Ecological Chains of Unfreedom: Contours of Black Sovereignty in the Atlantic World

Karen N. Salt

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3 Citations (Scopus)


Black sovereignty in the Atlantic world pivots, as in the case of Haiti, from a haunting apparition to a haunting recognition, never quite forming a tangible, and legal, sovereignty unto itself. Haiti's tangled and complicated geopolitical positioning within the Atlantic world gives this spectral state of being meaning. Sovereignty, or, as I will suggest, the processes of recognizing sovereignty and the material shape of its appearance, imbues Haiti's sovereign claims with a specific racialized threshold. Reading along Haiti's racio-national edge also illuminates the tenuous position on the international stage of Liberia and Abyssinia - two nations, along with Haiti, that represented the only nation-states in the Atlantic world by the end of the nineteenth century with a majority black population and independence. Although a small representative group, these sites deserve far more scrutiny within the fields of race and sovereignty studies by legal scholars and scholars of transnational American studies, especially because of the ways the nations battled for recognition and respect amongst other nation-states who may have attached derogatory notions of humanity onto the political work and rights of these self-avowed black nations. Haiti is an important example of this phenomenon.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-286
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of American Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 18 May 2015


  • Black Sovreignty
  • Atlantic World


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