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Dark Side of the Light: Slavery and the French Enlightenment

Louis Sala-Molins
Translated and with an Introduction by John Conteh-Morgan
Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    Dark Side of the Light
    Book Description:

    Translated into English for the first time, Dark Side of the Light scrutinizes Condorcet's Reflections on Negro Slavery and the works of Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Diderot side by side with the Code Noir (the royal document that codified the rules of French Caribbean slavery). In doing so, renowned French intellectual Louis Sala-Molins uncovers attempts to uphold the humanist project of the Enlightenment while simultaneously justifying slavery.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9620-8
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. TRANSLATOR′S INTRODUCTION: The Color of the Enlightenment
    (pp. vii-xxxvi)

    In recent years, specifically since the last decade of the twentieth century, France has been going through a period of painful national debate about its official role in a number of key historical events. Of course, as Derrida observes inSur parole: Instantanés philosophiques(1999, 123-45)—his reflections on pardon, forgiveness, and memory in the context of post-apartheid South Africa—such debates and acts of soul searching and the national work of memory to which they have sometimes given rise are not limited to France: “Today these scenes are taking place across the face of the earth,” he writes, “with...

  2. Dark Side of the Light:: Slavery and the French Enlightenment

    • CHAPTER 1 Condorcet, ″Lamenting″
      (pp. 11-54)

      For any serious study of anthropology in the age of the Enlightenment, the work of Michèle Duchet is compulsory reading.¹ Meticulous in its analyses and balanced in its conclusions, this work paints a rather unflattering picture of the way in which French Enlightenment thought mapped out the symbolic geography of the human and the inhuman. With admirable clarity and unrelenting vigor, it shows that all the French thinkers of the age—the major as well as the minor ones, Raynal and Diderot included—failed to interrogate colonial conquest and domination, that they cast their arguments within a framework that King...

    • CHAPTER 2 The Market of Equals
      (pp. 55-112)

      It was in Bamako. Mali was commemorating in its own way the bicentennial of the French Revolution. Not without a touch of rebelliousness. By way of general remarks on the contribution of the French Revolution to Africa, Malians were staging the encounter between France and Africa with a title that needed no commentary: “Blue-White-Black.” At the heart of their performance was the memory of a truth—slavery—and of a text—theCode noir—which the actors had made central to their contribution to the worldwide glorification of the Enlightenment and its revolutionary outcome. In Bamako, in a hall full...

    • CHAPTER 3 Of Men and (Under)Dogs
      (pp. 113-148)

      The problem then was settled neither by the music of reed pipes nor of flutes on the banks of the Niger. There was voodoo to start with and then drums and then things became more serious. Guns and iron spoke.

      The blacks, who had risen up so many times, fought with such determination and fury that it could be said that in spite of the continuous massacres they suffered,¹ they had remained defiant and steadfast from the day following their arrival in Saint-Domingue and all over the Caribbean, until this night when Bouckman summoned the brave to torch and destroy...

  3. Epilogue
    (pp. 149-150)

    In 2089, there will also be a night of the leaders. The man who forced the abolition of slavery on Enlightenment France, on revolutionary France and on white rights, and who paid for this with his life will enter the Panthéon. That night, there will be a leader who will be moved by the sad end of the giant. He will proclaim, I think I can hear him, “Toussaint Louverture, receiving you in the Panthéon is an act of reparation.” This will happen just before Christmas, during the high point of the tricentennial anniversary.

    The leader of that period will...