The mulatta concubine in diaspora is everywhere.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2016-02-08 01:37Z by Steven

The mulatta concubine in diaspora is everywhere. She is in representations of Thomas Jefferson’s long-term “relationship” with the enslaved Sally Hemings, begun when she was fourteen and he forty-four (see Gordon-Reed, American Controversy). She is the protagonist who emblemizes Cuban national identity in Cirilo Villaverde’s 1882 novel, Cecilia Valdes: Novela de costumbres cubanas. She is allusively present in the fantastical and garish transformation of an enslaved black woman to sexually powerful white (by virtue of makeup) mistress in the Brazilian film Xica! She is remembered as the owner of the infamous maison des esclaves (house of slaves) on Gorée Island, the former Senegalese slave entrepôt and now major slavery tour destination. She is the enslaved Joanna, “immortalized in John Gabriel Stedman’s Narrative of Five Years’ Expedition against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam (1806 [1796])” (Sharpe, Ghosts, 46). She is the commodity that drove the fancy slave trade in the antebellum United States. She is present in travelers’ descriptions of antebellum New Orleans’s free women of color. She is “that seductive mulatto woman” in colonial Saint-Domingue (Moreau de Saint-Méry, Civilization, 81-89).

Lisa Ze Winters, The Mulatta Concubine: Terror, Intimacy, Freedom, and Desire in the Black Transatlantic, (Athens: Georgia University Press, 2016), 3.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Infiltrating the colonial city through the imaginaries of Metissage: Saint-Louis (Senegal), Saint-Pierre (Martinique) and Jeremie (Haiti)

Posted in Africa, Caribbean/Latin America, Dissertations, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2016-02-06 00:46Z by Steven

Infiltrating the colonial city through the imaginaries of Metissage: Saint-Louis (Senegal), Saint-Pierre (Martinique) and Jeremie (Haiti)

University of Iowa
August 2015
281 pages

Avonelle Pauline Remy, Assistant Professor of French
Hope College, Holland, Michigan

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy degree in French and Francophone World Studies in the Graduate College of The University of Iowa

In this dissertation, I investigate the ways in which the phenomenon of racial and cultural hybridity inform and alter the social, political and cultural fabric of three creole cities of significant colonial influence, namely Saint-Louis of Senegal, Saint-Pierre of Martinique and Jérémie of Haiti during and after the colonial era. In particular, I examine the relevance of the French colonial city not only as a nexus of relational complexity but also as an ambiguous center of attraction and exclusion where multiple identities are created and recreated according to the agendas that influence these constructions. In order to articulate the main hypotheses of my thesis, I explore the key historical and social catalysts that have led to the emergence of Saint-Louis, Saint-Pierre and Jérémie as original creole cities.

Through the critical analyses of contemporary literatures from Senegal, Martinique and Haiti by Fanon, Sadji, Boilat, Mandeleau, Confiant, Chamoiseau, Salavina, Bonneville, Moreau de Saint-Méry, Desquiron, and Chauvet and films by Deslauriers and Palcy, I illustrate the dynamics of creolization within the context of the French colonial city. I argue that the city engenders new narratives and interpretations of métissage that scholars have often associated with the enclosed space of the plantation.

My dissertation intends to prove that the three French colonial cities of Saint-Louis, Saint-Pierre and Jérémie offer distinct interpretations and practices of processes of cultural and ethnic métissage. I propose that a correlation albeit a dialectical one, exists between the development of the French colonial city and the emergence of the mulattoes as a distinct class, conscious of its economic, sexual and political agency. I suggest that the French colonial city, represents both a starting point and a space of continuity that permits new forms of ethnic and cultural admixture. The articulation of such mixtures is made evident by the strategic positioning and creative agency of the mulatto class within the colonial city.

