The vocation of the indigènes

Cosmopolitanism and cultural nationalism in La Revue indigène

Francosphères (2015), 4, (1), 7–19.


This article recasts the Revue indigène as an important manifestation of Haitian cultural nationalism that is often conflated with subsequent movements that co-opted the review’s heritage in order to legitimize their nationalist projects. As I argue, the cultural nationalism articulated in the Revue indigène itself remains something quite distinctive, the product of a specific moment in Haitian history in which global consciousness was not anathema to national allegiance and populist rhetoric was not yet the key to political power. The Revue indigène writers believed that only they – the young, worldly, new twentieth-century elite intellectuals – could liberate and transform Haitian national literature by opening it up to diverse and stimulating literatures from around the world – in a word, cosmopolitanism. My investigation focuses primarily on the contributions of Émile Roumer, the review’s director, who worked to conceptualize a Haitian cultural nationalism based on an early twentieth-century notion of cosmopolitan patriotism. I devote particular attention to Valery Larbaud, the French poet, critic, and translator, who took great interest in the Revue indigène poets, and whose notion of cosmopolitisme was central to the development of Roumer’s cultural nationalist ideas.


Author details

Stieber, Chelsea