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by Emmanuel Richon

The author Emmanuel Richon, in his latest book entitled ‘Accorité’ offers a new concept to explain interculturality in the Mauritian context.

In his analysis, the author deconstructs the concept of interculturality [the interaction of persons of various cultural backgrounds], within the Mauritian perspective, to show us that at the core of it lies what he terms Accorité.

The author raises very important questions, and also points to the fact that the Mauritian media is dealing with what is perceived to be a tangible paradox in the everyday life of the population.  Is it really the ideal paradise (image) we continuously sell to tourists or does this mask a reality which in some ways equates to a living hell for the citizens of the island? Whether an intercultural society is, in the long term, a recipe for disaster is not an idea that most of us would support, but Mauritian author Issa Asgarally believes this to be the case and has written of a coming cataclysm.

Richon tackles the question of whether there is really conflict in such an amalgam of cultures as Mauritius represents, and agrees that, without a doubt, conflict is present. According to Kantian theory,  we are naturally bound to have discord in order to have accord. This process of discord and accord is natural and important, otherwise society will lack the constant, continuous, impetus/dynamics for it to progress with equilibrium and enrichment in its evolution. It also helps to bring about a rapprochement, a better understanding of the different cultures; and in the course of it, all the cultures involved enrich each other.

Richon posits that this process has, at the core as well as on the surface, begun a very long time ago. He explains that we do not have to think ‘intercultural’ to become intercultural. This is the mistake that some intellectuals and government officials make when they attempt to impose on people the notion that there is an ultimate ‘good’ – sonnum bonum –  for them to strive for.

The author poses the question as to whether this policy leads to alienation as people are forced into embracing a concept that they themselves find intangible and elusive.  Richon instead asks, should not the people feel free to embrace (as they already have) ‘otherness’, without the opposition of this constant, continuous, rhetoric and demagogical discourse?

Richon contends that people have already been living, experiencing, and feeling the entente cordiale amongst themselves – between neighbours. Interculturality has in such respects taken place a long time ago, and has taken place through various aspects of Mauritian society. He offers numerous concrete examples to demonstrate that this practice is already in the here and has been taking place from the very inception of this relatively new nation.  The period of slavery, for example, created a new context common to all which was conducive to seeing oneness in otherness.  The author illustrates this through a discussion of the habits/customs of the various population groups on the island; and confirms that Mauritians already have a mosaic/plural identity.

He further explains that we ought not to think of interculturality as a fixed ensemble of individual cultures, juxtaposed, and impermeable. Just as ‘no man is an island’, a cultural identity needs, borrows and relies on other cultures. A culture evolves, it does not remain fixed and stagnant. And the fact that there was no indigenous culture, has ensured that the various groups who settled on Mauritius have learned to cope, adjust and adapt to their new environment.  And as all the different cultures converged in this new context, there was only one way to progress, to move forward and they found it in Accorité.

M. Richon explains that the word Accorité itself has been invented on the island of Mauritius, where there was a need for it.  L’Accorité is a Mauritian Creole culture,  it encapsulates the art of living together. As a concept it continuously places ‘otherness’ before ‘sameness’ and the process consists of a radical movement from ‘sameness’ towards ‘otherness’ – hence Accorité. This concept of Accorité survived well until the 1980s, believes Richon, at which time the economic boom brought about an individualistic mentality. Nevertheless Mauritius remains a society built on mutual respect and also on tolerance, which is seen as a choice rather than an innate attitude.

In his latest book Emmanuel Richon has been at pains to explain the Mauritian psychology to his readers and in so doing he has not only underscored his profound understanding of the nation’s  psyche, but has offered a remarkable discourse on the origins and development of this entente between cultures –  Accorité. All that remains, for us to do, argues Richon, is to consciously embrace what we have held dear through decades of progress, and continue to enjoy this rich and beautiful society that we live in. Let us hope that this remarkable work will be discussed and disseminated not only in the schools and universities of Mauritius but more widely in this increasingly globalized and intercultural world.





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