Baron de Vastey’s Testimonio and the Politics of Black Memory

  • Marlene L. DautEmail author
Part of the The New Urban Atlantic book series (NUA)


This chapter suggests that the language used by John Beverley to describe testimonio as a form of protest against the violence of modernity, “a revulsion for fiction and for the fictive as such,” can be useful to us in understanding early Haitian prose works and their seeming refusal to adopt or conform to established anti-slavery literary forms, such as the abolitionist novel and the Anglophone slave narrative. Rather than simply being coeval with the sentimental and gothic literary traditions of the Atlantic World in which he lived, Vastey’s brutal account of slave punishments and tortures in Le Système emerges as a hard to define text that is both a state-sanctioned version of Haitian colonial history and a methodologically novel use of collective slave memory to create a “history from below.”

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Carter G. Woodson InstituteUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA

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