Intimations of What Was to Come: Edwidge Danticat’s The Farming of Bones and the Indivisibility of Human Rights


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"Intimations of What Was to Come" situates Edwidge Danticat’s The Farming of Bones as a site for exploring converging strains of intellectual and political work in literary studies, human rights, and historiography. The novel’s reception history identifies it in the genre witness literature for its reclamation of memory of the genocide; however, this essay argues that the novel productively expands the boundaries of the genre by bearing witness not only to civil and political rights violations, but also to violations of social, economic, and cultural rights. In so doing, the novel provides insight into the indivisibility of these rights categories, as well as the consequences of their split in international law from one Universal Declaration of Human Rights into two separate Covenants, one of which—the International Covenant on Social, Economic, and Cultural Rights—remains "aspirational," rather than legitimated in the way of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The article also examines Danticat’s representations of Haitian history, noting the emphasis in her symbolic structure upon the figure of General Henri Christophe, the third of Haiti’s three “founding fathers.” This emphasis signifies the ambiguous legacy even of Haiti’s triumphant revolution, evoking for readers the long, complex history which produced the world’s first neocolonial nation at the very same moment that its first postcolonial nation was born.


Arts and Humanities

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