Thursday, February 15, 2018

New Academic Titles in Haitian Studies

We're always thrilled when we learn about new academic titles in Haitian Studies. We're pleased to announce the publication of the following texts, and allow us to congratulate the authors.

1. Between Two Worlds: Jean Price-Mars, Haiti, and Africa (Black Diasporic Worlds: Origins and Evolutions from New World Slaving) (Lexington Books, 2018) edited by Celucien L. Joseph, Jean Eddy Saint Paul, and Glodel Mezilas


Between Two Worlds: Jean Price-Mars, Haiti, and Africa is a special volume on Jean Price-Mars that reassesses the importance of his thought and legacy, and the implications of his ideas in the twenty-first century’s culture of political correctness, the continuing challenge of race and racism, and imperial hegemony in the modern world. Price-Mars’s thought is also significant for the renewed scholarly interests in Haiti and Haitian Studies in North America, and the meaning of contemporary Africa in the world today. This volume explores various dimensions in Price-Mars’ thought and his role as historian, anthropologist, cultural critic, public intellectual, religious scholar, pan-Africanist, and humanist.

The goal of this book is fourfold: it explores the contributions of Jean Price-Mars to Haitian history and culture, it studies Price-Mars’ engagement with Western history and the problem of the “racist narrative,” it interprets Price-Mars’ connections with Black Internationalism, Harlem Renaissance, and the Negritude Movement, and finally, the book underscores Price-Mars’ contributions to post colonialism, religious studies, Africana Studies, and Pan-Africanism.

Between Two Worlds: Jean Price-Mars, Haiti, and Africa is an interesting and welcome exploration and analysis of the scholarly contributions of Jean-Price Mars. Price-Mars was a major figure in Haitian intellectual history who played a critical role in the development of ‘Negritude.’ The volume covers a void by making Price-Mars’s thinking on race, religion, and modernity accessible to the English-speaking world. The different authors also offer fascinating theoretical interpretations of Price-Mars’s work and how it can illuminate contemporary social and cultural realities. The book will be of great interest to students and scholars in Africana studies and intellectual history. (Robert Fatton, Jr., University of Virginia)

Between Two Worlds: Jean Price-Mars, Haiti, and Africa is an important collection that reflects on the work and intellectual impact of Jean Price-Mars, a titan of Africana thought. Price-Mars’s research spoke to multiple academic disciplines, including, but not limited to, Africana Studies, Anthropology, Geography, Sociology, History, Religious Studies, Philosophy, and Literature. Joseph, Mezilas, and Saint Paul have assembled an impressive line-up of thought-provoking essays that render the accomplishments, ideas, and influences of Price-Mars’s work visible to new audiences across academic disciplines in the hopes of creating a better, more humane world for Haitians and other people of African descent. This book is a must-read; it honors one of the major contributors to Pan-Africanist thought, Negritude, and Black Atlantic Humanism who deserves to be recognized and engaged in the struggle for a more humane world that recognizes equality between the races and the fundamental humanity of Black people. (Bertin M. Louis, author of My Soul Is in Haiti: Protestantism in the Haitian Diaspora of the Bahamas)




2.  Baron de Vastey and the Origins of Black Atlantic Humanism (The New Urban Atlantic) (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017) by Marlen Daut


 Focusing on the influential life and works of the Haitian political writer and statesman, Baron de Vastey (1781-1820), in this book Marlene L. Daut examines the legacy of Vastey’s extensive writings as a form of what she calls black Atlantic humanism, a discourse devoted to attacking the enlightenment foundations of colonialism. Daut argues that Vastey, the most important secretary of Haiti’s King Henry Christophe, was a pioneer in a tradition of deconstructing colonial racism and colonial slavery that is much more closely associated with twentieth-century writers like W.E.B. Du Bois, Frantz Fanon, and Aimé Césaire. By expertly forging exciting new historical and theoretical connections among Vastey and these later twentieth-century writers, as well as eighteenth- and nineteenth-century black Atlantic authors, such as Phillis Wheatley, Olaudah Equiano, William Wells Brown, and Harriet Jacobs, Daut proves that any understanding of the genesis of Afro-diasporic thought must include Haiti’s Baron de Vastey.

