Preparing the bibliography on the periodicals in the age of revolution as an assignment in our seminar, I had a chance to glimpse an immense depository of the scholarship which deals with the print culture in the United States, France, and Haiti around 1800, and which increasingly incorporates this subject within the study of the ‘revolutionary’ public sphere. This short-term research was instructive in showing me how the historians in the different fields share research interest and method as well as how they, in their apparently similar approaches, subtly differ from one another. Generally speaking, I find the scholarship on the Haitian Revolution in relation to print and the public sphere quite distinctive from work on the revolutions in North America and France; and, in this post, I would like to address this particularity of the historiography of Haiti, its meaning and implications. I will suggest that the different focuses of the scholarship on the French, American, and Haitian revolutions in regard to print and the public sphere show the different problematics of these revolutions—the difference sometimes overlooked in the process of underscoring the interconnections among them.
At first glance, what characterizes the anglophone historiography of the print culture and the public sphere in regard to the Haitian revolution is its relatively small size and its rapid growth in recent years. One might be tempted to infer from this external fact that the scholarship on Haiti, in this respect, is still deficient or belated, considering that the historians of France and the U.S. have had interest in the public sphere a couple of decades before and in print earlier than that. Yet, I argue that the current state of the scholarship on Haiti—with its own gaps to be filled—indicates not so much its lack or belatedness as a symptom of the specificity of the Haitian revolution, especially as one examines not only its quantitative aspects but also its thematic tendencies.
That is to say, historiography of print culture in relation to the Haitian revolution seems to differ from that of other revolutions in terms of its locus and problematics. First, historiography of Haiti tends to pay significant attention to the foreign press, often more attention to it than to the Haitian press. Representation of the Haitian revolution and Haiti—either by Haitians themselves or by Westerners—in mostly French and U.S. presses features as an essential subject of the recent scholarship on print ant the public culture. Second, in this historiography of Haiti, some of the basic problems of print culture in Western countries such as readership and authorship are converted to a different problem, that is, the problem of literacy.
These peculiarities in the existent scholarship on Haiti suggest not only the urgency of international recognition for Haiti but also what I call the ‘postcolonial’ problematics of the Haitian revolution. The specificity of the problematics is no more evident than in the issue of literacy. What is often not emphasized in the discussions of the literacy of Haitian revolutionaries is the fact that the ‘literacy’ here is not concerned with native language but with the capacity to read and write in a foreign language, that is, French. To understand the ‘literacy’ as the literacy in foreign language(s) helps us to see more clearly what is really at stake when the historians analyze the public sphere by focusing on the Western presses. What they mean by the ‘public sphere’ is, in fact, the public scene of the Western countries which operates upon cultural and discursive exchanges in the Western languages. What I would like to draw attention to not the historians’ ellipsis or erasure of the ‘Westernness’ from their discussion of the public sphere but rather their preoccupation with the public sphere as such. The Western public sphere, in their view, played a crucial role in determining the fate of Haitians at that time, and it was all the more so precisely because Haiti was precluded from that Western cultural/ discursive field in terms of language and race. In other words, the current scholarship implicitly reveals the ‘postcolonial’ problematcis of the Haitian Revolution, the ‘postcolonial’ here entailing the frictions and pressures that postcolonial nation-states encounter in the process of incorporation within the socio-political and cultural matrix of Western modernity.
These ‘postcolonial’ problematics are unique to the Haitian revolution in comparison with the other two revolutions discussed in our seminar. The peculiarity of the Haitian case is quite striking when we think of the American case, because the United States, despite its identical status with Haiti, in theory, as an independent nation and former colony, seems to have not incurred substantial cost for entering into (or remaining in) the Western public sphere. However, Haiti’s uniqueness, it seems to me, tends not to be acknowledged enough in such a claim that regards the Haitian Revolution as the epitome of Western modernity. I believe it is completely legitimate to make that point, but it is also salutary to bear in mind that stepping over the threshold of modernity demanded irrevocable loss and damage.
 I am not in the position to give an overview of the historiography that discusses print and the public sphere in relation to the Haitian revolution, partly due to my insufficient research, restricted to resources published in English. However, as for the historiography’s small size, I would say that, at least, the scholarship on the Haitian press seems to be curiously scant; for example, I could not find any book classified between PN4699 and PN5650 (i.e. the journalism section according to the Library of Congress Classification) that pertains to Haiti/ Saint-Domingue. For a few discussions of the Haitian print culture that largely focus on the pre-revolutionary Haiti, see James E. McClellan III, Colonialism and Science: Saint Domingue in the Old Regime(Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992), 97-102; John D. Garrigus, Before Haiti: Race and Citizenship in French Saint-Domingue(New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), 124-27. As for the recent increase in the historiography, I will discuss some of representative works within the post and the next note.
 For recent works that exemplify these tendencies, see Nick Nesbitt, “The Idea of 1804,” Yale French Studies, no. 107 (2005); Deborah Jenson, Beyond the Slave Narrative: Politics, Sex, and Manuscripts in the Haitian Revolution(Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2011). See esp. chap. 1, “Toussaint Louverture, “Spin Doctor”?: Lauching the Haitian Revolution in the Media Sphere.”; Marlene L. Daut, “The “Alpha and Omega” of Haitian Literature: Baron De Vastey and the U.S. Audience of Haitian Political Writing,” Comparative Literature 64, no. 1 (2012). Nesbitt’s article is one of the earliest works that analyses the Haitian revolution by using the concept of the public sphere. Jenson’s and Daut’s works illustrate the recent tendencies I mention, as they discuss the Western (i.e. French and American) public sphere’s influences on the Haitian revolution and independent Haiti and offer substantial analyses of the issue of the literacy (e.g. that of Haitian revolutionaries).