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American Imperialism's Undead

The Occupation of Haiti and the Rise of Caribbean Anticolonialism
Raphael Dalleo

BUY Cloth · 256 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813938936 · $75.00 · Sep 2016
BUY Paper · 256 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813938943 · $35.00 · Sep 2016
BUY Ebook · 256 pp. · ISBN 9780813938950 · $35.00 · Sep 2016

Gordon K. Lewis Prize, Caribbean Studies Association (2016)

As modern Caribbean politics and literature emerged in the first half of the twentieth century, Haiti, as the region's first independent state, stood as a source of inspiration for imagining decolonization and rooting regional identity in Africanness. Yet at precisely the same moment that anticolonialism was spreading throughout the Caribbean, Haiti itself was occupied by U.S. marines, a fact that regional political and cultural histories too often overlook. In American Imperialism’s Undead, Raphael Dalleo examines how Caribbean literature and activism emerged in the shadow of the U.S. military occupation of Haiti (1915-34) and how that presence influenced the development of anticolonialism throughout the region.

The occupation was a generative event for Caribbean activists such as C. L. R. James, George Padmore, and Marcus and Amy Jacques Garvey as well as for writers such as Claude McKay, Eric Walrond, and Alejo Carpentier. Dalleo provides new ways of understanding these luminaries, while also showing how other important figures such as Aimé Césaire, Arturo Schomburg, Claudia Jones, Frantz Fanon, Amy Ashwood Garvey, H. G. De Lisser, Luis Palés Matos, George Lamming, and Jean Rhys can be contextualized in terms of the occupation. By examining Caribbean responses to Haiti’s occupation, Dalleo underscores U.S. imperialism as a crucial if unspoken influence on anticolonial discourses and decolonization in the region. Without acknowledging the significance of the occupation of Haiti, our understanding of Atlantic history cannot be complete.


American Imperialism's Undead boldly and powerfully uncovers the crucial, if unintentional, role the United States’ imperialist occupation of independent Haiti played in the rise of radical anticolonialism throughout the Atlantic world in the first half of the twentieth century. With outstanding scholarship and searing prose, Dalleo shows how the U.S. occupation of Haiti has been systematically disavowed not only, as one might expect, in mainstream historiography but in a field of Haitian revolutionary studies eager to construct an unambiguous narrative of revolutionary liberation. A pivotal and long-overdue contribution.

Nick Nesbitt, Princeton University, author of Caribbean Critique: Antillean Critical Theory from Toussaint to Glissant

Dalleo (English, Bucknell Univ.) seeks to close a gap in the historical record regarding the US occupation of Haiti from 1915 to 1934. Citing what he describes as a "silence," Dalleo argues in the introduction that the amnesia surrounding Haiti’s colonial history "makes U.S. imperialism possible"; he claims that today’s Haiti is a direct result of the occupation and its aftermath in the century since.... Dalleo examines the rise of primitivism, at once "othering" and highlighting Haiti’s Afrocentrism, and he also considers audience reception and the popular fetishizing of Caribbean culture by English, US, and Caribbean writers. The chapters devoted to Claude McKay, Alejo Carpentier, and George Padmore are especially interesting.Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.


American Imperialism's Undead works to challenge the obfuscation of this seminol moment in Haitian, US-American, and circum-American history. Dalleo argues, compellingly and convincingly, that to not attempt an understanding of the occupation is, in fact, to deeply misunderstand regional realities throughout the twentieth century.

Caribbean Quarterly

Dalleo’s inquiry has a contemporary, ‘real-world’ significance thatresonates in the very bones of the project. The book does exactly the kind ofnation-language-busting, transnational, and transcolonial work that all scholarsof the Global South should endeavour to make foundational to their ownresearch projects. It is the kind of work that recognises the undeniable impactof North Atlantic imperialist ventures while thinking deeply about the localand regional engagements that reconfigure, resist, and otherwise inflect suchneocolonial agendas.

Caribbean Quarterly

With skillful research and probing analyses, Dalleo shows the difference a focus on the occupation makes as he reveals the lively cross-fertilizations that shaped Caribbean and African diasporic thought in the middle decades of the twentieth century. American Imperialism’s Undead establishes the defining role played by the occupation in Caribbean self-fashioning and in the emergence and evolution of anticolonialism between 1915 and 1950.

New West Indian Guide

Accessible and lucid, erudite and timely, archivally immersive and conversant in multiple subfields, American Imperialism’s Undead sets a high bar for what that future work might look like.


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