"This book presents an extraordinary effort to introduce the wider reading public to the fascinating figure of Baron de Vastey.... Marlene Daut seems to have struck the precise balance between archival research, literary analysis, and historical detail that will easily persuade contemporary readers to rethink the importance of this Haitian political thinker.  This new book written, with great enthusiasm and mastery, will undoubtedly encourage the rehabilitation as well as the much needed diffusion of knowledge of Haiti's Baron de Vastey." -- Daniel Desormeaux, Professor of French Literature, University of Chicago, USA
 3. Thinking in Public: Faith, Secular Humanism, and Development in Jacques Roumain by Celucien L. Joseph (Pickwick Publications, 2017)


 Thinking in Public provides a probing and provocative meditation on the intellectual life and legacy of Jacques Roumain. As a work of intellectual history, the book investigates the intersections of religious ideas, secular humanism, and development within the framework of Roumain's public intellectualism and cultural criticism embodied in his prolific writings.

The book provides a reconceptualization of Roumain's intellectual itineraries against the backdrop of two public spheres: a national public sphere (Haiti) and a transnational public sphere (the global world). Second, it remaps and reframes Roumain's intellectual circuits and his critical engagements within a wide range of intellectual traditions, cultural and political movements, and philosophical and religious systems. Third, the book argues that Roumain's perspective on religion, social development, and his critiques of religion in general and of institutionalized Christianity in particular were substantially influenced by a Marxist philosophy of history and secular humanist approach to faith and human progress.

Finally, the book advances the idea that Roumain's concept of development is linked to the theories of democratic socialism, relational anthropology, distributive justice, and communitarianism. Ultimately, this work demonstrates that Roumain believed that only through effective human solidarity and collaboration can serious social transformation and real human emancipation take place.

"Celucien Joseph offers a definitive study of Jacques Roumain as an engaged 'native intellectual, ' whose novels, essays, and public intellectual interventions in the Haitian cultural sphere should be regarded of global importance. Joseph's thorough analysis of Roumain's Marxist, anti-clerical, anti-capitalistic, pro-peasant, spiritual, Kreyol, community-focused perspectives re-awakens for a contemporary audience the genius and insight of a sleeping giant in a world still yearning for vision, transformation, and healing in the wake of (neo)colonialism's violent imprint."
--Myriam J. A. Chancy, Hartley Burr Alexander Chair, Scripps College; Guggenheim Fellow

 “In overthrowing me, you have done no more than cut down the trunk of the tree of the black liberty in St. Domingue—it will spring back from the roots, for they are numerous and deep.”

These are Toussaint Louverture’s last words before being taken to prison in France. Heroic leader of the only successful slave revolt in history, Louverture is one of the greatest anti-imperialist fighters who ever lived. Born into slavery on a Caribbean plantation, he was able to break from his bondage to lead an army of freed African slaves to victory against the professional armies of France, Spain, and Britain in the Haitian Revolution of 1791-1804.

In this lively narrative biography, Louverture’s fascinating life is explored through the prism of his radical politics. Charles Forsdick and Christian Høgsbjerg champion the “black Robespierre,” whose revolutionary legacy has inspired people and movements in the two centuries since his death. For anyone interested in the roots of modern resistance movements and black political radicalism, Louverture’s extraordinary life provides the perfect groundwork.
6.  The Black Jacobins Reader (The C. L. R. James Archives) edited by Charles Forsdick and  Christian Høgsbjerg  (Duke University Press Books; Reprint edition , 2017)
Containing a wealth of new scholarship and rare primary documents, The Black Jacobins Reader provides a comprehensive analysis of C. L. R. James's classic history of the Haitian Revolution. In addition to considering the book's literary qualities and its role in James's emergence as a writer and thinker, the contributors discuss its production, context, and enduring importance in relation to debates about decolonization, globalization, postcolonialism, and the emergence of neocolonial modernity. The Reader also includes the reflections of activists and novelists on the book's influence and a transcript of James's 1970 interview with Studs Terkel.

