Appointed As

Arts and Humanities


ACLS Emerging Voices Fellowships program


University of California, Berkeley

PhD Field of Study

PhD, Cultural Studies, Claremont Graduate University

Dissertation Abstract

"Creole Resistance in Louisiana from Colonization to Black Lives Matter: Activism’s Deep-Rooted Role in Creole Identity"

Creole identity within Louisiana emerged as a result of French colonization and as a means of classification denoting birthplace, but it developed into a cultural identity specific to the lived experiences of residents of Louisiana. An often overlooked aspect of Creole identity is its role within the formation of activist networks and resistance within the American South. I argue that resistance is inherent in the formation of Creole identity because it complicates racial politics that are predicated on reductionist singular conceptions of racial and ethnic identity. An understanding of Creole identity as a challenge to the racial binary imposed within Louisiana illuminates the larger legacies of colonialism, slavery, and systems of inequality within society. Creole identity exists as a result of colonization and was formed to cope with the traumatic experiences of living under enslavement, colonization, and systemic racism. A unique culture developed as a survival strategy and aided in the creation of methods of resistance to hegemonic institutions upholding white supremacy.
The constructed Black and white divide within the U.S. South has often reduced Creole identity to a form of blackness, but Creole identity has historically involved both an association with blackness and access to the privileges of whiteness, creating a hybrid identity formation. I argue that Creoles have strategically utilized their complex racial formation to mount resistance to dominant ideologies through their identification with both Black and white identity. Often the historical role Creole identity played within social movements has been overlooked. Since Louisiana was colonized by the French, Creole people have mounted resistance against colonial power, and their activism evolved as the systems of oppression took on new forms. Creole identity was inextricably tied to French colonialism as well as the French language, but as France ceded control of the Louisiana territory Creole identity evolved beyond an identification with French culture into a shared culture built upon lived experiences of oppression. From colonialism to slavery and beyond, Creole resistance has persisted.
I have constructed a radical genealogy to highlight the evolution of Creole identity through the use of counter-stories. Creoles mounted resistance to systemic oppression during colonization, enslavement, Reconstruction, and the Civil Rights Movement, resistance that continues to the present day. My research has uncovered an legacy of resistance that has taken the form of solidarity networks, print publications, social clubs, spiritual belief systems, and social media communities that address the evolving needs of Creole communities. Creole resistance against racial segregation has often been dismissed, as seen in Cheryl Harris’ pivotal work
“Whiteness as Property,” as an act of conformity and an attempt to benefit from the privileges of whiteness, but I argue that Creole activism intentionally deconstructed arguments perpetuating racial segregation by challenging constructions of race and white supremacy. From Plessy v. Ferguson to online collectives today Creole identity strategically protested racial inequality by disrupting understandings of race and by embracing a more complex view of racial identity. By combining extensive archival research with analysis of new forms of digital expression and community-building, my project argues that Creole identity has historically evolved from a racial category to a hybrid cultural formation used by activists to challenge reductionist constructions of race in order to develop a consciousness that forwards efforts to achieve racial equality in an intersectional and inclusive manner.