The Women’s and Gender Studies Colloquium
The Mulâtresse: Mythologizing and Negating Hybrid Haitian Identities
a talk by
Sarah Flowers, C’15
This talk is sponsored by the History Department and the Wick
From French colonial discourse in Saint-Domingue emerged a number of racial categorizations, notably that of the “mulâtresse.” She is described as curvaceous, primally seductive, sophisticated, hypersexual, and infertile. This “kind” of woman, hard to identify as such in practice, represents the ways in which particular bodies become mythologically endowed with often paradoxical characteristics that embody a nationalized Other, in this case antithetical to the domestic, private femininity necessitated by French revolutionary ideologies. Haitian Revolutionary leaders made efforts to dismantle the pigmentocracy of French colonial discourse, Article 14 of Jean-Jacques Dessalines’ Haitian Constitution of 1804 reading: “Haitians will henceforth only be known generically as blacks.” While leaders’ attempts to dissolve the socioracial hierarchies of French colonial rule seem egalitarian, a series of personal rulers, a militarized Haitian government and state, and the economic realities of the territory problematize the homogenizing and monolithizing of Haitian citizens. Thus, reading heavily into international and internal contexts, the formulation of a national, Haitian identity can be understood through the framework of a reclamation of masculinity, privileging the identities of citizen-soldier and the (ideologically) “black” general as ideal means of state participation.