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

TitleModernity Disavowed: Haiti and the Cultures of Slavery in the Age of Revolution
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2004
AuthorsFischer, Sibylle
Number of Pages384
PublisherDuke University Press
CityDurham, NC

Modernity Disavowed is a pathbreaking study of the cultural, political, and philosophical significance of the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804). Sibylle Fischer contends that revolutionary antislavery and its subsequent disavowal are central to the formation and understanding of Western modernity. She develops a powerful argument that the denial of revolutionary antislavery eventually became a crucial ingredient in a range of hegemonic thought, including Creole nationalism in the Caribbean and G. W. F. Hegel's master-slave dialectic. Fischer demonstrates that, at a time when racial taxonomies were beginning to mutate into scientific racism and racist biology, the Haitian revolutionaries recognized the question of race as political. From the time of the revolution onward, the story has been confined to the margins of history. Fischer maintains that, without accounting for revolutionary antislavery and its subsequent disavowal, Western modernity--including its hierarchy of values, depoliticization of social goals having to do with racial differences, and privileging of claims of national sovereignty--cannot be fully understood.

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