James describes Toussaint’s adoption (assimilation?) of European philosophy, the “crude words of [his] broken dialect” (197). I am interested in the significance of language in decolonization – in revolutions, politics, and epistemology alike. What constitutes a “broken” dialect, if not a language of hybridity – a creole communication that transcends the circumscriptions of what is considered “correct” by the white man and his “pure” tongue? It was proposed that slaves be taught to read but not write – such that they could consume white epistemologies but not produce their own (375). Language is the middle ground – forged out of context, connection and necessity. Does James’ glocalized history ascribe too readily to essentialized conceptions of place and position? Or can we (constructively) internalize the white man's dichotomous delineations of “us and them?” Parsing monolithic constructions like nation states or “the Third World” allows us to complicate our reception of the past.
In “An Age of Imperial Revolutions,” Jeremy Adelman problematizes the notion of the nation state as a fictive, teleological successor to empire. Citing Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities, he demonstrates that historical narratives on the rise of communal consciousness and identity in the West play into a white supremacist ideology of exceptionalism (330-1). Indeed, by citing the notion of a “regime change” (319), Adelman makes room for more analyses that assess the interiority of both imperial and colonial forces. In other words, what does a “regime change” from imperial colony to nation state look like from within? Does the instantaneous claim, appearance, or external presentation of a new system of governance match the experiences undergone by people at both the centers and margins of such territories? Is nationalism as unified, cohesive, or automatic as the historiography has portrayed it? On Haiti, Adelman observes that France’s proclamation of independence and virtue made “good of the French Revolution that the old empire had betrayed. What was common was the prolonged effort to reassemble the practices of sovereignty to rely on empire to shore up understandings of sovereignty” (337).