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Anthropology & the Art of the Story-telling: Re-examining the Past

A Lecture on Chapter 3 of Trouillot's "Silencing the Past"

Sofia Shank

on 29 June 2015

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Transcript of Anthropology & the Art of the Story-telling: Re-examining the Past

Born in Haiti on November 26, 1949, Trouillot came to the U.S. in 1969, during the worst years of the Duvalier dictatorship. He received a B.A. in Caribbean History and Culture from CUNY (1978). Trouillot published Ti difé boulé sou Istoua Ayiti in 1977, the first non-fiction book about the Haitian Revolution written in Haitian Kreyòl.

In 1978 he entered graduate school to study anthropology at The Johns Hopkins University, advised by Sidney W. Mintz and Richard Price, contributing to The Program in Atlantic History, Culture and Society.
Veena Das 2007 (39)


Michel-Rolph Trouillot


Trouillot discusses how examining the "Haitian Revolution in written history outside of Haiti" reveals two ways of writing ,or tropes, which are both "formulas of silence".
Trouillot cites Eric Hobsbawm’s The Age of Revolutions 1793-1843,
which makes almost no reference to the Haitian Revolution. (99-101).
“The second kind tends to empty a number of singular events of their revolutionary content so that the entire string of facts, gnawed from all sides, becomes trivialized.
I call them “formulas of banalizations”.
"The first kind of tropes are formulas that tend to erase directly the fact of the revolution. I call them, formulas of erasure."
"What we are observing here is archival power at its strongest, the power to define what is and what is not a serious object of research, and therefore, of mention" (99)

"The Penguin Dictionary of Modern History, a mass circulation pocket encyclopedia that covers the period from 1789 to 1945, has neither Saint-Domingue nor Haiti are entries" (99)
University of California, Berkeley
The Haitian Revolution (1791–1804) was a period of conflict in the French colony of Saint-Domingue, which culminated in the elimination of slavery there and the founding of the Haitian republic.

Although hundreds of rebellions occurred in the New World during the centuries of slavery, only the St. Domingue Slave Revolt, which began in 1791, was successful in achieving permanent independence under a new nation. The Haitian Revolution is regarded as a defining moment in the history of Africans in the New World.
Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian Revolution
(PBS 2009)
James Baldwin, "On Language"
Full transcript