Human Rights and Radical Universalism: Aimé Césaire's and CLR James's Representations of the Haitian Revolution
Abstract:The article examines the way in which Aimé Césaire's book-length poem, Cahier d'un retour au pays natal (?Notebook of a Return to My Native Land), the founding text of the négritude movement, and C.L.R. James's The Black Jacobins recuperate the Haitian Revolution, and in particular the character of Toussaint Louverture, in order to interrogate the absence of the consideration of the Haitian Revolution in human rights discourse and historiography. Particular attention is paid to the way in which Césaire and James use the Haitian Revolution to foreground black agency and a discourse of universalism in their representations. For Césaire, Toussaint and the Haitian Revolution signified blackness as a sign of the colonised condition and its overcoming – Haiti was where “négritude stood up for the first time”. For James, Toussaint and the Haitian Revolution provide an example where assumptions of black passivity and powerlessness were rejected.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: December 1, 2012
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