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Human Rights and Radical Universalism: Aimé Césaire's and CLR James's Representations of the Haitian Revolution

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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.

Keywords: AIMÉ CÉSAIRE; BLACK AGENCY; C.L.R. JAMES; HAITIAN REVOLUTION; HUMAN RIGHTS

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5235/L&H.6.2.197

Publication date: December 1, 2012

More about this publication?
  • Law and Humanities is a peer-reviewed journal, providing a for for scholarly discourse within the arts and humanities around the subject of law. For this purpose, the arts and humanities disciplines are taken to include literature, history (including history of art), philosophy, theology, classics and the whole spectrum of performance and representational arts. The remit of the journal does not extend to consideration of the laws that regulate practical aspects of the arts and humanities (such as the law of intellectual property). Law and Humanities is principally concerned to engage with those aspects of human experience which are not empirically quantifiable or scientifically predictable.
hart/lawhum/2012/00000006/00000002/art00004
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