In Search of a National Identity: Creole and Politics in Guadaloupe

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9783875483246: In Search of a National Identity: Creole and Politics in Guadaloupe

    Guadeloupe (as well as Martinique, Guyane, and Réunion) is one of the former colonies of France that chose to remain tied to the mother country rather than seek independence following World War II.  Through the 1946 law of political assimilation, these territories became départements d'outre-mer.  Departmentalization, however, failed to bring about full social and economic equality.  As political integration increased economic and commercial dependency on the metropole, the pressure of homogenization to the French model precipitated the loss of cultural autonomy.
    In the 1960s, an anticolonialist movement pushing for a change in political status appeared in Guadeoupe.  The nationalist movement was rejuvenated in the 1970s by the selection of the Creole language as a symbol of political and cultural resistance to assimilation, conduit and container of an alternate ideology, and emblem of Guadeloupean identity and island specificity. With this resurgence of interest in kréyòl, a proliferation of associations, groups, and individuals became actively engaged in research and efforts to standardize and develop the language and to popularize its use in new public domains.
    This case study of the mouvement créole in Guadeloupe analyzes three key sites of conflict - the school, the media, and the political process - in relation to the local, regional, and national levels that structure these arenas.  While the monograph is important in illuminating a new concept of identity for the region, the work singles out key differences between the Creole movement in Guadeloupe and its counterpoint, créolité, in Martinique.  Both succeeded the earlier formulations of difference in the French Antilles - négritude and antillanité.  The study is especially relevant in light of the current and very polemical debate concerning the introduction of an exam for Creole (the CAPES créole) in 2001 for secondary school teachers in France and in the four overseas departments. This educational directive was a response to the demand that Creole receive equal status with the other regional languages (e.g. Occitan, Breton, Basque) in France.

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Distributed for Helmut Buske Verlag, Hamburg

About the Author:

The author is an independent scholar and Research Fellow at the Research Institute for the Study of Man (RISM) in New York City. With a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Columbia University, she has conducted research in the French West Indies, Mauritius, and Andorra on language, nationalism, ethnic identity, and gender relations. She co-edited a special issue of The International Journal of the Sociology of Language dedicated to "Creole Movements in the Francophone Orbit" (1993). She is currently undertaking empirical research in the field of medical anthropology on Haitians in New York City.

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