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Malick Ghachem Job Talk

Monday, September 17, 2012
12:00 AM
4701 Haven Hall

Haitian revolutionary actors used the colonial law of slavery as a negotiating tool, a means of persuasion and justification, and ultimately as a language through which to insist upon claims of right, liberty, and equality in the 1790s.

Haitian revolutionary actors used the colonial law of slavery as a negotiating tool, a means of persuasion and justification, and ultimately as a language through which to insist upon claims of right, liberty, and equality in the 1790s.  In so doing, they bridged three gaps that have long characterized the historiography of this subject.  First, free people of color and some leaders of the slave insurgency connected the royal “privileges” and protections guaranteed them under the Code Noir to what the revolutionary generation came to understand as “rights.”  In so doing, they demonstrated (secondly) that the law of slavery could be used as a mechanism of change as well as continuity: as a means of preserving the plantation order but also of subsidizing the demands of equality.  And finally, Haitian revolutionary actors demonstrated that law and violence were not mutually exclusive modes of revolutionary politics: colonial law set many of the terms of by which violence was or was not used.  When those bounds proved too narrow to describe the unfolding transformation of Saint-Domingue, as they did with the end of Toussaint Louverture’s reign and the rise of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the framework of the Code Noir was abandoned.  Even after 1804, however, it continued to cast a shadow over the politics and labor system of the new nation.  For better and for worse, the Haitian revolutionary language of human rights was intimately connected to the instrumental ethics of the law of slavery. See flyer here.

Speaker:
Malick Ghachem