Modernity Disavowed: Haiti and the Cultures of Slavery in the Age of Revolution

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Modernity Disavowed: Haiti and the Cultures of Slavery in the Age of Revolution

By Sibylle Fischer
Duke University Press, 2004
392 pp. $89.95
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It is ironic that, just as the fad of cultural studies appears to be sinking under the weight of its obtuse verbal obscurantism, a book appears that does much to vindicate the special insights that this approach originally promised. In this case, it is also on a topic of major contemporary importance: Haiti's seemingly endless struggle for social, economic, and political stability 200 years after its independence from France. Fischer brings together an immense amount of material to examine the unique circumstances of Haiti's emergence as a nation, the profound wounds that this process left in its collective psyche, and the ways in which these events affected external perceptions of Haiti. Her main point is that Haiti is central to the story of the "Age of Democratic Revolution"; the unique nature of Haiti's bloody struggle for independence, with its radical challenge to the status quo of slave-based societies, left a deep imprint throughout the Americas but also led to the "silencing" of the Haitian example. Ultimately, Haiti's radical antislavery position could be sustained only at great cost to itself.