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Atlantic History Creolization
by
Roderick McDonald, Michelle Craig McDonald

Introduction

Few areas of historical scholarship have undergone such dramatic expansion, in so short a space of time, as the study of creolization. Most studies have considered creolization in the context of its relationship to slavery and the transatlantic slave trade, a key theme of the field since Melville Herskovits’s The Myth of the Negro Past, first published in 1941. Two opposing assumptions now dominate this branch of the historiography. The first emphasizes continuities between Africa and the Americas, while the second posits the Middle Passage as a traumatic break, a fundamental rupture that removed Africans from most vestiges of their former lives. Adherents of the second assumption focus on how Africans changed after they arrived in the Americas. Since the mid-1980s, models based on European-African interactions have been adapted and applied to the study of native groups in the Caribbean, Latin America, and North America. These analyses not only look at interactions between native peoples and Europeans or Africans, but also between different native peoples themselves, including how they formed and shifted alliances from the 15th through 19th centuries. Most of these studies either use particular themes (e.g., social and family structures, economics, gender and sexuality, religion, race, culture) or geographic regions as their primary lens for exploring cultural adaptation and change, but rarely are these categories discrete. Susan Sleeper-Smith’s work on Mayan women, trade, and Catholicism, for example, appears in the Religion section of this bibliography but might as easily have been listed in Gender and Sexuality or Social and Family Structures. In addition, some strong comparative studies have begun to broaden the field, and as the number of college courses on race, ethnicity, and identity escalate, these are sure to grow in number.

General Overviews

Historical interest in creolization is often driven by an interest in discovering the origins of contemporary, diverse societies. Though race receives pride of place in such discussions, it is not the only theme through which creolization is explored; other possibilities include politics, power, economics, and culture. Scholarly works such as Barnabe, et al. 1989 and Brathwaite 2005 have effectively challenged the influential model of creolization developed by Mintz and Price 1976, which argued that the Atlantic slave trade’s random nature blocked the re-creation of specific African cultural identities in the Americas. Hall 2005 goes one step farther, arguing that specific African ethnicities not only crossed the Atlantic but also drove the process of creolization in the Americas. Manning 2009, by contrast, refuses to divide the African diaspora into the experiences of separate regions and nations. Instead, Manning follows the multiple routes that brought Africans and people of African descent into contact with one another and with Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Other works, such as Burton 1997, take a more contemporary stance, arguing that cultural models formed during imperialism are responsible for postcolonial inequities of wealth and political power. White 1991 and Richter 2003 apply some of these same criteria of cultural exchange and adaptation to Native American communities. White focuses more on the peoples, economies, and experiences in what is now the upper Midwest, while Richter centers on lands and peoples east of the Mississippi Valley.

  • Barnabe, Jean, Patrick Chamoiseau, and Raphael Confiant. Éloge de la Créolité. Paris: Gallimard, 1989.

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    In response to la négritude, a 1930s literary movement pioneered by Aimé Césaire that asserted African rather than French colonial culture shaped West Indian society, créolité proponents drew on Edouard Glissant’s antillanité model, proposing that a creolized French West Indian identity, rather than either Euro-French or African influences, best defined peoples in the region. A bilingual edition, Éloge de la Créolité/In Praise of Creoleness, was published in 1993.

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  • Brathwaite, Kamau. The Development of Creole Society in Jamaica, 1770–1820. Miami, FL: Ian Randle, 2005.

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    A foundational study of Atlantic creolization in which Kamau (formerly Edward) Brathwaite argues that Jamaica developed its own distinctive “Creole” character. Institutions, customs, and attitudes were shaped by African and European influences, but, as part of a wider regional complex, they were also influenced by regional economics and political and revolutionary ideologies. Originally published by Clarendon Press (Oxford) in 1971.

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  • Burton, Richard D. E. Afro-Creole: Power, Opposition, and Play in the Caribbean. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997.

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    Focuses on how African traditions in religion, music, dress, and family structure melded with European and indigenous forces to create the particular cultures of Jamaica, Trinidad, and Haiti, as well as how such Afro-Creole cultures have contributed to the present-day social, political, and economic circumstances of these countries.

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  • Hall, Gwendolyn Midlo. Slavery and African Ethnicities in the Americas: Restoring the Links. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005.

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    Explores the persistence and significance of links between particular ethnic groups in Africa (divided into Greater Senegambia, Lower Guinea, and the Bantulands) and the enslaved in the Americas through analysis of the temporal and spatial dimensions of the slave trade.

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  • Manning, Patrick. The African Diaspora: A History through Culture. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009.

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    Positioned against Hall 2005, Manning does not divide the African diaspora into separate regions, but instead follows multiple routes that brought Africans into contact with Europe, Asia, and the Americas. In so doing, he places the transatlantic experience within a large global context that includes the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean.

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  • Mintz, Sidney W., and Richard Price. An Anthropological Approach to the Afro-American Past: A Caribbean Perspective. Philadelphia: Institute for the Study of Human Issues, 1976.

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    A key text in creolization studies that moves beyond the debate over enslaved Africans’ cultural retention or loss. Argues that the slave trade’s randomizing effect inhibited transplantation of intact African cultures, and that slaves in the Americas remade themselves and their world according to the circumstances they encountered. Republished in 1992 as The Birth of African-American Culture: An Anthropological Perspective (Boston: Beacon Press).

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  • Richter, Daniel. Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003.

