Freedwomen’s Familial Politics: Marriage, War and Rites of Registry in Post-Emancipation Saint-Domingue

TitleFreedwomen’s Familial Politics: Marriage, War and Rites of Registry in Post-Emancipation Saint-Domingue
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsColwill, Elizabeth
EditorHagemann, Karen, Gisela Mettele, and Jane Rendall
Book TitleGender, War and Politics: Transatlantic Perspectives, 1775-1830
Pagination71-89
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
CityBasingstoke, UK; New York
Abstract

This book chapter on freedwomen's familial policies in post-emancipation Saint-Domingue explores the connection between marriage, war and rites of registry. Scholars have long noted the low rates of formal, state-sanctioned marriage in Haiti. Although the institution of slavery undermined the legal status of marriage between slaves in colonial Saint-Domingue, monarchical agents and the Code Noir nonetheless inveighed against immorality and enjoined marriage. French republicans, Napoleon’s generals, Haitian heads of state and revolutionary general Toussaint Louverture himself all invoked the virtues of marriage. Nonetheless, over the centuries social realities have accorded poorly, if at all, with legal codes and moral prescriptions. Church marriage is still typical only of the light-skinned elite. Far more customary in Haiti today are modes of structuring bonds of family and affective life outside the purview of state and church. According to various estimates, extra-legal relationships known as plasaj constitute between 60 and 85 per cent of conjugal unions. For most women today, unions are multiple, serial or both; 30 to 60 per cent of all Haitian families are headed by women.

URLhttps://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1057/9780230283046_4
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