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Creolization and The Making of Global Society

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Helen Malarky photo

Living with difference: creolization and the making of global society – the second public lecture in the Global Societies series, Monday 25th November as part of the Humanities in Public programme at MMU.

Professor Robin Cohen, Emeritus Professor at the University of Oxford, took a diverse Manchester audience through the fascinating history of creolization – from the biblical town of Babel and the origins of the word ‘creole’ in Cape Verde to the ideas of Jean Marie le Pen and Samuel P. Huntington.

The esteemed professor received an enviable introduction from Dr Paul Kennedy, convenor of the Global Society lectures, before detailing the ideas of creolization – a word that, as Professor Cohen admits himself, is unknown to most people. Professor Cohen explained that, with the word creolization, he was alluding to “what happens when two or more cultures interact and intersect and something new emerges between them”.

Robin Cohen

Creolization has always been apparent, Professor Cohen explained, but shown in quite a fragmentary way. Linguists have studied how languages have moved from one place to another, archaeologists have found artefacts that looked similar to artefacts found in other locations, and people who have studied food and culture have found similar customs in various locations. Now with the advancement of DNA technology, these studies can be done much more scientifically, and speculations can be proven, such as the unlikely story of a part of Madagascar being repopulated by Polynesians.
Professor Cohen was keen not to show creolization romantically, stressing the negative side of its power structure and the importance of dominance. In the example of Cape Verde, where Portuguese culture met with West African culture to form a creole culture, Professor Cohen stated that it was not a romantic tale but rather the case shows how it really is “in the world out there when people collide and then come to that encounter with different possibilities and different forms of power”.

Professor Cohen fully showed off his knowledge of the field of globalisation with the discussions at the end of the lecture. He answered an array of questions leaving the public audience fully satisfied. It was clear to see how Professor Cohen has had such a revered career from his lecture on Monday greatly summed up by the two phrases he ended his lecture with, “Celebrate invention not retention” and “Value creativity not authenticity”.

The next Global Society lecture that will take place is Global Citizenship: Experiencing and engaging with citizenship in a global context by Dr Darren O’Byrne. O’Byrne will discuss the ideas presented in his 2003 book The Dimensions of Global Citizenship, showing them in light of contemporary developments.

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