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    A masterful study that revisits the first centuries of Native American and European encounters from the perspective of native people, demonstrating that Native American communities adapted to the forces introduced by the arrival of Europeans and were active participants in creating a new way of life on the continent.

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  • White, Richard. The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650–1815. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

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    An important account of the interactions among Europeans and native peoples during this crucial phase in North American history. Overturns traditional historical accounts that portrayed white conquest as inevitable or Indian defeat as absolute, and suggests instead that European and Indian contact produced a rich intermingling of cultures in their early years of contact.

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Textbooks and Surveys

Few textbooks focus solely on creolization, but as the number of college courses on race, ethnicity, and identity escalate, this is sure to change. Shepherd and Richards 2002 comes closest to a course textbook, though the book privileges the British West Indies. Chapters by eminent scholars, especially Caribbean historians, include information on both African and Asian West Indian experiences. Many Atlantic history textbooks, such as Egerton, et al. 2007 and Greene and Morgan 2008, devote significant attention to interactions between different peoples of the Atlantic world, the impact of such encounters on the physical environment, and the social and cultural development of these groups. Heuman and Walvin 2003 and Lovejoy 2000 similarly address questions of family organization, race, and material culture throughout the Americas within the context of slavery, while Nash 2005 focuses specifically on Native American, African, and European interactions in North America. Finally, several good edited collections provide opportunities for a comparative analysis of cultural interaction around the Atlantic world. Canny and Pagden 1987 directly addresses the question of race, place, and identity through several case studies around the Atlantic. Andrews 2004 provides comprehensive coverage of creolization at work in Latin America, while Greer 2000 does the same for French Canada.

  • Andrews, George Reid. Afro-Latin America, 1800–2000. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

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    Examines the impact of the African diaspora on Latin America, where more Africans were taken than anywhere else in the Americas. Traces their arrival and cultural impact, both historically and more recently, through their participation in political parties, civic organizations, labor unions, religious institutions, and elsewhere.

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  • Canny, Nicolas, and Anthony Pagden, eds. Colonial Identity in the Atlantic World, 1500–1800. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987.

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    A valuable collection of essays by some of the field’s leading scholars. While not comprehensive, it includes chapters on Brazil, New France, the British Caribbean, British North America, and Spanish America, as well as a less geographically bounded article on the Irish experience in the Anglo-Atlantic.

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  • Egerton, Douglas R., Alison Games, Jane G. Landers, Kris Lane, and Donald R. Wright, eds. The Atlantic World: A History, 1400–1888. Wheeling, IL: Harlan Davidson, 2007.

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    Ideas about culture and creolization appear throughout this Atlantic survey text. Of particular interest is Chapter 7, “Racial and Cultural Mixture in the Atlantic World, 1450–1830,” which offers an overview of creolization’s effects on the lives of Europeans, Africans, and Native Americans throughout the Atlantic world.

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  • Greene, Jack, and Philip D. Morgan, eds. Atlantic History: A Critical Reappraisal. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

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    The scope of this edited collection is larger than creolization, but it includes an especially strong series of essays by excellent scholars in its second section, “Old Worlds and the Atlantic,” on the role of indigenous African and European cultures on reshaping the Atlantic world.

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  • Greer, Allan, ed. The Jesuit Relations: Natives and Missionaries in Seventeenth-Century North America. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s Press, 2000.

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    Features 35 documents selected from the 73-volume The Jesuit Relations. Provides an excellent teaching collection on the background of these missionaries, the Indians, and their cohabitation, with special attention to New France.

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  • Heuman, Gad, and James Walvin, eds. The Slavery Reader. London: Routledge, 2003.

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    A comprehensive collection of essays by leading scholars, most published elsewhere but appearing together for the first time in one volume. Very strong sections on family and community structures, slave culture, economy and material culture, and race. Works well as an undergraduate textbook and is strongest on the Caribbean and North America, with some attention to Latin America.

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  • Lovejoy, Paul E., ed. Identity in the Shadow of Slavery. London and New York: Continuum, 2000.

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    A comparative collection of essays written by leading authorities from Europe and North and South America. Focuses on how identities were formed under slavery and emancipation, and how these events continued to affect the lives of descendants. Includes essays on language, art, family structure, and gender.

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  • Nash, Gary B. Red, White, and Black: The Peoples of Early North America. 5th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2005.

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    Focuses on North America and its evolution into the United States, and takes the mixing of peoples and cross-cultural interaction as defining narrative themes. Nash illustrates how these interactions provide a fuller, deeper understanding of the nation’s underpinnings.

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  • Shepherd, Verene, and Glen L. Richards, eds. Questioning Creole: Creolisation Discourses in Caribbean Culture. Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle, 2002.

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    Published in honor of Kamau Brathwaite, a pioneer of Caribbean Creole studies. Includes excellent introductory essays by O. Nigel Bolland and Carolyn Allen, as well as equally strong sections on class, gender and identity, economics, society and politics, and cultural forms, including a final section on literary interpretations.

