The Haiti Exception

Anthropology and the Predicament of Narrative

Edited by Alessandra Benedicty-Kokken, Kaiama L. Glover, Mark Schuller, and Jhon Picard Byron

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ISBN: 9781781382998

Publication: June 1, 2016

Series: Francophone Postcolonial Studies 7

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This collection of essays considers the means and extent of Haiti’s ‘exceptionalization’ – its perception in multiple arenas as definitively unique with respect not only to the countries of the North Atlantic, but also to the rest of the Americas. Painted as repulsive and attractive, abject and resilient, singular and exemplary, Haiti has long been framed discursively by an extraordinary epistemological ambivalence. This nation has served at once as cautionary tale, model for humanitarian aid and development projects and point of origin for general theorising of the so-called Third World. What to make of this dialectic of exemplarity and alterity? How to pull apart this multivalent narrative in order to examine its constituent parts? Conscientiously gesturing to James Clifford’s The Predicament of Culture (1988), the contributors to The Haiti Exception work on the edge of multiple disciplines, notably that of anthropology, to take up these and other such questions from a variety of methodological and disciplinary perspectives, including Africana Studies, Anthrohistory, Art History, Black Studies, Caribbean Studies, education, ethnology, Jewish Studies, Literary Studies, Performance Studies and Urban Studies. As contributors revise and interrogate their respective praxes, they accept the challenge of thinking about the particular stakes of and motivations for their own commitment to Haiti. 

Alessandra Benedicty-Kokken is Assistant Professor at the City College of New York and author of Spirit Possession in French, Haitian, and Vodou Thought: An Intellectual History (Lexington Books 2015).

Jhon Picard Byron is Professor at the State University of Haiti (UEH), Chair of LADIREP Research Unit and Director of the Department of Anthropology/ Sociology at the Faculté d’Ethnologie.

Kaiama L. Glover is Associate Professor of French and Africana Studies at Barnard College, Columbia University and author of Haiti Unbound: A Spiralist Challenge to the Postcolonial Canon (Liverpool University Press 2010).

Mark Schuller is Associate Professor of Anthropology and NGO Leadership at Northern Illinois University and an affiliate at the Faculté d’Ethnologie, l’Université d’État d’Haïti. He is the author of 'Humanitarian Aftershocks in Haiti' and 'Killing with Kindness' (Rutgers University Press), and co-director/co-producer of Poto Mitan: Haitian Women, Pillars of the Global Economy.

Alessandra Benedicty-Kokken, Jhon Picard Byron, Kaiama L. Glover and Mark Schuller, ‘Editors’ Introduction’


I. Tracing Intellectual Histories

Jhon Picard Byron, ‘Transforming Ethnology: Understanding the Stakes and Challenges of Price-Mars in the Development of Anthropology in Haiti’

Mark Schuller, ‘The Intellectual Uses of Haiti’

Alessandra Benedicty-Kokken, ‘On “being Jewish”, on “studying Haiti”… Herskovits, Métraux, Race, and Human Rights’

Laurent Dubois, ‘Haiti, Gender and Anthrohistory: A Mintzian Journey’


II. Interrogating the Enquiring Self

Kaiama L. Glover, ‘“Written with Love”: Intimacy and Relation in Katherine Dunham’s Island Possessed

Barbara Browning, ‘Dance, Haiti and Lariam Dreams’

Carlo A. Célius, ‘“Haitian Art” and Primitivism: Effects, Uses and Beyond’



III. On Nation-Building: Histories, Theories, Praxes

Deborah Thomas, ‘Haiti, Politics and Sovereign (Mis)recognitions’

Valerie Kaussen, ‘Haitian Culture in the Informational Economics of Humanitarian Aid’

Michèle Duvivier Pierre-Louis, ‘Thinking About the City – At Last!’


Claudine Michel, ‘Epilogue: Kalfou Danje: Situating Haitian Studies, and My Own Journey Within It’

The Haiti Exception will be of interest to scholars of Haiti, most obviously to anthropologists, but also scholars of literature, performance, art, urban planning, and anyone interested in the interplay between academic research and international aid. Its multidisciplinary approach means, naturally, that not all chapters will be of equal interest to all readers, but the volume as a whole should be relevant to anyone who thinks about how narratives and stereotypes are created, maintained, reinforced, and subverted.
Laura Wagner, H-France Review


Format: Hardback

Size: 239 × 163 mm

256 Pages

ISBN: 9781781382998

Publication: June 1, 2016

Series: Francophone Postcolonial Studies 7

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