This essay argues for creolization as a salient theoretical and historical category for Indian cultural history that can offer an epistemic alternative to its land-centric bias. Through literary analysis of Franco-Tamil author Ari Gautier’s novel about Pondicherry, Le thinnai, it demonstrates how creolization theories need to be adjusted to capture and evaluate the cultural transformations which took place in enclaves such as Pondicherry, founded between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries on India’s coasts by a range of European powers. Equally, it deploys literary critical methods to illuminate how, and why, fiction such as Gautier’s reactivates memory of Creole Indias. This reading reveals his privileged trope of the “thinnai,” a veranda-like architectural element of Tamil homes, as working together with the embodied culture of Pondicherry’s “Bas Créole” community, to present the enclave as a contact zone for creolization of cultural materials that converge here through two, overlapping circularities: the transoceanic and the littoral. The specific epistemic structure generated through their intersections, that I call “the archipelago of fragments,” moves us away from the double bind of territoriality and caste-based preference for purity while opening Indian cultural history to the porosity of the coastline and the unpredictability of creolization as cultural process.

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