This study explores the ways in which a colonial domain affected identification processes among the Jews who had forged a Jewish community in Suriname since the mid seventeenth century. The history of the Surinamese Jews involves conflict, struggle and exclusion, but also cultural adaptation, inclusion and cultural production. Within the framework of Suriname’s colonial domain, the Surinamese-Jewish community debated, contested and negotiated the pillars of a Surinamese-Jewish group identity not only among themselves but also with the colonial authorities. Colour and social status predominated as boundary-making attributes in Surinamese-Jewish identifications. Creolization acted as a constitutive force in shaping the social environment, the philosophy of life and the actions of Surinamese Jews. As such, Surinamese-Jewish creolization was predominantly concerned with a process of ‘becoming creole’; the development of a localized mental framing and a notion of difference that distinguished the Surinamese Jews from those Jews living in their metropolitan homeland communities. Between the mid eighteenth and mid nineteenth centuries did Surinamese-Jewish identifications take a definite turn. Important conflicts within the Jewish community (concerning Portuguese and High German Jewish relationships, or the status of coloured Jews), but also between Jewish and non-Jewish whites (because of the increasing visibility of the Jews and the penetration of Jews in social and political environments previously out-of-bound) took place within this time-span; conflicts that strongly indicate a reformulation of Surinamese-Jewish identifications during this period.

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A.A. van Stipriaan Luïscius (Alex)
Erasmus University Rotterdam
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication (ESHCC)

Vink, W. (2008, September 11). Creole Jews: Negotiating Community in Colonial Suriname. Retrieved from