discussion, seemingly without resolution. That is, if a Crdole speaker is
in the company of a non-Crdole speaker his/her French will take over
and disallow the non-Creole speaker the ability to 'Other' the Crdole
speaker, thereby disavowing the westerner's authority and refuting any
marginalisation. Also, the act of exposure is very important. That is to
say, I will only expose to you what I want you to see or know. Other
things will remain hidden under the layers of codes we use to
camouflage ourselves and our true meaning.
The French Caribbean, if such a term can be used without indicating
a temporal and 'real' disjuncture between two realities, as the former
is apparently exclusive of the latter, is a vibrant space of creativity and
analysis. It therefore seems to me that when western academics argue
that Creole identity like Crdole language are now simply residual
backwash from an earlier period, they see something I do not. Could it

38 Ibid p. 120.


be that the world has come so far from the time of Leonora's observations
and those of Joseph Zobel and even Maryse Cond6, that the pain of
colonisation is no longer even a hint on the pages of our lives? Is it that
Patrick Chamoiseau is mistaken and Crdole is really a dead language and
a dead cultural form? Or could it be that this reiteration of a timeless
colonial trope simply wishes to once again deconstruct Creole identity
in favour of Frenchness? Perhaps these academics simply wish to recast
yet another generation of peau noir masque blanc. Education is the key
to identity. But who am I to ask such tired questions in an age of new
identities when the Caribbean is posed to spring into the era of
globalisation as equal members of the global market? But then,
Martinique and Guadeloupe are not to be included in the thematic of
Caribbean as Sam Haigh might argue. They are French. Ultimately for
them, there still seems to be a Creole identity alive and well in Guadeloupe
if not as vibrant in Martinique. People still use Creole to express
themselves and a large oral culture, as well as a written one, now, still
exists in that language.39 The demise of a cultural form and a language
due to colonisation/globalisation is possible, but this has not happened
so far. World powers, or those who assume such, are always quick to
proclaim victory over the weaker, poorer nations, particularly when the
latter are reorganising their own cultures of resistance. Also, while
Guadeloupe and Martinique are French, they are Caribbean as well and
to deny that is to debilitate a large part of their existence and, moreover,
to deny their geography. But colonialism is excellent at denying
geography and geographical location. Colonials are always seeing
themselves at 'home' when they are surrounded by blue Caribbean sea,
and claim allegiance to 'home' that they have never been to, be it England,
France, Spain. Or could it be that all that I am seeing is a distorted
reflection of myself as a former colonial subject dislocated in the
disjuncture of colonial/Creole identity? For me, my difference or
'Otherness', in spite of my education, is so obvious that even though I
speak their language, my language better than they do, I cannot fully
articulate myself within its structural boundaries without omitting vital
information about me. My history is bound up in my language, but
perhaps this is all a mute point. Arguably, we have all been globalised.

39 See: Jean Bernab6, Patrick Chamoiseau and Raphael Confiant, Eloge de la
Creolite/In Praise of Creoleness (bilingual ed. trans. by M. B. Taleb-Khyar and
Gallimard Paris, 1993), who, although they argue that the French Caribbean, Creole
Literature, is still in a state of preliterature (they still acknowledge that there is
some body of writing in Crdole) and they give a good discussion of creoleness.

Caribbean Literary History:
Who Decides?

Thomas W. Krise
English Department
United States Air Force Academy
Colorado Springs, Colorado

As the title of my paper suggests, I am in the midst of a project to
write a literary history of the English-speaking West Indies. This
project follows my previous one which resulted in an anthology
of English-language literature of that region called Caribbeana. I like to
think that Caribbeana has called attention to the literary culture of
that region which Andrew O'Shaunessy has pointed out in An Empire
Divided comprised half of the 26 British colonies in America on the eve
of the American Revolution and which out-valued the 13 future United
States by a very large margin, thanks to the enormous profits generated
by the sugar-and-slave system in the Caribbean.
As an 18th-centuryist, I am inclined to restrict my literary history to
the period of my special expertise, but I am also motivated to make a
link between "my" period and the period of the most intense interest
in the Caribbean: the 20th century. I've been pleased so far with the
warm response to the anthology by contemporary Caribbean literary
specialists, who often remark some version of "Who knew that there
was Caribbean literature before 1900?" So, I am now preparing to take
my literary history up to 1903, the year of the publication of Tom
Redcam's novel Becka's Buckra Baby, the event which Kenneth
Ramchand of the University of the West Indies in Trinidad has marked
as the beginning of "Caribbean literature" of the current variety.'

1 "The earliest known work of West Indian prose fiction." (Kenneth Ramchand,
The West Indian Novel and Its Background, page 3.) Kingston: The Jamaica Times'
Printery, 1903.


In seeking to cover Caribbean literary history from the beginnings
through to the early 20th century, I am also motivated by a
consciousness of a public responsibility to make this early literature
matter to the people of the Caribbean today-to make a case for the
idea that contemporary Caribbean literary culture has roots that go
back centuries and which can inform and illuminate the remarkably
rich literary culture of the 20th and now the 21st centuries in the region-
a richness underscored this past year with V.S. Naipaul's Nobel Prize.
My concern for what I consider my "public duties" as a scholar of
the early Caribbean was filliped by a Commentary piece in the Times
Literary Supplement on December 7th, 2001, entitled "The Life of
Learning: Why Scholarship Still Matters-or Ought To." In this article,
Keith, Lord Thomas argues that scholarship "should be cherished
because it makes an essential contribution to contemporary needs" ...
and that "scholars [are useful because they] resist the annihilation of
what has gone before" (13). I have been reminded of the connection
between what we 18t-centuryist scholars do and "contemporary needs"
by two reviews of my Caribbeana anthology-one by Richard Drayton
(of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge) and the other by Derek Walcott
(the St Lucian Nobel Prize-winning poet). The reviewers ask four
questions each that they say are prompted by their reading in the
anthology. I am aiming to answer each question as fully as possible in
my book project, and I shall in this paper pose and briefly answer them.
Richard Drayton's questions come from his review in the October
2001 issue of the William & Mary Quarterly, in which he asks:

"Why was the intellectual and cultural life of (white) Creoles in
the Caribbean so impoverished relative to their poorer North
American coevals?"

My first inclination in response to this question is to quote Samuel
Johnson's review (in the Critical Review) of James Grainger's 1764
georgic poem The Sugar Cane, in which he says, "we have been
destitute till now of an American poet, that could bear any degree of
competition." But, even beyond such praise, I think it fair to say that
the literary output of the literate part of the Caribbean population
compares quite favorably with that of the Southern and middle
colonies of North America. I will concede that the writings from the
Caribbean and Southern continental colonies pale by comparison to
the output of the New England colonies, but only if we follow the
tendency of the discipline of American Studies to include such


traditionally extra-literary texts such as sermons, biographies, captivity
narratives and the like.
And, if we "allow" such "extra-literary" texts, then certainly the great
mass of writing for and against slavery in the Caribbean adds to the
quantity-and perhaps to some degree the quality-of early Caribbean
literature-or at least literature that deals with some aspect of
Caribbean life.
Another reason for what Drayton describes as the relatively meager
literary output of the Caribbean is the high rate of absenteeism among
sugar planters, who preferred to live and spend their money at "home"
in England. The problem of absenteeism also touches on Drayton's
second question, which is:

"How did the experience of Barbados or Jamaica, where there
was a critical mass of whites and good communications, differ
from the more precarious settlements in St Christopher, or later
St Vincent?"

The fact that a prominent imperial historian can ask this question in
print suggests how much serious work needs to be done in the
Caribbean. Questions such as "How did the experience of South
Carolina compare with that of Massachusetts" were being asked and
answered decades ago. In their relative isolation from each other, the
island colonies of the Caribbean were not all that different from the
scattered colonies of North America. In fact, transportation by water
made St Christopher and Barbados in easier and more regular
communication with each other than many of the continental
settlements. And, like their continental compatriots, the Caribbean
colonists often had more communication with London than with any
neighboring colonies.
I often find my readiest audiences among early Americanists, who
have become more aware of the need to include the English-speaking
colonies of the West Indies to their ken-and, even a growing awareness
of the need to branch out even further to the Spanish-, Portuguese-,
French-, and Dutch-speaking colonies in the rest of the Western
Hemispshere. In fact, up until about a decade ago, the literature of the
Caribbean region was orphaned by both the early Americanists and
the 18th-centuryists-the Americanists were still firmly focused on the
future United States and the British 18th-centuryists tended to leave
the Caribbean to the Americans. And, while interest in so-called
"Commonwealth Literature" might open doors for Caribbean literature,


the tendency is to deal with all writing from the colonies from a post-
colonial perspective, which has its limitations when one is dealing with
literature written several centuries before the end of colonialism. So,
treating 18th-century Caribbean literature from a postcolonial
perspective creates some of the same problems of anachronism that
arise when postcolonialism is applied to early New England or Virginia.
After expressing surprise at how late the printing press came to the
Caribbean, Richard Drayton goes on to ask the very practical question of

"When, [after the arrival of the first press in Kingston, Jamaica,...
in 1717,] was there a significant amount of printing for the internal
British West Indian market?"

Most literature by and about the West Indies was published in
London. Of the 13 texts in my anthology, only two (Samuel Keimer's
miscellany and John Singleton's topographical poem) were first
published in the Caribbean-all the others were published in London
(and, as Derek Walcott laments in his review, it still is). The West Indian
colonies were relatively late in acquiring printing presses-the first
was set up in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1717-more than 80 years after the
first press in North America. And the Caribbean's first newspaper, the
Barbados Gazette, established by Samuel Keimer, Benjamin Franklin's
former employer, was not established until 1731-40 years after North
America's first. While it's hard to say with any certainty, I would venture
to guess that, once presses and newspapers were set up in the
Caribbean, there was a level of local activity on a level with the Southern
colonies in North America, which, of course, was dwarfed by the output
of the New England colonies, but that also reflects the very different
religious and social makeup of those various colonies.
Drayton's final question is:

"Can we, with Grainger and Bryan Edwards, for example, identify
an Anglo-Caribbean response to the Enlightenment in the second
half of the eighteenth century?"

My answer to this would focus on the mass of writing about the
issue of slavery, which, of course, dealt very closely with issues raised
by Enlightenment thought-especially with the issue of natural rights.
The earliest attempt to give fictional voice to African slaves was written
in Barbados (Thomas Tryon's "Dialogue, between an Ethiopean or
Negro-Slave, and a Christian that was his Master inAmerica" from 1684).


Other early examples of the slaves' point of view include "The Speech
of the Black of Guardaloupe" in 1709 and "The Speech of Moses Bon
SAam" of Jamaica in 1735. After the 13 North American colonies left
the empire, the Caribbean colonies became the focus for the British
abolitionist movement, which Moira Ferguson, Sidney Mintz, Philip
Morgan, Ira Berlin, and Vincent Carretta and many others have been
doing very good work on in recent years-all of which deals with issues
pertinent to the Enlightenment. So, I would argue that the Caribbean
loomed very large indeed in Enlightenment thinking.
Whereas Richard Drayton's questions arise from the interests of a
historian of the Empire, Derek Walcott approaches the Caribbeana
anthology with what I might characterize as a double skepticism: as a
black West Indian and as dean of living West Indian poets, he questions
whether he must accept the literary archive of his region's oppressors
as his own; and, as a late 20th- and early 21 '-century writer, he questions
the value of and seems to dislike the language of our 18th-century
forebears. So, from those points of view, he asks:

" is this [literature] to be taught, and if age gives the writing
reverence simply because it is history, is the study of such texts
and even their preservation worth it?"

