One of France's colonial enterprises in the eighteenth century was to acclimatize nutmeg, native to the Maluku islands, in the French colony of Isle de France (today's Mauritius). Exploring the acclimatization of nutmeg as a practice, this paper reveals the practical challenges of transferring knowledge between Indo-Pacific islands in the second half of the eighteenth century. This essay will look at the process through which knowledge was created – including ruptures and fractures – as opposed to looking at the mere circulation of knowledge. I argue that nutmeg cultivation on Isle de France was a complex process of creolizing expertise originating from the local populations of the plants’ native islands with the horticultural knowledge of colonists, settlers, labourers and slaves living on Isle de France. In this respect, creolization describes a process of knowledge production rather than a form of knowledge. Once on Isle de France, nutmeg took root in climate and soil conditions which were different from those of its native South East Asian islands. It was cultivated by slaves and colonists who lacked prior experience with the cultivation of this particular spice. Experienced horticulturalists experimented with their own traditions. While they relied on old assumptions, they also came to question them. By examining cultivation as an applied practice, this paper argues that the creolization of knowledge was a critical aspect in French colonial botany.
Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.
* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.
Usage data cannot currently be displayed