Practices of Freedom:
Marronage in the Caribbean

Friday, April 2, 2021


Johnhenry Gonzalez: ‘Hearing the Voice of the Early Haitian Subaltern: The 1825 Petition of Cupidon Guillotte and Jean Alix René’s Critique of the ‘Maroon Nation’ Thesis.’

-In defiance of many predictions to the contrary, new important records germane to the Haitian Revolution continue coming out of collections in Port-au-Prince. Hank Gonzalez, Author of the 2019 book Maroon Nation will discuss his argument about the ‘maroon’ character of Haiti’s early history in light of the work of Jean-Alix Rene who has recently discovered a range of important new sources highlighting the contrary phenomenon: important points of contact and negotiation between Haitian laborers and the country’s earliest governments.

Sabine Cadeau - “Secret Prayers, Secret Gardens, and Survival Foods: Viewing the 1937 Haitian Massacre Survivors Through the Lens of Mawonnaj

-This presentation will discuss the maroon-like survival strategies that emerged during the 1937 genocide in the Dominican Republic and its aftermath. Survivors’ stories of flight, concealment, and survival in extremis evoke comparisons with legacies of colonial marronage. Provocatively enough, some of the perpetrators of the massacre under Rafael Leonidas Trujillo made explicit reference to ‘cimarronaje’ in their official correspondence. In this presentation Cadeau explores disturbing twentieth-century echoes of colonial Caribbean history.

Laurie Wood and Meghan Roberts -

-In 1767, the free woman of color Charlotte Dugée absconded from the Patris botanical expedition, for which she was a French state-appointed specimen illustrator, into the forests of Guyane, never to be heard from again. Expedition leaders searched for her – and the enslaved woman whom she accompanied – in vain under the assumption that she had been suddenly overcome by madness. Did she, in fact, lose her mind in the dense South American forest? Or was she following a well-known pattern of marronage by escaping to an indigenous or runaway slave community? Dugée is elusive in the archives, too, but like her striking departure the few clues to her life that we have point toward multiple overlapping understandings within the Patris expedition. Her case thus forces us to rethink what Enlightenment scientific practice was, who participated in it – and how. Unlike typical Enlightenment scientific practitioners – overwhelmingly white, male, Europeans – Dugée had been born in the Caribbean colony of Saint-Domingue, a woman of mixed race and possibly recent manumission. But she had also attained the rare status of brevet, an official designation of expertise, usually granted to scientific practitioners who possessed metropolitan reputations and royal patronage. This article probes this paradox, in which Dugée was situated at the center of both metropolitan and colonial science-making communities but not regarded as such in contemporary records, to center women of mixed race in the story of colonial and Enlightenment science. It brings together fields of inquiry that remain stubbornly separate, even as Dugée moved seamlessly among them: the history of empire-building and state-sponsored scientific research; the intertwined stories of gender, race, and freedom; and the history of expertise.