Straight to Chapter 5
of seeing opposites. - The general imprecise way of observing sees
everywhere in nature opposites (as, e.g., "warm and cold")
where there are, not opposites, but differences in degree. This
bad habit has led us into wanting to comprehend and analyse the
inner world, too, the spiritual-moral world, in terms of such opposites.
An unspeakable amount of painfulness, arrogance, harshness, estrangement,
frigidity has entered into human feelings because we think we see
opposites instead of transitions.
-Friedrich Nietzsche, Der Wanderer und sein Schatten, § 67
"It takes at least two somethings to create a difference. (...)
There is a profound and unanswerable question about the nature of
those 'at least two' things that between them generate a difference
which becomes information by making a difference. Clearly each alone
is - for the mind and perception - a non-entity, a non-being. Not
different from being, and not different from non-being. An unknowable,
a Ding an sich, a sound from one hand clapping."
-Gregory Bateson, Mind and Nature, p. 78
List of tables and figures v
Map of Mauritius viii
1. PRELIMINARIES 10
History - Division of labour - Languages - Ethnics - Change - International
Aims and preliminary concepts
Competing concepts of ethnicity - Multiple identities - A problem
2. FIELDS, LEVELS AND SOCIAL PERSONS 27
Fields and scale - Structural levels - Structure and culture
Persons, fields, statuses
Three examples - Fields in Mauritian systems of action
3. THE COMMUNICATION OF DISTINCTIVENESS 49
Highest common denominators - The local codification of ethnicity
Taxonomies, stereotypes and their application
Taxonomies - The practical foundations of taxonomies - Stereotypes
as shared representations and as sources of conflict
Organisation and identity
Ethnic-specific career strategies: Fields iii-iv - Ethnics in occupational
hierarchies, monitored in fields iv-vi - Language in ethnicity -
in political and cultural ethnicity - Organisation and identity
Black Creole identity - Social mobility - Coloured cultural identity
4. SOME ALTERNATIVES TO ETHNICITY 125
The cultural communication and social organisation of non-ethnic
Class organisation - Rural-urban opposition - Locality-based unity
- Feminism - Youth - Intermarriage
Preliminary conclusions: Common denominators of Mauritian ethnicity.
Elements of ethnicity - Forms of ethnic organisation - The significance
5. NATIONALISM 166
The search for national symbols
Independence celebrations in the plural society - Ramgoolam's
funeral - A non-ethnic political party? The case of the MMM
Languages in nationalism
Linguistic diversity in primary education - Kreol as a potential
Ethnicity, nationalism and social change
Tourism, industrialisation and bureaucracy in the national state
The Mauritian and the world: "We" and "us"
Appendix 1: A note on Kreol
Appendix 2: Abbreviations used in the text
Appendix 3: Some ethnic terms
Appendix 4: The course of investigation
"-But do you know what a nation means? says John Wyse.
-Yes, says Bloom.
-What is it? says John Wyse.
-A nation? says Bloom. A nation is the same people living in the
-By God, then, says Ned, laughing, if that's so I'm a nation for
I'm living in the same place for the past five years.
So of course everyone had a laugh at Bloom and says he, trying to
muck out of it:
-Or also living in different places.
-That covers my case, says Joe.
-What is your nation if I may ask, says the citizen.
-Ireland, says Bloom. I was born here. Ireland. "
James Joyce, Ulysses (1984 : 329-30)
Compared to other recently founded "pluri-ethnic" states,
such as say, Malaysia, Nigeria and Sri Lanka, the case for nationalism
seems strong in Mauritius. No mono-ethnic hegemony could possibly
establish itself officially without a devastating civil war, and
political separatism is definitely not an option for anybody. Yet
we have seen many examples of the practical reproduction of ethnicity
as providing ultimate frames of relevance (both as organisation
and as identity) in civil society. This final chapter deals with
practical attempts to establish unitary nationalist ideology, and
the conditions for its emergence as a symbolic system capable of
overruling the "particularistic" ideologies.
When, in the 1970's, the MMM launched its nationalist slogan Enn
sel lepep, enn sel nasyon ("A single people; a single nation"),
there was much confusion. "What else can you expect,"
comments a journalist retrospectively, "considering nasyon
in Kreol means jati and not nation like in French..." Early
in my fieldwork, I asked a Creole if he conventionally tipped waiters.
"Selman bann nasyon" ("Only nation people"),
was his rather confusing reply. Later I was to learn that this meant
he only tipped waiters who were fellow Creoles. At another occasion,
I introduced two African friends to a group of urban Creoles. "Mo
kontan zot parski zot nasyon", said one of the Creoles, addressing
himself to the Africans ("I like you, 'cause you belong to
my nasyon"). During a political discussion with a group of
Hindus, somebody mentioned bann ti-nasyon ("the small nasyons"),
referring to the impure castes, the not-twice-born, the shudras.
Again, when my brother came on holiday to Mauritius and we'd exchange
the odd phrase in Norwegian with others present, people might tell
each other that "Zot pe koze so langaz, anfen, zot mem nasyon"
("They're speaking their language; you know, they are the same
Mauritius, on the contrary, is rarely talked about as a nasyon.
If asked "What is Mauritius?", a native of the island
might reply that it's enn lil (an island) or enn peyi (a country). Only people speaking a Kreol heavily influenced by
French language and corresponding concepts could conceivably describe
Mauritius as enn nasyon. The word is used normatively in political
rhetoric; the MMM has been mentioned, and in addition, the word
is listed in LPT's Kreol-English dictionary (Ledikasyon pu travayer
1985) as meaning simply "nation". Other politicians
tend to avoid using the word altogether, and would rather talk of
le peuple mauricien or tous les Mauriciens when invoking the concept
of national unity: they are less likely to be misunderstood.
The Kreol word nasyon has, in other words, several meanings: (i)
Jati or caste (ti-nasyon = low caste), (ii) ethnic community,
(iii) race, (iv) language community, (v) nationality or nation-state.
All the meanings connote "a people" in some way or other,
and current usage suggests that most Mauritians don't abstractly
consider themselves a people presently.
Mauritians participate in uniform political and economic systems.
This is probably a necessary condition for nationalism to be successful
as a popular movement (cf. Gellner 1982), but it is hardly a sufficient
condition for it to overrule and eventually replace competing ideologies.
Nationalist ideology must additionally present itself as more persuasive
(on the level of representations) and probably more beneficial (on
the level of action) to its adherents, than competing ideologies
(of which the ethnic ones, our findings indicate, are empirically
the strongest). Ethnic, class-based and nationalist ideologies are
not, however, mutually exclusive - indeed, most Mauritians support
all three from time to time - but they largely operate in the same
fields of discourse and action, and can replace each other both
as representations and as norms; there is in other words a partly
competitive relationship between these symbolic systems; particularly
in the labour market, where particularist practices (nepotism etc.)
confront universalist practices (meritocracy/bureaucracy). Now,
nationalism and ethnicity can co-exist in industrial society.
This may work e.g. within a politically authoritarian, "Furnivallian"
system where ethnic differences are fixed and ranked, and cultural
plurality is confined to homes, mosques and the like. Such stable
co-existence is also possible in a democratic capitalist society,
insofar as ethnicity does not interfere systematically with principles
of meritocracy (modern capitalism) and bureaucracy (modern democracy).
Granted the current state of Mauritian society, the latter alternative
seems the more likely. The struggle between nationalist and ethnic
ideologies and practices, then, does not necessarily lead to the
extermination of one or the other. Rather, the struggle is being
fought out where the two systems of representations and practices
conflict. Nationalist ideology does not intend to do away with ethnic
identity, only with the forms of ethnic organisation known as communalism.
As the ethnic ideologies invoke custom, language etc. as their ultimate
core, so do conscientious nation-builders search for symbols of
shared meaning that can justify unitary national strategies (laid
in fields iv and v, and relevant on the macro level) and persuade
lay actors to sympathise and participate. Below, I analyse the meaning
of national symbols current in official Mauritius, illustrated by
two important cases on the national level (monitored in field v).
Then I examine the political development since independence (with
focus on the MMM), before discussing certain aspects of the language
situation in some detail. Finally, I briefly and tentatively consider
the interrelations between current social change, ethnicity, and
THE SEARCH FOR NATIONAL SYMBOLS
Symbols of national unity are difficult to construct and justify
in independent, democratic Mauritius. The public symbols of "Mauritian-ness"
current today are, therefore, largely inherited from colonial times.
This continued use of colonial symbols and history as national ones,
is much less controversial in Mauritius than in most African countries.
In Mauritius, there was no violent discontinuity from colonialism
to independence. Conflicts over independence were internal and did
not involve the colonial power directly. The white settlers did
not flee after the referendum (where the pro-independence factions
won by a slight margin). If it hadn't been for the French and the
British, there would have been no Mauritius - and people know this.
The national coat of arms depicted on bank notes, coins, postage
stamps and official publications was introduced in French times;
it consists of a key, a star, a ship and a small cluster of palms.
The meaning of its Latin legend, Stella et Claviscus Maris Indici ("The Star and the Key of the Indian Ocean") is widely
known. Until 1986, Queen Elizabeth I of Mauritius (Britain's Elizabeth
II) was represented on all Mauritian currency. She is now gradually
being replaced by the first prime minister of independent Mauritius,
Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, who also served as First Minister of
Mauritius during the last seven years of British rule.
Statues of 19th century governor Sir William Newton, Mahé
de Labourdonnais and Queen Victoria have been erected in front of
the parliament (and nobody would dream of removing them). The French
missionary Jacques Désiré Laval, working in the mid-19th
century and beatified in 1978, is also recognised as a great Mauritian
by Christians and non-Christians alike. Crucial events in Mauritian
history; the battle of Grand-Port (1810), the abolition of slavery
and the arrival of the first Indian indentured labourers (1835),
and Independence (1968) are frequently invoked as justifications
of Mauritian nationhood: shared meaning in its most encompassing
sense (to do with identity) is held to lie in shared history.
