AccessMyLibrary provides FREE access to millions of articles from top publications available through your library.
Observation of everyday life in Southwest Louisiana clearly attests to the existence of a French-based ethnic phenomenon: French is spoken, Cajun identity is claimed on signs and in publications, in-group solidarity is practiced in kin groups and organizations, Cajun music is played, ethnic food is cooked and sold, and Cajun country is toured by visitors. Yet, the answer to the question "What is a Cajun?" remains elusive. Operational and anecdotal definitions abound from individual Cajuns, scholars, legislators and writers of all kinds, from poets to humorists; yet this profusion is of little help in providing a clear consensus. On the one hand, views of Cajun ethnicity by Cajuns vary according to situational and referential contexts;(1) on the other hand, definitions have been attempted from different theoretical perspectives by historians, geographers, sociologists, anthropologists, linguists, and folklorists with goals as diverse as providing an official definition, delineating a territory, finding informants or analyzing Cajun ethnic identity. All definitions focus on or refer to Acadian ancestry, French language, ecological and cultural adaptation to Southwestern Louisiana, Catholicism, agriculturalism, and a particular folk culture as the main variables of Cajun ethnicity. Yet, these efforts are deemed wanting because of inadequacies inherent to the approach,(2) the fast-evolving, multi-dimensional and sometimes paradoxical nature of the phenomenon at hand(3) or the larger theoretical difficulties in tackling the issue of ethnicity per se.(4)
This article attempts another approach. It consists of an analysis of the written occurrences of the labels used to describe the descendants of the Acadian exiles in Louisiana, and especially the English-French pair Cajun/cadien.(5) The ethno-historical exploration of the label's creation, use, and meaning reveal the dialectical process at play in the construction of Cajun ethnicity. This analysis confirms the early realization of cadien in Louisiana Acadian speech and the coining of Cajun by outsiders who popularized the word in the late nineteenth century; it presents the variations in patterns of utilization of Cajun/cadien from its emergence as a derogative term used by outsiders to its current positive but divergent realizations in English and French. The analysis of the evolution through changing social contexts and from in-group and out-group perspectives shows that the use and meaning of Cajun/cadien closely espouses social and cultural changes. Stable symbol of a changing culture or constant marker of shifting ethnic boundaries, Cajun/cadien appears through historical evolution as a reliable indicator of the ongoing construction of Cajun ethnicity.
DATA AND METHODOLOGY
The data consist of written occurrences of Cajun/cadien, a derivative of acadien [akadie] which refers to the people and culture of Acadie, a region on the Canadian Atlantic coast. Cajun/cadien is now used to designate the group, language and culture of people assumed to descend from the Acadian exiles who settled in Louisiana after their deportation from Canada in 1755. A key word here is "assumed" because the definition of Cajun/cadien is still a knot of confusion despite a long presence in Louisiana and a surge of commercial and scholarly interest in the past two decades. One issue is unanimously agreed upon: there would have been and there would be no Cajuns if Acadians had not settled in Louisiana between 1765 and 1785. The rest is a matter of debate.
Cajun is the written form of the American English pronunciation of ??; ?? used universally by Cajuns and non-Cajuns as well as by English and French speakers. In conformity with English morphology, it is the only form of the adjective and the singular noun, and it is both masculine and feminine.
Cadien and cadjin are the written forms of the Louisiana French pronunciation of [kadze]. [kadze] used exclusively by French speakers, mostly by Cajuns but also by non-Cajuns. The feminine form of both terms is respectively cadienne [kadien] and cadjine [kadzin]. The plural of both the noun and adjective, masculine and feminine, is marked with the s ending, which is not realized in speech.
The original oral realization of the term will remain shrouded by the eternal silence of its long-gone unrecorded speakers. Modern oral usage ranges from [ka:dze] to [kadie] in French and ?? in English. The historical evolution can, however, be reconstructed from written sources that provide diachronic and codified information.
The data presented here does not claim to be exhaustive, especially for the early and rare occurrences of the words and the current massive use. Compilations of manuscripts (administrative documents, personal correspondence) were the source of some eighteenth-century occurrences.(6) Nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century material come from published accounts of contacts with the Louisiana Acadian population and territory; these descriptions have been collated and analyzed in several bibliographical essays.(7) These reports originate from administrators, scholars, travelers, journalists, and fiction writers, and are presented in Tables 1 and 2. Modern material has been collected through observation-participation in books, articles, dictionaries, administrative documents, signs, and lately, in electronic form. Table 3 presents the use of ethnic code words in telephone directories of the Lafayette area (1905-1995).
There are methodological questions pertinent to the ethnohistory of a written ethnic label. The evolution, use and meaning of a name are worthy topics of inquiry. Anthropologists and sociolinguists have studied ethnic labels to identify and delimit ethnic groups;(8) as for the ethnic situation in Louisiana, the much-confusing label Creole/creole has been the subject of several studies,(9) but Cajun/cadien has not received the same amount of scrutiny.
