This essay addresses the role of informed speculation as a methodology for engaging the vital intellectual tradition of probing black interiority. It takes interiority to cover a spectrum of thought—from calculated analysis, intention, and motivation, to the more affective realm. Ada Ferrer’s Freedom’s Mirror: Cuba and Haiti in the Age of Revolution uses extensive primary source documentation alongside an evocative prose style that allows for speculative possibilities. Despite silences in the historical record, how might free and enslaved blacks in Saint-Domingue and Cuba have evaluated their circumstances and what might they have been thinking? The essay also examines the paratexts that have evolved from Freedom’s Mirror, specifically those that expand Ferrer’s research on the free black artist José Antonio Aponte. The Digital Aponte and Visionary Aponte projects explore the work of both early-nineteenthcentury and present-day Caribbean artists who have engaged Aponte’s missing libro de pinturas as part of a continuing struggle to imagine black freedom.
“He Was a Lion, and He Would Destroy Much”: A Speculative School of Revolutionary Politics
Sara E. Johnson teaches in the Department of Literature, University of California, San Diego. She is the author of The Fear of French Negroes: Transcolonial Collaboration in the Revolutionary Americas (2012), an interdisciplinary study that explores how people of African descent responded to the collapse and reconsolidation of colonial life in the aftermath of the Haitian Revolution. She is currently completing a book on the Caribbean philosophe Moreau de Saint-Méry. She is a coeditor, with Vèvè Clark, of Kaiso! Writings by and about Katherine Dunham (2006), and, with Amalia Cabezas, Ivette N. Hernández Torres, and Rodrigo Lazo, of Una ventana a Cuba y los estudios cubanos (2010).
Sara E. Johnson; “He Was a Lion, and He Would Destroy Much”: A Speculative School of Revolutionary Politics. Small Axe 1 March 2019; 23 (1 (58)): 195–207. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/07990537-7374550
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