The End of the Line: Kinship Imagined and Unimagined in Novels of the Haitian Revolution

General Programming

  • Free and open to the public
  • First come, first seated

In this talk, Elizabeth Maddock Dillon will propose that a radical parting of ways between kinship and genealogy takes place in eighteenth-century novels of the West Indies. On the one hand, this is a familiar story: European traditions of patrilineal descent gave way to flexible and novel modes of structuring kinship in New World diasporic communities. On the other hand, kinship allows us to think about relations of affinity in ways that don’t simply revise genealogy (the unfolding of generations) but that break with it altogether in the name of developing new forms of lateral relation. Professor Dillon uses the term “radical kinship,” then, to refer to the network of connections or affinities that script sustaining relations between and among not only husbands and wives, but also people and things, including the animated “things” of the Atlantic world such as the commodities that drove the development of the early capitalist economy. Turning, in particular, to a number of novels concerning the Haitian Revolution, Professor Dillon will trace non-genealogical kinship or assemblages between animate and inanimate things and people and animals that demonstrate the possibilities opened by “radical kinship” in the revolutionary Atlantic world.

  • Elizabeth Maddock Dillon Professor of English Northeastern University