The phenomenon of métissage is certainly not a novel subject as evidenced by the plethora of theories and studies advanced by scholars and intellectuals. My research is thus part of an existing critical literary corpus in Postcolonial and Francophone Studies and is inscribed within the theoretical framework of Creolization. My research observes from a historical, comparative and literary perspective, metis presence and consciousness in three specific spaces where colonial authority has been imposed, challenged, resisted and even overpowered (in the case of Haiti). My study therefore analyses the creative agency articulated by the metis ethnoclass in the colonial city and counters the claim of a passive assimilated group.

As an in-between group, mulatto’s access to social, economic and political upward mobility are impeded by their ambiguous positioning within the larger community. Consequently, they resort to unconventional means that I refer to rather as creative ingeniousness in order to survive. Scholars usually focus on these “unconventional” practices as immoral rather than as strategies of self-reinvention and revalorization. As a result, representations of cultural and ethnic interconnections and hybridity are often projected in fragmentary ways. The figure of the metis women for example is overly represented in studies on métissage while metis men receive very little attention. My thesis thus intends to decenter narratives on métissage from the women and implicate equally the creative agency of metis males.

My thesis expands on the complexities that inform processes of métissage during pre-colonial Saint-Louis in the early seventeenth century, Saint-Pierre from the period 1870-1902 and Jérémie during the dictatorship of Francois Duvalier. It examines further the city as a space that engenders new narratives and interpretations of the processes of creolization. Processes of métissage or creolization have often been described as the results of violent encounters that were colonial and imperial. Moreover, these clashes were inscribed within the enclosed space of the plantation.

The city, representation of European pride and greed is an ambiguous space that attracts even as it excludes. Projected as an active commercial, economic and cultural hub, the city is soon engulfed by mass emigration. That site where the European image and culture is imposed, quickly evolves into a complex and chaotic web of human and material interaction giving rise to a complex creolized atmosphere. I propose that practices of métissage in the city are distinct from those generated in the belly of the slave ships, in the trading houses of Sub-Saharan Africa and on the sugar plantations of the French Antilles.

I conclude with a look at the present context of métissage, I rethink the significance of racial and cultural hybridity in relation to contemporary cultural and social theories such as creolization, creoleness, and transculturation in articulating, interpreting and decoding a world in constant transformation.

Read the entire dissertation here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tropics of Haiti: Race and the Literary History of the Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World, 1789-1865

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs on 2015-12-22 04:08Z by Steven

Tropics of Haiti: Race and the Literary History of the Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World, 1789-1865

Liverpool University Press
May 2015
848 pages
234 x 156mm
Hardback ISBN: 9781781381847
Paperback ISBN: 9781781381854

Marlene L. Daut, Assistant Professor of English and Cultural Studies
Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, California

The Haitian Revolution (1791-1804) was an event of monumental world-historical significance, and here, in the first systematic literary history of those events, Haiti’s war of independence is examined through the eyes of its actual and imagined participants, observers, survivors, and cultural descendants. The ‘transatlantic print culture of the Haitian Revolution’ that this literary history shows was created by novelists, poets, dramatists, memoirists, biographers, historians, journalists, and eye-witness observers, revealing enlightenment racial ‘science’ as the primary vehicle through which the Haitian Revolution was interpreted, historicized, memorialized, and fictionalized by nineteenth-century Haitians, Europeans, and U.S. Americans alike.

Through its author’s contention that the Haitian revolutionary wars were incessantly racialized by four constantly recurring racial tropes—the ‘monstrous hybrid’, the ‘tropical temptress’, the ‘tragic mulatto/a’, and the ‘mulatto legend of history’, Tropics of Haiti shows the ways in which the nineteenth-century tendency to understand Haiti’s revolution in primarily racial terms has affected present day demonizations of Haiti and Haitians. In the end, this new archive of Haitian revolutionary writing, much of which has until now remained unknown to the contemporary reading public, invites us to examine how nineteenth-century attempts to paint Haitian independence as the result of a racial revolution coincides with present-day desires to render insignificant and ‘unthinkable’ the second independent republic of the New World.


