Maroon Movements Against Empire
The Long Haitian Revolution, Sixteenth-Nineteenth Centuries
Keywords:Slavery, Haitian Revolution, Marronnage
Marronnage, or escape from slavery, was a longue-durée form of resistance to slavery in Haiti and was also, as Sylvia Wynter argues, a “dialectical response to the capitalist plantation system”—a system that aimed to deny humanity, sever social and cultural ties, and commodified people and their labor power. This article, as well as works by others such as Cedric Robinson (1983), Sylvia Wynter (n.d.), and Jean Casimir (2020), argues that marronnage was a fundamentally anti-capitalist mode of resistance, socio-political critique, and grassroots mobilizing. In the immediate moments when enslaved people fled plantations, they reclaimed possession of themselves and other tangible and intangible resources, such as their time, social relationships, forms of knowledge, and labor skills that enslavers stole from them. When maroons re-appropriated resources and mobilized themselves, they challenged and subverted colonial plantation structures, contributing to the downfall of both Spanish and French imperial slaveries in Haiti. During and after the Haitian Revolution of 1791–1804, Africa-born rebels and maroons were central to the mobilizing structures that successfully fought to abolish slavery and overturn colonialism—representing an astounding rupture to the prevailing Atlantic world-system that was dependent upon enslaved labor. Even after the post-independence Haitian government replicated aspects of the colonial administration, as Casimir (2020) points out, the formerly enslaved masses of Haiti organized themselves into communal social arrangements that prioritized subsistence labor and extended kin networks, and continued to rely on marronnage to protest exploitative economic practices. This article explores the trajectory of marronnage in Haiti as a continuous struggle, emphasizing the ways that it exposed the violence, exploitation, and oppression inherently embedded in the Atlantic world-system, and exposed the limits of the governing Haitian states.
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