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“I’m a Creole-Kongo”: Kongolese Vodou and Creolization in Haiti


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This paper investigates the concept of Creolization through a study of the Kongolese contribution to Haitian Vodou in the post-Revolutionary era. According to Laurent Dubois, post-independence Haitian society was characterized by three cultural creations: the lakou, the Haitian Kreyol language, and the Vodou religion. Scholars have failed to account for the fact that these new cultural forms emerging from the Haitian Revolution were created by a largely homogenous demographic group: West Central Africans. On the eve of the Revolution, 90% of the population was enslaved; two-thirds had been born in Africa, many in Central Africa. Known generally as “Congos,” most had recently arrived in the colony and many lived in majority Central African communities. The demographic dominance of the Kongolese in Haiti undermines two key assumptions that undergird the study of Creolization: the perceived heterogeneity of the plantation world and the assumption that slaves spent most of their lives as slaves, and the plantation was therefore the biggest, or only influence on their ideas and culture. Neither assumption holds true for the population of Haiti. In this paper I use a sociolinguistic methodology to study the Kongolese contribution to Haitian Vodou. The existence of Kongolese spiritual technologies in the “Creole” cultural form of Vodou has implications for the way historians think about the process of Creolization in the New World. I conclude by challenging historians to recognize the fact that the process of Creolization in the Americas could be conducted with African cultural tools.

 

 

Event Date: 
Friday, 19 February 2016 - 1:00pm to 3:00pm
Speaker: 
Christina Mobley
Speaker Title: 
University of Virginia, Department of History