  • PRELUDE: On “Haitian Exceptionalism”
  • INTRODUCTION: From Enlightenment Literacy to Mulatto/a Vengeance
    • 1. Baron de Vastey, Colonial Discourse, and the Global “Scientific” Sphere
    • 2. Monstrous Testimony and Baron de Vastey in 19th-Century Historical Writing About Haiti
    • 3. Victor Hugo and the Rhetorical Possibilities of Monstrous Hybridity in Revolutionary Fiction
    • 4. Moreau de Saint-Méry’s Daughter and La Mulâtre comme il y a beaucoup de blanches (1803)
    • 5. “Born to Command:” Leonora Sansay and the Paradoxes of Female Resistance in Zelica; the Creole
    • 6. Theresa to the Rescue!: African American Women’s Resistance and the Literary History of the Haitian Revolution
    • 7. “Sons of White Fathers”: The Tragic Mulatto/a and the Haitian Revolution in Victor Séjour’s “Le Mulâtre”
    • 8. Between the Family and the Nation: Toussaint L’Ouverture and The Interracial Family Romance of the Haitian Revolution
    • 9. Romance and the Republic: Eméric Bergeaud’s Ideal History of the Haitian Revolution
    • 10. The Color of History: The Transatlantic Abolitionist Movement and William Wells Brown’s “Never-to-be-forgiven-course-of the-mulattoes”
    • 11. Victor Schoelcher, “L’Imagination Jaune,” and the Francophone Geneaology of the “Mulatto Legend of History”
    • 12. “Let us Be Humane after the Victory: Pierre Faubert’s New Humanism
  • CODA : Today’s Haitian Exceptionalism
  • Works Cited
  • Index
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Description topographique, physique, civile, politique et historique de la partie française de l’isle Saint-Domingue: avec des observations générales sur la population, sur le caractère & les moeurs de ses divers habitans, sur son climat, sa culture, ses productions, son administration (Topographic description, physical, civil, and political history of the French part of the island Santo Domingo: with general observations on the population, on the character and manners of its various inhabitants, its climate, its culture, production, administration)

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Law, Media Archive, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy on 2013-10-10 02:27Z by Steven

Description topographique, physique, civile, politique et historique de la partie française de l’isle Saint-Domingue: avec des observations générales sur la population, sur le caractère & les moeurs de ses divers habitans, sur son climat, sa culture, ses productions, son administration  (Topographic description, physical, civil, and political history of the French part of the island Santo Domingo: with general observations on the population, on the character and manners of its various inhabitants, its climate, its culture, production, administration.)

Chez l’auteu
2 volumes : 2 ill., maps (engravings) ; 26 cm. (4to)
856 pages

M. L. E. Moreau de Saint-Méry (Médéric Louis Élie Moreau de Saint-Méry) (1750-1819)

From The John Carter Brown Library: The mixing of races in Saint Domingue occasioned a plethora of commentaries, mostly venomous and polemical, on the causes and consequences of the colony’s multiracial order. The most famous of these commentaries, though not the most polemical, was by Moreau de Saint-Méry, the colonial jurist and historian whose writings on Saint-Domingue are still a major resource for contemporary scholars. In volume one of his Description, Moreau counted and categorized 11 racial combinations in the colony. He argued that ancestry should be traced back seven generations and hence ultimately comprised 128 combinations. The “science” of skin color received one of its earliest formulations in this work, completed in 1789. Moreau was himself the father of a mixed-race child by his mulatto mistress.

Read the entire book here.

Tags: , , ,

Race, Reproduction and Family Romance in Moreau de Saint-Mery’s Description. la partie francaise de l’isle Saint Domingue

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Slavery on 2011-11-08 04:41Z by Steven

Race, Reproduction and Family Romance in Moreau de Saint-Mery’s Description. la partie francaise de l’isle Saint Domingue

Eighteenth-Century Studies
Volume 38, Number 2, Winter 2005
pages 227-246
DOI: 10.1353/ecs.2005.0008

Doris Lorraine Garraway, Associate Professor of French
Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois

This paper analyzes the colonial jurist and historian Moreau de Saint-Méry’s racial classification system with an aim to disclose its ideology of family romance and reproduction. By examining the sexual allegory implicit in the tabular demonstration of métissage, I argue that Moreau’s racial science represents a sexual fantasy for white colonials whose libertine practices threatened the fragile demographic balance of colonial society. Moreau de Saint-Méry revises Enlightenment ideas about racial degeneration and infertility to arrive at an original hypothesis for the biological reproduction of colonial humanity, one that places the control of such procreation squarely in the hands of white men.

