Title

(Un)Lawful Bodies in Evelyne Trouillot’s Rosalie l’Infâme

Subject Area

French and Francophone Studies

Abstract

This paper examines Evelyne Trouillot’s 2003 novel Rosalie l’Infâme and the ways that it expresses two areas of juridical concern during the slave-era: poisoning and pro-natal policies. It argues that the points of contact between postcolonial representations of enslaved bodies and the bodies of the law written to contain Black bodies produce what I identify as a corporeal pedagogy. A multidimensional and often paradoxical source of learning, a corporeal pedagogy underscores, in one instance, how the laws that served as instruments of colonial control codified and leveraged the knowledge about human bodies produced by slavery and the slave trade. Yet a corporeal pedagogy also sheds light on postcolonial representations of the body as a crucial source of self-knowledge and historical consciousness.

Set in Saint-Domingue in the 1750s, a time of heightened fears of poisoning for white inhabitants, Rosalie brings readers into the heart of acts of resistance against enslavement. In particular, it reads as a case-study of the challenges enslaved women faced, and their struggles to control their bodies. This paper aims to investigate these strategies through the lens of laws concerning sanctions against Black poisoners as well as those intended to increase birth rates among the enslaved. It argues that the fruitful convergence of bodies of, in, and, at times, outside the law demonstrates how legal policies point to the “epistemic anxieties,” to use Ann Laura Stoler’s formulation, that emerge within the grain of colonial documents and archives. Through this dual-oriented approach to the roles bodies play inside key legal documents as well as in postcolonial representations of enslavement, this paper aims to bring additional insight into the ways that textual and corporeal bodies construct new moorings for understanding slavery and its ramifications.

Brief Bio Note

Lisa Connell is Associate Professor of French at the University of West Georgia. She researches postcolonial theory, Francophone women writers, and autobiography. Her book project, Corporal Pedagogies: Bodies of Knowledge in Contemporary Francophone Caribbean Narratives, investigates how key policies from the slave era mediate, prompt, and are made manifest in postcolonial representations of knowledge formation.

Keywords

slave-era policies, women, enslavement

Presentation Year

October 2020

Start Date

10-22-2020 3:45 PM

End Date

10-22-2020 4:25 PM

Embargo

11-12-2019

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Oct 22nd, 3:45 PM Oct 22nd, 4:25 PM

(Un)Lawful Bodies in Evelyne Trouillot’s Rosalie l’Infâme

This paper examines Evelyne Trouillot’s 2003 novel Rosalie l’Infâme and the ways that it expresses two areas of juridical concern during the slave-era: poisoning and pro-natal policies. It argues that the points of contact between postcolonial representations of enslaved bodies and the bodies of the law written to contain Black bodies produce what I identify as a corporeal pedagogy. A multidimensional and often paradoxical source of learning, a corporeal pedagogy underscores, in one instance, how the laws that served as instruments of colonial control codified and leveraged the knowledge about human bodies produced by slavery and the slave trade. Yet a corporeal pedagogy also sheds light on postcolonial representations of the body as a crucial source of self-knowledge and historical consciousness.

Set in Saint-Domingue in the 1750s, a time of heightened fears of poisoning for white inhabitants, Rosalie brings readers into the heart of acts of resistance against enslavement. In particular, it reads as a case-study of the challenges enslaved women faced, and their struggles to control their bodies. This paper aims to investigate these strategies through the lens of laws concerning sanctions against Black poisoners as well as those intended to increase birth rates among the enslaved. It argues that the fruitful convergence of bodies of, in, and, at times, outside the law demonstrates how legal policies point to the “epistemic anxieties,” to use Ann Laura Stoler’s formulation, that emerge within the grain of colonial documents and archives. Through this dual-oriented approach to the roles bodies play inside key legal documents as well as in postcolonial representations of enslavement, this paper aims to bring additional insight into the ways that textual and corporeal bodies construct new moorings for understanding slavery and its ramifications.