DEADLINE TODAY: FINAL CALL FOR PAPERS for “The Black Jacobins Revisited: Rewriting History”


The Black Jacobins Revisited: Rewriting History

International conference to be held at the International Slavery Museum and the Bluecoat Arts Centre, Liverpool, 27–28 October 2013

To mark seventy-five years of pioneering anticolonial and historiography-shifting work, C.L.R. James’s The Black Jacobins, we are organising a major international two-day conference at the International Slavery Museum and Bluecoat Arts Centre, Liverpool.

This event also features a performance of readings from The Black Jacobins play by actor Tayo Aluko, which is particularly exciting as the play has only ever been performed twice in the UK (1936 and 1986), both times in London, and is much less well-known than its famous history counterpart. Never-before performed material will be featured, including an intriguing epilogue which fast-forwards in time, recasting all the Haitian revolutionaries in the present.

Ever since The Black Jacobins transformed the way colonial history was written, this single work has for seventy-five years dominated all studies of the Haitian Revolution and decolonization. Yet, uncharted areas of this standard reference work still remain. Key aims of the conference are to break new ground and explore new approaches where this classic history is concerned. Papers will be considered on any aspect relating to The Black Jacobins and its legacies, but possible topics could include:

  • Discussion of The Black Jacobins in relation to James’s own evolving political practice and activism, including his collaborations as political organiser.
  • The making and remaking of The Black Jacobins as the famous work morphs through major generic transformations, both beginning and ending life as a play.
  • Contributions made by The Black Jacobins to problems of writing Caribbean history: gaps and perspectives in official historical records housed in metropolitan archives.
  • Processes of rewriting history throughout the work’s evolution: revolutionizing previous historical interpretations of the Haitian Revolution; provincializing the French Revolution; engaging with processes of silencing and un-silencing stories of the Haitian Revolution, and of slavery-generated wealth in French and British cities.
  • James’s rethinking of key relationship between leaders and masses; the progressive refiguration of Haitian Revolutionary Toussaint Louverture, and foregrounding of alternative protagonists.
  • Caribbean identity as evolving theme of The Black Jacobins, and the related question of representation, e.g. James’s contributions to representations of slaves as principal actors of revolution in their own right, and to Caribbean ways of seeing the Haitian past and what constitutes the Caribbean from the Caribbean’s own perspective, and not that of others.
  • Progressive reframing and historicizing of the work through a range of prefaces, appendices, epilogues
  • James’s evolving use of source materials and alternative historical models
  • Assessments of the work’s afterlives as founding text and key point of reference for all interpretations of the Haitian Revolution; issues of key editions, translation and mistranslation; and the work’s centrality to a range of political situations across Africa, the Caribbean and North America.
  • Links between The Black Jacobins and other key Marxist, Caribbean, African works, including those of James’s own wider corpus.

Abstracts of 250 words should be sent to Dr Rachel Douglas, by 15 April, 2013. Keynote speakers will include: Professor Nick Nesbitt (Princeton) and Dr Matthew J. Smith (University of the West Indies). Further keynote speakers to be announced.

This event is organised in partnership with the International Slavery Museum and the Bluecoat, Liverpool, and supported by the University of Glasgow Knowledge Exchange Fund, the Society for the Study of French History, and the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s