Another issue deals with the use of written data. In Louisiana, writings in French and Creole have long been provided as a measurement of the cultural vitality of Louisiana French and Creole cultures: their disappearance signaled the demise of French among elites, and the literary renaissance of the 1970s is hailed as a manifestation of the resurgence of Cajun ethnicity.(10) The analysis of the written symbols, along with the first-hand information provided by writers, open a unique access to social facts and processes.
It is acknowledged that both Cajun and cadien were spoken before they were recorded on paper and that their use was wider than the limited view of their existence allowed by a handful of texts. The questions pertaining to the correspondence between oral realization and graphic representation will be addressed; in fact, they are at the core of this "ethnography of writing."
Finally, the validity of the written portrayal of a largely illiterate group by erudite outsiders must be assessed. Accounts of the use of Cajun/cadien originate from non-Acadian sources and are by and large noticeably pejorative. In contrast, Cajun authors' publications, especially in French, are recent, rare and reflective of a renewed ethnic pride. Since the task at hand is the analysis of an ethnic label, not the description of Cajun history and culture, the patterns of name usage by insiders and outsiders are significant and can be interpreted through the distortion of biases and stereotypes. Ethnic label use is positioned on the boundary that separates the Ethnics from the Others; its historical-ethnographic study allows for the integration of the etic and emic perspectives in a multicultural and biracial setting, in diachrony and synchrony.
THE CREATION OF THE TERM
The etymology of Cajun/cadien is undisputed; there are Cajuns in Louisiana because Acadians settled there after their deportation from Acadie by the British in 1755. The etymology of Acadie is not as clear. Historians award the coining of the term to Giovanni Verrazano; in 1524, the Florentine navigator called the upper part of the American Atlantic Coast Archadia "for the beauty of its trees" in reference to Arcadia, a rural region of ancient Greece regarded as a pastoral paradise. Between 1548 and 1575, maps named the area corresponding to Nova Scotia Larcadia, Larcadie or Arcadia. Samuel de Champlain, the founder of French Canada, used both Arcadie (1603) and Accadie (1613). In 1603, the French king Henri IV opened the region of la Cadie to settlers. A group of French merchants incorporated a "Compagnie de l'Acadie" in 1604, providing the first written record of the term.(11)
A second interpretation proposes a different source. Poirier submitted that "Cadie is the primitive name of the territory taken from the natives." It would originate from terms used by the Algonquin tribes who resided along the North Atlantic coast; Acadie would be a variation of the Micmac algatig, a camp, as found today in Tracadie, Subenacadie, or the Malecite term quoddy, a fertile place, as found in Passamaquoddy, Chappaquiddick.(12)
The scarcity of written records, the early variations in spelling and the lack of recorded seventeenth-century speech hamper any definite conclusion on the origin of the term and its early oral realization and use. Nevertheless, throughout the eighteenth century, Acadian/acadien unequivocably designated the Catholic descendants of French farmers and fishermen settled around the Baie Francaise. Descendants of English and Scottish settlers who arrived after France ceded Acadie to England in 1713 were not labeled Acadians.
The grand derangement (the great displacement) which followed the deportation resulted in the settlement of approximately 5,000 Acadians in Louisiana. The refugees were labeled Acadians/acadiens. In May of 1765, Charles Aubry, military commander of New Orleans, noted:
When I reported the arrival of sixty Acadian families from Saint Domingue, I did not think they would be followed by many others who are arriving continuously and that Louisiana was soon to become a new Acadia.(13)
Their descendants were long referred to as Acadians/acadiens; so indicate official correspondence and authors (see Tables 1 and 2). There is, however, scant evidence that the abbreviated term was in use, and available data suggest an early origination in French. In a 1771 letter, a priest in Louisiana complained that
About a month ago at around eleven in the morning four Cajuns, the elder Richard, Poyrie, Bergeron said Andre, came to my house under the pretext to light their pipe.(14)
Not much can be deduced from this unique occurrence; the writer was not an Acadian, and although the tone of the letter conveys a dislike of the behavior of said Cadiens, it cannot be concluded that the abbreviated term was universally used as a derogative. Historians have also recorded the use of this abbreviated form; it mostly applied to Acadian settlements in Quebec; Poirier claimed that Acadians called themselves Cadgiens or more simply French.(15) It can be assumed that a derivative of Acadien was used in speech; it is unclear, however, how it was used by Acadians or outsiders and what meaning it carried.
More than a century would elapse before cadien appeared in print in Louisiana. It was used in 1888 by novelist Sidonie de la Houssaye in her novel Pouponne et Balthazar. Creole scholar Alcee Fortier had a …