The interest in local history is not confined to academic circles:
for instance, there is a regular monthly magazine devoted exclusively
to the history of Mauritius (Gazette des Iles de l'Océan
Indien). Despite attempts to break with the tradition (notably Allen
1983, Selvon 1985), Mauritian historiography remains largely the
history of men in positions of power.
Certainly, the unusual "variety of traditions, races and languages"
present in Mauritius is potentially a source of national pride.
This is manifest in Mauritians' behaviour vis a vis foreigners (shared
meaning as us-hood, cf. pp. 142-144 below), in tourist brochures
etc. In actual social situations, however, multi-ethnicity is conventionally
felt as a strain rather than an asset.
Some intellectuals (e.g. D. Virahsawmy 1983) are in favour of some
form of pluriculturalisme mauricien, notions of tolerance and diversity,
as a shared system of representations. The natural vehicle for this
ideology is, according to Virahsawmy, Kreol:
"It is necessary that this language liberates itself from Eurocentric
domination and develops new lexical fields in order to be able to
express the spiritual, moral and cultural values of all the ethnics
in Mauritius." (Virahsawmy 1983:4)
Whatever its merits, Virahsawmy's enduring engagement in favour
of a national ideology of tolerance has won little popular support.
Is this because an all-encompassing tolerance entails loss of own
ethnic identity in Mauritius? For if a Christian accepts Islam as
normatively equivalent to Christianity (i.e. he ceases to feel that
his own religion is superior), then he must theoretically cease
being a Christian as it no longer represents true truth.
In practice, however, it is far from impossible to reconcile tolerance
with religious faith. To begin with, it should be remembered that
it was a Christian priest, Henri Souchon, who, at the height of
the 1968-9 unrest, took steps to create a practical mutual understanding,
chiefly between Muslims and Christians, through "oecumenical"
religious celebrations combining diverse forms of ritual. Still
today, Souchon deferentially visits others' places of worship, engages
in open dialogue with Muslims imams and Hindu pundits, and encourages
others to do the same.
On the popular level, "Sakenn pe prie dan so fason"
("Each prays in his own fashion") is a common proverb
of tolerance, encountered in virtually every ethnic. Religion, rather
than itself being the foundation of ethnic animosities, in this
way functions metonymically as an identity tag, a symbol (of something
different). This "something different" is chiefly,
as argued in the previous chapter, a particular way of life (meaning)
embodying - among other things - a real, potential or imagined collective
strategy for carreering (utility) couched in ethnic terms. Insofar
as the ethnics remain culturally and socially distinctive, no pluriculturalisme
mauricien can get beyond statements of a rather programmatic nature;
at the same time, this ideology presupposes that they do remain
Virahsawmy's strategy of Mauritian pluriculturalism (which has had
some influence in post-independent Mauritian politics) can be located
to a higher logical level (in a Russellian sense) than the individual
ethnic strategies: it attempts to arrange the latter within its
own compass. It is an ism which has isms as its subject matter.
As long as ethnicity is partly reproduced as competition, there
is therefore a practical contradiction between this "order"
(of universalism) and the "species" (of particularisms)
it seeks to encompass.
The first of the two cases presented below is an attempted application
of a form of "pluriculturalism" as a national ethos. The
second case, on the other hand, represents an attempt to transcend
ethnic identities altogether, replacing ethnic symbols with national
Independence celebrations in the plural society
During Independence celebrations in March, 1986, a number of "composite
cultural shows" were performed in local community centres.
I was present at one such show in the village hall of a large, ethnically
diverse village. The show encompassed two Sino-Mauritian entries,
two Tamil contributions and one Telegu, one European song, three
performances representative of the Creoles, three each by Muslims
and Marathis, and four entries in Hindi or Bhojpuri. The programme
was printed in English, and the opening and ending speeches were
held in Kreol.
The aim was to display and encourage "unity in diversity";
among other things, one wished to accustom spectators to the traditions
of ethnics other than their own. In a word, these shows (and similar
events occasionally taking place) strive to give significance to
metaphors of "organic wholes" composed of incongrous elements
but fused in the common destiny of the Mauritian people; that is,
the whole (the show) signified something qualitatively different
from its parts (the separate performances). In the terminology of
systems theory, we might say that a composite cultural show propagates
subjective perceptions of being integrated on a higher systemic
level - from communal to national identity. Now, Mauritians are
already - and have been for some time - participants in the same
economic system although their positions and degree of participation
to a great extent have been ethnically determined. Independence
celebrations, like Ramgoolam's funeral (below) but unlike the MMM
and associated trade unions, are intended chiefly as redefinitions
of cultural reality. If such events are successful along these lines,
people will accordingly redefine their cultural universes and modify
their models for action (although patterns of social action itself
are more inert than their models and thus may remain unchanged for
a while). An individual defining himself as being a member of a
nation rather than of an ethnic in a particular context, will then
modify his representations relating to politics, economical relationships,
marriage strategies, friendship etc. - and then proceed to modify
his patterns of action.
It is not given that this strategy should be successful, even on
the abstract level of folk representations. For one thing, the concept
"unity in diversity" represents a contradiction in terms
to many Mauritians. National unity can be taken to imply loss of
distinctiveness (identity), whereas remaining distinctive precludes
national unity. Further, the practical reproduction of ethnic personal
networks (in matters of say, work, marriage and friendship), is
still believed to "pay off" as long as the wider social
context (offering "incentives and restraints") remains
unchanged. The two, ethnic identity and ethnic action, cannot, therefore,
be done away with by means of certain cultural policies. When the
channels for - and meaning of - successful carreering are changed,
however, new representational and actional patterns necessarily
Sir Seewosagur Ramgoolam (1900-85) was Mauritius' prime minister
during the first fifteen years of independence. A Hindu from the
numerous Vaishya caste, he led the Mauritian delegation during independence
negotiations in London in the mid-1960's. During the election campaign
in 1967 he led the pro-independence parties to a narrow victory,
and he is popularly considered as the man to whom Mauritians owe
their political independence. Ramgoolam was a clever politician,
cunning in the art of compromise and surrounded by an aura of wisdom
and fairness. He earned the respect of many non-Hindus when persuading
the leader of the anti-independence bloc, the eloquent Creole Gaëtan
Duval, to join his first government (cf. e.g. Simmons 1982:191-2).
In 1982, his Labour Party lost the general election to the MMM-PSM
alliance, and Ramgoolam, disappointed, reluctantly accepted the
post of Governor General (an occupation independent Mauritius oddly
has retained). Now he, the political loser, received the pity of
his opponents and was simultaneously in a position to stay aloof
from petty quarrels. Although bitter with the electorate, Ramgoolam
thus spent his last years consolidating his reputation as the wise
man of the nation Mauritius.
In December, 1985, Ramgoolam died. He was by then acknowledged by
virtually every Mauritian as the founding father of their nation
- indeed, he had become a "myth" in his own lifetime in
the sense that his unpopular or mistaken judgements were rarely
mentioned publicly; until Sydney Selvon's recent biography (1986),
even non-commissioned biographies of Ramgoolam were testimonies
to his never faltering glory. Not all of them were written by Hindus.
The ceremony accompanying the cremation of Ramgoolam's body, therefore,
had to be one relevant for every Mauritian. We shall go through
it in some detail.
The news of Ramgoolam's death was brought on radio and television
on December 15 and in the newspapers the following day. In advertisements,
citizens were encouraged to show their "Chacha" (Hindi
for teacher) a last honour in assisting at the procession leading
to the garden where the ceremonial cremation of the corpse was to
take place already the next day (December 17, 1985).
The procession started from Ramgoolam's home, a colonial mansion
at Réduit which was also used as the residence of the Governor
General before Independence. Une queue interminable of people filled
the courtyard. At noon, the yard was considered full, and newcomers
were denied access by the police. A Hindu religious ceremony next
was conducted, immediately after the arrival of Ramgoolam's son.
At least two of the pundits performing came from Ramgoolam's native
district in the north of Mauritius. The tatri (a stretcher
decorated with flowers) was brought outside and the corpse placed
on it by close relatives of the deceased.
The journey towards Pamplemousses began towards 1:30 pm. Heading
the procession, the police corps played Chopin's Marche funèbre
as Réduit was left. The tatri was placed in an open military
vehicle, accompanied by policemen on motorcycles and followed by
local luminaries in motorcars. Those not possessing their own means
of transport, would travel by bus to Pamplemousses if they wished
to witness the incarceration of the body.
Huge crowds of onlookers had gathered on pavements and balconies
as the cortège passed through the urban centres of Rose-Hill
and Beau-Bassin, the industrial estate Coromandel and the capital,
Port-Louis. Throughout, the audience threw flower petals onto the
tatri. Notably, churches on the itinerary rang their bells in approval
of what was principally a Hindu ceremony.
In front of Ramgoolam's former residence in Port-Louis, the procession
took a brief pause while the orchestra played a work by Händel
and repeated the performance of Chopin's Funerary March. Upon reaching
the Gardens of Pamplemousses at 5:30 pm., the tatri was placed onto
the funeral pyre. Members of the police and paramilitary forces
paid their last respects, as did high officials and foreign guests,
as flower petals rained from helicopters. There was still a huge
Ramgoolam's son was dressed entirely in white, whereas most of the
others in the front row (the Interim Governor General, Speaker of
Parliament, Chief Judge, Doyen of Diplomatic Corps and certain foreign
guests) wore Western clothes.
Finally, Ramgoolam's son went through the last motions strictly
according to Sanatanist Hindu tradition; eventually setting fire
to the funeral pyre.
The religious parts of the ceremony, then, did not at a single point
deviate from tradition nor from the rules laid out in authoritative
Sanatanist texts. Orthodox Sanatanism is still the largest Hindu
denomination in Mauritius, but it is by no means a majority religion.