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Bibliographies and Reference Works

No reference works are devoted solely to creolization, though questions about race, culture, and amalgamation appear in most bibliographies and encyclopedias of Atlantic history and the history of slavery, some in print form, others digitized and available online. Three of them address creolization within the context of slavery. Finkelman and Miller 1998 is a comprehensive two-volume set that traces the history of slavery from the ancient period through the 19th century, and its entries for slavery in the Atlantic world are especially strong. Smith 1982 also includes material directly related to cultural interaction and development, including slave culture, religion, language, and recreation. The annual bibliographic supplements in the journal Slavery & Abolition (see Thurston 2009) are the best place to look for discussions about creolization and slavery in more current literature. Mitchell’s West Indian Bibliography considers creolization in a broader Caribbean context, including materials on European colonists’ and Amerindian peoples’ experiences. University of Michigan’s Center for Afroamerican and African Studies 1985 likewise takes a broader ethnic focus; while grounded in North America, it provides information on a variety of Atlantic migrants to the United States, including Africans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and others. Finally, Comitas (Digitized Caribbeana) provides keyword-searchable full-text editions of Caribbean materials produced between 1900 to 1975, including a particularly strong section on culture, which explores works on continuity, change, values, ethnic and national identity, religion, folklore, and language. The recent establishment of Ananse’s Web promises to bring together historians and literary scholars interested in sharing research, teaching, and resource strategies about all aspects of the African diaspora.

  • Ananse’s Web.

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    A community of educators, educational support personnel, and others interested in using virtual environments to expand and enhance learning in the fields of African and African diasporic studies. A speakers’ bureau, grant opportunities, and other forums for facilitating a virtual Africana educational presence are planned.

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  • Center for Afroamerican and African Studies (University of Michigan). Black Immigration and Ethnicity in the United States: An Annotated Bibliography. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1985.

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    Though focused on the United States, this volume includes the experiences of various groups of Atlantic migrants, including, African, Cuban, Puerto Rican, and others. Annotated entries also focus on questions of ethnicity and identity, immigration legislation and policies, demography and settlement, and political activity.

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  • Comitas, Lambros. The Digitized Caribbeana, 1900–1975: A Bibliographic Guide to the Non-Hispanic Territories.

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    An online bibliographic database topically organized to facilitate scholarly research on the non-Hispanic countries of the region. Hosted by the Comitas Insitute for Anthropological Study, it contains over 17,000 references and includes sections on ethnohistory, socialization, family and kinship, race relations, and a variety of themes dealing with culture and creolization.

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    • Finkelman, Paul, and Joseph C. Miller, eds. Macmillan Encyclopedia of World Slavery. 2 vols. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998.

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      Broader than the Atlantic region in its coverage, this edition features excellent cross-references and lengthy and detailed entries, including information on a variety of topics relevant to cultural exchange and creolization, such as religion, art, labor organization, miscegenation, material culture, and religion.

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    • Mitchell’s West Indian Bibliography: From 1492 to the Present.

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      Now in its ninth edition, this massive private online bibliography includes both published and primary source material on Caribbean history covering all topics. The bibliography has been compiled since 2000 by Don Mitchell, and it is organized alphabetically by author’s last name, or by title if the author is unknown.

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      • Smith, John David. Black Slavery in the Americas: An Interdisciplinary Bibliography, 1865–1980. 2 vols. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1982.

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        Includes over 15,000 sources on slavery throughout the Americas. Most relevant to this entry is material dealing with conditions of slave life (diet, clothing, medicine, recreation, etc.), family, religion, culture, resistance, education, and language.

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      • Thurston, Thomas. “Slavery: Annual Bibliographic Supplement.” Slavery & Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies 30.4 (2009): 579–659.

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        This journal (formerly Slavery & Abolition: A Journal of Comparative Studies) provides excellent annual reviews of all scholarship related to any topic pertaining to slavery published in the preceding year. These annual bibliographies not only consolidate disparate publications into one reference resource, they also permit easy comparison of trends in topics over time. See the journal’s website for information.

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      Journals

      No journal focuses specifically on creolization, although Atlantic Studies, Slavery & Abolition, and especially Ethnohistory frequently publish articles on the subject and are the best journals to consult for comparative work. Ethnohistory, in particular, highlights work on indigenous populations throughout the Americas. Itinerario: International Journal on the History of European Expansion and Global Interaction, whose publishing mandate is larger than the Atlantic world, in also well worth consulting, as the study of creolization often overlaps with the history of cross-cultural and global encounters. Other journals address creolization within regional contexts, such as Anthurium: A Caribbean Studies Journal, the Journal of Afro-Latin American Studies and Literatures and the Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, which focuses on the history and peoples of the British Empire. Several more specialized periodicals, such as Research in African Literatures and American Literary History, are increasingly publishing scholarship about creolized African and African American culture, music, and literature, though these still predominantly focus on the English-speaking black Atlantic.

      Primary Sources

      Several excellent online primary document collections offer access to rich materials on creolization in the Atlantic world. Gwendolyn Hall’s Afro-Louisiana History and Genealogy, 1719–1820 and Jane Lander’s Ecclesiastical Sources and Historical Research on the African Diaspora in Brazil and Cuba are among the best; the former includes biographical information for 100,000 slaves in Louisiana, while the latter features birth, marriage, baptism, and death records for slaves and free people of color affiliated with Catholic churches in colonial Cuba and Brazil. Other online collections focus on slavery and emancipation in the United States, often through recorded oral histories, including Slavery and the Making of America, a companion to a four-hour PBS series from 2005, and Voices from the Days of Slavery, from the Library of Congress. The Cultural Landscape of the Plantation, curated by John Michael Vlach, also focuses on North America and pairs images of plantation buildings with former slaves’ testimonies to explore both physical environments and social experiences.

