Sword-Bearing Citizens: Militarism and Manhood in Nineteenth-Century Haiti

TitleSword-Bearing Citizens: Militarism and Manhood in Nineteenth-Century Haiti
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsSheller, Mimi
EditorSepinwall, Alyssa Goldstein
Book TitleHaitian History: New Perspectives
CityNew York

From the slave uprising of 1791 to declaration of independence in 1804, the Haitian Revolution shook the slave-owning European powers to their core. Throughout the Atlantic world the young Republic of Haiti became a powerful symbol of black liberation and racial equality, a harbinger of African emancipation, and a beacon of hope for the anti-slavery movement. Revolutionary self-emancipation, however, also carried with it a burden of self-defense from the embittered slave-holders whose navies circled Haiti’s shores and controlled regional trade routes. Facing a continuous threat of invasion over many decades, an ongoing civil war, and the refusal by France, Britain, and even the United States (which, after all, shared a revolutionary republican origin) to recognize Haitian independence, the Haitian state had to remain on a military footing long after the revolution ended. In these difficult circumstances of state-formation, a martial image of the male citizen took on special salience; indeed, building black masculinity became a central task in the construction of Haitian national identity.

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