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Emergent WorldsAlternative States in Nineteenth-Century American Culture$
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Edward Sugden

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781479899692

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479899692.001.0001

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Suspended States in the Long Caribbean, 1791–1861

Suspended States in the Long Caribbean, 1791–1861

(p.87) 2 Suspended States in the Long Caribbean, 1791–1861
Emergent Worlds

Edward Sugden

NYU Press

This chapter examines the suspended state between colonial slavery and postcolonial independence in the “long Caribbean.” Involving the Caribbean, especially Haiti, and other equivalent experiments in black self-rule in Sierra Leone and Liberia, this incomplete transition from slavery to freedom challenged progressivist accounts of a world tending ever closer to emancipation. Instead, it seemed that history had come to an unexpected halt. As such, many individuals conceived of the citizen and sovereign in static terms and grappled with a form of paused political time in which history appeared to have stopped. The “black counterfactual,” which includes “Benito Cereno,” “The Heroic Slave,” Blake; or, The Huts of America, Liberia, and the first Haitian novel, Stella, emerged from this world. This genre, which considered the perils and possibilities of black self-rule and freedom, attempted to imagine the black state into existence. It aimed to intervene in the past to create a cause-and-effect chain of events that would inevitably lead to a better world. However, these fictions found narrative to be every bit as recalcitrant as the long Caribbean world itself. Overall, this chapter challenges a redemptionist note of black historiography, in which eventual liberation orients racial struggles in the nineteenth century.

Keywords:   Caribbean, Haiti, Liberia, Sierra Leone, suspended state, slavery, freedom, black counterfactual, “Benito Cereno”, Blake

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