      Social and Family Structures

      Concepts of society and family are, of course, problematic in regard to the Atlantic world, not only because there were so many different kinds of families but also because some formed under power systems that allowed others to control their ability to remain cohesive units. Europeans, for example, often had difficulty identifying Native American or slave families because they differed from the model typical in western Europe, while African and Indian peoples, in turn, saw familial alliances in other than nuclear terms. Historians have, until recently, failed to appreciate and account for these differences, but greater attention to family forms and functions has produced a more nuanced image of how these structures operated in the Atlantic colonies. The historiography of the slave family, dating from Gutman 1976, posits that enslaved families persisted despite challenges during slavery and the post-emancipation period. Cody 1987 and Morgan 1998, which use naming practices and cultural practices as evidence of enslaved families’ resilience, have subsequently expanded Gutman’s argument and pointed to the existence of intergenerational slave families. Craton 1979 and Bolland 2002 explore family and social structures in the British Caribbean and Belize, both of which had very different demographic compositions than North America. Craton also argues for the persistence of slave families, even on oppressive West Indian plantations, while Bolland suggests that labor requirements in Belizian logging separated enslaved men and women and significantly shaped family dynamics in the region. Bateman 1990, Brooks 2002, and DuVal 2008 explore similar issues for Native Americans. Bateman examines two Afro-Amerindian groups, the Black Caribs and Black Seminoles, and their relationships to both African and Native American peoples, while DuVal argues that interracial marriage in Louisiana accomplished different goals for both parties, and that the meanings of such marriages varied not only between French colonists and indigenous peoples but also between natives themselves. Brooks takes a broader view, tracing native-colonial interactions in the American Southwest from contact through the 19th century.

      • Bateman, Rebecca. “Africans and Indians: A Comparative Study of the Black Carib and Black Seminole.” Ethnohistory 37.1 (Winter 1990): 1–24.

        DOI: 10.2307/481934Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

        Compares the histories and social structures of two Afro-Amerindian groups, Black Caribs and Black Seminoles, to determine how they developed as distinct peoples. Emphasizes the role of domestic and community relations, as well as the distinct relationships between these people and the Native American tribes to whom they are related.

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      • Bolland, O. Nigel. “Timber Extraction and the Shaping of Enslaved People’s Culture in Belize.” In Slavery without Sugar: Diversity in Caribbean Economy and Society Since the 17th Century. Edited by Verene Shepherd, 36–62. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 2002.

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        Deftly demonstrates differences between plantation-based agriculture and the small-scale, highly transient work groups of logging in Belize, where enslaved men worked in remote forest locations. Enslaved women remained in Belize Town, and the author links these systemic gender dislocations to local familial structure, resistance, and slave culture.

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      • Brooks, James F. Captives and Cousins: Slavery, Kinship and Community in the Southwest Borderlands. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002.

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        An important and accessible book that examines the origins and impact of the captive exchange economy within and among Native American and European-American communities throughout the Southwest Borderlands from the Spanish colonial era to the end of the 19th century.

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      • Cody, Cheryll Ann. “There Was No ‘Absalom’ on the Ball Plantations: Slave-Naming Practices in the South Carolina Low Country, 1720–1865.” American Historical Review 92.3 (June 1987): 563–596.

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        An examination of naming practices as evidence of cultural transformation. Cody charts names through both the Ball family and the slaves they owned, and suggests that names from the Bible replaced those with African antecedents by the second generation of slaves in North America, and thus resembled more closely the naming practices of owners.

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      • Craton, Michael. “Changing Patterns of Slave Families in the British West Indies.” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 10.1 (Summer 1979): 1–35.

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        One of the first articles to extend the work of Gutman 1976 on slave families in North America to the Caribbean. Challenges prior scholarship, which argued that master-slave relations made strong slave families impossible, and suggests directions for future scholars to explore why and when Caribbean families weakened once slavery ended. Republished in Gad Heuman and James Walvin, eds., The Slavery Reader (London: Routledge, 2003).

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      • DuVal, Kathleen. “Indian Intermarriage and Métissage in Colonial Louisiana.” William and Mary Quarterly, 3d ser., 65.2 (April 2008): 267–304.

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        A bold article that questions the frequency and meaning of French-Indian marriages and families. Suggests instead that natives’ acceptance of métissage—cultural and racial intermixing—varied by geographic region and native community, and that it rarely occurred in colonial Louisiana, as it was not commonly associated with trade or diplomatic alliances.

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      • Gutman, Herbert G. The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom, 1750–1925. New York: Pantheon, 1976.

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        A foundational study, positioned against E. Franklin Frazier’s The Negro Family in the United States (1948). Frazier suggested that “fatherless” slave families contributed to contemporary African American broken homes and cultural loss, while Gutman argued that most African American families included both parents, and that opportunities for cultural transmission between generations should therefore be reexamined.

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      • Morgan, Philip D. Slave Counterpoint: Black Culture in the Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake and Lowcountry. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998.

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        A comprehensive work that compares South Carolina, defined as a slave society, with Virginia, a society with slaves. Explores patterns in slaves’ labor and material life, but is especially strong in discussions of slave-master interactions, economic negotiation, social transformation, and cultural development, and in how these shaped slave family and community organization.