The publication in 1797 of the colonial jurist and historian Médéric-Louis-Élie Moreau de Saint-Méry’s Description topographique, physique, civile, politique et historique de la partie française de l’isle Saint-Domingue represented a milestone in Enlightenment racial theory. Within the first volume of the encyclopedic account of the colony on the eve of the Haitian Revolution, there appeared a systematic classification of human variety in the colonies, unprecedented in its scope and detail. Expanding on previous taxonomies of De Pauw and Hilliard d’Auberteuil, and borrowing from eighteenth-century innovations in algebra and statistics, Moreau devised an exhaustive tabular, arithmetic and narrative typology of “nuances of the skin” along a continuum between white and black. Comprising nearly twenty pages, this attempt to delineate and classify human color variation in the colony of Saint-Domingue represented much more than an experiment in Enlightenment rationality or the science of amalgamation. By meticulously theorizing the genealogical progression between black and white, Moreau de Saint-Méry fixated on the one difference that carried political consequences in Saint-Domingue—that between white and non-white, or “sang-mêlé” (mixed-blood).

In the decades leading up to the Haitian Revolution, whites faced increasing challenges to their economic and political supremacy from the growing class of free people of color. As established slaveholders, planters, entrepreneurs, skilled laborers, artisans, and military leaders, they had acquired considerable wealth and property in land and slaves. As such, they aspired to the same political recognition and elite titles and offices held by whites. While mulatto activists such as Julien Raymond traveled to Paris to petition the royal government on behalf of free people of color, those at home sought to improve their position by building social networks, sending their children to be educated in France, adhering to French moral codes regarding marriage and legitimacy, and, in some cases, marrying their daughters to white men. The social ambitions of free people of color did little to quell the long-standing controversy over the prevalence of interracial sexual relationships in Saint-Domingue. In addition to engaging in sexual relations with slave women, elite white men frequently sought free women of color to serve as ménagères, their live-in housekeepers and lovers. In the late eighteenth century, colonial writers sensationalized mulatto women as icons of sensual pleasure and sexual excess, figures both loved and blamed for the luxury, indebtedness and moral laxity of the colony. Yet this stereotype concealed the fact that free women of color were among the most entrepreneurial and financially independent women in the colony, owing to their connections to white benefactors and their prevalence in urban marketing and commerce. While interracial marriage was never officially outlawed in the colony, the colonial leadership made many attempts to suppress the practice and in the end settled for a series of punitive measures against “misallied” white men. More difficult to control, however, was the massive increase in the population of free people of color in the last decades of French rule. In the two decades prior to the revolution, their numbers increased at nearly twice the rate of whites in the same period, such that by 1789 each population amounted to approximately 30,000 persons.

Faced with the population increase, social ambition, wealth and political demands of free people of color, the white elite responded with an extraordinarily oppressive regime of racially exclusionary laws intended to halt their advancement. Free people of color were forbidden to wear luxurious clothing, take the name of a white person, carry arms, practice certain professions and hold public office. By 1785, Moreau de Saint-Méry had become a leading figure of colonial jurisprudence. Born in 1750 to the white Creole elite of Martinique, Moreau had risen through the ranks of the magistrature to become a counselor on the Superior Court in Cap-Français, Saint-Domingue, and premier historian of colonial law. He was also a prominent figure of the colonial Enlightenment, holding memberships in the colonial Chamber of Agriculture and the Cercle des Philadelphes, later named the Royal Society of Arts and Sciences. This organization made Cap-Français a center of scientific debate, comparable in its time to Philadelphia and Boston. Moreau’s rise in the colonies was concomitant with his growing notoriety on the French political and cultural scene. In the 1780s, he took a leading role in the pre-revolutionary assemblies in Paris as a spokesperson for the colonial elite, arguing polemically against mulatto rights and the proposals of the Société des Amis des noirs. His address of May 12, 1791 provoked Robespierre’s famous speech calling for the end of the colonies should they compromise revolutionary principles…