Unlike in e.g. multi-ethnic Yugoslavia, there is no pan-ethnic,
nationalist or humanist alternative to religious burial available
in Mauritius. (And in any case, resentment towards Hindus has little
or nothing to do with Hindu religious practices.) The acknowledgement
of the churches has been mentioned; there is by and large a spirit
of religious oecumenism in Mauritian religious organisations.
Important elements in the ceremony seen as a whole, nevertheless,
transcend ethnic boundaries. Most striking, perhaps, was the choice
of music to accompany the procession. In choosing music of two European
composers rather than have the police band play Indian funerary
music (which is not as impossible as it may sound: similar things
have happened before), the administrators lifted, as it were,
Ramgoolam's person above the Mauritian everyday reality of petty
skirmishes to a higher, more universal sphere; this could be interpreted
as meaning the level of humanity tout court but was, more likely,
intended to give symbolic content to pan-ethnic Mauritianism. Classical
European music is not very popular in Mauritius; it belongs to nobody's
real or fictitious traditions (excepting perhaps increasingly marginal
segments of the Franco-Mauritians) and can therefore easily be accepted
as neutral by the entire nation. The national anthem, which sounds
much like any other national anthem, with lyrics in English written
by a Francophile Creole poet, was, of course, also played at Pamplemousses.
The very visible parts played by the police and paramilitaries (Special
Mobile Force) was not exclusively due to security measures. Uniformed
rank and file had a highly prominent place both at Réduit
and at Pamplemousses. Now, neither the police nor the SMF have a
very strong position in Mauritius, compared with larger nation-states.
The 500 men who make up the lightly armed SMF, which is the closest
the state comes to having an army, are virtually never involved
in violence; their most important duties are peaceful (guarding,
fire extermination, skindiving). Nobody perceives the threat of
a military coup d'etat as being relevant. Therefore, the police
and SMF alike are fairly popular with the Mauritian population.
Although there are inevitably rumours to the contrary, neither of
them is dominated by one ethnic group. In thus displaying their
uniformed and armed, the state representatives informed people that
law and order was being maintained on a national level, and that
this was done in a just way, not according to ethnic belonging (uniforms
With respect to clothing, an important vessel of ethnic demarcation,
we have already noted that few high representatives of the state
wore traditional Indian garb. Perhaps their wearing European-style
suits was too obvious to be noticed, but had the prime minister
(a Hindu) turned up in anything but a suit, people would certainly
have taken account of it.
The form itself of the funeral, a long procession leading to a climax,
is familiar to the majority of Mauritians. In February every year,
the Hindus celebrate their Maha Shivaratree feast in marching to
a small sacred lake; while the Creoles in turn have their Père
Laval pilgrimage in September; both annual events similar in form
to Ramgoolam's funeral.
Had the ideological atmosphere been more tiersmondiste or anti-colonialist
in Mauritius at the moment of the funeral, some might have reacted
against the unwitting perpetuation of colonial symbolism in the
decision to have the procession start at the Governor General's
castle and end in the Gardens of Pamplemousses, the latter founded
by Labourdonnais. However, this did not happen, and anyway, alternatives
would have been hard to come by: Mauritius has no pre-colonial history,
and its post-colonial one is very short. Choosing sites, situations
and historical persons associated with colonialism as symbols of
nationhood conveniently overcomes problems of ethnically-specific
symbols, although the solution cannot be permanent.
It is also a matter of interest that the most prominently placed
foreign guests were (providing L'Express got the details right)
the representatives of India and the South-Western Indian Ocean
(Seychelles, Comoros, Madagascar and Réunion). The latter
four are universally considered to be close neighbours, also in
a non-geographical sense, but India is seen as an important ally
only by roughly half of the Mauritian population (i.e., the Hindus);
commodity exchange between the two countries is negligible, and
geographically, Mauritius is if anything closer to mainland Africa.
In placing the Indian representative in a position superior to that
of say, the French and British representatives, Ramgoolam's origins
were emphasised in a fashion perhaps unfortunate to nation-building,
but significant in showing the Hindu ethnic's anxiety to maintain
good links with India.
The Kreol language, a potential force of unity, was not used throughout
the event. In different contexts and by different speakers, Hindi,
English, French and Kreol were employed; compromise being the only
viable solution as long as the Mauritian population is divided on
the language issue. Interestingly, the mother tongue of many of
those opposed to Kreol as a national language, is Kreol (cf. discussion
below on pp. -196)
Like in the previous case (the "composite cultural show"),
the meaning-contexts consciously produced during this event aimed
at redefining cultural reality toward shared, national meaning.
But the content of the respective propositions differed. While the
funeral defined Mauritianity as a quasi-religious, self-sustaining
cultural system independent of the underlying mosaic, the definition
inherent in the cultural show depicted Mauritianity as being identical
with the mosaic itself (seen from a bird's perspective). As already
noted, the former strategy is the more viable theoretically, given
the relevant parametres of Mauritian culture and society.
A non-ethnic political party? The case of the MMM
Benedict (1965) ends his book on plural Mauritian society with a
"The ethnic divisions of Mauritius are changing. They are no
longer mere categories but are becoming corporate groups. The danger
of communal conflict increases" (p. 67).
The political proverb Sak zako bizin protez so montayn ("each
monkey must protect his mountain"), defending communalism in
politics, has become a common saying since. In previous chapters,
I have frequently mentioned the ethnic unrest around Independence,
which began more or less simultaneously with the publication of
Following the unrest, the Mouvement Militant Mauricien was founded
according to not only non-ethnic but positively anti-ethnic principles,
and it became the largest single political party in a matter of
a few years. The question asked here, is in what respect - if
any - it can be viewed as a non-ethnic political party. The criteria
for its aloofness from ethnic politics must be (a) its actual policies,
(b) the nature of its popular appeal.
The MMM came onto the political scene at a lucky moment, when there
was discontent with the "treason" of the two major parties;
bitter enemies who nevertheless had formed a coalition government
(Rivière 1982:84). In addition, people had been fighting
and to some extent killing each other, solely because of their ethnic
differences. British soldiers had to be brought in to establish
a truce. "People were terrified," reminisces Paul Bérenger,
and adds that "they would probably have voted for any party
that seemed able and willing to maintain ethnic peace." The
MMM of 1969 was a "New Left"/neo-marxist party with strong,
although hardly dominant, revolutionary elements. Their very first
base of popular support was the docks of Port-Louis, where the MMM
were instrumental in founding the militant PLDHWU (Port-Louis Dockers
and Harbour Workers' Union) with a membership largely composed of
Creoles. Eventually, an umbrella organisation, GWF (General Workers'
Federation) was founded, and still maintains strong links with the
Strategically, the ideology of the new party was sound. Its profile
as an anti-ethnic party was in fact the only viable possibility
at the time. The ethnically-based political "niches" were
already occupied; the MMM seized the vacant "niche": the
ideology of Mauritianism or nationhood.
At a by-election in Ramgoolam's own constituency, Triolet where
the population is massively Hindu, the MMM won an overwhelming victory
in 1971. Shortly after, the party led a "general strike"
with wide participation from unions of diverse ethnic composition.
A state of emergency was declared when the internal transport system
broke down, and MMM and union leaders were imprisoned for most of
1972. Most Mauritians today agree that this was a shameful move
by the government; it had the unpredicted side-effect of making
martyrs of the young radicals, including Bérenger himself.
Following its leaders' release from prison, the party was banned
and general elections postponed, but eventually things "returned
to normal" (in Bérenger's words). After designating
Jugnauth (cf. p. 61) as Prime Minister candidate and carrying out
a hurried election campaign, the MMM emerged as the largest single
party in 1976. During six years in opposition, its major issues
were: the return of Diego Garcia to Mauritius, nationalisation of
important means of production, various extensions of the welfare
state, official recognition of Kreol, and stricter sanctions against
corruption. Of these five issues, the first four have a directly
nationalist bias. The first, on Diego Garcia, concerns the legitimacy
of its boundaries; the next two would have increased the nation
state's internal power systemically viewed and the actors' integration
on the national level, individually viewed; while the fourth issue
aimed at establishing a common national identity.
During the brief rule of the strategic MMM-PSM alliance (1982-3),
few of the proposed reforms were carried out. Nothing was nationalised.
There was a failed attempt to make Kreol the supreme national language.
There was no money for new social schemes. The economic policies,
led by an apologising Bérenger, were severe and neo-liberal
(among other things, he reduced the export tax of sugar in order
to stimulate new investments). As we know, the MMM-PSM government
split after only nine months in office, and slightly less than half
of it, by and large Hindus, founded the MSM (Mouvement Socialiste
Militant; nowadays the abbreviation stands for Mouvement Socialiste
Mauricien), which won the elections of 1983 after having carried
out a campaign strongly flavoured with communalism, overt and covert.
A journalist, who had just returned from his studies in Paris at
the time of the election campaign, claimed that "in a matter
of a few months, we lost everything that was gained during the '70's",
referring to increased communalism in many fields. Accusations against
Bérenger included claims that he was pro-Franco (viz. his
attempted reduction of export tax on sugar) and pro-Creole (viz.
the language policy; cf. Bowman 1984:2). Although the split between
the Bérenger faction and the Jugnauth/Boodhoo faction was
largely due to different economic policies, it was perceived by
many Mauritians as an ethnic split. The group of ministers who remained
loyal to Bérenger was composed of 1 Coloured, 3 Muslims,
3 Tamils and 3 Hindus (2 of them of low caste); whereas all but
one of those remaining with Jugnauth in the Cabinet were Hindus.
In 1984, the MMM undertook its "autocritique" and admitted
that its former, slightly Utopian socialism had to be left.