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      Economies

      Social and consumer histories have caused historians to reconsider what they believed about how Atlantic economies functioned. Rather than being considered simply as farms and plantations that both supplied raw materials and depended on European nations for their livelihoods, the Atlantic colonies are now recognized as complicated regional systems in their own right. So too are their residents. Those of European descent remained buyers and sellers to be sure, but the native, free black and enslaved people with whom they lived and interacted have also emerged as economic actors. Axtel 1992 and McDonald 1993 study economic activity from a non-European perspective. Axtell goes so far as to argue that Indians created the first North American consumer revolution, while McDonald mines plantation records in Louisiana and Jamaica for evidence of enslaved peoples’ market activity, buying behavior, and personal decisions. The material lives of slaves are also explored in Morgan and Berlin 1993 and Shepherd 2002, as is the variety of economic and labor activities in which slaves participated. Higman 1998, Jennings 2005, and Look Lai 2004 each focus on one aspect of economic development. Higman uses a single plantation to study interactions between owners and slaves over several generations; Jennings examines how ideas about race and skill shaped governmental use of state-owned slavery in Cuba; and Look Lai follows these same ideas as they applied to indentured Indian and Asian labor in the Caribbean in the 19th century. Finally, Eltis, et al. 2007 offer a provocative argument about historians’ desire to recast African cultivation knowledge as central to Atlantic economic development.

      • Axtell, James. Beyond 1492: Encounters in Colonial North America. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.

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        Timed to coincide with the quincentenary anniversary of Columbus’s arrival in the Americas, this book reimagines early Native American and European interactions from native perspectives. Especially strong are Chapters 5 and 6, which describe indigenous interpretations and influences on trade with British and French colonies.

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      • Eltis, David, Philip Morgan, and David Richardson. “Agency and Diaspora in Atlantic History: Reassessing the African Contribution to Rice Cultivation in the Americas.” American Historical Review 112.5 (December 2007): 1329–1358.

        DOI: 10.1086/ahr.112.5.1329Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

        Revisits the question of African contributions to New World labor through a study of rice cultivation. Also provides an excellent historiographical review of scholarship about the transfer of work knowledge, and discusses the motivations of slave buyers and sellers (as well as contemporary historians) for describing slaves as contributors to, not just workers in, plantation economies.

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      • Higman, Barry. Montpelier, Jamaica: A Plantation Community in Slavery and Freedom, 1739–1912. Mona, Jamaica: University of the West Indies Press, 1998.

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        Montpelier, one of the largest plantations established in Jamaica, covered 10,000 acres, including two sugar works and three separate slave villages. This study spans almost two centuries and includes an analysis of slave and free-labor family and household structure as influenced by the physical layout of laborer villages.

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      • Jennings, Evelyn Powell. “War as the ‘Forcing House of Change’: State Slavery in Eighteenth-Century Cuba.” William and Mary Quarterly, 3d ser., 62.3 (July 2005): 411–440.

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        Provides an excellent account of the Spanish Crown’s use of slave labor in the 1760s to strengthen Havana’s fortifications following British occupation of Cuba. Jennings relates these patterns to slaves’ work and living conditions before documenting the transition to convict labor by the 1790s.

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      • Look Lai, Walton. Indentured Labor, Caribbean Sugar: Chinese and Indian Migrants to the British West Indies, 1838–1918. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004.

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        Compares experiences and responses of Chinese and Indians as they were integrated into Caribbean colonial societies; the former moving primarily into trade, and the latter into agriculture. The focus is British Guyana, Trinidad, and Jamaica, with an emphasis on living and working conditions, the composition of immigrant communities, and cultural transfer. First published in 1993.

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      • McDonald, Roderick A. The Economy and Material Culture of Slaves: Goods and Chattels on the Sugar Plantations of Jamaica and Louisiana. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1993.

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        Argues that slaves offered opinions and expressed preferences on the quality of commodities acquired by owners on their behalf. They also acquired both food and material possessions with funds earned from hiring out, or selling or bartering ground provisions and other goods that reflected ethnic and religious identities and individual taste.

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      • Morgan, Philip D., and Ira Berlin, eds. Cultivation and Culture: Labor and the Shaping of Slave Life in the Americas. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1993.

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        Includes essays by leading scholars, including historians, anthropologists, and sociologists, that explore when, where, and how slaves labored in the Americas. Argues that slaves’ independent economic endeavors offered a foundation for domestic and community life, determining the social structure of slave society and providing a material basis for their distinctive culture.

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      • Shepherd, Verene A., ed. Slavery without Sugar: Diversity in Caribbean Economy and Society since the 17th Century. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 2002.

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        Challenges standard models of Caribbean slave labor based on sugar cultivation through studies of labor requirements, gender demographics, and ownership patterns for a variety of other commodities as well as nonagricultural slave-dependent activities. Also explores Caribbean slave holding by middling and poorer whites, free coloreds, free blacks, and the state.

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      Gender and Sexuality

      Bush 1990 and Gutierrez 1991 were among the first to argue that women’s experiences in the Atlantic world differed in important ways from those of men. Several important edited collections, including Shepherd, et al. 1995 and Gaspar and Hine 1996, followed these foundational studies and explored enslaved women’s lives in a number of colonies and under a variety of different conditions and cultural influences. More recently, Hodes 1999, Morgan 2004, and Gunning, et al. 2004 have moved from charting what enslaved women experienced to how these events shaped gender identity and politics, both by the women who lived them as well as those with whom they interacted. Burnard 2004 takes this analysis one step farther in a provocative study of gender, masculinity, power, and sexuality. To date, questions of gender and creolization have been dominated by the study of slave women, though future research on both Europeans and Amerindians holds potential for fruitful comparative analysis.

      • Burnard, Trevor. Mastery, Tyranny and Desire: Thomas Thistlewood and His Slaves in the Anglo-Jamaican World. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004.

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        Based on the 37-volume 18th-century diary of Thomas Thistlewood, an English immigrant slaveholder and plantation owner in Jamaica. Provides insight into the structure and enforcement of power and the connections between class, race, gender, and sexuality in the Atlantic world.

