Program

ACLS Fellowship Program , Luce/ACLS Program in Religion, Journalism & International Affairs

Project

The Abandoned Faithful: Sovereignty, Diplomacy, and Religious Dominion in the Aftermath of the Haitian Revolution

Project

The Abandoned Faithful: Sovereignty, Diplomacy, and Religious Jurisdiction after the Haitian Revolution

Department

History

The Abandoned Faithful: Sovereignty, Diplomacy, and Religious Dominion in the Aftermath of the Haitian Revolution

This project studies the role that Catholicism played in state-building processes and transatlantic relations following Haiti’s declaration of independence in 1804. The evidence reveals that Catholicism was central to Haiti’s self-identity and to its status as a new country. Catholic authorities in the Vatican, however, claimed religious dominion over new American jurisdictions in the nineteenth century and they refused for decades to establish normal relations with Haiti, despite the fact that they recognized its political independence. By systematically analyzing the competing assertions and practices of religious dominion in Haiti, this project presents a deeper understanding of the complex interrelations of sovereignty, diplomacy, and state formation in the Age of Revolution.

The Abandoned Faithful: Sovereignty, Diplomacy, and Religious Jurisdiction after the Haitian Revolution

"The Abandoned Faithful" argues that the Haitian state shaped international definitions of sovereignty and national legitimacy after the Declaration of Independence in 1804. Rather than seeing Haiti’s nineteenth century as a period of isolation and decline, its first six decades were globally connected because the country’s leaders challenged their post-colonial inequality with diplomacy and state-formation. This strategy aimed to establish Haiti’s membership among the “family of nations,” and forced the Atlantic powers to redefine the boundaries of international relations. This project reveals how Haiti’s decades-long negotiations with the Catholic Church were integral to the racialization of the global hierarchy. Building on earlier writing for the media, I will write an article that connects my current research to the ongoing significance of Vatican diplomacy in the twenty-first century, including recent diplomatic engagement with Palestine and China. During the fellowship year, I also will partner with the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale University to create a public art exhibit. The museum houses a rare and remarkable collection of portraits of Haiti’s nineteenth-century heads of state, painted in the 1870s by Haitian artist Louis Rigaud.