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 Abstract

Excerpted From: Ciji Dodds, In Fear of Black Revolutionary Contagion and Insurrection: Foucault, Galtung, and the Genesis of Racialized Structural Violence in American Foreign Policy and Immigration Law, 26 Michigan Journal of Race and Law 371 (Winter 2021) (560 Footnotes) (Full Document)

 

CijiDoddsThe First Commandment of white supremacy is a Black body is not useful unless it is docile. The study of the Haitian Revolution is the study of the political anatomy and economy of the Black body and soul. It is the study of attempts--attempts to transform the Black body using the macro and microphysics of power, to “have an immediate hold upon it; they invest it, mark it, train it, torture it, force it to carry out tasks, to perform ceremonies, to emit signs.” Ultimately, it is the study of concerted and sustained efforts to discipline the Black body and soul, to make it docile and, thus, useful. A disciplined Black soul languishes in the purgatory of white supremacy-based psychological inertia. It has yielded to the belief that white power is all-encompassing, inescapable, and indomitable. A docile Black body bears the constraints of white supremacy and inscribes upon herself the label of property.

Haitian revolutionaries were not docile. They did not believe in the all-encompassing, inescapable, and indomitable power of whiteness. For them, the fallacy of white supremacy was manifest, and their intense lucidity traversed time and space. Just as the ancestral trauma of the first capture, sale, ship hold, and master had become a part of the social memory of Africans in the diaspora, so did Haitian liberation. The Haitian Revolution (the “Revolution”) was an elegantly violent requiem for the theory that Africans are inherently inferior. Thus, Haiti's arrival as a self-declared, sovereign negro nation was tantamount to a declaration of war against a global regime of white supremacy.

Due to Haiti's geographical proximity to the United States, the Revolution incited fears of emulation. America's government recognized that the Revolution's success exposed the fragility of White supremacy and threatened the sanctity of the pathology of slavery. The pervasive fear was that when the story of the slaves that had become masters reached America's shores, Black revolutionary contagion would spread throughout the country and incite a mass slave insurrection. Such a slave insurrection would upend white supremacy and rupture the stability of America's infant economy. The exercise of unsanctioned Black freedom emerged as the greatest existential and national security threat to the United States. Consequently, the exigencies of white supremacy propelled the American government into a manic state of anticipatory self-defense.

Using Michel Foucault's theories of discipline and punishment in conjunction with Johan Galtung's theory of structural violence, I argue that the state-sanctioned exercise of discipline and punishment in furtherance of white supremacy constitutes racialized structural violence. I analyze the manifestation of racialized structural violence though the lens of America's response to the Revolution and make two claims. First, in fear of Black revolutionary contagion and insurrection, the United States launched a preemptive war against Haiti for the express purpose of transforming Haiti into a docile nation. The weapons of war were foreign policy and immigration law. The United States implemented pro-white supremacy foreign policies, immigration policies, and immigration laws designed to discipline and punish Haiti. In concert with France, the United States applied the art of distributions to politically, economically, and physically isolate Haiti, thereby transforming the island into a cellular disciplinary space that has, and continues to be, subjected to America's concentrated and uninterrupted disciplinary gaze.

Second, America's response to the Revolution was a watershed moment in American history where the exercise of disciplinary power over Black and Brown nations became the core tenet of American foreign policy and immigration law. Thus, America's response to the Revolution was the genesis of racialized structural violence in American foreign policy and immigration law. Haiti served as a beta test for a uniquely American form of dissociative white supremacy, where the government intentionally uses foreign policy and immigration law as joint mechanisms of white supremacy. Combined, they create a flexible disciplinary apparatus and subsequent architecture of control that enables the United States to exercise disciplinary power over Black and Brown nations, and then feign historical amnesia when confronted with the effects of its actions. America's actions transcend traditional conceptualizations of colonialism and imperialism in that the primary objective is to exercise disciplinary power at the lowest political cost. The resulting systems of asymmetrical power relations reinforce a global racial hierarchy that perpetuates white supremacy.

In Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, Foucault dissects the art of punishment and the intersection of power ideologies and the human body. Foucault examines two modalities of state punishment: torture and discipline. He argues that the shift from the use of medieval torture to discipline as the primary modality of state punishment coincided with the dissolution and reorientation of European power structures and proliferation of a new economic order. In the new economic order, property ownership emerged as a dominant form of capital accumulation. Accordingly, the state classified crimes against property as intolerable offenses.

As European power structures shifted from centralized monarchies to egalitarian rule, so did the technologies of power and the purpose of punishment. Foucault asks the reader to:

accept the general proposition that, in our societies, the systems of punishment are to be situated in a certain 'political economy’ of the body: even if they do not make use of violent or bloody punishment, even when they use 'lenient’ methods involving confinement or correction, it is always the body that is at issue - the body and its forces, their utility and their docility, their distribution and their submission.