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      • Bush, Barbara. Slave Women in Caribbean Society, 1650–1838. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990.

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        An invaluable exploration of the complexities of gender, race, and class that made the experiences of slave women different from those of men. Challenges myths surrounding black women’s lives as workers, mothers, and active resisters of slavery.

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      • Gaspar, David Barry, and Darlene Clark Hine, eds. More Than Chattel: Black Women and Slavery in the Americas. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996.

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        An important collection of essays, many by well-known scholars, exploring enslaved women’s exploitation, both in terms of their physical labor and reproduction. Essays compare experiences in Brazil, the British and French West Indies, and the American South.

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      • Gunning, Sandra, Tera W. Hunter, and Michele Mitchell, eds. Dialogues of Dispersal: Gender, Sexuality and African Diasporas. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004.

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        Explores gender and sexuality in various Atlantic communities from the 18th to the 20th century. Essay topics range from religion and popular culture to identity and maternalism, raising questions about color and class, inclusion and exclusion, and the politics of narration, performance, and recognition.

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      • Gutierrez, Rámon. When Jesus Came, the Corn Mothers Went Away: Marriage, Sexuality and Power in Colonial New Mexico, 1500–1846. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1991.

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        An engaging and important social history of Spain’s colonial American empire. Gutierrez uses marriage to explore how the Spanish conquest of America affected the Pueblo Indians, especially their intimate social relations. Written largely from the indigenous point of view, this is an accessible tool for undergraduate teaching.

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      • Hodes, Martha, ed. Sex, Love and Race: Crossing Boundaries in North America. New York: New York University Press, 1999.

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        An important comparative collection of essays that explores interracial relations among African Americans, French colonists, German colonists, Native Americans, and others, as well as the implications of such unions for family structure, gender relations, class structures, and power dynamics. Studies span the 17th through the early 20th centuries.

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      • Morgan, Jennifer. Laboring Women: Reproduction and Gender in New World Slavery. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004.

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        Building on earlier scholarship about enslaved women’s value for physical and reproductive labor, this study suggests that a shared African heritage prior to enslavement, as well as the values and practices created during slavery, defined women’s gender identity as laborers and mothers and distinguished their experiences from those of enslaved men.

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      • Shepherd, Verene A., Bridget Brereton, and Barbara Bailey, eds. Engendering History: Caribbean Women in Historical Perspective. New York: St. Martin’s, 1995.

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        The two strong first sections situate gender studies within the fields of Caribbean and slave history and outline appropriate sources and methodologies. Additional sections explore women’s experiences in slavery and freedom, as well as women’s political activism in the later 19th and early 20th centuries.

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      Religion

      Religious conversion has often been treated in past scholarship as a transition from one set of values to another. In reality, hybrid religions were far more common in Atlantic communities, and the adoption of Christianity led to neither a great reduction in African spiritual or folk practices nor naturalistic medicine, local healers, or spiritual divines. Such ideas formed the basis of Raboteau’s study (Raboteau 1978) of the formation of the African American church, and they have since been profitably applied to Moravian communities (Sensbach 1998), the British Caribbean (Frey and Wood 1998), Brazil (Sweet 2003), and Peru (Silverblatt 1987), though Silverblatt suggests that religious creolization also led to a significant reduction in social privileges for Inca women. Sleeper-Smith 2000, by contrast, argues that Native American women’s conversion to Catholicism in Lower Canada enhanced their roles as both traders and cultural mediators, while Silverman 2005 suggests that European missionaries not only tolerated hybrid versions of Christianity among native peoples but also actively participated in their creation. Brown 2008 likewise argues that Europeans appropriated African religious ideas from Obeah and Voodoo as readily as Africans adapted Christian beliefs and symbols to their purposes, and that such creolization demonstrates the intersection of religion, power, and race in Atlantic communities.

      • Brown, Vincent. The Reaper’s Garden: Death and Power in the World of Atlantic Slavery. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008.

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        Powerful and engaging study of the role mortality played in shaping the attitudes of Jamaica’s living, both free and enslaved. Argues that the ever-present threat of death shaped status, religions, and power dynamics as both slaves and masters learned and appropriated each other’s beliefs in their efforts to assert control in an insecure world.

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      • Frey, Sylvia, and Betty Wood. Come Shouting to Zion: African American Protestantism in the American South and British Caribbean to 1830. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998.

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        A comprehensive study of the conversion of African-born and Creole slaves to Protestant Christianity in the American South and British West Indies. Highlights especially the roles of African American preachers and women in the conversion process, and in developing distinctive ritual patterns of worship and moral values within black spiritual communities.

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      • Raboteau, Albert. Slave Religion: The “Invisible” Institution in the Antebellum South. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978.

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        A classic study of African American history and religion. Analyzes the transformation of the African religions into evangelical Christianity, and uses slave narratives, missionary reports, travel accounts, folklore, black autobiographies, and the journals of white observers to describe the day-to-day religious life in slave communities. Republished in 2004.

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      • Sensbach, Jon J. A Separate Canaan: The Making of an Afro-Moravian World in North Carolina, 1763–1840. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998.

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        A sensitive and detailed study of how Moravians, who believed in the universalism of the gospel and baptized dozens of African Americans as full members of their congregations, nonetheless sanctioned black slavery as ordained by God. Based on German church documents, including dozens of rare black Moravian biographies.

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      • Silverblatt, Irene Marsha. Sun, Moon and Witches: Gender Ideologies and Class in Inca Colonial Peru. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987.

