- Creole Subjects in the Colonial Americas: Empires, Texts, Identities
In an introduction and seventeen critical essays, Creole Subjects in the Colonial Americas: Empires, Texts, Identities provides examples of the emergence, perception, and articulation of Creole identity and consciousness across the Americas. The historical and cultural engagement with the construction of Creole subjectivity is taken up in this book in a manner that distinguishes itself by its comparative approach to literary articulations of Creole subjectivity and agency across several time periods. The result is a thorough examination of Creole discourse on cultural and social difference from an array of colonial and postindependence authors representing different ideological contexts and cultural spaces such as Lima, Mexico City, Cuzco, the Chesapeake, and peripheral regions of colonial Brazil and Peru. Authors highlighted include a mix rarely seen together, including Juana Inés de la Cruz, Francis Drake, Pedro Peralta Barnuevo, Anne Bradstreet, William Byrd II, Lucas Fernández de Piedrahita, Mary Rowlandson, Hannah Swarton, Philip Sidney, Guaman Poma de Ayala, Bento Teixeira, Ambrósio Fernandes Brandão, Manuel Beckman, José Joaquín Olmedo, and Joel Barlow. Some of these figures occupy a central place in the literary canon of the early Americas, others are marginal contributors who challenge our understanding of literary authority and force us to redefine what it meant to be a Creole in the colonial Americas.
In 1951, the Cuban scholar Juan José Arrom published the essay “Criollo: Definición y matices de un concepto” where he moved away from the well-established [End Page 633] definition of Creoles as pureblooded descendants of European settlers in the Americas in order to deploy a far more complex history of this notion. Since then, Latin American scholarship on Creoles, creolization, and creolism by David Brading, Bernard Lavallé, James McClellan III, Mabel Moraña, Anthony Pagden, Charles Stewart, Phillip J. Havick and M. D. D. Newitt, and others has underscored the cultural and historical significance of Creoles in the Spanish, Portuguese, French, and British colonies. The development of Creole consciousness, these authors agree, developed in conjunction with an acute awareness of racial and social prejudice and unequal treatment from well-established European-born residents and new waves of immigrants arriving in the Americas. The resulting production of scientific, political, and literary narratives by Creoles in rising metropolitan centers, as well as imperial peripheries, offers insight into their particular social experiences, understandings of cultural difference, and the emergence of patriotic sentiments. As the editors of Creole Subjects in the Americas explain (8), colonial Creole discourse manifested ambivalent subject positions within the imperial world order, which should not be automatically considered as expressions of political and cultural resistance to colonialism.
Ralph Bauer and José Antonio Mazzotti’s introduction sets the stage for the rest of the volume by examining the etymologies of Creole in English, Portuguese, and Spanish. The editors draw attention to the shifting meanings of these concepts across regions, as well as to often overlooked cultural connections within the Atlantic circuit. Bauer and Mazzotti trace the emergence of Creole subjectivity as a social process and a distinctive product of modernity. For them, “creolization was a wider Atlantic phenomenon that not only spanned the three centuries of European colonial rule in the Americas but also cut across the boundaries of various European empires” (2). The editors argue therefore for further study of Creoles and their cultural production that takes into account Creoles’ different cultural and social manifestations across imperial boundaries, including in British America, where Creole literature and history have not been major topics of research (3).
This persuasive and detailed introduction should be obligatory reading for scholars and students in literature, history, and interdisciplinary courses with a focus on the early modern Americas. It indicates many different ways that Creoles were perceived within various colonial contexts. [End Page 634] For example, in Spanish American urban centers such as Lima and Mexico, social differences existed between Peninsular colonists, Creoles, and other castes. Discrimination based on race...