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Reviewed by:
  • Globalization and the Post-creole Imagination: Notes on fleeing the plantation
  • Pratima Prasad
Globalization and the Post-creole Imagination: Notes on fleeing the plantation By Michaeline A. Crichlow. Durham: Duke University Press, 2009.

In Globalization and the Post-creole Imagination: Notes on fleeing the plantation, Michaeline A. Crichlow argues that any understanding of Caribbean histories and cultural processes must be expanded beyond the plantation. She calls for a decentering of discussions about creolization, one that is not only redirected away from the geographic confines of the site of the plantation, but that also challenges accepted notions of power relations associated with plantation societies. Chichlow's subtitle ("Notes on fleeing the plantation"), then, works both as a metaphor and a methodology in the book. She contends that creole consciousness at large, and creole subjects' ways of making place and space in particular, must be viewed as multidirectional, open, dynamic, and pluralistic in both time and in space. The book brings into focus a complex view of creolization that transcends the boundaries of Caribbean nation-states in favor of transnational ethnographies and a global analytic. At the same time, it is mindful of slave/plantation material histories and of the attachments that the subjects of its study may hold to national imaginaries and maps. Working through Pierre Bourdieu's notion of habitus, Crichlow explores how, within and beyond the black Atlantic, Caribbeans remake themselves by borrowing, challenging, and reworking older forms of creolization.

The first two chapters of the book set down the theoretical and methodological paradigms of creolization as a process that is "best understood as an ongoing dynamic within complex open systems" (3). In the subsequent chapters, Crichlow illustrates this methodology through a series of ethnographic and historical analyses. The geographical and temporal span that Crichlow covers in this process is impressive: the agents of her study range from Afro-Creoles living under British colonialism to contemporary St. Lucian television performers to the Caribbean diaspora in neoliberal Western societies. In her chapter on Afro-Creoles, she relies on oral, historical, and archival sources to describe Caribbean smallholders' layered forms of resistance during British colonialism: through practices of freedom that both accommodated and subverted symbolic forms of respectability in the colonial world, they guaranteed their human dignity and long-term economic survival. In another chapter, she explores how nationalisms and transnationalisms intersect with each other in the global travels of the "gens anglaises," a rural, land-based working people from St. Lucia who migrated to England and subsequently returned to the Caribbean. Crichlow's study of the "gens anglaises" is a perfect example of post-plantation productions of creole culture by populations that live in and negotiate economies of unequal power relations, both in the (colonial and postcolonial) Caribbean and in neoliberal European contexts. Yet another chapter examines the postcolonial creole imaginations of urban middle class youth in an irreverent, ribald, and satirical television performance called the "Lucians," which emerged a few years ago on the St. Lucian cultural scene. In what can be best described as "local globalized theater" (120), this popular performance draws upon projects of the Creole nation-state, onto which it grafts parodies borrowed from performative styles developed in other parts of the Americas. In this way, these young St. Lucians engage in a democratic practice of citizenship in which they call to question and protest state-sanctioned notions of culture, economy, elite knowledge, and politics.

Crichlow makes her case by drawing upon the work of a dizzying array of theorists, both within and outside Caribbean and creolization studies: Pierre Bourdieu, Lila Abu-Lugodh, Michel Rolph-Trouillot, Edouard Glissant, Achille Mbembe, and Saskia Sassen, to name a few. But perhaps the book's chief success lies in the ways in which it questions and makes complex a number of binarisms that have been reified in discussions of creolization, and, for that matter, in postcolonial studies at large: western/non-western, "folk"/"elite," local/global, transnational/national, etc. By steering away from these dualisms, the book reveals creolization as a truly nuanced process and as a set of creative practices of fashioning the self, and of making one's time and space in the world. Moreover...

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