This essay inquires into the uses of Haiti and its revolution as emblematic for contemporary theory. It raises a question about the new “philosophic” construction of Haiti—and its revolution—as an originary or exemplary moment of “human rights,” less to impugn universality as such than to caution that it is always important to ask about the ideological construction of the theory-problems in our scholarship. The essay then turns to a discussion of the problem-space that makes intelligible why and how C. L. R. James's The Black Jacobins is constructed as an exploration of the Haitian Revolution as a question of “universal history.”

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