This question highlights a problem I've noticed in trying to write to
two audiences: 18th-century specialists and 20th-century specialists.
While I had hoped that people interested in contemporary Caribbean
literature would also be interested in Caribbeana-at very least as a
suggestion that Caribbean literature has a much older pedigree than
most Caribbeanists had previously thought-I've also found that 18th-
century literature is more foreign to many 20th-centuryists than I had
anticipated. So, when Walcott wonders whether early Caribbean
literature is worth preserving, reading, and teaching, he is asking a
question that was raised decades ago when literary specialists saw fit
to study early North American writing from a literary point of view.
Critics then wondered aloud to Perry Miller, a founder of early American
studies, why sermons, slave narratives, and Indian captivity narratives
were worth literary attention. Of course, in the later 20th century, we've
all witnessed-and many of us have participated in-the expansion of
literary analysis well beyond anything our academic ancestors would
describe as properly "literary." One might have expected Derek Walcott
to be well aware of such expansion of the critical field, but his question
also touches on the vexed issue of what constitutes "the Caribbean"?


His next question-which is posed at some length-gets closer to
this issue; he writes:

"If we follow the standard concept of a literary tradition in our
use of these texts, nearly all written by Englishmen, we arrive at
an abyss, like one of those engravings in which the traveler is
posed on the lip of a chasm or precipice with an awesome and
inaccessible world beyond. The world behind the traveler, with
its charted track, is recorded History. The vertiginous and
trackless world opposite is part of the landscape, but the immense
fissure that separates the traveler from the opposite world is not
only the seismic crack made by the abolition of slavery but the
mental division made by the necessary rejection of the formerly
subdued. In other words, where does recent history begin?"

Walcott is right to note that the vast majority of literature by and
about the Caribbean before the abolition of slavery was written by
whites for whites-people who often had fairly tenuous connections
to the West Indian islands themselves (for instance, James Grainger
lived in St Kitts for a mere 5 years before the publication of his Sugar
Cane). Much of the writing is offensive to our 21 t-century sensibilities,
but, surely we're all well accustomed to works of art that offend our
sensibilities and challenge our sense of value. What Walcott alludes to
is a general resistance on the part of many contemporary West Indians
to accept any role for the former colonizers in the formation of
Caribbean literature. It is, to a degree, a variation on the old notion of
American Exceptionalism, whereby critics in the United States asserted
a unique place for American literature, separate and distinct from
British literature, with a strong nationalist agenda. A major difference
in Walcott's version is his tendency toward exclusion of any writers
who don't measure up to his undefined but hinted-at Caribbean
essentialism. This exclusiveness contrasts with the rather imperial
tendency of Americans to co-opt any writer who had even the slimmest
connection to the United States.
To answer Walcott's question about "when recent history begins?" I
would say that English-language Caribbean literature begins in a way
not unlike English-language American literature: with the arrival of
speakers of the language in the region. The fact that Caribbean literary
history is firmly rooted in a bloody history doesn't allow us to disregard
that history; indeed, the very bloodiness of the history is an essential
and invigorating element of the literature from the very beginnings


through to the present. To forget the painful past in our estimation of
what makes up Caribbean history would be tantamount to the erasure
of the experience of slavery from the education of the children of
Barbados in the 1930s, which George Lamming describes in his 1953
novel, In the Castle of My Skin.
Walcott continues his concern about owning a bloody past by
saying ....

"Some of these texts are eccentricities, the flourishes of amateurs
delighting in rodomontade and pseudo-Miltonic trumpetings, but
the desperate archivist, eager to find anything that will give the
Caribbean past dignity from print, has presented them with
exaggerated importance if not reverence. Confronted with them,
with the phony elegance that plates their obscene horrors, is the
descendant of the victim supposed to accept, because of the patina
of time, i.e., history, the torturer as his ancestor? Is he supposed
to accept that these documents are the beginning of our literature
in English? If any had the stature of Anglo-Saxon poetry then it
may be fair for an Anglo-Saxon to claim them as a heritage, but
they are too provincial, too pompous. They do not, as great poetry
does, annihilate race and the vanity of political power. Their lesson
is the need for the transcendence of genius, a genius that will
come in a common language. Here in these silhouettes are the
ancestors of C.L.R. James, Chamoiseau, and Naipaul. As soon as
Caliban speaks his first sentence in the language of Prospero, he
is making history and literary history. But is that history the
perpetuation of Prospero's literature or the beginning of

To this I would say, compared to the literary output of North America
in the first couple of centuries of colonization, the literature of the
West Indies is of similar quality-and I would remind you of Samuel
Johnson's praise of Grainger as the best poet from America to date.
Walcott may indeed be right that such early literature pales by
comparison to what has survived from the Anglo-Saxon colonists, but
I would add that much of what continues to intrigue us about Beowulf
and The Wanderer and The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle are their very
antiquity and the sense that these literary relicts tell us something
essential about our English-speaking culture; that these early texts
reveal the "charter society" from which English-speakers around the
globe owe at least part of their cultural heritage. So, too, then, do the


literary relicts of the early Caribbean offer us some sense of where we
all have come from, culturally speaking.
When he remarks that "As soon as Caliban speaks his first sentence
in the language of Prospero, he is making history and literary history.
But is that history the perpetuation of Prospero's literature or the
beginning of Caliban's?" My answer would be, "Yes" to both questions.
Literary theory of the past couple of decades has made a number of
kinds of texts more interesting to literary scholars-particularly those
that reveal political and social concerns. On that score, I like to say
that no place in the world has been more completely subjected to
imperialism than has the Caribbean; therefore, the literary relics of
that region are especially ripe for politically-oriented criticism.
Walcott's final question is:

"What, simultaneously, was going on in the Ivory and Guinea
Coasts while these poems and speeches were being written? What
was the tribal life in the villages along their wide rivers infested
with crocodiles, their forests of screeching monkeys, what
hierarchy of customs, what exchange of utterances, what systems
of grief for burial, marriage, birth?"

This is an important question, one that is being vigorously dealt
with by the likes of James Axtell, Arnold Krupat, Eric Cheyfitz, James
Clifford, and Mary Louise Pratt. The main issue is, of course, how we
read "through" or between the lines of an archive written by and for
colonizers in order to recover some sense of how indigenous peoples,
slaves, and other non-literate people lived and coped with their various
situations. This is not easy. The very existential crisis that the discipline
of anthropology has been working through in recent years turns very
much on the problem of the bias of the ethnographer. I am certainly
sympathetic to Walcott's concern about these great gaping absences
and silences in our written record, but I would also say that the written
record is virtually all we have to work with, so we need to learn to
analyze it and try to understand the past using it-rather than merely
to disregard it and consider the past as a great unfathomable mystery.
Although written overwhelmingly by Englishmen, just a cursory
review of the texts contained in my selective anthology offers a
considerable amount of insight into the lives of Caribs and Africans-
enslaved and free: Edmund Hickeringhill offers a description of the
government of the Native inhabitants of Surinam-his intent is to
critique his own country's method of government-one that had, by


1661, gone through quite a few upheavals-and to offer the Surinamese
as something of an early version of noble savages, but in his admiration
for the politeness and good order of the Indians, he imparts to us some
sense of what these Native inhabitants of the New World were like.
Likewise, James Grainger, John Singleton, and the anonymous Jamaica
poet express surprise at the ways the enslaved Africans fiercely resisted
their enslavement, and their ability to retain and transmit important
elements of their native cultures despite the grimmest of circumstances.
These questions of Drayton's and Walcott's suggest that a key
unasked question is, what counts as Caribbean literature? Walcott
would seem to argue for a definition that limits the category to the
writing of slaves or descendants of slaves, substantially ignoring the
rich mixture of ethnic groups in the region-then and now. I, naturally,
disagree with such a narrow view, and I appeal to the prominent literary
historian Kenneth Ramchand for a more inclusive definition. In his
Introduction to the Study of West Indian Literature, Ramchand asks:

"What makes a novel a West Indian novel? and what do we mean
when we say that a writer is a West Indian writer? A safe enough
generalisation to begin with is that those literary works are West
Indian which describe a social world that is recognisably West
Indian, in a West Indian landscape; and which are written by people
who were born or who grew up in the West Indies" (93)

I would go a tad further still, suggesting that scholars of the West
Indies apply the same standard as scholars of American literature have
for many years, which would allow any literature, written by anyone
born or raised anywhere, dealing with the region, its social world, and
its landscape, should be eligible for inclusion. This does, of course,
take in a great many writers and writing and subject matter that Walcott
will not enjoy, but it will include much more of what has made West
Indian literary culture what it is.
In some ways, I feel that I'm swimming against the current by making
a case for thinking of early Caribbean literature as a special category
of literature with its own special concerns and perspectives, while Early
American Studies and 18th-century studies generally are branching out
well beyond their old regional concerns. But I also feel that we must
get a handle on this region's early culture before tossing it into some
larger category of imperial, commonwealth, or world English-or of
cutting up parts of Caribbean literature to serve as small elements of
some larger specialized study of, say, travel literature or abolitionist


literature. The early Caribbean was an important nexus in the
development of the modern world-and the English-speaking
Caribbean of the 20"' and 21st centuries is producing a quantity of
important and serious literature that is especially astonishing given
the small population (about 7 million) from which it comes. Therefore,
a study of the history of the early Caribbean seems worthwhile and

Alison Hinds and Marion Hall:
Positioning Female Sexuality from East to West

Kala N. Grant
University of Warwick,
Centre for Caribbean Studies and Translation

Contemporary media portrays Black women to be either aggres-

sively 'over-sexed' like scantily clad temptresses Halle Berry
and Josephine Baker or asexual, fat, maternal women, proud of
their domesticated, submissive roles like Hattie McDaniel as 'Mammy'
for Scarlet O'Hara or that faceless maid in the cartoon Tom & Jerry.
These have been the more prominent representations of Black female
sexuality globally. Black female sexuality stereotyped as exotic, vul-
gar, or undesirable is very much related to colonial attitudes towards
black people as 'bestial' or sexually strange. These images are persis-
tently being challenged in the popular culture of the Caribbean.
Let us take for example, the recently laid to rest Southern African
'Hottentot Venus', Sarah Bartmann, who was placed on display for all
Europeans to ogle at the size of her extended genitalia and protruding
bottom in 1810.1 Saartjie (as she was also known) was objectified and
exploited as 'a freak show and scientific curiosity'2 justified first by
England then in France as evidence of her inferiority as a black woman
comparable to an Orangutan according to Baron Cuvier, the French
Anatomist.3 Cuvier also pickled her vagina and brain then cast her body

Sander Gilman, Difference and Pathology: Stereotypes of Sexuality, Race and
Madness, (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1985), p.85.
2 29 April 2002. BBC World Europe.
3 Editor's Note: Anne McClintock also makes this link between Cuvier's work
and black female sexuality, but in terms of the way the black female body was
constructed as anachronistic space (Imperial Leather, Routledge, 1995) p. 42.


in wax for display in a French museum until they were taken back in
May 2002."

