A growing body of recent scholarship argues that the Haitian
Revolution is one of the defining events of modernity. But from 1791 until
1804, the fog of war distorted and obscured Western perceptions of Haiti. From
independence until official recognition by France in 1825, isolation did
likewise. Fear, mythmaking, and bigotry filled the void. In Tropics of Haiti
Marlene Daut states that “[a] great portion of the texts within the
transatlantic print culture of the Haitian Revolution reveal themselves, upon
closer examination, to be unsure about what they ‘think’ they are: novels or
memoirs, histories or dramatizations… [they] blur the lines between history and
fiction, biography and memoir, philosophy and science”. Daut notes that some fiction
from the period goes as far as to cite sources. The interplay among these
different media provides a rich insight into how opinions about Haiti, many of
which have lasted to the present day, were shaped during this crucial time.
This panel invites interdisciplinary approaches to
interrogating the growing study of the Haitian Revolution and its place in the history
of modernity. Question to consider include: How does the Haitian Revolution remain
“unthinkable” (Trouillot) or “disavowed” (Fischer) in contemporary scholarship?
How did 18th and 19th century literary tropes and narratives
about Haiti work to shape contemporary antiblackness? How did Haiti challenge Enlightenment
notions of freedom, slavery, and universality?