UCLA » College » Social Sciences » History
February 25, 2021
12:30pm to 2:00pm
Zoom (Details Below)

This talk has been POSTPONED. Future date TBD.

This talk considers the process of writing about the life and work of the Caribbean philosophe Moreau de Saint-Méry (1750-1819).  A lawyer, printer, naturalist, and translator who was at the forefront of revolutionary politics on two continents, Moreau was also a slaveholder who wrote about ideals of liberty even as he trafficked in human beings.  An ardent defender of slavery as an institution, he nonetheless left some of the most detailed accounts of the social practices of enslaved women and men in the eighteenth-century Americas.  This talk explores who knew what, and how, using as an example entries from his manuscript Repértoire des Notions Coloniales that I have refashioned into my own Encyclopédie noire.  This work reconsiders how his production of colonial knowledge appears when assessed from alternate points of view.  In a similar vein, I discuss the process and politics that surround a parallel project produced by Moreau’s brother-in-law, Baudry des Lozières.  My methodology embraces the value of informed speculation—through chapters that experiment with form, visual imagery, and narrative voice—as a way to foreground the people of African descent who undergirded Moreau’s work on multiple levels, from those who managed his household to those whose knowledge about language, labor, and community became the basis of his work.  I build upon fragmentary archival evidence to surmount the disproportionate influence of planters and administrators on Caribbean historiography.