Above is the late 19th century illustration of a Hottentot5 woman (later
subjected to the same exhibition as Sarah) who was called 'La Belle
Hottentot'." It shows one soldier not only staring at her big buttocks
but reaching out lustily to fondle it exclaiming, 'God damn what roast
beef'. To me this is symbolic of the hypocritical desire of the European
colonials for the African body. It is the soldier behind who seems to

4 Editor's Note: Saartje Baartman (Sarah Bartman in Afrikaans) was a Khoisan
woman whose skeleton was on display at the Museum of Mankind in Paris until
1974. After a protracted struggle by the South African government, the French
finally returned Baartman's remains in May 2002, where a shrine has been built in
her honor. Chief Joseph Little, Chairperson of the Khosian Descent Council marks
this event as key to reclaiming their identity as a people (BBC News, May 6, 2002).
Editor's note: "Hottentot" was used by the British to refer to Khoisan people
and other aboriginal Africans in South Africa, but is now considered derogatory.
Today it seems that the term "Bushmen" is used in place of this earlier label. (BBC
News, May 6, 2002).
6 Sander Gilman, p.88.


express his curious lust freely. Those in front appear detached, dis-
gusted and shocked at the spectacle of the black female body which is
subtly shown as even more unnatural a sight than the anatomy of the
dog ignored in the background. The 19th century artist uses the speech
lines as indicator of the visual focus. All three facing the Hottentot shy
away from the feared black vagina as if denying (or asserting the power
of) her sexuality. She appears to become object, less than human, lower
than animal thus incapable of being found attractive to western man
or woman, except in the subaltern contexts which the empire repre-
sented to Europe. Where the European stands outside of the view of
his society in this drawing it appears as if he is safe to lust and eroticise
the black body.

The late 19th century poem To a Black Gin by James Brunton
Stephens7 with its accompanying picture, above, describes the disgust
of an Australian white man towards the appearance of a Black Aborigi-

7 Queensland Punch, The Black Gin Oct. 1, 1890.


nal girl. In the poem, Stephens describes the aboriginal girl as
'ungainliest of things ungainly', with 'brutish looks', 'hideous', 'not
beautiful', the mostot unaesthetical of things terrestrial' with a body
that is 'positively bestial'. He describes her hair as 'coarse tresses'
and her mouth as a '[a] flabby-rimmed abyss of imperfection' and ques-
tions how anybody in their right mind could find her attractive8. In-
deed this poem is directed at an Australian aboriginal woman, but it is
not her origin that is being analysed here, but her non-white features.
The perspective of the poem is that of the western imperialist who not
only dehumanizes the Aboriginal woman but also scrutinizes her body
as Europeans had the Hottentot. The western image of black sexuality
(and by extension that of the darker races) remains one of mysticism,
exotica and carnality.
The perception that senses and sensuality rule the identity of Afri-
cans and their descendant is a stereotyping made even more acces-
sible to the Caribbean through the ultimate institution of racism that
was slavery. While portraying the black woman as temptress, racist
philosophies try to ignore or minimize the existence of the white race's
desire for the 'other'". It is little wonder that over 300 years later Eu-
rope, especially England, still sees its colonies and ex-colonies as over-
sexed. The mostly white visitors to the Caribbean islands come to act
out fantasies of sun, sea and sex, sample the 'big bamboo' and plant
brown-skinned babies along the coastlines.
In 1998, Twentieth Century Fox and UK cable channel Sky One pre-
sented a docu-soap titled Caribbean Uncovered which focused on the
highly-sexed Jamaican tourism industry and the mostly American tour-
ists who visited the island particularly for its prostituted packages of
sun, sea, sex and ganja. Although Jamaica spearheaded the program
as dominant Caribbean culture in western eyes, it served to deepen
the stereotyped exoticism of Caribbean sexuality on the whole. Quite
apart from this fact, Twentieth Century Fox and Sky used one hotel
(Hedonism II) as the cultural eyelet to the entire island, 'colonising'
the identity of an entire region with a very commercialised part of the
Jamaican experience. Caribbean Uncovered- the uncut version"1 is also

9 Ronald Hyam, Empire and Sexuality: The British Experience (Manchester:
Manchester University Press. 1990; repr. 1991, 1992), p.203.
1) Caribbean Uncovered Uncut. Produced by Natalka Znak. Twentieth Century
Fox Home Entertainment, Inc. 1998.


available globally on the Internet. Black women are persistently shown
throughout this video as sexually easy and lewd, so too were Latin and
white American women while the few British females were shown as
sexually controlled, disgusted at the display of 'ugly' bodies around
them. Ironically, this is hardly an accurate example of contemporary
British sexuality in tourist resorts.
Jamaican female Dancehall artist Marion Hall, a.k.a. Lady Saw, and
Barbadian Alison Hinds of the Soca group Square One both use domi-
nant black female sexuality as the essence of their creative energy.
These women could be regarded as pseudo-Hottentots with their overt
sexuality on display through popular culture. However through their
lyrics and gender positioning they are able to invert those still existing
ideals of black sexuality being bestial and undesirable. Their overt sexu-
ality is blatantly desired by the masses. According to masculine
Dancehall and Soca, the title of Queen cannot be self-acclaimed, but
must be earned from the affected male audience. Not so, say Alison
Hinds and Lady Saw in their lyrics. The important point they make is
that the female identity is not defined by a submissive role to mascu-
linity within the Caribbean context. While defying issues of patriarchy
by presenting a female perspective in Soca and Dancehall they are also
subverting conservative notions of femininity globally. Saw reminds
us that it is 'woman we name so we born lucky'" because women are
born with 'the initial of success'12 (meaning the much desired vagina)
and 'no guy can tek (take) dat"'3 from her.
Hinds also takes the obvious desirability of the black woman and
places her as a star in Hollywood in the song 'Move'- colonising in re-
verse a white-dominated institution. It is noticeable in gender-biased
lyrics that Hinds becomes the instructor of the female body instead of
the male voices of Square One who become instigators of female sexual
power only in response to Hinds. Take for example the following lyrics:

Get ready for the jab-jab! Jab-jab!
Roll your batty gyal! Roll your batty gyal! Sexy body gyal!
Let me see you wuk!
Roll your batty gyal! Roll your batty gyal! Sexy body gyal!

I" Lady Saw. The Best of Lady Saw. Track 18. Woman Wi Name. VP Records.
VPCD1516-2. 1999.
12 The Best of Lady Saw. Track 4. If Him Lef.
13 Ibid.


Let me see you wuk!

(Male voice)
Aint no if nor but no maybes,
Come to represent all ladies!
Show di man dem how you move those battles!

Women from all over, dey come to take over!
Come out in dey numbers,
Mashing up man lumbers!
Batties rolling like thunders!
Well you are the founders of those battles!


It is Alison who commands the female body to 'roll' and uses her
position as dominant female to name the body. The Masculine voice
simply responds to Allison. This is a definite subversion of the male
voice in Soca music. By denying masculine Soca the power to name
the female body Hinds is able to reclaim female sexuality for the fe-
male audience as something to be celebrated and acknowledged for
its inherent power.
Both Hinds and Saw warn in very similar songs that 'man does come
man does go"'1 and 'men say the darnest things when they want ride
the rhythm"'". So, while their lyrics and stage appearances reinforce
black women as sexually voracious feeding the fetishes of colonial
stereotypes they remain untouchable in their dominance. It is the
competition between the sexes in the lyrics of Hinds in which feminist
doctrine finds a strong niche. According to Hinds, the 'top class bub-
bler' (female) eats 'ruffwiners' (male) for 'lunch' and remains the queen
or lioness of the fete in complete control of her sexuality. She is desir-
able but not prostituted.
Both Dancehall and Soca music share very equally subversive per-
spectives in the positioning of female sexuality. There is a duality of
woman as object and subject within the lyrics of both genres which

14 Trini Soca 2002. Bootleg CD. Track 9. 2002.
15 Ibid. Chances. Track 3. 2002.
16 Lady Saw. Give Me The Reason. Track 4. Darnest Things. VP Records. KPBMCD
052. 1996.


can either reinforce or negate the western stereotypes of sexuality in
the Caribbean. Woman as lyrical subject is domineering, sexually de-
manding, equal or even superior in her waistline prowess to her part-
ner or any man who challenges her ability to match his bedroom
'bullyism' 17; her body and all its parts is hers to do what she pleases at
her own call. In these lyrics the 'punany'18, the 'bam-bam', 'batty', or
'bumper', the 'roughest gyal winer"'9 or 'top class bubbler'2" are the
power elements to the Soca and Dancehall Queen. Females using their
sexuality commercially have always been roles firstly in which they were
allowed to flourish in a male dominated economy and secondly where
many choose to remain knowing that there is domination and power in
being woman with a much desired and competed for sexuality.
Woman as object on the other hand becomes subjected to the py-
thon21, the doggy bone, the ragamuffin,22 and the iron, which makes
them so bazodee2:. The phallus as dominating, pain-delivering tool is
common imagery in both Dancehall and Soca and many times comes
into play as patriarchal punishment for female sexuality. Beckett, Soca
artist from St. Vincent, declares that 'small pin chok hard'24, the Baha
Men warn a doggie is nothing if he don't have a bone (so) all doggie
hold your bone' in their version of Who let the dogs out. Jamaican
Dancehall artist Red Dragon has 'di agony the girls dem remedy'25 also
emphasising pain or 'agony' as a source for pleasure (the remedy) for
women. Jamaican DJ Risto Benji says men have the 'passport buddy
(penis) fi di visa punny (punany)', they attend 'ketch (catch) gyal
college' and 'sex gyal primary'216. The female vagina takes on many

17 'Bedroom Bully' a song by Shabba Ranks brags that his father was a bedroom
bully for his mother following which his mother gave birth to a 'bully' baby which
was Shabba who claims to have the 'flexible waistline' to dominate women. The
song positions men as the sexual aggressors who control women in the bedroom.
These lyrics featured on album X-tra Naked. Sony CD. 1992.
18 A Jamaican patois word for vagina made popular by Admiral Bailey Dancehall
artist who produced the hit song 'Punany' in 1987 banned on Jamaican radio waves
as vulgar.
19 Square One. The Missing Files Collection. Track 8. Ruff Winers. 2001.
20 Square One. Higher Heights. Track 18. Top Class Bubbler CD. 2000
21 Kevin Little. Turn Me On, Single released in 2002.
22Square One. Four Sides. Track 1 Ragamuffin. CD. 1996.
23 Square One. Fast Forward. Track 11. Iron Bazodee. CD. 1999.
24 Carnival 2000. Beckett. Small Pin. CD. 2000.
25 King Midas pres. DJ Polish Ole Hype Mix (Bootleg). Track 18. Red Dragon.
Agony. CD. 2000.
26 King Midas. Track 58. Risto Benji. Passport Buddy.


metaphors in Benji's lyrics but his resounding chorus me have di
peenie, pawnie, peenie pawnie peenie'27 with all these 'p' words being
names of the penis, is a celebration of his masculine dominance. His
lyrics assert a knowledge of the conquered female body, which he
learned at a 'college' for catching and having sex with girls. As object,
the 'punany' is removed from the woman with identity separate from
its owner, ready for rejection or ownership and it is the conquering of
this that becomes a status measure for manhood or masculinity. Both
male and female artists use this imagery.
'Pum-pum' as object is a wall torn-down, meat stabbed28, swinging
engine29, taxi revved out3", 'hairy bank'3 which can collect 'cent, five
cent, ten cent, dollar'32. It has a life and commercial value of its own
but is always shown as being hurt or 'run red' by masculine Dancehall
and Soca. While female artists like Saw and Hinds declare that there is
a 'weakness for sweetness'3" it is female agency, which asserts and in-
verts control of their sexuality. This in itself is the subversion of fe-
male lyrics over male, a truth that patriarchal popular culture some-
times admits. It is also a subversion of the stereotypic portrayal of
black sexuality as undesirable in western societies. Western interpre-
tations of Caribbean culture in media such as Caribbean Uncovered
promote patriarchal objectification of the female body in the Carib-
bean ignoring the many examples of the celebration of it which, in
effect, undermines the female response to patriarchy thus silencing
their perspective on a global scale.
Saw and Hinds both celebrate the female body and its power to
mother and to mentally and physically control. Saw warns women in
her song 'If him Lef 4 that men will disguise their own sexual and ego-
tistical shortcomings in critical slander of the punany by removing it
from the position of empowerment and limiting it to the position of
objectification. She emphasises that men are no strangers to impo-
tence, premature ejaculation and inadequately sized penises; there-

