Society for French Historical Studies 3
The second session in this series, “Sovereignty, Diplomacy, and Citizenship,” explores the tumultuous process of state-building and the challenges of securing domestic and international allegiances. In conversation with the first session, these three papers advocate for an extended periodization of the Revolution and a transnational approach to understanding Haitian sovereignty and citizenship. The panelists focus our attention on contemporary notions of governance, “layers of recognition,” and constructions of blackness in the Atlantic World.
Nathalie Frédéric Pierre examines how Haitian statesmen formed governments they thought would suit the needs of a postemanciption society within an enslaved Atlantic world. She contends that Haitian statesmen established the most nationally-diverse governments of the early nineteenth century.
Julia Gaffield continues the conversation of state building through the lens of diplomacy. She proposes that recognition proceeded in a layered fashion. In addition to diplomatic and economic recognition, Haitian leaders worked to secure religious recognition from the Vatican by establishing Roman Catholicism as the state religion. Using the understudied archives of the Vatican, she explores the decades long negotiations to establish normal relations between the Catholic Church and the Haitian state.
The final paper moves us to the end of the nineteenth century when Gaffield’s “layers of recognition” had been achieved. Yet, as Brandon Byrd demonstrates in his investigation of citizenship claims, Haiti remained in a precarious international position vis-à-vis the United States. His paper offers a transnational conclusion to our discussion of Haiti and demonstrates the contested notions of belonging and blackness in a fin-de-siècle Atlantic World.
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