"Un socialisme democratique, non-aligné et moderne"
was the slogan of the 1986 MMM congress, where the autocritique
of 1984 was elaborated on. By now, the MMM had become a socialist
party à la française, skeptical of alliances with
the global "blocs", pragmatic in economic policy, faithful
to the rules of parliamentarian democracy.
Even a very close examination of the respective political programmes
of the MMM and the MSM (MMM 1983, MSM 1983) does not reveal dramatic
differences: both emphasise development of the welfare state, slow
and cautious nationalisation of key industries - which is not to
include the EPZ industries, and a staunch stand against communalism.
Policies that were instigated by the MMM are furthered by the current
government. (Bérenger himself never tires of pointing out
that the current economic success is largely due to decisions taken
by the MMM - nobody seriously challenges this statement.)
All this seems to imply that the conflicts between the two major
political blocs now can be traced back to ethnic differences - in
other words, that the MMM is not a nationalist party, but one that
represents particular ethnics.
The material is ambigous as to the conclusion. On one hand, there
is the evidence (pp. 60-62) that the importance of ethnic divisions
was acknowledged in MMM strategies from an early point. On the other
hand, the actual, formal policies of the party, while in power,
were definitely of a "nation-building" kind.
But so are those of the presumed Hindu party, the MSM. Large-scale
politics (field v) in Mauritius today in practice place ethnic membership
first as a criterion of allegiance, but national interests first
in definition of policies. This conforms to the dictum of the highest
common denominator: the denominator is, here, the "shared interests
of the nation" in a series of zero-sum games, while the negotiators
(politicians acting in field v) represent ethnics.
As previously noted, Mauritians tend to interpret political events
in ethnic terms. If a Franco-Mauritian Minister of Finance decides
to reduce the taxation on sugar, his ethnic membership is used against
him (all the "sugar barons" are Francos). Similar arguments
are used if a Hindu government takes steps to improve the lot of
the smallplanters. Whatever the intentions of the MMM leadership,
they therefore receive their votes largely on an ethnic basis today,
after the disappointment of 1982-3. From the public's point of view,
the MMM was seen, until the elections of 1982, as a party capable
of doing the impossible. Their main slogan, seen in the form of
graffiti all over the island, remains "L'Espoir vaincra"
(Hope will win). The party was a symbol of honesty, youth and social
justice. Bérenger perpetuated the myth of the stereotypical
Franco-Mauritian as an unsurpassed administrator. Everybody knew
somebody from his own ethnic somewhere in the MMM. It was the party
of youth and utopian hope: As late as 1986, I have met people who
hold that electricity, water and public housing will immediately
be free of charge when the MMM takes over. But this attitude is
no longer the rule: rather, people generally vote MMM for lack of
alternative and fear of Hindu hegemony. Utopians go elsewhere.
The fact of being opposed to a Hindu bloc, along with the feedback
from the electorate, leaves the MMM in a position as representative
of the "minorities" (non-Hindus, possibly also Hindus
of the ti-nasyons) - whether this was intended or not.
It is equally clear that this would scarcely have been the situation,
had the feedback from the electorate been more persistently anti-communalist
or nationalist. In other words, the MMM viewed as a system of potential
policies on the national level is unambigously nationalist, but
if we regard it as a vessel of popular interests relating to careering,
it empirically channels ethnic interests. In other words, it is
widely believed that e.g. the Creoles and Muslims would improve
their career opportunities under MMM rule. Whether or not this holds
true in practice we don't know - apart from the obvious fact that
an MMM government would almost certainly try to reduce nepotism
and presumed Hindu dominance in public affairs.
LANGUAGES IN NATIONALISM
Religion and language are the most important formal principles of
division of the Mauritian population along ethnic lines. Both provide
organisational "vessels" for the articulation of interests
not necessarily identical with their formal content; both are symbolic
bearers of cultural identity. Both of these aspects have been exemplified
in chapter 3; in this section, I discuss language from a different
The language discourse is considered legitimate (in fields v and
vi); public discourses pertaining to religion are not. The former
is therefore more important.
Religious and linguistic groups are de facto incongrous, and Kreol
is casually spoken outside the Creole ethnic, while the Franco-Mauritians,
although Catholic, do not speak Kreol between them. The fact that
the overwhelming majority of the Mauritian populace speaks Kreol
as a first language does not prevent interest groups from using
linguistic differences, real or fictitious, as a principle of socio-cultural
division. In chapter 3, I have linked this with a discussion of
individual ethnic identity. Here, I consider problems of language
in nation-building; first with reference to the controversy over
school curricula, then examining the potential of Kreol as a unifying
principle, as a symbolic vehicle of national identity.
Linguistic diversity in primary education
The Mauritian system of education, designed by Europeans, has always
been relatively uniform. Since Independence, there have been policies
aiming to "nationalise" it gradually, yet retaining its
compatibility with European educational systems.
In November, 1984, the government appointed a committee of parliamentarians
"consider and report on the circumstances in which registered
school candidates sitting for the Certificate of Primary Education
examination may opt for ranking purposes for an oriental language
from among Hindi, Urdu, Tamil, Telegu, Marathi, Mandarin and Arabic
in addition to the four compulsory subjects, namely: English, Mathematics,
Geography and French". (Mauritius 1986:1)
Teaching in Oriental languages had formerly been available at private
institutions and as additional subjects in some schools. The novelty
of the proposition was its suggestion that Oriental languages should
now become important in ranking and thus have direct effect on the
admission to secondary school.
The committee was composed of 5 Hindus, 1 Muslim, 2 Creoles and
1 Coloured; two of the members belonged to the political opposition.
Some of the members eventually resigned and were replaced, and the
committee responsible for the report consisted of 5 Hindus, 2 Muslims,
1 Coloured and a Tamilo-Christian.
In two consecutive press communiques released during 1985, the public
was invited to witness before the commission; i.e. to suggest solutions
and discuss particular issues with the committee. 109 actors responded
to the communiques; 62 individuals and 47 organisations. Ethnically,
they were distributed thus:
Table 8. Participation in public hearing on language instruction
in public schools. Source: Mauritius 1986
The pressure groups in question were founded on different bases.
Some were religious groups (most of these Hindu sub-categories based
on caste, ancestral language and/or denomination), some represented
formal language groups (such as the Mauritius Arabic Language Teachers
and Students Association), while yet others were national or local
parents' organisations, teachers' unions, humanitarian groups or
The large majority of the individuals belonged to one or several
elites (they were active in social fields iv, v and/or vi).
The very time-consuming hearings, then, took place within field
v; the national political system. While it is clearly true that
the hitherto dominant position of French has been due to power relations
in field iv, the entire debate was this time undertaken with no
reference to local economy. The preoccupation was with fairness,
and whereas it might have been legitimate and indeed desirable to
display adherence to sectional interests on level v, anyone wishing
to participate on level vi, that is (here) the national press, where
the issue was discussed extensively, was obliged to emphasise his
or hers commitment to the common good.
The issue represented a strong challenge to the representatives
of the young Mauritian nation. It was very important insofar as
Mauritians attach increasing value to education, and it demanded
a redefinition of the highest common denominator. Formerly, the
highest common denominator had been colonially defined and sanctioned;
this time, it had to be specified nationally according to democratic
In the event, a composite denominator resulted. I quote from the
"(a) English being the official language and the most widely
international language should continue to be promoted and given
(b) it would be desirable and in the interests of all Mauritians
to be encouraged to learn French, which is readily acquired in the
(c) language, being also a vehicle of culture, must be given its
importance in order to understand an preserve worthwhile ancestral
(d) children who do not take an oriental language would be offered
a course in Cultures and Civilisations in Mauritius. "
This means, in practice, that children of the General Population
would be taught Cultures and Civilisations in Mauritius, a course
aiming at "making children aware of the rich cultural heritage
of Mauritius" (ibid.); denoting the same variety of nationalism
as the cultural show described on pp. 173-4; "Mauritianity-as-identical-with-the-mosaic".
Kreol was not considered to be a language worthy of systematic instruction,
and as far as I have been able to ascertain, none of the groups
and individuals involved in the hearing of the Select Committee
suggested that it should be.
The lack of any corporate group representing those for whom Kreol
is an ancestral language is hardly surprising - despite the fact
that in reality, Kreol is virtually everybody's first language -
considering certain socio-cultural features of the ethnics constituting
the General Population, discussed on pp. 109-124. In other words,
Kreol is indexical of low social rank. However, the status of Kreol
in fields v and vi has declined since the first post-independence
decade (although this may not be the case in fields i and ii). In
1982-3, Kreol was used as a national language alongside English
and French for a brief period.
Kreol as a potential national language
At the time of the French revolution, about a dozen dialects, some
of them distinctive enough to be considered as separate languages,
were spoken in France. The concept of the modern nation-state was
developed during the same period; the peoples of France were to
be integrated economically and politically on a state level. The
demand for a common language as a practical instrument (in administration
and the extraction of taxes) and as a vessel of national unity (in
military and other matters) was strong. Today, then, some 200 years
after, virtually every Frenchman speaks a variety of what was at
the time the Isle-de-France (Parisian) dialect; some, however, as
a second language.
Sometimes, otherwise diverse peoples have been successfully integrated
into national states due to common language (Italy, Greater Germany).
Linguistically plural politico-economic units are frequently either
federative states (Yugoslavia, Switzerland, Soviet Union), ruled
politically and/or economically by a hegemonic ethnic/linguistic
group (Ian Smith's Rhodesia, USA, French DOM-TOMs, Peru) - or they
are either not really integrated on a state level and/or unstable
(African countries). Viewed in a perspective of longue durée,
ethnic and linguistic groups emerge, change, and eventually vanish.
Processes of ethnic and linguistic change are continuous; structurally
they may be perceived as systemic adjustments aiming for stability,
individually as struggles for meaningful survival.
