(World) Order and Concepts of the Future. Racist Practices of Comparing in the Caribbean (1791-1912)
The Haitian Revolution, described by European contemporaries as a “race war” and a subversion of “natural conditions”, posed a fundamental challenge to imperial, national and local (world) orders. For whites and people of colour, it also facilitated hitherto unimaginable visions of the future.
As shown in the first funding phase, practices of comparing emerged in the Caribbean from the end of the 18th century onwards – with recourse to pre-modern traditions – in which the category of race took centre stage. Depending on context, however, comparing race were specifically linked to concepts of class, climate and gender. Hence, we refer to this recurrent bundling as a “comparative formation”.
In the current funding phase, we enquire into how the comparative formation “race-class-climate-gender” has been consolidated since the first république noire and the explosive impact it unleashed in the long history of memory of the Caribbean revolution. We hypothesize that it fuelled the Cuban guerra de razas as late as 1912 and contributed to the racialised practices of comparing that formed the bedrock of local nation-building. Our further assumption, moreover, is that the comparative formation became central to US rhetoric in its emergence as a world power. The analytical focus is placed on the formation of particular communities of practice that became engines of change for the comparative formation and thus of a notion of race that became globally effective.
The project comprises various sub-projects and studies: a study of Saint Domingue/Haiti 1791-1804, a study of Cuba 1880-1912, an overarching sub-project examining the changes in the formation of comparison in human geography, above all, with regard to the climate determinism that became entrenched in the nineteenth century, and a sub-project analysing if and to what extent the formation of comparison influenced (Cuban) anthropology as a discipline in the early twentieth century.
Furthermore, racist practices of comparing are investigated in affiliated projects. The procedures of citizenship in French West and Equatorial Africa, processes of racialisation in comparative anatomy in Europe and North America, compensation proceedings by former plantation owners in post-revolutionary Haiti as well as social movements and collective violence in European and North American port cities are analysed.