Rebellions, Revolutions, and “The Rights of Man”: Reading the Colonial Caribbean, 1750-1850

Haitian Revolution

This is a working syllabus for a graduate-level course on the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Caribbean.

Course Description: This graduate level seminar will explore three major sites of rebellion and revolution in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: 1.) Tacky’s Rebellion in 1760 Jamaica; 2.) The 1791 Haitian Revolution in San Domingue; and 3.) La Escalera and “The Year of the Lash” in 1843 and 1844.

The theoretical framework for this course will be founded on the Enlightenment concept of the “rights of man,” an abstract construct formulated and embraced by the European bourgeoisie in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The course will begin with the readings of John Locke and Jean Jacque Rousseau, and then interrogate their philosophies with the historical revolutions and rebellions of the colonial Caribbean.

Learning Outcomes:

By the end of this course, you will:

  • Have a solid understanding of the Enlightenment principles of “positive liberty,” “the social contract,” and “The Rights of Man”
  • Become knowledgeable in Tacky’s Rebellion, The Haitian Revolution, and La Escalera
  • Become acquainted with the racial and gendered politics of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries
  • Become acquainted with the Caribbean as a geo-political space and site of inter-imperial conflict
  • Critically assess issues of gender and race within an eighteenth- and nineteenth-century context
  • Be familiar with current theories on the Atlantic world
  • Conduct research with primary source material

Locke, Rousseau and their Issues

Week One: John Locke and the “Public Opinion” against Tyranny

Week Two: Jean Jacque Rousseau and the “Social Contract”

Week Three: Thomas Paine, Mary Wollstonecraft and Vindications the Rights of Man and Woman

Theory/Historical Context: Giorgio Agamben Homo Sacer, Michel Foucault, “The Panopticon,” Francois Furet, “Marx and the French Revolution,” Joan Landes, “Women and the Public Sphere in the Age of the French Revolution,”

Death and Rebellion in British Caribbean

Week Four: Edward Long’s History of Jamaica

Week Five: Bryan Edward’s History of the West Indies

Week Six: Joseph Marryat, “Thoughts on the Abolition of the Slave Trade” (1816);  Collins, “Practical Rules for the Management and Medical Treatment of Negro Slaves…” (1803);

Week Seven: Obi, Three-Finger’d Jack

Theory/Historical Context: Spurr’s “The Rhetoric of Empire,” Mbembe’s “Necropolitics,” Patterson’s “Slavery and Social Death,” Brown’s “The Reaper’s Garden,” Duncan Ivison “Justice and Imperialism: On the Very Idea of a Universal Standard” John McLaren: “The Uses of the Rule of Law in British Colonial Societies in the Nineteenth Century” Walvin’s “Black Ivory”

Digital Resource: http://revolt.axismaps.com/project.html (Uses extant information to map out sites of revolts during the Rebellion)

Liberty and Revolution in Haiti

Week Eight: Hegel, “Phenomenology of the Spirit”

Week Nine: A particular account of the commencement and Progress of the Insurrection of the Negroes in St. Domingo, which began in August 1791: Being a Translation of the Speech made to the National Assembly, the 3rd of November 1791, by the Deputies form the General Assembly of the French part of St. Domingo. London: Cornhill, 1792.

Week Ten: The Horrors of Santo Domingo

 Week Eleven: Zelica the Creole

Theory/Historical Context: Miller, “The French Atlantic Trade,” Dubois, “Avengers of the New World,” Buck-Morss, “Haiti, Hegel, and Universal History,” Goudie, “Creole America,” Gretchen J. Woertendyke “Haiti and the New World Novel,” Glissant, “Poetics of Relation,”  Lowe, “The Intimacies of Four Continents”

 Cosmopolitan Cuba and La Escalera

Week Twelve:  Kant, “Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch,”

Week Thirteen: The Domingo Del Monte group, cosmopolitanism and The Poetry of Plácido

Week Fourteen: “Autobiography of a Slave”

Week Fifteen: Cecilia Valdés

Theory/Historical Context: Schmidt-Nowara, “Empire and Anti-Slavery,” Brickhouse, “Transamerican Literary Relations,” Fanon, “Wretched of the Earth,” Appiah, “Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers,” Finch, “Rethinking Slave Rebellion in Cuba,” Ferrer, “Freedom’s Mirror: Cuba and Haiti in the Age of Revolution,”

Week Sixteen: Peer Review Workshop

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