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  • A Pepper-pot of Cultures: Aspects of Creolization in the Caribbean
  • A. James Arnold
A Pepper-pot of Cultures: Aspects of Creolization in the Caribbean Ed. Gordon Collier and Ulrich Fleischman Matatu 27–28. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2003. 550 pp. ISBN 90-420-0918-7 paper.

This double issue of Matatu contains two editor's prefaces and substantial divisions devoted to Creolity: General Reflections; Creolity, Language and Identity; Social Structure and Social Process; Valorizations around Édouard Glissant; Case Studies: Folk Culture; Case Studies: Literature and Art; Case Studies: Narrative Metacreolization; and a Closing Discussion. This is a fascinating volume, which I have already used in my teaching and recommend to graduate students in cultural anthropology, history, and literature.

Assessing a volume of this sort equitably is an impossible task, since readers will find themselves attracted to such different parts of the whole, insofar as one can say that a "whole" exists. Therefore I shall point to individual essays that I have found unusually stimulating and valuable. The division on language, creolization, and identity is particularly strong in its treatment of the area of Mesoamerica and the coast of Colombia, where Caribbeanness stands out from the national identity of other parts of the individual countries. The focus on creolization as social process (four contributions) brings a perspective that US academics would do well to ponder. I found the treatment of "Watramama" by Alex van Stipriaan especially strong from a methodological standpoint. Van Stipriaan draws on art historical research by Henry J. Drewal to demonstrate the circulation of related folk figures that "return" to Africa during three centuries of creolization. A similar approach would be very productive in areas that have been treated uni-directionally by scholars in the past. Ineke Phaf-Rheinberger brings to her analysis of the fiction of Astrid Roemer and Cynthia McLeod a long and patient frequentation of Surinamese art and literature.

Marie-José N'Zengou-Tayo's essay "Imaginary City, Literary Spaces: Port-au-Prince in Some Recent Haitian Fiction" will be of interest to both readers of Haitian fiction and specialists of the French West Indies. The conclusions she reaches point up the exceptional nature of Patrick Chamoiseau's literary representation of Fort-de-France, Martinique, compared to the views his Haitian counterparts give of Port-au-Prince. In this respect as in others, the Martinican Creolists are shown to be marching to a different drum.

A. James Arnold
University of Virginia


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