Coolidge Professor of History, Harvard University; CES Resident Faculty & Seminar Co-chair, Harvard University
September 10, 2019
4:30pm - 6:00pm
Hoffmann Room, Adolphus Busch Hall
This talk presents Cécile Vidal's new book entitled Caribbean New Orleans: Empire, Race, and the Making of a Slave Society. The author argues that it is more
accurate to view eighteenth-century New Orleans as a Caribbean port
city rather than as a North American one, as its late founding, its
position within the French Empire and its connections with
Saint-Domingue explain why the interplay of slavery and race profoundly
shaped its society from the outset.
The Louisiana capital may be viewed
as a test case to analyze the expansion of racial slavery from the
Antilles to the surrounding mainland throughout the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries, to examine the historical formation of a slave
society within a port city located in the midst of a plantation region,
and to reconsider what it meant for a society to become racialized by
showing how race was woven into the fabric of everyday life. By probing
such a case study, the author proposes to better take into account the
variety of slave societies that developed in the Americas, including
those in urban settings, and offers a fresh perspective on racial
formation. The book also contends that historians need to move away from a
comparative history of racial slavery in the western hemisphere, that
contrasts the Caribbean and North America as two distinctive models.
Instead, they should consider all American colonial and slave societies
as parts of a continuum.
Last but not least, Caribbean New Orleans
situates early North American history on the periphery of Caribbean
history and, as a result, contributes to a broader historiographical
trend aimed at decentering North America.
Jean-Pierre Lassus - Ink & watercolor view by Jean-Pierre Lassus, from the collection of the Centre des archives d'outre-mer, France (DFC Louisiane 71-6A)