Caribbean Critique: Antillean Critical Theory from Toussaint to Glissant

Caribbean Critique: Antillean Critical Theory from Toussaint to Glissant

Caribbean Critique: Antillean Critical Theory from Toussaint to Glissant

Caribbean Critique: Antillean Critical Theory from Toussaint to Glissant

Excerpt

Travailler un concept, c’est en faire varier l’extension et la
compréhension, le généraliser par l’incorporation des traits
d’exception, l’exporter hors de sa région d’origine, le prendre
pour un modèle, bref, lui conférer progressivement par des
transformations réglées, la fonction d’une forme.

Georges Canguilhem

The generic prescription of universal justice as equality, premised upon the destruction of slavery, appeared fully formed as immanent critique from the first moments of the Haitian Revolution. In an extraordinary letter of June 1792, mere months after the initial uprising that had liberated the slaves of northern Saint-Domingue, three leaders of that movement (Jean François, Biassou, and Toussaint Louverture, signing as his fourteen-year-old nephew Belair) wrote to the colonial assembly. The three co-authors of this letter cast their demands to the assembly not in sectarian terms, nor on their own behalves, nor even on behalf of slaves or blacks in general, but rather as predicates of the universal class of human beings. From its very first iteration, Caribbean Critique appears concerned not with individuals or with classes but with a series of abstract, universal concepts of relevance to all human beings and not to any specifically regional, racial, or gendered experiences. Yet these universal concepts – right, freedom, equality, justice – are formulated by enslaved, Caribbean subjects in ways that would have been unavailable or unimaginable for the white French subjects of 1789: ‘These are men […] whom you call your slaves, and who claim the rights to which all men may aspire’ (Nesbitt 2008a: 5–6).

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