The Colonial System Unveiled
Baron de Vastey and edited and translated by Chris Bongie
Long neglected in mainstream history books, the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804) is now being claimed across a range of academic disciplines as an event of world-historical importance. The former slaves’ victory over their French masters and the creation of the independent nation of Haiti in 1804 is being newly heralded not only as a seminal moment in the transnational formation of the ‘black Atlantic’ but as the most far-reaching manifestation of ‘Radical Enlightenment’.
The best known Haitian writer to emerge in the years after the revolution is Baron de Vastey (1781–1820), who authored over ten books and pamphlets between 1814 and his murder in 1820. His first and most incendiary work, Le système colonial dévoilé (1814), provides a moving invocation of the horrors of slavery in pre-revolutionary Saint-Domingue. Its trailblazing critique of colonialism anticipates by over a hundred years the anticolonial politics (and poetics) of Césaire, Fanon, and Sartre.
Translated here for the first time, Vastey’s forceful unveiling of the colonial system will be compulsory reading for scholars across the humanities.
Baron de Vastey was a man of letters in post-revolutionary Haiti. He wrote four major books between 1814 and 1819, along with a series of pamphlets, before being murdered in 1820.
Chris Bongie is Professor and Queen’s National Scholar at Queen’s University, Canada. Previous publications include Friends and Enemies: The Scribal Politics of Post/Colonial Literature (LUP, 2008), Islands and Exiles: The Creole Identities of Post/Colonial Literature (Stanford UP, 1998) and Exotic Memories: Literature, Colonialism, and the Fin de siècle (Stanford UP, 1991).
Preface: Baron de Vastey and Post/Revolutionary Haiti Jean Louis Vastey (1781–1820): A Biographical Sketch Introduction 1. 1820: Death of a Scribe 2. 1814: The Colonial System Restored 3. 1814–2014: Reading the Protean Text The Colonial System Unveiled Notes to The Colonial System Unveiled Supplementary Essays: 1. Marlene Daut – ‘Monstrous Testimony: Baron de Vastey and the Politics of Black Memory’ 2. Doris Garraway – ‘Abolition, Sentiment, and the Problem of Agency in Le système colonial dévoilé’ 3. Chris Bongie – ‘Memories of Development: Le système colonial dévoilé and the Performance of Literacy’ 4. Nick Nesbitt – ‘Afterword: Vastey and the System of Colonial Violence’ Bibliography Index
In this first-rate critical edition, Bongie illuminates the significance of Baron de Vastey’s Le système colonial dévoilé well beyond the field of Haitian Studies. Indeed, he argues that The Colonial System Unveiled “can legitimately be considered the first systemic critique of colonialism ever written, certainly from the perspective of a colonized subject”. With the book now available in English for the first time, many new readers will be amply persuaded.
New York University
This is a fiercely scholarly edition of an important book. It features excellent work by a distinguished group of scholars. And Vastey’s devastating indictment of colonialism is a cry from the past that can no longer be ignored.
Christopher L. Miller
Size: 239 x 163 mm
Publication: April 17, 2014