Accepted paper:

(De)creolizing diaspora? The Creole struggle for (em)placement in multicultural Mauritius


Candice Lowe (Vassar College)

Paper short abstract:

To transform themselves into a proper diaspora for a multicultural nation Creoles attempt to 'decreolise' by means of hypercreolisation using global resources. Here diasporic practice is not only central to the functioning of the host nation state but also a necessary aspect of belonging to it.

Paper long abstract:

Among the implicit premises of diaspora studies is first, the idea that diaspora populations subsist as ethno-racial minorities in their receiver nations and that political, symbolic and economic marginalization provide crucial supports for their reproduction. A second presumption is that the presence of diaspora challenges notions of purity associated with the nation and with universalism. However, the case of the Indian Ocean society of Mauritius challenges these apriorisms. In this island democracy, the Indian diaspora not only came to form a majority in society at large and in public institutions at the dawn of political independence in 1968, but Indo-Mauritians have since used their influence to act as arbiters of (all) diasporic heritage(s) by effecting a national paradigm of an ancestral-origins based multi-culturalism. That is, contrary to the expectation that gaining access to the means of national reproduction might lead to a decline in diasporic identification—at least for the politically dominant group, official claims to diasporic purity have intensified in the post-colonial era. Members of society, namely Creoles, who self-identify not with a pure diasporic heritage, but with a "mixed" or ancestrally Mauritian one, are politically and economically confined to the margins, construed as incorrigibly "cultureless," and deemed a threat to the integrity of an otherwise healthy multi-cultural body. Thus even though Creoles comprise almost thirty per cent of the population, and are the only group to identify Mauritius as their primary ancestral homeland, Creoles' claim to national enfranchisement is still a matter of contestation. Some Creoles have responded to this predicament by engaging in the paradoxical attempt to decreolize on the local level by means of hyper-creolization on a global scale. In this paper, I illustrate how "purities" are comprised of strategic mixing and suggest that state multiculturalism, as in the case of nationalisms commonly defined, can also function as a mechanism of homogenization towards particular ancestral roots. Additionally, my research reveals not only that the practice of diaspora can be central to the functioning of the "host" (rather than solely the "home") nation-state, but may also be a necessary aspect of belonging to it.

panel W007
Interrogating diaspora