Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Cajuns are an ethnic minority of the United States who have lived mainly in south-central and southwestern Louisiana since the late eighteenth century. They are descendants of the Acadian Diaspora, resulting from the forced exile of the French settlers in Acadia by the British in 1755. In Louisiana, contact with other cultures including Black Creoles, American Indians, Germans, Spaniards, and Italians, eventually shaped a distinct Cajun culture and a distinct form of French. Their language and religion, Roman Catholicism, remain two main identity markers.


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North America --Regional, Ethnic and Diaspora Cultures


United States

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Number of Pages


Collection Overview

The Cajuns collection consists of 18 English language documents covering a wide range of ethnographic topics, with a heavy emphasis on cultural history and the Cajun concept of ethnic identity. Probably the best general ethnography for the collection is 1: Ancelet which presents a comprehensive study of Acadian/Cajun cultural history from the early seventeenth century in Nova Scotia to the present day in Louisiana (ca. 1980s). In addition, this documents contains much contemporary data on family religion, folk medicine and law, architecture, foodways, music, games, and oral literary traditions. This work is further supplemented by the wealth of ethnographic information to be found in 4: Rushton. On a smaller scale, 2: Esman provides a well-rounded ethnographic survey of the community of Henderson, La. The author presents data on the history of the community, its economy, restaurants, family life, sex roles, social life, religion, politics, play and leisure activities, and relations with neighboring communities and with other ethnic minority groups. In the table below are listed some of the major ethnographic topics discussed in this collection, followed by the specific documents in which they appear.

The culture summary was written for the Encyclopedia of World Cultures. The information presented in the document evaluation was prepared by John Beierle in January 1994.

BALS DE MAISON -- folk dances -- Category 535

blessing of the fleet -- Category 788 (sometimes with 541)

BOUCHERIE -- rural butchery -- Category 231 and 571, 621, and 476

camps -- recreational areas consisting generally of temporary houses or shacks --Category 529

code switching -- altering language usage according to social context -- Category 195

COMMUNITAS -- the sense of unity that emerges in an otherwise fragmented or stratified group during certain kinds of ceremonies or celebrations -- Category 186

Council for the Development of French in Louisiana (CODOFIL) -- Categories 668, 191

COUP DE MAIN -- cooperative work groups -- Category 476

deportation (by British from Nova Scotia) -- Categories 728 and 648

ENGAGES -- indentured workers -- Category 466

ethnicity, concepts of -- Category 186 and sometimes 828 and 829

isolation, Cajun cultural -- Category 182

Ku Klux Klan (also Knights of the White Camelia, White League) -- Category 579

LAGNIAPPE festival -- Categories 527, 543

Louisiana Association of Fairs and Festivals (LAFF) -- Category 543

Mardi Gras -- Category 541

MARRAINES -- godmother -- Category 608

parishes -- territorial, Categories 632, 634; religious, Category 794

PARRAINES -- godfather -- Category 608

RAMASSERIE -- communal harvest -- Categories 241, 476

secession, from the Union -- Category 668

SINDICS -- supervisors on public works projects -- Category 624

TRAITEUR -- folk curer -- Category 756

VACHERIES -- cattle ranches -- Category 233

VEILLES -- social gatherings -- Categories 574, 571

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