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        Prior to European contact, Andean gender relations and family ties descended in parallel lines—women through mothers and men through fathers—ensuring women access to land, water, and other resources. The Spanish conquest of the Inca, however, imposed a patriarchal system, not only altering Andean belief systems but also disrupting existing gender organization.

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      • Silverman, David. “Indians, Missionaries, and Religious Translation: Creating Wampanoag Christianity in Seventeenth-Century Martha’s Vineyard.” William and Mary Quarterly, 3d ser., 62.2 (April 2005): 141–174.

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        Scholars of Christian Indians agree that natives’ religious institutions included Christian and traditional elements. This article extends the argument, suggesting that Indians not only appropriated aspects of Puritanism, but also that Puritan missionaries assisted their efforts by filtering Christian teachings through Wampanoag religious ideas and terminology.

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      • Sleeper-Smith, Susan. “Women, Kin, and Catholicism: New Perspectives on the Fur Trade.” Ethnohistory 47.2 (Spring 2000): 423–452.

        DOI: 10.1215/00141801-47-2-423Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

        Sleeper-Smith uses four native women, all Christian converts who married French fur traders, to argue that they acted as “cultural mediators” in the western Great Lakes by using Catholic kin networks that paralleled and extended those of indigenous societies. She suggests new ways to study women’s involvement in trade and how trade and religion affected Indian communities.

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      • Sweet, James H. Recreating Africa: Culture, Kinship, and Religion in the African-Portuguese World, 1441–1770. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003.

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        Focuses on the cultures of Central Africa from which the slaves came—Ndembu, Imbangala, Kongo, and others—and identifies specific cultural rites and beliefs that survived transplantation to Brazil. Sweet argues that slaves did not give way to immediate creolization but remained distinctly African for some time.

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      Race

      Race is undoubtedly the most hotly debated subfield in creolization studies. New scholarship has moved beyond thinking about Atlantic world racial categories in terms of Europeans and colonials, Africans and African Americans, or indigenous ethnicities to acknowledge the range of intricately interwoven and yet distinct racial categories resulting from interracial relations. Berlin 1996 explores how race is redefined by context; mixed-race creoles, for example, were valued in 17th-century communities as cultural brokers but became marginalized when the rise of plantation slavery redefined Africans as black. Gomez 1998 and Lovejoy 1997 explore the other side of the equation in their studies of the ability of Africans in America to retain their sense of ethnic identity despite efforts to collapse or even erase them. Northrup 2000 addresses this same idea, but in terms of historians’ tendency to overlook important cultural and ethnic distinctions between regions of Africa. Sidbury 2007, by contrast, argues that African Americans from various backgrounds created an African identity as a source of strength and unity, while Sweet 2003 and Shoemaker 2004 suggest that ideas about race—European, African, and Native American—were not fixed but renegotiated, often under moments of stress or violence. Young 1993 continues the trajectory of this argument into the later 19th and 20th centuries, applying the same concept of a created unifying identity found in Sidbury’s work to Caribbean notions of West Indian.

      • Berlin, Ira. “From Creole to African: Atlantic Creoles and the Origins of African-American Society in Mainland North America.” William and Mary Quarterly, 3d ser., 53.2 (April 1996): 251–288.

        DOI: 10.2307/2947401Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

        A provocative article arguing that Creoles from West African communities were cosmopolitan, mixed-race peoples, able to move between different races and ethnicities. The rise of plantation economies demanded more slaves from the African interior, however, and Africans became more identified with physical labor than cultural brokering and skill.

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      • Gomez, Michael A. Exchanging Our Country Marks: The Transformation of African Identities in the Colonial and Antebellum South. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998.

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        Uses runaway slave advertisements that cite the African ethnicity of slaves, as well as stories, music, and sites of slave insurrections to argue that, while blacks eventually adopted new understandings of race after arriving in the American South, they retained much of their original cultures for far longer than hitherto acknowledged.

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      • Lovejoy, Paul. “The African Diaspora: Revisionist Interpretations of Ethnicity, Culture and Religion under Slavery.” Studies in the World History of Slavery, Abolition and Emancipation 2.1 (1997): 1–23.

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        Emphasizes that the transatlantic slave trade was less random (and thus less randomizing) than previously assumed, thereby resulting in a greater likelihood of historical influences of groups of Africans in the formation and conservation of cultural patterns in the Atlantic world.

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      • Northrup, David. “Igbo and Myth Igbo: Culture and Ethnicity in the Atlantic World: 1600–1850.” Slavery & Abolition 21.3 (2000): 1–20.

        DOI: 10.1080/01440390008575318Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

        An important critique of the ethnographic labels Europeans used to identify cultural communities in the Bight of Biafra region of West Africa. Northrup argues that oversimplification has led to overestimations of such groups in existing scholarship on the slave trade, and that attention to the diversity of ethnic differences in the region is called for.

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      • Shoemaker, Nancy. A Strange Likeness: Becoming Red and White in Eighteenth Century North America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

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        Suggests that Native Americans and European colonists shared similar ideas about land, government, recordkeeping, international alliances, gender, and the human body. Conflicts during the 18th century, however, focused more attention on differences, and this is when indigenous peoples became “savages” and colonists “greedy” and “land-hungry” in the minds of each other.

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      • Sidbury, James. Becoming African in America: Race and Nation in the Early Black Atlantic. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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        Traces the transformation of various African peoples into “Africans” in the late–18th-century Atlantic world. While this term is often thought as homogenizing or denigrating when used by Europeans, Sidbury suggests it could be a source of pride and unity for diverse victims of the Atlantic slave trade.