In Mauritius, Kreol has over the last one-and-a-half century or
so proven practically capable of uniting otherwise very diverse
groups into a reasonably homogenous linguistic group. This does
not imply that ethnic differences have been eradicated; further,
the importance of language as criterion of distinctiveness remains
crucial in the real or partly fictitious maintenance of "ancestral
languages" (until recently known as "mother tongues")
on the part of the non-Creole populations (cf. discussion, pp. 89-98).
In the following paragraphs, I apply my own field material on actual
use of languages (summarised in Table 9 on p. 191), to a discussion
focussing on attitudes to Kreol and their ethnic and national aspects.
None of the languages is strictly confined to one or several social
fields. English is rarely spoken but frequently written; French
is widely written and spoken in formal or semi-formal contexts;
Kreol is normally used in informal situations etc. Generally, use
of particular languages depends on social situation and status activated,
not on field nor interactional partners. During the break between
lessons, the lecturer naturally addresses his university students
cordially in Kreol; the clerk addresses his subordinate in Kreol
but his boss in French (and possibly his mother in Bhojpuri); the
housewife addresses the Sino-Mauritian shopkeeper in Kreol but might
speak French with the attendant in one of the posh shops of downtown
Popular conceptions of Kreol are, despite its near universal use
in informal contexts, all but pejorative. This is partly because
Kreol is associated with the despised (and publicly inarticulate)
("Black") Creoles (cf. the discussion on pp. 89-98, where
it appears that people of Indian origin, whose first language empirically
is Kreol, tend to state that their mother tongue is an Oriental
language). It is a language the Mauritians speak malgré eux.
The language is still widely regarded as "nothing but French
badly pronounced and free from ordinary rules of grammar",
as a colonial official would have it at the turn of the century.
But Mauritians also fear further isolation from the international
community if they were to replace French and English with the language
spoken only locally: they feel their pride as us, the Mauritians
seen under the gaze of the foreigners, threatened. Finally, I have
met Mauritian intellectuals, symphathetically inclined towards Kreol,
who doubt its ability to conceptualise the increasingly complex
Mauritian socio-cultural reality. In their - and in many's - view,
Kreol is a beautiful language in poetry and songs, an accurate one
in the fields, a colourful one in the bar. But, they claim, its
syntax and grammar cannot accomodate concepts of abstract and complex
character, such as those necessary in, e.g. sociological research,
industrial design, or philosophical thought.
(1) Public contexts
Church sermon (Catholic) F/K
Collective prayer at mosque A/K
Hindu rite H*/K
Primary school instruction K**
University lecture E
Lunch break (anywhere) K
Board meeting, private enterprise F/K
Board meeting, parastatal E/K
Speech at Legislative Assembly E/F
Public political speech K
TV/radio news F/E (K)
Radio commercial K/F (E)
Press F (E)
Legend of political caricature K
Poetry K/F (E)
Popular literature F
Cinema film Hi/F
(b) Private contexts
Conversation at home K (Ha/B/F)
Conversation with servant K
Personal letter F (K)
Conversation with friend K
Written application for job F/E
Oral application for job K/F
Table 9. Languages and contexts.
Abbreviations: A=Arabic. B=Bhojpuri. E=English. F=French. H=Hindi.
Ha=Hakka. Hi=Hindustani. K=Kreol.
* Hindu "Linguistic minorities" (Tamils, Marathis, Telegus)
tend to use their ancestral languages in ritual.
** Officially, English is the medium of instruction already at the
primary level. In practice, teachers speak Kreol (and in certain
cases, Bhojpuri) in order that the pupils understand, although textbooks
are always in English or French.
The metonymical character of the "linguistic division of labour"
or diglossia between French and Kreol, as perceived by urban Creoles,
can be expressed thus, simplistically:
Table 10. Normative connotations of French-Kreol diglossia
Great efforts are made in order that the asymmetrical relationship
between the two arguably most important languages in Mauritius be
maintained and justified vis à vis non-Francophones. Command
of French is a prerequisite for and tangible sign of high social status;
the ruling class of colons has always been Francophone and has consciously
used the French language as an important part of their ideological
mystique. In books and newspaper columns, Franco-Mauritians and Coloureds
of respectable standing regularly link the decline of manners to the
supposedly deteriorating position of French in Mauritius. Arguing
that making Kreol a national language would isolate Mauritius in the
world community, they have, with a great measure of success, managed
to shift the attention towards the relationship between French and
English rather than that between French and Kreol. The power of defining
the relevant fields of discourse, alluded to elsewhere, is visibly
exerted here - in social field vi.
Representatives of France, the most important external power in the
western Indian Ocean, are anxious to maintain a hegemonic position
in the domain of "culture". The French cultural centre,
L'Alliance Française, has a much higher level of activity than
say, the British Council, and local dramatic groups staging plays
in French receive financial support. Further, a powerful television
transmitter broadcasting French programmes, aimed exclusively at Mauritius,
has been installed on the eastern coast of the French DOM La Réunion.
Since independence, the taken-for-granted asymmetry between Kreol
and French has been challenged in a much more serious manner in Mauritius
than in the French DOM-TOMs (cf. Chaudenson 1974 for La Réunion;
Bébel-Gisler 1975 for Guadeloupe and Martinique). From the
beginning around 1970, the MMM used Kreol in their internal meetings,
in press conferences, and of course, at public meetings. The discovery
that their leader, an obviously educated and refined Franco-Mauritian,
would rather speak Kreol than French, was a source of pride and wonder
among the followers of the MMM.
It is likely that, had Mauritius had an ethnic composition similar
to that in Seychelles, Kreol could, in the early 80's, have become
a national language along with English and French. However; despite
the indubitable fact that the majority of non-Creoles speak the language
better than any other language, many Hindus continue to link Kreol
to the Creoles; i.e., the language to the ethnic. Kreol is a language
they speak malgré eux. Thus, when Kreol was made a national
language overnight in late 1982, reactions were hostile from many
quarters. Rather than unite the diverse populations in a nation, the
decision awoke latent conflicts and accentuated the popular awareness
of cultural differences. It was partly over the language issue that
the MMM-PSM coalition and the MMM itself split.
Changes in attitudes to Kreol closely parallel political changes.
From Independence to 1982, there was a period of increasing national
sentiment and class consciousness, culminating in the general strike
of 1979 and reaching an anti-climax of sorts following the 1982 election
victory of the MMM-PSM alliance. Nationalist and class ideology were
compatible with a higher evaluation of Kreol; indeed, it might be
said that the latter follows logically from the former (or conversely).
Thus the use of Kreol in unusual contexts came to be perceived as
a sign that a unified, just nation was about to be built; at least,
such was the hope of MMM strategists. These dichotomies of the 1970's,
then, were fought for.
Table 11. Alternative connotations of French-Kreol diglossia
When attempting to replace folk classifications based on ethnicity
with class-based ones, the cultural radicals alienated people seeing
their own ethnic-dependent strategies threatened and those fearing
cultural uniformisation and further isolation of Mauritius, this syndrome
being epitomised in the linguistic idiom of Kreol. Perhaps the dichotomies
reproduced above (Table 11) are acknowledged as "true" by
most Mauritians, but their personal experience and strategies relating
to carreering, and their perceptions of social rank (which are at
least true as self-fulfilling prophecies), compel them, regardless
of ethnic membership, to let the other model (Table 10), overrule
Kreol is correctly perceived as being in contradiction to social mobility.
Within the Creole ethnic, where no third language interferes with
the French-Kreol diglossia, upward social mobility entails a switching
of basic cultural codes (cf. pp. 117 f). The switch to French language
is crucial in this movement. As noted above, literacy and seriousness
are associated with French: "One cannot live in a Western way
and speak Creole". Thus, the widely accepted division of
labour between Kreol and French (sanctioned publicly in fields v and
vi) contributes to preserving Kreol as an oral language lacking vocabulary
and structures to conceptualise crucial aspects of social life in
modern Mauritius. The entanglement of social status and language is
self-fulfilling and remains valid until a new model of social reality,
incorporating a model of Kreol as a perfectly adequate language, presents
itself as a more compelling definition of what is to be perceived
as relevant reality. Such a model is not at the moment viable.
NATIONALISM, ETHNICITY AND SOCIAL CHANGE
A common national identity must, briefly, be compatible with field
i, accepted and reproduced in fields ii and iii, profitable in field
iv, sanctioned by field v and publicly reproduced in field vi.
The first is, as I see it, unproblematic insofar as the "Furnivallian"
ideology prevalent in Mauritius encourages cultural diversity at home.
Whether or not national ideology is reproduced in field ii, depends
on the pattern of settlement, and the nature of the institutions,
the arenas for interaction present. I have given examples to the effect
that several normative orientations may be "attached" to
the shared system of representations (which is, naturally, itself
evolving) in the course of practical interpretation. In field iii,
the working-place, the structure and nature of hierarchies, the composition
of the labour-force, and the spatial location of the enterprise seem
to be the most important factors. This is discussed below. In field
iv, then, where decisions affecting the total division of labour are
taken, there can be no doubt that the ideology of meritocracy is most
beneficial according to the internal criteria of the entire system
of relations (efficiency, productivity). On the other hand, ethnic
organisation (hiring of relatives etc.) may pay off better locally
(i.e. to the individual owner of means of production). The political
system as a whole is, in response to social change, inclining towards
decisions strengthening the nation-state and influencing the five
remaining fields in this direction (cf. discussion below) - although
members of the state bureaucracy, seen from its aspect as fields iii-iv,
still widely practice ethnic strategies (nepotism etc.). In field
vi, finally, the national communicational systems, particularly the
larger media, nationalism is as a matter of convention communicated
overtly. Communalism is simply not comme il faut in this sector of
Mauritian public life.
Below, I briefly discuss some consequences - empirical and potential
- of social change in Mauritius, linking them to the general discussion
of nationalism vs. ethnicity.
