Modernity Disavowed: Haiti and the Cultures of Slavery in the Age of Revolution / Edition 1

Modernity Disavowed: Haiti and the Cultures of Slavery in the Age of Revolution / Edition 1

by Sibylle Fischer
Pub. Date:
Duke University Press Books

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Modernity Disavowed: Haiti and the Cultures of Slavery in the Age of Revolution / Edition 1

Modernity Disavowed is a pathbreaking study of the cultural, political, and philosophical significance of the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804). Revealing how the radical antislavery politics of this seminal event have been suppressed and ignored in historical and cultural records over the past two hundred years, Sibylle Fischer contends that revolutionary antislavery and its subsequent disavowal are central to the formation and understanding of Western modernity. She develops a powerful argument that the denial of revolutionary antislavery eventually became a crucial ingredient in a range of hegemonic thought, including Creole nationalism in the Caribbean and G. W. F. Hegel’s master-slave dialectic.

Fischer draws on history, literary scholarship, political theory, philosophy, and psychoanalytic theory to examine a range of material, including Haitian political and legal documents and nineteenth-century Cuban and Dominican literature and art. She demonstrates that at a time when racial taxonomies were beginning to mutate into scientific racism and racist biology, the Haitian revolutionaries recognized the question of race as political. Yet, as the cultural records of neighboring Cuba and the Dominican Republic show, the story of the Haitian Revolution has been told as one outside politics and beyond human language, as a tale of barbarism and unspeakable violence. From the time of the revolution onward, the story has been confined to the margins of history: to rumors, oral histories, and confidential letters. Fischer maintains that without accounting for revolutionary antislavery and its subsequent disavowal, Western modernity—including its hierarchy of values, depoliticization of social goals having to do with racial differences, and privileging of claims of national sovereignty—cannot be fully understood.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780822332909
Publisher: Duke University Press Books
Publication date: 04/30/2004
Series: John Hope Franklin Center Book Series
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 1,312,242
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 9.50(h) x (d)

Table of Contents

Preface ix

Introduction: Tuncations of Modernity 1

Part I. Cuba

1. The Deadly Hermenuetics of the Trial of Jose Antonio Aponte 41

2. Civilization and Barbarism: Cuban Wall Painting 57

3. Beyon National Culture, the Abject: The Case of Placido 77

4. Cuban Antislavery Narratives and the Origins of Literary Discourse 107

Part II. Santo Domingo / The Dominican Republic

5. Memory, Trauma, History 131

6. Guilt and Betrayal in Santo Domingo 155

7. What Do the Haitians Want? 169

8. Fictions of Literary History 180

Part III. Saint Domingue / Haiti

9. Literature and the Theater of Revolution 201

10. “General Liberty, or The Planters in Paris” 214

11. Foundational Fictions: Postrevolutionary Constitutions I 227

12. Life in the Kingdom of the North 245

13. Liberty and Reason of State: Postrevolutionary Constitutions II 260

Conclusion 273

Appendix A. Imperial Constitution of Haiti 275

Appendix B. Chronology 283

Notes 287

Index 355

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