UNCG Campus Weekly

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Linda Rupert’s book is baptized in champagne

Photo of Dr. Linda Rupert getting her book baptized with champagneDr. Linda Rupert (History) traveled to the Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao in December, where she was honored to participate in the baptism of her book “Creolization and Contraband: Curacao in the Early Modern Atlantic World” (University of Georgia Press, 2012).

Campus Weekly asked her about this ceremony. “The book is wrapped tightly in plastic and placed in a bowl and then either water or – in the case of my book – champagne is poured over it,” she said. “Typically the author is accompanied by one or two “godparents,” which is considered to be an honor, as is the role of the “priest” who baptizes the book. Commonly the ceremony accompanies a public lecture by the author based on the book, and sometimes there is also a cultural presentation. I gave a talk.”

This traditional ceremony indicates the reverence for the written word in a largely oral culture, she explained.

The author keeps the baptized copy of the book. “I have mine in my office,” she said.

Rupert is associate professor & Director of Undergraduate Studies in the UNCG Department of History.

She lived in Curacao for thirteen years – 1987-2000 – before she joined academia. She was married to a local anthropologist and her two daughters were born and raised there. “I became interested in the history of the island, and after I wrote a non-academic book I decided I wanted to become a historian and write a more complete history based on archival sources. I moved to North Carolina and got my PhD at Duke in 2006, and this book developed out of my dissertation.”

Her book recasts the history of the island during its heyday as a Dutch trade center, shifting the focus from the wealthy Dutch merchants who controlled the island’s trade to the majority population of African descent who actually manned the ships and worked the docks.

It’s not her first book that’s had this ceremony. “I wrote a non-academic history of the island, “Roots of our Future: A Commercial History of Curacao,” in 1999 when I was living there, which was baptized,” she said.

She is fluent in the local creole language, Papiamentu.“I gave a radio interview in Papiamentu about the book while I was there. I’ve also been invited to write a short version of it in Papiamentu that could be used in local schools.”