Tourism, industrialisation and bureaucracy in the national state
I have frequently alluded to the high rate of social change in Mauritius.
By 1986, the industrial "zone" (EPZ or Zone Franche) was,
as a unit, the largest employer in Mauritius. In other words, more
Mauritians are now industrial workers than agricultural labourers.
Industrialisation does not take the shape of an exodus from the countryside;
the population growth rate is higher in "rural" than in
"urban" areas. Parts of Port-Louis have actually experienced
a negative growth rate during 1972-1982 (Mauritius, 1984-6).
Rather, the change occurs, spatially located, (a) in areas formerly
dominated by a rural division of labour and local organisation, (b)
in newly established industrial estates outside the towns, (c) on
chosen sites along the coast (the erection of hotels and stations
The cultural effects of tourism have been suggested in the comparison
between the two coastal villages (pp. 139-142). In L., where most
of the households had members working in hotels, people were up-to-date
with European patterns of consumption; the young took great pains
to adopt recent Western fashion in clothing and hairstyle, the adults
invested much work in improving their dwellings, and many had bank
accounts. In C., on the contrary, where nobody was employed in the
tourist industry at the time of my fieldwork, the dominant ethos was
largely the classical, stereotyped Creole morality entailing short,
unmeasured temporal units and accordingly, lack of commitment to long-term
strategies. The social and cultural schism between these neighbouring
villages, which might conceivably have developed regardless of tourism,
has certainly been accentuated by it. The content of the cultural
form emerging as the dominant one in L. (non-ethnic, "progressive")
is visibly inspired by the culture encountered at the five-star hotels.
The exigencies of the work itself include absolute punctuality, which
is unimportant to the labourer and unknown to the fisherman. In L.,
most of the men wear inexpensive wristwatches daily. In C., watches
are worn only at parties and at Mass.
Further, the employee at the hotel has the prospect - real or imagined
- of promotion. The chairman of the Village Council, a poorly educated
man, had begun as a waiter and was now, eleven years later, chief
purser. Labourers and fishermen, on the contrary, have little or no
prospect of "promotion". Nothing in their daily practices
can, therefore, serve metonymically as a model of "development"
or "progress", or simply change.
Social change as industrialisation has slightly different effects,
although this, too, entails a new structuring of time and social relations.
Many of the roughly 500 EPZ enterprises are small, family-owned textile
factories, often located in the family's living quarters. One typical
such factory, owned by a middle-aged, university-educated Hindu in
Rose-Hill, has six employees: his wife, two of her sisters, one of
his nieces and two of his female cousins. Only his wife was working
full-time. The wages corresponded to the national average (900 Rs
monthly for full-time employees).
In this kind of enterprise, no qualitatively new type of social relation
arises from the organisation of production. Compared with a small-planter
with similar economic assets, the difference pertains to gender: in
the small industrial enterprise, most or all the employees are girls
and women; in the fields, most of the labourers are boys and men.
In other words, industrialisation on a small scale leads to the strengthening
of horizontal female kinship bonds and, perhaps, the weakening of
their male correlate. But like in the traditional smallplanter's enterprise,
workers are recruited according to individual kinship bonds with the
employer - and this ethnically-based principle of recruitment, incompatible
with large-scale industrialisation, then, remains unchanged.
In the larger factories and especially in the industrial estates,
the effects of change on small-scale social organisation are much
more dramatic. Three immediate effects are obvious (and very visible):
(a) Increasing participation of women in the affected segments of
the most numerous ethnics. Most of the workers in the textile industry
are girls and women. This increases their freedom of movement (many
Indo-Mauritian women were hardly allowed to leave the home alone)
and their economic significance. I know of several households where
the women's factory work is the only source of money. As yet,
the man remains head of household, and his wife's and daughters' wages
are allocated to him.
(b) Increasing inter-ethnic contacts in a wholly shared meaning-context.
Many of the larger factories are owned by foreigners, expatriates
and Sino-Mauritians, who tend not to be ethnically biased in matters
of employment in the largest, bottom segments of the hierarchies.
All ethnics except Francos and Sinos are represented among EPZ workers.
(I tried to sample figures, but the management of certain large factories
denied me access to lists of employees. Creole girls and women are,
not unexpectedly, greatly overrepresented in the unions, thus their
membership lists couldn't be used either.) Extrapolating, then, from
sporadic observations of casual, informal groups taking their lunchbreaks,
waiting for the bus home, walking to and from the bus stop etc., it
is very likely (many would say obvious) that the networks activated
in field iii are much less dependent on ethnicity in the new industrial
estates than elsewhere. Although collective, syndical action is very
difficult in the EPZ, a certain awareness of shared interests is apparent.
Many non-Creoles signed a petition defending Père Diard (cf.
pp. 86-88). This signifies a class awareness which is in principle
removed from gender, and definitely removed from ethnicity. Its relation
to nationalism is less apparent.
The young age of the industrial workers is also significant. (Many,
if not most, are under 20.) This means that most of them have reproduced
non-ethnically based action sets in all social fields but the household,
throughout their lives. I know several young industrial workers who
are either engaged or married to men from ethnics other than their
own, and intermarriage is much more widespread in "industrial"
than in "agricultural" villages, which has probably do with
the pattern of settlement, i.e. field ii, as well as the social links
formed in field iii.
The combined significance of social change as industrialisation and
tourism can be summed up as follows.
(a) Workers are increasingly recruited according to universalist,
not particularist criteria. This places the competitors for jobs in
structurally equal positions, regardless of ethnic membership.
In abstract Parsonian terms, this can be understood as achievement
replacing ascription as a leading principle of differentiation, and
the process parallels those regularly described by "classical"
sociologists - from Ferdinand Tönnies and Max Weber to Peter
Berger and his associates - when they attempt to account for the changes
in European society associated with the industrial revolution and
the growing significance of the nation-state (cf. e.g. Weber 1922,
Berger et al. 1974).
(b) Field iii, the working-place, is multi-ethnic and highly hierarchical.
This leads to (1) increased inter-ethnic contacts, (2) a widespread
understanding of the workings of the (ideal-typical) meritocracy.
The values associated with meritocracy and/or class struggle may present
themselves as more relevant in daily life than those of ethnic organisation.
(c) The working-place is also, often, composed of people from different
parts of the island. Thus, workers establish non-localised networks
founded on a shared experience as workers.
(d) The public participation of women is increasing as they begin
to work with other women away from the home, and their representations
of other ethnics change. This, along with b, contributes to removing
some of the constraints formerly preventing widespread intermarriage.
(e) Modernisation brings Mauritius closer to the rest of the world.
First, tourists are popular sources of information about Europe and
Australia. Second, Mauritius has to compete with Oriental countries
about markets for its clothing industry, and the workers know this
(they are being told by the management, e.g., that wages cannot be
increased lest they lose the competition and thus their jobs). In
other words, workers are being instructed to act in a global field
- the world market. Further, the international exchange of goods is
increasing (Yin/Yeung 1986, Tableau 8), as is, accordingly, the local
demand for "Western" consumer goods - regardless of ethnic.
Social change, affecting the Mauritian lifestyles and uniformising
them in some respects (thus confirming Gellner's theory), creates
new types of social relations in field iii. Of crucial importance
is the basis of recruitment to the labour force. While pre-industrial
wage workers were largely recruited on geographical and ethnic bases
via the mediation of personal contacts, workers in the industrial
and hotel sectors are recruited on basis of formal qualifications
and sheer availability. Applications usually have to be in writing.
New statuses or aspects of the social person gain relevance. Thus,
Claude and Veerasamy (pp. 31-40) can no longer take the ethnic status
setup of their working environment for granted.
This new situation in turn encourages the cultural reproduction of
non-ethnic identities (although this is not the only possible effect).
The new "ideologies" need not be "nationalist"
in character, but the most important ones are - unlike ethnic identities
as they are played out in the labour market - compatible with nationalism.
Moderate class struggle denotes faith in the nation-state as benefactor.
Carreer-individualism, founded in a liberal belief in meritocracy,
implies equal opportunity and precludes ethnic particularism. The
two are perceived as being complementary. Whereas the latter symbolises
the individual's right to progress unimpeded (and the state's duty
to protect this right of unbounded freedom), the former symbolises
the state's duty to establish social justice (and the individual's
right to demand protection from certain aspects of the freedom of
other individuals). In Mauritius, an emergent industrial society,
the part played by the state bureaucracy and the organisations influencing
it, what we have called social field v, is in this sense an actor
of increasing importance in the economy. Economic planning is perceived
a public task (cf. MSM 1983, MMM 1983), and ambitious programmes of
economic change are discussed in Parliament. Granted that Mauritius
the nation-state is not a "minimal state" but aspires to
develop into a "fully-fledged welfare state", taxation and
social benefit schemes are also increasing activities of the state.
This also serves to encourage the reproduction of individual identities
as members of a nation in various contexts. In the end, then, it does
make a difference to old Cotte in C. whether he receives his monthly
pension of Rs 200 from his son or from the state.
I have now delineated some of the systemic parametres in the discussion
of nationalism vs. communalism. In the final paragraphs of the study,
I consider aspects of national identity, seen from the perspective
of the individual.
The Mauritian and the world: "We" and "Us"
"Especially the fact of my being engaged with the others in a
common rhythm to whose origin I contribute, serves to develop my experience
of being engaged in a 'we-as-subject'. (...) I do not exploit the
collective rhythm as a tool, nor do I regard it - in the sense I might,
for instance, regard the dancers on a stage - it surrounds me and
fascinates me without being my object. (...) But this is, as one knows,
only necessary if I initially, through my acceptance of a shared aim
and shared tools, constitute myself as undifferentiated transcendence
through relegating my own aims to second place, after the collective
aims now being pursued." 