27 Ibid.
28 The Best of Lady Saw. Track 14. Stab Out the Meat.
29 Ibid. Track 4. Russell Cadogan. Swing Engine.
30 Ole Hype Mix. Track 9. Grindsman. Benz Punany.
31 Trini Soca 2002. Track 8 .Poorsah. Hairy Bank.
32 Caribbean Carnival Soca Party 4. Track 14. Colin Lucas. Dollar Wine. Coral
Sounds Studio. CSS 018. 1996.
33 Caribbean Soca Party 4. Track 6. Juliet Robin. Weakness for Sweetness.
34 The Best of Lady Saw Track 4. 'If Him Lef'.


fore the size of a woman's punany does not take away from her iden-
tity as Queen in society or Dancehall. Hinds throws female sexuality as
hypnotic device in the face of lusting men. In her song Girls Barn Barn3m
where the man gives a bumper inspection greeting her from the waist
down, Hinds raises the 'bam barn' to full attention as symbol of the
African body shaming the lusting male (of whatever race) for his ob-
jectification of her identity. This is a very similar parallel to Jamaican
folklore tales of rebel woman Nanny of the Maroons in who used her
bottom to repel bullets from English soldiers. Interestingly, this song
was written by Red Plastic Bag who admits to woman's sexual power
over men in his song 'Uneasy. "'
It should be noted that the celebration of female sexuality can and
does sometimes co-exist within lyrics laced with patriarchal sentiment.
In the Dancehall one of many examples is the lyrics to the theme song
of the same name for the movie 'Dancehall Queen'.7 According to Beenie
Man's lyrics, the Dancehall Queen possesses a sexuality that is power-
ful and untouchable. Beenie compares her to fire, pepper and an ex-
plosive bomb or 'boomah killer' and he gives to the Queen of the
Dancehall all the attributes of an empowered woman. According to
Beenie's lyrics the Queen is 'full of etiquette', 'clever', 'designed to be
the dancer' and made by Selassie. She remains cultural and spiritual
while she dominates the dance floor and asserts her sexuality over
men who can look but not touch without her consent. Beenie admits
this when he says 'if a fi me alone me would turn you ina me lover'38.
But it is not his decision alone the Dancehall Queen has the final say.
These lyrics of masculine domination exist within the discourse of
female empowerment, not undermining it, but struggling to counter-
act it to no avail. Beenie compares the Queen to a nail whom he wants
to knock with his hammer. The penile or penal blow is offered as chal-
lenge to her feminine power in an attempt to curtail it and re-position
the Dancehall Queen under the dominance of masculinity. Beenie's
clever lyrics effectively draw a line between wanting to and being able
to as he reminds himself (and his listeners) that his role in this in-
stance is not to objectify the Dancehall Queen but to celebrate her

35 Square One. Champions. Track 8. Girls Bam Barn. CD. 2001.
36 Trini Soca 2002. Track. 7.
37 'Dancehall Queen'. Directed by Don Letts, Rick Elgood. 1997.
:3 Translated: 'if it was up to me I would turn you into my lover'.


Juliet Robins also plays on the image of woman as temptress in 'Weak-
ness for Sweetness' when she tells her man to watch how her 'pum pum
roll and tumble'. her 'belly jus' wheel and bubble' and her 'hips...start
to wine' then challenges him to control her if he dares.39 The shaking of
the sexual hips, grabbing of the punany or the penis to critics is a rein-
forcement of Caliban savagery a backward step for the civilisation of
Caribbean people. This argument only holds water if one seeks to up-
hold colonial sentiment. What should be reinforced instead is that these
women use their lyrics to regain control of the female body. In reclaim-
ing the sexuality of the feminine gender, celebrating its power and flaunt-
ing their assets, they counteract local and global dominating patriar-
chal cultural presence. On a holistic level both the lyrics of male and
female Soca and Dancehall artists force western recognition of the black
woman's body as normal, equally as desirable as that of the white
woman, perhaps even more so for those who seek to exoticise her.
Both Hinds and Lady Saw use their lyrics to re-negotiate female sexu-
ality in a male dominated musical industry as well as a masculine domi-
nated economy, subversively using their waistline and punany as dis-
tractions of their power. The fundamental difference between Saw and
Hinds is the fact that Hall's lyrics revel in the sexually explicit and her
performances show her forever grabbing, patting and pointing to her
vagina. For this reason, Hinds is far more accepted to the Jamaican
middle and upper classes who are the main supporters of Carnival in
the island. Classism is coupled with pigmentocracy and cultural preju-
dice so that Saw becomes ghetto, 'skettel' (Jamaican slang for a sexu-
ally easy woman), X-rated, raw and offensive.40 Saw's lyrics with punany
as dominating, feared and desired subject, exposes the hypocrisies of
the Jamaican society still bent on covering up the desirability of black
females though institutional censoring and denial of free speech as
well as an overt pre-occupation with the lighter skin. Even when Saw
makes it clear that 'life without dick could never be nice' in her song of
the same name and prays to the Lord to find her a good man,41 she
never comes out as object in her desire for a man. Saw is a Queen of
the Dancehall despite the Jamaican public opinion of her as 'Skettel'42

Caribbean Soca Party 4. Track 6. Juliet Robin. 'Weakness for Sweetness'.
40 Lady saw is described in The Virgin Encyclopedia of Reggae as; 'Inspired by
the popularity of the slackness style she performed lewd songs, which earned her
a reputation as an X-rated DJ.'(p.162)
41 The Best of Lady Saw. Track 2. Find a Good Man. Track 17. Life Without Dick.
42 Jamaican slang for a promiscuous woman.


or prostitute. Hinds as Soca Queen within Jamaica's carnival (which
originally separated the rich from the poor) along with her lighter
shaded package and a greater use of a foreign sounding dialect further
along the English continuum, becomes sexy and hypnotic despite her
sexual lyrics. The bottom line is that there is no difference in the lyri-
cal devices of both artists. They both assert through stage performance
and lyrics that it is by the black female's acknowledgment of her spiri-
tuality and celebration of her physical self that she will never lose con-
trol of her own sexuality to be dissected and displayed as objects or as
Hottentots at the whim of western society.

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The Missing Half: Preliminary Notes for a
Comparison of the Juan Bobo and Bobo Johnny
Stories of Puerto Rico, St. Kitts and Anguilla

Maria Soledad Rodriguez
University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras

On one of those almost-too-quiet Sunday afternoons we all know,

I opened Richard Allsop's Dictionary of Caribbean English Us
age. I was looking up a term that the Jamaican writer Olive
Senior uses in her story "Discerner of Hearts," 'Blackartman,' as in
"the Blackartman who drove up and down in a car and snatched chil-
dren" (1). I didn't find that term in the Allsop dictionary, so I thought of
"bogeyman," which doesn't appear either. I finally found "boo-boo" with
two entries, one of which was "boo-boo man." First it says it's used in
the general Caribbean region and it's jocular: "A bogey; an imaginary
evil spirit that children are told would carry them away if they are
wicked," much like the Blackartman is said to do in Senior's story, so I
wasn't too off the mark. But what really caught my attention were the
two primary allonyms the dictionary gives for "boo-boo." One is: "coun-
try boo-boo." Used in the British Virgin Islands, Guyana, Trinidad and
Tobago, it means: "A stupid, gullible, uninformed person; (sometimes
also) an ugly person." The other allonym is very brief: "Bobo-Johnny
(St.Kt.)" (110). I rechecked it. The mention of Bobo Johnny had brought
my own childhood to mind. Could he have anything to do with Juan
Bobo, a Puerto Rican folktale character usually described in similar terms,
as very ugly and stupid too? Juan Bobo ... Bobo Johnny... I was hooked.
The Puerto Rican tales of Juan Bobo are similar to noodlehead,
Simple Simon, or Foolish Jack tales so common all over the world. In
fact, one version published by Marisa Montes in 2000, Juan Bobo Goes
to Work, is very similar to a folktale from England, "Lazy Jack" (Coles
214). Quite often a Juan Bobo story begins with certain key words, in


Spanish "Habia una vez una mujer que tenia un hijo que se llamaba
Juan Bobo" or "Once upon a time there was a woman who had a son
named" ... and here I'm tempted to say Bobo Johnny instead of the
more common translation, Jack Simple. The mother often provides
the prompt that initiates the action by asking Juan Bobo to do
something: go borrow a kettle from a neighbor, go to work, take care of
a baby brother, and so on. He usually manages to muddle things in
surprising ways, quite often because, as is common in some types of
folktales, he interprets things literally. The best known Juan Bobo story
is probably the one about the pig that he dresses up for church in his
mother's fancy clothes and jewelry, her mantilla, and her high heels.
The phrase "la puerca de Juan Bobo," "Juan Bobo's pig," has passed
from the tale into our language as in "Te ves como la puerca de Juan
Bobo," which means, "You're overdressed." Like Simple Simon, Juan
Bobo "has great appeal for children who can easily identify with an
individual who is not quite able to function intelligently as an adult,
though he tries very hard to do so" (Weiss 400).
I have gone into detail about this for two reasons. First, because the
tales of Juan Bobo were originally thought to have developed from
Spanish picaresque novels and Wise/Fool tales. In the Spanish-speaking
Caribbean, Juan Bobo appears in tales with this name, as well as others
like Juan Sonso in the Dominican Republic. As for Cuba, its version of
the master-slave dialectic, like Puerto Rico's, implies a dualism, bobo/
vivo, "No seas bobo" or "Don't be a fool" (you're being outwitted), versus
"El es bien vivo" or "He's a sly one". If Malis and Bouki feed off each
other in Haiti, the vivo and the bobo, according to Cuban Fernando
Ortiz, do the same: "the vivo is he who sponges off the bobo; the bobo
is he who lets himself be exploited by the vivo" (qtd. in Laroche 15). In
fact, also citing Ortiz, Gustavo Perez Firmat stresses that the vivo is
someone who manages, by dint of his wit, to stay alive in difficult
circumstances, even at the expense of others. The antitype of bobo,
he's reluctant to be known as anything less than wily, astute or in the
know (Laroche 15). It's even a question of masculinity. The vivo is
masculine, the bobo isn't (Lastra 541). In Puerto Rico, we seem to
have resolved the vivo/bobo dichotomy by associating Juan Bobo with
ourjibaro, and, according to Francisco Manrique Cabrera, in these tales:

The simple fool transforms himself into a person that pretends to be
a numskull using his foolishness as a disguise. This evolutionary
slanting seems to reflect the assimilation of a trait attributed to the
jibaro's psychic. It refers to what has been called 'jaiberia,' an attitude


which feigns dullness to throw off those who come near. It is a
defensive weapon .... (qtd. in Lastra 544)

