The founders of the Zanzibar National Party can be understood as creole nationalists, who imagined their political authority as stemming from membership in a transnational Arab elite. But in the mid-twentieth century, prompted by the rising hegemony of territorial nationalism and by subaltern challenges informed by pan-Africanism, they crafted a new historical narrative that depicted their movement as having originated with indigenous villagers. Party leaders then related this narrative to Western scholars, whose publications helped reproduce the myth throughout the rest of the century. This article traces the genesis of this masquerade and asks what it implies about the nature of the creole metaphor and its supposed link to discourses of cosmopolitan hybridity. The conventional contrast between créolité and nativist essentialism is shown to be illusory.
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