In this episode of PDXPLORES, Jordan Hallmark (MA, History, '22) discusses the cultural construction of racial identity in late-18th century Saint-Domingue (Haiti). Inspired in part by a historiographic shift known as the “Global Turn,” the last two decades have given rise to a wealth of new studies on the history of Haiti. While these studies have varied in their chronological scope, the colonial and revolutionary periods of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries—when Haiti was known as Saint-Domingue—have emerged as an especially fertile ground for interdisciplinary scholarship. Despite the interdisciplinary richness of this emergent historiography, however, students of Haitian history may be surprised to learn that eighteenth-century Saint-Domingue has received comparatively little scholarly attention from art historians or historians of material culture. Using material culture as a lens through which to examine how social and racial status was conceived and negotiated in the last years of French colonial rule, Hallmark analyzes the collecting practices of two gens de couleur (free people of color) from the parish of Jérémie in Saint-Domingue’s southern province: Jacques Lafond (d. 1797) and Noel Azor (d. ca. 1798).
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