Thejibaro has undergone a whitewashing on our island, which some
are trying to reverse, but I don't recall even remotely associating Juan
Bobo with our African roots as a child. However, Sarai Lastra mentions
that these folktales are "constructed using a mixture of Christian
religion, African, Spanish and (Amer)indian traditions, folkloric politics,
and popular beliefs" (540) and, in fact, J. Alden Mason, who first
collected Juan Bobo stories between 1914 and 1915, principally
recorded those written by school-children and told by adult males not
only from the mountain town of Utuado, but also from Loiza Aldea, a
town on the northern coast which is associated more with African-
based Puerto Rican culture (Lastra 534).
The second reason for feeling so intrigued by the mention of Bobo
Johnny in the dictionary is that I thought I had found an area where
the traditional tales of Puerto Rico coincide with those of an island
of the Anglophone Caribbean. After all, hadn't Allsop mentioned St.
Kitts as the place where "Bobo Johnny" is used? This possible
coincidence of tales from Puerto Rico and St. Kitts seemed marvelous
to me, and I decided to look into it. When I started contacting people
in St. Kitts, however, I had no idea that many more surprises were in
store for me.
Victoria O'Flaherty, Director of the Archives of St. Kitts and Nevis,
was the first person to inform me that "Bobo Johnny" is the name
Kittitians gave to Anguillians, who had gone to St. Kitts to cut sugar
cane. Eventually some had settled there. Since Anguillians used it so
much in St. Kitts, they themselves became known as "Bobo Johnny"
there, an instance of the teller of the tale being given the name of the
hero of the tale, and they are referred to derogatorily as such, because
only tales that seem to focus on Bobo Johnny's stupidity are told. So,
whereas I had thought I was going to do research on a folk character of
St. Kitts, I was finding out he wasn't originally from there at all, but
from Anguilla instead. When I went to St. Kitts in March 2002, all my
informants confirmed this. One of them even admitted to having been
called Bobo as a child, and stated very emphatically that it's a
derogatory term when it refers to Anguillians. He also mentioned it's
related to boo-boo, in the sense of being ugly, as in the Trinidad calypso,
Lord Melody's "Mama look at Booboo."
Although I heard different Bobo-Johnny stories in St. Kitts, most of
my informants repeated three of them: the one about the moon as


cheese, another about ice, and the one about the three-foot pot. I wasn't
familiar with the first one:

Two Anguillians are in a boat when it is almost sunset. They think the
sun is a ball of cheese dipping into the water and decide to try to get
some. One jumps in the water after the cheese. The other waits and
waits and waits. He thinks his friend is selfishly taking all the cheese
for himself, and jumps in after him.

The second story is similar to one in Puerto Rico: An Anguillian
bought a piece of ice. He tied a rope around it and dragged it home.
When he got there, it had disappeared. He thought someone had stolen it.
One informant told me another version which indicates that Bobo-
Johnny tales are still being revised in St. Kitts:

An Anguillian bought a valise at Benjamin's down the street and put a
block of ice in it. He thought it was a mirror and was taking it to Anguilla
for his wife. On the boat, when he saw the valise was getting wet, he
thought the mirror was perspiring. When he got there and couldn't
find the ice, he thought someone had stolen the mirror.

The third story was definitely familiar to me. I was given different
versions, but the essentials were the same.

An Anguillian takes a three-foot pot home from St. Kitts, but he doesn't
want to carry it. He tells it: "You have one more leg than I, so you
should get there faster," and he starts running home. When he gets
there, the pot's nowhere to be seen. He goes back to where he left it,
and can't find it. He's sure it ran away.

One of the many versions of the story in Puerto Rico also has the
three-foot pot, which Juan Bobo's mother asks him to borrow from a
neighbor. He doesn't want to carry it either, and thinks it's unfair to do
so, because the pot has one leg more than he does. First he gets in the
pot, hoping it will carry him home, but it doesn't move. Then he starts
running away, and the pot doesn't budge. Finally, he gets so mad he
throws a stone at the pot and breaks it.
So I have found definite associations I can make between these
stories, and the Juan Bobo/Bobo Johnny characters themselves. But I
also realize I will have to take other issues into account in a comparative
study such as this. One of them has to do with the fact that up to now,


1 have limited myself to interviews and research on one island.
Furthermore, although I was able to consult written versions of tales
at the Heritage Society of St. Kitts, I didn't come across any collection
which included Bobo Johnny as a character. This is in marked contrast
to what has happened with other characters from Caribbean oral
traditions, including Juan Bobo, who have taken the leap from orality
to literature and appear in works by such authors as Simone Schwartz-
Bart, Derek Walcott, Earl Lovelace and Rosario Ferr6, among others.
Maximilien Laroche describes the presence of characters from oral
traditions in literary texts as the return to one's native land in its
profoundest sense (8).
Laroche also takes two other elements into account in his discussion
of similar pan-Caribbean folk characters like Bouki, Ti Jan, Juan Bobo
and Bad John: whether the character is solitary or paired, and whether
he's the trickster or the one being tricked. The paired heroes, those
"opposites" of each other like Haitian Bouki and Malis and Jan Sot and
Jan Lespri (21), have their adversary with them all the time, a sign of
"internal contradicitons" that take on a cyclical aspect and adopt the
movement of the eternal return" (22).* In their stories, the comic results
from "the repetition of a situation which restarts without ceasing" (22).
When dealing with paired heroes, readers or listeners identify more
readily with the one who is tricked, for he represents what we're
missing, our lack of intelligence or bravery, and personifies our self-
criticism (23). He is the "subject through whom we become aware of
the trickery in the world and in history" (25).
As for a solitary character like Juan Bobo or Bobo Johnny, his
adversary is exterior, he faces "external contradictions in specific
situations," and the comic is enhanced by a situation that doesn't end
(23). His enemy is "history itself" (22), for according to Laroche, it is
no coincidence that solitary characters, who are either the survivor of
a pair that existed formerly or the first members of the pair that will
eventually arise, are more common in countries that have not become
independent. This applies to both Puerto Rico and Anguilla. In other
words, Laroche seems to imply, history is still playing its tricks on this
solitary character.
Returning to Francisco Manrique Cabrera's quote about Juan Bobo
representing our Puerto Rican 'jaiberia,' our ability to act dumb in order
to get our way, I would have to add that the solitary hero like Juan

* All translations are my own.


Bobo readily transforms himself into trickster or tricked one according
to his needs. This might be true of Bobo-Johnny too. Even the tale of
the three-foot pot throws some light on this. First, everyone assumes
he's very stupid to think that because it's got three legs the pot should
walk faster, and even carry him home. He's faulted for his literal
interpretation of the word "leg." But after all, isn't that his excuse for
not doing any work? Playing the fool is a successful strategy. Similarly,
in some people's minds, Bobo Johnny might be having the last laugh
after all. Since it refused to be part of a newly-independent country
composed of St. Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla, the latter is said to have
reached an economic prosperity the other two haven't. Which is why
I'm intrigued by the source of these stories, Anguilla. Has it kept alive
that other part of Juan Bobo that's not so dumb after all? Has it retained
other Bobo-Johnny tales in which he gets his way in the end? Are those
tales the part of the Bobo-Johnny lore that isn't being told in St. Kitts?
I quickly realized that I would have to go to Anguilla to find out.
Moreover, whatever I may learn from what I call my "search for the
missing half," I will have to keep in mind what Maximilien Laroche says
about these tales: "... it will have to do with the dilemma common to
all people of the Caribbean: trick or be tricked?" (16)


Works Cited

Alden Mason, J. "Porto-Rican Folklore: Folk-Tales." Ed. Aurelio Espinosa.
The Journal of American Folk-Lore 34.132 (1921): 143-208.
Allsop, Richard, ed. Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage. With a French
and Spanish Supplement edited by Jeannette Allsop. Oxford:
Oxford UP, 1996.
Cole, Joanna. Selection and Introduction. Best Loved Folk Tales of the
World. Illustrated by Jill Karla Schwarz. New York: Anchor, 1983.
Laroche, Maximilien. "Trompe, detrompe, trompeur: la figure
trigemellaire du heros dans le folklore caribeen." Maximilien
Laroche, H. Nigel Thomas and Euridice Figuereido. Juan Bobo, Jan
Sot, Ti Jan et Bad John: Figures litteraires de la Caraibe. Sainte-Foy,
Quebec: GRELCA, 1991. 11-35.
Lastra, Sarai. "Juan Bobo: A Folkloric Information System." Library
Trends 47.3 (1999): 529-557.
Montes, Marisa. Juan Bobo Goes to Work. Illustrated by Joe Cepeda.
New York: Harper Collins, 2000.
Senior, Olive. Discerner of Hearts and Other Stories. Toronto: McClelland
& Stewart, 1995.
Weiss, Harry B. "Something about Simple Simon." The Study of Folklore.
Ed. Alan Dundes. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1965. 400-



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Creole Talks Back: Language and Earl Lovelace's
The Wine of Astonishment

Don E. Walicek
University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras

The task of 're-education and regeneration' is one of
the first duties of a writer in a post-colonial society.
Chinua Achebe (1975)

1.0 Introduction

The Empire Writes back to the Centre,' a phrase originally used
by Salman Rushdie, describes various strategies of
decolonization that writers from Britain's former colonies have
used to set the historical record straight. 'The Empire' refers to
possessions of the British Empire, throughout Africa, Asia, and the
Caribbean that Britain lost during their transitions from colony to
nation-state. The idea is that from these young countries, literatures
'write back to the centre,' generally Britain, appropriating English
language and writing for new and distinctive purposes.'
Many contemporary critics and observers (e.g., New 1978; Barton
1994; Hope and Wright 2002; Muihleisen 2002) note the use of language
by authors from the aforementioned countries. Its effects debunk myths
of racial, cultural, and even national purity. Only cursory attention,

S1I thank Sally Everson, Joan Fayer, and Alicia Pousada for comments on earlier
versions of this paper. Any shortcomings or problems printed here are solely my
responsibility. Concerning the use of center in 'writing back,' it is interesting to
note that Britain's position as center was especially strong in the nineteenth century,
a time when imperialism linked the study of English and the spread of colonial


however, has been given to the serious deconstruction of myths about
linguistic purity and when this criticism has been levied (Romaine 1984;
Cameron 1990; Harris 1981; Lippi-Green 1997) it seems to stay within
the field of linguistics. Generally, literary critics and theorists tend to
focus their attention elsewhere and to avoid dealing squarely with the
linguistic complexities of the Caribbean. Instead, they typically
approach a wide variety of sociolinguistic situations, all deemed
'postcolonial,' as a homogenous group.
This paper is an attempt to increase dialogue between postcolonial
theory and work that generally falls within the rubric of sociolinguistics.
In the paragraphs below I discuss the use of language in the novel The
Wine of Astonishment (1982, hereafter the novel will be referred to as
WOA) by Earl Lovelace. Lovelace, a Trinidadian native, spent his child-
hood in Tobago and Port of Spain, Trinidad. The story at hand takes
place in Trinidad and focuses on the history of the Spiritual Baptist
community of Bonnasse, a group that undergoes religious persecution
and endures the banning of their faith. It takes place some time be-
tween 1917 and 1951. My analysis is critical of what I see as an overem-
phasis on the macro-social status and function of Creoles and a lack of
attention to the relationship between spoken and written language.2
Several commentators praise Lovelace's use of local language in the
novel. One critic describes it as 'lyrical, reflecting Trinidadian speech
habits as well as they have ever been reflected.' Another declares that
the author writes "with a lyricism and an understanding of dialogue
that has established an international reputation."3 Such reviewers
probably have very little knowledge of Trinidadian English Creole
(hereafter referred to as TEC), the name linguists give to the vernacular
of Trinidad and Tobago. Nonetheless, differences between standard
varieties of English and the language of the text stand out to them,
prompting quick conclusions about the use of TEC in fiction, 'writing
back,' and the Caribbean reality that the author describes.

2 I concur with DeGraff (2003:391) and reject the view that Creole languages
constitute a special class, a unique phyla, or even a traditional family of languages.
I see them only as a group based on shared characteristics (e.g., experiences of
forced migration, slavery, colonialism, and neocolonialism) that are sociohistorical
and external to language.
3 Both quotes praising Lovelace's use of language are found on the back of the
novel as printed for the Heinemann Caribbean Writer Series (1986 edition). The
first is from Financial Times (no date); the second is unidentified and probably
provided by the publisher.


