Mid Rev: Part One (HUM455)

The three units we’ve covered since the beginning of the semester share some features in common, notably the issue of geography and the construction of geographical imaginaries. Though we haven’t spent much time directly discussing Haiti in such terms, it’s easy enough to see St. Domingue as part of a larger cultural, economic, and political geography– one overdetermined by the transAtlantic slave trade. Yet we could go further in elaborating a spatial analysis of CLR James’s The Black Jacobins: think of the landscape (and climate) of the French colony itself and the way that these factors influenced the manner in which the island was exploited. Where does the sugar cane grow? Where are the coffee farms? How did the “revolted slaves”– like the Cacos over a hundred years later– use the topography to fight against colonizers?

Becoming familiar with a passage in BJ which seems to speak to the epic/tragic/romantic qualities of the 1791 uprising would probably be helpful. Maybe there is some fragment of language– spoken by Toussaint or written by James– that, in your view, epitomizes what was at stake in this unprecedented and never-replicated historical event.

The Haitian Revolution of necessity raises the issue of race, though you’ll recall that for James class is probably even more significant in the development of anti-colonial struggle. True enough, Dessalines will end up ordering the massacre of the Whites ( big AND little “blancs”) but for TL the dream of an inclusive, multi-racial society in which chattel slavery had been definitively rejected was inspiring. There is also the matter of the tenacity with which the bourgeoisie will defend property– even, in many cases, when it takes the form of people. Remember that BJ was written with other parts of the world, other chapters of (future) history in mind.

More to follow. In the meantime, go through the 455 posts, make sure you have a sense of what the assigned readings were– you might even confer with another student concerning things like film clips, lectures, etc. I’ll be posting additional review materials tomorrow.

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