What’s in a Name? Unfolding the Consequences of a Mistaken Identity
This chapter argues that the tension between statist and non-statist readings of Vastey’s writings, or propagandistic versus humanist understandings of his works, are catalyzed in conflicting ideas about his personal history. The author contends that the ambiguities and contradictions in attempts to understand Vastey’s life and who he was as a person, have much to tell us about how his contributions to the political and philosophical ideas of freedom and equality exalted in the modern world system became silenced. Beginning with what we think we know about Vastey’s early life, this chapter works through problems concerning his name, his age, his education, and his social and legal status in French Saint-Domingue, suggesting that these cases of mistaken identity are directly related to later assessments of Vastey’s character as “mercenary,” in turning leading directly to judgments of Vastey’s writing as propaganda.