The Libertine Colony: Creolization in the Early French Caribbean / Edition 1

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Presenting incisive original readings of French writing about the Caribbean from the inception of colonization in the 1640s until the onset of the Haitian Revolution in the 1790s, Doris Garraway sheds new light on a significant chapter in French colonial history. At the same time, she makes a pathbreaking contribution to the study of the cultural contact, creolization, and social transformation that resulted in one of the most profitable yet brutal slave societies in history. Garraway’s readings highlight how French colonial writers characterized the Caribbean as a space of spiritual, social, and moral depravity. While tracing this critique in colonial accounts of Island Carib cultures, piracy, spirit beliefs, slavery, miscegenation, and incest, Garraway develops a theory of “the libertine colony.” She argues that desire and sexuality were fundamental to practices of domination, laws of exclusion, and constructions of race in the slave societies of the colonial French Caribbean.

Among the texts Garraway analyzes are missionary histories by Jean-Baptiste Du Tertre, Raymond Breton, and Jean-Baptiste Labat; narratives of adventure and transgression written by pirates and others outside the official civil and religious power structures; travel accounts; treatises on slavery and colonial administration in Saint-Domingue; the first colonial novel written in French; and the earliest linguistic description of the native Carib language. Garraway also analyzes legislation—including the Code noir—that codified slavery and other racialized power relations. The Libertine Colony is both a rich cultural history of creolization as revealed in Francophone colonial literature and an important contribution to theoretical arguments about how literary critics and historians should approach colonial discourse and cultural representations of slave societies.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“An inquiry into the limitless ambiguity of violence, lust, and law in the early French Caribbean, The Libertine Colony is a daring scholarly feat. A model of convergence for its contribution across disciplinary boundaries, this book not only challenges how we read Old Regime colonial narratives but prompts us to think again about the proximity of the common and the sacred. In giving a detailed history to the vagaries of colonial slavery, Doris Garraway confronts the gist of torture in those realms that most seem to deny it. In fascinating detail, she rethinks conceits of love, as she exhumes rituals of belief.”—Joan Dayan, author of Haiti, History, and the Gods

“Extremely well written, with a wonderful balance between impeccable scholarship and theoretical sophistication, The Libertine Colony is a very important contribution to postcolonial studies and the study of Caribbean literature and history.”—Peter Hulme, author of Remnants of Conquest: The Island Caribs and their Visitors, 1877–1998

Alix Pierre

The Libertine Colony . . . is a model scholarly work. The writer excels at keeping the theoretical perspective to a minimum so as not to impede the reading. As a result, the reader is hardly ever overwhelmed by the analytical terminology. . . . The Libertine Colony is an invaluable addition to the field of postcolonial studies. One can only wish that a French translation will soon be available for the benefit of the French-speaking readership.”
Phillip P. Boucher

“Garraway’s analysis will challenge, enlighten, and sometimes stupefy historians. . . . [H]er book deserves to be read and debated because of her admirable immersion in the primary printed and secondary historical literature, and because this brief review cannot plumb the depth and complexities of her work.”
Aletha D. Stahl

“This book will prove useful to scholars interested in literature, history, the Caribbean, and colonialism. Garraway’s attention to terms and tropes, i.e., the distinction between flibustiers and buccaneers, the etymology of ‘cannibal,’ and the development of the figure of the ‘zombie,’ adds to its appeal for use in some undergraduate courses. Also valuable are her examination of images from several print documents and her care to situate authors and provide detailed publishing histories.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822334651
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books
  • Publication date: 7/28/2005
  • Series: A John Hope Franklin Center Book Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 408
  • Product dimensions: 5.26 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.04 (d)

Meet the Author

Doris Garraway is Assistant Professor of French at Northwestern University.

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Table of Contents

Illustrations ix

Preface xi

Introduction: Creolization in the Old Regime 1

1. Border of Violence, Border of Desire: The French and the Island Caribs 39

2. Domestication and the White Noble Savage 93

3. Creolization and the Spirit World: Demons, Violence, and the Body 146

4. The Libertine Colony: Desire, Miscegenation, and the Law 194

5. Race, Reproduction, and Family Romance in Saint-Domingue 240

Conclusion 293

Notes 299

Works Cited 371

Index 401

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