The Significance of the Haitian Revolution for the Practice of Contemporary Theory.

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The significance of the Haitian Revolution for the practice of contemporary theory.

1. Introduction Philosopher Peter Hallward claims, “If the French Revolution stands as the great political event of modern times the Haitian Revolution must figure at the most decisive sequence of that event” (Hallward, 2004:2). From a historical perspective, it is important that one recognises the significance of this event. The Haitian Revolution was a struggle for self-determination against colonial imperialism and slavery but it was also so much more than that as it was a struggle for the liberation of the African mind too. The Haitian Revolution influenced thinkers such as Peter Hallward and Alain Badiou, C.L.R. James as well as pan-Africanist thinkers such as Marcus Garvey and later Franz Fanon himself. In this paper I will analyse the Haitian Revolution not in a historical context per se but rather by examining its significance on the practice of contemporary theory. My argument in this paper is that the Haitian Revolution as an empirical event challenged many assumed theoretical universalities and in so doing has made contemporary theory ever more useful in terms of making sense of the world and uncovering hidden truths. For the purpose of this paper, theory as a concept as well as the practice of theory as process needs to be discussed in detail. Theory as a concept can best be understood as a system of ideas that are meant to explain a facet of existence. Thory can be very bold in that it attempts to explain many facets while other theory is more modest in its attempt to make sense of something on a far smaller scale. Theory then is the exercise of reason in order to better understand the world. Theory is based on reason and should therefore be self-critical and self-reflecting as reason can often be wrong. Theory has the ability illuminate one’s understanding of…...

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