(Mis)Translations: Toussaint, Modernity, and the Postcolonial Present

Institute for Research on the African Diaspora in the Americas & the Caribbean (IRADAC) presents:

“(Mis)Translations: Toussaint, Modernity, and the Postcolonial Present”
by Natalie M. Léger, Queens College, CUNY

Respondent: Jeremy Glick, Hunter College, CUNY

28 February 2014
4:00 – 6:00 PM
CUNY Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue
ARC Conference Room – 5318

This event is part of the IRADAC Works in Progress Series, which showcases research by CUNY faculty who are engaged in research on the African
Diaspora worldwide. Dr. Leger’s paper is available for pre-reading here.

Paper description (quoted from PDF draft):

Originally written as conference paper, this is a rough first draft of a chapter, “Dead
Conversations: Toussaint, Modernity and the Postcolonial Present,” from my manuscript.
My book, A Tragedy of Success!: Haiti and the Promise of Revolution, closely engages the tragic
nature of the ongoing artistic turn to Haiti and its revolution within the Caribbean literary
imaginary. I argue that twentieth and twenty-first century writers of the region are drawn to
the nation and its revolution precisely because of the striking incongruity that is Haiti’s
revolutionary past and postcolonial present. This incongruity vividly discloses how the
modern Caribbean experience is profoundly shaped by the ceaseless play of radical change
(conquest, colonialism and anti-colonial revolution) and debilitating social crisis. In
response to the ideological work of the Revolution’s repeated narration in the Caribbean,
my book argues that the Caribbean experience of modernity has introduced a tragic mode
into literary representations of the Revolution, causing regional writers to depict the
immediate as confounded by the past. Characterized by a subtle wavering between tragic
pathos and comic elation, this mode is as much an engagement with time and its affective
oscillation as it is a politics of possibility. It speaks strongly to the writer’s longing for total
decolonial liberation region wide. More than that, my work ultimately insists that the
frequent turn to Haiti and its Revolution by Caribbean writers is telling of the enduring
desire for decolonial change within the Caribbean, no matter the harsh inequities of the
past or the present that Haiti so vividly exemplifies. In this rendering of my chapter I
haven’t discussed the tragic elements of the play I treat here; my intention is to work
toward the dismantling of the Revolution’s most iconic figure (Toussaint) so as to change
how the revolution is narrated and remembered. I would greatly appreciate any suggestions
regarding clarity, i.e. if my argument is clear. I would also welcome suggestions regarding
any assertions need to be unpacked for greater impact and precision and readings or ideas
that could improve my argument. At this point, I am thinking of incorporating the work of
Sylvia Wynter, David Scott (more directly) and C.L.R James.


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