Haiti's Paper War
Post-Independence Writing, Civil War, and the Making of the Republic, 1804–1954
America and the Long 19th Century
Published by: NYU Press
368 pages, 152.00 x 229.00 mm, 11 hts
- ISBN: 9781479802159
- Published: September 2020
2021 Outstanding Academic Title, Choice Magazine
Turns to the written record to re-examine the building blocks of a nation
Picking up where most historians conclude, Chelsea Stieber explores the critical internal challenge to Haiti’s post-independence sovereignty: a civil war between monarchy and republic. What transpired was a war of swords and of pens, waged in newspapers and periodicals, in literature, broadsheets, and fliers. In her analysis of Haitian writing that followed independence, Stieber composes a new literary history of Haiti, that challenges our interpretations of both freedom struggles and the postcolonial. By examining internal dissent during the revolution, Stieber reveals that the very concept of freedom was itself hotly contested in the public sphere, and it was this inherent tension that became the central battleground for the guerre de plume—the paper war—that vied to shape public sentiment and the very idea of Haiti.
Stieber’s reading of post-independence Haitian writing reveals key insights into the nature of literature, its relation to freedom and politics, and how fraught and politically loaded the concepts of “literature” and “civilization” really are. The competing ideas of liberté, writing, and civilization at work within postcolonial Haiti have consequences for the way we think about Haiti’s role—as an idea and a discursive interlocutor—in the elaboration of black radicalism and black Atlantic, anticolonial, and decolonial thought. In so doing, Stieber reorders our previously homogeneous view of Haiti, teasing out warring conceptions of the new nation that continued to play out deep into the twentieth century.
Chelsea Stieber recovers the diverse landscape of political thought that developed in the postindependence era and persisted well into the 20th century. In doing so, Stieber’s carefully argued scholarship provides necessary nuance to our understandings of the internal dynamics of Haitian history and the manifold implications of Haiti’s political significance to the world. ~Public Books
An extraordinary work of revisionist Haitian historiography that offers us an incredible challenge: Chelsea Stieber’s intervention of the ‘paper war’ forces us to reconsider how the study of literature, and the very nature of critique, must remain central to our understandings of empire and abolition. With great aplomb, Haiti’s Paper War powerfully upends the very myth of the Haitian Revolution’s singularity. ~Jeremy Matthew Glick, author of The Black Radical Tragic
Chelsea Stieber presents a powerful and cogently argued account of the crucial role of literary writing in shaping the independent nation of Haiti following the Haitian Revolution. Haiti’s Paper War has significant ramifications for the larger field of literary and postcolonial studies— it speaks to the political work that informs the emergence of the ‘literary’ as a category. Stieber’s contribution is masterfully argued, relentlessly sharp, and insightful. A groundbreaking work. ~Elizabeth Maddock Dillon, author of New World Drama: The Performative Commons in the Atlantic World, 1649–1849
Writing in the precise, evocative language of a masterful chronicler, Stieber examines Haiti’s volatile post-independence struggles in governing. What makes this study particularly significant, and singular, is Stieber’s exhaustive examination of primary source material ... Through her critical analyses of writing as a tool to shape a nation, Stieber unveils the multilayered meanings of liberté that defined Haiti from its declaration of independence in 1804 to the mid-20th century. Essential.
A formidable study of Haiti’s political and literary evolution over the course of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
~Kaiama L. Glover, Barnard College, H-France Review
Writing in the precise, evocative language of a masterful chronicler, Stieber examines Haiti’s volatile post-independence struggles in governing ... What makes this study particularly significant, and singular, is Stieber’s exhaustive examination of primary source material ... Essential. ~Choice