(Sartre, L'Etre et le Néant)
The plurality of Mauritian society, if not manifest in the composition
of the social person, gives its inhabitants a sense of uniqueness
and is as such a source of national pride (at least in conversations
with foreigners). "We are the tomato of the Indian Ocean,"
say promoters of tourism. "We go with everything." This
implies an identity of us-hood. Mauritians are what they are as Mauritians,
relatively to what others are. Seen rather as members of a collectivity
of we (i.e. the system viewed from within), Mauritians rather tend
to experience the daily multi-ethnicity as a perpetual cause of anxiety
Self-awareness of being Mauritian as opposed to non-Mauritians implies
a redefinition, an expansion, of relevant systems boundaries: this
encourages Mauritianity as us-hood. Unity as we-hood, conversely,
must be founded in shared or complementary representations of shared
practices. I will discuss these two aspects of social identity separately
for the sake of clarity; it seems, however, that every actual context
must encompass elements of both: i.e., internal criteria for unity,
and a difference that makes a difference (Bateson 1972) to all who
are not included.
(i) New forms of "us-hood" as effects of expanding systems
Sports have frequently been invoked as focal points of ethnic unity,
until recently considered legitimate. In 1982, several of Mauritius'
leading football teams changed their names (from Hindu Cadets, Muslim
Scouts, etc. to Cadets, Scouts etc.), and the official policy is now
to encourage non-ethnic sports. Yet ethnic allegiances are still strong,
despite the change in names (and the inevitable odd player or two
from an "outside" ethnic in every team):
Early in March, 1986, I attended the finals of a local football tournament
at George V Stadium in Curepipe. I had arrived in Mauritius only a
few weeks earlier, and asked my companion, a young Creole, whether
the teams had any link with the "communities". He assured
me that they hadn't. "Formerly, it used to be 'Hindu Cadets';
now, it's only 'Cadets', see?" However, I couldn't help noticing
the very visible ethnic clustering of Creoles and Indo-Mauritians
in different parts of the stand. We took our place amidst the Creoles,
and predictably - when the Cadets scored, cheers and handclaps soared
from the other side of the stand, whereas the people surrounding myself
silently lit another cigarette.
Lately, other foci of group allegiance have consciously been created
(from field v, notably the Ministère de la Jeunesse et des
Sports). In 1986, for instance, the first Jeux des Villes de L'Océan
Indien, an inter-town tournament with participation from Reunionan
towns, Victoria (of Seychelles) and Antananarivo, changed the focus
from ethnic to locality (large-scale). The interest in these new proposed
allegiances was very low. In tiny Mauritius, where one town merges
into another in urban Plaines Wilhems from Coromandel to Curepipe,
and each town is spatially differentiated according to class and ethnicity,
any Creole cité dweller in Beau-Bassin would rather identify
with Creole cité dwellers in Curepipe twenty kilometres away
(with whom he may well be linked by means of kinship or friendship)
than with the bourgeois Sino-Mauritians and Francos a few streets
Sometimes, however, these conscious redefinitions of systems boundaries
may have social repercussions which are stronger than predicted. In
August, 1985, Mauritius was responsible for the second Jeux des Iles
de l'Océan Indien, an international sports tournament. The
event led to a sudden upsurge of national sentiment that could still
be noticed a year later (people spoke fondly of Mauritian athletes
belonging to ethnics other than their own, etc.). A schoolboy, quoted
in Le Mauricien (February, 1986), wrote in an essay that "the
country of Mauritius was born in 1968, but Mauritianity was born in
August, 1985". This is clearly a significant statement: From
being "us, the Hindus" etc., one suddenly became, within
a larger system of relevant relations, "us, the Mauritians".
This system can be defined as the sum of the social relations created
and activated during the Jeux des Iles; the important thing is nevertheless
the tournament's enduring influence on the representations of many
Mauritians. After the event, the system depends on certain representations
shared by a certain number of Mauritians, in order to be reproduced
as a relevant potential system ("model"). For this to happen,
the mere sports event could never have been sufficient. The more recent
Jeux des Villes de l'Océan Indien, as noted, never led to town-based
patriotism. There is, therefore, clearly an emerging self-awareness
as citizens among Mauritians, as participants in a system of more
ambitious scale than those reproduced locally; a self-awareness which
became visible in the strong manifestations of national sentiments
symbolically conceptualised as "international sports".
The "underlying" processes of expansion of systemic boundaries,
i.e. those that made the nationalism following the Jeux des Iles possible
at all, are those of internationally-linked social and economic change,
notably the development of communications, tourism and industrialisation.
Tourists bring knowledge and awareness of the greater systems where
Mauritians potentially take part, and encourage the creation of representations
of a rather loftier scope than those they potentially replace. Industrialisation
creates, demonstrates and reproduces a variety of these representations
in practice (cf. above). Mauritius is being served by an increasing
number of international flights (and the capacity of the airport is
presently being increased). In addition, many Mauritians emigrated,
permanently or for shorter periods, during the first decade after
The enthusiasm encountered during and after the Jeux des Iles, then,
can be traced back to a self-awareness of "us, the Mauritians"
stemming from growing intercourse with the external world - in search,
as it were, of a vehicle for its visible expression.
In the previous section, I noted that expansions of systemic boundaries
are credibly interpreted (by the actors) as Mauritian us-hood in the
social context of the industrial workers. From a different perspective
than the factory owner's, the national authorities are painfully aware
of the Mauritian industry's dependence on the interest of foreign
investors - and the presence of competing sources of cheap labour.
Their implicit plea to the workers goes something like "We've
got to increase our productivity lest we, Mauritius Ltd., go bankrupt."
Below, I present two examples of us-hood which is caused by expanding
systemic boundaries in other contexts. In the first example, the new
types of social relations emerge because of geographical, physical
mobility; in the second, the ultimate cause rather consists in changes
having taken place outside Mauritius.
When abroad, Mauritians (like members of virtually any other nationality)
tend to cling together. A Muslim friend, definitely skeptical of the
Creoles at home ("You shouldn't mingle so much with those people,
Tom!"), told me this about his stay as an assistant nurse at
a British hospital:
"...And every Friday night, we'd have a huge séga party
at somebody's place where we'd drink some rum - even I had a few glasses
sometimes... Man, there were so many Mauritians there - Creoles, Hindus,
you know; it's so nice to meet fellow-Mauritians when you're far away
This is a familiar expression of we-hood, caused by an us-hood resulting
from expanding systems boundaries - when the difference that makes
a difference appears at a level outside ethnicity because the outsiders
are non-Mauritians. In Britain, being Mauritian as opposed to British
is more important than being Muslim as opposed to Creole or Hindu.
This example also illustrates my general point that ethnicity is conditional
pertaining to persons-in-situations and not categorical pertaining
The Muslim shift from Pakistani to Arab "ancestral identity",
which has taken place since the early-to middle seventies (cf. p.
95-96), can plausibly be interpreted as a wish to participate in a
system of larger scale, rather than as "ethnic revitalisation".
Embracing Pan-Arabism and later Pan-Islamism, local Muslim leaders
stressed that they, as Mauritian Muslims, supported the Arab world
in geopolitics and, indeed, that they contributed to it.
This international ideology is, unlike the tiersmondisme popular in
the MMM of the 1970's, not compatible with Mauritian nationalism.
In January, 1984, the staff of the Libyan Embassy in Port-Louis were
expelled. Whether this "quixotic expulsion" (Bowman 1984:8)
was due to "a judicious accomodation to the sensitivities of
Washington and Riyadh" or to "an authentic revulsion toward
Colonel Qaddafi's admonition to Christians to read the Koran"
(ibid.), has been kept secret. There are rumours that the Libyan diplomats
bribed Christians into conversion (which would have upset the precarious
ethnic equilibrium); whatever the case may be, Pan-Islamism is neither
compatible with Mauritian foreign policy nor with its internal ideologies,
notably the dictum of the highest common denominator and the attempts
to have it "increased".
(ii) Growing areas of shared meaning
A nationalist ideology must have elements of the we aspect of unity
("pulling together", "sharing the fruits of our labours"
etc.) although the us aspect is perhaps always its raison d'être
("We're better than the X'es" - put more directly: "We,
Mauritius the actor in international affairs, are competitive").
Nationalism becomes pervasively relevant the moment it is more interesting
to a Mauritian to compare himself (his country, its products etc.)
with the foreigner than with his neighbour. Ultimately this is to
do with expansions of the system considered most relevant at any given
moment in the actor's life. If her status as an industrial worker,
and the meaning produced therein, is more important (to her) than
her status as a temple-going Tamil, then she is a Mauritian before
she's a Tamil. This process cannot be measured, and it appears difficult
to infer from observation: When, after all, do we know that Mlle Dimba's
identity as a worker sets a deeper imprint on her self, as it were,
than her identity as a Tamil? We don't know.
What we can do, however, is extrapolate from what we do know: Mlle
S. Dimba, 19, is the eldest daughter of a small-planter near P., a
large, "rurban" village with a rapidly growing industrial
sector. There are three more children; two girls and a boy. S. passed
her CPE five years ago, but there was no money to send her to secondary
school. For a while she helped her mother in the house and her father
in the fields; eventually, the father decided that she should work
at one of the new factories in the area. One of his sisters had a
job there already, and she could look after S. At this time, there
were still relatively few women of Asian descent at the factories:
the great majority were Creoles. S. was sometimes harassed by some
of the Creole girls, she says, but she also made friends with some.
Two years ago, she fell in love with a Creole boy, working as a chauffeur
at the same factory as herself. Since her aunt was always nearby,
she could never see him for more than a couple of minutes at the time
- but somehow they managed to agree to marry. Like virtually anybody
in a similar situation, she had to make a choice between her family
and her lover; she chose her family and abandoned him, but she kept
her job - even though her aunt quit during this period. (Had her aunt
been around, I should probably never have been able to interview her.)
