My model of creolization has therefore in many senses been considerably extended; it has become, for one thing, less linear and “progressive,” more prismatic, and includes more comprehensively than formerly a sense of cultural interaction not only among all elements of the “tropical plantation,” but also between these elements at certain metropolitan aspects (look at popular music for instance) of the continent.…

This is above all a question/problem of perception. One view—the monolithic, parodoxically plural—conceives of society as being a single sacred construct, with a single sociocultural product: political nationality. But practice has never made much sense of this theory; and for a long time we have had to bear the burden of perceiving of ourselves as “nations” (“West Indians”) without norms (somatic, intellectual, aesthetic); and to counter this breakdown in expectation, we developed the pessimistic notion of a plural society of one “official” nation/ caste, ruling by force and alliance with the metropole, and a number of inferior and deprived subcultures, with their peculiar mores: linguistic, kin-sense, cook-style, etc., but having no viability or visibility as long as they remained eccentric or marginal. The prismatic concept, on the other hand, conceives of all resident cultures as equal and contiguous, despite the accidents of political history, each developing its own life-style from the spirit of its ancestors, but modified—and increasingly so—through interaction with the environment and the other cultures of the environment, until residence within the environment—nativization—becomes the process (creolization) through which all begin to share a style, even though that style will retain vestiges (with occasional national/cultural revivals back towards particular ancestors) of their original/ancestral heritage.

Edward Kamau Brathwaite

Edward Kamau Brathwaite, “Caliban, Ariel, and Unprospero in the Conflict of Creolization: A Study of the Slave Revolt in Jamaica in 1831–32,” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences Vol 292 (1977), pp. 41–42.

Bryce Wilner