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      • Sweet, John Wood. Bodies Politic: Negotiating Race in the American North, 1730–1830. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003.

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        Explores how Indians, Africans, and Anglo-Americans defined their respective places in early New England, and follows the ramifications of these conflicts on contemporary ideas about race, ethnicity, and identity.

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      • Young, Virginia Heyer. Becoming West Indian: Culture, Self and Nation in St. Vincent. Washington, DC and London: Smithsonian Institute Press, 1993.

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        Analyzes Creole culture and national identity, tracking how political and economic choices made by generations of inhabitants on this British West Indian island from the colonial era to the present have drawn on a coherent and enduring understanding of Vincentian nationalism that emerged primarily at the level of village life.

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      Culture

      Cultural heterogeneity and creative mixing, whether forced or voluntary, characterized the Atlantic world as European, African, and American peoples and worldviews came into contact with each other. Though culture is an ephemeral concept, its impact can often be measured in material or tangible ways, and the works listed here demonstrate the diversity, creativity, and innovation of such endeavors. Abrahams 1983, Dirks 1987, and Sobel 1987 were among the first to explore the cultural dynamics of creolization, though each followed different lines of inquiry. Abrahams explored the structure of language, arguing that enslaved Jamaican men developed different linguistic traditions for private and public discourse that continued to influence speech patterns well into the 20th century. Sobel used ideas about time, labor, and space to demonstrate how white and black Virginians created a creolized worldview, while Dirks argued that traditional power dynamics on plantations were temporarily suspended during holiday celebrations, resulting in social and psychological disruptions that often led to violence. Several subsequent works have returned to these same themes: Bauer and Mazzotti 2009 and Goudie 2005, which examine the creolization of literature; Curto and Lovejoy 2004 and Landers and Robinson 2006, which look at plantation power dynamics and resistance; and Spitzer 2003, an analysis of music as a product of European and African American collaboration.

      • Abrahams, Roger. The Man-of-Words in the West Indies: Performance and the Emergence of Creole Culture. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983.

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        Uses the “man-of-words” in the British Caribbean as evidence of African linguistic style adaptation to New World languages. Though grounded in 20th-century fieldwork and focused exclusively on men, the work draws on a longer historical trajectory about the creolization of communication in the Americas.

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      • Bauer, Ralph, and Jose Antonio Mazzotti, eds. Creole Subjects in the Colonial Americas: Empires, Text, Identities. Charlottesville: University of North Carolina Press, 2009.

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        Includes essays by eminent interdisciplinary scholars exploring the consciousness of Euro-American peoples by examining the creolization of their literary genres. Traces early colonializing ideas as well as Creole elites’ relations to indigenous peoples and imperial regimes, showing how cultural differences justified conquest and how European literary tastes adapted to Creole contexts.

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      • Curto, José C., and Paul E. Lovejoy, eds. Enslaving Connections: Changing Cultures of Africa and Brazil during the Era of Slavery. Amherst, NY: Humanity Books, 2004.

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        Divided into three major sections, this collection of essays by senior scholars focuses first on the Portuguese-Brazilian slave trade, second on the impact of western Africans on the making of colonial and post-independence Brazil, and finally on the effects of Brazil and Afro-Brazilians on western Africa.

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      • Dirks, Robert. Black Saturnalia: Conflict and Its Ritual Expression on British West Indian Slave Plantations. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1987.

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        Approaches the study of plantation power and conflict as an ethnohistorian, less interested in their origins than in their operation as cultural systems. Dirk’s analysis focuses on a few key aspects of plantation life, and he suggests a direct link between the introduction of holiday provisions and celebrations into ordinarily oppressive conditions with outbursts of hostility and resistance.

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      • Goudie, Sean. Creole America: The West Indies and the Formation of Literature and Culture in the New Republic. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005.

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        Argues the West Indies was a cultural “shadow double” to the United States, which linked citizens of the new republic to Caribbean colonists as white “creoles.” While the writing is heavily laden with disciplinary jargon and requires real effort to decipher, it does point to interesting intercolonial identity formation.

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      • Landers, Jane, and Barry M. Robinson, eds. Slaves, Subjects, and Subversives: Blacks in Colonial Latin America. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2006.

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        Includes important essays from leading Latin American scholars that apply concepts of creolization to specific regions, groups, and individuals. Topics include the Muslim impact on the slave trade and labor organization, material culture and religious creolization, resistance strategies around the Atlantic, and specific microhistories.

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      • Sobel, Mechal. The World They Made Together: Black and White Values in Eighteenth-Century Virginia. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987.

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        More than two decades old and focused on one North American colony, Sobel’s work remains one of the best-articulated and accessible studies of creolization to date. This volume explores attitudes toward such ephemeral ideas as work, time, space, causation, and purpose in concrete, material ways, and it is excellent for undergraduate teaching.

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      • Spitzer, Nicholas. “Mode Creole: The Cultural World of French Louisiana Creoles and the Creolization of World Cultures.” Journal of American Folklore 116.459 (Winter 2003): 57–72.

        DOI: 10.1353/jaf.2003.0014Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

        Linguistic creolization is compared to cultural creolization, specifically to the evolution, form, style, and performance of zydeco music and related community aesthetic expressions among rural African-Acadian Louisiana Creoles.

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      LAST MODIFIED: 05/10/2010

      DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199730414-0016

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