The Haitian Question

This dissertation shows how late-nineteenth-century U.S. politicians and diplomats, including Frederick Douglass himself, sought to re-shape rhetorical constructions of Haiti such that it could be considered a vital member of…

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Imagining Haiti: Representations of Haiti in the American Press during the U.S. Occupation, 1915-1934

Throughout the United States occupation of Haiti from 1915 to 1934, the U.S. government and its supporters were forced to defend the legitimacy of American action. In order to justify it to the American public, officials and journalists created a dichotomy of capacity between an inferior Haiti and a superior U.S., and they presented the occupation as a charitable civilizing mission. This vision of Haiti and Haitians was elaborated in a racialized discourse wherein Haitians were assigned various negative traits that rendered them incapable of self-government. In examining how the New York Times, the National Geographic Magazine, and the Crisis represented Haiti, I demonstrate how race was the primary signifier, and how these representations were used to either perpetuate or challenge the American racial social hierarchy.

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From Sight to Site to Website: Travel-Writing, Tourism and the American Experience in Haiti, 1900-2008.

This paper presents an anthropological examination of touristic representations of Haiti throughout the 20th century. I dentify three main themes - Racism and "The Negro Question," Haitian Revolutionary Intrigue, and Voodoo Mystique - that illustrate a dominant discourse, but later transform these touristic sights into bona fide tourist sites. Despite its emphasis on voodoo and possession, the touristic discourse effectively dis-possesses Haiti, whitewashing its people and culture, and subsequently re-possesses it with Western values in a way that commoditizes not only what it means to experience Haiti, but what it means to be Haitian as well. Today, an interplay between the “development” and touristic discourses brings the discussion full-circle: from primitive people to primitive culture to primitive conditions. These representations have a certain mobility all their own and over time move farther from Haiti itself. Examining these sources does more than chart the rise and fall of the country’s tourist industry. Anthropologically speaking, the touristic genre offers an important resource in understanding the construction of Haiti’s place in the world.

Continue Reading From Sight to Site to Website: Travel-Writing, Tourism and the American Experience in Haiti, 1900-2008.