"Franco-American Identity, Community, and La Guiannée"

"Franco-American Identity, Community, and La Guiannée"

Anna Servaes

Print publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9781628462104

Publisher: University Press of Mississippi

Abstract

Travel with La Guiannée in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri and Prairie du Rocher, Illinois to glimpse the Franco-American cultural identity in these two Midwestern communities that have continued for over 250 years and even have survived language loss due in part to socio-political pressures. Cultural identity presents itself in many forms, not just language, and appears as festivals and traditional celebrations, which take on a more profound and visible role when language loss occurs. On New Year’s Eve, the guionneurs, those who participate in the celebration, disguise themselves in eighteenth-and nineteenth-century costume and travel throughout their community, singing and wishing New Year’s greetings to other members of the community. This celebration, like others, such as the Cajun Mardi Gras in Louisiana, Mumming in Ireland and Newfoundland, and the Carnaval de Binche, belong to a category of begging quest festivals that have existed since the Medieval Age. These festivals may also be adaptations or evolutions of pre-Christian pagan rituals. Part one creates an historical context of the development of the French mentality and cultural identity as well as an historical context of La Guiannée in order to compare and understand the contemporary identity and celebration. Part two analyzes the celebration to create an affirmation of community by using liminal theories proposed by Victor Turner, who states that during such rites or rituals, individuals undergo a transformation to reveal cultural information to others. Part three discusses cultural continuity and its relationship to language to reveal contemporary expressions of the Franco-American identity.