Tags: , , , , , , ,

The whole being of a mulâtresse is given over to sensual pleasure…

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2011-11-08 02:07Z by Steven

The whole being of a mulâtresse is given over to sensual pleasure and the flame of this goddess burns in her heart so as only to be snuffed out with life itself… Even the most inflamed imagination can conceive of nothing that she has not fathomed, concocted, experienced. Her sole vocation is to bewitch the senses, deliver them to the most delicious ecstasies, enrapture them with the most seductive temptations; nature, pleasure’s accomplice, has given her charms, endowments, inclinations, and what is indeed more dangerous, the ability to enjoy such sensations even more keenly than her partners, including some unknown to Sappho.

Moreau de Saint-Méry, Description topographique, physique, civile, politique et historique de la partie Française de l’isle Saint-Domingue, (1797): 104.

Tags: ,

Redrawing the Color Line: Gender and the Social Construction of Race in Pre-Revolutionary Haiti

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Europe, Media Archive, Slavery, Social Science on 2011-11-07 22:12Z by Steven

Redrawing the Color Line: Gender and the Social Construction of Race in Pre-Revolutionary Haiti

Journal of Caribbean History
Volume 30, Numbers 1 & 2 (1996)
pages 28-50

John D. Garrigus, Associate Professor of History
University of Texas, Austin

This article examines the social and political construction of race in French colonial Saint-Domingue. After 1763 white elites redefined the category “free coloured” using negative images of femininity rooted in French political discourse. This engendering of racial stereotypes solidified a racial hierarchy that whites found alarmingly fluid. Planters’ councils and the governors they opposed evoked images of sexually powerful women and effeminized men to explain colonial despotism and disorder. In the late 1780s, however, free men of colour deliberately asserted their civic virtue and virility, challenging these stereotypes and eventually destroying the colonial racial hierarchy.

By 1789 French Saint Domingue was home to the largest, wealthiest, and most self-confident free population of African descent in the Americas. Comprising close to half the colony’s free population, these gens de couleur won civil equality with whites from the French Legislative Assembly in April 1792 and their political demands helped produce the Haitian Revolution. Why did such an extraordinary population emerge in this colony?

This article contends that the size, wealth, and self-confidence of this group were partly the result of new social and legal definitions of race formulated in Saint-Domingue after 1763. As this frontier society became the centerpiece of the French empire after the Seven Years’ War, prejudice established a deep and apparently permanent gulf between “whites” and “people of colour.” This new legal and social discrimination was deeply influenced by politicized French gender stereotypes, which whites used to reinforce a new, biological conception of racial difference. Old colonial families were relabeled gens de couleur. After 1769 whites considered free people of mixed African/European descent to be not merely “between” whites and blacks, but morally and physically inferior to both races. This exaggeration of the difference between white and brown colonists reinforced the ambiguous category “free people of colour” and served as an effective target during the French Revolution for wealthy “mulattos” and “quadroons” eager to claim full citizenship.

