marie france trouillot
Silencing the Past by Marie France Trouillot
Michel-Rolph Trouillot is an important anthropologist, historian, and Caribbean studies scholar who died in 2012. In 1995, he wrote Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History.
In it, Trouillot explored the way history is produced and analyzed historical practices that suppress subaltern perspectives. He specifically focused on the Haitian Revolution and its erasure from narratives about Atlantic Revolutions.
Her first book
In her first book, Marie France Trouillot tells a compelling story of life under the Haitian dictatorship. She focuses on the alternating points of view of an aging woman and her young aide.
As a historical novel, Memory at Bay is not without its flaws. For one thing, the novel dwells on power relations that are often overlooked in other historical works.
But it does a great job of illustrating how the history of Haiti was shaped by its leaders and how that influence permeates the narrative of all people in the country. In particular, the book examines how Haitian historians frequently used a specific way of reading history to explain their country’s history.
In her book, Trouillot also discusses the way that historical records are unable to fully deny resistance and how planters and historians sought to trivialize all instances of defiance by placing them under the guise of “freedom for Negroes”—a phrase that repressed the reality of slave insurrection.
Her second book
In Silencing the Past, Trouillot exposes historical practices that suppress subaltern perspectives. These include the way history is written and the archives that preserve it, which can sometimes omit certain events or obfuscate defeated voices.
For example, Trouillot writes that the Haitian Revolution was “unthinkable” to even radical factions of revolutionary France because they could not imagine a Black people who had the political capacity to revolt. This mode of thinking, he says, was rooted in certain Enlightenment assumptions about race.
Similarly, the novel’s central figures–the former first lady of the Duvalier dictatorship, Odile Doreval, and her daughter, a nurse named Marie-Ange–are viewed through the lens of their own positionality and experiences.
The two women’s stories, which are written in separate sections of the book, eventually collide in a way that brings them into a direct dialogue. It is a cleverly orchestrated folding of the experiences of two women who, for different reasons, lost their lives at the hands of the same man.
Her third book
The first of marie france trouillot’s three books, Rosalie l’infame, was a well-received novel about a slave woman’s resistance to the French in pre-1789 Haiti. Her second book, La naissance de l’enfance, was also a popular novel.
Her third book, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History, is a seminal work that examined how power structures produce history. In particular, it questioned how the powerful omit or rewrite facts and events that they want to be omitted from their historical narratives.
During the 1990s, Trouillot’s work received a lot of attention from scholars around the world. She was one of the first scholars to call for a “world literature in French,” and her Silencing the Past was a major influence on historians worldwide.
As of December 2013, Google Scholar listed 1691 citations for Silencing the Past, which dwarfed the number of other works cited by historians (such as C. L. R. James’s celebrated 1938 study The Black Jacobins). In addition, it continues to occupy the top spot for references in many books on the Haitian Revolution.
Her fourth book
Unlike her first two books, which focused on a specific historical period, this book is more about her life as a person. In this novel, she tries to help those who are in need.
A woman from Martinique, Marie-Ange is a nurse who has to take care of the widow of the Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier. The story is set in the early 1980s and centers around her memories of her mother’s experiences during the Duvalier regime.
Her uncle, who disappeared when she was a child, haunts her and her memories become repressed. Through her narration, she also recollects the horrors of her family’s time under the dictator.
Trouillot’s Silencing the Past examines how history is produced, and it looks at how power influences history-writing practices. It also exposes how historians often fail to record the true history of a given time period and omit subaltern perspectives.
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