Contributors. Mumia Abu-Jamal, David Austin, Madison Smartt Bell, Anthony Bogues, John H. Bracey Jr., Rachel Douglas, Laurent Dubois, Claudius K. Fergus, Carolyn E. Fick, Charles Forsdick, Dan Georgakas, Robert A. Hill, Christian Høgsbjerg, Selma James, Pierre Naville, Nick Nesbitt, Aldon Lynn Nielsen, Matthew Quest, David M. Rudder, Bill Schwarz, David Scott, Russell Maroon Shoatz, Matthew J. Smith, Studs Terkel

“Provides a wealth of information about the nature of American occupations in Haiti that can be useful to Latin American historians and political scientists interested in international relations between the United States and other countries in the region.”―Leslie G. Desmangles, author of The Faces of the Gods: Vodou and Roman Catholicism in Haiti “Unpacks the cultural, political, and economic impact of U.S. occupation, and by extension, American imperialism in Haiti.”―Quito Swan, author of Black Power in Bermuda: The Struggle for Decolonization In 1915, United States Marines arrived in Haiti to safeguard lives and property from the political instability of the time. While there, the Marine Corps controlled everything from finance to education, from health care to public works and built an army, “La Garde d’Haiti,” to maintain the changes it implemented. Ultimately, the decisions made by the United States about and for Haiti have indelibly shaped the development of what is generally considered the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Contrary Destinies presents the story of the one hundred year relationship between the two countries. Leon Pamphile chronicles the internal, external, and natural forces that have shaped Haiti as it is today, striking a balance between the realities faced by the people on the island and the global and transnational contexts that affect their lives. He examines how American policies towards the Caribbean nation―during the Cold War and later as the United States became the sole world superpower―and the legacies of the occupation contributed to the gradual erosion of Haitian independence, culminating in a second occupation and the current United Nations peacekeeping mission.

8. Empire's Guestworkers: Haitian Migrants in Cuba during the Age of US Occupation (Afro-Latin America) by Matthew Casey (Cambridge University Press, 2017)

 Haitian seasonal migration to Cuba is central to narratives about race, national development, and US imperialism in the early twentieth-century Caribbean. Filling a major gap in the literature, this innovative study reconstructs Haitian guestworkers' lived experiences as they moved among the rural and urban areas of Haiti, and the sugar plantations, coffee farms, and cities of eastern Cuba. It offers an unprecedented glimpse into the daily workings of empire, labor, and political economy in Haiti and Cuba. Migrants' efforts to improve their living and working conditions and practice their religions shaped migration policies, economic realities, ideas of race, and Caribbean spirituality in Haiti and Cuba as each experienced US imperialism.

Advance praise: 'This exhaustively researched and incisively analyzed study spotlights the Haitians who migrated to Cuba during the first decades of the twentieth century. Revising received assumptions with each chapter, Matthew Casey reveals the heterogeneous identities and experiences of Haitians in Cuba, the extent to which they forged connections with local people and migrants from other parts of the Caribbean, and the role they played in shaping larger social, cultural, economic, and political processes. Empire's Guestworkers is a model of transnational historical scholarship from below.' Kate Ramsey, University of Miami, Coral Gables

Advance praise: 'This book is a deeply-researched and lucidly-reasoned study of migration, race, nation, and empire in what may be the first instance of the guestworker programs and massive deportations that would come to characterize contemporary global migrations. Casey explores the process from above - the triangular power relations between states and elites - and below - the migrant's transnational strategies of resistance and adaptation - in a manner that is creative, dialectical, and eye-opening.' José C. Moya, Columbia University

