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By Joan Dayan

In Haiti, heritage, and the Gods, Joan Dayan charts the cultural mind's eye of Haiti not just via reconstructing the island's historical past yet by means of highlighting ambiguities and complexities which have been neglected. She investigates the confrontational house during which Haiti is created and recreated in fiction and truth, textual content and formality, discourse and perform. Dayan's formidable venture is a study journey de strength that provides human dimensions to this eighteenth-century French colony and offers a template for figuring out the Haiti of today.

In studying the complicated social textile of French Saint-Domingue, which in 1804 turned Haiti, Dayan uncovers a silenced, submerged prior. rather than counting on everyday assets to reconstruct Haitian historical past, she makes use of a startling range of voices that experience formerly been unheard. a few of the fabrics recovered here—overlooked or repressed historic texts, criminal files, non secular works, mystery memoirs, letters, and literary fictions—have by no means been translated into English. Others, reminiscent of Marie Vieux Chauvet's radical novel of vodou, Fonds des Nègres, are seldom used as historic sources.

Dayan additionally argues provocatively for the dignity of either vodou rituals and narrative fiction as repositories of background. Her scholarship is enriched by means of the insights she has gleaned from conversations and reports in the course of her many journeys to Haiti during the last two decades. Taken jointly, the fabric awarded in Haiti, historical past, and the Gods not just restores a misplaced bankruptcy of Haitian background yet indicates worthy revisions to the authorized histories of the hot World.

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Additional resources for Haiti, History, and the Gods

Sample text

During the revolution, Creole was imposed as the national language by the Creole (Haitian-born) leaders Toussaint, Dessalines, and Christophe. This emerging language, initially used as a means of communication between slaves and masters, was an amalgam of French vocabulary and syntactic contributions from West Africa, as well as Taino, English, and Spanish. The African-born former slaves, who spoke one of at least two or three Mrican languages, were silenced and subjugated to the Creole linguistic monopoly, a creolization that made for a linguistic accord conducive to political control by Creoles.

To be called black on the soil of Haiti would be proof of Haitian identity. Dessalines knew that the elimination of the stain of color and the alliance between noirs and jaunes (blacks and yellows) were necessary to the future of independent Haiti. As Madiou records Dessalines's words: "Maintain your precious concord, this happy harmony between you; it is the gauge of your good fortune, of your salvation, of your success: it is the secret of being invincible. "57 But it was Dessalines's attempt to redefine the ownership of land that probably cost him his life.

To justify revolution when despots were being recycled as simulacra was no easy matter. And to celebrate Haiti when Joseph Arthur de Gobineau had just published De IJinegalite des races humaines (18531855), a book that uses Haiti to signal the degeneracy of the black race ("depraved, brutal, and savage"), is a task we should not underestimate. The first volume of Ardouin's Etudes sur IJhistoire dJHafti, published in 1859, enjoyed such success that a second printing followed within a year. 24 No Easy Liberty Ardouin no doubt appreciated the business of politics.

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