From creolization to syncretism

Climbing the ritual ladder

Authored by: Charles Stewart

Routledge International Handbook of Diversity Studies

Print publication date:  November  2014
Online publication date:  November  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415813860
eBook ISBN: 9781315747224
Adobe ISBN: 9781317600695


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Syncretism has both an outside and an inside. The outside involves the actual situations of diverse social groups in contact. How and where do they meet, and under what economic and political terms? In cases of recent migration, the study of these interactions might fall into the analytical sphere of creolization, which refers to the adaptation of a person or a group in new surroundings. The inside of syncretism is the theological level, where new ideas or gods may be inserted into a pre-existing system, precipitating a reconfiguration of the pantheon or the form of rituals. This chapter discusses the respective spheres of creolization and syncretism, and it observes that mutual participation in rituals may be an important bridge leading from creolization to syncretism. Acceptance into the rituals of the host community can mark a momentous staging point on the way to the localization of migrants. This sharing of rituals gives an opportunity for newcomers to introduce novel elements, thus taking a step in the direction of syncretism. Rather than conflate creolization and syncretism, I see ritual as an avenue leading from creolization to syncretism.

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