At the heart of the new racism were conflicts over Saint-Domingue’s political and cultural identity. After the Seven Years’ War new immigration from Europe and the increasingly “civilized” tone of elite colonial society raised the question of how “French” Saint-Domingue could become. Could a slave plantation colony produce a civic-minded public of the sort said to be emerging in France at this time? Many colonial planters, magistrates, and merchants wanted to believe it could. These elites appropriated metropolitan political discourse to explain why free Dominguan society differed from France. After the Seven Years’ War they began to describe free men and women of colour as passionate, narcissistic, and parasitic, terms used in France to vilify powerful women at court. This redirected and highly politicised misogyny helped solidify the ambiguous category gens de couleur, placing these families and individuals firmly outside respectable colonial society. The new image of people of mixed ancestry answered troubling questions about white behaviour in Saint-Domingue and seemed to guarantee that an orderly, rational colonial public could emerge. Grafting a stereotyped effeminacy onto emerging biological notions of race legitimised the disenfranchising of free people of colour, some of whom were indistinguishable from “whites” in wealth, education, distance from slavery, even physical appearance. In Saint-Domingue’s rough-and-tumble seventeenth-century buccaneer society, race was not the obsession it would later become. Early censuses did not distinguish between “whites” and “mulattoes,” but between free and enslaved residents. Before the massive importation of slaves for sugar work, children of mixed African/European descent were apparently considered free from birth. Even in 1685, the metropolitan authors of France’s slave law, the Code Noir, were more concerned about sin than race and racial mixture. The Code ordered colonial officials to confiscate mixed-race children and slave concubines from their owners, but stated that if a master married his slave mistress, she would be automatically free, as would the children of their union. Under the original terms of the Code Noir, ex-slaves enjoyed all the rights of French subjects…

For example, as he charted the somatic varieties produced by different combinations of African and European “blood,” Moreau also described distinct moral qualities. Blacks were strong and passionate while whites were graceful and intelligent. Therefore, mulattoes, who were one-half black, were stronger than quarterons, who were only one-quarter African. According to Moreau, African appetites for physical pleasure were especially pronounced when combined with white qualities. Mulattoes lived for sexual gratification, and the offspring of a mulatto and a black had a “temperament impossible to contain.”

Convinced that black women had strong psychological and physical inclinations to be mothers, Moreau believed that mulatto and quadroon women had difficulty giving birth, due to their physical and moral deficiencies. Men of mixed descent were similarly flawed. Mulattos were often intelligent and attractive, but they were lazy, beardless, foppish, and sensual, according to Moreau. Nor did free coloured military service challenge this image:

It seems that then [in the ranks a mulatto] loses his laziness, but all the world knows that a soldier’s life, in the leisure it provides, has attractions for indolent men … A mulatto soldier will appear exactly to the calls of day, perhaps even to those of the evening, but it is in vain that one tries to restrict his liberty at night; [the night|] belongs to pleasure and he will not indenture it, no matter what commitments he has made elsewhere…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Redeeming the “Character of the Creoles”: Whiteness, Gender and Creolization in Pre-Revolutionary Saint Domingue

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Slavery on 2010-10-09 20:05Z by Steven

Redeeming the “Character of the Creoles”: Whiteness, Gender and Creolization in Pre-Revolutionary Saint Domingue

Journal of Historical Sociology
Volume 23, Issue 1 (March 2010)
pages 40–72
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-6443.2009.01359.x

Yvonne Fabella, Lecturer of History
University of Pennsylvania

This article examines the political significance of white creolization in pre-revolutionary French Saint Domingue. Eighteenth-century Europeans tended to view white creoles as having physically, morally, and culturally degenerated due to the tropical climate, the monotony of plantation life, and their interaction with enslaved and free people of color. Yet elite white colonists in Saint Domingue claimed that white creoles possessed certain positive traits due to their new world birth, traits that rendered them physically stronger and potentially more virtuous than the French. Focusing on little-known publications authored by the white creole Moreau de Saint-Méry, this article highlights the deployment of gendered notions of virtue and noble savagery in debates over white creolization. Moreau’s claims, when placed in the context of a conflict between local colonial magistrates and the French Colonial Ministry, challenge interpretations of white creolization as an undesirable, subversive side-effect of colonial slavery. Rather, white colonial men claimed that white colonists knew best how to ensure the obedience of the enslaved precisely because of their creolization.

Read or purchase the article here.

Tags: , , , , ,