The state adopted discipline as the primary modality of punishment in reaction to the demands of the new economic order and egalitarian principles. The state shifted the target of punishment from the body to the soul because 1) a tortured body compromises the stability of society by evoking the “cruel pleasure” tyrannical monarchs derived from punishing their subjects and 2) an annihilated body is not utilitarian because it cannot produce wealth. Hence, discipline is the strategic exercise of power over the body of the previously non-compliant and unproductive individual. The goal is to make the individual useful by subjugating him until he is docile.

The period of the Revolution, 1791-1804, coincided with the period at the beginning of the nineteenth century when discipline became ingrained in Western society as the primary method of state punishment for crimes. Haiti committed two crimes. Because Africans were conceptualized as property, Haitian self-liberation was the equivalent of theft, an intolerable offense. Haiti committed the crime of answering violence with violence. For white men, violent resistance to violent oppression was reified as a natural right and moral obligation. For Black men, violent resistance to violent oppression was criminalized as an assault on the God-ordained racial hierarchy. Haiti became a symbol of the African body and soul due to its crimes and the target of discipline and punishment.

America's decision to use foreign policy and immigration law to discipline and punish Haiti was aimed at deterrence. It wanted to transform Haiti from a hero into a punitive signpost, a symbol of all the bad things that will happen if you, as a Black person, exercise agency in contravention of white supremacy: we will transform your liberated nation into a carceral state. Additionally, the United States needed to restore Haiti's status as property to protect America's economic interests in the Caribbean. As a result, America's current foreign policies and immigration laws and policies towards Haiti are inherently structurally violent because they are the natural byproduct of America's nineteenth century, pro-white supremacy foreign policy.

Part I of this article articulates the theory of racialized structural violence by examining the convergence of discipline, punishment, and structural violence. Part II investigates the social and political conditions that gave rise to America's decision to discipline and punish Haiti, with an emphasis on the Revolution's impact on the foundational tenets of slavery and Black consciousness in the Atlantic. Additionally, Part II illustrates the economics of torture in the context of slavery. Parts III and IV analyze the emergence and trajectory of racialized structural violence in foreign policy, immigration law, and immigration policies. Together, all four parts are intended to capture the power relation between the United States and Haiti and how it has been engineered to compel Haitian docility.

[. . .]

The Fifth Commandment of white supremacy is a Black soul should accept discipline and punishment as for its own good. “Americans seem to have the power to control perceptions of reality, if not reality itself,” and concerning Haiti, this statement rings true. The United States has perpetuated a regime of truth that depicts Haiti's perils as evidence of its violent and corrupt predilections. But the United States has played an outsized role in Haiti's present condition. Where the United States has deployed racialized structural violence against Haiti using foreign policy, immigration law, and immigration policies, it has prevented Haiti from maximizing its potential. Haiti has devolved into a client state. The structure of inequality that represses Haiti is engrafted into the international social order. Now Haiti consistently occupies a low rank in all international systems, resulting in political instability, economic vulnerability, chronic food insecurity, ecological devastation, high infant mortality rates, and more.

This Article investigated discipline and punishment as a form of racialized structural violence in American foreign policy, immigration law, and immigration policies towards Haiti. However, racialized structural violence permeates American society. The United States appropriated the disciplinary apparatus it developed for Haiti for use against domestic Blacks. When the United States launched a preemptive war against Haiti, it concurrently launched a preemptive war against Blacks within the United States for the express purpose of turning Blacks into a permanently docile subpopulation. Now, isolation, marginalization, and enclosure are defining features of the Black experience. Blacks have been precluded from operating within systems, which has led to a pattern of inequality where Blacks have been “deprived not only relative to the potential but, indeed below subsistence minimum.” To start, racialized structural violence exists in laws, education, housing, economics, voting, the justice system, employment, and is apparent in government suppression of Black freedom movements.

The American government's treatment of domestic Black freedom and abolition movements such as Reconstruction, the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Panther Party Movement, and the Black Lives Matter Movement, mirrors its pro-white supremacy, nineteenth-century government's response to the success of the Haitian Revolution. Black revolutionary contagion and insurrection and unsanctioned Black freedom are construed as existential and national security threats to America. Therefore, the legacy of racialized structural violence in Haiti is the legacy of racialized structural violence in America.

Everybody has asked the question ... “What shall we do with the Negro?” Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us .... If the apples will not remain on the tree on their own strength, if they are worm eaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! ... And if the Negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs!


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