Creole on the Trinidadian Ground: Revisiting the Concept


  • Joanna TRZECIAK VU University in Amsterdam


Creole, creolization, Trinidad, ethnicity, language, East Indian, Africa


This paper examines the multiplicity of the definitions of “Creole” applied by social researchers, linguists, and anthropologists since it was coined in 16th century in the colonies founded by the Portuguese and the Spanish. On the basis of the data gathered during the ethnographic fieldwork in three Secondary Schools in the East-West Corridor of Trinidad, we revisit the definitions of Creole and suggest that only further ethnographic research might provide us with the understanding of the contemporary concept of Creole (or creole, various spellings have been used). In this article we argue that the concept of Creole has different connotations in Trinidad when it refers to language and when it is used to describe ethnicity. In the first case it implies inclusion and unity among Trinidadians, whereas in the latter meaning, it has dubious connotations and it might refer to “us”, the Trinidadians, proud of the diversity (thus again implying inclusion), or, on the other hand, excluding Trinidadian East Indians or Indo-Trinidadians (therefore indicating exclusion).


<li>Brathwaite, Edward Kamau (1971), The Development of Creole Society in Jamaica 1770-1820, Clarendon Press, Oxford.
<li>CIA World Factbook, (accessed: 26.04.2013). “”, (accessed: 26.04.2013).
<li>Ferreira, Jo-Anne Sharon (n.d.), The Sociolinguistic situation of Trinidad and Tobago, (accessed: 16.10.2007).
<li>Hannerz, Ulf (1997), “Flows, Boundaries and Hybrids: Keywords in Transnational Anthropo-logy”. Published in Portuguese as “Fluxos, fronteras, híbridos: palavras-chave da antropologia transnacional”, Mana, No. 3 (1), Rio de Janeiro, pp. 7-39.
<li>Holm, John (2000), An Introduction to Pidgins and Creoles, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 1-13.
<li>Jourdan, Christine (1991), “Pidgins and Creoles. Blurring of categories”, Annual Review of Anthropology, No. 20, pp. 187-209.
<li>Khan, Aisha (2007), “Good to Think? Creolization. Optimism, and Agency”, Current An-thropology, No. 48 (5).
<li>Lowenthal, David (1971), West Indian Societies, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
<li>Mintz, Sidney Wilfred (1998), “The Localization of Anthropological Practice: From Area Studies to Transnationalism”, Critique of Anthropology No. 18 (2), pp. 117-133.
<li>Morgan, Marcyliena (ed) (1994), Language and the Social Construction of Identity in Creole Situations, Center for Afro-American Studies, Los Angeles.
<li>Nettleford, Rex (1978), Caribbean Cultural Identity: The Case of Jamaica, Center for Afro-American Studies, Los Angeles.
<li>Palmié, Stephan (2006), “Creolization and Its Discontents”, Annual Review of Anthropology, No. 35, pp. 433-456.
<li>Stewart, Charles (2007), Creolization. History, Ethnography, Theory, Left Coast Press, Wal-nut Creek, CA.
<li>Stoddard, Eva; and Grant Cornwell (1999), “Cosmopolitan or Mongrel? Reading Creolite and Hybridity via “Douglarisation” in Trinidad”, in: Ralph R. Premdas (ed.), Identity, Ethnicity and Culture in the Caribbean, The University of the West Indies, St. Au-gustine.
<li>Trzeciak, Joanna (2008), Voicing the Identities of Trinidadian Youth. Creole Language and Identity in Trinidad and Tobago, MSc thesis, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
<li>Winford, Donald (1994), “Sociolinguistic approaches to language use in the Anglophone Ca-ribbean”, in: M. Morgan (ed.), Language and the Social Construction of Identity in Creole Situations, Center for Afro-American Studies, Los Angeles.