The dominant narrative of Haiti remains an under-analyzed story in which cultural and political advocates from the United States, France, Great Britain, and what historian Brenda Gayle Plummer has otherwise called, “the great powers,” have been required to intervene in Haiti on many different occasions in order to “save the country from itself.” However, the asymmetrical and often dialogic influence of Haiti on these world powers in the realms of art, literature, music, culture, and religion, for example, are rarely presented, with many scholars and other writers (especially journalists) focusing instead on long-historical Atlantic World fears about Haiti in the wake of its war of independence (1791-1803), and contemporary fears of Haitian migration to the U.S. in the form of “boat people.”
In the spirit of Papa Legba (a Haitian lwa, or spirit, who acts as a crossroads between the human and non-human worlds), we propose a conference dedicated to what scholar and invitee, Gina Ulysse, has called “New Narratives of Haiti.” We envision this conference as a series of roundtables. Dispensing with formal papers, we hope to facilitate conversation as a crossroads, at which scholars might generatively explore Haitian history, art, politics, and culture in ways that contest narratives of fear, repression, failure, and dependency. In an effort to counter the fragmentation that can result from the geographic and intellectual diversity of Haitian Studies as a field, this conference will convene national and international scholars, artists, activists, and cultural leaders from a variety of different disciplines. We expect that our participants will represent and intersect with a range of perspectives, including art history, history, literature, anthropology, religion, politics, development, and performance studies. Ultimately, the goal of this conference is to bring together leading thinkers and cultural actors (from Haiti, the United States, and the circum-Caribbean) to share information and thereby deepen our collective understanding of the prominent role Haiti and Haitians have had in making and critiquing the modern world-system.
The conference will engage speakers in English, French, and Haitian Kreyòl and employ translators to ensure maximum accessibility. We also plan to have a mix of established and emerging scholars, along with several politicians, writers, activists, and scholars from Haiti.