Over fifteen years have passed since Michel-Rolph Trouillot issued his critical call for the renunciation of Haitian exceptionalism. Trouillot's principled argument remains as urgent today as when it was first written, if not more so. Particularly in the wake of the 2010 earthquake, Haiti continues to be portrayed as extra-ordinary: exceptionally tragic, remarkably resilient, singularly radical. This essay expands Trouillot's arguments and extends his critical stance to another trope of exceptionalism in Caribbean studies: that of political sovereignty. It examines how Caribbean spaces that trouble the Westphalian order are cast as exceptions, and, following Trouillot's lead, it attempts to discern the political and intellectual perils of this casting. Echoing Trouillot, the essay calls for us to reimagine Caribbean social and political processes as ordinary—that is, to place them within their historical and geopolitical coordinates. Moreover, it urges us to shift our gaze away from the odd to the production of the norm, the universal, and the unmarked—not as transcendental principles but as localized fictions that don the mask of transcendence.
Yarimar Bonilla; Ordinary Sovereignty. Small Axe 1 November 2013; 17 (3 (42)): 152–165. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/07990537-2378973
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