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COOL!TUDE – Cultural Identity

COOL!TUDE – Cultural Identity


COOLITUDE – Transversal Identity according to Raphael Confiant


Raphael Confiant, the celebrated author and ‘militant créole’ from Martinique discusses coolitude in an article published in French recently. Below is an edited résumé in English of his musings on the subject:

Confiant writes, there are two ways of conceptualizing cultural identity: one is the conservative, purist way, of not wanting to mix one culture with another; and the other way is more or less the opposite, without relinquishing one’s identity, it  is more open and ready to accept others.

Unfortunately the first view has predominated throughout history. If we look back, for example, at the indigenous population of the Caribbean, Martinique in particular, later known as ‘Amer-indians’, which was decimated, by the dominant European cultures, first by the Portuguese in search of gold, and afterwards by the French colonial system. Since there was no gold, the French built plantations and forced the indigenous people and African slaves to work in the colonies. After the abolition of slavery, colonizers recruited people from various countries, to work in the fields, under the indenture system.

In the process, however, all the different “subordinate” cultures were forging a common identity through language; a common ‘creole’ culture, through shared experiences. The hellish environment they were in acted like a crucible whereby they were able to forge a creole language; where each ‘subordinate’ culture was able to give and take from each other.  Although it seems that they were forced to be together, cultural exchange is a natural process; with time, even the dominant European culture has appropriated many elements of the ‘other’ cultures.

This new creole identity consisted of many different cultures: European, African, Indian, Asian and Amerindian.  As the Indians were brought on ships as coolies, they began the transformation of their identity through coolitude. Coolitude is to a certain degree the Indian equivalent of Creolité. However, coolitude brings elements of migration and the contractual bond into the mix. Compelling migrants from all over the world, to engage in a contractual bond, had an unexpected effect – they embraced a mosaic identity. As a counterpoint to the globalisation of the Anglo-American language and culture; coolitude brings about the democratisation of contractual work, skills, labour, talents – of cultures.

Confiant ends his article by thanking two great writers whose magnificent works have enabled us to better understand the concept of coolitude: Indo Mauritian poet Khal Torabully and Martinican novelist Camille Moutoussamy.

Source: Raphael Confiant, ‘A Coolitude, Identité Transversale’, Le Mauricien, 31 october 2015

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