Advance praise: 'A major achievement, Matthew Casey's extraordinary study peels away the obfuscating layers of conventional history to present in glimmering details the daily trials and rewards of early twentieth century Haitian migrants in Cuba. The book is more than a migration narrative: it is a profound reminder that the intricate evolution of Caribbean nations in a world of empire cannot be fully understood without close study of their past connections.' Matthew J. Smith, University of the West Indies, Mona




Book Description

This innovative study reconstructs Haitian guestworkers' lived experiences as they moved among the rural and urban areas of Haiti and the sugar plantations, coffee farms, and cities of eastern Cuba. It offers an unprecedented glimpse into the daily workings of empire, labor, and political economy in Haiti and Cuba.

9.  Identity and Ideology in Haiti: The Children of Sans Souci, Dessalines/Toussaint, and Pétion

Crossing the Water and Keeping the Faith: Haitian Religion in Miami. By Terry Rey and Alex Stepick,

Crossing the Water and Keeping the Faith: Haitian Religion in Miami. By Terry Rey and Alex Stepick, with a Foreword by Archbishop Thomas Wenski. New York and London: New York University Press, 2013.
Reviewed by Ronald Charles, PhD

In this excellent study the authors aim to show how religion (Catholic Christianity, Protestant Christianity, and Vodou) has played a crucial role in the survival and thriving of many Haitians in Miami. This book is the result of many years of ethnographic study, extensive participant observation, and archival study of Haitian religion in Miami. Through transnational lenses that link Haiti to diasporic realities and struggles, the authors make two central arguments: (1)  “that underlying and transcending religious difference in Haiti and the Haitian diaspora there can be identified a unifying Haitian religious collusio, and (2) that Haitian religion in the diaspora is largely explicable in terms of the generation of and quest for “salvation goods” in the form of luck (chans), magic (maji), protection, health, prosperity, and especially, worthiness” (page 5). The authors are convincing in how they deploy these core arguments. They show how religion is a central guiding force for Haitian Catholics, Protestants, and Vodouists living in Miami, and they demonstrate how these different religious expressions share some common elements, or collusio, in the religious practices of Haitians. 

The book starts with a very helpful introduction that situates Haitian religion in Miami. It also lays out the theoretical underpinning of such a project. The French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu is one of the main thinkers the authors think with as they endeavored to understand the vibrancy and complexities of Haitian religion in various Haitian communities throughout South Florida. The chapter is clear and presents a well-organized lay out of the subsequent chapters. There are few typos in the introduction: “Although Notre Dame continues to attracts more Haitians…” (page 2), “a bunch of superstition” translated as “yon pakèt siperstisyon” (page 8), “religion can said to provide” (page 17), instead of  “can be said…). Also, more precision was needed in the following sentence: “There seems to be, from the perspective of Haitian immigrants in Miami…” (page 13). Are they talking about many, most, or some Haitian immigrants? 

In the first chapter (“The Haitian Catholic Church in Miami: When the Saints go Sailing In”), the authors give an excellent historical narrative of the Haitian Catholic communities in Miami, focusing mainly on the role the Church of Notre Dame, the central rallying point for many Haitian Catholics in Miami, has played (since the 80s) and continues to play in Little Haiti in the social, economic and political struggles of many. The following sentence is particularly moving when the authors share the pains and the faith Haitians in Miami experienced after the 2010 earthquake that devastated several cities and killed thousands in Haiti: “The living room was once again swept with tears and prayers, this time more cascadingly than ever in Notre Dame’s thirty years. But the people who had crossed the water kept the faith, as they always have, through it all and despite it all” (page 38). The chapter is excellent in terms of history, but it misses one point, namely that of the portrayal of Jean-Bertrand Aristide (page 46). A much more nuanced picture of the former priest was needed. 