Today, she comments,
"It's all very silly. To me, there's no reason that I should
marry a Tamil rather than anybody else. But I'm fond of my family,
and don't want to offend them. After all, I'm still young. Perhaps
later I'm stronger and can marry whomever I want."
About her religion, she says,
"I am a Tamil, but I don't know what that means. I go to the
temple and I like it. Anyway, Sakenn pe prie dan so fason (Each prays
in his/her way), I dislike the Muslims because of their fanaticism;
not as people, only their religion - but Christians are very nice.
Did you know that some Catholics have done a lot of good for us girls
at the factories?"
Her identity as a Mauritian seems in several respects to be practically
prior to that as a Tamil. The chief criterion is her openness toward
intermarriage. She also perceives her status as a factory worker as
an important one (referring to nous, les filles dans les usines, in
French incidentally, as it would clearly have beneath her petit-bourgeois
dignity to speak Kreol to a European like myself). The fact that S.
spends a significant part of her day in a social context where the
participants are mutually defined through sharing a task horizontally,
seems to have liberated her from consistent application of ethnic
taxonomies/stereotypes altogether. There is no relevant difference
between herself and her Creole, Hindu and Muslim workmates - on the
contrary, they are united in "we-hood" through the non-hierarchically
shared work, and in "us-hood" as underpaid workers. If we
compare this with the division of labour in the sugar estate, the
difference is obvious. Where Billy (pp. 74-75) works, for instance,
the director is Franco, the middle managerial positions are held by
Sino-Mauritians and Mulattoes, the artisans and mechanics are Creoles,
and the labourers in the fields Hindus and Muslims: the division of
labour is strongly ethnically correlated. At S.'s job, a clothing
enterprise employing some 90 people, the boss is a Indian from India,
who uses a youngish Creole woman as interpreter when addressing his
non-Anglophone workers. The white-collar positions are held by a Sino-Mauritian,
a Mulatto and a Tamil. The majority of the employees, female "machinistes",
work together in a large, noisy hall; here, the four largest ethnics
(Hindus, Creoles, Muslims, Tamils) are present, almost in statistically
An ethnically similar division of labour is found in the large hotels,
too. Frequently, the upper managerial positions belong to foreigners,
and Sino-Mauritians are often overrepresented among those of highest
rank. But further down in the hierarchy, the pattern of employment
does not reflect ethnic power asymmetries. This implies that the employees
in question share a representation of meritocratic principles. This
further means that they face each other in a competitive situation,
unlike S. and her workmates at the factory. Unlike the factory worker,
the hotel employee tends to consider the possibility of promotion,
and no unity of the "we" variety is viable here. However,
the adoption of principles of meritocracy entails a weakening of cultural
and social boundaries: an acknowledgment that everybody is up to the
same thing - and here, too, there is no relevant difference between
employees on roughly the same level in the hierarchy. The social context
of the hotel, like that of the factory, provides a system of shared
representations, confirmed in action, which is independent from ethnicity
and which is - I have argued, compatible with nationalism. Through
paying increasing income taxes to the State and receiving increasing
welfare benefits in return, the worker and his/her family further
develop a tangible understanding of the we-hood inherent in the abstract
model of nation-building: We take care of each other.
Areas of shared meaning are growing in many new and/or changing fields
of inter-ethnic interaction. In this much too brief discussion of
social change, I have mainly focussed on the working-place. Other
fields could have been chosen; for instance, it is certainly of some
interest that virtually all Mauritians now eat their rice with spoon
and fork and that body gestures are interethnically identical. It
could also have been interesting e.g. to extrapolate from the fact
that private television sets has grown from 50,000 to 100,000 sets
in five years, and its potential effects on the cultural environment
in field i -or to try to predict the effects of female employment
on family organisation - or to describe the French magazines most
cross-ethnically popular among the youth of Rose-Hill, etc. So be
it. In leaving the questions here, I admit that neither the Mauritian
metamorphosis nor my analysis of it are finished. At the moment, nevertheless,
the case for nationalism seems a strong one. The national symbols
are available and increasingly being perceived as relevant: colonial
ones, Economic Progress and Ramgoolam as "we" symbols, the
Diego Garcia conflict, economic competition and ethnic diversity as
"us" symbols. The relevant forms of organisation (the nation-state
as an increasingly important actor locally and internationally, the
functioning meritocracy as the most important criterion for recruitment
to the labour market) seem to be on their way.
On the other hand, many important events in the history of Mauritius
1. The dictionary has throughout a very strong normative bias.
2. Both of the large political parties are in favour of a strong state
collecting taxes and monitoring comprehensive welfare schemes (cf.
MSM 1983, MMM 1983). The Mauritian state is already much more active
than what is common in the "3rd world".
3. As Epstein (1978) remarks, the important point about the American
melting-pot is that it never happened; many (but probably not most)
of the ethnics remain discrete after several generations; after the
second and third industrial revolutions...
4. In 1985, the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery was
held, after lobbying and planning by the Creole interest group L'Organisation
Fraternelle. The government, sensing a possible conflict, rapidly
ruled that the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the first indentured
labourers from India should be celebrated simultaneously.
5. The national flag, incidentally, consists of four horizontal stripes;
from top to bottom, they are red, blue, yellow and green. Officially,
the colours symbolise (from below) the crops of the land, the tropical
sun, the ocean enclosing Mauritius, and the struggle of the people.
A popular interpretation holds that the red stands for the Labour
Party (Hindu dominated), the blue for the PMSD (General Population),
the yellow for the Sino-Mauritians, and the green for the Muslims.
6. I have myself discussed religion with a great number of Mauritians,
and was as a rule unimpressed by their actual knowledge.
7. The main source for the following discussion is the newspaper L'Express
(Wednesday, 18 December, 1985), which devoted seven large pages to
an illustrated description of the ceremony. In addition, I have the
testimonies of two (non-academic, non-Hindu) Mauritians who were present.
8. ...the most striking instance witnessed by me being a police brass
band playing Tamil religious music at a Cavadee in Mahébourg,
9. Note the parallels with the nearly universal acceptance of English
as a national language.
10. Military expenditure in Mauritius amounts to 0.2% of the GNP.
11. The MMM was founded in 1969. At a local by-election in 1971, it
easily won in the Prime Minister's own constituency. At the first
General Election after independence, in 1976, the MMM took 34 of the
12. Personal interview with Bérenger, March 1986 (partly reproduced
in Eriksen 1986b)
13. In their revised programme (MMM 1983), the party admits that "The
EPZ and the industrial sector will be excluded from the nationalisations
to be undertaken by an MMM Government" (p. 24).
14. The last point does not, in the Mauritian context, necessarily
mean more than a ritual recognition of the rules for political discourse,
although the MMM plan to establish "a severe legislation against
any act of racist or communalist character" (MMM 1983: 39).
15. Basha Andolan is a loosely knit umbrella organisation comprising
some 16 lesser collectivities, many of which deponed independently.
14 of the member organisations represent segments of the Hindu population
(divided by caste, denomination and language), one represents Tamils
and one Muslims.
16. The large number of organisations and individuals attempting to
influence the decision of the Committee indicates this, as well as
the enormous number of applicants to various schools and courses of
17. The table is inspired by a similar table in Chaudenson 1978.
18. Not having studied the syntax of Kreol systematically, I cannot
tell whether this is a reasonable judgement in addition to being an
ideological justification of the symbolic reproduction of the Franco-
and Anglophiles's positions in power.
19. For examples, cf. de Rauville 1967, Dinan 1986; former journalist
Masson's latest novel (1986) also contains fine samples of Franco-Mauritian
contempt and Christian paternalism vis à vis Kreolophones.
20. The quotation is from one of Bébel-Gisler's (1975) Guadeloupean
informants, and it fits the Mauritian context perfectly.
21. I have found most instances of this in the Creole suburbs of Port-Louis,
where the men traditionally worked on the docks. Since the opening
of a sugar bulk terminal ("vrac") in 1980, many have been
unemployed. During the same period, many of the women have found jobs
in the new industries emerging in the early- to middle eighties.
22. An Indian intellectual, un Indien de l'Inde, a frequent
visitor to Mauritius, complained about the average Indo-Mauritian:
"He's not an Indian, he just looks like it. What could his spiritual
life possibly look like, when he spends all his time saving for a
video machine! He doesn't speak like an Indian, nor think like one."
23. Sartre's distinction between "we-as-subject" and "we-as-object"
(French does not have a word for "us") is illuminating,
but his usage of the concepts ("we-as-subject" as a "subjective
and psychological experience", his teachings on subject-object
relationships etc.) cannot possibly be applied here. I use the terms,
then, inaccurately and tentatively, in referring (a) to we, the social
and/or cultural unit held together chiefly through its internal workings,
and (b) to us, kept together against the "gaze of the Third (Tertius)".
He is looking at us, but we are producing meaning together. The two
are, empirically, non-existent poles in a continuum.
24. The Rodriguan independence movement, existing since the mid-seventies
and represented in parliament by the OPR party (Organisation du
People Rodriguais), shows the importance of delineating changes
in systemic boundaries. According to the OPR and some Mauritian intellectuals,
tiny Mauritius has a colonial problem in (even tinier) Rodrigues,
exploiting and underdeveloping the dependency much in the same way
as the previous colonial powers (mis-)treated their colonies. (a)
Nobody conceptualised this model before independence, as the relevant
system in question was then the British Empire or, more specifically,
the system containing Mauritius-and-Rodrigues on the one hand, and
the United Kingdom on the other. The new self-sustaining system of
Mauritius-and-Rodrigues provided the structural conditions for a Rodriguan
independence movement. (b) The formal relations within the respective
delineated systems may be similar, although their substantial properties
25. Even expatriate Mauritians sometimes activate ethnic networks,
however. In Strasbourg, for instance, a large segment of the resident
Mauritians are Tamils from a particular suburb of Rose-Hill, many
of them relatives.