Sunday, January 05, 2014

"Creolization and Creativity" -- Thomas Hylland Eriksen

Mélange, hotchpotch, a bit of this and a bit of that is how newness enters the world. It is the great possibility that mass migration gives the world, and I have tried to embrace it." Salman Rushdie, (qtd. Ericksen, "Creolization" 223).

Thomas Hylland Eriksen. "Creolization and Creativity." Global Networks 3 , 3 (2003) 223–237. Available on line at

[Publication Name: Global Networks -- a Journal of Transnational Affairs]

In the famous opening sequence of The satanic verses , where Saladin Chamcha and Gibreel Farishta fall out of Air India’s London-bound flight 420, later to be fished miraculously out of the Channel, Gibreel improvises an English translation of an old Hindi film song: ‘O, my shoes are Japanese. … These trousers English, if you please. On my head, red Russian hat; my heart’s Indian for all that’ (Rushdie 1988: 5). 1 In a later essay explaining the mission of his instantly controversial novel – burned in Bradford, leading to a fatwa in Tehran, creating a decade-long global stir – Rushdie offers his view of creativity, contrasting it with the cultural purism and fear of contamination he associates with the enemies of The satanic verses . The book ‘rejoices in mongrelization and fears the absolutism of the Pure. Mélange , hotchpotch, a bit of this and a bit of that is how newness enters the world . It is the great possibility that mass migration gives the world, and I have tried to embrace it’ (Rushdie 1991: 394). This view of ‘newness’ corresponds well with the perspectives on cultural dynamics and change developed in Ulf Hannerz’s œuvre for more than three decades, and although anthropological purists have never threatened with anything like a fatwa, Hannerz’s position is more controversial than his congenial style of argument usually betrays. Especially in his work on globalization and cultural creolization from the late 1980s onwards, Hannerz has powerfully argued in favour of a view of cultural creativity that is far removed from any Romantic vision of the lone genius inspired by his Muse and the depths of his cultural heritage. In the networked world of flows and movement described by Hannerz in two influential books (1992, 1996) and in a number of journal articles, newness appears as a result of recontextualization, mixing and ongoing, always provisional mergers of formerly discrete symbolic realms. This article is devoted to an examination of this view of creativity, hinting at its historical origin and contrasting it with a view informed by Romantic thought, which was probably dominant in twentieth century anthropology.

Thomas H. Eriksen on cultural and linguistic creolization in Eastern Oslo [23-min video clip]
Part of a lecture held by Prof. Hylland Eriksen (Univ. of Oslo) at the Centre for Comparative Studies, University of Lisbon, October 14, 2013.

Eriksen is is professor of social anthropology at the University of Oslo. Wikipedia:

A considerable portion of Eriksen's work has focused on popularizing social anthropology and conveying basic cultural relativism as well as criticism of Norwegian nationalism in the Norwegian public debate. He has written the basic textbook used in the introductory courses in social anthropology at most Scandinavian universities. The book, "Small Places -- Large Issues" in English, is also used in introductory courses in many other countries, and has been widely translated, as has his other major textbook, "Ethnicity and Nationalism: Anthropological Perspectives". Eriksen is a frequent contributor of newspaper pieces in Scandinavia.

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