Chapter two (“Immigrant Faith and Class Distinctions: Haitian Catholics beyond Little Haiti”) focuses on the question of social classes with regard to Catholics in the South Florida Haitian communities. The Haitians may share the same beliefs (belief in unseen supernatural force present to help them in various circumstances, source of healing, and force for luck and protection against enemies), and the Haitians may abide to the same religious convictions and ways of expressing their religious understandings (charismatic faith, fervent prayers, veneration of saints), but they do not live side by side and they do not identify to the divine in the same manner. The chapter is fascinating in its sociological analysis. It is one of the rare studies available on the religious lives of middle- and upper class Haitians and Haitian Americans. It is unfortunate the authors did not do any similar class distinction analysis for the Vodouists or the Protestants.

Chapter three (“Feting Haiti’s Patron Saint in Little Haiti (The Feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help”). This chapter presents a very close ethnographic observation on diasporic Haitians in Miami, as they celebrate Haiti’s Patron saint. The authors demonstrate that “Although the celebration at Notre Dame in Miami are in so many ways different from those in Bel-Air, the Haitian religious collusion in which and according to which it unfolds remains unifying across the water and across religious difference and religious change” (page 110).

The next chapter, chapter four (“Vodou in the Magic City: Serving the Spirits across the Sea”) pays attention to the role of Vodou in the lives of some Haitians living in Miami. This religion is represented visibly by a number of Botanicas, or religious good stores, spread across the Magic City. Vodou, according to the authors, has played an important part in the resurgence of Haitian pride in Miami. In this sense, Vodou “is a wellspring of salvation goods for immigrants on their assertion of worthiness to belong and to thrive in the Magic City” (page 150).

Chapter five (“Storefront and Transnational Protestantism in Little Haiti: Harvesting the Gospel in the Haitian Church of the Open Door”) is theoretically sophisticated and, in my opinion, the most successful chapter. The authors present a magnificent layout of the various Protestant churches in Little Haiti. Their findings are thought-provoking. For example, in their analysis, they conclude that Haitian Protestants constitute the most religious groups in the US, attending church more regularly than any other immigrant groups. The most fascinating part of the chapter is the tale of two churches. The authors illustrate the connectedness between Haiti and the diaspora by focusing on two churches, one in Miami and the other in Les Cayes, a costal city in the southern part of Haiti. What transpire is a moving discussion on place, connections, intrigues, and humanity. I find the history and the excellent description of the “Mission Évangélique du Christianisme,” a truly indigenous Haitian mission founded in 1934 by Salomon Severe Joseph, to be truly engrossing. The few infelicities are not distracting, but need to be mentioned. On page 168 one reads: “This is followed by a reading from the (sic) one of the Gospels.” The acute accent is needed in “Lapè Bondye ave nou” (page 168). There is no need for an acute accent here: “Jude Valéry, Sèvè’s great-grandson” (page 179).

The conclusion to this excellent study gives the reader a summary of the main arguments articulated throughout. There is a beautiful sense of respect for the humanity of the Haitians, which permeates throughout the book. This sensitivity to the struggles of Haitians in Miami and an admiration for their determination to affirm to a racist society that they are worthy human beings is shown in this sentence: “Through it all, they have proven that they are indeed not beasts but dignified human beings with a profound belief that they are the children of God, protégés of saints, servants of spirits” (page 193). The double entendre of the title of the book is beautifully spelled out in the following excerpt: “They have crossed the water and kept the faith, a faith that sustains not only their lives abroad but also the lives of many to whom they are connected in Haiti. Crossing the water has thus never meant leaving Haiti. Instead, it has meant becoming Haitian in a transnational way, a way that is vital to Haiti’s other nine departments on the other side of the water” (page 194).

After the conclusion, there are three appendixes that give precise information about the locales of the various places of Haitian churches (Catholic and Protestant), as well as Botanicas in Miami.
Crossing the Water and Keeping the Faith is a fascinating study that I highly recommend. Historians, religious scholars, theologians, Haitians and non-Haitians will learn a lot from this fascinating study.

St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada.