Review – ‘The Portuguese in the Creole Indian Ocean: Essays in historical cosmopolitanism’ by Markus Vink

By Markus Vink, published February 2021


Using the work of French Réunion historian Françoise Vergès, ‘Indian-Oceanic Creolizations: Processes and practices of creolization on Réunion Island’ (in C. Stewart, Creolization: History, ethnography, theory Walnut Creek ca, 2007, 133–52) as an entry point, Fernando Rosa, a research affiliate in the English department at Stellenbosch University, South Africa, and self-described ‘displaced Brazilian scholar’ (p. 39), presents ‘tentative conclusions . . . based, rather than on a wealth of material, mostly on some [well-known] key texts’ originating in the ‘Portuguese’ Indian Ocean assumed to be ‘somehow representative’ by applying an ‘unabashedly parochial, and perhaps even provincial’ methodology (p. 169). Revisiting this small corpus with a view of resituating them within a cosmopolitan and Creole Indian Ocean, Rosa asserts, might ‘open for the reader a thought-provoking window onto the Indian Ocean world, particularly in what concerns some of its historical processes of creolization and cosmopolitanism in which a few Portuguese may have been enmeshed’ (p. xiii).

Rosa’s intensely reflexive itinerary, most notably its third chapter, also tends to be repetitive drifting between lengthy digressions consisting of free association (invariably introduced by ‘incidentally’ or concluded with ‘at any rate’) and summary peremptory cutoff statements from ‘I will not present further reflections’, ‘I cannot go into details’, and ‘I cannot go into the matter here’ to ‘I can hardly expatiate on the matter here’ (pp. 78, 79, 81, 84, 85, 86).

These limitations notwithstanding, The Portuguese in the Creole Indian Ocean complicates current understandings of the processes of creolization and cosmopolitanism and raises some important questions about literature and history in general and diasporas and identity formation in particular.

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Filed under: Early Modern | Eighteenth Century | Other (Early Modern) | Other (Twentieth C) | Nineteenth Century | Other (Nineteenth C) | Other (Eighteenth C) | Indian Ocean | Twentieth Century
Subjects include: Miscellaneous

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