But is the conscious use of Creole language by Caribbean authors
as straightforward as it seems? Do the politics of language at the local
level fit postcolonial theorists' global approach to language and
ideology? Asserting that Creole languages 'talk back,' as mother
tongues, to what ostensibly has been a mother country, I argue that
the sociolinguistic situations of the Caribbean demand a closer look.
Showing this, the remainder of this discussion consists of four parts:
historical background, literary criticism, problems of standardization,
and final remarks.

2.0 Historical background

Much blesss'd by Providence is Trinidad
Flowers and Fruits Perpetual, trees evergreen,
Our scenery most rich and beautiful;
The people of all nations, countries, races,
French, English, Spanish, Scotch, or Portuguese,
From Africa's or fair India's hotter shores;
Creoles, Coolies, Chinese, their language,
Manners, customs, everything so different.

-Trinidad Chronicle, 1876

Trinidad and Tobago has one of the most varied linguistic histories
of all the Caribbean islands. Among the languages spoken during the
nation's history are Spanish, French, French Creole, Hindi, Bhojpuri,
and Chinese and African languages.4 English became the official
language in 1823. During the period in which WOA is set, the first half
of the twentieth century, the formally educated segments of the
population spoke British English, the predominate language used in
school instruction, newspapers, and government offices. This era is
also a period of language shift. Prior to this period French Creole served
the diverse population as the most widely used lingua franca but during
this period its number of native speakers declined rapidly.5 According

4 See Winer (1995:4). According to Holm (1995:80), Yoruba was among the African
languages that survived into the twentieth century.
5 French Creole was widely spoken in Trinidad but not in Tobago. See Winer
(1993:11); also see Winer (1995:1).


to Winer (1993:10), a variety of Creole locally termed 'bad English' or
'broken English' served as the language of the people during the years
in which the action of the novel takes place. This is a variety of TEC
that according to Winer (1995:129) had differentiated itself from other
varieties of English Creole and was "fundamentally stable." Also
significant is additional data (Winer 1993:3) pointing out that in the
second half of the twentieth century, the period in which the novel
was written, fluency and competence in standard varieties distinct from
TEC became more common.6
Comparing the language of the novel to the language spoken in
Trinidad during the period in which the novel is set reveals that the
medium through which Lovelace tells the story is not TEC.7 Roberts
(1988:96) identifies a number of 'strong features' of Trinidadian speech
that are noticeably absent from the language of the novel. Among these
are the exclamation eh eh, the use of go before a verb to indicate future
tense, and the use of man as an associative plural. The absence of
these and other features attest to the fact that the linguistic varieties
Lovelace employs are not TEC. Nonetheless, many readers, especially
native speakers of standardized varieties of English (e.g., American
English, British English), feel that they hear or read a 'creolized' form
of English. What Lovelace uses is actually a limited number of linguistic
features that characterize speech in a variety of Caribbean islands,
not only that of Trinidad and Tobago. The most notable of these is the
use of unmarked verbs to tell a story set in the past. The words of Eva,
the character we know best, show that her ability to talk about the
past does not rely on standard notions of inflection. Her potent
questions in the opening chapter pull from a largely Afro-Trinidadian
tradition: "But what sin we commit? What deed our fathers or we do
that so vex God that he rain tribulation on us for generations?" (1)

6 Devonish (1986) offers a contemporary example which reminds us that TEC
still persists. He notes that monolingual TEC speakers may suffer from a lack of
mutual intelligibility between TEC and standard varieties. He cites examples from
court proceedings in Trinidad (89-91).
7 Imagining the Standard English of Trinidad and Tobago (TTE) and TEC on a
continuum, I suggest that Lovelace's literary form falls somewhere between the
two, closer to the former. Theresa Donovan, a presenter at the 2002 Islands In
Between Conference in Guadeloupe, completed a detailed study of the non-standard
features that appear in the novel and compared them to linguists' analyses of TEC.
For this reason I do not discuss them in detail here. She also concludes that the
language used by Lovelace is distinct from TEC.


The impression that Eva and the characters she introduces use TEC
is in part due to Lovelace's systematic use of a user-friendly grammar,
one that is particularly suited for readers of standard varieties of
English. Although out of the scope of the issues to be addressed here,
one of the outstanding characteristics of his craft is his ability to select
an array of linguistic features and distribute them among characters.
There is linguistic diversity as well as consistency in his literary form.8
The linguistic history of Trinidad and Tobago is addressed here for
two reasons. First, as suggested above, it provides an informed
backdrop against which the linguistic features of the vernacular
represented in the novel, the language the reader imagines to be TEC,
can be compared and assessed. Second, historical information
underscores the fact that not all speakers of TEC were competent or
fluent in a standard variety of English. Addressing issues of language
outside the novel itself, historical contextualization underscores the
complexity of an issue that authors must deal with in defining the
medium in which they write: how to use their skills in writing and
narration to represent speech taking place in an early variety of a Creole,
one that many contemporary readers neither understand nor
acknowledge as an independent language.
In this first light, certain elements of Lovelace's portrait of the
Spiritual Baptists can be seen as a depiction of an Afro-Trinidadian
speech community. A key term in the field of sociolinguistics since its
onset, the notion of the speech community is essential yet elusive. It
locates language at the local level, focusing on the individual, and at
the level of social groups.
A variety of linguists offer definitions of 'speech community.' Though
it is the locus of much linguistic and anthropological-linguistic research,
there is little agreement upon a precise definition of the term; generally
speaking, it refers to the social boundaries within which a group's ways
of speaking, patterns of choice, and linguistic variation and change are
accounted for and described. Labov (1972) was certainly one of the
first to pair an emphasis on linguistic production with a focus on
perception and social evaluation. Studies of particular communities

8 Linguists studying Creoles (Winer 1984, 1993; Rickford 1986; Lalla and D'Costa
1990) identify two criteria for assessing the validity of the representation of speech
in literary works. These have been identified (Winer and Rimmer 1994) as internal
consistency of features within a text and external consistency with additional
evidence of contemporary language. WOA satisfies these criteria.


(e.g., Giles and St. Clair 1979; Lambert 1972) often show that speakers
of standard varieties are judged by their peers to be more competent
and intelligent than those who speak in more "broken," less standard
ways. However, under particular circumstances these same stigmatized
varieties emerge as resources for identity maintenance and as a vehicle
for challenging hegemonic practices. Such a response could arise, for
instance, when a socio-economically disadvantaged group such as the
Spiritual Baptists of Bonasse is not allowed to worship freely. The
ambivalent status of Creole may be acted out daily without overt
awareness on the part of the speech community, especially in situations
of diglossia.9
'Speech community' alludes to a plethora of motivations for using
Creole and these are relevant for the characters Lovelace creates. In
the novel, the politician Ivan Morton, for example, rejects a woman
who speaks a non-standard variety of English, courting instead a lighter-
skinned speaker of Standard English. Eva explains that Morton, "a big
man who could live like white people," left the community and "ain't
take one single thing" (9). Nonetheless, readers understand that when
he leaves, he does take his tendency toward non-standard speech with
him. Referring to him again later in the novel, Eva remarks that "even
a school teacher need a wife who not going to make a mistake with her
English" (50). This incident reminds the reader that the novel's central
characters share something about the way in which they use language.
These commonalities link their voices and establish salient boundaries,
ones that work to exclude Morton's partner. At the same time, the
characters emerge as individuals who do not necessarily agree upon
the evaluation of marked TEC features. One reason for this may be
that each expresses language attitudes based on his or her personal
history. As noted by studies such as Winford (1988), not all TEC
speakers are driven by a society-wide prestige target, nor do all Creole
speakers always consider upward mobility possible and desirable.
The second benefit of historical information is that it exposes the
unequal relationship between the standard and vernacular languages,
reminding readers that this asymmetrical relationship affects the novel
outside the story itself. In a West Indian social setting such as the one

9 Diglossia was first defined by Ferguson (1959). Since then the concept has
been the topic of much scholarly discussion. I envision a diglossic situation as one
in which two or more language varieties, in a way resembling complementary
distribution, exist in a single speech community.


Eva and Ivan live in, receptive competence in the standard variety is
often more common than productive competence. This establishes
certain restrictions for authors who may want to reach a local
readership. For example, if handed the novel, its narrator, described
as "a simple peasant woman," would most likely be unable to read it.
The story would probably be understood if told to her orally. This fact
cannot be simply attributed to her illiteracy. How can she be expected
to read in a language for which there is no literature, no writing system,
and often little social prestige? As noted by Carrington (2001:29), "only
persons who have been made literate through official languages can
have access to the vernacular in writing." Furthermore, the fact that
standardized forms of English have long maintained status as the official
language of Trinidad and Tobago should not be interpreted as meaning
that all socioeconomic groups speak, read, and understand it equally.10
While Lovelace's mastery of narrative and attention to history is
indeed to be applauded, the tensions among the task of expressing the
vernacular in writing, what readers hear as the use of the vernacular,
and the actual language situation of Trinidad and Tobago, remain
allusive. Nonetheless, inserting history into the discussion facilitates
a critical discussion of the use and potential use of language. The act
of taking notice, demands that we acknowledge that Lovelace does not
use a representative example of TEC in his work. It is a mindful
maneuver, the praxis component of DeGraff's (2003) notion of
'Postcolonial Creolistics,' and a move that exposes the relations and
structures of power in, through, and against which people speak. When
this expanded discussion moves toward literary theory and begins to
interrogate some of the assumptions of postcolonial theory, this
juxtaposition shows that certain literary critics have only scratched
the surface of linguistic realities.

3.0 Literary criticism

The Empire Writes Back (1989, 2002) addresses scholarly and
theoretical debates about language in postcolonial settings,
emphasizing the role writers play in decolonization. In this volume,
Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin explore the ways in which writers

10 For information on socioeconomic variation and areas of suggested research
related to 'English-lexified' Creoles see Winford (1999: 99).


encounter and struggle against a dominant, standardized colonial
language. They describe a two-fold process through which writers
displace a standard language and replace it with a local variant. The
terms which they use to name the processes in this transition are
'abrogation' and 'appropriation.' Abrogation is defined as a rejection
of "the categories of the imperial culture, its aesthetic, its illusory
standard of normative or 'correct' usage, and its assumption of a
traditional and fixed meaning 'inscribed' in the words" (38).1 Within
this same framework, appropriation, an author's adoption of language
as a tool to 'bear the burden' of one's own cultural experience, follows
abrogation. This description is useful in that it draws attention to the
challenges and problems writers face in postcolonial settings.
Additionally, it responds to Braithwaite's (1993) call for writers to
address 'nation language,' which he defines as "the kind of English
spoken by the people brought to the Caribbean as slaves and labourers"
as it affects literature.12 However, like those critics who make quick
comparisons between the language of the novel and speech in this
two-island nation, this explanation of writing back misrepresents reality.
The concept of abrogation is especially problematic, at least in soci-
eties such as those of the Anglophone Caribbean. In places like Trinidad
and Tobago, there is a significant degree of overlap of 'imperial' and
local aesthetic. With this in mind, to say that writers should or do re-
ject imperial or standard language implies either that there exists no
overlap with standard varieties of English or that they somehow reject
themselves. And whether we call them vernaculars, non-standard va-
rieties, or languages of the oppressed, Creoles too have meaning
inscribed in their words. The authors seem reluctant to define the
parameters of the model they propose. They ignore practical mat-
ters such as the fact that in the case of languages such as TEC, the
language has not been standardized for writing; there may not even be
consensus that it is a goal that should be achieved. Moreover, com-
plete abrogation in a place like Trinidad and Tobago implies that writ-
ing would be in TEC. Turning again to this proscriptive notion of 'writ-
ing back,' it seems that seizing 'the language of the centre' leads to

