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Presented By: Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies

WCED Lecture. The Racial Politics of Citizenship: Anticolonial Imaginaries and the Making of Political Modernity from Haiti

Ricarda Hammer, WCED Postdoctoral Fellow, U-M

Ricarda Hammer Ricarda Hammer
Ricarda Hammer
While modern citizenship promises equality, it has deep entanglements with the colonial project. We have long analyzed mechanisms of citizenship inclusion through the lens of the class struggle and cultural boundary expansion, and we tend to tether citizenship rights to the nation state and European modernity. However, it was in European colonies where questions of rights had to be navigated, especially during the Caribbean struggles over freedom following racial slavery. As a result of this analytical bifurcation, the social sciences have largely overlooked how a project of racecraft made egalitarian ideals of freedom and citizenship compatible with continued colonial rule. Aiming to overcome this separation, this talk situates the making of political modernity in the Haitian Revolution. It proceeds in three steps. First, it specifies how Haitians thought about their freedom struggle, aiming to articulate their own humanity at a time when racial slavery raged around them. Second, it examines different approaches within the Haitian Revolution to overcome these power structures, including that of Toussaint’s egalitarianism, Dessalines’ Black humanism, and the peasant revolt. Finally, the talk examines how external constraints denied many of these political approaches. Hammer concludes by demonstrating how citizenship politics fail to address racial and colonial domination, while pointing to alternative approaches.

Ricarda Hammer is a WCED Postdoctoral Fellow for 2021-23. Her research interests lie at the intersection of global, historical, and postcolonial sociology. She received her Ph.D. in sociology from Brown University in 2021 and she is currently working on her book manuscript, “Citizenship and Colonial Difference: The Racial Politics of Rights and Rule across the Black Atlantic.” The book aims to build a new genealogy of rights formation by examining it through the colonial struggle, and from the perspective of the enslaved and colonized in the colonial Caribbean. Her work has been published in Sociological Theory, Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, Political Power and Social Theory, and Teaching Sociology.

This lecture will be presented in person in 555 Weiser Hall and on Zoom. Webinar registration required at

If there is anything we can do to make this event accessible to you, please contact us at Please be aware that advance notice is necessary as some accommodations may require more time for the university to arrange.

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