11 The problematic description of the abrogation-appropriation model discussed
in this paper is included in both editions (1999 and 2002) of The Empire Writes Back.
12 Braithwaite (1993: 268-269) points out that grammar, syntax, and structure
have been studied, but little attention has been given to the relationship between
nation language and literature.


discourse that, contrary to its purported goal, falls short of being fully
adapted to the colonized place.
A related shortcoming of the model provided by Ashcroft et al. is
the assumption that Creoles and other vernaculars need to be "made
to 'bear the burden' of one's own cultural experience" in the act of
appropriation. Creoles do this, I argue, by definition. An act of
appropriation such as that evident in Lovelace's WOA pulls from the
author's existing linguistic knowledge of Creole semantics, syntax, and
phonology. These elements of grammar were born out the experiences
of forced migration, slavery, and colonialism and testify to this history
whether used in everyday speech or in occasional written
representations of the vernacular.
Another problem not addressed by these critics is that many
Caribbean novelists target an audience that speaks and reads standard
varieties of English.13 Would abrogation for them involve writing in a
manner that rejects 'imperial' spelling and norms of correct usage in
exchange for a system that represents their 'cultural experience' in a
way that is so narrowly defined that it is local? Does decolonization
vis-A-vis abrogation limit a writer's readership? It seems that Ashcroft
et al. actually describes, and to some extent endorses, a process
through which vernaculars such as TEC are made accessible to an
international audience, marketed as authentic, and implicated in the
construction of 'third world' or postcolonial literature.14 What kind of
decolonization is this?
Highly simplistic, the abrogation-appropriation model does little to
further our understanding of what it would mean for an author such as
Lovelace to use TEC in literary writing. Moreover, the model obscures
the fact that writing in standard languages about language issues and
problems, whether the work be fiction or non-fiction, is one of the most
realistic means of changing attitudes about languages many believe to
be inferior. Standard varieties of English give writers in the English-
speaking Caribbean and elsewhere access to networks of social and
economic power. Despite its links with colonialism, Standard English
can voice change. As Braithwaite (1993:266) states in response to the

13 Winer (1993:68) discusses issues related to the use of Creoles in writing, noting
the perspective of Caribbean authors.
14 There seems to be a growing interest in work by linguists among postcolonial
critics. Wright and Hope (2002), for example, offers a sketch of a linguistics-based
approach for using postcolonial texts in the classroom in which they challenge the
binary characterization of language presented in Aschcroft et al. (1999).


question of whether or not 'English' can be a revolutionary language,
"It is not language but people who make revolutions."

4.0 Problems of standardization

Identifying the barriers that prevent Creole languages from becoming
official languages is an important step in understanding why Lovelace
does not use all features of TEC or some other relevant variety of a Creole
in WOA. Sebba (1997: 236) identifies four factors that historically have
stood in the way of Pidgins and Creoles becoming standard languages:
status, distance, variability, and development. These problems, I suggest,
should be considered in evaluating and better understanding the limited
use and occasional absence of Creoles in literary contexts. Moreover,
they serve as an excellent starting point for imagining literary work as a
vehicle through which Creoles can realize their full potential as linguistic
resources and languages of literature.
The first problem identified by Sebba (1997) is that of status. Even
though they are often majority languages, Creoles nearly always have
low social status. Alleyne (1994) calls them "the most stigmatized of
the world's languages." Those with power determine what is standard
and what is inferior. Due to the vestiges of colonialism and the social
structure of many Caribbean societies, the upper classes possess the
power to decide which language has high social status as well as the
domains in which the prestige variety should be used. More often
than not, the language with high social status is the variety closest to
the European lexifier (British English or Trinidad and Tobago English),
even though it may be the language of a relatively small percentage of
the population. Recent popular assertions that post-colonial peoples
are co-owners of the English language complicate the notion of language
itself as a set of idealized grammatical forms.15
The second problem is distance. Distance refers to the perceived
amount of 'space' between a Creole and the lexifier language. Dutch
and German, for example, have enough space between them to be
considered separate entities, despite many shared features. Creoles
and European lexifiers, on the other hand, have extensive overlapping
and a minimal amount of distance between them. Because these

15 This greater awareness may be one of the reasons that The Cambridge Guide
to English Literature became The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English.


languages are 'close,' the Creole is often not thought of as a language
in and of itself but as an inferior dialect. These are some of the reasons
it has been considered unsuitable for most forms of writing. Certain
ideological filters, inherited from the imperialist construction of
political, cultural, and racial hegemony, shape our understanding of
distance. This predicament is further complicated by the fact that in a
given social setting a large percentage of vocabulary may be shared
between Creole and European lexifier, explaining why Creoles are often
referred to, and even dismissed as, dialects of the lexifier. Assertions
that there is a single lexicon are boosted by eurocentrism and
superficial understandings of the mechanics of Creole languages. These
notions fuel claims that in Trinidad TEC does not rank as a language at
all.16 Remembering that there is no clear distinction between the
categories 'language' and 'dialect' is one means of countering the way
in which distance is constructed.
The third factor that historically has blocked Creoles such as TEC
from becoming standard languages is variability. As the Milroys (1999:
56-58) point out, standardization does not allow variability, and
traditional notions of European-derived guidelines for the novel call
for standardization and specification. (In contrast, a genre like poetry
generally allows freer forms.) The variability characteristic of Creole
languages makes it difficult for planners to choose a lect for
standardization. In most historical models of standardization, one
regional dialect is chosen as the basis of standardization. Usually this
is the one spoken by those with power. Needless to say, Creoles are
typically absent in the upper echelons of established centers of power.17
Literature puts a turn on the 'problem' of variability, issues of
orthography aside. Many modern novelists take advantage of the fact
that the characters they create speak differently from one another and
perhaps differently from the reader. Difference in language can be
influenced by factors such as geography, class, race, gender, and age.
In fact, in literature, authors have long attempted to mirror this reality
of speech through experimentation with standard forms of writing. Oral
culture suggests that written narratives are capable of the same.

16 Winer (1993:59) cites letters to the editor from 1945 and 1986 that express
negative attitudes toward TEC.
17 Examples from other parts of the world include the Queen's English (Received
Pronunciation), Tokyo-ben (Standard Spoken Japanese of the Kanto region), and
Putonghua (Standard Spoken Mandarin, Beijing Dialect).


Braithwaite (1993:268) notes that in the Caribbean, poets, songwriters,
and other writers have long been conscious of language as a native
resource; it is the critics, as he charges and as I have argued above,
that lag behind.
Actually, WOA suggests ways of dealing with the problem of
variability in the Caribbean. The events of the novel make the reader
aware of the ability to 'speak up' and 'speak down.' We can imagine
Bee moving along the Creole continuum adjusting his speech to a
variety of different situations speaking with his wife, preaching in
church, and negotiating with politicians.18 He occasionally embraces
'imperial' language precisely because it is the most effective means of
getting his revolutionary message across. In other words, a single,
society-wide, acrolectal prestige target is unrealistic for speakers like
Bee and Eva. Moreover, Bee's example shows that variability in Trinidad
and Tobago refers not only to lectal and cultural diversity across a
given population. Variability is also a resource for the speaker operating
at the level of idiolect. The more standard variety Lovelace chooses
for the character Bolo reminds the reader of this fact.
The final problem Sebba (1997) identifies is that of development.
Development refers to the need to develop Creole languages for use in
'high' functions of administration, culture, and writing. Generally, there
exists a consensus that "writing as you speak" is wrong. For this reason,
spoken Creoles are considered underdeveloped and inappropriate for
'high' functions. Such ideas are, on occasion, expressed rather
innocently, sometimes accompanying suggestions that the use of
vernaculars be regulated to humor or talk within the home.
Additionally, attitudes toward Creole languages sometimes reflect the
assumption that the prestige allotted to the language associated with
certain social classes is indicative of the intelligence or linguistic ability
of the group's members. In the introduction to the novel, Thorpe makes
the following remark: "Lovelace's authority is further enhanced by
Lovelace's linguistic skill which, from the outset, encourages the reader
to believe that he is in fact listening to the artless, unstructured
narrative of a simple peasant woman" (ix). Close attention to her choice
of words shows that this endorsement of Lovelace does very little to

18 In its basic form, the notion of the Creole Continuum describes the existence
of overlapping and coexisting language varieties: the basilect, the acrolect, and
the mesolect. The continuum encompasses all three of these varieties, often with
two distinct grammatical systems as its 'poles.'


uplift readers' notions of the modified version of TEC that Eva and her
family members speak.
In other situations of languages developing to meet 'higher' needs,
there has usually been an existing standard language in the community,
one used for all communicative functions until it was slowly phased
out. The conundrum in the case of many Caribbean nations is that the
lexifier, the very language a Creole such as TEC might seek to at least
partially replace, must serve as the model for TEC. If it is ever to replace
or somehow operate alongside the European lexicon, then TEC must
eventually distance itself from the model of the standard.

5.0 Final remarks

At the beginning of the twenty-first century a young genre of writing,
Caribbean literature, has asserted its distinctiveness and been
recognized with Nobel Prizes in Literature. Additionally, there is greater
consciousness of Creoles as full and independent languages, among
literary critics, linguists, and the populations of islands like Trinidad
and Tobago. If we envision 'writing back' and postcolonial discourse
alongside the problems Creoles face in becoming official languages,
we hear them talking back, responding organically to myths of linguistic
impurity. As we enter domains in which normative boundaries are
pushed, we find ourselves listening to writers and characters that create
the norms for new registers. The increased use of Creole language in
fiction should be recognized as a means of enlarging the socio-semantic
range of the Creole. It is also an opportunity to challenge negative
attitudes toward non-standard varieties of English. Solutions to the
problems raised in this discussion are not easily achieved. Yet where
there is power and where there are voices, there is possibility.



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The role of religious institutions in
the deterrence of language attrition:
the case of a small church in St. Croix

Alma Simounet Geigel
University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras

In the 2002 UNESCO report (Fenton), the United Nations issued an
emergency advisory on the imminent death of thousands of
languages around the world. The report of the state of languages
presented a grim picture on the number of and rate at which languages
were dying. It did not come as a surprise to linguists who had already
sounded the "wake-up call" among themselves at various linguistic
conferences. In his book on language death, Crystal (2000, p.vii) quotes
the opening statement by the committee of an Endangered Language

Languages have died off throughout history, but never have we faced
the massive extinction that is threatening the world right now. As
language professionals, we are faced with a stark reality: much of what
we study will not be available to future generations. The cultural
heritage of many peoples is crumbling while we look on.

Nettle and Romaine (2000), whose publication is aptly titled Vanishing
voices. The extinction of the world's languages, explain in the
introductory remarks that both authors had been working separately
on a publication on the same issue; however, both decided that the
rapprochement between an anthropologist and a linguist would bring
together, in a single publication, the work, experience and perspectives
of two intricately related disciplines. They also point out that due to
the urgent state of the situation concerning language death and its
close association with accompanying disappearing ecosystems, they
decided to violate the academic tenet of referenced research reporting


and published the book immediately without the required identification
and footnotes and just a list of bibliographical entries. Their voices
are unequivocal:

... the extinction of languages is part of the larger picture of near-
total collapse of the worldwide ecosystem...the causes of language
death, like that of ecological destruction, lie at the intersection of
ecology and politics... Language death is symptomatic of cultural
death: a way of life disappears with the death of a language. (p.7)

The language loss that many world communities are experiencing
at this very moment is closely related to another concern within the
linguistic circles interested in multilingual contexts, and that is the
issue of language attrition. This is a "generic term used to cover all
non-temporary regression in language processing, covering a
continuum from mild access problems, i.e. word finding, to complete
loss of language" (Hamers and Blanc, 2000, p. 76). It may be the loss of
L1 at the individual level, a phenomenon among the second-generation
of migrants in communities where the language of the majority is
different and the one to which minority children shift, usually as a result
of schooling and other types of exposure. But it may also be the partial
loss of certain aspects of an LI which has developed fully but has been
influenced by the acquisition and use of an L2.
This does not merit the creation of emergency organizations or web
sites, since it is a worldwide phenomenon that does not preclude the
death of a language, especially one of international stature such as
French or Spanish; however, it is precisely for this very reason that the
situation of language attrition is overlooked, giving way to the early
disappearance of first languages among the minority children and loss
of skills among bilinguals. This situation is well exemplified in the
present-day case of the United States and some of its territories.
The island of St. Croix is a case in point. Together with St. Thomas
and St. John they comprise the US Virgin Islands. Although St. Croix
was in the hands of Spain, Holland, England, France, the Knights of
Malta, Denmark, and since 1917, the USA, its potential for a complex
multilinguistic context never held ground. English has always been the
language in St. Croix (Dookhan, 1974; Boyer, 1983).

Because English was the dominant language in the Virgin Islands, from
1850 onwards, the medium of instruction in the schools was also
English. Most of the trade of the Islands for a long time had been with


English-speaking peoples. The English were predominant in St. Croix.
(Boyer, p. 72)

The linguistic and cultural picture of St. Croix has changed somewhat
with the coming of new waves of peoples. There was no indigenous
population present at the time of the arrival of the Spaniards in 1493,
although there is ample archaeological evidence of their presence
before. The island began to be inhabited by European settlers in the
17th C who then introduced African slaves. Later on more Europeans
came followed by an influx of different peoples in the 19th and 20th
centuries. These arrived from other Caribbean islands to the south of
St. Croix such as Antigua, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, Nevis, St. Martin,
Aruba, Trinidad, from the continental United States, the Philippine
Islands, Palestine, Jordan and an impressive number from Puerto Rico
and most recently the Dominican Republic. The 2000 US Census
reported that 13% of the population in St. Croix was made up of Puerto
Ricans, but the Office of Planning believes that 35 to 40% is a more
reliable number (Simounet, 1999). Given the large percentage of Spanish
speakers, the USVI Department of Education created the Bilingual
Program in 1969 (Padgett, 1983, p. 2).
Despite the creation of this program, studies carried out by the
author (Simounet de Geigel, 1990; Simounet, 1999 and 2002) reveal the
confirmation of the posture taken by many scholars in the field such
as Grosjean (1982), Silva-Corvalan, (1991), and Portes and Rumbaut
(2001) whose studies and theses point out to the eventual loss of LI
skills in bilinguals and possible total LI attrition in children among the
migrant population in the United States. Very few survive this
predicament. Silva-Corvalan describes her bilingual subjects as
individuals who will move back and forth along a bilingual continuum
similar to the Creole continuum. Others, like the Puerto Ricans in New
York (Poplack, 1980), will maintain a code of their own characterized
by intense codeswitching and some loss of LI skills.
There is no doubt as to the strong presence of English in St. Croix,
the status of prestige of English in the world (Crystal, 1997), and the
strong influence it has already had on the local variety of English Creole,
which in less than 100 years has undergone decreolization as a result
of its ongoing contact with Standard American English (personal
communication with former UVI professor of linguistics, A. Highfield
on February 21, 2002). If this is the case, then what other institutions
beside the Department of Education could be of importance in helping
the Spanish speakers cease or at least deter the continuing loss of LI?
This study attempted to identify such an institution.


Religion and its institutions have already been identified by linguists
as good examples of this help. This has been put forth by Crystal
(2000), Edwards (1992), Kroskrity (1993), and Nettle and Romaine
(2000). The latter recognize the work of the Summer Institute of
Linguistics, "a fundamentalist mission group from the United States,"
who according to them possess a "better idea of the scope of the
problem of language endangerment than most academic linguists" (p.
7). St. Croix is fertile ground for religious work. The popular saying is
that there are more churches than followers. In terms of religious
services in Spanish, the Catholic, Baptist, Adventist and Pentecostal
churches can be easily identified on the island with numerous
congregations in the central and western parts of the island where a
large number of Puerto Ricans have settled. A small Pentecostal church
called "Mi Triunfo" or My Triumph was selected for this study given
the personal friendship of the writer with one of the members and the
fact that data had already been gathered there for a study on patterns
of linguistic use and social organization. The end-in-view was to respond
to the following questions:
1. What are the languages and varieties used in the church and who
uses them?
2. What activities within the church promote the use of Spanish?


Initial contacts were made with the minister who authorized the
attendance of the researcher. She enjoyed full access to all church
ceremonies and activities for the members. Due to the frequent number
of activities during the week, it was possible to collect data through
the use of various techniques: participant and non-participant
observation, focused observations, and interviews with some of the
members. During the first fourteen months of the period from 1992 to
1995, the writer attended religious services three times a week plus
some of the Sunday services. The rest of the period until 1995 consisted
of sporadic visits on weekends and the summer months.
In order to carry out its religious proselytism and service to the
community at large, the church promotes a number of activities in
addition to its religious services. These include Bible classes, a women's
support group, conferences, visits to hospitals, prisons and retirement
homes, lectures given by visiting ministers from Puerto Rico and joint
services and activities with other churches of the same denomination.


The writer attended all of these activities but placed special emphasis
on data collected during Bible lessons for children and adolescents
and during meetings of the women's support group. These three groups
became symbolic of social networks within the church.
Milroy (1987) has pointed out the importance of social networks in
ethnographic work. The unit of study is a pre-existing group in place
of the individual as representative of a more abstract social category
(p. 35). There were very few men members of the church so that they
were not included in the study. According to Wardaugh (2001), Milroy's
approach makes it possible for the researcher to participate in group
interaction and thus obtain a generous amount of spontaneous natural
speech, which also provides ample material to describe the linguistic
variation in the group under study.
The three social networks selected in this study, the Bible lessons
for the children and adolescents and the women's support group
received special emphasis for purposes of analysis. They provided
information relevant to the focus of the intended work. The fifteen
children represented the migrant population with language contact at
its inception. The fourteen teenagers stood for that group who had
already undergone experience in language contact and thus would
represent the result of such a phenomenon. The group of women
consisted of 31 women. They stood for the link between the early
migrants and the second generation. Some had arrived in their early
teens, a few had been born in St. Croix, and the rest arrived as young
adults. One could identify heads of families, many housewives, and
some single women. As carriers and promoters of the culture, they
offered insightful information relevant to the linguistic scenario in the
home environment.


Languages and varieties used and the individuals who employed them:

The group of children ranged between the ages of six and eleven
years. The writer was able to observe their linguistic behavior before
and after church services while they interacted in the yard outside the
church, and later during Bible class. The latter provided the researcher
with rich linguistic information. The younger children spoke in Spanish
while the older ones displayed an initial stage of codemixing
characterized by Spanish as the matrix language with the insertion of


mostly nouns in their discourse. The Spanish used was that of the
parents, a sociolect closely related to the variety spoken by the working
class in Puerto Rico. The few insertions from English responded to
the Crucian variety they heard outside their homes and at school.
However, it must be pointed out that Spanish is required by the
teacher in the Bible class. The children respond orally in Spanish to
the Bible stories discussed and then they draw or copy related
sentences given by the teacher. Sometimes the children would be so
excited to respond to questions or during their participation in class
debates that English words were heard, but the teacher would
immediately remind them of the importance to respond in Spanish. In
an interview held with the instructor at her home, she explained that
before becoming a member of the church, she had forgotten the little
Spanish she had learned at home. But after becoming a full fledged
member, attending all the religious services, and being in charge of the
Bible class, her command of Spanish had returned and now she felt
more comfortable in it. She believed her Spanish had been revived as
a result of intensive Bible reading and the use of materials given to her
by the church to prepare the lessons.
The adolescents consisted of nine girls and five boys. They ranged
between the ages of twelve and eighteen years. The data reflects their
use of Crucian English as the matrix language with a great deal of
codeswitching into Spanish during the time periods outside the Bible
lesson. While in the class, however, the teacher required them to
restrict themselves to the use of Spanish. This was always done in a
very gentle manner on the part of the instructor as if she understood
how easy it was to fall back into English.
In the interviews the writer carried out with the adolescents, they
explained that in church they spoke only Spanish to the older
members, the Bible teacher, the minister, and the very young children.
At home, they utilized either Crucian English with codeswitching or
Spanish with their parents but only Spanish with their grandparents.
This was confirmed by the writer in her observations of the home
environment. At school, the most frequent code was Crucian English
because they believed it was the appropriate one to use in order to
be part of the group. They confessed to sometimes using Spanish for
more privacy.
The women's support group met daily during the week, in the
morning hours. They discussed problems at home and many times
brought prospective new members who were in dire need of emotional
support. The writer was present when one of these new members


came in to ask for help in dealing with a husband who was sexually
abusing their teenage daughter. The entire event is held in Spanish
since many of the women present are housewives and elderly women
from the congregation who do not speak English. The younger women
speak both English and Spanish, but they participate only in Spanish
with the use of limited words in English. They pointed out that they
felt more comfortable in the latter but because of the presence of older
Spanish monolingual women they felt they had to speak Spanish. The
fact that most have access to Spanish radio stations, TV channels,
Puerto Rican newspapers and other monolingual speakers of Spanish
in the community, makes it possible for all to make use of these
additional elements to help the loss of language skills in their LI.

Contributions of the church to deter language attrition:

In order to understand the influence this church has in the deterrence
of Spanish language loss, it is important to enumerate its services
and activities and how they promote the use of Spanish.
1. Members are strongly encouraged to attend religious services
during the week. These last from seven-thirty until ten. Spanish
is the sole language used by the minister, the leaders of prayers
and those members of the congregation who wish to participate.
2. Bible classes are held in Spanish every Sunday. There is reading
and class discussion throughout the hour and a half during which
they meet.
3. The religious service is preceded by a discussion of the activities
for the week. It is open to all the members of the congregation,
and it is carried out in Spanish.
4. The women's support group meets every morning during the
week. All discussion is carried out in Spanish.
5. Additional services are held for visiting ministers from Puerto
Rico. This gives the members the opportunity to hear Spanish
from outside the island.
6. Sunday services and Bible classes end with a buffet supper
prepared by the women in the church. Although English is heard
among the teenagers, the activity of serving, asking and making
comments concerning the food takes place in Spanish.


7. Services to the community at large come in the form of visits to
hospitals, prisons and retirement homes. Although some of the
people served are English speakers, many are speakers of
Spanish who are very happy to be addressed in their Ll.
8. The church organizes trips to Puerto Rico for additional religious
services. This gives people the opportunity to be immersed in
Spanish for a continuous span of time.
9. There are other groups organized by the church in addition to
the ones already mentioned such as the Men's Society, the group
of Bible teachers and the youth group who are the musicians in
the band. They must meet during the week to practice in the
church. In these particular meetings both languages are heard.
10. Special events are held to celebrate holidays such as Fathers'
and Mothers' Day. These consist of dinner parties where again
mostly Spanish is heard.

It goes without saying that the Pentecostal Church Mi Triunfo provides
ample opportunity for its members to practice Spanish. It is not
completely clear how successful it will be in the long run in its indirect
support for the use of Spanish. As Grosjean stated, "when a religion is
closely linked to a particular national group and its language, it is an
extremely powerful force for language maintenance" (1982, p. 109).



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